Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring Training Preview: The Bench

Koyie Hill- C
A year ago, Hill quietly had a solid year as the Cubs' backup backstop. When Soto went down last summer, he got the chance to start an unprecedented 26 games in a row behind the dish. A typical backup catcher, he brings good defense and just enough offense to get by (.237 AVG in 2009). Koyie is also a good teammate, a good caller of the game, works well with the staff, and throws out a lot of baserunners. Last year, Hill had to earn his spot on the club in Spring Training, but this time around his job is secure.
My Prediction: Lock to make the Opening Day roster

Xavier Nady- OF
In January, the Cubs added to their outfield depth by bringing Xavier in via free agency. Nady started last year with the Yankees, but played only seven games before being shut down to have Tommy John surgery. Nady is not yet at full health, but has been working on his arm strength with pitching coach Larry Rothchild. He will be used as a DH some during Spring Training early on, so he can start out by getting his ABs in before playing defense in game situations. "X" plans to be ready to go by Opening Day. He will see most of his time in right field spelling Kosuke Fukudome from time to time.
My Prediction: Lock to make the Opening Day roster (unless placed on the DL)

Micah Hoffpauir- 1B
Last year was a weird one for Hoff. The left handed hitter started off the year with a great Spring Training and a good month of April, but then as the weather heated up Micah cooled off. At one point in the summer, he was sent back down to AAA Iowa for a few weeks to work on his hitting. He has to rake with the stick, because his defense is nothing spectacular. If Hoffpauir doesn't play well in Spring Training, he could find himself on a bus to Iowa because the Cubs signed several veteran bats this winter that will compete for bench roles, including Kevin Millar, Bryan LaHair, and Chad Tracy.
My Prediction: Will lose his roster spot to NRI Kevin Millar and find himself starting the year in AAA.

Andres Blanco- SS
The opposite of Hoffpauir, Blanco has a great glove, but doesn't bring much hitting wise. Last year, when the Cubs were hit by a rash of injuries and struggles, Blanco was called up and made the most of his limited duty. Andres' 2009 included several "Web Gem" defensive plays and even a clutch hit or two. However, Blanco's fate is mostly out of his own hands. With so much competition for roster spots, if Mike Fontenot can do a decent job at short stop, there will be no need for Blanco to start the year with the big squad. If Lou is not comfortable with Mike at SS, then Blanco will make the roster as Theriot's backup. Piniella has stressed that he would like to give his position players more rest this season, so a solid bench will be a key.
My Prediction: Starts the year at AAA

Sam Fuld- OF
This kid is really a "gamer". Last year, when Sam was called up, he brought a certain spark to the ballclub. Fuld can run, bunt, hit, and play great defense in the outfield. Last year he made several highlight real catches that were truly incredible! In my opinion, every good club needs a guy like Fuld. Sam's skill is not in question, but roster space is. Xavier Nady seems to have the 4th outfielder's spot locked up, and with 12 pitchers, 5 outfielders may not be possible. However, remember that the Cubs did break camp with 5 outfielders in 2009 (Kosuke, Soriano, Bradley, Gathright, and Johnson) plus Hoffpauir who also plays the corner spots.
My Prediction: Wins one of the two open spots on the Cub bench

Tyler Colvin- OF
This winter, the former #1 draft pick bulked up. According to sources in Mesa, Colvin has added about 25 pounds of muscle over the offseason. Reporting to camp in shape is also a good start, but with the crowded outfield chances are slim to none that Colvin starts the year in the majors. However, catching the eye of Piniella and his staff is always a good idea, because you never know when they'll be an injury during the year. It's good to see Ty working his way back after suffering several injuries that slowed his progress. Colvin was called up and got into a few games late in the 2009 season, making one great play in the outfield.
My Prediction: Will start the year at AAA

Welington Castillo- C
There is certainly a lot of depth at the catching position in the system, which is nice to have even though the Cubs seem set with Soto and Hill at the big league level. If something were to happen to one of the Cubs' backstops, Welington Castillo might be the first guy to get the call-up. His numbers at the plate were down last year, hitting just .232 in 95 games for the Smokies. He also played in the Futures Game in 2008 and in the Arizona Fall League last year.
My Prediction: Will start the year at AA

James Adduci
This winter, Adduci got the opportunity to be one of the minor leaguers to attend the Cubs Convention. James, along with Castillo, Brett Jackson, and Cashner, got to experience the mobs of Cub fans at the minor league Q&A hosted by Vineline. James was busy this winter, as he also played in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. He hit .300 in 131 games under Ryne Sandberg in AA a year ago. This left handed batter will not compete for a spot on the 25-man roster, but the organization has showed their faith in him by placing him on the 40-man roster.

Other Spring Training Preview Posts

Now we're set to go for the Cactus League, which is just days away!

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