In our third installment, we’ll take a look at what options the Cubs have an the infield while they work to build their 25 man roster.
Aramis Ramirez: The longest tenured third baseman since Ron Santo has left Chicago and now plays for the rival Brewers. It’s going to take a lot to replace his production in the lineup, but I really think it’s time for Ramirez to move on. He’s not a clubhouse and team leader. With a younger team taking the field, veteran leaders are going to be more important than ever.
Carlos Pena: In a typical Scott Boras move, Pena signed a one year deal with the Cubs last season in hopes to boost this worth for a long term contract. It didn’t work out with him batting .225 but hitting a team leading 28 home runs. Between Pena and Ramirez that’s 54 HRs and over 170 RBIs gone from the previous season. We might see an increase in Starlin Castro‘s throwing errors without Pena scooping everything he can reach. He’s back on the Rays.
D.J. LeMahieu: I’ve been vocal about liking this kid, and I stand by it. He was included in the Tyler Colvin/Ian Stewart swap. He has a decent shot at making the Rockies and potentially starting at 3rd. He could have good success in Colorado. He had a decent shot at playing time at 3rd for the Cubs.
Koyie Hill: The light-hitting, defensive catcher calls a great game, and is a great player to work with the pitching staff, but with the emergence of Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger, it’s time for Hill to move on. He signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals.
Starlin Castro: The Cubs lone All-Star last year will be back and hopefully be the cornerstone of the Cubs offense for years to come. There were rumors the Rays were interested in Castro. As mentioned earlier, it could be a rough throwing year with out Pena at first. I foresee a good year in growth in terms of his offensive numbers as he matures into his body.
Projections: .300 AVG 15 HR 70 RBI 30 SB0. All-Star.
Darwin Barney: Barney is a scrappy player, that doesn’t have any plus tools. He gets on base, but doesn’t walk. He possesses decent speed and fields a little above average. He’ll start and bat low in the lineup.
Projections: .280 AVG. Not near enough walks.
Geovany Soto: Mr. “Every Other Year” himself. Soto had a down year last year, so look to him to have a better season. His name has been involved in trade rumors a little bit this offseason, and think it would be good to try to move Soto for prospects.
Projections: .270 AVG 18 HR 60 RBI.
Their Job to Lose
Bryan LaHair: LaHair has been labeled a AAAA player, but has never really been given a shot at consistent play at the MLB level. Between MiLB, MLB and Venezuelan Winter League, LaHair hit over 50 HRs last season. He hits from the left side and has power. Why not give him a shot? Recently acquired Anthony Rizzo is waiting in the wings.
Projections: .270 AVG 30 HR 80 RBI. Traded at the deadline so Rizzo can start playing.
Ian Stewart: Acquired in a “change of scenery” trade with the Rockies, Stewart is slated to start at third this season. The Cubs’ brass hopes that Stewart can return to something closer to his 25 HR season in 2009. It’s hard to say where he’ll end up stat wise, but you can’t help but think it will go up at Wrigley. It’s also worth noting he bats from the left as well.
Projections: .250 AVG 20 HR 60 RBI.
Fighting for the Bench
The backup catcher is going to be the best ‘fight’ to watch this spring. Any three of these players could win this job outright. I do like all three players.
Welington Castillo: Probably has the most upside, and could be molded into an average platoon catcher.
Steve Clevenger: I like this kid. Still needs some more work in the minors. Pretty decent upside, but ultimately looking to have a backup career. Pretty decent hitting catcher, and can play 3rd and 1st. I like him to start at AAA
Jason Jaramillo: Non-roster invitee. He’s never really had a chance to get playing time with the Pirates. I don’t think he’ll end up on the roster, and will work with Clevenger at AAA.
Jeff Baker: He’ll be back to hit against left handed hitting. He’ll play 3rd, 2nd, 1st, and Corner OF.
Projections: .260 AVG 7 HRs 30 RBI. He’ll see plenty of utility action this season.
Adrian Cardenas: Acquired off waivers from the A’s Cardenas has a good shot to backup 2nd, 3rd, and Corner OF with Baker. It’s been said he’s a good hitter, but can’t play anywhere in the field above average.
Matt Tolbert: Free Agent from the Twins, could figure to see action at SS and 2nd.
Alfredo Amezaga: The aging light-hitting, utility player can play 2nd, 3rd, SS, and LF. Don’t see him making the team.
Edgar Gonzalez: Non-roster invitee. Won’t make big league squad.
Junior Lake: Up and coming shortstop, yet fairly raw skills. Unfortunately Castro is planted there for the foreseeable future. Actually three days younger than Castro. Look to him to move to 2nd or 3rd. Could be a 20/40 guy in the future. He’ll play at AAA this season. He looked real good in the AFL this past fall.
Blake DeWitt: Recently designated with the pick up of Cardenas; however, he cleared waivers and was invited to camp. He’s going to have to play himself into a spot on the team. With Stewart, LaHair, and Cardenas batting from the left side, he could be looking for a new job soon.
Bobby Scales: Back from Japan. Back to AAA.
With the beginning of the season, I think the Cubs will carry 13 pitchers while starters continue to build up their arm strength. That leaves 12 position players, and ultimately only five total bench spots. Three infield and two OF. Several of the infield bench options can play the OF in a pinch too. A lot of the bench players don’t play short, so Barney will be the main backup at that position.
C: Geovany Soto
1B: Bryan LaHair
2B: Darwin Barney
SS: Starlin Castro
3B: Ian Stewart
UT: Jeff Baker
C: Welington Castillo
UT: Adrian Cardenas
Blake DeWitt (if he accepts a minor league assignment)
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis Tagged: | Adrian Cardenas, Alfredo Amezaga, Anthony Rizzo, Aramis Ramirez, Blake DeWitt, Bobby Scales, Bryan LaHair, Carlos Pena, Chicago Cubs, D.J. LeMahieu, Darwin Barney, Edgar Gonzalez, Geovany Soto, Ian Stewart, Jason Jaramillo, Jeff Baker, Junior Lake, Koyie Hill, Matt Tolbert, Starlin Castro, Steve Clevenger, Welington Castillo