Daniel Palencia – Picture by Todd Johnson
We have officially reached a point where baseball things are happening as MiLB spring training will soon open up. There are a few minor league Cubs in Mesa already getting geared up for their spring training which starts in March. To get ready for that, it’s time to discuss some of the top storylines that should be unfolding here over the next six weeks.
Let’s start today with starting pitching.
In spring training, rosters are pretty fluid based upon performance and health. Things won’t begin to settle down for Iowa’s Tennessee’s roster until the big league club breaks camp. South Bend is probably the clearest cut rotation heading into camp and Myrtle Beach is the most cloudy because the Cubs went out and drafted 15 pitchers last summer. For my money, the key really starts with Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad and then it’s going to trickle down. Are Ryan Jensen and Ben Brown going to be good enough to start the year in Iowa? We’re going to find out quick. Can Porter Hodge and Luis Devers make it to Tennessee to start the year? Where is Cade Horton going to be doing his business come the end of March?
I hate to say it, but somebody always gets hurt. It is just part of the game. In addition, guys that got hurt a year ago can get back to playing affiliated baseball. We’re going to see that this year and the main player I’m probably going to focus on is Derek Casey. I’m not really focusing on Marquez as a starter right now, I think the Cubs may push him more down the reliever road.
New pitch and new delivery effectiveness
We have seen all winter that some guys are breaking out new pitches. Kohl Franklin has a new slider. DJ Herz has a pitch that acts like a slutter, which is a mixture of a slider and a cutter which I think is fantastic. Riley Thompson has added a slider too. The Cubs have also shortened up some deliveries of some guys to make them more effective in the strike zone. The two pitchers mentioned above are the two main guys that I am going to be watching all of spring. I am sure other guys not mentioned here have a little somethin’ somethin’ in their back pockets.
Game Action in Big League Spring Training Games
My interest this spring training will be to see just exactly which Cub prospects end up playing in major league games as the spring goes on. One of the most exciting storylines of last spring was watching Cayne Ueckert and Ethan Roberts actually compete for a spot on the opening day bullpen. The fact that Ethan Roberts made the opening day roster sent shockwaves through the system and was an inspirational moment for every Cubs minor league reliever. It gave hope everybody that they could do it too.
Whoever gets in games in spring training and where they are used in the game should be important as to how highly the Cubs think of them. Outside of Wesneski, Assad, and Killian, we might see Jordan Wicks and Ryan Jensen get a spot start. We might see Ben Brown and possibly DJ Herz as well. It would be amazing to see Daniel Palencia facing off against major league hitters. That would be fun to see how that fastball plays. It would be cool to see Luis Devers, Luke Little and Porter Hodge get some work in throughout camp. And, it will be cool to see who is still pitching with the big league club the last two weeks of March.
On the Backfields
I’m looking forward to reports from Arizona Phil of the Cub Reporter as he gives us details on who is playing with which affiliate all throughout the spring along with some MiLB game action.
I will not be going to spring training but North Side Bound’s own Rich Biesterfeld lives out there and provides daily content on Twitter. Sometimes, Stephanie Lynn travels out to Mesa. If you don’t follow them on Twitter, please do so.
I will be back on Thursday with a look at some hitting storylines.