Cubs News: Adbert Alzolay injured; looking at non-roster invitees

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Well, that didn’t take long. On the first day of Cubs workouts, we learned both Ian Happ and Adbert Alzolay are both injured – and while the former hopes to be at 100 percent by Opening Day, the latter is expected to need a lengthy IL stint to start the year.

Those two will join David Bote, who underwent shoulder surgery late last year, on the shelf. The Chicago infielder will, at the very least, miss all of April as he continues his recovery.

With the Cubs roster as it is, they can ill-afford to have a number of injuries like this creep up so quickly. Knowing Bote is a question mark also makes the signing of Andrelton Simmons even more critical for the team.

The main thing now is that the Cubs get healthy as they will need every piece they have if they hope to have any degree of success in 2022. Several key free agents remain available and it would be a shame if the club didn’t spend some of its newfound revenue to add one or two, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Alzolay and the other holes on this roster.

Chicago Cubs: Non-roster invitees look to make a strong impression in camp

This also opens the door to those fringe guys on the roster to earn a shot in camp. With spring training games kicking off this week, we’ll want to keep an eye on the team’s non-roster invitees.

Check out the list of non-roster invitees below:

  • Infielders: Dixon Machado, Chase Strumpf, Andy Weber, Ildemaro Vargas
  • Outfielders: Brennen Davis
  • Catchers: John Hicks, P.J. Higgins
  • Pitchers: Stephen Gonsalves, Jonathan Holder, Ben Leeper, Mark Leiter Jr., Cayne Ueckert, Eric Yardley, Conner Menez, Locke St. John

Obviously, the biggest name on this list is top prospect Brennen Davis who figures to get his call-up to the Show at some point this year. A potential five-tool talent, Davis ranked as the #16 overall prospect in the league this spring, per Baseball America. Not that you want to see it happen, but one struggling player or injury to the outfield could be all it takes for Davis to join the Cubs at the big league level.

Elsewhere, with the Cubs’ lack of solid bullpen depth, quite a few of these spots can be up for grabs at this point. Mark Leiter Jr. has some big league experience but he has struggled at the major league level, evidenced by a career 5.53 ERA in 114 innings pitched. One of the more intriguing names on this list I’ll be looking for is former Oklahoma State standout Ben Leeper.

Leeper fell victim to the MLB Draft being only five rounds in 2020. Therefore, due to a shorter drafted and injury history including two Tommy John surgeries already, Leeper found himself undrafted until he was scooped up by the Cubs post-draft. Since his second Tommy John however, which was already four years ago in 2016, he has managed to stay consistently healthy.

A potential closer, the 24-year-old had electric stuff to finish his college career. Shortened by the pandemic, Leeper pitched just 7 1/3 innings and struck out 14, allowing only two runs in the process and posting a 2.45 ERA in the shortened season. But it gets better. In 2021, Leeper went straight from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa without missing a beat, posting a 1.29 ERA over a combined 35 frames.

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Looking at some other names on that list, Vargas and Hicks both have big league experience. Vargas has seen time at second and third and Hicks behind the dish. I expect those two names to be the first called up if either position needs to be filled mid-season. The Cubs, of course, already have Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal at second – with the former able to move around the diamond consistently.