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With less than 2 weeks until opening day, the Cubs have made leaps and bounds forward in comparison to last year largely due to the efforts of their new coaching staff and brass.

The rebuild process is in full swing, but hasn’t seen any action in real time or faced any major league tests yet. Spring training is indicitive of a few things, but can only be looked into so much. As it stands right now, here’s how the Cubs look going in to a 2012 filled with optimism and a lot of uncertainty.

Prospects:

The Cubs made a series of cuts to their 40 man starting roster today, including Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson. These two showed strong outings in spring training but also showed some signs that they aren’t ready for the majors just yet. Brett Jackson has some contact issues and strikes out more than Dale Sveum would like to see and Anthony Rizzo just needs some time to hone his skills in the minors before he can make an effective transition to the first base position. For now, Bryan LaHair will be filling that role in the Cubs’ line up and can hopefully be a roll model for Rizzo in his development.

There’s a lot of rumors flying around about the Cubs and Jorger Soler. That’s about all that we know…

Injuries:

Geovany Soto and Ian Stewart all had bumps in their spring training campaigns with Soto having groin issues and Stewart showing old demons with a hindered wrist. Stewart suffered the injury in 2005 and its never really left his side. Normally wrist issues are more serious than other injuries, but its especially grave in this situation because Stewart is a power hitter. Keeping a healthy wrist will be key in finding success in 2012 with the North Siders. Carlos Marmol had hand cramps earlier this week but an MRI revealed there’s no significant damage. Nothing to worry about.

Pitching

No one has the 2012 Cubs labeled as a pitching powerhouse, but after watching their Cactus Leage action closely, I cant help but be somewhat excited. There was fierce competition between guys like Rafael Dolis, Trever Miller, Jeff Samardzija, Rodrigo Lopez and Paul Maholm – all of which saw action for the Cubs during spring training. As far as it stands right now, you can assume the rotation will be:

1. Ryan Dempster – who was named opening day starter today. Well done!

2. Matt Garza

3. TBD – My assumption is it will be Jeff Samardzija.

4. TBD – Chris Volstad seems to be the winner.

5. Paul Maholm

Nothing wrong with that in my eyes. Should be a competitive rotation should everyone stay healthy and Marmol works out his hand issues.

Catching

Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger have been duking it out for the back-up catcher position for quite some time. Dale Sveum loves both these guys and feels that “someone will end up getting screwed” in the end. Both these guys have what it takes to fill the roll behind Soto and quite frankly, it will come down to team dynamics and who is willing to embrace the pitching system. I cant say enough about both these guys’ efforts because they’ve been off the charts. The Cubs need not worry about catching in the future.

 

So with roughly two weeks to go before the start of the season, there’s one dominant theme that seems to be emerging: competition. No one player is simply “slotted” in to a position based on reputation or past performance. Every single player who takes to the field on opening day will have earned the right to be there and will fight hard to remain in that position. If your performance doesn’t add up? There are enough players working their asses off in a strong farm system to earn that big league debut and put you out of work.

Competition within breeds championship teams and this can only spell out good things for the Cubs’ future.

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Tags: Anthony Rizzo Blake DeWitt Brett Jackson Carlos Marmol Chicago Chris Volstad Cubs Geovany Soto Ian Stewart Jeff Samardzija Matt Garza Paul Maholm Spring Training

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