Chicago Cubs: Depth and versatility are keys to success


This year’s Chicago Cubs team has something that a lot of other successful teams all have – good depth and many versatile players.  You always hear the best teams and coaches say that the key factors to their successful seasons are that they had a good bench and they could play many different players in many different spots.

Look throughout sports at the championship teams – you find that they have the “next man up” mentality.  They may lose a key player but they have the pieces on the bench to help fill the void.  I see a lot of this to be the same with the players that are in line to make the big league roster for the Cubs.

Arismendy Alcantara is probably the best example of how a versatile player can be a major factor to a team.  The fact that there is eventually going to be a surplus of infield players ready to take over – Alcantara will be able to fill in for anyone of those spots plus the outfield.

Being able to play third, short stop, second, left and center field – he can be relied on as a super-utility player – the type of player Joe Maddon covets.

Mike Olt last year made himself that type of player as well.  He filled in for Anthony Rizzo at first when needed and when there was a spot needed for a left fielder – he also filled that spot.  This pretty much guarantees him a spot on the Chicago Cubs roster in my opinion.

Even if Kris Bryant does open the season as the third baseman – Olt could find himself also on the Opening Day starting lineup in left.  And with the talk of Bryant being asked to work out in the outfield again adds to that versatility where he and Olt may switch off.

Javier Baez like Alcantara can play all of the same positions.  Now once he gets his bat to produce like we know it can – he’ll be another to move around as needed.  

When you add guys like Chris Denorfia, Matt Szczur, and Tommy La Stella – the depth and versatility gets that much better.

One other factor that has to be considered at this point is how to keep the three catchers on the roster – again versatility is the answer to that question.

As Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribune points out – Alcantara helps this problem.

"“Alcantara, 23, arguably is the Cubs’ most versatile player, and manager Joe Maddon mentioned numerous scenarios that could allow the Cubs to carry three catchers on their opening roster.  That’s because Alcantara can switch hit and play as many as six positions.”"

I’m sure Maddon would like to have a consistent line up that he can have go out there and play about 130 games – but injuries happen, slumps will occur, and guys will get tired.  It’s a long season and to have this many players available at your disposal to plug into the lineup as needed – has to be a manager’s dream.

Another part of this depth and versatility will be when the issue of who plays when Baez, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Bryant are all up at the same time.  If Olt is hitting as well during the season as he is now – you will want to keep that bat in the line up as much as possible.  He or Bryant can go into the outfield and keep both bats in.

Baez being able to play second and third will then leaves the decision of whom to move over to the last open infield spot – Castro or Russell.

With all of the depth and versatility available to Maddon – this allows him to be as creative as he wants to be and no one in baseball is as creative as he is.  Just as long as egos don’t get in the way and everyone knows their role on the team and accepts it – this will be a good team.  Considering who the manager is – I don’t see ego’s being a problem.