Today, we’ll take a look at the remaining 11 names that make up the Cubs summer roster. In the last part of this 4-part series, I examine the 2020 Cubs Taxi Squad. For those wondering, the “taxi squad,” also called the practice roster, is a group of players signed by a team but not part of their main roster.
There’s no question that Chicago’s bullpen is a big question mark this season, and now they have problems with a starter being out. LHP Jose Quintana cut his thumb about half off last week, doing dishes at his home in Miami. He also managed to sever lacerate the digital sensory nerve on his throwing thumb.
Quintana underwent microscopic exploratory and repair surgery yesterday. Doctors say that if things go well with his recovery, Q can resume throwing in about 2-3 weeks. There is a caveat. Being that this injury cut a nerve, he may experience decreased sensation in that thumb once fully healed.
In the interim, that causes a massive shuffle, as the Cubs go into panic mode wondering who’ll serve as the swingman now that Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills will join the Cubs’ rotation.
In the meantime, two hopefuls remain in the 2020 Cubs taxi squad, both awaiting their shot.
RHP Jason Adam
The Cubs acquired (almost) 29-year-old Adams this winter, after he was granted free agency by Toronto. He’s appeared in a total of 54 games; 23 as a Blue Jay, the other 31 with the Royals.
Adam didn’t show me much promise in spring training this year, posting an inflated ERA of 7.94 and a WHIP of 2.471 over 5.2 innings of work. He is not on the Cubs 40-man roster at this time.
RHP Adbert Alzolay
A lot of folks are high on Alzolay, but he’s failed to impress me with his limited outings. He got pounded last season in four MLB appearances, posting a 7.30 ERA and a nearly 2.000 WHIP over 12.1 innings. I had hoped he would have matured some over the winter, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Next, Alzolay returned for camp in March, posting a 10.80 ERA and a 2.200 WHIP (5.0 IP).
Yes, I know the kid is still young, but while the Cubs have invested total faith in him, others wait in the wings. Alzolay is the only member of the taxi squad to be on the Cubs’ 40-man roster this year.
RHP Dakota Mekkes
Mekkes is a kid who’s deserved a shot in the majors for over a year now. Last year in Iowa, he posted a bit higher ERA (5.29) than he did in AA in 2018 (0.81), but his stuff is insane. In March, I watched as he threw breaking balls for strikes, while batters were bailing from the box. He can touch the mid-90 mph with his four-seam, and he gets movement.
Over his MiLB career (196.1 IP; all levels), Mekkes has posted an overall ERA of just 2.20. With 11.9 SO/9 and a WHIP of just 1.180, Mekkes only needs a little more maturity and fine tuning. He’s not currently on the 40-man, but his time is coming.
RHP Juan Gamez
For the last two seasons, Gamez has been stashed away in the Mexican League. He doesn’t have much experience, just 54.2 UIP pitched over he last five seasons, but he showed promise in Mexico. Over two seasons there, Gamez posted a combined ERA of just 2.98 over 79.1 innings of work. The Cubs hope to make him a keeper, and he looked good for his 1.2 innings in March. Gamez is not on the 40-man.
RHP Michael Rucker
Rucker is a non-roster invitee in Cubs’ Camp this year, wh’s been grinding in Chicago’s farm system for the last five seasons. He’s managed a career 2.36 ERA (331.0 IP), with a respectable WHIP of just 1.130. Rucker didn’t pitch in Cubs Camp in March, nor is he currently on the 40-man.
LHP Brailyn Marquez
Quickly becoming the kid to watch, is 21-year-old,southpaw Brailyn Marquez. Marquez is a 6′-4″, 185 pound fireballer from the Dominican Republic, who’s fastball dances between 96 and 102 mph.
Over his four-season MiLB career with Chicago, Marquez has posted an ERA of 3.19, with a WHOP of 1.296. He’s not seen action in AAA yet, and with that season now cancelled, he won’t see action until at least next spring. Would David Ross and Company dare give him a shot this year? Doubtful, but anything’s possible.
Only one name makes the list, Miguel Amaya. Amaya is another who was thought to be ready for his shot in the bigs, but I can’t see it. The kid does sow potential, but still looks uncomfortable both behind and beside the plate.
In 13 preseason games in March, Amaya took 25 at-bats, managing only a .160 average, with one double and no RBI. To his credit, he does make contact, as he neither walked nor fanned in those plate appearances.
With the likelihood that the Cubs will carry three catchers this year, Amaya may be waiting a while.
The Cubs’ 26 and 40 man roster is stacked with infielders, as players vie for the currently unoccupied spot at second. Only a pair of names make the list on the practice squad.
2B/OF Robel Garcia
When Theo Epstein and company imported Garcia from a league in Italy last season, Garcia was rushed to the majors. The 2B/OF quickly collected some hits and showed defensive skills, giving the Cubs and their fans some hope that they had a new slugger.
Pressure seems to have gotten the better of Garcia as his time in Chicago wore on. In 31 games (72 plate appearances), Garcia’s average quickly faded to an intolerable .150. Not long after that, the Cubs shipped him to Des Moines.
Garcia has the potential to be n the MLB squad, and is on the Cubs 40-man.
3B/SS/LF Christopher Morel
Just my opinion, but Morel is average to under-average at best. In five season in the minors, he’s posted a slash line of .243/.320/.467, while posting a fielding percentage of 91.1%. That may mean an “A” in high school, but on the field it means that he muffs nearly one out of every ten, something the Cubs can ill-afford.
Morel is only 21, so he has a lot of time, but for now? He’s a warm body to serve on the taxi squad.
With neither of them on the 40-man roster, the Cubs are carrying two somewhat familiar names on their summer roster, joining the other outfielders on the Cubs 40 and 60-man.
RF Mark Zagunis
With Ian Happ left behind in Iowa last spring, Zagunis earned some playing time in Chicago. He’s appeared in each of the last three seasons for the Cubs, but has posted a far below average slash line of just .200/.325/.333. I had high hopes for Zagunis last year, but he faded on me.
During spring training this year, Zagunis made just one plate appearance and was struck by a pitch. He’s a decent-sized guy, standing 6′-0″ and weighing in at 215, but he can’t hit for power. Over his 55 career (MLB) at bats, Zagunis has mustered only four extra base hits, all of which were doubles.
OF Brennen Davis
During his two years in the Cubs minor league system, Davis has definitely proven he can swing a bat. With a total of 57 at bats for the Cubs-2 team and another 177 at bats with South Bend, Davis has posted a slash line of .303/.394/.479. In his remaining 42 plate appearances, Davis has drawn 28 walks and been beaned nine times.
That’s it for the Cubs 60-man roster as they start their 2020 reboot. Good luck to Chicago this year, as they take on a 60-game sprint to the finish.
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