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first cut is the deepestAlthough he was merely the “player to be named later” in the Matt Garza trade last year, pitcher Neil Ramirez is very much a legit pitching prospect (held back in the original trade only so the Cubs could observe him a little longer). He is not, however, going to break camp with the big team this year, as he was today sent to the minor league side.

Ramirez, 24, didn’t give up an earned run in his five innings of Spring work, and looked pretty good the two times I saw him. He’s a big, strong guy with the stuff to be a starter long-term if he can command it consistently. The Cubs used him in late-inning, single-inning spots this Spring, but I suspect he’ll slot into Iowa’s rotation to start the year after pitching well at AA last year. He actually saw quite a bit of time at AAA the two years before last year, but hasn’t quite made that transition successfully yet. I don’t see why the Cubs wouldn’t take that step, and start to make a decision about his future vis a vis bullpen/rotation. Some think he could be a dominant late-inning guy if he’s ultimately forced to convert to the pen.

The Cubs’ Spring roster stands at 36.

  • willis

    I was going to ask if he goes into the AAA rotation or pen. I think, as I do with most guys that seem to have decent stuff, start him until he proves he can’t do it. Hopefully he shows he can do it and it’s more rotation depth now and maybe a rotation piece come 2015.

    The rotations in AA and AAA are all sorts of intriguing.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I strongly suspect rotation. Even if they seem him as a reliever long term, the more innings he has to refine his pitches the better.

      With Ramierez, Hendricks, Jokisch, and maybe Grimm (depending on what happens the rest of this spring), the Iowa rotation is looking pretty good.

      Not as good as that Tennessee rotation, though. Edwards, Johnson, Black, Pineyro, and any of about a half a dozen guys. The Smokies are going to be loaded this year.

      • http://www.chicagocubsbleachertickets.com Cub Fan Dan

        Do you think Carlos Pimentel is a part of that Iowa rotation? I kinda liked the little bit that I saw/read.

        • ssckelley

          Good question, he has looked good out of the bullpen but has mainly been a starter.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Possible. He should get plenty of innings regardless.

      • ssckelley

        Year of the pitcher!!!

        ;)

  • Kyle

    That leaves 17 pitcher for 11 jobs.

    Fujikawa continues to be further along than people realize, but he’s at best starting on the 15-day DL, so that’s 16.

    Wada and McDonald are gimme cuts, that’s 14.

    if Arrieta is missing even one start, he might as well start on the DL, so that’s probably 13.

    Rusin is fighting hard, but I don’t think he wins the 5th starter job. 12

    Samardzija/Jackson/Hammel/Wood/Villanueva (not order of ability)
    Veras/Strop/Wright/Russell are locked in, I would guess.

    So that appears to be leaving Rondon, Grimm and Cabrera fighting for two jobs, one odd man out.

    • bonger0493

      And my guess is rondon and Cabrera get those 2 spots while Grimm is optioned to AAA

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        That’s my current guess as well.

    • NorthSideIrish

      Actually I think they go with a 12 man pen and all three make it. With starters unlikely to go deep they will need the extra arms.

      • Kyle

        My guess is they won’t do it just because they like the fringey position players more than the fringey pitchers, but it’s definitely a possibility.

        • NorthSideIrish

          12 man pitching staff likely means having to cut someone like Murphy so it may not happen right away, especially with the off days. Plus with Grimm having options left, sending him to Iowa might be the cleanest solution. I’m sure they are hoping some kind of trade happens to clean up some of the clutter at the end of the roster and maybe clear some 40 man slots for Kalish and Bonifacio.

  • Diehardthefirst

    Sounds like Cubs NSync 8 track to be released in 2018 and should skyrocket to the top 10 and stay for 36 weeks

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    SP1. Wood (L)
    SP2. Jackson
    SP3. Samardzija [home opener]
    SP4. Rusin (L)
    SP5. Hammel
    LR6. Villanueva
    LR7. Rondon
    LR8. Cabrera
    RP9. Wright (L)
    SU10. Russell (L)
    SU11. Strop
    CL12. Veras

    Even though I don’t have any confidence in Rusin as a starter anymore, he’s pitched well enough in Spring to open in the rotation… BECAUSE…when Arrieta comes off the DL, he can be optioned to AAA and Villanueva can stay in the pen to start the season where he’s been the most effective.

    I can’t remember if the report was rejected or not, but I remember reading that Villanueva was named the 5th starter after Arrieta’s injury. Sure, things could have changed since then, but if this is the case, look for Rusin to start in AAA and Grimm work as a reliever in the pen (because there’s already two lefties in the pen).

    If Samardzija is traded… PROBLEM(S) solved!

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