Breakout Performances from the Cubs' First Two Weeks of Spring Training
Coming into spring training this MLB season, the Chicago Cubs have some decisions to make regarding roster spots. They also have some decisions to make regarding where to start their young prospects when the season begins. Many of those decisions will be made based on performances in spring training and so far, the Cubs have gotten strong performances from a handful of players. While many players have played well, five have shined brighter than the rest.
These five players include prospects the Cubs are counting on in the future, guys who hope to make a name for themselves and recent acquisitions by the team. No matter where they end up in the team's future plans, these five players have majorly impressed in the first two weeks of spring training.
For a complete list of Chicago Cubs' spring training stats used in this article, click here.
No. 5: C John Baker
Baker has played sparingly over the last six seasons. He's a lifetime backup who will be 33 this season. Those two things usually aren't a formula for success, but Baker has made the most of his opportunities in spring training so far.
In three spring training games, Baker is 3-for-6 with a double to his credit. He's in an uphill battle against George Kottaras for the team's backup catching job, but if he can continue to show the Cubs that he has some gap power, the club will have to consider keeping him on the big league roster come Opening Day.
That being said, this is clearly a small sample size. Baker will have to show consistency throughout spring training in order to have any shot of making the major league ballclub.
No. 4: 3B Mike Olt
In the midst of an intense battle for the Opening Day third base job, Mike Olt is showing that he isn’t phased by the pressure. The power hitting corner infielder struggled at the plate last season while battling vision issues, but it’s the hope of the Cubs front office that he can rebound and produce at a high level in 2014.
Olt has given the team no reason to believe any differently so far in spring training as he 2-for-6 with a home run, two RBI and a run scored. As long as he can keep putting balls out of the ballpark while maintaining an average between .250 and .280, the Cubs should be happy. If he does in fact put up high power numbers with an average in that range, he’s a good bet to be at the hot corner for the Cubs on Opening Day.
No. 3: Outfielder Albert Almora
On top of his natural leadership abilities, young outfielder Albert Almora is a pretty darn good baseball player as well. He’s shown that so far this spring. Almora, who likely won’t be in Chicago until Opening Day 2015 at the earliest, has shown glimpses of his possible future as the team’s leadoff man.
The 19-year-old has gone 3-for-6 so far in spring training while smacking a double, driving a run in and scoring two of his own. Almora, with his speed and ability to get on base, figures to be the Cubs’ center fielder and leadoff man of the future. Only time will tell how all of his skills play out at the major league level, but if this spring training is any indication, they will play out just fine.
No. 2: Outfielder Justin Ruggiano
Added to the roster this offseason, Justin Ruggiano provides power the Cubs will love off the bench. It is also likely that Ruggiano will platoon in the outfield as both Nate Schierholtz and Ryan Sweeney are left-handed hitters and Ruggiano eats up left-handed pitching.
So far in spring training, Ruggiano has displayed that ability to drive in runners and hit for power at a high rate. He’s 4-for-6 on the young spring season with one long ball to go along with four RBI and a run scored. Ruggiano has also demonstrated a good eye at the plate by drawing two walks in eight plate appearances. As long as that power remains, Ruggiano will get regular playing time in the Cubs outfield this season.
No. 1: Shortstop Javier Baez
The most impressive player for the Cubs this spring training also happens to be their top prospect. Shortstop Javier Baez, getting more playing time in the absence of an injured Starlin Castro, has excelled against pitching this spring training.
Baez is a stellar 5-for-12 with two solo home runs, a double, two RBI and three runs scored. With unbelievable raw power, Baez is showing that even at the age of 21, he’s almost ready for the call to the big leagues. Should he begin this season by duplicating last season’s performance across High-A and Double-A ball, Baez could be seen this summer in a major league ballpark near you.