We have a few spring training games out of the way, and while it is still early it isn’t too early to check in on some of the Cubs prospects. Most of the young position players have at least four at bats behind them now. That’s not enough to draw any conclusions, but I think we can start to handicap some races a bit. A few interesting stories are starting to appear.
The Darwin Barney vs Augie Ojeda battle is starting to look a little one sided. While Ojeda has been smashing the impressively long fly balls, it is Barney who is .225 ahead in slugging percentage (.625 vs .400). In fact, only Castro, Soriano, and Snyder have more total bases than Barney. His batting average of .375 trails only Castro, Soriano, and Byrd among the Cubs’ regular position players. Early indications are that Barney can in fact hit major league pitching, something we already suspected based on his strong finish from last season.
Right now, it is hard to make a compelling case for not taking Darwin Barney north with the Cubs. He’s done everything asked of him defensively and hit more than I think anyone expected. If he keeps this up, I think he beats out Ojeda. There is a long way to go, but Barney certainly seems to have taken the lead for the backup job. The real battle might be Darwin Barney vs Blake DeWitt for starting second baseman.
Don’t go to sleep on Scott Moore or Marquez Smith, though. Both have played well enough to stay in the conversation. They are long shots, but after seeing Smith’s play early on the Cubs might be thinking that a Marquez Smith / Blake DeWitt platoon could be a nice 2012 insurance policy at third base if Josh Vitters isn’t ready to go and they part ways with Ramirez. Marquez Smith should get some time in the majors this year. I’m not sure he warrants the comparisons to Casey McGehee that the radio crew were making, but he does deserve a look.
Perez has a minor injury, so for the time being this is a one horse race. Reed Johnson might need to start looking over his shoulder again when Perez is back in action, but not yet. Brett Jackson hasn’t looked bad, but hasn’t done enough to enter this conversation yet.
The Starting Rotation
If I had to pick today, Randy Wells is my fourth starter, and Jay Jackson is my fifth. Cashner and Coleman are both pitching pretty well, but I think Jackson has simply pitched better so far. The Cubs would probably go with Wells and Cashner, and I can’t blame them, but if Jackson keeps this up Quade is going to have a tough decision. Jackson hasn’t given up a hit or a walk in his two innings. No one else in camp with at least two innings can say that.
James Russell certainly isn’t out of contention, but he has pitched himself into a little bit of a hole. As of now, I’m guessing he would go Iowa to continue working as a starter.
I can’t complain about the performance turned in by Jeff Samardzija, but if he falters Coleman and Carpenter are waiting in the wings. Coleman in particular could be very effective in a long relief / spot start role (though I think he’s better long term as a starter). Caridad looks good in the early going. There is enough young depth in the Cubs pen that no one needs to worry about Berg’s disastrous outing… except Berg. He is definitely facing an uphill climb against steep competition now.