Originally I thought this would be too early to post. None of the guys who were called up on September 1st (the day the rosters expanded) were making their Cubs debut. And it's the middle of September and we've had a pretty good look at a lot of the players who are on the 40 man roster and have a chance to make it on next year's roster.
Obvious options include Jake Fox, Micah Hoffpauir (not sure if he's a "regular" yet, given his demotion earlier), and Sam Fuld. What about the bullpen? What about guys who aren't yet on the 40 man roster?
Reed Johnson has been one of the best pick ups for Hendry, as far as doing the job that is asked of him. He's played all of the outfield positions, has speed, excellent defense, and can hit pretty well. His injuries this year and the fact that he's 32 and worth a few million (he's making 3 million this year) make Sam Fuld a better option. Both are left handed, and both are scrappy and hard working. Fuld is cheaper, has more speed, and equally as good if not better defense. The hitting is not quite there yet, but he's a hard worker and is young and still has a chance. I would say a big thank you to Reed Johnson and wish him luck on the open market this year unless he's willing to take a significant pay cut. I would still make Fuld the fourth outfielder so he gets as much experience as possible.
Micah Hoffpauir has to be a staple, and probably deserves a little more playing time. He's become decent when playing in the outfield, despite being primarily a first baseman. Derek Lee is getting a little older and those neck spasms seem to force him to sit for a few games every season. He's proven that he can hit major league pitching and would be an excellent first option as far as a pinch hitter goes. He has good pop and can hit for average. The only real drawback he has is he has shown times of being impatient at the plate. If he can work on pitch selection, he'd secure his spot on the team next year. His ability to play the outfield might push Reed Johnson off the roster.
Andrew Cashner might be a year away. The Cubs also have to figure out whether he should be a starter or reliever, a decision that will effect how far away from the majors he is. Cashner has had great success and finished the year in AA and will probably start in AAA unless the Cubs go out and sign a few starting pitchers, pushing Randy Wells to AAA (Ok Hendry isn't the world's smartest guy, but that would be stupid). I wouldn't be surprised to see him in September of next year, if not sooner if he gets off to a hot start and there are some injuries in the bullpen.
Jay Jackson might be a candidate for the rotation if Harden isn't retained. I really like this guy's potential. He's got all the pitches to make him a major league starter. Where in the rotation he will land is still up in the air. He's got a good fastball in the low nineties and has a good slider and curve. He did have that disciplinary problem last year that ended up demoting him. Unless he has a great spring training, he's probably Iowa bound, at least for one more year.
Esmailin Caridad has done a good job as a reliever, despite having a mediocre year in Iowa. It is a small sample size but he's definitely an option for the bullpen next year, if not the rotation. It all depends on Harden for the pitching staff. The Cubs certainly have some good in-house options.
The Shark has had a miserable year in the majors but has found some success in AAA. He has that great fastball...and that's about it. He really needs to develop his slider and splitter, and possibly a change up. Control is everything for him. I think he'd benefit from the AZL or winterball, but he might be too old to benefit from it.
Who else can you think of?