The Chicago Cubs’ bullpen is getting a lot of love this week. And it makes me smile.
The latest comes in the form of a look at where the bullpen has been and where it could be going from Sahadev Sharma over at BP. Carve out some time and give it a read.
Among Sharma’s points, the Cubs’ bullpen came out of last season relatively unheralded by non-Cubs-fan folks primarily because of the high-profile, high-leverage struggles of Jose Veras, James Russell, and Pedro Strop early in the year (you may not have noticed the latter two, but they had some rough outings before bouncing back and being traded, and bouncing back and dominating, respectively). That really obscured just how good the Cubs were/could be going forward, especially considering two of those three are now gone, and the third has one of the nastiest pitches in baseball.
In reality, as we well know, the bullpen was largely dominant from June on, particularly the back-end quatro of Rondon/Strop/Ramirez/Grimm.
Sharma’s piece triggered for me something I’d been wanting to discuss for a while, and something I know we’ll discuss in greater detail in the coming weeks: who fits where in this bullpen?
I’m not going to go into the analysis on this just yet, because it will take some time; but I want to put the following on your radar:
If we assume that the four guys discussed above are locks for the pen, and we further assume that $4.5 million signee Jason Motte is a lock for the pen, then the Cubs have only two or three spots to distribute in the pen among the following group (which includes guys not currently in the rotation, assuming for the discussion here that Travis Wood takes the final spot):
- Jacob Turner
- Tsuyoshi Wada
- Edwin Jackson
- Felix Doubront
- Eric Jokisch
- Dallas Beeler
- Blake Parker
- Zac Rosscup
- Joseph Ortiz
- Drake Britton
- Brian Schlitter
- C.J. Edwards
The Cubs can keep just two or three of those guys in the pen, assuming there are no injuries. That’s 12 guys.
Oh, and did I mention those are only the guys already on the 40-man roster?
I didn’t even include the following non-roster invitees, some of whom have a plausible shot at the pen:
- Armando Rivero
- Francisley Bueno
- Daniel Bard
- Corey Black
- Anthony Carter
- Hunter Cervenka
- Jorge De Leon
- Donn Roach
Once again: assuming health, the Cubs can keep just two or three from that whole big group of 20(!) pitchers. If you thought the rotation battle was crowded, it has nothing on the bullpen.
You can swiftly cross off about 8 to 10 of those guys as very unlikely, and then there’s another 3 or 4 that will be best used as AAA Iowa depth (or for development). You can take an aggressive ax to the list and still be left with more very good and realistic names than the Cubs can actually fit.
Ultimately, we know that Spring Training will surprise us. Some guys will get hurt. Some guys will not be popping out of the gate. Some guys will be traded. Some guys will be claimed. It isn’t going to be as simple as “here are the five locks, and everyone else fights for two or three spots, best guys win.”
At least the Cubs have a ton of quality depth to work with, and hopefully they’re quickly able to identify the guys who will best serve them in the early going in 2015.