Cubs GM Jed Hoyer announced yesterday that Mike Olt and Ryan Kalish have made the Cubs MLB roster (making my early roster predictions look AMAZING – and making Joe’s predictions look TERRIBLE). So, with George Kottaras and Donnie Murphy gone, the positional roster looks like this:
1B – Anthony Rizzo
SS – Starlin Castro
…and here’s where it gets interesting:
3B – Olt / Valbuena
The challenge for Rick Renteria is going to be shuffling around players enough to give everyone enough at-bats to stay productive, while also not shuffling so much that the younger guys don’t get consistent at-bats. As you can see, I think Bonifacio will play in both the infield and the outfield, while Valbuena will likely see time at both 2B and 3B. However, I don’t think you have Olt on the roster to sit on the bench – given his upside – so finding time for all these guys is going to be quite difficult. There is, of course, a chance that a trade or two could still happen – but opening day is just around the corner (yay!), so those moves are becoming less likely. The Barney and Schierholtz trade rumors are still hanging around…
To me, Barney has to be the odd man out. He’s pretty much a glove-only guy at this point (even with the expected positive regression at the plate) – so you don’t want him to be taking at-bats away from guys who hit better (and have more developmental upside). Of course, he’s also not a good pinch-hit option coming off the bench. I just have a hard time finding a reason to have him on this team at this point (aside from the intangibles like “leadership”). Every time he’s in the lineup, I can see myself wishing that someone else was playing instead.
The only roster questions that remain involve the 5th starter (Carlos Villanueva or Chris Rusin) and the last bullpen spot (Rusin / Alberto Cabrera / Justin Grimm). My money is on Villanueva to grab the 5th starter spot (until Jake Arrieta comes back) and for Cabrera to take the bullpen gig (out of options). I’d rather have Rusin remain a starter in AAA anyway – I’m sure we’ll need him at some point later in the season for a spot start or two.
How Renteria handles these playing-time issues will be a huge test for the first-year manager. If he pulls this off, we may have found ourselves a keeper.
I’ll be in Chicago next weekend for opening day at Wrigley Field. I’ll be in the bleachers on Friday and Saturday. If you’re around, and you happen to see me, feel free to say “hi.” Since I’ve been living in Georgia the last 6 years, I’ve become quite the wimp, so I’ll probably be so bundled-up you won’t recognize me anyway.
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