In doing this year's countdown I have tried to write about different players than I did last year.
Last year's No. 9 was Javier Baez, and I think it's worth discussing Javy again, because his role on this year's team is likely going to be very different from the way it might have been seen a year ago.
Going into spring training 2015, Baez could have won the starting second-base job. Instead, he had a terrible spring and got sent down. Then he suffered a personal tragedy when his sister passed away; the Cubs gave him as much time as he needed with his family before he began his season. Then, just as he was starting to hit, he broke a finger sliding into second base and missed several more weeks.
Recalled in September, he hit reasonably well (.289/.325/.408) in a small-sample-size 76 at-bats. He struck out 24 times, nearly one-third of the time, but even that was an improvement over 2014, when he K'd in almost 45 percent of his at-bats in the major leagues.
He hit just one home run in those 76 at-bats, but smacked a monster three-run homer off his now-teammate John Lackey in the clinching game of the division series:
This year, with all the infield positions Javy can play pretty much locked up, if he makes the 25-man roster (and I believe he will), Joe Maddon might use him as a super-sub, playing occasionally at third base, shortstop and second base... and maybe center field, where he's played in winter ball and likely will again in spring training.
I know some here are skeptical of his ability to be the primary backup center fielder. But Baez is a good athlete and at 23 still has good speed and I think has the ability to adapt.
What do you think Baez will do this year, both in the field and at bat?