David Ross has begun making cuts as Spring Training time starts to fade. With the bullpen in disarray, a rotation spot open and battles for the second base and centerfield jobs at stake, projecting the Cubs 2020 26-man roster isn’t such an easy task.
The First Cuts of Spring
Ross began making cuts on Friday, reducing the Cubs’ spring roster from 62 to 51. Ross still has a long way to go until he makes the 26 and 40-man marks.
Seven non-roster invites were assigned to the minors, including RHPs Jason Adam, Oscar De La Cruz, Caleb Simpson and Brock Stewart. LHPs Tyler Olson and CD Pelham were also sent down, as was catcher Jhonny Pereda.
The Starting Rotation
Yu Darvish will assume the #1 spot this year, with Jon Lester falling back to the #3 spot. Darvish has really been able to turn it on since the All-Star break last year, while Lester continues to struggle with control. Lester had a good outing on Friday, fanning five men. He was unable to complete a third inning, however, as he threw 62 pitches in just 2-2/3 innings of work.
Kyle Hendricks will undoubtedly take the #2 spot. Hendricks’ finesse outweighs his lack of velocity and he’s looked good so far this spring.
I’ve always referred to Jose Quintana as “quietly solid,” but Q struggled last year. Had the Cubs not already been down a starter due to Cole Hamels leaving, they may have traded Quintana. Quintana will need a bounceback season, but for now, he stays in the #4 spot.
The #5 Spot
All the buzz has been about whether Tyler Chatwood, Adbert Alzolay or Alec Mills would earn the fifth spot. As of this point, I project Chatty to be the man. Chatwood has overcome severe control issues while dangling his heater in the 98mph range.
Alec Mills has been good this spring, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Chatwood in terms of experience. Adbert Alzolay? Despite what many had hoped, he’s just not becoming the stud that he was predicted to be.
Alzolay had limited MLB work last year, but even in a minor-league capacity, he’s getting rocked. He’s not had a good showing this spring, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the next round of cuts.
At this point, I don’t think there’s any question about Chatwood. Depending on how he does over the next few starts, he may even find himself in the fourth spot, while Quintana drops back to fifth.
As much as I like the kid, Nico Hoerner will wind up in Iowa. He came in last year when Baez was injured (broken thumb) and did a great job, but that performance hasn’t continued this spring.
Jason Kipnis signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs back in early February. His performances at the plate have lacked any luster, as he’s batting only .200 this spring. While the Cubs could use him in a platoon situation against righties, they have other options who’ll undoubtedly do better.
Kyle Schwarber isn’t going anywhere, nor is Jason Heyward, despite his mega-deal which has provided next to nothing for offense. The minute Heyward develops any trade value, he’ll be gone, but it’s more likely his contract will expire first.
As of now, Ian Happ will be the centerfielder on Opening Day, but Albert Almora Jr. is trying to compile spring stats that could change that. Almora has been strong this spring, but Happ continues to shine from the leadoff spot and in clutch situations.
The one outfielder who may crack the roster is Ian Miller, who’s batting .385 this spring with seven stolen bases. Miller’s speed is unbelievable and he’s just what the Cubs need to be more aggressive on the base paths.
The bullpen is where it gets dicey. Craig Kimbrel is a lock and Jeremy Jeffress will undoubtedly be Kimbrel’s setup man. I think you’ll see Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck return to the pen this year, while Alec Mills serves as the swingman.
The final two spots (remember, teams are limited to 13 pitchers) will go to RHP Jharel Cotton and RHP Casey Sadler. Ryan Tepera and Dan Winkler still have time, as the final two spots are almost impossible to predict.
The Cubs will carry a five-man bench this year. Due to platooning, more than five names appear in this section.
We’ve already discussed Ian Miller and Albert Almora, as well as David Bote.
That 26th spot will be an issue. Do the Cubs keep Daniel Descalso? For right now, I’d have to say yes.
Descalso has produced very little (offensively), but despite a .125 batting average this spring, he’s making consistently good contact.
The team could part with Descalso to open a roster spot (perhaps for Kipnis), but they’d be paying him $2.5M either way. He’s not the greatest shortstop, but Descalso can fill in if Baez needs rest or were to suffer an injury.
Well, that’s it. That’s my projection for what the Cubs 2020 roster will look like. Chicago also seems to make it tough on projecting these, but this year has been a real treat.
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