When the Cubs arrive for spring training in a few days, the battles for playing time at second base, in the outfield, on the starting rotation, and as a member of the bullpen will be hotly contested and closely watched. Most of the players at these positions have been covered at length, but there are two names it is very easy to forget about. Angel Guzman and Esmailin Caridad are still in the Cub’s system and, as far as I can tell, should be competing for bullpen jobs this spring.
Angel Guzman is the more familiar name. It seemed we had been hearing about him forever before he finally harnessed his considerable talents and delivered a very successful bullpen performance during the 2009 season. Unfortunately, he needed arm surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2010 season. If he is healthy for 2011 and back in peak form, Guzman could challenge Kerry Wood for the right handed setup job. Without considering a healthy Guzman the Cubs bullpen looked very good going into 2011. With him, it becomes downright scary.
And then there is Esmailin Caridad. Caridad was brilliant in a short stent with the Cubs in 2009, and equally bad in 2010 before an arm strain and elbow trouble landed him on the disabled list. He never mounted any sort of a minor league comeback last season, but from what I can tell should be throwing in camp. Caridad was to be Marmol’s set up man in 2010 and, if he can stay healthy, there is no reason why we shouldn’t throw his name into that hat again this spring. I think Caridad is more likely to start the year in Iowa, just to make sure his elbow is doing fine, before he is brought back up to the majors. If his fastball looks like it did in 2009, though, he will be back in the majors.
I’ve mentioned before how impressively deep the Cubs’ farm system is, and Caridad is evidence of that. Consider that Baseball America just ranked him as the 29th best prospect in the Cubs system. He was the setup man for Carlos Marmol at the start of the 2010 season, and he’s just the 29th best prospect according to a leading prospect evaluation organization. That’s not so much a knock on Caridad’s stuff as it is an indication just how deep the Cubs minor league system really is.