With Spring Training already well underway, the regular season is within striking distance. As always for this time of year, there’s no shortage of storylines for the Cubs, as well as the other teams around the league.
While many Cubs fans are focused on Javier Baez and his breakout spring, as well as the possible impending trade of starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, there have been plenty of headlines for opposing teams to be focused on.
Iglesias Goes Down – Seen as the favorite in the American League, the Detroit Tigers are going to have to find someone, whether it is within the system or externally, to replace starting shortstop Jose Iglesias after it was reported that he’d miss a significant amount of time with stress fractures in both legs.
After being acquired from the World Series champion Boston Red Sox in a mid-season trade last year, Iglesias was supposed to be part of an improved Tigers defense that had added Ian Kinsler and moved Miguel Cabrera back to his natural first base position, but that obviously will not be the case.
Internal candidates like Danny Worth and Eugenio Suarez are in place, but realistically neither of them should be a full-time starter for a team like Detroit. There have been rumors about Stephen Drew being a possible replacement, but the first-round pick that is attached to signing him may cause the risk to outweigh any possible reward.
Players like Nick Franklin, and the loser of the Chris Owings / Didi Gregorius Diamondbacks’ shortstop battle should be names to watch as the season nears. General Manager Dave Dombrowski has shown in the past that he’s not afraid to make a move, so it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see any of these players sporting the Old English D at some point.
Two Aces Done For The Year – Any chance that the Diamondbacks may have had of competing with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants in the NL West was likely gone with the news that Patrick Corbin, the team’s ace, will be probably be done for the year after it was found that he more than likely needs Tommy John surgery.
Hopes were high for the 24-year old Corbin, who was coming off an All-Star appearance in 2013. He led the team in wins with 14, and his ERA+ and FIP both indicated that this was more than a fluke season.
The Diamondbacks were hoping that he would anchor their rotation, but now they’ll have to turn to Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill among others to get the job done. Luckily the team signed Bronson Arroyo earlier in the off-season, but it’ll still be tough to replace a guy like Corbin.
As for the Cubs perspective on this, the price for Samardzija just went up quite a bit, as Arizona was seen as a possible suitor for the starter. With this increased need, the package the Cubs could get in return might just look a bit more appealing now.
Much like the D’Backs and Corbin, the Oakland Athletics will be without their top pitcher for the entirety of the season, too, as Jarrod Parker is going to need Tommy John after an MRI revealed a torn UCL.
Also, like the Diamondbacks, the A’s have a bit of depth in the rotation, but they still more than likely won’t be able to overcome this huge loss. Sonny Gray showed some potential in the ALDS against the Tigers, but it isn’t reasonable to expect him to replace Parker’s production.
Jesse Chavez, who was on the bubble as far as making the rotation, will probably slide into the number five spot after a strong spring, and Bob Melvin will look for newly acquired Scott Kazmir to pick up some of the slack at the top of the rotation.
Young Guns Dominate – For many teams, especially those that don’t have much of a chance at competing this year, Spring Training is an exciting time where top prospects get put on display against some of the best competition that they’ve ever faced.
While success of failure isn’t a definitive sign of how they’ll end up doing, it’s a decent indicator for how long it’ll take for them to make an impact at the major league level.
Baez, who I mentioned earlier, is just one of the young players that are tearing up the rest of the league. Addison Russell, a fellow shortstop, is putting on a show with the Oakland A’s, and he may be up earlier than expected even though he’s just 20 years old.
The Tigers’ Nick Castellanos, who the team had enough faith in to trade slugger Prince Fielder, is on fire currently, as is Orioles second base prospect Jonathan Schoop. On the hill, Kevin Gausman and Jake Odorizzi are both staking claims for their spot in the rotation for the Orioles and Rays, respectively.
Like we’ve seen with players like Xander Bogaerts and Wil Myers in recent years, these young players are able to shift a division race, so these are certainly just a few of the names to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
“The Week That Was” is a weekly look at the news and notes around MLB. It will run each Monday afternoon throughout the season.