Spring Training Notes: MiLB Teams Get Some Action In and Rosters Begin to Take Shape

By Todd Johnson

Getting Some Action In
While the major league players have just 10 days left in camp, the Cubs minor-league prospects are just now getting in the swing of it after 10 days as there season does not begin until April 5. Games started being played this week out in Mesa and the surrounding areas like Scottsdale in Yuma. Two key highlights of the week were four perfect innings from Jen-Ho Tseng and three scoreless from Jose Paulino. In addition, both Zack Short and Wladimir Galindo each cranked out home runs. And according to Arizona Phil, the source for all the Cubs minor-league news this spring, outfielder Eddy Martinez is off to a really strong start.

In the major league camp, the Cubs cut the roster down to 37. One of those cuts was World Series champion Justin Grimm. The writing has been on the wall for a little bit since he actually wound up going to arbitration against the Cubs. As a result, Grimm’s contract was not guaranteed this year. I don’t think the Cubs are going to try and re-sign him to a lesser deal. On Thursday this week, I wrote about who could possibly be the last reliever standing. Grimm’s cut narrows it down to Eddie Butler and what looks to be dark horses in Anthony Bass and Justin Hancock. Not quite sure how that is going to play out over the next 10 days but there are only 3 non roster invitees left in Bass, Kyle Ryan, and the hard throwing Hancock, who pitched at Tennessee and Iowa last year.

Roster Fluidity
With just 37 players left on the major league roster, minor league rosters are starting to take shape. They are far from final, though. For example, Iowa currently has 37 players on its roster along with four players on rehab. Let’s say that 7 out of the 10 nine roster invitees get signed to minor-league deals for 2018, that puts the roster at 44. Close to 15 of those players are going to have to either be moved down to Tennessee or cut. That will start a chain reaction to adjust the rosters for opening day of the minor league season. However, that’s not going to happen for another two weeks. I imagine rosters will be released on April 1 or 2 for most of the minor-league clubs.

A New Toy
My wife and I broke down and used some of our income tax refund to buy a new camera. We got a Canon EOS T6 with 3 additional lenses to zoom in. She wants to use it for the birds in the backyard and I want it for baseball…imagine that! I cannot wait to take some pics with it next month.

On a Personal Note…
My busy season at school officially ended on Thursday night when my academic team won the conference tournament!!! It was a pretty sweet victory and I have a mostly young team that loses just two seniors, but my leading scorer this year was a sophomore. I also had three underclassmen in the starting lineup every night. It was fun to watch them grow by leaps and bounds.

As a result, I have all kinds of free time now. I began flushing out the affiliate previews a little bit more this week and I also had time to write two articles. One was for Cubs Insider on the recent minor-league pace of play changes and the other was for BP Wrigleyville on which minor league affiliate to watch this spring.

My Annual Fantasy Team
I used to play in a lot of fantasy baseball leagues. Now, I have it narrowed down to one. It’s the same ten team league I have been playing in for years and we held our live draft yesterday. I think my team looks decent, although I am one starting pitcher short. Here is who I have:
C – Salvador Perez, Welington Castillo
IF – Votto, Altuve, DeJong, Moustakas, Starlin Castro, Chapman
OF – Judge, Reddick, Hoskins, Austin Hays, Marwin Gonzalez,
U – Logan Morrison
Bench – Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, Ronald Acuna, and Nick Senzel
SP – Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, McCullers, Arrieta, Taijuan Walker
RP – Wade Davis, Edwin Diaz, Sean Doolittle, and Brandon Kintzler (I will be replacing him with a starting pitcher in the next week)
Bullpen – Walker Buehler, Zach Britton

I like my team better for the summer than I do for April as I took some risks in adding a lot of future rookies on the bench and drafting Britton, who is currently injured.

Coming Up Next Week
The final article in the “Leveling Up” series comes out on Wednesday. Outfielder Brandon Hughes, who should be at South Bend in 2018, has his possible future profiled about what kind of player he’s going to be.

After that, I don’t have anything planned for two more weeks until MiLB opening week+. Nothing is pre-written as most of the off-season is. So, I’m just gonna go with the flow of what is happening for about 10 days. It should be a lot of fun for a change. And I will probably make some cards … just like this jem.

Baseball Card of the Week

Made from a photo by Jen Nevius


Who Is Going to Be the Last Reliever Standing?

By Todd Johnson

There are now exactly two weeks to go in Spring Training. Basically two roster spots remain open. The backup catcher spot is a competition between Chris Gimenez, who looks to have the advantage of having been a backup before, and Victor Caratini, whose bat and experience in the organization will make it tough to pick just one. But when it comes to the final reliever spot, all bets are still off.

In the big scheme of things, the bullpen on March 29th is not going to be as important as the bullpen six months later on October 1. Between injuries, performance, promotions, and trades, a lot can go down (or up) underneath the bleachers and on the mound.

Over the past week, the Cubs whittled down their roster some. Several non-roster invitees were sent back to Iowa and Tennessee and others, like Rob Zastryzny, were optioned to Iowa.

Who Is Definitely In?

Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards, Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop, Mike Montgomery, and Justin Wilson.

Who Is Still Left?

Dillon Maples, Justin Grimm, Justin Hancock, Kyle Ryan, Anthony Bass,and Eddie Butler

Out of those six names, one will break camp and head to Miami. It is not going to be Dillon Maples no matter how badly I want him to make the club. He still has some work to do. Justin Grimm, meanwhile, is not looking too promising either. His contract is not guaranteed this year after losing his arbitration case. Hancock is throwing very well but a 40 man roster spot would have to made for him and the same would be true if Bass or Ryan made the club.

That leaves Eddie Butler. Currently, the righthander is out of options. He either makes the club or the Cubs risk losing him on a waiver claim. He’s had a good spring and the benefit of having him in the pen for the spring months is that he, along with Montgomery, could eat up some innings as long men.

Today, Butler would be my pick to make it. That could all change in a week.

However, the tenor of spring training games changes greatly in the next week as the starting pitcher go deeper into games and the hitters get 4-5 at-bats. Whoever comes in to relieve will be facing mostly major league hitters rather than a mish-mash of talent. The Cubs will get a better look at the bullpen and what these arms can do in that time frame.

Later in the Year

The Cubs have two arms in the minors who could remake the pen. One is Adbert Alzolay, who already has a wicked fastball in the mid 90s that could bump up some more in short stints. He should start the year at Tennessee.

Another arm who could be available later this year is Dakota Mekkes. The 6’7” righty has a deceptive delivery that turns a 93 mph into a 97 mph one with his long stride. He dominated at both South Bend and Myrtle Beach. He could do that as well again in 2018.

Regardless of the opening day bullpen, Theo and Jed are going to put together the best pen they can come the end of August. More than likely, that last spot will be fluid and malleable throughout this spring and even more so this summer.

Spring Training News and Notes: Baseball Is Back and Glorious!

By Todd Johnson

Big things are happening…sort of. Games are now being played. College baseball is in full swing and international players are doing showcases. The sights and sounds of spring are everywhere. With that, I enter into my so-called busy season at school. Yesterday, I had 62 students participate in the regional history fair at NIU in DeKalb. 28 of them received a superior rating and now advance to Illinois History Day in Springfield in early May. It was a good day! 

Yesterday, the Cubs announced that they signed pitcher Danny Hultzen. The former first round of Seattle is now 28 but has not pitched since a second arm surgery in 2016. In fact, the left-handed Hultzen has only pitched 10 innings since his first surgery in 2013. The deal is for a minor league contract only.

Back to spring training…

On Friday, the Cubs began playing games. Most of the players came from Iowa’s roster except for Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber. On Saturday, most of the everyday position players got some work in with Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras hitting home runs. Luke Farrell was most impressive with 2 scoreless innings and 3 strikeouts in relief. It was also good to see Duane Underwood and Oscar de la Cruz each work a scoreless inning.

They’re only three things that need to be decided in Mesa. The first one is whether the Cubs are going to go with Chris Gimenez or Victor Caratini as the backup catcher. If it’s Gimenez, I am not so sure I like that decision. I know what Victor can do and I know that Victor is improving on the defensive side of the ball.

The second decision will be about whether Justin Grimm makes the roster or Dillon Maples. Farrell could even work his way into the conversation. Part of me wants to see Maples make it just because he has incredible nasty stuff. Even though Grimm makes $2.5 million a year, his contract is no longer guaranteed after losing his arbitration case a couple of weeks ago.

As for the “Leadoff Question,” that is not going to be solved for a while. And in all reality, it might be a yearlong thing with a variety of leadoff hitters. Ian Happ got the nod on Friday and Albert Almora stepped up first on Saturday.

International free agency

While the July 2 signing date is still three months away, there was an international showcase held in the Dominican Republic earlier in the week. With new rules in place beginning this year, every team is pretty much on a level playing field as a team cannot go over their bonus pool at all. The Cubs have been linked to a couple of high profile prospects so far.

One is a pitcher and the other is a shortstop and both have been profiled by Ben Badler of Baseball America. Due to proprietary restrictions, I can’t really go into a lot of detail because they are both subscription articles. Still, the Cubs have never really been linked to a high profile pitcher since Jen-Ho Tseng back in 2013. This might be an interesting IFA season, even if the kids are 16.

Earlier this week…

Sometimes I am perplexed by certain prospects rankings and sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. That held true this week when MLB.com’s Pipeline released their top 30 Cubs prospect listI was pleased to see Michael Rucker move all the way up to number 21. He made the backend of the top 30 list near the end of the season in 2017. What I like most about Michael is that he throws strikes. The former BYU standout started out 2017 as a reliever at South Bend and morphed into a starter at Myrtle Beach when Oscar de la Cruz went on the DL. He should be at Tennessee in 2018.

At some point in the next week, John Sickles of Minor League Ball will release his top 175 MiLB prospects. I feel pretty comfortable in saying there will be at least two Cubs on that list. If there’s more, that would be great. However, I just don’t see it happening this spring. Next year that’ll be a different story.

Coming Up on Cubs Central

With History Fair over for a while, I now have 5 Scholastic Bowl meets over the next ten days. So, I have pre written a few profiles and draft pieces. All I have to do is hit the “publish” button. Once the 8th of March gets here, my schedule becomes free and clear to keep up with the everyday happenings in the system.  Tomorrow, I have a draft piece about possible high school pitching prospects. The “Leveling Up” series continues with a look at Jonathan Sierra on Wednesday and Jared Young on Friday. And as usual, “Spring Training News and Notes” will be back next Sunday.

Baseball Card of the Week

The Cubs’ Bullpen Looks to Be Gutted

By Todd Johnson

Pedro Strop.
Carl Edwards, Jr.
Mike Montgomery.
Justin Grimm.
Justin Wilson.

Those names don’t exactly exude confidence to get the final three to nine outs of a game. After yesterday’s announcement that the Cubs did not tender a contract to reliever Hector Rondon, new pitching coach Jim Hickey’s job just tougher, a lot tougher. At over $6 million, Rondon’s contract was getting too pricey to just be a setup man. The Cubs essentially said, “Thank you for service, but no thanks for 2018.” As a result, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer now have their work cut out for themselves this offseason.

Originally, just Wade Davis and Brian Duensing had left via free agency. The Cubs now have to replace half their pen and add depth to stash at AAA Iowa, which appears to be well underway.

Since the end of last season, the Cubs have taken some flyers on some arms with minimal MLB experience. Righty Luke Farrell could relieve, he could start. He has 13 career MLB innings. Righty Cory Mazzoni has 16 career innings to go with his shiny 17.28 career ERA. Lefty Randy Rosario’s career ERA is a whopping 30.86 in just  2.1 innings. And this week, the Cubs signed 29-year-old lefty Dario Alvarez. He might be alright. He threw 16 IP in 2017 with a 2.67 ERA but also put up an unsustainable whip of 2.02. He walked 14 batters. I thought his signing was a little odd as Theo talked about adding strike throwers in his offseason press sessions. I don’t think that is what he had in mind.

After seeing those stats, I am not brimming with confidence. I am not in sheer terror either, but I am concerned. The Cubs will need to find a closer and a couple of setup men while adding depth at AAA.

Theo is going to have hit the free agent market and maybe use the Rule 5 Draft (Kohl Stewart of Minnesota is one name I like) as a cheaper option. Theo has been able to find arms in the past rather cheaply and I am sure he will again. In addition, I would not be surprised to see Theo make a trade for an arm or two rather than overpay in the free agent market or in an international free agent.

Here are some free agent names to look for to see if the Cubs are associated with or show interest in over the next month:
Brian Shaw, Brandon Morrow, Pat Neshek, Brandon Kintzler, Addison Reed, Juan Nicasio, Luke Gregerson, Fernando Rodney, Matt Albers, Tony Watson, and Jake McGee.

As for internal options…
Dillon Maples is close to being ready. While he has top flight MLB pitches, it is just a matter of controlling them. At 25, he now stands a better chance of making the 25 man roster. I always thought that Jen-Ho Tseng’s change-curve combo would play better out of the pen than as a starter. He could get that chance in 2018. While Rob Zastryzny is an option, but I don’t know if I see him as a long term option. Justin Hancock is another strong arm. He had an up and down year year for three MiLB teams in 2017, but he does throw in the upper 90s. David Garner finally made it to AAA in August but struggled in his one month there. He is going to need some seasoning at that level. One name I like is Tommy Nance. He spent all of 2017 injured. He reminds me of Brandon Webb in that he throws a “hard” ball that breaks a lot of bats. Nance would be a very longshot to make the team, but I could see him getting a shot later in the summer if all goes well with his health.

In the end, adding three to four more arms to a corps that struggled to find the plate in 2018 is a bit concerning. All last night I kept wondering if Theo would overpay for pen security or would he try to find undervalued arms somewhere. However, heading into day 2 of the Shohei Otani watch, rebuilding the pen could take a while as the Cubs do have more pressing needs at starting pitching. Once the Otani dust settles, it should be interesting to see how the bullpen shakes down.

State of the Cubs for 2018: The Bullpen Might Be Hickey’s to Sort Out

By Todd Johnson

Of the three parts of the Cubs team, this is the most volatile and unpredictable aspect of the organization. While the Cubs may have to replace two starters in the rotation and a couple of position players, the idea of selecting or finding relievers to hold a win is a bit frightening. Ideally, the Cubs would want to hold onto Wade Davis. I don’t think the odds of that are too good.

As a result, the Cubs could be in search of a closer this winter and a couple setup men. In addition to losing Davis, Brian Duensing could walk as a free agent. On the other hand, Joe was not on very good terms with many relievers other than Strop, Edwards, and Montgomery. Pitching Coach Jim Hickey has his work cut out with rebuilding the confidence and strike throwing capabilities of Rondon, Justin Wilson, and Justin Grimm. Add in newly signed Luke Farrell and Hickey has a lot to do at the MLB level.

Internal Solutions

Dillon Maples is going to get a shot at making the 25 man roster next spring. He is just one of many arms who are close to the major league level. I think we can add Iowa closer Matt Carasiti to that list if he re-signs a MiLB deal and is added to the 40 man. Corey Black, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, might be one to watch for later in the summer as he gets stronger. In addition, flamethrowers Justin Hancock and Tommy Nance are two to look for as well later in the year. Hancock has control issues but throws in the upper 90s, while Nance can really pound the mitt but was injured all of 2017. The best way I can describe how hard Nance throws is the catchers feel like their are catching bricks instead of baseballs. 

A long shot to make the pen could be Adbert Alzolay. And by longshot, I mean his odds are between slim and none. However, what Alzolay does have is a fastball that closes in on 100 miles an hour. As a starter, he usually throws between 95 and 96. He is not a pitcher blessed with a big frame to sustain 200 innings a year. As a result, his frame leans more toward relieving than it does starting. After a successful 2017 as a starter at Myrtle Beach and Tennessee, I can see Adbert making a push to get to Chicago as a reliever fairly quickly if all he has to do is make it one level, considering that two years ago he was a reliever at Eugene.

Three other possible longshots to make the pen next season are Jake Stinnett, Pedro Araujo, and Dakota Mekkes. Stinnett and Araujo who have been outstanding this fall in the AFL. Stinnett missed most of the year but came back reborn as a reliever. Araujo was the closer at Myrtle Beach. Of the three, Stinnett would have the inside track and it would be strange if he skipped AAA. As a result, he is an option to think about next spring.

As for Mekkes, he dominated two levels in 2017 at South Bend and Myrtle Beach. He will have his work cut out for him at AA Tennessee in 2018. His deceptive delivery is his greatest weapon as it makes a 91-93 mph fastball appear to be 96-98. The odds are long for him to get to Chicago, but he is not that far away in reality. He will be a lot of fun to watch as a Smokie in 2018.

The Free Agent Market

It is not like closers and setup men grow on trees. Watching the Cubs go through the postseason with basically a five-man bullpen was a bit strenuous to watch on a nightly basis. Now, the Cubs can go and rebuild with what will hopefully be a couple of lefties and a couple of righties. I don’t think the Cubs are going to spend big but they will take their chances if someone is available that they really like.

Right Handed Relievers
Steve Cishek (32)
Wade Davis (32)
Greg Holland (32) — $15MM player option
Craig Kimbrel (30) — $13MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Brandon Morrow (33)
Huston Street (34)

Top Left-Handed Relievers
Brian Duensing (35)
Boone Logan (33) — $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Mike Minor (30) — $10MM mutual option with a $1.5MM buyout

Out of all the free agents, Davis is still the best option with Morrow close behind. On the other hand, neither are going to come cheaply. I would not be surprised to see the Cubs get 2 starters for the same price that they will have to pay for their closer in 2018.

I think the best route might be in a trade. Hopefully, the Cubs can find a suitor.

Assembling a bullpen is going to be the most challenging aspect of this offseason. Don’t be surprised if this becomes an ongoing thing through next summer as the Cubs acquire the perfect pen piece by piece. As a result, spring training should be highly competitive.

The Weekly – Lots of Rain, Some International News, and Cubs Shake Up the Bullpen

By Todd Johnson

The big league team seems to be having some issues this week. They are 16-14 and still in first place, but the starting pitching looks pretty shaky in the first couple of innings of each game. Brett Anderson looks like his time is close to being done. Mike Montgomery will likely take Anderson’s turn in the rotation.

I don’t think the Cubs are at the point where they feel this is a disaster or need to make a trade. The point I do think they are at is it’s starting to become a concern. The Cubs have the prospects to go out and get another starting pitcher, if needed. However, it is way too early in the year. The logical choice is the Cubs will try and find one within for now.

In addition, the Cubs designated outfielder Matt Szczur for assignment. You would hope that the Cubs could get something for him, but he is most likely going to clear waivers and then he could pick where he lands in 10 days. At best, the Cubs could get a class A or Rookie League pitcher for him. Then again, that’s not very likely.

To beef up the bullpen, The Cubs recalled Felix Pena and Rob Zastryzny from Iowa and sent down Justin Grimm. David Rollins, Zac Rosscup, and Pierce Johnson also remain ready if needed.

International Free Agency

According to MLB Pipeline, the Cubs are rumored to be the top team in the pursuit of shortstop Luis Verdugo. The Cubs are limited The Cubs are limited again as to how much they can spend on a player in the next international free-agent signing period. That sum caps out at $300,000. Verdugo is a 5’11” 168 lb. shortstop from Mexico who is a switch hitter and throws right. He is best known for his defense and his hitting is said to be a work in progress. Here is what MLB Pipeline had to say about the #30 ranked international free agent:

The top position prospect from Mexico, Verdugo is best known for his strong arm and defensive prowess in the middle of the diamond.

He’s athletic with good instincts on both sides of the ball, but he is a below average runner right now. Verdugo is a contact hitter, shows a good bat path through the strike zone and puts the ball in play. However, the belief is that he could still improve on his overall hit tool and that he will once he enters a team’s academy.

Verdugo has been praised for his solid defensive actions and footwork. He has quick hands and makes all of the plays. Scouts also like his makeup and maturity level.

Based on the inroads the Cubs have made the past two summers in Mexico, this prediction looks to be on the money. For those of you who read Spanish, here is a nice history of him and it also where I got the picture of him.

Around the System  

Iowa: 3-3; 13-15 overall – 2nd place

The pitching rotation appears to be getting better as Aaron Brooks threw a sixth inning start and only gave up one run. Chesny Young appears to be getting back on track. His average creeped across the .270 mark this week. And, Eddie Butler got back on the mound last night and did very well. He went six scoreless with six Ks.

Tennessee: 4-1; 17-11 overall – 2nd place

This team is been looking good the last three weeks. Jacob Hannemann and Ian Rice have both been doing very well. I still think it’s the bullpen that is exceptional on this team. This team looks really strong at the plate the past two weeks thanks to Jason Vosler’s power stroke.

Myrtle Beach: 4-3; 17-13 overall – 2nd place

They’ve taken two in a row from 1st place Buies Creek to close within two games. If the starting pitching can hold up, I don’t think there’s any limit to what this team can do. Still no word on when Eloy could or will return.

South Bend: 4-1: 18-10 overall 2nd place

The schedule says they only played five games this week, but a 19 inning affair sapped the bullpen on Friday night. Then on Saturday, Matt Swarmer came in and saved Dylan Cease’s first win with a four inning save. I am really impressed with Swarmer’s curveball. It’s got a lot of movement down and away from righties.

Extended Spring Training

Jose Albertos made his debut this week. It was just 46 pitches. It may not seem much to write about, but it was good he got back out on the mound in a game. Also, Joe Martarano might be the player to watch once short season ball begins. He is showing power and the capability to hit for average in his full-time return to baseball.

Players of the Week

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So, About That Bullpen… 10 Things I Think

There are 51 games left to go and the bullpen is not settled. Then again, the Cubs have eight weeks to figure it out. If it seems like this has been a never ending process, you would be correct. In fact, the story started last offseason when the Cubs began stockpiling arms in the minors at AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa. Only two of those arms have had any modicum of success in the minors – Spencer Patton and Jack Leathersich. Then, throughout the course of the season, the Cubs have been adding and subtracting to the bullpen per their purview. It has not been a perfect process.

Here is the bullpen as it is constructed now:
cj 2015 75Aroldis Chapman, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards, Travis Wood, Mike Montgomery, and Joe Smith. Only three of those names began the year in Chicago – Wood, Strop, Rondon. Eight other names have graced the pen – Joel Peralta, Joe Nathan, Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Justin Grimm, Gerardo Concepcion, Neil Ramirez, and Adam Warren. Some of these names could return later this year. In addition, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few other names get a look before the end of August or in September.

Here are ten things I think about the Cubs bullpen
1. I am not sold on Smith and Montgomery at all. Neither pitched much in high leverage situations this year. I know the Cubs brass likes these two pitchers, but I have not seen positive results, although Smith might be starting to warm on me a little because of the unique nature of his delivery. Still, there are 8 weeks to figure out if they make the postseason roster.
2. Aroldis Chapman has been as advertised on the field. 100-104 mph nightly is a good sign for me. However, I am not a fan of the 1+ inning save. If you need him in the 8th, bring him in, but don’t wear him out. “Save” him for October. With a 12 game lead, that should not be too hard.
3. Carl Edwards has fixed his control problems he had in the minors and has been amazing! It’s at the point I love to watch the reactions to his pitches more so than the actual movement and location of his pitches. It sure beats those nights when he was in Tennessee and he would walk the bases loaded to begin the inning. He’s come a long way in a short time as a reliever. He’s definitely an October arm.
4. For all these changes, it appeared as though the Cubs would turn each game into an 6 inning game with Strop, Rondon and Chapman rolling out to close out the game. The starting pitching during the current streak has had a little something to say about that. The rotation seems to go 7-8 innings a game lately.

At times, it comes across that the rotation has made the bullpen obsolete. I am OK with that, too, as long as the starters have enough stamina for the postseason.
5. Travis Wood is setting himself up for a big payday this offseason. The future free agent is currently the longest tenured Cub in only his fifth season. And it might be his best out of the pen.
6. Remember the name Jack Leathersich. The Cubs picked him off the scrap heap and his future is bright coming off TJS. Aside from one poor outing at Tennessee, he is slowly making his way back. He could throw another wrench in the postseason roster.
grimm 667. Justin Grimm’s attitude is extremely professional. He has taken being optioned as a chance to improve his arsenal. He went down, came back up, and is now back down again. If he gets right, he could be a game changer with his power arm.
8. There are several names that could get a look in September for a shot at the bullpen. For Pierce Johnson, his transition to a relief role comes after a 7+ ERA as a starter who has been beset by injuries throughout his career. He’s only had five outings so far. Throw away his first appearance and you’re looking at 6.2 IP with 10 Ks and 1 run allowed. We won’t talk about his debut as a reliever. I am not advocating for him to be a piece, just that he be in the discussion and September would be the perfect time to get an extended look at the new Pierce in Chicago. You could even call it a preview for 2017 if you want. To go with that reasoning, you could even preview Armando Rivero and Jose Rosario as well.
9. Even though the Cubs have been adding and subtracting to the pen all year, don’t think that they are done. If there’s an arm out there that Theo and Jed think can help them win in October, they will go get it.
10. While I do feel better about this bullpen than I did in May, I am still not 100% confident in the totality of its construction. For now, it’s fine. For October, I am 5/7 of the way there. For some reason, I think Grimm makes it back. As for Trevor Cahill, I think we may have seen the end of him.

51 games, 8 weeks, this should be good.