It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cubs pitchers and catchers reported to Mesa, Arizona today. The Cubs avoided arbitration with Jake Arrieta, Matt Murton is returning home to Chicago by way of Japan on a minor league deal, 6 Cubs are on the top 100 list of prospects, and last but certainly not least Kyle Schwarber has already broken a windshield with a home run during today’s batting practice.
Sans Dexter Fowler (super sad face) the Cubs need to find a new leadoff man. It seems like Joe Maddon will keep batting his pitcher in the 8 spot in order to use the 9 spot as his training ground for future lead off batters. MLB currently has Heyward projected as the new leadoff man, which makes sense to get hits going early, but Schwarber is a possibility as well, as is Baez whose speed would make him the best person for the spot if his hitting stays consistent and of course if Joe can find a permanent position for him in the field.
Since acquiring John Lackey the Cubs have rounded out the starting rotation; Jake, Jon and John would be the 3 top starters followed by a combo of Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks. There has been some new depth added to the bullpen which should be refreshing when the Cubs start getting deep into series’ with opposing teams. Pedro Strop can only make a save so many times before other teams start figuring him out.
As far as prospects go, the Cubs currently have the number one farm system in baseball. The growth and development plan that the Ricketts family and Theo Epstein has put in place has really been paying off and hopefully we’ll get to see some action from some of these prospects in the coming weeks at spring training games. Albert Almora the 21year old first round draft pick in 2012 will likely start his season with the Iowa Cubs, after putting up solid numbers in Tennessee last season. He’s been beleaguered by injuries in the past but reports have him looking healthy so if he has solid work this season perhaps we’ll see him at Wrigley in August or September. Another 21 year old (God I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing) RHP Duane Underwood got his first call up to big league spring training for this year, he’s ranked as the Cubs number 4 prospect and reportedly impressed Joe Maddon last season. It is unlikely he’ll get pulled up this season to play in the big leagues but barring injuries he’ll be a name we’ll be hearing a lot about come 2017. Four other Cubs minor leaguers are on the top 100 list as well; RHP Carl Edwards Jr, 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario, RHP Pierce Johnson, and Catcher Wilson Contreras. All these young guns are in the pipeline and looking to move up quickly.
As far as Cubbie news I think we are in a great spot. All winter I’ve been seeing articles like “Cubs the team to beat in 2016”, or “Cubs top ranked infield in MLB” it seems even ABC is rooting for the Cubs, or at least that the producers of The Bachelor are Cubs fans, not being a reality TV fan myself I missed the much heralded The Bachelor date at Wrigley Field, but I am told it was adorable.
I spent last weekend making college softball into television, it felt like great preparation for the season, though apparently women’s softball is now obsessed with this wrist band that looks like a periodic table of all of their signs (in my day we memorized them and then walked uphill in the snow both ways to get to the field!) It was great prep though, since I was in Texas where it actually felt like spring as opposed to my family and friends back in the bitter cold northeast, I can’t even imagine thinking about baseball prep when the wind-chill is negative 20 degrees, then again these young Cubs better start getting used to that wind-chill if they are hoping to be playing well into October this season.
For now- Good Night, Good Luck and Go Cubs!