View From The Bleachers

March 6, 2011

Reflections on Week 1 of Camp Quade

Filed under: Featured,General — Joe Aiello @ 9:39 pm

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.

Catcher

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.

First Base

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.

Second Base

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.

Shortstop

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.

Third Base

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

Outfield

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.

Starting Rotation

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.


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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    This is TP2, using this name for a while.

    1B – I am amazed how little depth we have also. This reminds me of 2004-05, where we had no one after Derrek Lee besides Todd Hollandsworth. And when Hollandsworth went down in 2004, Lee had to play every day. One can only wonder if we had a fresher Derrek Lee down the stretch if we could have snuck into the playoffs that year. That was a team I really felt would have won it all had they made the playoffs. Wood and Prior were healthy and firing in September.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    I agree with you that the bullpens are usually a crapshoot, but we’ve got Woody and Marmol. If we can get a 3rd really good reliever, it would help a lot to shorten the game a bit. I’ve always said one of my rationale for using the DH in the NL is so it would help out with middle relief issues. Because it is a league-wide issue. With the DH, teams could keep their starters in a little longer. I’ve also always wondered why teams don’t have their starters relieve more on their side days. These guys are throwing anyways, why not use their bullets during the game?

    In regards to the starters, if it is true that Randy Wells suckage in 2010 was due to getting a big head after 2009, and that head has shrunk to the 2009 size, and he returns to his 2009 form, that will be a huge boost to the rotation.

  • Mitchener

    That pitcher is creepy. Quade looks like Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.

    “Look out Kosuke hes gonna eat your face!”

  • Mitchener

    haha i meant picture* Got to much baseball on my mind

  • Deezer

    The bullpen could be interesting, if only because 2 spots are probably filled that, in my opinion, shouldn’t be. At the back end are Woody, Marshall, and Marmol, which would leave, what, 4 spaces? Samardzija and Grabow are either out of options or under contract, so they’re basically in unless they blow it over the next few weeks (which Samardzija doesn’t seem to be doing). That leaves, basically, 2, which will probably be Cashner and Russell (this is, of course, assuming that Silva and Wells make the rotation, which is iffy).

    If that’s the case, it could be interesting. The back ends good, but the other 4 tend to be horribly inconsistent, and there don’t seem to be that many better options in camp (although I still like Caridad, hopefully he doesn’t blow out his arm again)

  • walterj

    to me , theres less mystery as to who will be our pitchers come the start of the season .dempster , zambrano , garza , wells , and silva will be the starters . marmol , wood , marshall , grabow , samardzija will be in the pen . the only question is what will they do with cashner ? is he in the pen or will he start in the minors ? i vote the pen …..i think perez hasn’t got the atbats because he is banged up …. firstbase option if pena goes down if i were managing would be soto . give him a break behind the plate so castillo (NOT HILL) could get more atbats .

  • Doc Raker

    I would trade Aram now and bring up Marquez Smith. The future is with the youth all over the league, it is a new era and the sooner the Cubs move on to it the better. On a bright note Marlon Byrd is off to a hot start and I am sure he is hustling out every ball, I wish all the Cubs players were like him in that regard.

  • Randy

    I think the pitching situation isn’t as much of a race as it’s being made out to be. It’s going to be Dempster, Zambrano, Garza, Wells, and Silva. Only an injury is really going to change that at this point. The bullpen also looks pretty well set with Marmol, Wood, Marshall, Grabow (ick), Samardzjia, and Cashner with only the last slot open for competition. I think that Quade has a luxury this year in that his talent is spread so thin he doesn’t have to make many decisions. Hill will unfortunately beat out both the kids for the backup catcher role, even though if they really wanted him to be a mentor they’d find a way to get him down to AAA, but not the easiest thing to do. First base really bothers me, the more I dwell on it I think it was a mistake to let Nady get away.

  • http://van Buddy

    Do you mean the youthful Marlon Byrd who will be 34 this year? Just as a fun side note, Byrd is actually older than Aramis Ramirez.

  • Chuck

    You know what is really scary, Soriano is the oldest position player the Cubs have. Yikes! I remember when he was a spry whipper-snapper witht he Yankees…
    RE Pena: He does not need a backup, he needs a platoon partner. He, simply, can’t hit leftys at all. A sub-.300 OBP is not going to get it done.
    RE Catcher: I would rather see the young guys in the minors getting regular ABs and time behind the plate then rotting on the bench 3/4 of the time on the big club. Geo is clearly the starter and he will see a majority of the time there.
    RE Vitters: The guy was 20 in AA, so some slack can be given. However, if he does not handle AA well this year at 21 his status as a legit impact prospect can be called into question.

  • http://van Buddy

    I hope Max Ramirez makes the team as the backup catcher, but I’m sure it will be Koyie “the out-making machine” Hill again.

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    Why did we ever get rid of Henry Blanco? He was a great back-up catcher. Oh wait, I remember why. He was too expensive, so we paid Paul Bako $25,000 more than what Blanco wanted, and then we cut him in spring training. Oops.

  • Doc Raker

    Buddy- No, I mean in general older sluggers are in decline and over paid. As we move out of the PED’s era many of the veteran sluggers will underperform therefore I prefer the potential of youth over the frustration of a PEDeran (veteran + PED suspect = PEDeran). There is no ‘age’ rule as you are trying to infer with the Byrd smarment (smarmy + comment = smarment).

  • BuckeyeLakerCub

    On the topic of Byrd and doping, Bud Selig was asked about Byrd’s relationship with Victor Conte and he isn’t too happy about it. I really hope he is just training with Conte and not doping.

  • Doc Raker

    I agree with Randy- the pitching race isn’t much of a race. The story is most probably media induced, like much of what you hear on CNN and ESPN.

  • http://swantron.com jswanson

    I’m rooting for Scales (alone, apparently) and Beef Castillo to make the squad. Cashner is the tricky one…I think I’ll vote for AAA. Since the Shark is designated ‘pen, I think we need someone waiting in the wings to take Silva’s spot when he goes down. Tough call.

  • Buddy

    I wasn’t trying to be smarmy. Just a question and a comment.

  • Benjamin

    I’m actually really worried about our first base situation. It’s possible that Colvin can be a serviceable backup, I feel like Baker might also be able to fill in if absolutely necessary, but I question whether or not they should have to. If Pena is batting .196 again with potentially lower power numbers, I would seriously worry about our future at the position.
    As far as the rotation goes, I would be completely fine with Silva and Wells rounding out the back end. Ideally for me Silva starts out the season really strongly like he did last year, then the Cubs trade him for a role player (whether it be at 2nd base, 1st base, etc.) that can help the team. The Cubs will have enough options in the rotation to allow for that kind of a change

  • Mitchener

    I believe Ramirez has 2 good years left in him. It seems like after 35 is when a player falls of a cliff. Byrd will probably still be good through his contract but I think this is Soriano’s last year to put up big numbers.

  • mastrick

    C: More than likely Hill will be the backup. Why? Because he has a contract.
    1B: Colvin as a backup? Wow, we’d lose some versatility bigtime in the outfield. Sowwy I don’t like this. This year’s first round draft pick should be spent on a college player that can hit at this position.
    2B: Advantage DeWitt but will he git it done? I like Barney here – Darwin will make the club as the utility guy.
    SS: That is Castro.
    3B: Ramirez owns it, at least when he’s healthy. Best of luck after this year Aramis! Hope you enjoy your new team.
    SP: Dempster, Garza, Zambrano and Wells will start. Fifth starter will likely be Coleman or Marshall. But what about Silva the Blimp? Carlos will be DFA’d – I see him sitting at home watching baseball – any team except the Cubs that is.
    BP: Marmol, Wood, Samardzija (out of options,) Russell, Coleman/Marshall, Stevens and Maine. Grabow will either clear waviers or be a casualty.

  • Smokie

    I think everybody is panicking over 1st base. Brian Lahair had a tremendous season last year and in my opinion would out hit Pena over the course of a season. Behind Lahair you also have Blake Lalli who has hit 300 for three straight seasons and plays a pretty good first base. Its about time we look at the guys that produce and not all this prospect crap.

  • Doc Raker

    Buddy- don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy your comments and banter, smarmy or not. I define smarment as any comment with some sarcasm in it, which is certainly fine, even wanted. I fancy myself a smarmenter at times. It’s all in Cub fun in my book.

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