As Spring Training continues, so does my look at the team we can expect to see leaving Mesa, Arizona. Having covered the players who will be tagged as the every day starters, as well as the biggest threat coming off the bench, Tyler Colvin, the time has come to look at the remainder of the bench. If a team is going to be successful, they need to have a deep bench, and have some sort of depth. Today, we will see if that is the case for the Chicago Cubs, or if they will have a problem in the upcoming season.
For the Cubs, they will have a five man bench, which most likely will consist of Colvin, Jeff Baker (who will be in a platoon with Blake DeWitt), Koyie Hill, and there is currently a battle for the last two spots. One battle is for the remaining outfield spot between Reed Johnson and Fernando Perez. The last infield spot is between Augie Ojeda and Darwin Barney. Both Johnson and Ojeda were big fan favorites when they were with the team in their first stints, and have regained their fandom with their return on minor league contracts. Personally, my choice for the last two spots would be Perez and Barney, because they are both young players and have a lot more upside to offer for the season. However, because of their experience, Johnson and Ojeda might have an edge in taking the final two spots.
Sadly, outside of Colvin, the Cubs have absolutely no depth to work with this season; at least not with the current batch of players they have contending for a spot. None of them are anything special, nor would they give you much hope if they need to play an extended period of games.
Having already covered Baker in my blog on second base, and with Colvin already being singled out in my last blog, I will not touch on them, because I would be repeating myself. So I move on to the other players who will fill out the bench.
There is only other player who is guaranteed to have a job this year, though I would much rather see Wellington Castillo, but that is not my choice. With Hill, you have a dependable defensive catcher who can call a good game, sadly for him that is where the praises come to an end. He adds almost nothing offensively, and is a massive drop off from Geovany Soto. I do not mind him getting the occasional start, but if we have to see him too much behind the dish, the Cubs will be in for a very long season, and likely one that does not offer a chance at a playoff birth, let alone a division title. We can only hope that Soto stays healthy all year, and Cubs Manager Mike Quade does not feel the need to play Hill nearly as often as former manager Lou Piniella thought he should play.
In the outfield, you have Johnson and Perez competing for the final spot. Johnson is getting the support of the fan base, as well as one current member of the Cubs Marlon Byrd. He has the experience, and fans have a pretty good idea of what they can expect to get out of him on a daily basis, even though he is an injury risk and is getting up their in age. With Perez, he is a player who is of the mold of what Sam Fuld was. He brings with him a good glove, and a fair amount of speed. If you feel as many of us do, that this is a rebuilding year, then Perez should get the gig so he can learn on the job and be better prepared for the years to come. If you think that the Cubs are going to be a contender, then the reverse is true and Johnson should get the gig.
The last position battle is between Ojeda and Barney, they will be the main backup for Aramis Ramirez and Starlin Castro. While Ojeda is the seasoned veteran he does not add much offensive, though he does have a pretty decent glove which can aid in the defense. Barney, much like Perez, is a young player trying to learn on the job. I believe that he is an all around better player than Ojeda, and should ultimately get the job over him. I can not see anything that Ojeda does better than Barney. However, if Quade would rather have another veteran presence on the team, then there is no question that Ojeda should get the job.
As you can see, I am highly unimpressed with anyone on our bench, outside of Colvin. Our every day players are strong enough to get the job done, and we can live with a player from the bench giving them the occasional day off, but that is all we can afford. If there is any sort of significant injury to any one of our everyday players, our team will very likely be sunk. There is just not enough talent on the bench to carry a team if they are called upon too often. With the history of injury some of our players have had, most obvious with Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, we could very well be in for a very long, and disappointing season. All because our bench is filled with far too many deficiencies.