The 2011 season has been nothing short of a struggle for the Chicago Cubs. Rookie manager Mike Quade has spent a large portion of this season simply filling gaps created by injury. Already in the young 2011 season, the Cubs have managed to send five position players and three starting pitchers to the disabled list.
Among those players have been starting catcher Geovany Soto, starting outfielders Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano and starting pitchers Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner and Matt Garza.
Thus far in 2011, the Cubs have needed a veritable shuttle between Des Moines, Iowa and Chicago in order to handle the large amount of personnel shuffling that has been required. Rookies Tony Campana, Brad Snyder, Lou Montanez, DJ LeMahieu and Wellington Castillo are among the unusually long list of players whom the Cubs have already called upon from within their minor-league system this season.
As injuries continue to pile up for the Cubs, and as Quade continues to be forced to audition unproven young talent, the list of Cubs prospects making their major-league debut in 2011 is sure to grow.
Here are five more players that may be headed to Wrigley Field this summer.
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a fair amount of success with their "Chris Carpenter," so why shouldn't the Cubs try one out?
All joking aside, Carpenter can bring the heat. With a fastball that lingers around the 97 MPH range, Carpenter could be a possible addition to the Cubs bullpen sometime during the 2011 campaign. Carpenter's main downfall has been his control, as he's walked 21 batters in 2011, while striking out 23.
Pronounced "BIBB-ins-DIRKS," Austin has a unique delivery and can locate his fastball and slider well.
Currently, Bibens-Dirkx has the most wins for the Iowa Cubs but has a lofty ERA of 6.27. He seems like the next possible bullpen call-up, as reliever/starters James Russell and Casey Coleman have struggled mightily of late.
Much like former Cubs pitcher Turk Wendell, Bibens-Dirkx is a bit of a free spirit, having released a couple of musical albums, which you can check out here.
LaHair, the 2008 Minor League Player of the Year in the Seattle Mariners organization, has been red-hot in 2011. For the Iowa Cubs affiliate, LaHair has hit for an average of .365 with 12 home runs and 38 RBI.
Although Carlos Pena is the Cubs' everyday starting first baseman, LaHair's production could earn him a spot on Mike Quade's bench as a pinch-hitter. Considering Tyler Colvin's severe drop-off in his sophomore season, the possibility of LaHair making his Cubs debut seems all the more likely for 2011.
Since his arrival in 2003, Aramis Ramirez has been a staple in the middle of the Cubs lineup. Since Ron Santo's departure in 1973, the Cubs had used 18 different third basemen until Ramirez came to Chicago in time to start the 2004 season.
2010 saw a major decline in production for Ramirez, as he hit just .241 with a fielding percentage of .939—both the worst of his Cubs career. Thus far in 2011, Ramirez's production has continued to decline. Although Ramirez has a current average of .289, his power and run-production numbers are considerably lower than Cubs fans have hoped (two HR, 19 RBI).
Given the current youth movement within the Cubs organization, 2011 may be time to test the waters at third base. Ryan Flaherty of the AA Tennessee Smokies may be just the right guy for Quade to audition.
Flaherty is having one of the best all-around seasons in the Cubs' minor league system. Along with a current batting average of .306 and 11 home runs, he is leading the entire Cubs organization in RBI with 50—21 more than the Chicago Cubs' current leader Alfonso Soriano.
With injuries to starting pitchers Andrew Cashner, Randy Wells and Matt Garza, manager Mike Quade has used a bevy of arms in hopes of overcoming his starters' unfortunate stints on the disabled list. Unfortunately for Quade and Cubs, the fill-in starters have not managed a single win, and it may be time to dig deeper within the minor-league system.
Robert Whitenack may be the next to receive an audition in the Cubs rotation. Having begun the season at Daytona, the Cubs' Class A affiliate, Whitenack breezed through three starts with a 3-0 record and an ERA of 1.17. More impressive is the control Whitenack demonstrated, striking out 25 in those three starts while walking just one.
Since being promoted to Class AA Tennessee, Whitenack has continued to be impressive, sporting a 4-0 record and an ERA of 2.39.
With fill-in starters Casey Coleman, James Russell and Jeff Stevens all struggling in their starts for the Cubs and free-agent acquisitions Doug Davis and Rodrigo Lopez having little success in 2011, the time may be ripe for Whitenack to get an opportunity in the Cubs' rotation.