Chicago Cubs: Unsung heroes could decide the outcome in 2018
By Matthew Aung
With countless headline-garnering names on the roster, the Chicago Cubs seek a fourth-straight postseason. These role players may have a role to play in 2018.
Everybody knows who Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester and Javier Baez are. But some of the players who aren’t the ‘big-name guys’ could prove vital for the Chicago Cubs in 2018.
Let’s face it. Injuries and fatigue are going to happen over a 162-game season, so every team must have depth on their roster to remain competitive when injuries occur. Thankfully the Cubs have depth and high-quality depth at that.
Let’s look at a few of these depth pieces:
Mike Montgomery was slated to be the Cubs fifth starter when Spring Training began, but then Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer signed Yu Darvish. Still, Monty is still going to play a significant role on this ball club.
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Darvish is three years removed from Tommy John surgery and has had a history of other injuries too, so Montgomery is a great insurance policy. That statement applies not only to a potential Darvish injury, but the other four hurlers as well. Plus he’s arguably the best multiple-inning swing-man reliever in baseball.
Similar to Montgomery when Spring Training began Victor Caratini was slated to be the backup catcher behind Willson Contreras. Then, the Cubs went out and signed veteran backstop Chris Gimenez.
Several key position players on the bench
The thought around Major League Baseball when the Cubs signed Gimenez was that he was signed to convince Darvish to come to Chicago. The plan worked. Darvish is a Cub and Gimenez is expected to be Darvish’s “personal catcher.”
However, his role will be more significant than that. Not so much on the field, but more so in the clubhouse. He brings another veteran into this still reasonably young Cubs team (similar to David Ross’ role in 2016).
Ben Zobrist, coming off a down year, will be more of a role guy in 2018. Baez seems likely to get the majority of the starts at second base. If that is indeed the case, Zobrist will still play a significant role. He can play second, shortstop, and both corner outfield spots, so he could start at least twice a week even though it may not always be at second base.
These are just three of the potential role players who are going to play substantial roles in 2018. Another name to watch out for is Tommy La Stella who is able to play second, short, and third – and has grown in his role in the clubhouse in recent years.
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It takes all 25 men on the big-league roster to make it through the long grind of the 162-game season. Even though role player doesn’t always get noticed, but they can sometimes play a more extensive than the casual might think.