Today, the Chicago Cubs cut three notable roster competitors from big league camp by way of the option to AAA Iowa (because they’re on the 40-man roster): outfielder Junior Lake, lefty Zac Rosscup, and righty Brian Schlitter.
Lake, who turned 25 a few days ago, will continue working on what appears to be a new plate approach (emphasis on seeing pitches, staying lower, making more contact) as a starting outfielder at Iowa. Although he had a good Spring, and Chris Denorfia’s injury may have opened up an extra outfield job, that spot was always more likely to go to Ryan Sweeney (under contract) or Matt Szczur (more immediate help on defense and on the bases). Lake remains a guy that you probably shouldn’t be counting on for a big contribution to the Cubs, but whose incredible natural talent could shine through eventually. If the Cubs have a need at some point, Lake could be called up to fill-in, but for the first couple months of the season, I’d like to see what he can do with regular playing time at Iowa.
(Assuming Welington Castillo is not traded, and assuming Chris Denorfia starts the season on the DL, there are two spots left on the bench to be divvied up among Szczur, Sweeney, and non-roster invitee Jonathan Herrera.)
Rosscup, 26, had a great camp and has great stuff. The command seems to be improving, and there’s little reason to believe he won’t contribute at some point. But, the fact that the Cubs might go with only one lefty in the pen (Phil Coke), might have to carry Edwin Jackson for a little while, and might also have to figure out a way to try and keep Drake Britton, all conspired together to prevent Rosscup from making the team. He’ll be back.
Schlitter, 29, was a useful bullpen piece for the Cubs last year, and gets a lot of love from pitching coach Chris Bosio (like Rosscup, actually), but there was an overflow of righties in the bullpen already. Schlitter’s uneven Spring performance probably didn’t help, and, although he’s got a great sinker, the fact that he doesn’t miss a ton of bats will always work against him if he’s to be anything more than an up-and-down middle reliever. He, too, will probably be back at some point, given how much bullpens turn over during the course of the season, but he’ll probably battle with guys like Blake Parker and Armando Rivero to be the first righty up.