Cubs announce 50 (of possible 60) players to restart season
today at 9:48 am
SP (5): Darvish, Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood
RHRP (13): Kimbrel, Jeffress, Wick, Sadler, Mills, Megill, Underwood Jr., Winkler, Tepera, Cotton, Maples, Rea, Norwood
LHRP (4): Ryan, Wieck, Brothers, Hultzen
C (4): Contreras, Caratini, Phegley, Higgins
IF (7): Rizzo, Hoerner, Bryant, Baez, Bote, Descalso, Kipnis
OF (6): Schwarber, Happ, Heyward, Souza Jr., Almora Jr., I. Miller
South Bend (11)
RHP (5): Alzolay, Rucker, Mekkes, Gamez, Adam
LHP (1): Marquez
C (1): Amaya
IF (2): Garcia, C. Morel
OF (2): B. Davis, Zagunis
*bold denotes players on 40-man roster, italics are non-roster players
The surprises mostly came in the form of omissions rather than inclusion. The only player I did not include in my preview is 26-year old sinker baller Juan Gamez. Signed out of the Mexican League during the offseason, the 5-11 247 pound reliever got into just two games this spring before the shutdown. Gamez retired all five batters he faced.
I can’t say I am familiar with Gamez given his limited time, but he apparently features a heavy mid-90s sinker which drew the attention of their scouts and his stuff has apparently remained intriguing enough that their development staff wants to continue working with him.
Jason Adam flashed a little as a non-roster invite this spring, punching out 11 in 5.2 IP, but he also walked 8 batters. He’s got a similar repertoire to Rowan Wick, so they must hope they can harness him the same way, but at 28 years old and with so many right-handed relievers already on the 40-man roster ahead of him I must admit to mild surprise at his inclusion. At least with Gamez, Rucker and Mekkes they are still young enough where you can envision them in the Cubs plans for 2021.
It was never easy for Mark Zagunis to carve out ABs at the MLB level even when he was an ascending prospect. Maybe the DH changes that, but frankly he was already pushed off the 40-man (and cleared waivers) last year and that was before the Cubs added Steven Souza Jr. as an additional right-handed corner outfielder. Include fellow non-roster outfielder Ian Miller, who made a nice impression this spring with his combo of speed and defense, and there are so many bodies ahead of Zagunis at this point that I can’t envision a scenario barring a catastrophic string of injuries where he factors into Chicago.
I am happy to see Christopher Morel included. He is one of my favorite prospects to watch in the system and is one of a handful with good offensive upside. He made my initial 60 player projection, but eventually bumped him off after I realized I hadn’t accounted for Daniel Descalso needing to count initially as one of the 60, even if it seems inevitable he loses his spot to Jason Kipnis. I figured Morel would need to wait until that transaction occurred. The Cubs clearly did not want to wait.
Interestingly, the Cubs have only included 36 of the players on their 40-man roster. Missing are RHRP Manuel Rodriguez, RHP Tyson Miller, LHP Justin Steele, and SS Zack Short. Rodriguez was expected to open the season in AA, and suffered an injury this spring, so his omission makes some sense to me, although I have since learned he is fully recovered. The other three are a shock. Given the Cubs still have 10 open slots, I expect all four to eventually receive invitations to South Bend.
The Cubs are clearly favoring flexibility early on. Because a player cannot be removed from the 60 man list without being traded, released or put through waivers the team clearly wants to be able to adapt to any early season injuries/struggles or perhaps be able to add talent still on the free agent market without having to lose a player to make room. For instance, the team wasn’t expecting to have access to the DH this season. Might there be a bat (Puig, Gennett, etc.) they can now find a use for, or perhaps there’s a reliever who was not healthy this spring that that they now would like to pursue in an effort to shore up the bullpen (Vizcaino, Salazar, etc.).
We may see the Cubs add a few more names this week, even if they are just players from within their organization already. Once the three week training session is over and the Cubs can assess their depth and make sure they have coverage in case of early season injury, I expect you will see the Cubs fill out any remaining vacancies with prospects.