Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Position Battle Updates

Happy St. Patrick's Day Cubs fans! Today is the one Cub off day of Spring Training, so we'll use it to get you caught up on this spring's position battles!

Starting Rotation
The top three men in the starting five have been penciled in. Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Randy Wells have all already earned the right to start games this season. However, with Ted Lilly set to start the year on the DL and Rich Harden leaving via free agency, there are two spots open to start the year. This leaves Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Samardzija, and Sean Marshall battling for rotation spots.

Carlos Silva: 2-1, 6.00 ERA, 9 IP
*Jeff Samardzija: 0-1, 9.00 ERA, 4 IP
Tom Gorzelanny: 5.40 ERA, 5 IP
Sean Marshall: 2.57 ERA, 7 IP

*Samardzija worked 3 innings during an intersquad minor league game at Fitch Park today. He did not allow a hit to the AA guys but alarmingly walked 3.

There's no doubt that Marshall's pitched the best of the four, but he is held back by his value to the bullpen. At this point, I would say the best bet is to use Marshall in the rotation. If Silva continues to pitch like he has in the last few starts, he very well could take the starts that Lilly misses.

Starting Second Baseman
Lou has hinted that Mike Fontenot has an edge over Jeff Baker at this point. Fontenot was terrific coming off the bench for the Cubs in 2008, which very well could have lead to the team dealing Mark DeRosa. Last year, when Mike was given a chance to take over the every day job, his production declined. Hopefully he can bounce back. Baker, who came over midseason last year from the Rockies, is also going to be a key even if he is only used as a backup infielder. Let's take a look at their stats:

Mike Fontenot: .409 AVG, .440 OBP, 22 ABs
Jeff Baker: .158 AVG, .238 OBP, 19 ABs

Sorting Out the Bullpen
Who knows who will be in the Cub bullpen come Opening Day. Esmalin Caridad, a young talented right handed pitcher, has been tossed into a setup role. Veteran lefty John Grabow will be the other setup guy, with Carlos Marmol handling the ninth inning duties. After that, there are four openings. Let's assume that the first two vacant spots will go to those that lose out on the rotation battle. After that, there's 2 more long relief roles up for grabs. Here are the spring stats of some young pitchers that are in camp vying for jobs.

Mike Parisi: 1-1, 4.05 ERA, 6.2 IP
Casey Coleman: 5.68 ERA, 6.1 IP
James Russell: 0.00 ERA, 5.2 IP
Andrew Cashner: 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 5 IP
J.R. Mathes: 10.80 ERA, 5 IP
John Gaub: 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 4.2 IP
Thomas Diamond: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 4.1 IP
Justin Berg: 1-0, 2.25 ERA, 4 IP
Jeff Stevens: 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 4 IP
Blake Parker: 0-1, 10.60 ERA, 2.2 IP

Diamond is a very underrated guy who could see the diamond at Wrigley as at some point this season. I would say Diamond, Berg, Russell, and Gaub are the favorites for winning spots.

The Fifth Outfielder
Piniella always does a lot of hinting regarding the roster during Spring Training, especially during his pregame WGN Radio interviews with Ron Santo. Lou and Ron sometimes seem to forget that they are on the air because Lou sees Ronny as a friend and not as the media. Based on what we've heard, the Cubs will be keeping five outfielders: Byrd, Kosuke, Soriano, and Nady for sure plus a younger guy who can be used as a defensive sub. Here are the 4 guys competing for that open spot on the bench:

Tyler Colvin: .533 AVG, 6 RBIs, 30 ABs
Brad Snyder: .417 AVG, .533 OBP, 12 ABs
Sam Fuld: .150 AVG, .227 OBP, 20 ABs
Jim Aducci: .348 AVG, .400 OBP, 23 ABs

Jim is a good looking prospect, but he's a long shot to make the team this year. Without question Colvin has the edge, but I wouldn't be totally surprised if the Cubs went with Fuld based on past performance at the big league level. Either way I hope whoever wins this spot gets some playing time and a chance to be a young spark plug.

The Pinch Hitting Utility Man
The Cubs need some leadership off the bench. A guy who has pop, can come up to the plate late in the game and do damage, and who will also provide some leadership. Kevin Millar could fit the bill. Let's check out the stats of Millar and his competitors for the final spot on the bench:

Chad Tracy: 18 ABs, .222 AVG, .300 OBP
Kevin Millar: 15 ABs, .333 AVG, .545 OBP
Micah Hoffpauir: 25 ABs, .120 AVG, .185 OBP

However, when you've had full careers to see these guys play in the case of Tracy and Millar, it does not make sense to base the decision on just a few Cactus League at bats. I still believe Kevin will take this spot because the Cubs like his leadership and his bat. He also brings a better glove than Hoffpauir. Andres Blanco and Brian LaHair are also still in the mix.

My Debut at CCO
I'd like to encourage everyone to check out my first minor league Cubs post over at Chicago Cubs Online. I will be covering the farm system with posts on this site every Monday and Thursday throughout the season! Thanks to Neil for giving me this opportunity! As always, I'll still be posting here on Everything Cubs daily!

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted!

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