Breaking Down the 25-Man Roster as the Cubs Head to Spring Training
A very active offseason is about to come to an end for the Chicago Cubs. Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa, Arizona on Feb. 14.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry says the team is set, but he will keep all of his options open this spring. A year ago, Hendry acquired Reed Johnson during the fourth week of spring training.
Assuming there are no injuries or additions, here is a look at what I believe the 25-man roster will look like.
First Baseman: Derrek Lee
Derrek Lee had a very productive first half last year, but tailed off in the second half. He did have a very good playoff series.
2008 Stats: .291 Avg., 20 HR, 90 RBI, .361 OBP
Second Baseman: Mike Fontenot
The 2001 No. 1 draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles is coming off his second straight solid season for the Chicago Cubs. Fontenot will compete with Aaron Miles for the every-day spot. I believe Fontenot will win the every-day spot.
2008 Stats: 243 AB, .305 Avg., 9 HR, 40 RBI, .395 OBP
Shortstop: Ryan Theriot
Ryan Theriot is coming off his second straight season as the everyday shortstop. It was another very solid season for Theriot. Theriot will once again be the starter, but Miles will get much more playing time at short then Ronny Cedeno did last year.
2008 Stats: .307 Avg., 1 HR, 38 RBI, .387 OBP
Third Baseman: Aramis Ramirez
Aramis Ramirez had another great year for the Cubs in 2008, and he continues to be one of the most-productive third baseman in all of baseball.
2008 Stats: .289 Avg., 27 HR, 111 RBI, .380 OBP
Catcher: Geovany Soto
Geovany Soto is coming off an amazing rookie season. Not only did Soto have a great offensive season, but he was the every-day catcher for one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
2008 Stats: .283 Avg., 23 HR, 86 RBI, .364 OBP
Left Field: Alfonso Soriano
Despite missing 53 games, Alfonso Soriano had a very productive regular season. Soriano once again had a very poor postseason, but his regular season was certainly above average. Soriano also showed flashes on the bases, stealing 19 bases in 22 attempts. Soriano is hoping to avoid a DL stint this year.
2008 Stats: .280 Avg., 29 HR, 75 RBI, .344 OBP
Center Field: Kosuke Fukudome
Kosuke Fukudome wll platoon in center with Reed Johnson. It was a tale of two seasons for Fukudome. After a great April and May, Fukudome tailed off in a big way. Fukudome hit just .217 during the second half, and will need to improve in a big way.
Most scouts will tell you that Fukduome will have a nice bounce-back season. If he doesn't, Johnson may become the every day center fielder.
2008 Stats: .257 Avg., 10 HR, 58 RBI, .359 OBP
Right Field: Milton Bradley
The Cubs had a goal to become much more versatile this season. Their big free-agent signing is all-star Milton Bradley. If Bradley stays healthy, he will prove to be a huge addition for the Cubs.
2008 Stats: .321 Avg., 22 HR 77 RBI, .436 OBP
No. 1 Starter: Ryan Dempster
Fresh off a new contract, Ryan Dempster is hoping to build off his great 2008 season. From time to time, he battled with his control, including a very poor playoff performance but overall he was one of the best starters in the league.
2008 Stats: 17-6, 2.96 ERA, 206.2 innings
No. 2 Starter: Carlos Zambrano
After a great first half, Zambrano struggled in the second half. It turned out Zambrano needed some rest, and he actually threw the ball relatively well in his only playoff start against the Dodgers.
2008 Stats: 14-6, 3.91 ERA, 188 innings
No. 3 Starter: Ted Lilly
After a nightmarish April, Ted Lilly quietly had a very productive 2008 season. Lilly will likely open the season as the Cubs No. 3 starter.
2008 Stats: 17-9, 4.09 ERA, 204 innings
No. 4 Starter: Rich Harden
Rich Harden has some of the best stuff in baseball, but can he stay healthy? Harden has battled numerous injuries throughout his career. Cubs GM Jim Hendry elected to pick up Harden's $7 million option during the offseason.
I don't expect Harden to make more then 20 starts, but the Cubs have a lot of depth and Sean Marshall or Chad Gaudin could fill in if needed.
2008 Stats: 10-2, 2.07 ERA, 148 Innings
No. 5 Starter: Sean Marshall/Chad Gaudin
This will be one of the most interesting battles of spring training. Marshall, Gaudin, Jeff Samardzija, and Heilman will all battle for the No. 5 spot. My guess is either Gaudin or Marshall will win it.
I also wouldn't be shocked if the Cubs add someone from outside of the organization. The only way they make a deal is if they feel Harden wont be healthy for the start of the season. We'll see what happens this spring.
2008 Stats: 3-5, 3.86 ERA, 65 innings
Relief Pitcher No. 1: Luis Vizcaino
Luis Vizcaino is coming off a very disappointing season with the Rockies. Vizcaino claims the Rockies did not use him enough. He insists he will revert to his 2007 season, when he went 8-2 with the Yankees.
Vizcaino was acquired in the Jason Marquis trade.
2008 Stats: 1-2, 5.28 ERA, 46 Innings
Relief Pitcher No. 2: Aaron Heilman
Aaron Heilman was acquired a week ago for Ronny Cedeno. Heilman struggled in 2008, but was a staple in the Mets pen between 2005 and 2007. Heilman believes he can start, but I believe he will fill Howry's role. He is to valuable out of the pen.
2008 Stats: 3-8, 5.21 ERA, 76 Innings
Relief Pitcher No. 3: Neal Cotts
Neal Cotts is not exactly what you would call a left-handed specialist. He actually struggles against lefties. At some point this season, the Cubs will have to add an actual left-handed specialist. For now, Cotts will do.
2008 Stats: 0-2, 4.29, 35 innings
Relief Pitcher No. 4: Chad Gaudin
Chad Gaudin is a perfect swing man, and he may eventually find himself in the starting rotation. Gaudin suffered a back injury in August and was never the same. He will be a huge part of this Cubs bullpen.
2008 Stats: 9-5, 4.40 ERA, 90 innings
Relief Pitcher No. 5: Jeff Samardzija
The Cubs believe that Jeff Samardzija will eventually be a starter. He will have an opportunity to win a starting spot this spring, but I believe he will find himself in the Cubs pen in 2009. The former Notre Dame receiver will be a huge asset to the back end of the Cubs pen.
It's possible the Cubs could send Samardzija to Class AAA and stretch him out while giving this spot to Angel Guzman. I personally think Samardzija should stay up in the big leagues.
2008 Stats: 1-0, 2.28 ERA, 1 Save, 27.2 innings
Setup Man: Kevin Gregg
Kevin Gregg had another solid season last year. He did pitch through a knee injury in August. Gregg really struggled in August going 0-4 with 5 blown saves. Gregg bonced back in September, ending the season with 10 scoreless innings. Gregg will battle with Marmol for the closer spot.
I personally think he will end up as the setup man, but I wouldn't count him out as closer.
2008 Stats: 7-8, 28 Saves, 3.41 ERA , 68.2 innings
Closer: Carlos Marmol
With all due respect to Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol was clearly the best relief pitcher on the Cubs' roster the past two years. Marmol was one of the best relief pitchers in the game during the second half of the 2008 season. Take a look at Marmol's second half line: 0-1, four saves, 35 innings 12 hits, 44 strikeouts and a 1.29 ERA. It doesn't get much better then that. Marmol could close or set up Gregg.
Marmol did struggle during the final 10 days of the first half. It turned out to be a mechanical issue, and it wasn't a problem for the remainder of the season.
2008 Stats: 2-4, 7 Saves, 2.68 ERA, 87 innings
Backup Catcher: Paul Bako
Welcome back, Paul Bako. Henry Blanco decided to sign with the Padres and the Cubs filled his spot with a familiar face. Bako will provide very little offense, but he does call a very good game.
2008 Stats: .217 Avg., 6 HR, 35 RBI
Fourth Outfielder: Reed Johnson
Reed Johnson will platoon with Fukudome in center, but Fukudome better hit or else Johnson will become the every-day center fielder.
2008 Stats: 303 AVG, 6 HR, 50 RBI, .358 OBP
FIfth Outfielder: Joey Gathright
Joey Gathright is one of the fastest players in all of baseball. He can play all three outfield spots, but I wouldn't expect to much out of him offensively. That said, the Cubs thought enough of him to sign him and trade Felix Pie.
2008 Stats: .254, 0 HR, 22 RBI, 21 SB, .311 OBP
Fourth Inflelder: Aaron Miles
Aaron Miles is one of my favorite pickups of the offseason. Miles played 85 games at second, 11 at third, 27 at shortstop, 4 in left, 1 in center, 1 in right, and he even pitched in two games. The switch-hitting Miles will provide a lot of versatility to the Cubs lineup.
2008 Stats: .317 Avg., 4 HR, 31 RBI, .355 OBP
Final Roster Spot: Micah Hoffpauir
It wouldn't shock me if the Cubs added a guy like Rich Aurilia to back up Aramis Ramirez and be that 25th guy off the bench.
If that happens, Micah Hoffpauir would have to battle with Gathright for a spot on this team, or the Cubs could always go with 11 pitchers. If that happens, Samardzija would certainly start the season in Iowa.
As of right now now, Hoffpauir will fill Daryl Ward's spot. Hoffpauir wll be a backup outfielder, and he will also back up Lee at first.
2008 Stats: .342, 2 HR, 8 RBI in 73 AB