Chicago Cubs: Spring training position battles

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Starting rotation spots 3, 4, 5:  Kyle Hendricks, Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Jacob Turner, Tsuyoshi Wada, Dallas Beeler

The Chicago Cubs have a lot of depth with their starting pitching staff.  The first and second spots are set with Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta holding down the top.  Most will say Jason Hammel will be the teams third pitcher, but Kyle Hendricks with a good spring could move himself up into the third spot. Hammel while with the Cubs last year pitched very well – well enough that Oakland payed a nice price for him.  But with Oakland Hammel’s did struggle and wasn’t the same pitcher as he was in Chicago.

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Hendricks doesn’t have over-powering stuff but he has a nice arsenal of pitches with good accuracy.  Hendricks uses his fastball in appropriate places to keep the hitter’s guessing.  His change-up and ability to paint the corners have given him a good amount of success.  Even if Hendricks doesn’t win the third spot in the rotation, he’s as solid as a number four as there will be.

Really the fifth spot is going to be up to who ever steps up and shows the best amount of command and gets hitters out.  Edwin Jackson has the pressure off of him with the expectations of being a top of the order pitcher.  Could that and having Joe Maddon back as his manager get the old Jackson back? Maybe, but I’m sure Epstein and Hoyer will still be making calls to see if there will be any takers for Jackson.

Beeler is another pitcher who won’t over power anyone and looks to get the ball over the plate and get the hitters to get themselves out with grounders and pop-ups. With Hendricks already in the rotation with a similar style as Beeler, it probably doesn’t bode well for Beeler.  Beeler may take over the spot that Carlos Villanueva had – a fill in starter and long reliever for the Cubs.  Those roles seem to be custom fit for Beeler and where he may best serve the Cubs.

If Travis Wood could come back to his 2013 form, this debate wouldn’t even be happening.  Wood was solid in 2013 and was expected to do the same if not better in 2014.  But unfortunately for Wood and the Cubs he took a big step backwards.  With a better team around him and a better rotation to help, Wood may find himself in a much better position to get wins.  Wood would be going against the other clubs lower end rotation starters – if the Cubs bats can go off against those pitchers and give Wood three or more runs of support early, that may let Wood settle in and just pitch.  When Wood had to pitch from behind early, he found himself in trouble.

Wada last year filled in nicely at the end of the season for the Cubs.  Wada was consistent, something you want out of the back-end of the rotation.  But he doesn’t have anything that stands out.  Wada does have an odd delivery that helps him against batters.  Problem with Wada is that while nothing is he does throw a lot of bad pitches that end up in the stands for a home run.  I don’t see him being the threat to take over in the rotation.

Jacob Turner is the one who intrigues me.  Turner is young still and has potential – but no one has been able to tap that potential.  Here enter’s Chris Bosio to do his magic to another pitcher.  This may be a good reason for Turner to be the fifth option.  Bosio has done wonders with other pitchers who have lost their confidence or touch with other teams.  Paul Maholm and Jason Hammel are two great examples of what Bosio can do to a pitchers career. Turner being a big strong pitcher, hasn’t been able to get the velocity you’d expect from him with his fastball.  That could be a mechanical issue that can be fixed.

I’d love to see Turner come in and take the fifth spot, right behind Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks, and Hammel.  That would be an interesting rotation.  It would also mean that the Cubs would have a couple of veteran pitchers to move to another team in the need of veteran arms.

Next: Final look