SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- The Cubs have played 14 spring games, and with split-squad contests coming up three days in a row soon (Saturday, Sunday, Monday), there are 20 remaining. With Opening Day just 18 days away, we're not quite at the halfway mark of camp yet, but with the first roster cuts made and a day off Thursday, it seems like the right time to take a look at some performances from the first three weeks of spring games, and see where certain players stand in terms of making the 25-man roster, the starting lineup, bench, bullpen and rotation.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, nor am I going to give letter grades as I do during the regular season (since the sample size is so small), just a look at some performances that might (or might not) give us some idea of what the roster will look like Opening Day in Pittsburgh. Numbers are complete through Wednesday's game. This is also in no particular order.
Javier Baez (7-for-21, two doubles, three home runs, no walks, four strikeouts). Baez is going to start the year at Triple-A Iowa, no matter how many scoreboards he hits with home runs. Manager Rick Renteria says Baez will get some time at second base and third base, likely starting Monday. That's important, because as of now, shortstop, his primary position, is taken. If I had to guess, I'd guess he might wind up at second base. Baez hits the ball hard. Even his outs have a different sound off the bat.
Mike Olt (7-for-21, three home runs, no walks, seven strikeouts). The strikeouts are concerning, but Olt crushed two home runs Wednesday night, and as I wrote in the game recap, he really needs to start playing third base every single day. If he keeps hitting, I would expect him to be the Opening Day third baseman.
Justin Ruggiano (8-for-15, one double, two home runs, two walks, three strikeouts). One of Ruggiano's homers is off a righthander, which is encouraging. He's crushing lefthanded pitching as has been his career norm; that'll be his role on this team, a platoon outfielder vs. lefthanders, and I expect him to fill it well.
Ryan Roberts (5-for-16, two doubles). Roberts has played well, and been versatile, playing all over the infield. There doesn't appear to be a roster spot for him; perhaps he'll agree to go to Triple-A Iowa to be an injury replacement.
Anthony Rizzo (7-for-19, two doubles, one triple, one walk, three strikeouts). Rizzo has not gone deep yet this spring, but I wouldn't be concerned. He has played in just seven of the 14 games so far.
Emilio Bonifacio (6-for-22, two triples, two stolen bases). Has also played all over the diamond, including center field and left field. It appears management is looking at him as a "supersub", not just for his usual infield slots, but outfield. If he and Mike Olt both make the team, I'd look for Donnie Murphy to be let go. Speaking of Murphy...
Donnie Murphy (4-for-20, one double, one walk, five strikeouts). I never really saw the point of Murphy in the first place, and with Olt coming on and Bonifacio signed, if Murphy makes the 25-man roster, something's really wrong. He's nothing more than an expansion-team level placeholder. This team has got to start getting beyond that.
Welington Castillo (5-for-13, one double, two walks, three strikeouts). Castillo hasn't played much; I have to assume that's because they are being cautious after his arthroscopic knee surgery last September, and they want to have a look at the other three catchers in camp. Eventually, though, Castillo needs to work his way up to more spring playing time. He's being counted on to be a big part of the team's future.
Junior Lake (3-for-18, one walk, eight strikeouts). I'd really like to see Lake come on and have a strong finish to this spring. He's looked tentative in the field, and his outfield game still needs work. Lake is one player who could make a difference on this team if he could hit the way the organization hoped when he was in the minor leagues.
Darwin Barney (5-for-19, one double, one home run, two walks, two strikeouts). Barney has played well this spring. If he can hit at his current level, he's a useful major-league player due to his defense, and also could be trade bait given the possibility of Baez moving to second base.
Nate Schierholtz (4-for-19, one double, one home run, two walks, four strikeouts). Hasn't shown much this spring. According to this article, he would like a fulltime role, not a platoon role, and his career numbers would back that up (.265/.314/.438 vs. RHP, .265/.315/.367 vs. LHP, the only real difference coming in power). Even so, I would expect him to continue to be platooned due to the presence of Lake and Ruggiano.
Josh Vitters (2-for-10, two walks, six strikeouts). If Vitters is going to make this team, he likely should have been given more at-bats. There really isn't much to tell from this performance; he dropped one catchable fly ball in left field and to me, just doesn't look like he can help this team much.
Luis Valbuena (2-for-14, two doubles, two walks, four strikeouts.) I'm hoping Mike Olt wins the third-base job, again, because this would put Valbuena in the role he's best suited for: utility player and pinch-hitter.
Brett Jackson (1-for-8, four walks, five strikeouts). The strikeouts are maddening, because Jackson does have talent. The four walks show some plate discipline. Why he hasn't been given more playing time is beyond me -- wouldn't you want to see if you still have anything in Jackson, if you were management? He might need a change of scenery. Perhaps Theo & Co. can trade him for someone else's change-of-scenery guy.
George Kottaras (1-for-9, one home run, one walk, six strikeouts). He's a suitable backup catcher, and has hit at times during his big-league career (.406 career SLG, 96 career OPS+ despite a low .214 career BA). He hits lefthanded, which many managers think is a big plus in a backup catcher. He'll be perfectly good in that role.
Ryan Kalish (3-for-14, three walks, one strikeout, three stolen bases). Clearly, this management team likes Kalish, as he is a Theo pick from his Boston days (ninth round, 2006). Kalish turns 26 in two weeks; he's had injury issues and did not play at all last year. If he hit righthanded, I could see him making this roster, but the Cubs already have a glut of lefthanded-hitting outfielders. He could be stashed at Iowa as an injury replacement.
Kris Bryant (2-for-11, two home runs, one walk, seven strikeouts). The home runs were fun! But they were his only hits, and he has at times looked lost at third base. Obviously, he wasn't going to make the 25-man roster, and much of the time he was overmatched by major-league pitchers. He'll be fine, but it will be at Double-A Tennessee.
Ryan Sweeney (1-for-15, no walks, two strikeouts). Just keep telling yourself that spring stats mean nothing. Sweeney's going to be a platoon starter in center field, most likely. It would be nice if he started hitting.
Jeff Samardzija (three games, nine innings, 15 hits allowed, two walks, eight strikeouts, 5.00 ERA). Those numbers don't mean a whole lot. Shark has had two mediocre outings and one good one (against Matt Cain and the Giants last Monday). He should be fine. I assume he'll be the Opening Day starter, though Renteria has not said anything official yet.
Travis Wood (two games, 5⅔ innings, 10 hits, one walk, three strikeouts, 5.94 ERA). Wood had his first start washed out and the last one was ruined by some shaky defense. Personally, I'd love to see him get the Opening Day start as he was the team's most consistent starter last year, but you know how that goes.
Kyle Hendricks (two games, five innings, four hits, five walks, six strikeouts, 5.40 ERA). If Hendricks were an established starter, you'd say, "Don't worry about him, he'll be fine." But Hendricks is still vying for his first big-league time, and he's got to have pinpoint command to be effective, since his velocity is just average. He hasn't done that, not yet, at least. I hope he will.
Edwin Jackson (two games, five innings, seven hits, no walks, five strikeouts, 7.20 ERA). What can you say? Jackson 2014 looks a lot like Jackson 2013 -- effective at times, at times throwing way too many pitches because he can't keep them in the zone. No walks? Great, but he runs long counts on too many hitters and has already allowed two home runs.
Jose Veras (three games, three innings, two hits, one walk, one strikeout, 6.00 ERA). Too small of a sample size to judge anything, but apparently he's opening the season with the closer role no matter what he does in camp.
Pedro Strop (three games, three innings, one hit, three walks, three strikeouts, 0.00 ERA). The walks are a concern, but I'd much rather see Strop as closer than Veras. That could very easily happen.
Tommy Hottovy (three games, three innings, one hit, one walk, five strikeouts, 0.00 ERA). I'm including Hottovy here because he's another Theo draft pick (fourth round, 2004), and he's lefthanded. He won't make the 25-man roster, but I'm pretty sure he'll be kept around at Iowa and we'll see him at some point during the season.
Carlos Villanueva (two games, 4⅔ innings, six hits, two walks, five strikeouts, 7.71 ERA). Has not looked good. Has not started a game yet, but he might very well wind up with the fifth spot in the rotation. That would be too bad, as he was much more effective in relief than as a starter last year.
Jason Hammel (one game, three innings, two hits, three walks, four strikeouts, 0.00 ERA). Too early to tell here, because most of his work has been done in minor-league games due to weather and off days. He did manage to get himself out of a bases-loaded jam (of his own doing due to walks) in his only appearance.
Chris Rusin (three games, 7⅔ innings, eight hits, three walks, three strikeouts, 8.22 ERA). I think the Cubs would like Rusin to hold down the fifth spot until Jake Arrieta is ready. He is not doing himself any favors with his performance so far.
Wesley Wright (three games, three innings, four hits, no walks, three strikeouts, 12.00 ERA. Wright is going to be on the 25-man roster, so any comments here are pretty much irrelevant. He's likely working on things and should be ready for the season. Manager Rick Renteria has already gone on record as saying he wants a second lefty in the pen, and Wright and James Russell are likely the guys.
Alberto Cabrera (three games, three innings, two hits, one walk, no strikeouts, 0.00 ERA). Cabrera is out of options. If he keeps throwing well in spring games, he'll likely start the year in the major-league bullpen.
Hector Rondon (four games, 4⅓ innings, six hits, two home runs allowed, three walks, four strikeouts, 12.46 ERA). According to AZ Phil, Rondon has an option left, and could very easily wind up at Iowa to start the year.
Blake Parker (three games, 2⅓ innings, five hits, four walks, two strikeouts, 15.43 ERA). Parker can also be optioned (at least before May 17, according to AZ Phil), so he might also start the season at Iowa if he keeps up this poor performance.
That's 32 players... I've left out guys like Starlin Castro (who hasn't really played), James Russell (who has just the one appearance from Wednesday), James McDonald (already discussed in Wednesday's recap) and others who have almost no chance of making the 25-man roster. If you have others you'd like to discuss, feel free to post them in the comments.