Who Plays for the Cubs?

Let’s take a look at the current 40-man roster:

Pitchers (21)
Scott Baker
Jeff Beliveau
Michael Bowden
Alberto Cabrera
Shawn Camp
Lendy Castillo
Gerardo Concepcion
Rafael Dolis
Scott Feldman
Kyuji Fujikawa
Matt Garza
Carlos Marmol
Trey McNutt
Brooks Raley
Hector Rondon
Chris Rusin
James Russell
Jeff Samardzija
Arodys Vizcaino
Rob Whitenack
Travis Wood

Catchers (3)
Welington Castillo
Dioner Navarro
Steve Clevenger

Infielders (8)
Darwin Barney
Starlin Castro
Junior Lake
Anthony Rizzo
Luis Valbuena
Christian Villanueva
Josh Vitters
Logan Watkins

Outfielders (7)
Tony Campana
David DeJesus
Brett Jackson
Dave Sappelt
Nate Scheirholtz
Jorge Soler
Alfonso Soriano
Matt Szczur

The first thing that jumps out to me is the sheer number of players not ready to contribute at the major league level. We’ve got a few injuries (Vizcaino, Garza, Baker, Feldman) and a few true prospects (Soler, Villanueva), and it really stretches our “effective roster” quite thin.

In the outfield, we currently are slated to send out Soriano in left, DeJesus in center, and Schierholtz in right. Sappelt and Campana are the likely candidates to be the 4th/5th OF, as Jackson is by FO edict destined to start the season repeating AAA. Soler and Szczur are both at least a year away, more for Soler.

There aren’t any candidates in the outfield for dropping off the 40-man, but there are a few trade options. Both DeJesus and Soriano both have (in my estimation) a 25% chance of being traded before Opening Day. However, unless Jackson comes up to start in Center (I like the idea), they’d need to find another outfielder anyway. The FO’s stance on Jackson kind of freezes up the outfield.

The infielder situation is similarly dire. You’ve got Valbuena, Castro, Barney, and Rizzo manning the 4 positions, with a contingency for Stewart to make the team. Lake, Watkins, and Villanueva are all far from contributing. Vitters is in the Jackson boat of being held back a year (another error, in my opinion). This situation affords no backups. If you think Stewart can play 3B productively, Valbuena can play multiple positions…but then you have to make room on the 40-man that you don’t have for infielders. This is another area that the Cubs will have to change.

Catching gives you your first easy cut: Steve Clevenger. He’s very likely to go unclaimed, so you can still have him for emergencies. He’s the clear-cut number 3 catcher on the team. You need the roster spot, and I don’t think there’s any real difference between Clevenger and Brenly. This is an easy cut.

Pitching is where things get difficult. The following are locks to make the team (barring trades):
Scott Baker
Shawn Camp
Scott Feldman
Kyuji Fujikawa (what an awesome name)
Matt Garza
Carlos Marmol
Jeff Samardzija
Travis Wood
James Russell

The following will not make the team barring some huge shift:
Gerardo Concepcion (A-)
Alberto Cabrera (conversion to starter)
Michael Bowden (conversion to starter)
Lendy Castillo (AA)
Arodys Vizcaino (injury)
Rob Whitenack (AA)

Which leave the following in play:
Jeff Beliveau
Rafael Dolis
Trey McNutt
Brooks Raley
Hector Rondon
Chris Rusin

We’ve already established that the Cubs need at least one infielder, and I’ve identified what I believe is an extremely likely cut (Clevenger) to make up that room. If Soriano or DeJesus or both are traded, we need a replacement outfielder or two (depending on the Jackson edict) and it will come from one of the bottom two lists.

I think the most likely cuts at this point are Chris Rusin and Gerardo Concepcion. Rusin probably won’t clear waivers, but he’s got a shot. I don’t think his upside is greater than, say, a Brooks Raley or Jeff Beliveau. Concepcion will clear waivers most likely, and I wouldn’t be that sad if he didn’t.

If I had to guess, I’d say the Cubs break camp with the following roster:

LF DeJesus
CF Jackson/Campana
RF Schierholtz/Sappelt
1B Rizzo
2B Barney
SS Castro
3B Stewart
UTIL Valbuena
UTIL Undetermined Player Not on Current 40-man
C Castillo
C Navarro
13 position players

P Garza
P Samardzija
P Wood
P Feldman
P Raley
CL Fujikawa
SU Russell
SR Camp
SR McNutt
MR Rondon
LOOGY Beliveau
SR Undetermined Player Not on Current 40-man
12 pitchers

40: Villanueva, Soler, Concepcion, Cabrera, Bowden, Baker (15-day DL), Castillo, Dolis, Whitenack, Lake, Vitters, Watkins, Szczur, 0-2 returns from Soriano trade/spring training.

60-day DL: Vizcaino
Off the 40: Clevenger, Rusin

That gives a spot or two to leeway, depending on the return from a Soriano/DeJesus/Garza trade, a spring training shocker, or if Vizcaino doesn’t need to go on the 60-day.

It’s fun to guess, but I’m sure free agency will do something to change this immeasurably.

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