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3 Primary Concerns Heading Into Spring Training

Written by , Posted in General

Spring training is on the horizon and the offseason is coming to a close, as pitchers and catchers report to Arizona in less than a month. Last year, when I spent a week at spring training, I was primarily interested in seeing how well the team meshed together, as it would be the first full season for all of them to be playing as one unit. This year, unfortunately I can’t make it out to Arizona, but like most of you, I’ll be keeping a close eye on spring training happenings and the development of the World Champion (!!) Chicago Cubs.

As we approach spring training, I really only have three primary concerns regarding the Cubs, and they’re pretty minor:

1. The depth of starting pitching

Really, I’m only sort of concerned about this. The main reason I’m concerned about the depth of starting pitching is because it won’t be the same rotation the Cubs had last year, and they won a World Series last year—it’s not fun to change something that isn’t broken. But, unless Jason Hammel returns—which he still could—the rotation will look different than it did last year.

Going into spring training, it looks like Mike Montgomery will be the fifth starter on the roster, as was reported when Hammel became a free agent, but there is no guarantee he will start the season in the five-slot of the rotation. Now that Tyson Ross is off of the board, sadly, adding pitchers externally before the season starts seems unlikely. So, Montgomery is most qualified to be the fifth starter and will likely be the guy come Opening Day.

That’s not all bad—I’m actually quite optimistic about Montgomery and think he can be a strong, Kyle-Hendricks-like guy on the end of the rotation. Not to mention, it will be good to add another lefty to the rotation, I think.

As I have been writing this, the Cubs have acquired Brett Anderson. Ken Rosenthal, who broke news of the deal, noted that Anderson has only pitched in 65 games in the last five seasons—he’s not exactly a bastion of good health. So, while adding Anderson theoretically creates more depth in the Cubs rotation, it remains to be seen if his health will hold up in such a way that he is a viable option for the fifth starter slot.

It’s not fun to talk about injuries, but another one of the reasons I’m concerned about the depth of the starting rotation is that if one of the top guys gets injured, there aren’t a ton of options lined up behind them as long relievers in the bullpen or otherwise to slide in and make up time. This theme lends me to my second primary concern going into spring training…

2. The sinking feeling that the team can’t avoid injuries like they have before

I know, I know. The team wasn’t entirely injury-free in 2016: Kyle Schwarber was sidelined all but two weeks of the season this year, Jorge Soler was down for a number of weeks, and otherwise. But, generally-speaking, the Chicago Cubs have been incredibly healthy. Now that they have won one World Series—maybe this makes me a bad fan—I won’t be distraught if they don’t win another one with this squad, but I genuinely hope they can stay as unnaturally healthy as they have and win as many championships as possible.

I am pretty nervous about it though, if I’m being honest.

So, don’t mind me, but I’ll be cringing at just about every hard slide, diving catch, and other such dicey plays this year, because I am unsure the Cubs can continue to be as remarkably healthy as they have been.

3. The continued development of future talent

As teams build up major league squads to win championships, younger talent and future (potential) success is often dealt away in exchange for more seasoned stars and immediate success. This past season, when the Cubs dealt young talent for Aroldis Chapman, I was nervous, even though I did not doubt the dominant force Chapman would be for the Cubs throughout the rest of 2016. I was nervous because I couldn’t remember the last time the Cubs were buyers at the trade deadline instead of sellers—it was uncharted territory for me as a Cubs fan.

Despite the World Series win, this feeling of nervousness continues into 2017. Obviously, I am ecstatic about the present state of the Cubs, but I also don’t want to get apathetic about the future, either. Knowing as much about the major league squad as I do, I may actually spend most of spring training trying to learn as much about the minor league guys as I can.

The present Chicago Cubs are darn good, but the future Chicago Cubs may look a bit different than the present Chicago Cubs, and it’s important not to get so comfy in the present that we forget about the future.

All in all, the 2017 Cubs are as likely to repeat as world champions as anyone else is to win the World Series, I think. And I say that with as little homer-bias as possible. I truly think they’re going to be the best team again this year.

But, I do have my concerns going into spring training.

What concerns do you have going into spring training? I’m sure I missed some legitimate worries you may have.

  • Bob Kuehn

    Lester and Lackey are not getting any older and I’m concerned that their velocity might be dropping and I’m hoping that our new closer, Wade Davis, can stay healthy.

    • Douglas Saye

      If Lester and Lackey are not getting any older, in the slightly, changed, yet still immortal words of Rob Reiner’s mother in Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what they’re having”.

      Just messing with you Bob. I agree with your thoughts, more with Lackey than Lester. I think the depth of the bullpen is tremendous though with five guys that could close if necessary.

      Chris, nice article again. I know the fretting is about injury and pitching depth but I would say that goes for every team in the league. The good news is a pitching injury that is a non-season ender can be overcome with the relentless attack the offense should provide on a daily basis.

      • The old gal specially ordered what Sally was having.

      • chrismartin17

        Thanks @douglassaye:disqus. Yeah, every team has these same concerns. It isn’t really unique to the Cubbies.

  • JTBarrett16

    I’m most concerned about a lead-off hitter.

    • I was hoping they would have let Vogelbach DH and lead off for interleague road games because of his plate discipline, but that ship has sailed.

      • JTBarrett16

        Me too

      • I’d hit Voglebach-Schwarber 1-2 and call them Schwarblebach.

      • JTBarrett16

        Where does Adam Dunn fit into this?

      • He’s holding Dan’s jockstrap.

    • chrismartin17

      Yeah, I get that. But I think we’ll be fine. I’m “concerned” about a leadoff hitter meaning I’m “interested” in what we do, but I’m not “concerned” as in “unsure we have an option.”

  • Doc Raker

    The Cubs lost one of the best hitters in the game last year and still scored a bunch of runs. The Cubs are deep, one injury won’t derail them just as Schwarbs injury didn’t derail them in 2016 although I don’t think the Cubs win the World Series without Schwarbs.

    My concern for spring training is: Who is meeting me for dinner at Don and Charlies?

    • Sherm

      When? I didn’t have plans to go, but I can always justify a quick trip to Phoenix…so shoot over some dates and I’ll see if I can make one of them work.

      The three things I’m most concerned about this season:

      1. When and where is the VFTB trip?
      2. Going back to back. Can it be done? (I am, of course, referring to World Lizzie Championship)
      3. Ballparks without enough nets

      • Doc Raker

        I will know more about my March schedule after next weekend, my kids hockey schedule is to be determined. Can you do Sat-Monday in late March?

      • Sherm

        I’ll be in China the very last week – but might be able to do games on the 24th and/or 25th (except they are in Las Vegas on the 25th.) Maybe we watch them vs the Indians on the 24th, have dinner at Don & Charlies and then drive to Vegas? ROAD TRIP!!! I’ll be Hunter and you can be Zeta Acosta. It’ll be epic.

  • Adam Peters

    The Cubs have the incredible luxury of having one too many starting position players, so if one of them, any one of them save Contreras, were to get hurt they would still have a full arsenal.

    To tell you the truth, I’m not really worried about anything going into this season. I’m just going to sit back and enjoy.