The Chicago Cubs are a lucky team, as they don’t have a whole lot of roster battles going on as they go through spring training in Mesa, Arizona.
Even with the relatively relaxed nature of camp, the Cubs, defending NL Central champions and participants in the last three National League Championship Series, still have some players worth keeping an eye on as they prepare for the season.
Although his spot is already all but guaranteed in the Cubs’ rotation, fans will be wise to keep an eye on Chatwood’s ground ball rate and earned run totals in spring training.
As primarily a ground ball pitcher, Chatwood is hoping to reverse some bad numbers that he put up last season, which were inflated by his poor stats at Coors Field. High elevations in Arizona could lead to a few issues here and there, but if he can get his groundout pitches working, then the Cubs will be quite pleased with their investment.
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In two seasons with the Cubs, Heyward has struggled, to put it bluntly. The outfielder has found himself out of the lineup more often than he would like, and he will be looking to make even more swing changes under new hitting coach Chili Davis.
Unfortunately for Heyward, he is struggling a bit to start camp, with a 1-for-8 performance at the plate so far. He did register a double against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday for his first spring training hit, and he has drawn a pair of walks, so fans at least have some reason for optimism with him.
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Ben Zobrist’s back issues have kept him off the field, meaning that Russell has been able to play regularly at shortstop this spring. With Javier Baez angling for playing time anywhere he can get it, Russell needs to not only show that he can bounce back from last season’s struggles at the plate, but that his arm is strong enough to keep him at shortstop for the long term.
Schwarber may have hit 30 home runs last season, but his subpar batting average ultimately led to a brief demotion during the season, and he lost a significant amount of weight as he tries to avoid a similar fate this season.
The real key for Schwarber will be to work counts and to get quality pitches to hit, and he’s doing that a lot early in the spring. The slugger doesn’t have any home runs yet, but he does have four walks already. He does have five strikeouts, but that number will always be high if he’s seeing a lot of pitches, and it’s so far, so good on that front for Schwarber this spring.
A massive disappointment after last season’s trade deadline, Wilson has a unique opportunity this spring. The reliever could potentially nail down a seventh or eighth inning job for the Cubs if he can show some serious progress, and he has one strikeout and a scoreless inning of relief on his resume so far this spring.
If Wilson can show the pitch movement and velocity that made him a strong reliever in Detroit, then the Cubs’ reconfigured bullpen could end up being a strength instead of a question mark.