Spring Training Miscellany: Evaluating Mills and Four Righty Relievers Tepera, Sadler, Norwood, Adam

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Spring Training Miscellany: Evaluating Mills and Four Righty Relievers Tepera, Sadler, Norwood, Adam

Chicago Cubs

All right, a little morning Miscellany after last night’s late one against the A’s at old-friend-stadium HoHoKam, where the A’s beat the Cubs 5-2.

  • Alec Mills got the start, and for the most part looked like Mills for his three innings of work: he filled up the corners of the strike zone, threw a big-breaking curve, and allowed plenty of contact. Outside of one four-pitch walk where he didn’t get any edge calls, I think I counted only one batter the entire time that he fell two pitches behind. It was basically either you’re gonna hit him hard early – and a few guys definitely did make some very loud early contact – or you’re gonna fall behind and he’s gonna school you.
  • Does Mills win the 5th starter job over Tyler Chatwood? For me, I think that’s still a no. But can I see a back-end big league starter when I watch Mills pitch? Yes. Have for a couple years now. He’s out of options, so he’s gonna make this club either way, and he’s a very solid 6th starter to have in place.
  • Last night’s was a great game to see many of the righties competing for a bullpen spot, as each of Ryan Tepera, Casey Sadler, James Norwood, and Jason Adam got an inning of work. So I really wanted to take a closer look at those four. My huge beef, though? Actually seeing what their pitches were doing was nearly impossible thanks to HoHoKam’s criminally low and off-center camera:

  • Generally speaking, all three of Tepera, Sadler, and Adam looked the part. None of the hitters were able to sit on their fastballs comfortably, with Tepera’s and Sadler’s looking like they had really nice run, and Adam’s looking like it had some nice late life up. Tepera showed a really nice and sharp slider. Sadler and Adam both showed extremely sharp curveballs and struck out three in their innings of work.
  • What was funny about Adam showing such a sharp curve now is that he said that he was adopting a spike curve (i.e., the knuckle curve the Cubs have been teaching various pitchers). If I were basing it on last night, alone, I’d say that the new pitch is taking very well. I have been impressed by Adam the times I’ve seen him this spring, and I know that the Cubs were already high on him thanks to his 98th percentile fastball spin rate. He’s a guy they probably very much *wanted* to come in and win a job.
  • As for Norwood, man, it’s the same story as it has been. The fastball control is all over the place, and it really limits his effectiveness, despite having an obscene changeup that winds up in the dirt, but that guys cannot stop themselves from hopelessly flailing at. It’s a pitch – combined with an upper-90s fastball – that will give you a whole lot of leash on the 40-man roster, but until he can sort of locate the fastball a little, there just won’t be a job for him in a big league bullpen. Hope something clicks for him this year.
  • As for those four, their roster situations are this: Sadler is out of minor league options, so if he doesn’t make the team, he hits the waiver wire and is very likely to be claimed (the Cubs had to trade for him when they wanted him this offseason when he was about to hit the waiver wire). Tepera and Norwood are on the 40-man roster, and each have minor league options remaining. Adam is on a minor league deal, so he could head to Iowa to open the season free and easy, but if the Cubs want to add him to the big league club, they have to open up a 40-man roster spot for him. He would have minor league options left from there, though.
  • If we presume Mills, Craig Kimbrel, Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan, and Jeremy Jeffress are locked into the bullpen, then there are three more spots available. Let’s further assume for the sake of argument that one of those three will go to a lefty (Brad Wieck if he’s good to go, maybe Rex Brothers slides in?). I actually don’t think that’s a lock of an argument, but if it happens, then you’ve got just two spots available for the four righties discussed above, plus Dan Winkler (who has been impressing folks, but does have minor league options), Trevor Megill (Rule 5 pick), Jharel Cotton (options), Adbert Alzolay (options, likely starting at Iowa), Duane Underwood Jr. (out of options), Dillon Maples (options), Ben Taylor (minor league deal), and Dakota Mekkes (minor league control), among a few other non-roster guys. I mean, you’re picking two of twelve(!) righties for those spots. Health will probably, unfortunately, knock one or two of them out over the next few weeks, but the Cubs are gonna have to make some tough decisions. Fair bet is that they try not to lose anyone, and do what they can to maximize the volume of guys they get to keep.


Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.