Cam Sanders – Picture by Scott Changnon/Marquee Sports Network
With opening day just 2 and 1/2 weeks away, the Cubs continue to work on their 26-man roster. There are not that many spots open but with injuries there are more than originally thought as the Cubs look to add another outfielder and maybe a reliever or two.
It appears that Mike Tauchman has the best chance of being that extra outfielder. In addition, David Bote stands as an outside chance of making the club as a backup infielder. But over the next two weeks, the Cubs should really be focused on whether or not to bring up relievers with big arms. I fully expect Jeremiah Estrada to be in Chicago on opening day. I am locked in with that choice and hopefully the Cubs are too.
There are three others who could be joining Estrada in the bullpen.
Last year, no one really went into spring training with the thought that Ethan Roberts was going to make the ball club and break camp as an MLB player. But it was pretty cool to see David Ross walk up to him after an outing and tell him that he made the ball club as the video went viral. We could be seeing the same type of thing happen for Sanders, Burdi, and Manny Rodriguez in the next couple weeks.
What makes Cam Sanders a viable candidate to make the ball club is he’s he’s had major league stuff for a couple of years. It’s just a matter of harnessing it. In 2019, he was almost unhittable in the second half for South Bend. Because of pandemic, he skipped High Class A and went straight to Tennessee in 2021, but struggled making that leap. He showed from time to time that he had major league stuff but he just didn’t have a command just yet
In 2022, things were a little different as Cam dominated at AA and was quickly moved to Iowa where he would eventually transition to a reliever late in the year. And, as in most cases, his stuff ticked up even more coming out of the bullpen.
One thing I noticed this spring is that Cam is going back to that change that he threw a lot in 2019 that just baffled the Midwest League. It’s got a sharp downward break that almost looks like a splitter and it’s just devastating because of the drop/vertical movement. There’s still a lot of work left to do and we’ll see how much Cam gets in against major league hitters here the next couple of weeks. But he has not been sent down to minor league camp and I don’t see that happening at least for two weeks as the Cubs have to be seriously considering going back to Chicago with him.
As for Burdi and Manny…
I have only seen one inning from Burdi and he was a little wild, but his stuff is also spectacular. After dealing with injuries, the past couple of years, Burdi could break camp with a big league club, but he might be better suited working on his command in Iowa for a couple of months before he’s ready for Chicago.
Another wild card here has been the return of Manny Rodriguez the past week. Noticeably slimmer, Manny hopped off the weight train, but it still pumps upper 90s heat in addition to his glorious curve and change.
For all three guys, they would all have to be added to the 40 man roster if they did earn that last spot. It’s going to be fun watching them in Chicago. For the two that don’t make it, I feel bad for for the teams in the International League that have to face those two guys in the upper 90s.