In the middle of the Shields drama, the Cubs did announce the 19 non-roster players who received spring training invites. I believe the Opening Day roster is not exactly set in stone, but outside of pitching, I think there are only a couple of spots up for grabs. There is so much to be sorted out, but I am assuming a few things that could obviously change or end up being incorrect:
- 1. The team will keep 13 pitchers.
- 2. If Castillo is traded, the team will keep two catchers.
- 3. This leaves 10 position spots, and I believe the following eight are solid: Alcantara, Castro, La Stella, Rizzo, Coghlan, Denorfia, Fowler, and Soler. This leaves two spots and assumes Baez would start at AAA (based on his recent contact struggles). Of course, a solid (and possibly just a half way decent) spring training will put him in. Then there are players like Olt, Lake, and Sweeney who would have the upper hand heading into camp.
So the odds are against the non-roster invitees, as far as making the team is concerned, especially for the position players. The pitching situation will be equally as competitive, with maybe one or two spots "open," but so much depends on who earns the 5th starting slot.
Then again, some of the players invited are simply being given a chance to get some experience and aren't even expecting to compete for a spot. Yet.
Below are some of the players on the non-roster invite list that we'll be watching closely.
- Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora - Part of the "core" offensive future of the organization, none of these players will be on the roster at the end of camp. But it won't be long for some of them. Bryant should be up by June 1, and the rest could all end up in Chicago this year, at least when the rosters expand. More likely, it will be 2016 for Schwarber and Almora, but it will be nice to watch them play a few games this spring.
- Jonathan Herrera - The team would obviously prefer Baez, with Olt being somewhat of a temporary backup plan while Baez gets things going in the minors. But if both of these players continue to strike out at high rates this spring, Herrera likely has the best chance of all the non-roster players to make the team. His career .263 average and .324 OBP would make him valuable in the infield behind La Stella and Alcantara. (Note: I hope Baez makes all of this unnecessary by having a great spring.)
- Logan Watkins, Chris Valaika - Both are decent infielders and have contributed innings the past couple of years, but I honestly hope it doesn't come to this. (Edit - It looks like Watkins is currently injured.)
- Corey Black, Pierce Johnson - Like the young offensive players invited, Johnson and Black don't really have a chance to make the team and will be there for experience. Both players pitched well for AA Tennessee last year, and it will be fun to see them with the team for a little while. Of course, missing out on Shields leaves that 5th spot open, but it would quite a reach to expect one of these guys to earn it right now.