Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

brent lillibridgeDon’t forget to grab the latest episode of the BN Podcast if you haven’t already.

  • Dale Sveum really hearts utility man Brent Lillibridge, who is going to make the Cubs now that Ian Stewart is starting the season on the DL (he probably would have made it anyway). “Any player like that is such a commodity for as manager in the National League,” Sveum said, per ESPN. “You can give so many people days off. He can play the outfield, he can pinch-run and steal a base. He can also hit the ball out of the park. That is very valuable in the National League.” I’m fine with Lillibridge making the Cubs, as I do think his versatility will come in handy … assuming he can hit at least a little bit. As we saw with Joe Mather, versatility is useful if you perform at least at a replacement level when you’re at each of those positions. Otherwise, you’re hurting the team, albeit spread out over lots of positions. Lillibridge, for his career, has hit lefties much better than righties, so there’s your obvious way to use him: if not in a strict platoon at third base with lefty Luis Valbuena, then as a guy who starts all over the diamond against lefties.
  • As of right now, BA’s Jim Callis sees the Cubs taking a college arm with their second overall pick in June, and it would be either Mark Appel or Sean Manaea.

  • Steve Clevenger, who’s still fighting for a spot on the roster as a utility man/third catcher, knows that his struggles in 2012 were due to a lack of adjustments as the season went on (you’ll recall, he started out super hot, strained his oblique, and when he returned, he was Koyie Hill). He’s working on it, and hopes that a greater ability to adjust rapidly in-season will help him find success this year. Although Ian Stewart’s injury opens up an extra spot on the roster, Clevenger will have to beat out guys like Alberto Gonzalez, Edwin Maysonet, and Brian Bogusevic to get the job – and he’d have to convince the Cubs that it isn’t best for the organization to have Clevenger starting regularly behind the plate at AAA.
  • Casey Coleman for one of those final bullpen spots? I’d say he’s got as good a shot as any of the other non-roster invitees (Cory Wade, Jensen Lewis, Jaye Chapman, Blake Parker, Drew Carpenter, Zach Putnam), but the sheer volume of options is going to work against him. With Marmol-Fujikawa-Russell-Camp-Rondon locks or virtual locks, there are two open spots. If one goes to a lefty like Chris Rusin or Hisanori Takahashi, there’s just one spot for that huge group of righties … plus Michael Bowden, who’s gotta be the favorite at this point (if for no other reasons than he’s on the 40-man, and he’s pitched adequately this Spring after a solid late season run last year). And that assumes the Cubs don’t pick up a discarded Shawn Camp type near the end of Spring Training like they did last year. In other words, without injuries, it doesn’t seem likely that Coleman will get the job. But he could become a quality reliever at AAA Iowa, and then, when the season gets going, opportunities will arise.
  • Speaking of righties competing for the pen who aren’t likely to win a job, Rafael Dolis is still around, in case you forgot about him. The reason you may have forgotten about him is because he hasn’t been doing much, and I don’t write about him much. I don’t write about him much because I’ve always expected him to be sent to AAA to start the year. And BA just confirmed what TCR’s Arizona Phil has been saying all offseason: Rafael Dolis is one of those rare players who qualifies for a fourth option year, so the Cubs will have the ability to send him down without losing him, if they want.

  • Generally-speaking, the Cubs’ positional player story looks pretty ugly according to FanGraphs, which is no surprise. It is ugly.
  • Javier Baez comes up just short (Miguel Sano) in BP’s look at the top power tool in the minors (insert top power tool joke – drill, perhaps?).
  • A little profile on Welington Castillo.
  • The Hardball Times looks at why Ernie Banks was such a sensation and has always been so well-received.
  • Folks are making their 2013 season predictions over at the Message Board, and you should join in the fun.

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