As the calendar continues to grow closer to the end of the “dog days”, the Cubs will not be competing for a playoff spot, obviously. An interesting scenario is about to arise as the schedule turns to September 1st, the roster expansion. By rule, any player on the 40 man roster is eligible to be called up to the majors. Kris Bryant will not be on this list and will not be called up in September, but there are some interesting players that could be fighting for a closer look in spring training next spring.
Pitchers: Felix Doubront, Dan Straily, Dallas Beeler, Arodys Vizcaino
Aside from the obvious candidates like Blake Parker, Brian Schlitter, and Chris Rusin, these guys could be interesting new names to the mix. The Cubs have said that they will tinker with the starting staff once the calendar turns to September. With Jacob Turner making a start yesterday, he will stick in the rotation. A few guys I listed (Doubront, Beeler, and Straily) will also make starts when they are called up. Doubront is currently on the 15-day DL and has made rehab starts in AA Tennessee. An acquisition from the Red Sox in July, the left hander could make his Cubs debut as early as this week. As for Beeler and Straily, they have both made starts in Chicago this season. With Iowa looking like they will not make the playoffs, don’t be surprised to see these two guys back up with the big club. Straily, an acquisition from the A’s in that block-buster deal, has pitched better since being traded. In nine starts with the Cubs AAA club, the right hander posted a 3.42 ERA in 50 innings while nearly striking a batter out per inning. As for Beeler, he has been even better in Iowa. Throughout the season, the 25 year old right hander has started 19 games for the I-Cubs, posting a 3.61 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in 117.1 innings pitched. The dark horse to be called up is one of the Cubs top prospects, Arodys Vizcaino. Acquired for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson in 2011 from Atlanta, the 23 year old right hander missed over two years with Tommy John surgery and complications from the surgery. Vizcaino came back in 2014 ready to roll, as he has posted a 3.60 ERA through 40 innings spanning three levels of the Cubs system (now in Iowa). In those 40 innings, the righty has held opponents to a .245 batting average and only 1.35 walks and hits per inning. Vizcaino has been on the 40 man since being acquired, and that could lead to his promotion in September.
Position players: Mike Olt, Josh Vitters, Junior Lake
With Logan Watkins, Jorge Soler, and Matt Szczur up in the big leagues already, a trio of players with something to prove will be called up in September. The first of which is Mike Olt. The third baseman started the year with the Cubs and really struggled to make contact consistently, only hitting .139 with a .575 OPS in 187 at bats with the Cubs before being demoted to Iowa in late July. The one big problem Olt had was the strikeouts. The 26 year old struck out in 36.9% of his plate appearances with the Cubs. Since being demoted, however, Olt has turned it around. The third baseman, who has switched to playing first base because of Kris Bryant, is hitting .302 with a .933 OPS in 115 plate appearances and has lowered his strikeout rate to 29%. If Olt can come up and secure the third baseman job in Chicago, that would cause the Cubs to move Bryant to the outfield or could be a useful trade piece. Another player who started with the Cubs this year and has been demoted is Junior Lake. The outfielder played in 98 games with the big league club, hitting .216 with and OPS of .608 over 305 plate appearance. Lake struck out in 33.4% of his plate appearances and was sent down to work on his contact issues, much like Olt. Since being sent down, the 24 year old is hitting .318 with a .862 OPS and only a 23.4% strike out rate. Lake is trying to hang on the big league roster as a backup outfielder. The third and final player that will be called up is a guy who is, essentially, on his last chance with the Cubs, and that is Josh Vitters. The third baseman turned outfielder was, at one time, the big prospect in the Cubs system. After being called up and hitting under .200 with a 33% strike out rate in his only MLB experience in 2012, Vitters has hit a wall in AAA after a very good 2013 season. In 2014, the former first round pick has hit .213 with a .607 OPS in 404 plate appearances, while striking out 26.5% of the time. This is Vitters’ last shot with the Cubs. His spot on the 40 man roster could expire after this season with the influx of young talent coming up. This could spell the end for the 25 year old with the Cubs.
When the Cubs reach September, there are very interesting pieces that could come up and play a significant role. With the Cubs looking to be competitive in 2015, the players coming up this next month have some time to audition to be on the team when the Cubs are doing damage around the league soon.