With two weeks remaining in August, the Cubs are discussing which players on the 40-man roster will be called up in September with the roster expands. Joe Maddon talked to the Tribune about the possible additions to the active roster.
“I’ve always liked the nugget or two that you draw from the minor league system, whether it’s a guy who can run, a guy that’s an exceptional defender or more than likely, many times it’s a good bullpen arm,” Maddon told the Tribune while acknowledging “the importance of using a young player who could handle important situations.”
OF Matt Szczur is a given and will be recalled when the roster expands. And so will INF Tommy La Stella, if he is not up before then. Theo Epstein said recently La Stella will be up by at least Sept. 1.
INF Javier Baez is also expected to be called up when the roster expands. Baez played shortstop and batted third for Iowa on Sunday night in Las Vegas. Baez was 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, a run scored and two strikeouts. Since coming off the disabled list, Baez is hitting .244/.326/.474 in 19 games with five doubles, two triples and three home runs for a .800 OPS. Baez has walked eight times in 78 at bats with 24 strikeouts.
INF Mike Olt is another candidate for a call-up in a couple of weeks. Olt is batting .253/.326/.432 in 46 games with the Iowa Cubs. Olt has 11 doubles, six home runs, 16 walks, 59 strikeouts and a .758 OPS at the Triple-A level this season. Olt is only 9-for-51 with three extra basehits, five walks and 24 strikeouts in his last 15 games.
It’s unclear if INF/OF Arismendy Alcantara will be recalled as soon as the roster expands. Alcantara has gone backwards in the second half (.156/.189/.267 with three doubles, two triples, a home run, four walks, 21 strikeouts in 25 games). Alcantara is batting only .230/.282/.417 in 101 games with 17 doubles, 10 triples and 12 home runs for a .699 OPS. Alcantara will benefit from hitting the reset button in the off-season.
INF Christian Villanueva has put together a good season for the I-Cubs. Villanueva is on the 40-man roster and on his last optional assignment. Villanueva has played third (71 games), first (28 games) and second base (1 game) for Iowa this year while hitting .262/.321/.449 with 19 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs and a .770 OPS. Villanueva does not appear to be a candidate to be recalled when the roster expands.
On the pitching side, RHP Rafael Soriano should be over his shoulder fatigue by Sept. 1. LHP Zac Rosscup and LHP Tsuyoshi Wada should also be included in the call-ups, but it is unclear how Wada would be used.
RHP Carl Edwards Jr. could make his big league debut at some point in September. Edwards Jr. has equaled his innings total from a year ago and has continued to struggle with his command. Edwards Jr. has allowed only 25 hits in 53 1/3 innings this season, but he has walked 40 batters with 73 strikeouts. And 23 of those free passes have come in 29 2/3 innings out of Iowa’s bullpen. Edwards Jr. has swing and miss stuff and when he’s on he can make the opposition look rather silly. Edwards Jr. should benefit from working with Chris Bosio, if he is called up.
It is hard to see how RHP Brian Schlitter, RHP Yoervis Medina, RHP Dallas Beeler and LHP Eric Jokisch would be able to help the big league team over the final month-plus of the season, unless there is an injury.
The Cubs will not call-up as many players as they have in recent seasons. The Cubs are trying to win games, not holding auditions for next season. Call-ups will have a purpose. Players on 40-man not called up right away will likely be sent to Arizona to stay in baseball shape once the minor league season ends. Iowa’s final regular season game is Sept. 7.
Jorge Soler smacked his first home run Sunday since July 19. Soler has been productive at the plate, just not hitting home runs or collecting extra basehits. The Cubs are working with Soler, who hits the ball as hard as any player on the team and in the league, to find a way to unlock his power according to a report from Comcast SportsNet.
Soler is not getting any lift right now. Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein are not concerned. Both feel balls will start leaving the park over time. Soler just needs experience.
For the season, Soler is batting .270/.329/.388 with 18 doubles, a triples and six home runs for a .717 OPS. Over his last 13 games, Soler is hitting .326/.415/.413 with two extra basehits (one double, one home run) for a .828 OPS.
Buster’s Top 10
The Cubs made headlines and was the talk of baseball for a majority of the week. Joe Maddon’s team is 9-1 in their last 10 games and that record caught Buster Olney’s attention. The Cubs moved up a spot in Olney’s weekly power rankings.
Olney’s top 10: Cardinals, Royals, Pirates, Cubs, Yankees, Blue Jays, Mets, Astros, Dodgers and Giants.
The Cubs must get back on track Tuesday and put together a good homestand against the Tigers, Braves and Indians … and, maybe the Pirates, Giants and Cardinals will lose more this week than they win for a change.
News and Notes
• Dan Haren said he felt okay following Sunday’s game. Haren took a comebacker off his right ankle in the second inning and was in obvious pain. Haren stayed in the game.
• According to a report from Carrie Muskat, Joe Maddon is “not as motivated to get Kyle Schwarber back at catcher” with David Ross and Miguel Montero healthy.
• Bruce Levine reported young Cubs thrive on each others’ paths.
• Patrick Mooney took a look as to why the Cubs are still winning big after winning the off-season.
• Arismendy Alcantara returned to the Iowa Cubs prior to Sunday’s game. Alcantara was activated and started in left field.
• From Christopher Kamka: The Cubs bullpen during the White Sox series … no runs, four hits, six walks, 16 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.
• Baseball Tonight examined why the Cubs have been so successful this season … Click Here for the Video
• Jim Bowden posted five waiver trades that he would like to see happen. And at the top of his list, Chase Utley to the Giants for RHP Kyle Crick.
This Day In Cubstory
2003 – Cubs acquired Randall Simon from the Pirates for Ray Sadler
1993 – Victor Caratini, born
1987 – Thomas Neal, born
1979 – Cubs traded Ted Sizemore to the Red Sox for a PTBNL and cash. Boston sent Mike O’Berry to the Cubs on October 23, 1979 to complete the trade
1932 – Cubs beat the Braves 3-2 in 19 innings at Wrigley Field on a long fly out with the bases loaded by Frank Demaree. Reliever Bud Tinning pitched 12 2/3 shutout innings.