Saturday, March 17, 2012

Breaking Down Cubs Position Player Battles

With over two weeks left in Spring Training, there are still many spots on the Cubs roster up for grabs. Early this week we took a look at Dale Sveum's pitching staff decisions, click here for that post.

Today, we take a look at the position player battles that are going on in Cubs camp. The starting lineup is pretty much set, but there is some great competition for the five bench spots.

Backup Catcher
The backup catcher's position is often up for grabs during Spring Training. Seemingly every year the Cubs are trying to decide that spot. Some teams use the backup as a spot for a veteran, while other use it on a younger player who may have a future with the team as a starter. The Cubs will most likely use the latter this season. Jason Jaramillo was invited to camp, but an injury early on appears to have eliminated him from the competition. That leaves Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger battling it out. Castillo appears to have the edge as a guy who has been in the mix for several years and seems to be ready. However, the Cubs may elect to give Castillo everyday playing time at AAA-Iowa instead of having him sit on the big league bench. Clevenger is also a talented player, but I am still giving Castillo the edge to win the job.

Fourth & Fifth Outfield Spots
With David DeJesus, Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano penciled in as the everyday outfielders to start the season, the only spots open in the outfield will come on the bench. Fan favorite Reed Johnson is the type of the player that a team should want on its roster, so he appears to have the fourth outfield spot nailed down. That leaves Dave Sappelt, who was acquired from the Reds this offseason, speedster Tony Campana and non-roster invitee Joe Mather in the mix for the other spot. Campana is a nice weapon as a pitcher runner and defensive replacement, but Mather is making a good case with a .409 average this spring. I'm leaning toward keeping Mather as the team's number one pinch hit, while sending Campana back to Triple-A.

Reserve Infield Spot
Assuming the Cubs carry 12 pitchers, two catchers and five outfielders, there will be six spots left on the roster for infielders. Five of those will, unless there is an injury, be filled by Bryan LaHair, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker. Baker will backup Stewart, Barney and LaHair, while Barney can slide over to shortstop when Castro needs a day off. That leaves a final spot open for an utility infielder. Blake DeWitt, who was released by the team but then brought back as a non-roster player, is one candidate. Adrian Cardenas, who played for the A's last season, is also in the mix even though he is hitting just .150 in Cactus League play. Other non-roster infielders in camp include Alfredo Amezaga, Edgar Gonzalez, Matt Tolbert and Bobby Scales. The last infield spot is very up in the air, but DeWitt receives my vote partly because of his .462 average in eight spring games.

That's it for now, but I'll keep you posted on Everything Cubs as always!

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