CHISportsNation

 

Am I the only one who feels like we were watching the Opening Night game against the Cardinals like last week? It really feels that way to me – but, alas, here we are less than a week from September. Pretty crazy.

One aspect I have been looking forward to since the Cubs hired Joe Maddon was watching him manage the expanded 40-man roster during September. Maddon, who already has demonstrated eccentric tendencies with his roster, will get more options to play with and to attempt to optimize. Before the calendar rolls into September, let’s take a look at the guys who the Cubs may add to the roster next week.

The Definites:

Javier Baez (IF/OF?) – Baez is probably the most exciting of the guys who will be added in September. He’s been very good in AAA with a .316/.380/.530 slash line and a manageable 25% strike out rate. He’s been taking practice reps all around the infield and even occasionally in the outfield, meaning his versatility is improving and, if he produces, may get a good amount of starts. Even if he’s not starting, having a guy with Baez’ power on the bench will be excellent and with some success, he may end up displacing Jonathan Herrera as the bench infielder for a playoff run.

Matt Szczur (OF) – Szczur is technically already with the big club, filling in for David Ross who is on the Family Medical Emergency List. If Ross returns before September 1, he’ll spell Szczur. If he returns after, they’ll both be on the roster. Either way, Szczur adds speed and defensive value that will be helpful to keep somewhere on the roster.

Mike Olt (1B/3B) – Here’s something I totally forgot and bet you did too: Mike Olt has been the Opening Day Third Basemen for both of the last two seasons. Wow, who remembered that? After getting his hand broken earlier this year, Olt has been adequate in AAA with a .257/.329/.446 line and a 31% strike out rate. Olt will hang out on the bench, maybe give Anthony Rizzo a day off, and appear as an occasional pinch hitter with some pop.

Rafael Soriano (RH RP) – Maybe he just needed some more time? Soriano wasn’t good in his initial stint in Chicago before hitting the DL. In 6 big league innings, Soriano was hit for a 6.35 ERA with weak peripherals. But, he didn’t get a Spring Training and was thrust into a pennant push. Either way, expect to see Soriano back before the season’s done.

Zac Rosscup (LH RP) – Rosscup was just sent back to AAA to make room for the newly acquired Fernando Rodney. Rosscup has had a tumultuous year including numerous promotions and demotions to and from Iowa and a shoulder injury that sidelined him for part of the year. He’s been excellent in the minors, though, and hopefully can capture some of that for the Cubs’ playoff push.

The Probables:

Tsuyoshi Wada (LH SP) – With Dan Haren struggling in the fifth starter role, it would be an excellent time for Wada to step up and return to his “badass” form. But unfortunately, Wada hasn’t been good over the past month in AAA, which has bumped him from a “definite” to a “probable” call up. Based on his success the first time through a lineup, I’d love to see him work out of the bullpen occasionally down the stretch.

Dallas Beeler (RH SP) – Beeler hasn’t been particularly good at any stop this season, whether in Iowa or Chicago. If he gets called up, it will be to work out of the pen, but I’m not positive they’ll even bother giving him that chance. I could see this going either way. He may end up in Chicago, but it also wouldn’t shock me if Beeler was designated for assignment next week to make room for someone who’s not on the 40-man right now.

Yoervis Medina (RH RP) – Medina has not been very good anywhere this year – Seattle, Chicago or Iowa – bumping him down to this category. I’d guess he’ll be recalled if for no other reason than to be an extra arm during Edwin Jackson Time – I mean, blowouts. Let’s not forget he still has a track record of success at the big league level. This year’s just been a struggle.

Quintin Berry (OF) – Earlier this week, I wrote at length about Quintin Berry and his potential role on the big league team. But it’ll take some maneuvering to get him onto the 40-man. I would expect it to happen, but I’m not totally sure what changes to get him there (I’d bet Neil Ramirez will hit the 60 Day DL because it doesn’t sound like he’s returning. So there’s one spot!).

Emilio Bonifacio (IF/OF) – Our old friend Emilio is basically in the same boat as Quintin Berry – not on the 40-man, but will likely get added. Although Bonifacio had a rough 2015 with the White Sox (.167/.192/.390) and only 1 steal in 5 attempts, I’d bet he will get a look with Joe Maddon hoping to utilize his versatility.

The Possibles:

Arismendy Alcantara (IF/OF) – Before the Bonifacio signing, I would have thought Alcantara would have had a better shot, but with Bonifacio around, I don’t think Alcantara gets back to the bigs this year. He’s had a poor 2015 campaign in Iowa with a .232/.284/.409 line. I don’t think he gets designated for assignment right now, but he may not be on the 40-man roster by November.

Carl Edwards Jr. (RH RP) – The pitcher formerly known as C.J. Edwards has tons of upside. He’s got a 3.03 ERA and 3.63 FIP in Iowa this year but a frustratingly high 19% walk rate. Edwards is also recovering from a finger injury that doesn’t seem major but has kept him out for a couple weeks. If he doesn’t get up to the major leagues this season, these will be the reasons. I think he’ll make it eventually in September, but I wouldn’t consider it super likely right now.

Christian Villanueva (3B) – Will we ever see Christian Villanueva in a Cubs uniform? Only time will tell. He had a hot stretch during the summer and sees his Iowa line sit at .259/.316/.446. He’s a great defensive Third Baseman, but I don’t see him getting too many innings there as the big league team pushes for a playoff spot. He may get the call but he also may just have to continue to bide his time.

Trevor Cahill (RH S/RP) – Hey look! Former All-Star alert! The Cubs just signed Trevor Cahill to a minor league contract last week. Cahill, with his third different organization just this year, had been pretty poor before joining the Cubs (7.52 ERA/4.42 FIP/4.31 xFIP with Atlanta in 26 1/3 innings and 6.28 ERA/5.25 FIP with the Dodgers’ AAA team). So far in Iowa, he’s worked out of the bullpen in 5 2/3 innings and not allowed an earned run. Could he slide into the pen? Perhaps.

Armando Rivero (RH RP) – The Cubs were hoping for a breakout from Rivero this year but it didn’t quite happen. He ended up with a 3.35 ERA/4.79 FIP and a 14% BB rate, which is not great. I’d be surprised if he got the call for September, but it’s on the table.

Brian Schlitter (RH RP) – I had already written a section on Schlitter before he was designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man for Fernando Rodney. In it, I said he was a candidate either to be added or to be DFA’d and I could see it going either way. I guess it went the latter. There’s still a chance he remains in the organization – he has been here for pretty much his entire career – and if so, he had a nice 1.09 ERA at Iowa which could predicate a call up. Far more doubtful now, though.

A host of periphery guys like Eric Jokisch (40-man, LH SP), Taylor Teagarden (non-40-man, C), Chris Valaika (non-40-man, IF), Mike Baxter (non-40-man, OF), John Andreoli (non-40-man, OF), Blake Cooper (non-40-man, RH RP), Drake Britton (non-40-man, LH S/RP), P.J. Francescon (non-40-man, RH RP) also may have a shot, but either 2015 ineffectiveness or non-40-man roster status make me tend to doubt we’ll actually see any of them.

The I-Really-Doubt-It-But-It-Would-Be-Super-Exciting-If-They-Made-Its:

Pierce Johnson (RH SP) – Now this is the guy I would really like to see. I think it’s unlikely, but not ridiculous. Although he got off to a late start due to a back injury, Johnson has looked very good at AA Tennessee so far this season. With Edwards getting moved to the bullpen, Johnson has shot up to being one of the Cubs’ top pitching prospects. I’d think the Cubs will remain cautious with Johnson but he still may have a chance to make it for September.

Willson Contreras (C) – Willson Contreras has had an awesome breakout 2015 campaign, destroying the ball to a .327/.408/.477 slash line at AA Tennessee. I can’t really imagine he’ll actually get the call, but in the event the Cubs are looking for a fourth catcher just to be safe, Contreras may be a more helpful upgrade than Taylor Teagarden.

Albert Almora (CF) – Almora looked pretty good during his 2015 season for the Smokies with a .271/.322/.398 line. His bat is definitely not big league ready yet, but his glove would probably play nicely. If the Cubs want to get really creative and add a plus-plus glove for late innings, maybe Almora joins the list of top Cubs prospects to debut in 2015.

 

So there we have it, tons of names that may get called up next week or in the upcoming weeks. Suffice to say, giving Joe Maddon new weapons is always a good thing and will definitely come in clutch as the Cubs head down the stretch.

Photo by Dave Zalubowski/AP.

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