Before Spring Training Games Start: Who Should Round Out the Cubs’ Rotation?

Some Friday morning fodder for discussion:

I thought it might be interesting, before Spring Training starts, to discuss who you think should round out the Cubs’ rotation, and what should become of those who don’t make the cut. We’ve not even seen them pitch in Spring Training games, so the discussion is entirely academic – in other words, it assumes that you have to make the decision now, without knowing how well the pitchers are throwing the ball right now. Obviously, once the games get under way, we’ll have a fair bit more data to enter into our mental computers.

But, until then, who you got? We know that Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, and Paul Maholm are locked into the top three slots, and we know that the primary names competing for the other spots are Randy Wells, Travis Wood, Chris Volstad, Jeff Samardzija, Andy Sonnanstine, Casey Coleman, and Rodrigo Lopez.

For me, knowing nothing else, I’d give the last two spots to Volstad and Wood. While I think Randy Wells has done nothing to deserve booting from the rotation, given what the Cubs’ 2012 is likely to look like, I’d rather see the Cubs give the two younger pitchers, with more upside, a free chance to see what they can do. Wells can either head to AAA to serve as depth, the bullpen to serve as a long-man, or the trade block. It’s not an easy decision.

As for the rest, Samardzija can continue to improve as a late-inning reliever, Sonnanstine can either head to AAA or be the long-man in the pen, and Coleman and Lopez can head to AAA (break glass in case of emergency).

How about you? Thoughts?

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

108 responses to “Before Spring Training Games Start: Who Should Round Out the Cubs’ Rotation?”

  1. Jay Anderson Jr

    Volstad should be turned into a Bullpen arm. Honestly, it his only chance to be successful in this league, and I think he might be great there.

    1. Shawon O'Meter

      JA Jr., your anti-Volstad crusade is really tiresome. Give the kid a chance to fall flat on his face if in fact that is what he does before you pull the plug on him. Has he reached his potential that scouts and the like projected? No, but he could be a late bloomer like most 6’8″ and taller pitchers.

      1. Jay Anderson Jr

        I’m not anti Volstad. The guy commented earlier to put him in,long relief. My comment is a spin off of that. If I was anti Volstad, I wouldn’t want him on the team at all. I think he has great stuff. The king of stuff that makes great bullpen arm. It worked with Marshall, who has similar build, why not Volstad.

        S/N he’s already fell flat on his face for several years now.

        1. TWC

          “I’m not anti Volstad. … If I was anti Volstad, I wouldn’t want him on the team at all.”

          Do you not read any of your previous posts?

          1. Jay Anderson Jr

            Ok. And I admitted that I was mad because we traded Z. I haven’t discussed the Z trade for atleast a month. I’m over the trade. However, I still don’t like Volstad as a starter. Potential is a word I used for prospects, not 5th year vets. I do think he has great stuff, but can’t maintain for a whole game. If he only has to face the batter once, I think he can give more energy and be a lot more valuable. Plus I like Wood and Smarj to start, so instead of putting him in the minors, let keep him, and put him in the pen.

            1. TWC

              I know it, JA.  Just bustin’ on you.  I admire your vehement consistency.  But for the sake of the Cubs, I hope you’re very, very wrong when it comes to Volstad, and I suspect that you would hope so, too.

              1. Jay Anderson Jr

                If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it.

          2. Bric

            Weather channel, let me be the first to publicly proclaim that I AM Anti-Volstad. In fact, I’m drinking a beer right now and plan on having another!

            1. TWC

              I really don’t know what’s happened to you, Bric-ster.  You used to BE somebody.  Now?  Now?  You’re a pale facsimile of our resident Goat.  Let’s try and keep it together this season, eh?

              1. Bric

                Wiat for it, wait for it… okay, just google it. Volstead act. I know it’s kind of a stretch spelling wise but the pronunciation’s the same.

                1. Bric

                  And yes, I used to be somebody. On land, my name was Homer Simpson, … and I guess it still is….

                2. DocWimsey

                  heh, that’s funny: that is what I think of every time I hear or read his name, too. Then I shiver……

                  1. Bric

                    I also saw a couple of low A ball players that are bound to raise eye brows: Bill Plessy and Frank Ferguson.

                    1. ogyu

                      I hear that Dred Scott kid can really run the bases…

            2. ferrets_bueller

              goddamnit, as soon as I read ‘anti-volstad,’ I was going to post a Volstead Act joke. Alas, the next post I read was one.

      2. die hard

        JR Richard from the past, Pineda and Sabathia in the present are examples of your theory. However, he will likely have to wait a year because I believe Coleman is the 5th starter as he has learned how to keep that ball down to get hitters to hit ground balls more often than not.

        1. TWC

          Coleman?  Casey Coleman?  I’d be happier seeing Vince Coleman on the mound.

          1. die hard

            Coleman’s heart is huge…a second coming of Greg Maddux….good blood lines…hes a winner

            1. DocWimsey

              April Fool’s is still a few weeks away……

            2. ty

              Dieharder–You are so right–kid is a pitcher and intelligent and coachable. Just wish Gregg could have been with him for another season..But he still has Dad!

              1. DocWimsey

                He’s missing one key element: talent. Yes, Maddux was brilliant, but he had amazing stuff, too. Coleman’s stuff is amazing only to the agents of the batters going up for arbitration at the end of the season.

                1. TWC

                  But he’s been hustling!

                2. ty

                  Doc –this kid has enough talent to pitch for a long time–much like his dad and granddad–not another Maddux .

                3. Luke

                  He reached the majors at 22 and will only be 24 next season. Generally, pitchers without talent don’t move up the farm system anywhere near that fast.

                  Coleman is no ace in the making, but it is far too early to write him off together.

      3. Jay Anderson Jr

        Plus, if Smarj starts, we need to replace him in the pen.

  2. Sayueri

    I like Randy Wells. When he first came up, I thought he’d someday be an all-star. I hope he’ll bounce back this year and stay in the rotation.

  3. cubmig

    I’d round out the rotation with Samardzija and Volstad. I know little how Volstad will fare, but Samardzija has shown he’s adjusted, and imo was the most improved Cub pitcher this past season. I think he can handle a rotation spot. Just my opinion.

    1. die hard

      I believe a smoke screen has been used by the front office to give impression that Samardzija
      can start so as to make him more tradable before season starts. Sets the idea in motion and really cannot be dispelled during spring training as they usually dont go more than 5 innings until last week of training. The 5 inning mark is important as thereafter hitters will see you for second or third time where size [of stuff] does matter.

      1. Joe

        I can see an argument there, although Shark’s intent has been loud and proud for a lot longer than current management has been in place. Ultimately, you could say something like that applies to any and every player, except maybe Castro.

  4. Matt

    I’m agreeing with Wood and Volstad right now, although that can fluxuate greatly. Volstad has potential that is exciting, and with his age he can still reach it. If he’s in the rotation this year that makes me think that he may be closer to reaching it. However, nothing is a given. With Wood, I think he’s a quality lefty, and you can always use a second one of those. He has had his ups and downs, but he’s also still young. I almost feel bad leaving Wells and Samardzija out, since I’d like both of them in there too.

  5. T Wilson

    Who thinks Volstad can come in and hold runners on 1st while trying to get tough hitters out late in game? Pinch runners will be used and Soto won’t be able to throw anyone out at 2nd base. Marshall could hold runners rather effectively because he’s a lefty and could vary his delivery to home plate. I’m not so sure Volstad could do the same.

    1. Richard Nose

      All lefty bullpen?

  6. MichCubFan

    Volstad and wood are my first choices.

    But after that i would choose Wells then Samardzjia, then Coleman.

    I would only move Samardzija to the rotation if he has a monster spring…and Coleman will almost certainly stay in AAA unless the first three really crap out.

    I choose Volstad and Wood over Wells because they are younger and have more upside, but also because i think Wells would fit better in the pen than the other two.

    Then as far as Lopez and Sonnenstiene, i hope it doesn’t come to them having to make the rotation let alone the roster but it is good to have them in the minors for the depth.

  7. Kyle

    Agree with Brett.

    For my money, Wood is our second-best starting pitcher after Garza. He’s a no-brainer.

    Volstad and Wells are pretty similar statistically, but Volstad is younger and has a better pedigree, so I think he has a lot more upside.

    If Samardzija really wants to start, I wouldn’t mind seeing him stretched out at Iowa.

    1. Luke

      Samardzija has apparently been working towards starting all winter. He may not need much extra time to stretch out, if any.

  8. Mike Taylor

    Now is the perfect time to trade Randy Wells. The Twins lost Zumaya, so trading for Wells (who is younger with a low salary) would make sense because he improves their rotation. The AL Central is pretty weak, but up-and-coming. With the additional Wildcard spot this year, that gives them an extra incentive to deal.

    I would be pleased if we snagged 2B Alexi Casilla for Wells + PTBNL.

    Keep Samardzija in the bullpen. Seemed like when “Team Jeff” formed (Russell+Samardzija), they started pitching better.

  9. ty

    Acouple hundred fans at scrimmage today. Cool-64-windy. Brett Jackson may be ready . Junior Lake is a stud–easy error at short though–Vitters actually showed out at third stopping a couple hard smashes–DeJesus crashed into wall-o.k. not impressed by this guy. Stewart looks dreadful every day–Is wrist a permanent liability? Matt Sz is the real deal–one heck of an athlete! LaHair smashes pitches with downspin and he is here to stay.Another scrimmage tomorrow with warmer-less windy conditions. Our homers today were smashed into a strong wind-impressive by Matt and Brett. Talk around camp is Tony C in real fight to make this team.

    1. Luke

      How did Vitters look at the plate? Did he seem to be swinging at anything in the strike zone, or was taking a couple of pitches?

      It’s probably inconclusive yet, but I figured I’d ask anyhow.

      1. ty

        Luke–Onething any scout would admit about Vitters-he is not iintimidated by any pitcher–getting stronger every year and ball jumps off bat–does like high fastballs that are a bit outside.

    2. Bric

      I’m thinking Jackson is ready and has been for a while. But as Brett’s article yesterday showed, it’s going to come down to a numbers game with him. It’s a question of how long his patience will hold out considering he’s been in the minors this long. Decisions by the management this spring will definitely set the tone for this organization. Remember Castro was only promoted at such a young age to give us all something to talk about and “possibly” save Hendry’s job.

  10. cubsin

    1. Garza 2. Samardzija 3. Dempster 4. Maholm 5. Wells, with Volstad to the pen and T. Wood to Iowa.

  11. rcleven

    Brett, I don’t understand why you and everyone else are dumping on Wells. He has shined and fell flat on his face. I say let all your pitchers compete in spring training and let the cream float to the top.

  12. Ryan

    Garza Dempster Maholm Volstad and Wood if I can trade Wells if not then Wells instead of Volstad in rotation with Volstad and Shark in the bull pen.

  13. Rycott

    Here’s a crazy idea that would never, EVER happen considering egos, personal records, and a multitude of other reasons… Since most pitchers normally have at least a few good innings in them a day, why not keep them all and go completely nuts with this plan: every pitcher only pitches 3 innings. Three pitchers per game. They can pitch on less than 5 days rest, lefty’s can be worked in more when needed, and you can still have a closer to finish things off. They could probably even have one or two less on the roster to make room for some younger prospects to get more experience in the big leagues allowing the position players to get some rest now and then. Just a thought from my unique mind…

    1. DocWimsey

      Managers like Sparky Anderson and Dick Williams kicked around this idea back in the 1970′s, but insofar as I remember, nobody every ran with it.  In part, it a conservative reaction: in the 1970′s, the “old-timers” were criticizing the use of closers because “in their day,” the starters completed games.  This would have undermined the “win,” which was very much their idea of  the measure of how well an individual pitcher was doing.  The difference was that the teams using closers (and thus reducing the complete games) were the teams vying for post-season every year.  However, nobody ever tried this to see if it led teams to win more games.

       

      1. Stinky Pete

        I believe the book “Scorecasting” talks about LaRussa’s attempt in the 90′s with the A’s. And basically it was ego’s and agents and money that ended the experiment.

    2. JustSwain

      O.k. some stuff to take into consideration;

      If you are facing Roy Halladay do you want to
      A. Get to him quick, 1st inning if possible.
      B. Be patient and let him settle in.

      If you have Zambrano on your staff would you rather
      A. Increase the ammount of 1st innings he pitches
      B. Decrease the ammount of 1st innings he pitches

      The scheme might work well if you have second rate talent, but the book on all the best pitchers is “Get to them early or you probably won’t get to them at all”

      Also, all starters have off days. Sometimes those off days manifest themselves in them giving up four runs in the first or second inning. You are effectively trippling the odds that one of your pitchers is just off, and minimizing the benefit if one of your pitchers is red hot. Every time you put in a new pitcher, be it starter or reliever, you have to hold your breath and hope he is pitching well that day. With a single starting pitcher, if he is you let him run with it, if he isn’t he only effects one game, and you have strategies in place to minimize the damage. Plus its pretty dang hard to get guys like Matt Cain or Anibal Sanchez to come to your team if they are going to pitch three innings every other day. What the great managers seem to do is stick with the traditional system, but never ever ever compromise a chance to win a ballgame in order to pad a pitchers stats. I don’t care if he has a no no going into the ninth, two hard hit balls and he is out. All the best coaches do this, and get booed by the fans, and end up in the hall of fame. With all our starting pitching depth, our best hope is that we’ll have a decent long relief corps., and a manager who is willing to pull a pitcher in the fifth with two outs and the lead if he starts throwing beach balls.

  14. rocky8263

    College of pitchers. Worked great with the coaches back in the day.

  15. cubsin

    Brett – This is totally off-topic, but what is the status of Gerardo Concepcion? To the best of my knowledge, he’s never been added to the 40-man roster, and he’s not at Spring Training. Did he in fact sign a minor-league contract? Visa problems in Mexico? MLB wouldn’t allow the contract? He or the Cubs backed out of the deal?

    1. hansman1982

      He, at most, agreed to terms with the Cubs as saying,

      “Hey we are willing to do XYZ”

      “That sounds like something I would agree to, but I cannot sign a contract so we will have to wait for that”

      “Ok”

  16. JustSwain

    The only one of the four who I would be willing to make a call on right now is Wood. he should be a lock for the rotation unless he suddenly can’t find the catchers mitt, or gets hit by a broken bat or something else cubesque. Choosing between Volstad and Wells is like choosing between rundown houses you want to repair. I’ve seen both guys throw really well, but both players have had thier ERA plus dip after their first year of action, and seem to be trending downward. Its gotta be a turn around year for either. On the other hand, Smardzija has the stuff, the frame, and the delivery to make an impact in the rotation. He’s young, he’s under club control for quite awhile, and he is hungry. If he has developed that Cutter he was talking about, and is able to work the zone a bit I think he has the potential to be a decent starter. Statistically speaking he blows Wells and Volstad out of the water, but of course he was a reliever and its a different game. Still 75 games last season and a sub 3 ERA, and 8.9 K/9 make me think the only reason not to move him to the rotation is that he might be our best remaining relief pitcher after the loss of Marshall.

  17. truebluecubbie

    I would like to see Volstad and Wood start out in the rotation. It would be nothing to move Wells in there if one or the other falters. I don’t think Samardzija should be in the rotation at all. He is very good out of the bullpen and he could become a great middle reliever or even a set up man if he can repeat what he did last year. And to be frank, I have never been a fan of Wells, so even if he was traded, it wouldn’t bother me.

  18. Eric

    Smardzija: would love to say we have a 97mph fireballer in the rotation, but don’t think he’s got the 3rd pitch, or stamina to be a starter, let him shine in the pen.
    Travis Wood: simular to Volstad in that he has some potential, but Maholm is the more likely to be the solid #3 LH the Cubs need. Starter with short leash
    Wells: Had one great year and another not bad one, we’ve seen his ceiling, trade bait
    Volstad: potential #3 guy, starter with a bit longer leash. Could stil shine in the pen.
    other guys: are all just depth, no need to discuss them now.

  19. MightyBear

    My last two starters at the beginning of the year are Travis Wood and Wells. Wells has done everything asked of him and been a team player. I think if he had not gotten hurt last year, he would have been solid. I also think a better pitching coach will help him. I put Volstad in the pen as a long man. If the others stumble or get hurt, put him in the rotation. He’s only 25. I think pitching out of the pen might help him. However, he has to have the mentality. He’s always been a starter.