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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.
  • King Jeff

    Note to self, don’t strain oblique, don’t want to turn into Koyie Hill.

  • hansman1982

    I hope Clevenger can get a roster spot and perform. It’d allow us to swap out Castillo defensively late in the game.

    Theo deserves a lot of grief for Stewart and Wood, but Clevenger and LaHair were awesome early season roster choices.

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

      Castillo should have been up instead of Clevenger from day one. He’s just better. Clevenger could have been Soto’s replacement when called up or hurt.

      • hansman1982

        On paper, sure, but it was a gamble that paid off – and Castillo got some full-time playing time (which from the look of one of his early games in Milwaukee, HE NEEDED).

        I wish I could travel to the alternate universe where Byrd and Soto didn’t fall off a table offensively. Would have made the first two months much more interesting.

        • Edwin

          I don’t think Byrd ever recovered from the fastball to the head. It’s no wonder why batters get so pissed at pitches around the head area. It can ruin careers.

          • hansman1982

            It’s weird, he did pretty well late 2011 but just vanished in 2012. PTSD is a nasty thing.

      • Rcleven

        In what way?
        Clevenger to this day is the better defensive catchers of the two.
        Castillo has the better arm and bat but is still a past ball machine.
        If Castillo can learn to move his body and block balls in the dirt (keeping to ball in front of him) instead of reaching he could become better than league average.

        • John (the other one)

          I may be wrong about this, but from my memory Clevenger is pretty horrible at framing pitches.

      • The Dude Abides

        Doesn’t Castillo have a sub 200 batting average against righties?

        • hansman1982

          Ya, small sample size (143 PA) and BABIP issues (.256) come into play here.

          If he were .600 OPS bad against RHP, it would have reared it’s ugly head in his 1800 minor league PA.

          • The Dude Abides

            small sample size but it’s 75% of his ab’s in the majors, we shall find out soon. hope for the best we have a history of luck!!!

  • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

    Bowden is both out of options and has been outrighted before. That means if the Cubs try to send him down, he has to clear waivers and has the option to become a free agent.

    Between the previous FO connection, the reasonable pitching last year, the reasonable pitching in spring and the lack of pressing other options, I think he’s a lock.

  • fromthemitten

    I like how Bowden was throwing at the end of the season and the only way I could see him getting sent down is to stretch him out in AAA (but that staff is going to be stacked with back rotation guys anyway).

    No problem with Baez behind behind Sano. I always acquire him in Baseball Mogul and he always winds up hitting 40+ bombs a year with an OBP of .400+ lolz

    Figgins was replaced by the Marlins yesterday. No problem with them signing him to a minor league deal as insurance if Stewart doesn’t recover and Valbuena is Valbuena.

    • Tim

      Does koyie hill play third base?

    • hansman1982

      I’d rather stick Vitters there than Figgins.

      • CubFan Paul

        Agreed on Vitters over Figgins. The best Hitting Coaches (3) are on the ML team.

        Valbuena’s splits suck. I’m not sure what to expect from him …260/.320/.400 versus RHP doesn’t even seem possible.

        • jt

          Cubs 3B at .260/.320/.400 would be a huge improvement over last year.
          I’m actually hoping for a 0.330 OBP and 0.390 SLG from Valbuena. I’m thinkin’ that, along with his his defense, would leave him a below avg for a 3B but not entirely horrible.

    • Jim

      Careful. Whenever you start talking about the Chone-O-Meter, people will jump all over you. That said, I think Chone does make some sense for the Cubs, but does he take a bench spot or minor league deal? And I think Lillibridge has looked good this spring and they might just see Figgins in the same way and take a pass. I think we will see Valbuena / Lillibridge at 3B this year with maybe a Vitters call up at some point. Maybe Stewart makes it back, but I am not counting on it.

  • fromthemitten

    oh man that video they have of barney on that fangraphs site. WOW

    • hansman1982
      • JR

        I love how someone goes F**k u Barney right as he catches the ball. LOL… Barney has a -9.6 Bat?? Damn. I knew he wasn’t a good hitter, but that’s ridiculous.

        • fromthemitten

          lol yeah that was hilarious. gotta love those drunk Cubs fans

        • CubFan Paul

          Barney is keeping 2B warm for Baez.

          • Noah

            If Baez can’t play shortstop it’s because he’s outgrown the position, and he’d likely face the same issues at 2B. Plus, you’d reduce the value of his strong arm. In other words, our three likeliest scenarios for Baez and Castro playing together, in order of the likeliest to the least likely (at least in my opinion) are: (1) Castro at shortstop, Baez at 3B; (2) Baez at shortstop, Castro at 3B; (3) Baez at shortstop, Castro at 2B.

            • hansman1982

              Part of this will depend on where the Cubs feel it will be easier to get a positionally average bat.

              Using 2011 and 2012 qualified players (of which, a couple show up on 2 of the positions) there were 5 3B who had a positional wOBA+ above 100, 10 SS and 12 2B.

              Take out Miguel Cabrera and that leaves you with 4.

              3B also had the fewest players with enough AB to qualify at 11 (gaining 3 players in 2012 that played SS or 1B the year prior), SS had 17 and 2B had 20.

              I’d say, unless the Cubs can pick up a good 3B, Baez is headed towards 3B. (of course, you wouldn’t let Baez’s presence deter you from acquiring 3B or 2B.

          • http://Noclue Marc N.

            YEP. His arb/trade years are pretty well timed too.

  • spencer

    Didn’t DJ Lemahue play 3b? and didnt he hit for a decent avg.? Nice one Theo!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Lemahieu might have a decent batting average when the BABiP goddess smiles on him, but his OBP is awful (he has no batting eye) and he has no power. Valbuena will provide better offensive value as he draws enough walks to make up for the BA and he has more pop.

    • Edwin

      Meh. DJ, for his MLB career, has a wRC+ of 76. Stewart has a wRC+ for his career of 84. DJ hits for average (career .287), but doesn’t walk, and doesn’t hit for much power, which means it’s a pretty empty batting average. DJ wouldn’t be an upgrade.

      • hansman1982

        That and (if UZR is to be trusted) he isn’t a good defensive 3B. He is much more of a 2B.

  • Bob Johnson

    The way Bowden’s been pitching he would never clear waivers. Several teams would grab him in a heartbeat. Valbuena will do for now especially against righties. He plays a good third base and tends to hit in the clutch.

  • Kubphan82

    I’m starting to feel Manaea-cal…

  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

    *four* options? That’s a new one to me. I have some reading to do.

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Kyle

      Copied from Wikipedia:

      A team may have a fourth option year on a player with less than five full seasons of professional experience, provided that both conditions are met below.
      A player has not spent at least 90 days on an active professional roster in a season. Minor leagues that play below Class A Advanced have seasons that are shorter than 90 days, and as such, any player who spends a full season in a rookie or Class A (short-season) league will receive a fourth option year.
      A player has not spent at least 60 days on an active professional roster AND then at least 30 days on a disabled list in a season. Only after 60 days have been spent on an active professional roster does time spent on the disabled list count towards the 90-day threshold. As with the prior example, this cannot occur with players who spend a full season in a rookie or Class A (short season) league.

  • Die hard

    Phillies Cook could help and is cheap

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