A Prognosticursion into 2013

With Spring Training starting this week, here is a look ahead at what could be the Cubs 2013 Opening Day roster & lineup.

* bats or throws left
# bats both

Michael Bowden
Shawn Camp
Scott Feldman
Kyuji Fujikawa
Matt Garza
Edwin Jackson
Carlos Marmol
Hector Rondon
* James Russell
Jeff Samardzija
Carlos Villanueva
* Travis Wood

Welington Castillo
# Dioner Navarro

Darwin Barney
Starlin Castro
Brent Lillibridge
* Anthony Rizzo
* Ian Stewart
* Luis Valbuena

* David DeJesus
Scott Hairston
Dave Sappelt
* Nate Schierholtz
Alfonso Soriano

15-DAY DL:
Scott Baker, P

60-DAY DL:
Arodys Vizcaino, P

A further breakdown:

1. DeJesus/Sappelt, CF
2. Castro, SS
3. Rizzo, 1B
4. Soriano, LF
5. Hairston/Schierholtz, RF
6. Stewart, 3B
7. Castillo/Navarro
8. Barney, 2B

Castillo/Navarro, C
DeJesus/Sappelt, OF
Hairston,/Schierholtz, OF
Lillibridge, 3B-2B-SS-1B-LF-CF-RF
Valbuena, 2B-3B-SS

Matt Garza
Edwin Jackson
Jeff Samardzija
* Travis Wood
Scott Feldman

Carlos Marmol
Kyuji Fujikawa
Carlos Villanueva
* James Russell
Shawn Camp
Michael Bowden
Hector Rondon

Castro is not an ideal #2 hitter, but he will probably hit there unless and until Barney can improve his OBP to what is required at the top of the order.

It will have to be determined during the course of Spring Training who can better handle CF when DeJesus is not in the lineup… Hairston or Sappelt. (The other will play RF). But there will be two platoons in the outfield (CF & RF), which is why there was no room for Tony Campana, And the Cubs will probably be keeping their eyes open during Spring Training for a true CF (at least a RH hitting one). They supposedly asked the Angels for Peter Bourjos when the Marmol-for-Haren deal fell through, but were rebuffed.

Otherwise, there aren’t a whole lot of issues that need to be determined, as far as position players are concerned.

Welington Castillo is out of minor league options and so he will certainly be given every chance to be the primary catcher, and will (at worst) platoon with Dioner Navarro.

Luis Valbuena should be more valuable as an infield utility guy and LH PH than he was as an everyday 3B (Valbuena is also out of minor league options), and I believe Brent Lillibridge is the obvious candidate to take the Joe Mather Slot on the 25-man roster.

Why Lillibridge?

He had a terrible 2012 season at three stops (CHW, BOS, and CLE), but he would be the one guy (besides Rizzo) on the 25-man roster who has actually played 1B at the big league level (45 games). He also hit 321/367/786 as a PH 2010-2012, and he crushed LHP in both 2010 (303/343/606) and 2011 (287/346/685), making him the New Jeff Baker, capable of replacing Ian Stewart at 3B, Anthony Rizzo at 1B, any of the three RH hitting outfielders, and even Barney or Castro, as needed.

Lillibridge is certainly not Tony Campana, but he does have above-average speed (36 SB in 338 MLB games), making him a reasonable choice to be used as a pinch-runner late in a game when the Cubs are playing for one run. And he has the versatility & athleticism to play anywhere on the field except pitcher and catcher (although he will probably be the “emergency catcher” and the “garbage pitcher,“ too).

If he makes all of his Cactus League starts and has no medical setbacks, Matt Garza will be a prime trade candidate the last week of Spring Training. Any club acquiring Garza prior to MLB Opening Day would be able to extend a Qualifying Offer (a one-year guaranteed contract with a salary equal to the average salaries of the 125 highest-paid players in 2013) to Garza post-2013 if the club is unable to sign him to a contract extension, and the club would receive a 2014 compensation draft pick if Garza signs elsewhere. (A club cannot extend a Qualifying Offer and receive a compensatory draft pick if the player is acquired during the MLB regular season). For that same reason, the Cubs would be expected to get more in return for Garza if he is traded prior to Opening Day than if he is traded during the season.

Something that would be a factor if Garza is traded after Opening Day is that the Cubs could receive a draft pick as part of a trade package. Competitive Balance draft picks awarded to 12 MLB clubs last July can be traded, but only once (the pick can’t be flipped to a third team), and the pick can only be traded during the MLB regular season. So if a team like the Baltimore Orioles is interested in acquiring Garza but can’t put together a package of players sufficient to make the Cubs bite, they could sweeten the deal by including their 2013 Competitive Balance draft pick (#37 overall). But again, if the Orioles (let’s say) were to acquire Garza during the MLB regular season, they would be precluded from extending a Qualifying Offer to Garza post-2013 (and therefore not receive a 2014 draft pick as compensation if Garza were to sign elsewhere), thereby reducing Garza‘s value to the Orioles in a trade.

If there are no setbacks during Spring Training, Scott Baker is projected to be up to about 75 pitches (and five innings) by Opening Day, so he will probably start the 2013 season on the 15-day DL and remain at Extended Spring Training for a couple of weeks while he increases his pitch count, arm strength, and stamina. He then could be reactivated and rejoin the Cubs starting rotation directly, or he could spend as much as an additional 30 days on a minor league rehab assignment while he attempts to get closer to where he needs to be.

If and when Baker returns to the starting rotation, either Scott Feldman or Travis Wood will likely be moved to the bullpen. (That’s presuming Garza has not been traded in the meantime and/or no starting pitchers go down with injuries during Spring Training). Feldman has a lot of experience as an MLB reliever and should be able to make the transition without difficulty. Wood is out of minor league options, so the Cubs would have to try and get him through waivers if they want to send him to Iowa, and there is no way Wood is not claimed if he‘s put on waivers. So Wood either is a Cubs starting pitcher (and he would be the Cubs only lefty starter), or he works out of the Cubs bullpen. And unlike Feldman, Wood does not have considerable experience as a reliever, either in the minor leagues or at the big league level.

Carlos Villanueva would be an additional starting pitcher option, but he has done his best work as a reliever, and the Cubs do need to upgrade their bullpen. So while I would not be surprised to see Villanueva get stretched-out as a starter during Spring Training and be given a shot at the starting rotation, he will almost certainly start the season in the bullpen (unless Garza is traded prior to Opening Day and Baker is left behind at Extended Spring Training).

Carlos Marmol will probably be given every opportunity to retain the closer’s job, but if he falters expect Kyuji Fujikawa to take his place. Fujikawa has extensive experience as a closer in Japan (NPB), and would probably provide a more consistent and stable (if not occasional “lights out“) performance in that role. The Cubs came close to trading Marmol during the off season, and if his legal issues are clearly a non-factor, he could get traded during Spring Training.

James Russell will be the Cubs #1 bullpen lefty, and in fact he might be the Cubs only bullpen lefty to start the season. Veteran Japanese LHRP Hisanori Takahashi is in camp as a Non-Roster Invitee (NRI), and if Manager Dale Sveum absolutely must have a second lefty (and if it’s not Travis Wood), the most-likely candidate is Takahashi. It’s also very possible that a veteran like Takahashi has an “opt out” clause in his contract, where he can request his release if he is not on the Cubs Opening Day MLB 25-man roster, and if so, that could help influence the Cubs to add Takahashi to the 25-man roster.

Shawn Camp had a fine year working out of the bullpen for the Cubs in 2012 and he will be back again in 2013. However, he was used a LOT in 2012, and MLB relievers are notorious for having a good year followed by a bad year (especially if the pitcher was overworked the previous season), so we’ll have to wait to see how Camp responds in 2013.

With Marmol, Fujikawa, Russell, Camp, and Villanueva virtual locks to begin the season in the Cubs bullpen, two slots should be open (at least until Baker is added to the rotation and either Feldman or T. Wood are moved to the pen). It could only be one open slot if Takahashi is kept as the second lefty, but if two slots are available, Michael Bowden and Hector Rondon have the early advantage.

Unlike most of the other bullpen candidates who either have minor league options left or who are in camp as NRI guys signed to minor league contracts (where they do not have to pass through waivers in order to be assigned to Iowa), Bowden is out of minor league options, and so waivers would have to be secured if the Cubs want to send him to the minors. And even if waivers are secured, Bowden has been outrighted previously in his career, so he has the right to elect to be a free-agent if outrighted.

Hector Rondon was selected by the Cubs in the Major League Phase of the December 2012 Rule 5 Draft, and so he will have to spend the entire 2013 season on the Cubs 25-man Active List and/or 15-day or 60-day DL (with at least 90 days spent on the Active List) before Rule 5 restrictions are removed.

So what are the “Rule 5 restrictions” that affect Rondon?

He cannot be placed on waivers until 25 days prior to MLB Opening Day and cannot be sent to the minors or released until 20 days prior to Opening Day. And even if waivers are secured, he would have to be offered back to the Cleveland Indians AAA Columbus affiliate (the club from which he was drafted), and the Indians (acting for Columbus) can reclaim Rondon for half the Rule 5 draft price. Only if waivers are secured and the Indians decline to reclaim him, can the Cubs release Rondon or send him to the minors.

However, Rondon is out of minor league options, and (like Michael Bowden) he has been outrighted previously in his career, so even if waivers are secured and the Indians decline to reclaim him, the Cubs cannot option Rondon to the minors, and if they outright him, he can elect free-agency. So it’s probably pretty much “Wrigley Field or Bust” for Rondon.

Like Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino had Tommy John Surgery (TJS) last April and should be able to fully-participate in Spring Training drills. Where he will be by the end of March is not known yet, but the Cubs have talked about bringing Vizcaino along slowly and limiting his innings in 2013. So if I had to guess I would say he will be placed on the 60-day DL sometime during Spring Training (opening up a 40-man roster slot for Brent Lillibridge) and will be left behind at Extended Spring Training in Mesa. But unlike Baker, I would not be surprised to see Viczaino remain at Extended Spring Training for two full months, gradually easing his way back into action, then go on a 30-day rehab assignment (probably at Daytona), before being reactivated from the DL and getting optioned to AAA Iowa or AA Tennessee on about July 1st, and then get recalled after the conclusion of the minor league regular season on Labor Day. It is somewhat important for the Cubs to try and keep Vizcaino on Optional Assignment for at least 62 days (July and August, let‘s say) in 2013, because by doing so they can keep his MLB Service Time under two seasons by the end of the season, thus insuring that he will remain under club control through the 2018 season.

Meanwhile, a number of other pitchers will compete for jobs at AAA Iowa. Some of these pitchers are on the 40-man roster, others are in “big league camp” as NRI, and still others will report directly to the Iowa squad at Minor League Camp next month.

As things stand right now, this is what the I-Cubs pitching staff should look like the last week of Minor League Camp:

* Brooks Raley
* Chris Rusin
Nick Struck
Barret Loux
Dae-Eun Rhee
* Eric Jokisch
Jason Berken
Casey Coleman
Jay Jackson
Yoannis Negrin

Alberto Cabrera
Rafael Dolis
Trey McNutt
Frank Batista
Ty’Relle Harris
Marcus Hatley
Kevin Rhoderick
Esmailin Caridad
Drew Carpenter
Jaye Chapman
Jensen Lewis
Blake Parker
Zach Putnam
Brian Schlitter
* Hisanori Takahashi
Cory Wade
Casey Weathers
* Dontrelle Willis
Carlos Gutierrez
Marcos Mateo

That’s the definition of a log-jam: 30 pitchers competing for 13 AAA jobs.

A few could start the season on the DL, while others will get demoted to AA Tennessee. Probably at least eight or ten will get released. Some of the AAA starting rotation candidates will end up in the I-Cubs bullpen.

And the probable position players at Iowa in 2013:

J. C. Boscan
* Steve Clevenger

* Justin Bour
Alberto Gonzalez
Junior Lake
Edwin Maysonet
Jonathon Mota (player-coach)
Greg Rohan
Josh Vitters
* Logan Watkins

* Brian Bogusevic
* Tony Campana (unless he is traded or claimed off waivers)
Johermyn Chavez
* Brett Jackson

Watkins (2B) and B. Jackson (CF) will likely play most every day and hit 1-2 in the I-Cubs lineup. Both Lake and Vitters will likely get playing time in the outfield (Vitters in LF and Lake in LF-CF-RF), and Vitters should also see some action at 1B. Rohan can play the “four corners” (1B-3B-LF-RF), and Gonzalez would probably be the primary utility infielder (2B-3B-SS), with Maysonet the #1 shortstop.

Because minor league teams employ 13-man pitching staffs, there will be only four slots available on the Iowa bench, so 1B Brad Nelson, OF Darnell McDonald, and OF Ty Wright are definitely and squarely "on the bubble."



great stuff, AZPhil.

AZ Phil, not that I condone him playing at all but Stewart has played a ton of 1st base. He could certainly fill in for Rizzo.


"Carrie Muskat [email protected]
Who's #Cubs backup 1B? Expect to see Welington Castillo, Navarro and Lillibridge there in spring games"

That will be the first time Navarro will have played 1st base in the big leagues. W. Castillo played there once, for part of a game last season.

Navarro played one game at 1st base in the minors, W. Castillo three times.

i expect to see a.rizzo at 1st for 162 games, anyway. *flex*

if he gets injured things could get rather weird.

He's played mostly 3B and a little bit of 2B, LF, and RF, but in 1,050 major league and minor leagues games (combined), Ian Stewart has yet to play 1st base. 

My bad, I was thinking of Garrett Atkins

AZ Phil - The Indians are going to lose their competitive balance pick for signing Bourn. Could they still trade that pick and surrender their next pick instead? Or was it locked in once they signed Bourn?

Q-MAN: The Cleveland Indians 2013 Competitive Balance pick (between the 2nd & 3rd rounds) was surrendered when they signed Michael Bourn, and so the pick cannot be traded or transferred to any other club. The pick just no longer exists.

BTW, of the 12 Competitive Balance Draft picks awarded last July, three have been traded (MIA and DET exchanged their picks in the Anibal Sanchez deal, and MIA acquired the PIT pick in the Gaby Sanchez trade), and one has ben forfeited (CLE). 

So here is the current status of the 2013 Competitive Balance draft picks:  

BETWEEN 1st & 2nd ROUND:

1. KC

2. PIT (was traded to MIA - cannot be traded again)

3. AZ

4. BAL

5. CIN

6. MIA (was traded to DET - cannot be traded again)

BETWEEN 2nd & 3rd ROUND:

1. SD

2. CLE (forfeited when Indians signed Michael Bourn)

3. COL

4. OAK

5. MIL

6. DET (was traded to MIA - cannot be traded again)

BTW, 2014 Competitive Balance Draft picks will be awarded by lottery in July 2013, and they can be traded immediately (as three of them were in July 2012) up through the conclusionn of the 2013 MLB regular season, and then again beginning on 2014 MLB Opening Day up until the June 2014 MLB Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft).

Whew, that's a lot of information. I wonder if I'll remember any of it in a week or two. Forgive me in advance, AZ, when I ask a question that you've already answered here. I'm gonna miss Campy.

Hi Phil, thanks for the great report. What's the option count for Dave Sappelt? Frankly, I'm not impressed with what I've seen from the man, and I wonder if the Cubs could retain Darnell McDonald out of spring training for the role you described for Sappelt, and send Sappelt to Iowa, to have an extra RH OF in-house going into the season?

JOHN B: Dave Sappelt has two minor league options left, so it would not be a problem to option him to the minors in 2013. I think Darnell McDonald is probably in camp to push Sappelt, but I would be surprised if McDonald beats out Sappelt for a job. It's possible, though.

There is a question right now about whether Scott Hairston or Dave Sappelt could best handle the RH CF platoon with David DeJesus (with the other platooning with Nate Schierholtz in RF), and that will have to be determined in Spring Training. Hairston has played a lot of CF in the big leagues (although not so much the last couple of years), but he is 33 years old and may have lost a step.  

I personally believe Jae-Hoon Ha is the best bet (in-house) for a RH platoon in CF (he is an OUTSTANDING defensive CF and he has definite upside offensively, too), and he did get an NRI to Spring Training last year, but not this season. I suspect Ha will go back to AA to start the 2013 season, although he could end up in Iowa depending on how many Cubs minor league outfielders get released at the end of Minor League Camp. Matt Szczur is another possibility (and he is on the 40-man roster and so he is in big league camp), but he's probably a year or two away. And Albert Almora is clearly the Cubs CF of the future (he's one of the Top 50 prospects in baseball), but he will likely start the 2013 season at Kane County and probably won't be ready until 2016.

In the meantime, I believe the Cubs are in the hunt for a RH hitting "true" CF who can hit lead-off and platoon with DeJesus, even if it's just a short-term solution. Somebody might become available at the end of Spring Training.     

BTW, Sappelt had an excellent performance in the Venezuelan Winter League post-2012, hitting 336/378/526. But he doesn't take a lot of walks, which is why he is not an ideal lead-off hitter even when he's rakin'.


from the dept. of well no duh...

"Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Thursday that Scott Feldman will be in the starting rotation."

looks like Vogel-bomb turned some of that fat into muscle



white prince (fielder)

He's still pretty darn big. He must've been quite jolly at his previous weight. I wonder if he can slim down even more, because 5'11"-5'10" and 245 ain't exactly small.

He's big but there's a lot of muscle there. Before, it was fat. Not good.

Contrary to what you might read at MLB Trade Rumors, Rafael Dolis is NOT out of minor league options in 2013. While he has used three minor league options through the 2012 season, he gets a 4th minor league option in 2013 because he has accrued only four "full seasons" through the 2012 season. (He did not accrue his first "full season" until 2009).  

BTW, if Dolis accrues a "full season" in 2013 without using a minor league option (like if he is optioned to the minors for less than 20 days and spends at least 90 days on the Cubs MLB 25-man roster or at least 60 days on the Cubs MLB 25-man roster followed by a DL stint where the total equals at least 90 days), the 4th minor league option would not be available in 2014 even though he won't have used a minor league option in 2013. Same thing happened to Angel Guzman a few years ago.

Also, Hector Rondon is out of minor league options (he used up his 4th minor league option last season), so if the Rule 5 restrictions are removed (Outright Assignment Waivers are secured and the Indians decline to re-claim him), the Cubs cannot option Rondon to the minors.

Some of you may have noticed that several MLB players were placed on the 60-day DL this week.

The Cubs could have placed Arodys Vizcaino or Scott Baker on the 60-day DL (more likely Vizcaino than Baker since Baker might be ready to start the season on time) to make room on the 40-man roster for Scott Hairston, but chose to DFA Tony Campana instead.

So far 4 players have made the 60 day DL, headlined by ARod.


fwiw, MLB Tonight (MLB Network) focused heavily on the cubs today...e.byrnes in camp reporting + d.barney defensive skills piece + various breakdowns.

it repeats in an hour + various replays during the night.

for those, like me, that's interested in such things...

"Nationals manager Davey Johnson confirmed on Friday that Micah Owings will play first base and outfield for the Nationals, but will not be used as a pitcher."

...no brooks kieschnick 2.0 :[

i still wish brooks could have stuck around a little longer in his duel role...even if he did give up the fly ball a bit too much as a reliever.

F' dat


"Orioles signed RHP Jair Jurrjens to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training."

1/1.5m turns into a minor league contract based on his knee post-physical. it's safe to assume there's probably some incentives built into making the roster and/or meeting certain milestones that will make him more than the minimum.

Cubs have signed 29-year old switch-hitting "supersub" OF-IF Tim Torres to minor league contract (post-2012 Rule 55 6YFA). No NRI, but he'll probably get some occasional ad hoc opportunities in MLB Cactus League games.

Torres is a 257/355/389 hitter with 103 SB (27 CS) in 710 minor league games over seven seasons. Played college ball at Oral Roberts. Has AAA experience but played in AA in 2012.

Could make the AAA Iowa roster, but more-likely projects as the #1 OF-IF utility guy at AA Tennessee in 2013.


may have to trip over to cedar rapids sometime this summer when the cougs are in town to take on the kernels...

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  • RIP Arnie. We could use a lot more like you -- a man who succeeded and failed on his own terms, a true original, and, finally, a remarkable example of graciousness towards others.

    billybucks 38 min 32 sec ago view
  • Cubs finish 33 over at home. I was, personally, one game over at 3-2, which was one of my better years in a while.

    I do hope that's the last time we see the Cardinals this year. A lot of power, which is dangerous, particularly in a short series, and they have really shut down KB all year.

    Oh, and Jon Lester? Damn!

    billybucks 50 min 25 sec ago view
  • Yes. Boating accident at 3AM. Very sad, but stupid. Young men do stupid things.

    billybucks 1 hour 46 min ago view
  • lester puts 2 on and is taken out at 96 pitches. oh well.

    edwards in.

    crunch 2 hours 30 min ago view
  • 2 out in the 7th, lester at 84 pitches, ross taken out for the standing O.

    it's possible contreras will catch lester for another inning+.

    crunch 2 hours 36 min ago view
  • What a weird day.  Jose Fernandez and Arnold Palmer, but then Scully and, on a much more modest level, Ross....

    Transmission 3 hours 10 min ago view
  • d.ross gets his 2nd standing O on the night (last home game of the season)...hits HR #10...curtain call. baseball.

    crunch 3 hours 12 min ago view
  • as a fan, he only "owes" us the game on the field and not getting in the way of others on his team being ready to play (imo).

    it's exponentially worse to his family and friends, but this dude most likely had 15+ years of play left and even though he just turned 24 a couple months ago he had already established himself as a top guy in the game.

    crunch 6 hours 34 min ago view
  • Carrie Muskat [email protected]

    Updated #Cubs probs vs Pirates: Mon, Hendricks vs Kuhl; Tue, Lackey vs Vogelsong; Wed, Arrieta vs Taillon; Thu, Zastryzny vs Nova

    crunch 6 hours 57 min ago view
  • I know what you're trying to say, Charlie, that none of us feels what his loved ones must be feeling.

    On the other hand, what makes a death like this tragic is precisely the loss, based on Fernandez's youth and brilliance, to the baseball world.

    So, for example, we can say that Princess Diana's death meant more, in aggregate, to millions of admirers who didn't know her personally than to her loved ones.

    VirginiaPhil 6 hours 58 min ago view
  • boston pitching snags a couple of mlb team records...

    "Over nine innings of play, Boston's staff struck out 11 straight Tampa Bay Rays hitters Sunday, breaking the major-league record for most consecutive strikeouts in a game.

    The previous record was held by former New York Mets right-hander Tom Seaver, who struck out 10 straight hitters in 1970.

    Not only that, but with a strikeout to end the ninth, sending the game into extras, Boston's staff also struck out an MLB-record 21 batters over nine innings."

    crunch 7 hours 22 min ago view
  • What a loss to baseball, which I'm sure pales in comparison to the personal loss to his loved ones.

    Charlie 9 hours 6 min ago view
  • Somehow I am sensing alcohol was involved. The highest number of boating accidents by a wide margin...

    The E-Man 9 hours 50 min ago view
  • crunch 11 hours 32 min ago view
  • Reports this morning that Marlins' pitching ace Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident - just horrible news.

    Eric S 15 hours 24 min ago view
  • Check out John Arguello at Cubs Den for great analysis & photos from Cubs AZ Instructs


    Arizona Phil 1 day 3 hours ago view