Pic: East Valley Tribune
We're at about the midway point of Cubs spring training games, so I thought we should take a moment or two to check in on a few things and see how the boys are doing before everyone starts in on Doom Boner Fest 2020. Join me, won't you?
Cubs starters are looking great for averaging 100 years old
There's been a lot of consternation about the Cubs starting five, particularly since they'll all be at least 30 years old if Tyler Chatwood winds up making the rotation. So far, though, things are looking pretty promising. Just about everyone's failing the Professor's classes--only Francisco Lindor has had much of any luck with Hendricks, who's given up just three hits in 9 innings of work with a whopping 8 Ks. He's looking about as locked in as I've ever seen him at this stage of the spring. After a false bout of Inflummation, Yu Darvish pitched a sim game on Friday and logged six K's in three innings.
Yu's gonna be just fine. BDJ had a shaky first outing but looked crisp and dominant in his second go round, and then had a solid outing against a very highly anticipated White Sox A-squad. It's also worth noting that Victor Caratini caught Lester that day.
We're gonna give Jose Quintana a pass for now since his timeline got pushed back by a real Inflummation battle. As for Chatty? Six innings with a 3.00 ERA and 7 K's is pretty good for a number five. All in all, the group is looking great so far. And hey... if the Cubs decide to go with Alec Mills instead, he has also looked great--6 IP with no runs, no hits, 4 K's and 3 BB.
Adbert Alzolay has not looked as great
Oh, our adorable Lil' Bertie. His name has been tossed around as competition for the 5th starter spot, but I'm here to tell you it's not happening. Alzolay has been getting hit hard, and while a 13.50 ERA in the spring technically doesn't count, it's not great for someone so green looking to beat out two more seasoned vets who are kind of killing it right now. Even at this early stage, I expect Bertie to head back to Iowa for more seasoning.
Ian Happ is probably for real, and will probably win the CF job
You might recall last spring, when Happ had a rough go of it and subsequently spend about half of the season in AAA. Then he came back to Chicago like a man possessed and posted a 127 wRC+ and 1.5 fWAR in just 58 games after making some adjustments. It appears those tweaks have stuck, because Happ is still tearing the cover off the baseball with a 1.422 OPS and only 2 K's in 23 PA's. (That's an 8.6% K rate, for those of you who are into those sort of numbers). YES, spring training, and YES, SSS, but after his abysmal spring last year, this just feels legit.
Albert Almora might be for real, but be skeptical
Almora is sweet and adorable and I want so badly to believe the 1.010 OPS he's sporting this spring is for real. I just can't, though, until I see it in MLB action--and Almora falling into some of his old bad habits over the weekend did not make me feel better.. And no, more ABs aren't going to convince me--he should be backing up Happ in CF, no more, no less.
Bryzzo's HR's will come
Seriously, people are worried about this?
The Dillon Maples Experience is still happening
It seemingly took forever for Maples to finally make an appearance this spring, and when he did it was classic syrup--A hit, a walk, a K and a run in one inning of work. His second outing was the exact opposite--two K's, no walks, and clean as a whistle. Let's just say that I'm still concerned about DIllon's ability to be consistent. (He's still handsome, though, for what it's worth.) Here's hoping that he can find a little more consistency like...
Jeremy Jeffress, who is maybe the sneaky good pickup of the offseason
You can hate him if you want, but former Brewer Jeffress has looked like his 2018 self so far this spring. Last year's ineffectiveness was largely due to a drop in velocity, when his FB was sitting around 92 while battling a nasty hip injury. He's already well above that this spring, and if his velo is back up we might be able to dream on him getting back some of that effectiveness of his All Star campaign. Speaking of velocity...
Don't worry about Craig Kimbrel just yet
Our little garden gnome had his first few outings, which were a mixed bag, results-wise. Yes, he gave up a few dingers, but he also struck out two in an inning of work each time out and unlike 2018, his velocity is already sitting in a more normal range for him in the spring. If he keeps progressing on his usual track, we could see the Kimbrel we thought we were getting, despite what Pronk might try to tell you.
Keep an eye on Ian Miller
Miller is a legitimate base-stealing threat--he's been on base 15 times this spring and has swiped 7 bags. He's been swinging the bat well, posting a .345/.441/.414, and could be a surprise candidate for that shiny new 26th roster spot.
Where in the world is Mark Zagunis?
We hadn't thought much about Zags until our friend Bryan over at Bleacher Nation brought it up, but there had been nary a peep until Friday out of the Cubs OF that actually made the big league roster out of spring training in 2019. Was he injured? Do the Cubs now hate him? Does the team just have too many outfielders? It's a mystery that may never be solved. Or, maybe no one cares enough to solve it. Whatever.
Three more weeks until real baseball starts, folks! Until then, enjoy the meaningless games!