Cactus League Ends, Cubs Roster Takes Shape

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Kyle Hendricks got in some work in the final Cubs Cactus League game before they play the Red Sox in Florida for a couple extra tuneup games prior to Thursday’s Opening Day contest against the Marlins.  I assume he was just working on some nibbling, as he issued his first walks all spring, but otherwise he looked fine.  Wish there was video of his outing, but all they have right now is this go-ahead homer.

The backups took over most of the game after the fourth inning and rallied to win the game, and I hope they were paid fairly and handsomely.  Yeah, right.  The Cubs ended up with a winning spring training record, but finished behind the Brewers, so obviously the season is over.  But wait!  The actual season we care about starts Thursday, so there is hope yet.

I assume most of you saw the news, but let’s reiterate it anyway:

When we did our pre-Cactus League roster check, I think most fans and analysts figured the Cubs would choose Chris Gimenez over Victor Caratini to back up Willson Contreras.  This move seems to be not just a reward to Caratini for hitting well and being a switch-hitter, but also to maintain some early season roster flexibility.  Regardless, Caratini earned this opportunity:

As of this writing, the 40-man roster has 38 players on it (including Drew Smyly, who is on the 60-day disabled list and won’t count towards that total), so there are two spots open.  Organizations are always trying to sneak guys through waivers to get them to the minors, so having those spots open allows the Cubs to claim some interesting players, especially depth relievers which everyone needs.

Gimenez apparently has a June opt out, and is likely to stay in the Cubs organization for now anyway, so the Cubs have that ace in the hole if they need it before June.  Caratini, meanwhile, gets to work with pitchers and coaches at the MLB level, and become a more capable backup even if he won’t play everyday like he would in Iowa.  If it turns out that Caratini slumps or just can’t get into games, they can always use an open spot to bring Gimenez up prior to the opt out and have Caratini get his extra playing down in Iowa.  In that sense, I am on board with this decision even if it comes as a surprise.

As before, there aren’t too many surprises with the roster construction.  We can start with the position player group:

I’ve often said facetiously that everyone on the roster can play the outfield, so the fifth outfielder wasn’t necessary for this club.  Caratini can also play the corner infield spots, as can Willson, so there’s tons of positional versatility built into this roster not named Ben Zobrist.  I imagine juggling playing time will be an interesting challenge for Joe Maddon, but having extra rest opportunities for guys who need it and maximizing matchups has to be a dream for him.

Having 12 position players gives the Cubs three primary bench bats on any given day plus the sitting catcher, who is no slouch.  That means five starters and eight relievers as we pretty much predicted a while back.  The relief group will depend on the health of Pedro Strop, but he’s already appeared in a couple games and seems fine.  The Cubs, as expected, are overly cautious at this time of spring:

So I suppose we can pencil in Strop, and if they don’t want to lose him to waivers, Eddie Butler would be the last man in.  If not, I know that Maddon has been bullish on Justin Hancock, so I suppose we shall see when the Cubs get in those tuneup innings against the Red Sox.  It’s not like they don’t have a solid taxi squad to restock the bullpen in times of need.

Lineup wise, we already suggested a potential lineup or two on the last Dreamcast.  As he has shown all spring, Ian Happ is a strong candidate for everyday leadoff hitter:

It seems that Happ is just going to be an outfielder, although we know he can play at least second base:

With an elite rotation, a solid bullpen, and a typically good offensive lineup that we’ve gotten used to over the past few seasons, it’s obvious why we’re so confident in the 2018 Cubs.  We do have a couple more games that we can shrug off, and it seems Yu Darvish gets one last tune up before he takes his turn against the Marlins next weekend:

Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs, and the host Miami Marlins are doing good work for the local community when they play:

Back home in Chicago, Wrigley Field is almost done!

Looking forward to Opening Day and the first game back at Wrigley the following week!

 

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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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