Cubs players off to Mesa

Pitchers and catchers are due in Mesa on Thursday and position players are scheduled in camp Feb. 24. Here’s a look at who’s headed to spring training for the Cubs.

Pitchers and catcher will officially report, there will be pictures and interviews, everyone will say how great it is to be back at the ball park and how they expect big things from the club this year. Position players will officially report next week and soon there will be updates every time Javier Baez swings and misses a pitch during batting practice.

Games will eventually start and way too much will be made from the stats, and Cubs fans will take to social media to plead their the case for “this player” or “that player” making the 25-man roster based on 15 spring training games. Pay no attention to his career numbers, his actual talent, or the quality of a player he may be replacing.

That should prepare you for all the fluff and circumstance you don’t need to pay attention to for Cubs spring training. Wait, I forgot, Kris Bryant is not coming up to start the season and if you needed a clue Jason McLeod said Bryant had a “few things to work on” when recently asked about his arrival to the bigs. Don’t kid yourself, one of the things he needs to work on is staying in the minors long enough so the Cubs get an extra year of control before he becomes a free agent.

Enough of the spring training humor, here’s a list of the players in camp by position and some thoughts about each position. Non-roster Invitees are identified with (NRI). For those of you new to the site, each of players has his own player page with links to stories.

Starting Pitching (13)—Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada, Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner, Edwin Jackson, Dallas Beeler, Eric Jokisch, C.J. Edwards, Corey Black (NRI), Pierce Johnson (NRI). A solid group of starting pitchers heading into camp and some reason to be hopeful for 2015. A few of these arms my end up in the bullpen to start the season and the ones that don’t make the opening day roster will comprise the starting rotation in Iowa. The Cubs won’t be trading away 40 percent of their rotation this summer and will get a good look at their young pitchers this spring. Lester, Arrieta and Hammel have the top three spots locked up and Hendricks is a favorite for the 4th spot. The battle in spring training will be for the fifth spot and if Hendricks or Hammel struggle, another arm could head north for opening night.

Bullpen (18)—Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Jason Motte, Brian Schlitter, Blake Parker, Zac Rosscup, Joseph Ortiz, Drake Britton, Daniel Bard (NRI), Francisley Bueno (NRI), Anthony Carter (NRI), Hunter Cervenka (NRI), Jorge De Leon (NRI), Gonzalez Germen (NRI), Armando Rivero (NRI), Donn Roach (NRI). Depending on how many pitchers the Cubs decide to break camp with, the real battle will be which left-handers will work out of the bullpen. One of the team’s strengths last year was the bullpen but pitching in games when a team is in last place is different than getting outs with a playoff bid on the line. The Cubs have acquired plenty of depth and because of some starters are out of minor league options, may start the year in the bullpen. Motte’s addition will provide some leadership to the young arms and if he can return to his old form, could be a steal for the Cubs pen.

Catchers (6)—Welington Castillo, Rafael Lopez, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Kyle Schwarber (NRI), Taylor Teagarden (NRI). Most of the baseball world thought Castillo would be traded by now but the Cubs have said they are content on having three catchers and haven’t ruled out three on the opening day roster. Its a luxury most teams don’t enjoy but the Cubs won’t be able to carry three catchers for long, and will need to make a deal at some point. Lopez doesn’t get much publicity but is a solid catcher and a decent left-handed bat.

Infielders (11)—Javier Baez, Starlin Castro, Tommy La Stella, Mike Olt, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Villanueva, Kris Bryant (NRI), Jonathan Herrera (NRI), Addison Russell (NRI), Chris Valiaka (NRI), Logan Watkins (NRI). Not a lot of decisions to be made regarding the infield as the biggest one may be if LaStella starts in Wrigley or Iowa. With the trade of Luis Valbuena, third base looks like Mike Olt’s position until the Cubs decide to call-up Bryant. Even if Olt struggles or is hurt in spring training, Villanueva may be able to stem the tide until Bryant’s arrival. Watkins will miss the season after an Achilles injury.

Outfielders (11)—Arismendy Alcantara, Chris Coghlan, Chris Denorfia, Dexter Fowler, Junior Lake, Jorge Soler, Ryan Sweeney, Matt Szczur, Albert Almora (NRI), Mike Baxter (NRI), Adorn Chambers (NRI). May not be much of an outfield battle to start the season. Right fielder Jorge Soler is a rookie of the year candidate, Fowler is the newcomer in center, and a platoon of Coghlan and Denorfia is likely in left. Alcantara can play both center and second so his versatility should keep him on the opening day roster. Lake drastically improved his walk percentage in winter ball but will need to duplicate that effort in spring training and AAA to earn a trip back to majors.

Play gets underway March 5 with split squad games against Oakland and San Francisco, so there a good chance everyone will see action early. Almost every game will either be broadcast via internet, radio or TV.

NorthSiders Report provides daily reports as well as the Top 50 Prospects countdown to get you ready for Chicago’s opening day as well as the openers for South Bend, Myrtle Beach, Tennessee and Iowa.

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