Non-Roster Players Have An Opportunity
The Chicago Cubs announced their list of non-roster invitees to the Major League camp on Monday. Among the names on that list were top prospect Brett Jackson, top pitching prospect Trey McNutt, and third base prospect Josh Vitters. While all three of those prospect certainly were the most notable on the list of invitees, it is likely that they will all start the season in the Cubs’ minor league system. Both Jackson and McNutt figured to be with the Cubs at some point during the 2012 season, though injuries and potential trades may accelerate that process. The same can be said for Vitters on the chance that third baseman Ian Stewart struggles or suffers an injury.
Jackson, McNutt, and Vitters all have an opportunity to make the Cubs’ roster out of Spring Training; but there chances are not nearly as high as some of the veteran players that have been invited to Spring Training by the Cubs.
In his analysis of the 21 players that have been invited to Spring Training, Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago reports that the Cubs are looking for a back-up catcher and utility infielder. With that being the case, the chances may have increased for some of the non-roster players.
One of the first minor league signings that was announced by the Cubs’ this winter was the signing of former Pittsburgh Pirates’ catcher Jason Jaramillo. Whether or not Jaramillo makes the team, depends in large part on whether or not Steve Clevenger or Wellington Castillo are ready to be the primary back-up to starting catcher Geovany Soto. Luke mentioned earlier this week that he believes Clevenger is ready to be the back-up to Soto, but will likely start the season with the Iowa Cubs while Castillo is pegged as the back-up to Soto. Both Luke and I agree in our belief that Soto will be traded at some point this season. Though, I get the sense that the Cubs would like a catcher with major league experience on the roster. For that reason, I feel Jaramillo will break camp with the Cubs and when Soto is traded, Clevenger will be the one called up to the major leagues. Jaramillo hit .326/.293/.327/.620 with the Pirates last season in 43 at bats.
The Cubs are also in need of a back-up middle infielder. Veterans Bobby Scales, Matt Tolbert, Alfredo Amezaga, and Edgar Gonzalez are all capable of filling that role for the Cubs. As it stands, the Cubs starting second baseman Darwin Barney is also the primary back-up to starting shortstop Starlin Castro. Scales will likely begin the season with the Iowa Cubs, and the same can be said for Tolbert. If the Cubs are looking for a true utility player, then Amezaga best fits that label. Over the course of his eight year career, Amezaga has experience at every position except catcher. The two positions that he has the most experience in playing are shorstop and center field. The 34-year old Amezaga has a hitting line of .247/.307/.333/.640 for his career.
The Cubs could also use a back-up first baseman, so I would look for the team to fill that position with a low-cost veteran free agent–Derrek Lee? Nonetheless, with the exception of the Cuban trio (Cespedes, Soler, and Concepcion), the Cubs may be finished with making impact moves for the 2012 season.