Every year there are uncertainties about a ball club. This year is no different. With spring training just a few weeks away, the Cubs have a few peripheral questions they need to answer before the season starts. At the major league level, the Cubs have tried to address bullpen questions all winter long by signing both major league and minor league talent. In the minor leagues, there are a lot of questions about placement and development of certain prospects. Some of them need to be answered shortly, while some can be answered over the course of the year.
1. Centerfield – While Jason Heyward is currently the de facto centerfielder, I would feel more comfortable with Heyward either in left or right and more of a defensive minded centerfielder in his place. While Heyward may have good range and a good arm, he projects out as a slightly above average centerfielder where he is an exceptional right fielder or leftfielder. The bigger question is: Is Albert Almora going to fill that CF role next year? He could. It’s something that’s going to have to be answered sooner than later in the next year. And, how much time will Coghlan, Bryant, and Baez get in the outfield this year?
2. July Trade Deadline – I think this is the year the Cubs make a blockbuster. On the other hand, is it going to be for a pitcher or a hitter this July? Outside of Strasburg, there’s really no high-value free-agent pitcher in the upcoming free agent class. So, the odds of the Cubs going out and getting a pitcher at the deadline are pretty slim. Nevertheless, they may be able to go out and get another outfielder or a bench player, but the odds are they could bring up Wilson Contreras or Almora, Jr. to do the same job with much less cost. It will be interesting to see what the Cubs do this July.
3. Cubans – Chicago Cubs Online came out with a post of the Cubans the Cubs might be in on. Initially, the three Cubans include pitcher Norge Ruiz, outfielder Jorge Ona, and infielder Jonatan Machado. Machado is eligible to sign but Ruiz and Ona have not been declared free agents buy MLB. In addition, the Cubs are said to be interested in left-handed pitcher Adrian Morejon. If the Cubs could sign all these players it would more than make up for losing two draft picks for signing John Lackey and Jason Heyward. Word came later this week that Yaisel Sierra is now eligible to sign with anyone and that Lazarito has a showcase on January 8.
Here is a nice look at outfielder Jorge Ona.
4. Luck of the Draft – Cubs haven’t had too much luck with second round picks Rob Zastryzny and Jake Stinnett. The two have not yet turned into the pitchers the Cubs thought they could be when they selected them. On the other hand, 2012 second round pick Duane Underwood is working out just fine. Based upon what we saw at Eugene last year, lats year’s 2nd round pick Donnie Dewees could be an elite player soon. The Cubs lost their first pick for John Lackey and their second pick for Jason Heyward. They currently don’t draft until the third round unless someone signs Dexter Fowler. Can the Cubs get a value pick in either situation? And will this be the year that Theo takes a pitcher first?
5. 2012 Draft Class – This will be their fifth year in the organization. How much more time is going to be given to them to develop? There are hanging around hi A, AA, and AAA in 2016. These include Jacob Rogers, Jasvir Rakkar, Stephen Perakslis, David Bote, Corbin Hoffner, Bijan Rademacher, Rashad Crawford, Stephen Bruno, Josh Conway, and Ryan McNeil. The big names include Almora, Underwood, Blackburn, and Pierce Johnson who are all pretty close to the majors. Soon, the Cubs will have to decide how long is long enough? The reason I ask this question is that the Cubs 2014 and 2015 draft classes are deep in talent. They could be pushing the 2012 kids out the door very, very soon.
6. Dylan Cease – Cease is pretty much an enigma. The 2014 draft pick has a lot of questions about his elbow. Last year, he pitched in a short 23 innings where he compiled a 2.63 ERA while striking out 25. The questions that I have are this: Where is he going to play be placed, when is he going to be placed there, and what kind of free reign is he going to have when it comes to pitch counts and inning limits? I think if all goes well he could be the Cubs number two or number three prospect by the end of the year, certainly at least the top five.
7. Preston Morrison – Word on the street is that the Preston Morrison the Cubs drafted is not the Preston Morrison who’s going to pitch in 2016. The Preston Morrison the Cubs drafted was an experienced pitcher who’d thrown at the highest levels of the NCAA. His fastball was in the mid-80s and thrown almost from the 9 o’clock position. The pitcher the Cubs are developing is a pitcher who is falling in love with the weight room and his added to his fastball to bring it close to 90 miles an hour. Morrison has a lot of experience at 22 years old, almost 23. He might be too advanced for low A South Bend. In just 22.1 innings at Eugene, Morrison struck out 30 and had an ERA of 0.81. The questions I have are: Is he continuing his development this winter in the weight room to gain more month on his fastball? Will he most likely skip South Bend and go straight to Myrtle Beach?
8. Eddy Julio Martinez – Depending on who you read, Martinez’s abilities range anywhere from a prospect who would be the first pick in the 2016 draft to a fourth outfielder type. Spring training will answer most questions about his ability and talents as they will be on display for the world to see in Mesa. But what I’m interested in seeing is him in an actual game and where he’s going to be placed at 20 years old. He might end up in South Bend, but I am not sure. It could be he’s advanced enough to end up at Myrtle Beach. But I’m sure the Cubs are going to err on the side of caution rather than try to move him quickly.
9. MILB.TV – When is it coming to Eugene? I’ve made the case for this to happen on Cubs Insider and I’d really like it to happen so that I can watch Darryl Wilson and Bryan Hudson this summer along with Austyn Willis and 20 other Cub prospects in the Northwest League. What’s it going to take to make this happen?
10. Will Remillard – After missing all of 2015 with TJS, will the top catcher for Kane County in 2014 rebound in 2016, and at what affiliate? Remillard is great game manager and has a great bat. He can hit for average and he lead Kane County in RBIs the first half of 2014. He was my favorite player in that magical season.
Bonus Question – Not Baseball Related
The summer of 2016 is shaping up to be one blockbuster movie after another with X-Men Apocalypse, Captain America Civil War, and Star Trek Beyond. Then you can add in Star Wars Rogue One next Christmas to fulfill a year of great movies. Which one will be the best?