wrigley bench dugoutHave you been enjoying the rollout of the this year’s BN Top 40 Cubs prospect list? Do you enjoy seeing and hearing things? Then I’ve got some good news for you: (1) Luke’s latest installment of the list comes later today, and (2) Luke and I will be doing a live stream tonight at 7:30pm CT (8:30pm ET)!

So, stop by the site at that time to watch and participate. You can throw your questions and remarks into the comments, or you can send them to us on Twitter (@BleacherNation, @ltblaize).

  • We discussed it in short yesterday when the Cubs optioned Junior Lake to AAA Iowa, but here’s the gist: with five bench spots available (two going to David Ross and Arismendy Alcantara, and with Welington Castillo currently set to open the season on the 25-man roster as the third catcher, the Cubs will have just two bench spots to divvy up among Chris Denorfia, Ryan Sweeney, Matt Szczur, and Jonathan Herrera. Denorfia (hamstring) is likely to start the year on the DL, so that leaves Sweeney (under contract, cannot be optioned), Szczur (one option year left), and Herrera (non-roster invitee, would need to be added to currently-full 40-man). Although it’s nice to have two back-up infielders, because the Cubs have so much infield versatility among the “starters” and Alcantara, I’d probably rather see them carry the best bats, regardless of whether they’re infielders or outfielders. That would probably not be Herrera, whose value mostly comes from a plus glove that can move all over the infield. How often would the Cubs really be able to take advantage of that, though? Versus how many times will they be pinch hitting? If it’s those three, my votes go to Szczur and Sweeney. But if the Cubs deal Sweeney, as they might be trying to do, I’m fine with Herrera having a spot on the team until Kris Bryant comes up and further sorting is necessary.

  • All of that plays against the backdrop of Chris Coghlan’s stiff neck, which saw him scratched yesterday, and he’s now day-to-day. It’s probably not serious, but if he has to miss any time to start the season, all three of those guys probably make the Opening Day roster.
  • Felix Doubront has signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays, according to Ken Rosenthal. Makes sense as there was rumored Blue Jay interest back before the Cubs released Doubront – obviously the Blue Jays weren’t willing to offer anything of value (or wanted the Cubs to eat too much salary) to make the swap, and, they were right to hold back.
  • A great read from Patrick Mooney on Jon Lester’s readiness for Opening Night via pitching coach Chris Bosio. The Cubs’ ace wasn’t as crisp as he wanted to be, but even at 80 and 84 pitches, he kept asking to face one more batter.

  • I’m not going to give this any more attention than it’s due*:

  • It’s one thing to advocate for your client. It’s another thing to besmirch one team by way of lifting another team up (a team with money) using erroneous and misleading “facts.” Pederson has 28 days of service time from 2014, and is already on the 40-man roster. To get an extra year of control on him, the Dodgers would have to send him down until late May. Also, Pederson has been a pro since 2010, and has 1072 plate appearances between AA and AAA. Apples, these are not. (And even if the argument is that Bryant should have come up last September, as Pederson did, not only does Pederson have so much more high-level pro experience, but Bryant was in his first full professional year and the big league team was not competitive. Still not apples.)
  • (If you still can’t get enough of that stuff, Nathaniel Grow has a great take on the grievance process and how it would look if the MLBPA actually filed one on Bryant’s behalf, as they’ve threatened.)
  • This article from Phil Rogers is something of a catch-all on young, positional Cubs storylines from the Spring, but the part I found most interesting is the discussion of Matt Szczur’s swing changes. No, they don’t get into specifics (though you can tell a lot just by looking at his swings from September and from this Spring), but Szczur started working with a swing instructor immediately after last season (perhaps sensing that, without a significant improvement in his offensive ability, a big league future as even a bench guy was a stretch), and then refined that work with Cubs hitting coach John Mallee. (I’m sorry to say I forget who it was, but someone in the comments or on Twitter yesterday mentioned a similarity between Szczur’s new swing and Anthony Rizzo’s. It’s an interesting comparison, especially if you look at Rizzo from mid-2014, when he was a little less upright. The lowered hand-position and the swing itself certainly look similar. I don’t know enough about these things to speak too intelligently on the rest of the body, but I thought it was an interesting discussion nonetheless.)
  • If you missed it last night, the video board is now up at Wrigley Field. It sounds like the board will be generating walk-up music for Cubs players this year (Cubs.com), which might be the first thing I don’t much like about it. I suppose if the players want it, whatever. But, man, I just really don’t like walk-up music. Hey, let’s hear that same 20 second clip of a song for each player five times! And let’s make sure to get the whole clip in before the at bat can start! The only acceptable walk-up music, to me, would (1) be funny, and/or (2) not have the same small slice repeated incessantly throughout the game.

  • And if you missed it this morning, HOMER PARTY!
  • Jake Arrieta is just so swell:

  • Cubs utility prospect Anthony Giansanti is also swell:

*(If you’re wondering why I pictured and tweeted that Boras quote instead of linking to it, ESPN changed their web site yesterday in such a way that I found that quote on the MLB page, but it was just kind of floating out there to the side by itself, without any specific page to which it was connected. I applaud efforts to improve the content experience as much as anyone, but the new ESPN has some kinks to work out, at least on desktop.)

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