Cleat Geeks

Wrigley Weekly Wrap-up

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On Friday, the Cubs released their spring training roster, which includes 58 players, 18 of them are non-roster invitees. Top catching prospect Willson Contreras will attend his first big-league camp with the team along with new Cubs Jason Heyward and John Lackey.

The invitees include 10 pitchers: Stephen Fife, Brandon Gomes, Jean Machi, Felix Pena, Jonathan Pettibone, Armando Rivero, Drew Rucinski, Duane Underwood, Luiz Cruz and Jack Leathersich. Three infielders: Munenori Kawasaki, Jesus Guzman and Kristopher Negron.

Three outfielders: Albert Almora, John Andreoli and Juan Perez. Two catchers will join in big-league camp: Taylor Davis and Tim Federowicz.

The Cubs’ first draft pick of 2015, Ian Happ, was not invited and will participate in minor-league camp instead.

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The following position players are locks to make the team: Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan, Tommy La Stella, Javier Baez, David Ross and Miguel Montero.

I Think the Cubs still need to make 1 more trade before the start of Spring Training. Find out what that move is on my weekly podcast The MLB Headfirst Slide Podcast Tuesday Night @ 8:00pm Chicago time!

Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa, Arizona on February 19th with full squad workouts beginning February 24th.

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The Cubs have six players among MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects, including shortstop Gleyber Torres and catcher Willson Contreras, who was the team’s 2015 Minor League Player of the Year. Torres batted .293 at Class A South Bend last season and was listed at No. 29 on the list; Contreras, who hit .333 at Double-A Tennessee, checked in at No. 51. Torres was projected to start the 2016 season at Class A Myrtle Beach, while Contreras could be at Triple-A Iowa. The other Cubs prospects in the top 100 are infielder Ian Happ_1iazmqbs_68yo0koxHapp at No. 77, right handed pitcher Duane Underwood at No. 78, and outfielders Albert Almora and Billy McKinney at Nos. 87 and 89. Happ batted .283 at short-season Eugene last year and .241 at South Bend. He’s currently being converted from outfielder to second base. Underwood was 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA in 14 games with Myrtle Beach, striking out 48 over 73 in 1/3 innings. He did miss a little time this past season with a sore right elbow. Almora batted .272 in 106 games at Tennessee last season and spent the off-season working out at the University of Miami. McKinney, acquired from the Oakland Athletics along with Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija deal in July 2014, batted .340 in 29 games at Myrtle Beach and .285 in 77 games at Tennessee.

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Javier Baez’s spring training drills will be very different this February. Baez took an outfielder glove with him to Puerto Rico and has been playing center field. “It had gone really well,” Baez said. “I played in center field a few games, and I felt really good at the position. I saw the ball off of the bat really well. It felt natural like when I played the position when I was little.” In October, the Cubs coaching staff told Baez to be ready for work at multiple positions in 2016. Last season, Baez made it until late March before being shipped out to Triple-A. After the loss of his sister and sustaining a broken hand, Baez began to improve and blossomed in late August. He was called up to the Cubs and played occasionally late in the year until Addison Russell pulled a hamstring in Game 3 of the NLDS. Baez played the next five games atjavier-baez-mlb-los-angeles-angels-chicago-cubs-850x560 shortstop before the Cubs were eliminated by the Mets. He hit .289 with one homer and four RBIs in 80 plate appearances across 28 regular-season games in 2015.

“He is one of the best baseball position players we have in the organization,” Cubs bench coach Davey Martinez said of Baez. “We are going to try and play him at multiple positions and make it fun for him. He told us he is all for it and not worried in the least. On offense, we want him to be himself and let the ball get in there on him before he reacts. I told him late last year before a game to go up to the plate and strike out. He looked at me and thought I was out of it. I repeated, ‘Go up to the plate and strike out.’ In his next at-bat, he lined out hard to right field. He came back to the bench and told me it had helped defuse the situation to not think about striking out. We told Javy if he strikes out, so what. We want him to have the approach to go out play the game he loves and have fun.” When Baez made his debut in 2014, he struck out 41.5 percent of his plate appearances. In 2015, he struck out 30 percent of the time in the big leagues and 24 percent of the time at Triple-A. “I know now I will be playing more positions,” Baez said. “Wherever they decide to use me, I will try to do my job and enjoy it. I thought center field was going to be difficult, but it really came natural to me. The routes to the ball seemed routine for me as well. My hitting has come along really well.”

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