Week one of spring training is in the books, and that means it’s time to take a look at where we stand after a few games.
There are six catchers in camp, four of which are on the forty man roster. Of those four, only Geovany Soto is a lock to make the team out of spring training. This is one of the few position battles this spring, despite the fact that many people think Koyie Hill is the backup catcher. As of right now, he’s done absolutely nothing at the plate, going 0-f0r-13 so far in five spring games. He adds the veteran leadership to the staff and to Geo, but I don’t know that I’m willing to put up with a catcher that hits close to .200 in exchange for his ability to call a game and mentor. I need a guy to backup that can actually get a hit, should he be called upon. At this point, I want to see what Wellington Castillo and Max Ramirez can do. Give these guys some extra at bats, and let them try to earn a spot. Castillo probably still needs some seasoning, but Ramirez is worth a chance if he can hit enough to warrant the spot over Hill.
Carlos Pena is set in stone as the starter, but I’m curious how Quade will handle backup duties. It seems irresponsible to throw that responsibility on a guy like Tyler Colvin, but that appears to be the only plan of action right now considering there isn’t another natural first baseman on the 40 man roster. The only other person in camp with any legit amount of experience at the position is Bryan LaHair. It amazes me how little depth we have at this position, and it scares me to think about what would happen if Pena were to go down for any length of time, including a small four or five day stint with an ankle tweak.
One of the other battles in camp this spring is at second. Blake DeWitt seems to be the favorite right now, but Jeff Baker should give him enough of a run to at least make a run at a platoon spot. Baker hit lefties really well last year, but got crushed by righties. DeWitt sucked equally against both. To be honest, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see a kid like Darwin Barney out play both of them and take the job over. It’s a position that has to be looked at seriously if we’re in contention come trade deadline. Perhaps a run at Kelly Johnson of the Diamondbacks should they be out of it. He’s a free agent after the season and would be an upgrade, especially in the power department.
STARlin Castro has been on fire to start the spring. He’s 9-for-19 with a double, triple, and a home run. He’s driven in four runs and stolen a base. Barney will probably win the spot to backup unless he tanks it and somehow Augie Ojeda plays out of his shoes and wins the spot. To me, that would be a waste. Ojeda’s 36 years old and not even on the roster right now. It would mean making a spot for him. I’ll take my chances with Barney’s development in an effort to play the higher ceiling guy.
I mentioned the other day that I felt Aramis Ramirez was going to be back in a big way in 2011. He’s been OK so far this spring, but hasn’t shown the power yet. I’m not worried about it, and neither should you. Aside from getting in a fight with Carlos Silva, the other piece of news is that apparently he’s ready to start stealing:
#Cubs Aramis Ramirez asked Quade if he can run more. Says Ramy: “I can steal 5 or 10.” He has 15 SB in his career, none last year ~ Twitter
I don’t know about all that, but I like the idea of the Cubs stealing more bases as long as they can do so effectively. If they’re going to do it just to do it, then forget it.
Beyond Ramirez, the name that is starting to get me excited is Marquez Smith. Two years ago, I would have said Josh Vitters was the heir apparent at the hot corner, but I’m starting to lose faith in Vitters in a hurry and I’m beginning to wonder if he’s headed toward first, with Smith taking over as soon as next year for Ramirez. Smith’s numbers in the minors clearly show he has power and can hold his own from an average stand point. I’m excited for his future and look for big things from him this year. If Vitters wants my respect, he’ll need to earn it. Here are Smith’s stats in his stint so far in the minors.
Year Age Lev G PA AB R 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS 2007 22 A--A 72 308 257 50 14 1 8 55 44 48 .280 .380 .436 .816 2008 23 A-A+ 122 506 446 71 27 5 17 66 47 94 .278 .354 .475 .830 2009 24 AA-A+ 128 505 460 65 35 1 15 67 38 95 .278 .337 .457 .794 2010 25 AAA-AA 107 392 347 68 28 1 20 58 36 83 .297 .371 .556 .927
We know that Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd, Kosuke Fukudome, and Colvin will all make this team. The only battle left is for the 5th spot and it appears to be between Reed Johnson and Fernando Perez. For some reason, after one week, it’s not been a very fair competition. Johnson has seen 15 at bats with Perez getting just four. It makes me wonder a little given Perez’s age and speed. I’m curious to know if Quade feels like Johnson has the job unless he plays himself out of it. My heart wants him to be the guy, but I can’t help but wonder if Perez would bring more to the table. Johnson would require a spot be opened to make room for him on the 40 man if he were to win the job over Perez, and Perez does have an option year left. I’m curious to see what this week brings in terms of clarity for this battle.
We know Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, and Matt Garza are locks for the rotation, so don’t expect too much discussion on them going forward unless they do something to warrant it. For example, Zambrano has been really good so far this spring despite getting in trouble the other day for trying to hit the ball 500 feet. He also complained about some soreness. Garza got hit by a line drive, but was OK. Dempster pitched the longest outing among the starters on Sunday and has looked good.
The battle is between Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells, and Silva, with guys like Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper looming as very dark horse candidates. I’ve all but dismissed Looper and Cashner. Looper because he’s bad and Cashner because he seems to be better served to be used in the back end of the bullpen to make it very dangerous mix of guys to close out games. That leaves Wells, Silva, and Wellemeyer. Silva has a hefty contract and, if we remember, was the best pitcher on the staff in the early part of last year. Wells was frustrating at times last year and has option years left. Wells has made one start and it was a good one. Silva? He started a fight and gave up two home runs in that inning. Wellemeyer turned in a quiet start, but made an impact. I’d give the edge to Wells and Silva right now, but Wellemeyer could make a run.
Normally the last section would be the pen, but I hate bullpens. They’re a crap shoot. We’ll get what we get and have to be happy with it.