Many of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system worked out at Northwestern on Wednesday in front of the Cubs’ front office and with Rick Renteria and his coaching staff. The mini-camp is part of the Rookie Development Program that Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Albert Almora, Mike Olt, Rubi Silva, Arismendy Alcantara, Armando Rivero, Arodys Vizcaino, Christian Villanueva, Eric Jokisch, Neil Ramirez, Kyle Hendricks and C.J. Edwards are participating in this week. The front office brought the players to Chicago to give them a glimpse of what it will be like when they make it to The Show. The week culminates with the annual Cubs Convention … and many of the players have no idea what is in store for them.
Rick Sutcliffe, Tom Ricketts, Theo Epstein, Jason McLeod, Bill Mueller and Rick Renteria will address the players on Thursday before the group continues with stops on the Cubs Caravan.
Jason McLeod confirmed Wednesday what he said earlier in the off-season that the front office is planning for Kris Bryant to start the season as Double-A Tennessee’s third baseman. McLeod has been consistent all winter about their plans with Bryant for the upcoming season. In order for Bryant to be promoted, he must dominate that level and check off all the boxes on his player development plan.
With Bryant slated for Double-A Tennessee, Iowa’s infield will be Christian Villanueva (3B), Javier Baez (SS) and Arismendy Alcantara (2B) at the start of the season as Jason McLeod also confirmed on Wednesday.
So with Kris Bryant at third base for Tennessee and Christian Villanueva manning the hot corner for Iowa, where does that leave Mike Olt? Olt will compete for the Cubs’ third base job in the spring and they are hoping he can earn the everyday job out of Spring Training.
Mike Olt is participating in the Rookie Development Program and told the beat reporters Wednesday he is “excited for Spring Training” after taking a prescribed break and hitting the reset button on his career.
Olt said his body feels good and the mental break was what he needed.
According to the report from ESPN Chicago, the vision problems that derailed Olt last year are behind him and he “is ready to return to being the power hitter he showed he was in the minors.”
Mike Olt is one of the big storylines of the spring. And if he is healthy, Mike Olt could push Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy to the bench at the start of the season.
The Cubs have been upfront with their plans for Javier Baez. The power-hitting, 21-year old shortstop will see time at third base and second base during his second straight big league camp before he goes to minor league camp to prepare for Opening Day with the I-Cubs.
All eyes will be on Javier Baez when the position players report to camp on Feb. 18 and if he lights up the Cactus League again, many will be clamoring for him to be with the big league team on Opening Day. Baez is looking forward to playing in front of big crowds and said Wednesday he would be in the big leagues “as soon as possible.”
When asked about a possible position switch to either second or third base Wednesday, Javier Baez said he could learn either position without any problems.
Chris Coghlan and Other Non-Roster Invitees
The full list of non-roster invites to Spring Training should be released in the very near future. The Cubs added another player to the NRI list on Wednesday with the signing of OF/IF Chris Coghlan to a minor league contract. The 2009 NL Rookie of the Year can earn $800,000 next season if he makes the big league roster. Coghlan’s contract includes a $250,000 incentives package based on plate appearances and includes an opt out on June 15 if he is not added to the Cubs’ roster.
According to reports, Chris Coghlan is healthy and ready to prove he can stay on the field.
Javier Baez , Kris Bryant, Eric Jokisch and Kyle Hendricks should be in big league camp this spring along with the following players that signed minor league contracts with the Cubs that are believed to include non-roster invites to Major League Spring Training.
Here is a list of players that should be in big league camp competing for a job on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster in the spring, most but not all of the NRIs have been confirmed.
- RHP Paolo Espino
- LHP Tommy Hottovy (NRI)
- RHP Carlos Pimentel
- LHP Jonathan Sanchez (NRI)
- LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (NRI)
- John Baker (NRI)
- Eli Whiteside (NRI)
- Walter Ibarra
- Ryan Roberts (NRI)
- Chris Valaika (NRI)
- Jeudy Valdez
- Chris Coghlan (NRI)
- Aaron Cunningham (NRI)
- Ryan Kalish (NRI)
- Mitch Maier (NRI)
- Darnell McDonald (NRI)
- Casper Wells (NRI)
Cubs’ pitchers and catchers report to Mesa on Feb. 13. The first on-field workout is scheduled for Feb. 14 with the first full squad workout slated for Feb. 19.
Cubs Minor League News
Baseball Prospectus is posting their list of the top prospects in the Cubs’ system next Wednesday (Jan. 22). Jason Parks really likes the talent in the organization. Parks thinks the Cubs have the second best system in the game behind only the Minnesota Twins and one ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Five Cubs’ prospects were involved in a car accident in the Dominican Republic on Jan. 6. It was reported at the time Frandy De La Rosa, Jose Zapata and Jefferson Mejia were in the Toyota SUV driven by De La Rosa. All three players were hospitalized at the time, thankfully without serious injuries. According to a report Wednesday from Carrie Muskat, five players were involved in the accident and two of them are still in the hospital receiving treatment. Kevin Encarnacion was also in the wreck and remains in the hospital, along with Jose Zapata. The fifth player has not been reported. Muskat indicated the other three players are out of the hospital and both Encarnacion and Zapata are “doing well.”
The Cubs’ beat reporters reiterated the front office told Jorge Soler to take it easy during the Arizona Fall League in order to not risk reinjuring his leg. Soler took a verbal beating from the media and fan base for not hustling during the AFL.