Constructing Cubs Roster, Miller, Hultzen, Coronavirus Sports Impact, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Constructing Cubs Roster, Miller, Hultzen, Coronavirus Sports Impact, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

It’s probably a good day to focus on sports, eh? Sports!

  • David Ross is still playing his roster decisions very close to the vest, which is I’m sure partly the product of decisions still to be made and also partly because there will be significant input coming from the front office. You also never know what’s going to happen on the injury front that completely changes things, or whether some really intriguing player will become available on waivers near the end of Spring Training because of a roster crunch elsewhere.
  • All that said, as far as the team’s bench goes, here’s what we can say with confidence: if you consider Ian Happ “the center fielder” and David Bote “the second baseman” for the purposes of having eight positional starters in place, then you’ve got five bench spots available. One will go to Steven Souza, one will likely go to Albert Almora (though he has minor league options remaining), and one will go to Victor Caratini. At that point, you have no reserve infielders at all, and two available bench spots. At least one of Daniel Descalso, Jason Kipnis, Hernan Perez, or Nico Hoerner have to make the team. If you decide to go with two of those guys, then that’s it.
  • But if you take only one of those extra infielders, you’d have room to add a speed guy like Ian Miller to the 26-man roster. The reality is that, even as he rakes in the Spring, there’s no statistical/historical reason to believe Miller can hit too better than someone like Billy Hamilton (career .242/.297/.326). So you’d have him on the roster almost exclusively for speed off the bench, late-inning defense, and emergency hitting situations. If you knew for sure he would be as fast/successful on the bases as Hamilton in his prime *AND* would be as good defensively as Hamilton, then I say let’s do it. Miller would be such a nice weapon to have available at all times, rather than just the obligatory speed guy in September.
  • To be honest, though? All I can really tell for sure at this point is that Miller, 28, is really fast. Just how *good* he is on the bases? Just how *good* he is defensively? Can’t say for sure. In on a minor league deal, the Cubs would not lose Miller just because he doesn’t make the club on Opening Day.
  • Back to the infielders, if you took just one of that group, you could instead go for a third catcher like Josh Phegley or PJ Higgins, each of whom would allow you to more aggressively use Victor Caratini’s bat.
  • As things stand right now, and because I think the Cubs are really going to want to carry Kipnis to open the season, I think it’s probably going to be Kipnis and Descalso or Perez (if you don’t think Bote can back up shortstop in a pinch) getting those final two spots. I think Miller probably doesn’t make the team right away unless the Cubs decide Almora needs to head to AAA.
  • Big sale at the Cubs shop today.
  • Spot on from Bryan:

  • Like I said yesterday, I think it’s a fair, objective analysis that Hultzen – formerly a tip-top prospect – possesses big league stuff. A mid-90s fastball and a nasty slider that play well off each other. We’ve seen what he can do in limited doses. The questions are whether he can be durable enough to pitch for a full season that includes periodic back-to-back appearances, and whether his changeup has come along enough to make him useable, consistently, against righties.
  • With Brad Wieck likely to start the season on the IL, the Cubs may well decide to go with an extra lefty in addition to Kyle Ryan, and it could be Hultzen, who is in on a minor league deal. The disadvantage he’s got compared to someone like Rex Brothers, though, is that Brothers – also on a minor league deal – has minor league options remaining. If the Cubs picked him to open the season on the roster, they’d be able to easily option him out – if they wanted – when Wieck is ready to go. If the Cubs instead selected Hultzen, he has no options remaining. So if they wanted to send him out at any point, he’d have to clear waivers. He certainly might clear, if he still has pitching limitations. But it’s not a guarantee, given the stuff.
  • All things considered, it might be best for Hultzen to begin the season off the big league roster, where he continue ramp up slowly, and then be available further into the season, where fewer bullets would be required.
  • More coronavirus fallout for sports, with a major tennis tournament postponed/cancelled, and the opening of the NPB delayed:

  • It’s likely that MLB will soon have to make decisions – or be directed to make them by public health departments – about how to proceed in some locations for Opening Day/week/month. Hopefully there are ways to mitigate transmission/impact of the illness without massive interruptions of the sport. Far lesser concern than peoples’ health, of course, but obviously something we all here care about.
  • On a lighter note, for the women among you and the women in your life:

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.