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Descalso won't go head-first into role as leader

Cubs signed utilityman to 2-year deal in effort to add veteran presence
MLB.com @MLBastian

MESA, Ariz. -- When Daniel Descalso walked into the Cubs' clubhouse earlier this week, he quietly dropped off an equipment bag at his locker and then disappeared down a hallway. It was a moment that was easy to miss amidst the buzz around the room that morning.

One of the reasons Chicago signed Descalso to a two-year contract this offseason was to inject some veteran leadership into a group that may let a sense of inevitability overtake a sense of urgency down the stretch. Throughout this past winter, the Cubs' front office was vocal about the need to improve the clubhouse leadership structure in order to help remedy the club's day-to-day focus.

MESA, Ariz. -- When Daniel Descalso walked into the Cubs' clubhouse earlier this week, he quietly dropped off an equipment bag at his locker and then disappeared down a hallway. It was a moment that was easy to miss amidst the buzz around the room that morning.

One of the reasons Chicago signed Descalso to a two-year contract this offseason was to inject some veteran leadership into a group that may let a sense of inevitability overtake a sense of urgency down the stretch. Throughout this past winter, the Cubs' front office was vocal about the need to improve the clubhouse leadership structure in order to help remedy the club's day-to-day focus.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Descalso was not going to dive head-first into that assignment on his first day in camp.

"I'm not going to come in right away and stand up on the couch and be giving like a rah-rah Knute Rockne speech," Descalso said with a laugh. "They know it takes time. It's about building relationships and building trust, and then you can go from there and build on that."

On the baseball side of the equation, the Cubs very much feel the 32-year-old Descalso will help in a variety of ways. He will split time at second base at the start of the regular season while Javier Baez mans short in Addison Russell's absence. Descalso can also offer depth at third base and in the corner-outfield spots, and he can also provide some solid on-base ability (.353 on-base percentage in 2018) and pop (.436 slugging percentage) as a left-handed hitter.

All that said, the Cubs also were drawn to Descalso's strong reputation as a clubhouse presence. And that topic of leadership was indeed discussed with the utilityman during and after contract negotiations. Manager Joe Maddon said he talked to Descalso about the issue at the Cubs Convention, and it will undoubtedly be broached in their upcoming one-on-one meeting before camp is in full swing.

"It's always going to have to be based on his comfort zone, not mine," Maddon said. "I mean, my comfort zone is, of course, 'Go.' But you don't know that the player is equally as comfortable, especially when you walk into a new room. ... I think the real good leaders don't just jump in with both feet."

Video: Bastian discusses Descalso signing with the Cubs

The idea is that Descalso can provide something similar to what Jon Jay brought to the table in 2017 and what David Ross did as a leader prior to that with the Cubs. Before last season, Chicago's roster setup did not make adding that kind of veteran player a priority. As the the year wore on, the Cubs' decision-makers felt that approach was "a miscalculation on our part," as general manager Jed Hoyer phrased it in December.

As that message was relayed publicly over the offseason, some of the Cubs' veterans took note.

"They made it clear to everybody. I mean, I read the stuff, too," Cubs lefty Jon Lester said. "I think we cleared the air on a lot of things this offseason with certain things -- as far as the front office to players -- and kind of understanding our roles a little bit more. Sometimes you need to do that, you need to sit down and actually go face to face and talk about what the expectations are. I think we're in a good place."

Descalso said the presence of the other veterans in the clubhouse will help him grow into his role, too.

"I think I just come in here and be myself," Descalso said. "There's a lot of guys that have been in this league for a long time, a lot of accomplished players in here. That's why they've been so successful the last few years. That's why the expectations are high. It's not like I'm coming in to a team full of rookies that haven't accomplished anything, so it shouldn't be too hard."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Chicago Cubs, Daniel Descalso

Almora's time as everyday player 'on the horizon'

Bryant robs home run during batting practice; Tazawa to report Monday
MLB.com @MLBastian

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes center fielder Albert Almora Jr. will soon grow into being an everyday player. That, however, is not likely to be the case when the regular season begins.

The 24-year-old Almora, who was in camp on Friday ahead of Sunday's reporting date for position players, will be one piece of Chicago's outfield puzzle. Maddon said he plans on taking a similar approach as last season, meaning the playing time will be managed based on matchups, planned rest and ensuring that the handful of outfield options are each getting enough plate appearances.

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes center fielder Albert Almora Jr. will soon grow into being an everyday player. That, however, is not likely to be the case when the regular season begins.

The 24-year-old Almora, who was in camp on Friday ahead of Sunday's reporting date for position players, will be one piece of Chicago's outfield puzzle. Maddon said he plans on taking a similar approach as last season, meaning the playing time will be managed based on matchups, planned rest and ensuring that the handful of outfield options are each getting enough plate appearances.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"He's still young," Maddon said. "And I know, when you are young, impatience, being impetuous, is really a part of that age bracket. His time to be an everyday player is probably on the horizon. But among the mix that we have right now, and if everybody is well, you're going to still see a lot of what we did last year, trying to put them in there against their best matchups and making sure that everybody is being taken care of and developed."

Maddon said the goal is to have Almora continue to show improvement against right-handed pitching in order to earn more days in the starting lineup. Last season, the center fielder's strong start (.332 average and .830 OPS through June) was followed by a second-half slide (.232 average and .548 OPS from July 1 through the end of the year). For the season, Almora had a .684 OPS and 84 wRC+ against righties, compared to a .742 OPS and 101 wRC+ against lefties.

Overall, Almora hit .286 with five homers, 30 extra-base hits, 41 RBIs and a .701 OPS in 152 games in 2018.

"Every year, every offseason is different and you learn a lot about yourself every year," Almora said. "Especially myself, I'm still considered young. I'm 24 years old and I'm learning a lot about myself. But, I feel great. I worked at every aspect."

Video: Hamels discusses 2019, Almora Jr. looks back at 2018

Back to baseball
Much of the first week of Cubs camp has been dominated by off-field issues. Atop the list has been the situation surrounding shortstop Addison Russell, who spoke with the media on Friday for the first time since being suspended last year for violating MLB's Domestic Violence Policy.

Maddon admitted that the week has been draining.

"Absolutely," Maddon said. "We are here to play baseball. I know we're part of the social fabric of this country and people watch us all the time, and we're very popular as baseball players. But I would prefer to get back to just talking about baseball. That's what we're here for. We're here to entertain."

Video: Russell, Maddon talk about Addison's suspension

The manager said he was "impressed and proud" of how Russell handled the press conference.

"Not easy for him to do," Maddon said. "I thought he held up really well. I talked to him afterwards. I talked to him again today. I gave him a big ol' hug, because I know that's probably the most difficult thing he's ever done publicly, or maybe ever done period. So I give him a lot of credit for that. I thought his answers really addressed the situation well. I also believe a moment like that can be a tremendous growth moment for a human being."

Bryant robs Almora
With his last swing of batting practice today, Almora drove a pitch to deep left-center field on one of the Cubs' spring diamonds. As the ball left Almora's bat, he yelled out, "You better catch that!"

Kris Bryant was roaming the outfield at the time and broke back to the fence, where he made a leaping catch to rob a would-be home run. His teammates erupted in cheers and Almora greeted him with a fist bump at the edge of the infield.

"Did you get that on camera?" Bryant quipped to reporters.

Worth noting
Mike Montgomery is dealing with stiffness in his throwing shoulder, according to Maddon. The lefty threw long toss during Friday morning's workout and could be back on a mound within the next few days.

• Right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who was signed to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training, has not been in camp yet due to visa issues. He is expected to arrive on Monday.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Chicago Cubs, Albert Almora Jr.

Maddon to take a 'fluid' approach to closer role

Alzolay 'completely healed' after inflammation, but Cubs cautious
MLB.com @MLBastian

MESA, Ariz. -- Standing at his locker, Cubs reliever Pedro Strop cracked a smile when asked for his thoughts on being the closer to start the season.

"Did he tell you I'm going to be the closer?" Strop said with a laugh, referring to manager Joe Maddon.

MESA, Ariz. -- Standing at his locker, Cubs reliever Pedro Strop cracked a smile when asked for his thoughts on being the closer to start the season.

"Did he tell you I'm going to be the closer?" Strop said with a laugh, referring to manager Joe Maddon.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

No, Maddon has not explicitly named Strop the ninth-inning man for the period of time that Brandon Morrow (right elbow) is on the injured list. That said, Strop is the most logical option as the primary man for the job, especially given his extensive track record of consistency for Chicago. And, when Morrow was sidelined last season, it was Strop who earned the bulk of the save opportunities.

Rather than name Strop the closer, though, Maddon said he is planning on taking a more "fluid" approach to the end of games in April. If a situation in the eighth inning warrants using Strop, the manager does not want to be pigeonholed into using someone else. That means relievers such as Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr. and Brad Brach could also be options for ninth-inning work.

Video: Brach and Maddon on Brach joining the Cubs

Maddon will look at matchups, as well as availability, when plotting out the ninth inning each night.

"I think primarily the focus will be who's rested, who hasn't pitched a couple days in a row," Maddon said. "And work it that way until Brandon becomes available. And when he becomes available, it's still not going to be an everyday kind of thing. So, I will work off numbers, but I think with this particular group, a lot of it will have to do with who's most rested."

Strop, who had a 2.26 ERA in 60 games with 13 saves last year and has a 2.63 ERA with 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings over parts of six seasons with the Cubs, is on board with that kind of approach.

"If I'm the closer, that's fine. I'm going to take the challenge and pick my boy up," Strop said. "We've got a bunch of guys down there. I feel comfortable, because I'm not by myself down there. It's not like we've got a down bullpen. We had the best bullpen [ERA] in the National League. So, whatever we decide to do, we're willing to do it and ready to compete."

Alzolay on the mend
Cubs top pitching prospect Adbert Alzolay alerted the team's training staff last week that he felt a twinge in his right side while throwing off a mound. While Alzolay will be an estimated two weeks behind the rest of pitchers in camp this spring, he said an MRI exam only showed inflammation, and that the discomfort was unrelated to the lat injury that kept him sidelined for most of last season.

"That's completely healed. There's nothing wrong with it," Alzolay said on Friday morning. "I was worried. I knew it wasn't the same thing as last year, but still I was worried about it coming back again and all that. But then, when I woke up the next day, I was feeling really, really good. They talked to me and they said they just want to take really, really good care."

Tweet from @MLBastian: Adbert Alzolay, Cubs' top pitching prospect, says his right lat is completely healed. Recent side soreness was unrelated. Two weeks behind rest of arms. Hopes to reach MLB as starter or reliever this year."This year, the main goal is just to help the team in the big leagues." pic.twitter.com/isXg4VbQcV

General manager Jed Hoyer said the Cubs are taking "an abundance of caution" with the 23-year-old Alzolay, given that he was limited to eight starts for Triple-A Iowa last year due to the prior injury. This year, Alzolay -- ranked No. 2 by MLB Pipeline on the Cubs' Top 30 prospects list -- is ticketed for the Triple-A rotation again to start the year, but he could be on the MLB radar as a reliever at some point.

"I don't mind if I'm going to be a starter or I'm going to be a reliever this year," Alzolay said. "This year, the main goal is just to help the team in the big leagues. As a starter or as a reliever, it doesn't matter right now."

Worth noting
• With the rotation full at the moment, lefty Mike Montgomery is again preparing for a swing-man role. Montgomery will build up as a starter this spring, but then transition to a bullpen role if there are no setbacks with the starters. Then, he will head into the season as the next man up for the rotation.

"I'm going to really try to have fun with it, with the role," Montgomery said. "And embrace whatever it is that comes my way. It's challenging. There's different aspects you've got to really take care of, but I'm going to have fun with it."

• Brach agreed to a deal with the Cubs in late January, and the one-year, $4.35 million contract (with a club option for 2020) became official earlier this week. The reliever said it was stressful going through the free-agency process, especially with how slow the market has been to develop.

"It's just kind of weird that all offers are the same, they come around the same time," Brach said. "Everybody tells you there's an algorithm, but you figure teams have different ones. But, I don't know. It's definitely a weird process, and you can't figure it out. Luckily, the guys in the bullpen have been the ones that haven't been hurt as bad."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Chicago Cubs, Adbert Alzolay, Pedro Strop

Russell contrite, takes responsibility for actions

Cubs SS addresses suspension for violating domestic abuse policy
MLB.com @MLBastian

MESA, Ariz. -- Addison Russell spoke methodically, navigating his way through a series of questions several months in the making. When the Cubs shortstop took his seat in an interview room on Friday morning, it was his first time talking publicly about his ongoing suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Domestic Abuse Policy since being placed on administrative leave in September.

Russell repeatedly said he took accountability, but did so without delving into the specifics regarding his past actions. What the shortstop did detail was his ongoing treatment, which involves weekly counseling beyond what MLB has mandated. He also offered an apology to anyone impacted by his behavior, especially his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.

MESA, Ariz. -- Addison Russell spoke methodically, navigating his way through a series of questions several months in the making. When the Cubs shortstop took his seat in an interview room on Friday morning, it was his first time talking publicly about his ongoing suspension for violating Major League Baseball's Domestic Abuse Policy since being placed on administrative leave in September.

Russell repeatedly said he took accountability, but did so without delving into the specifics regarding his past actions. What the shortstop did detail was his ongoing treatment, which involves weekly counseling beyond what MLB has mandated. He also offered an apology to anyone impacted by his behavior, especially his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy.

"I am accountable for my past actions," Russell said. "I'm not proud of the person I was, but I do want to own this issue and take responsibility for the hurt and the pain that I have caused Melisa. And, for that, I am sorry."

Video: Addison Russell addresses his suspension

Russell is a full participant in Spring Training with the Cubs, meaning he can go through daily workouts and play in Cactus League games with the ballclub. Once Opening Day arrives, Russell will remain on MLB's restricted list and finish out the 40-game suspension handed out last season. The shortstop has 28 games left, making him eligible for return at the start of May.

As both manager Joe Maddon and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have emphasized, though, what Russell has been given is a "conditional" second chance. Epstein said both Russell and the team are in the "second inning" of this process, and there are no guarantees that the shortstop has a job waiting for him. Russell has to keep working his way through the treatment program and meeting the standards set before him by the Cubs.

"We've talked about the fact that there's so many ifs attached to him coming back right now," Maddon said on Friday. "If he continues to do what he's doing right now, obviously, everything's headed in the right direction. Within the group itself, a lot of it's going to depend on him."

Maddon said earlier this week that both he and Russell will address the team about this issue when the full squad is in camp. In the meantime, Russell has already been going through morning workouts with teammates and talking to them behind the scenes.

"My teammates have shown nothing but support for me and my family," Russell said. "I think through this whole process, the person that has been inflicted the most in this process is Melisa. And what I want to say to everyone here today, and also to her, is that I want to own those actions. And I am sorry for the hurt that I have caused Melisa and the pain that I put her through. And I am [making] my best efforts to become a better person."

Asked directly if he would no longer deny the accusations against him, Russell said: "I want to own my actions. I want to be accountable for the hurt that I put Melisa through and the pain that she went through. That's what I want to own."

Tweet from @MLBastian: Notebook from Mesa: Russell full participant in camp, Darvish starting strong, Alzolay setback and more: https://t.co/heH4PvGhqC via @MLB

Fully aware of the public scrutiny over the decision to retain Russell, the Cubs are also trying to address domestic violence not only with the shortstop and his ex-wife, but on a broader scale. Epstein noted this week that every employee in the organization has either completed or is going through a domestic violence awareness course. Staff members who are around players' families will take part in an even more extensive 40-hour program.

Epstein also said the Cubs are working with Family Rescue and the House of Good Shepherd to help further efforts to assist people impacted by domestic violence.

"Experts say you can never say domestic violence will never happen again here," Epstein said. "But you can still take every step necessary to ensure that this is the safest possible workplace and that we have the smallest possible chance of any domestic violence occurring within these walls."

Russell said he understands that he has disappointed a long list of people, and he knows that it will take time to repair the damage done both on the personal and professional fronts. He reiterated that baseball is secondary in all of this, as he works behind the scenes to better himself and his relationships.

"I understand that there's Cubs fans that don't understand this process that I'm going through," Russell said. "I'm sorry for letting the Cub fans down, along with the organization. What I want to say to them is, I am committed in my work to become a better person, and be a better person at the end of this."

Russell said that his relationship with Reidy is heading "in the right direction," and his therapy has contributed to an improved atmosphere with his family and children. He added that his family was appreciative of the fact that the Cubs did not simply cut ties with the shortstop.

Last year, when the allegations surfaced and the suspension followed, Russell said he hoped that the Cubs would give him a second chance.

"But I realize the severity of this issue," he said. "And I want to address this issue, and I want to be accountable for my past behaviors and tell everyone that I am committed."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Chicago Cubs, Addison Russell

Chatwood hopes small fix has big results in '19

Right-hander wants to prove himself as starting pitcher
MLB.com @MLBastian

MESA, Ariz. -- All Tyler Chatwood needs to do is look around the Cubs clubhouse to realize that the odds are stacked against him making the North Siders' starting rotation. In fact, there are so many arms in camp this spring that Chicago will need to invest a lot of time sorting out how the right-hander might fit into the roster puzzle at all.

Chatwood has his thoughts on the situation.

MESA, Ariz. -- All Tyler Chatwood needs to do is look around the Cubs clubhouse to realize that the odds are stacked against him making the North Siders' starting rotation. In fact, there are so many arms in camp this spring that Chicago will need to invest a lot of time sorting out how the right-hander might fit into the roster puzzle at all.

Chatwood has his thoughts on the situation.

"I want to be a starting pitcher," he said. "That's my goal coming out of spring, is to be a starting pitcher."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

That is all well and good, but Chatwood -- a pitcher in whom Cubs invested a three-year, $38 million contract before last season -- has a lot to prove over the next six weeks. Once a Statcast™ darling, Chatwood was unable to harness his elite spin rate last season. The pitcher struggled to harness much of anything in a season defined by a bloated walk rate (19.6 percent) and constant mechanical turmoil.

The offseason presented a clean slate, however, and Chatwood went to work on refining elements of his delivery with the goal of pitching his way back into favor this spring. During Wednesday's sessions, Chatwood was throwing off a mound rigged with high-speed cameras and instant-data feedback. Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy was able to watch in person what he'd seen on videos sent to him over the offseason.

"Watching him," Hottovy said, "he was definitely being able to [implement a mechanical change] and not revert back to some of the things that were causing issues last year. I think he's in a great, great place. And again, [Wednesday] was the first day with as much attention and people out and around him. And I think he handled it great. He's focused on the right things."

Over the offseason, Chatwood got his work in at the University of Redlands in California, where two of the school's coaches (Chris Hernandez and Ryan Garcia) helped him iron out a delivery flaw. Chatwood explained that he eliminated a glove tap at the start of his throwing motion last year, but he was still sort of stabbing his right hand in the direction of third base. This caused a chain reaction, ending with his hand not being in sync with his landing foot.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon called it a subtle, but pertinent adjustment that would be hard for an average onlooker to even decipher. But if the alteration becomes second nature this spring and Chatwood (5.30 ERA in 103 2/3 innings in 2018) can consistently find the strike zone, then Chicago will have an interesting discussion about how to best utilize the right-hander.

The Cubs' projected rotation will feature Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. That has pushed lefty swingman Mike Montgomery to the crowded bullpen field. If Chatwood can command the strike zone this spring, he could be in the mix for a relief job as well.

"You just don't know what's going to happen over the course of a camp. You don't know," Maddon said. "I'm very open-minded about it. This guy's a high-level talent. Keep an open mind. Let him go play. Let him go play and his abilities will answer the questions."

Chatwood was asked what he learned from last season's trials.

"How strong-willed I am," he said. "I think last year I beat myself. I don't think anybody else really beat me. I kind of beat up myself with all the free passes I handed out. Like I said, I think that just shows mental toughness that I have. I still wanted the ball every day last year, which I think says a lot. A lot of guys might've run away from it. But I'm excited to get going."

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Chicago Cubs, Tyler Chatwood

Edwards hopes pause in delivery aids accuracy

Cubs shrug off latest NL Central projections; Hottovy out to collect data
MLB.com @MLBastian

MESA, Ariz. -- The delivery that Carl Edwards Jr. unveiled during his first official bullpen session of Spring Training this week looked a lot like the one used by Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The Cubs reliever kicked his left leg high, but then he paused after bringing his foot down, hesitating before driving toward the plate.

MESA, Ariz. -- The delivery that Carl Edwards Jr. unveiled during his first official bullpen session of Spring Training this week looked a lot like the one used by Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The Cubs reliever kicked his left leg high, but then he paused after bringing his foot down, hesitating before driving toward the plate.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

That was by design.

"I watched a lot of video of Jansen," Edwards said. "I think that's probably why he has so much control. He actually gets his foot down and gets his breath and he can deliver the pitch."

Edwards worked on the mechanical change during the offseason, starting with mimicking the pause in front of a mirror. The right-hander then tried it out while playing catch and eventually took it to mound workouts. The idea was his, but the idea behind it aligns with what the Cubs want to see from Edwards this spring and during the upcoming season.

Tweet from @MLBastian: Carl Edwards Jr. said, yes, he studied Kenley Jansen���s delivery this offseason and incorporated the hesitation over the rubber. Hope is that it helps hone his command of the zone. pic.twitter.com/QtsGnUoxtd

Last season, the 27-year-old Edwards turned in a 2.60 ERA with a 30.2 percent strikeout rate over 52 innings (67 punchouts), but he struggled to stay in the strike zone. The righty issued 32 walks, which equated to a 14.4 percent walk rate. As Chicago continues to look to get the most out of Edwards' electric arm, especially to help pick up the slack while closer Brandon Morrow is sidelined in April, the team hopes to see better control of the zone.

• Morrow's injury adds intrigue to Cubs' bullpen

The delivery adjustment is aimed at helping Edwards improve in that area.

"I think that's a really good drill to do now," said Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, who noted that the method would be used with no runners on base. "It's going to be a work in progress, but I like the early signs of it, because he's staying over himself, he's gathered. And you can see he goes up and down and he was balanced and he's able to drive."

Cubs ignoring latest projections
The recently released PECOTA projections by Baseball Prospectus have the Cubs with an 80-82 record, as things currently stand. The Brewers are projected to be back atop the National League Central with an 88-74 record.

"It is entertaining," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, shrugging off the latest projections. "Who knows why or how they arrive at that stuff? But it really means nothing. It really does mean nothing. You've got to go out and play the game. You've got to compete. I have zero interest in something like that."

• 2019 projections split on Cubs, Brewers

It's worth noting that the FanGraphs' projections have the Cubs in first with 88 wins and the Brewers in the division cellar with 79 wins.

"I don't pay attention to it," Edwards said. "The last few years, we have been that team to beat. I still feel that same way about it. I still feel like we're the team to beat, regardless of how teams are stacked up now."

Cubs collecting data
In the early portion of camp, Hottovy wants to have as many relievers as possible pitch on the mounds rigged with Edgertronic high-speed cameras and Rapsodo data-collection units. That will give the pitchers footage and information to pore over as they refine their deliveries. The starting pitchers will also get time on those mounds closer to when games begin.

"Having two [mounds wired] lets me get six guys a day," Hottovy said. "We can get guys on there on a consistent basis and really get baselines, get video. Guys come in right when they're done and are able to watch that and compare data and see where they're at."

Quote to note
"As a kid growing up, we all played. And I promise you, not one time when you're in Little League or even high school or college did you worry about mechanics as much as you worried that you wanted to beat the other team with that other name on it. Really, that's an over-simplification, but I want us to reduce the game to that. When it says St. Louis on the jersey, beat it. When it says Milwaukee, you want to beat it. Again, I think we get so enamored with all this other stuff that you just forget to compete sometimes." -- Maddon

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Chicago Cubs, Carl Edwards Jr.

Projected 2019 lineups, rotations for every team

MLB.com

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS
Lineup:
1. Devon Travis, 2B
2. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., SS
3. Justin Smoak, 1B
4. Kendrys Morales, DH
5. Randal Grichuk, RF
6. Teoscar Hernandez, LF
7. Kevin Pillar, CF
8. Brandon Drury, 3B
9. Danny Jansen, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
3. Ryan Borucki, LHP
4. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
5. Clayton Richard, LHP
Closer: Ken Giles, RHP

ORIOLES
Lineup:
1. Cedric Mullins, CF
2. Jonathan Villar, 2B
3. Trey Mancini, LF
4. Mark Trumbo, DH
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Renato Nunez, 3B
7. DJ Stewart, RF
8. Richie Martin, SS
9. Chance Sisco, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Andrew Cashner, RHP
3. Alex Cobb, RHP
4. David Hess, RHP
5. Nate Karns, RHP
Closer: Mychal Givens, RHP

RAYS
Lineup:
1. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
2. Matt Duffy, 3B
3. Tommy Pham, LF
4. Ji-Man Choi, DH
5. Willy Adames, SS
6. Yandy Diaz, 1B
7. Austin Meadows, RF
8. Mike Zunino, C
9. Joey Wendle, 2B

Rotation and closer:
1. Blake Snell, LHP
2. Charlie Morton, RHP
3. Opener
4. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
5. Opener
Closer: Jose Alvarado, LHP

RED SOX
Lineup:
1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
2. Mookie Betts, RF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. Christian Vazquez, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Chris Sale, LHP
2. David Price, LHP
3. Rick Porcello, RHP
4. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Closer: Matt Barnes, RHP 

YANKEES
Lineup:
1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Gary Sanchez, C
6. Miguel Andujar, 3B
7. Gleyber Torres, 2B
8. Luke Voit, 1B
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Luis Severino, RHP
2. James Paxton, LHP
3. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
4. J.A. Happ, LHP
5. CC Sabathia, LHP
Closer: Aroldis Chapman, LHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

INDIANS
Lineup:
1. Leonys Martin, CF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Carlos Santana, DH
5. Jake Bauers, 1B
6. Tyler Naquin, RF
7. Jordan Luplow, LF
8. Roberto Perez, C
9. Yu Chang, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Corey Kluber, RHP
2. Trevor Bauer, RHP
3. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
4. Mike Clevinger, RHP
5. Shane Bieber, RHP
Closer: Brad Hand, LHP

ROYALS
Lineup:
1. Whit Merrifield, 2B
2. Adalberto Mondesi, SS
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Jorge Soler, DH
5. Salvador Perez, C
6. Ryan O'Hearn,1B
7. Hunter Dozier, 3B
8. Brett Phillips, RF
9. Billy Hamilton, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Danny Duffy, LHP
2. Brad Keller, RHP
3. Jakob Junis, RHP
4. Ian Kennedy, RHP
5. Jorge Lopez, RHP
Closer: Brad Boxberger, RHP

TIGERS
Lineup:
1. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
2. Christin Stewart, LF
3. Nicholas Castellanos, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Niko Goodrum, 2B
6. John Hicks, DH
7. Grayson Greiner, C
8. JaCoby Jones, CF
9. Jordy Mercer, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Matthew Boyd, LHP
2. Michael Fulmer, RHP
3. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
4. Matt Moore, LHP
5. Tyson Ross, RHP
Closer: Shane Greene, RHP

TWINS
Lineup:
1. Jorge Polanco, SS
2. Eddie Rosario, LF
3. Miguel Sano, 3B
4. Nelson Cruz, DH
5. C.J. Cron, 1B
6. Max Kepler, RF
7. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
8. Jason Castro, C
9. Byron Buxton, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Jose Berrios, RHP
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP
3. Michael Pineda, RHP
4. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
5. Martin Perez, LHP
Closer: Trevor May, RHP

WHITE SOX
Lineup:
1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Yoan Moncada, 2B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Yonder Alonso, DH
5. Welington Castillo, C
6. Daniel Palka, LF
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Yolmer Sanchez, 3B
9. Adam Engel, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
2. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
3. Ivan Nova, RHP
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP
5. Manny Banuelos, LHP
Closer: Alex Colome, RHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

ANGELS
Lineup:
1. Zack Cozart, 3B
2. Mike Trout, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Justin Bour, 1B
5. Albert Pujols, DH
6. Andrelton Simmons, SS
7. Kole Calhoun, RF
8. David Fletcher, 2B
9. Jonathan Lucroy, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
2. Andrew Heaney, LHP
3. Matt Harvey, RHP
4. Trevor Cahill, RHP
5. Jaime Barria, RHP
Closer: Cody Allen, RHP

ASTROS
Lineup:
1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Michael Brantley, LF
6. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
7. Josh Reddick, RF
8. Tyler White, DH
9. Robinson Chirinos, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Justin Verlander, RHP
2. Gerrit Cole, RHP
3. Wade Miley, LHP
4. Collin McHugh, RHP
5. Josh James, RHP
Closer: Roberto Osuna, RHP

ATHLETICS
Lineup:
1. Nick Martini, LF
2. Matt Chapman, 3B
3. Matt Olson, 1B
4. Khris Davis, DH
5. Stephen Piscotty, RF
6. Jurickson Profar, 2B
7. Ramon Laureano, CF
8. Marcus Semien, SS
9. Chris Herrmann, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Fiers, RHP
2. Marco Estrada, RHP
3. Brett Anderson, LHP
4. Daniel Mengden, RHP
5. Paul Blackburn, RHP
Closer: Blake Treinen, RHP

MARINERS
Lineup:
1. Mallex Smith, CF
2. Mitch Haniger, RF
3. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
4. Kyle Seager, 3B
5. Domingo Santana, LF
6. Ryon Healy, 1B
7. Omar Narvaez, C
8. Tim Beckham, SS
9. Dee Gordon, 2B

Rotation and closer:
1. Marco Gonzales, LHP
2. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
3. Mike Leake, RHP
4. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
5. Felix Hernandez, RHP
Closer: Hunter Strickland, RHP

RANGERS
Lineup:
1. Delino DeShields, CF
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, DH
4. Nomar Mazara, RF
5. Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B
6. Joey Gallo, LF
7. Rougned Odor, 2B
8. Ronald Guzman, 1B
9. Jeff Mathis, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Minor, LHP 
2. Lance Lynn, RHP
3. Drew Smyly, LHP
4. Edinson Volquez, RHP
5. Shelby Miller, RHP
Closer: Jose Leclerc, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES
Lineup:
1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Ronald Acuna Jr., LF
5. Nick Markakis, RF
6. Tyler Flowers, C
7. Ozzie Albies, 2B
8. Dansby Swanson, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
3. Kevin Gausman, RHP
4. Julio Teheran, RHP
5. Touki Toussaint, RHP
Closer: Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

MARLINS
Lineup:
1. Lewis Brinson, CF
2. Curtis Granderson, LF
3. Starlin Castro, 2B
4. Brian Anderson, 3B
5. Peter O'Brien, RF
6. Neil Walker, 1B
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. JT Riddle, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jose Urena, RHP
2. Dan Straily, RHP
3. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP
4. Sandy Alcantara, RHP
5. Trevor Richards, RHP
Closer: Drew Steckenrider, RHP

METS
Lineup:
1. Brandon Nimmo, RF
2. Jed Lowrie, 3B
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Wilson Ramos, C
5. Michael Conforto, LF
6. Todd Frazier, 1B
7. Juan Lagares, CF
8. Amed Rosario, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jacob deGrom, RHP
2. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP
4. Steven Matz, LHP
5. Jason Vargas, LHP
Closer: Edwin Diaz, RHP

NATIONALS
Lineup:
1. Adam Eaton, RF
2. Trea Turner, SS
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Juan Soto, LF
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
6. Brian Dozier, 2B
7. Victor Robles, CF
8. Yan Gomes, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Max Scherzer, RHP
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP
3. Patrick Corbin, LHP
4. Anibal Sanchez, RHP
5. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
Closer: Sean Doolittle, LHP

PHILLIES
Lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. J.T. Realmuto, C
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Andrew McCutchen, LF
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Nick Williams, RF

Rotation and closer:
1. Aaron Nola, RHP
2. Jake Arrieta, RHP
3. Nick Pivetta, RHP
4. Zach Eflin, RHP
5. Vince Velasquez, RHP
Closer: David Robertson, RHP, or Seranthony Dominguez, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

BREWERS
Lineup:
1. Lorenzo Cain, CF
2. Christian Yelich, RF
3. Ryan Braun, LF
4. Travis Shaw, 3B
5. Jesus Aguilar, 1B
6. Yasmani Grandal, C
7. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
8. Orlando Arcia, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
2. Chase Anderson, RHP
3. Zach Davies, RHP
4. Jimmy Nelson, RHP
5. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Closer: Corey Knebel, RHP

CARDINALS
Lineup:
1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Paul DeJong, SS
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Dexter Fowler, RF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
8. Harrison Bader, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Miles Mikolas, RHP
2. Carlos Martinez, RHP
3. Jack Flaherty, RHP
4. Michael Wacha, RHP
5. Adam Wainwright, RHP
Closer: Andrew Miller, LHP

CUBS
Lineup:
1. Ben Zobrist, 2B
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Javier Baez, SS
5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
6. Willson Contreras, C
7. Jason Heyward, RF
8. Albert Almora Jr., CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Jon Lester, LHP
2. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
3. Cole Hamels, LHP
4. Yu Darvish, RHP
5. Jose Quintana, LHP
Closer: Pedro Strop, RHP

PIRATES
Lineup:
1. Adam Frazier, 2B
2. Starling Marte, CF
3. Corey Dickerson, LF
4. Josh Bell, 1B
5. Francisco Cervelli, C
6. Colin Moran, 3B
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
8. Erik Gonzalez, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
2. Chris Archer, RHP
3. Trevor Williams, RHP
4. Joe Musgrove, RHP
5. Jordan Lyles, RHP
Closer: Felipe Vazquez, LHP

REDS
Lineup:
1. Jesse Winker, LF
2. Jose Peraza, SS
3. Joey Votto, 1B
4. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
5. Scooter Gennett, 2B
6. Yasiel Puig, RF
7. Scott Schebler, CF
8. Tucker Barnhart, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Sonny Gray, RHP
2. Tanner Roark, RHP
3. Alex Wood, LHP
4. Luis Castillo, RHP
5. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
Closer: Raisel Iglesias, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-BACKS
Lineup:
1. Ketel Marte, CF
2. Eduardo Escobar, 3B
3. David Peralta, LF
4. Steven Souza Jr., RF
5. Jake Lamb, 1B
6. Wilmer Flores, 2B
7. Nick Ahmed, SS
8. Alex Avila, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Zack Greinke, RHP
2. Robbie Ray, LHP
3. Zack Godley, RHP
4. Luke Weaver, RHP
5. Merrill Kelly, RHP
Closer: Archie Bradley, RHP

DODGERS
Lineup:
1. A.J. Pollock, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Justin Turner, 3B
4. Cody Bellinger, RF
5. Max Muncy, 1B
6. Chris Taylor, 2B
7. Joc Pederson, LF
8. Austin Barnes, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Walker Buehler, RHP
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP
4. Rich Hill, LHP
5. Kenta Maeda, RHP
Closer: Kenley Jansen, RHP

GIANTS
Lineup:
1. Steven Duggar, CF
2. Joe Panik, 2B
3. Buster Posey, C
4. Brandon Belt, 1B
5. Evan Longoria, 3B
6. Brandon Crawford, SS
7. Gerardo Parra, LF
8. Mac Williamson, RF

Rotation and closer:
1. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
2. Derek Holland, LHP
3. Dereck Rodriguez, RHP
4. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
5. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
Closer: Will Smith, LHP

PADRES
Lineup:
1. Manuel Margot, CF
2. Luis Urias, SS
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Franmil Reyes, RF
5. Wil Myers, LF
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Austin Hedges, C
8. Ty France, 3B

Rotation and closer:
1. Joey Lucchesi, LHP
2. Eric Lauer, LHP
3. Robbie Erlin, LHP
4. Bryan Mitchell, RHP
5. Matt Strahm, LHP
Closer: Kirby Yates, RHP

ROCKIES
Lineup:
1. Charlie Blackmon, LF
2. David Dahl, RF
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Trevor Story, SS
5. Daniel Murphy, 1B
6. Ian Desmond, CF
7. Ryan McMahon, 2B
8. Chris Iannetta, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Kyle Freeland, LHP
2. German Marquez, RHP
3. Tyler Anderson, LHP
4. Jon Gray, RHP
5. Chad Bettis, RHP
Closer: Wade Davis, RHP

Prospects who should vie for a roster spot

MLB.com

As Spring Training gets underway, MLB.com has taken a closer look at prospects getting the chance to show what they can do in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. For example, there's been a story on 20 prospects likely to be impact rookies during the 2019 season.

Our beat writers also singled out one prospect to watch in each big league camp. But that didn't necessarily focus on prospects vying for Opening Day jobs. The 30 prospects below all are getting very long looks this spring with an eye toward breaking camp with the parent club. Even if they start the year in the Minors, they all should get the chance to contribute at some point in the very near future.

As Spring Training gets underway, MLB.com has taken a closer look at prospects getting the chance to show what they can do in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. For example, there's been a story on 20 prospects likely to be impact rookies during the 2019 season.

Our beat writers also singled out one prospect to watch in each big league camp. But that didn't necessarily focus on prospects vying for Opening Day jobs. The 30 prospects below all are getting very long looks this spring with an eye toward breaking camp with the parent club. Even if they start the year in the Minors, they all should get the chance to contribute at some point in the very near future.

American League East

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B (No. 1 on Top 100 Prospects list)
Guerrero probably won't land on the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster as the club looks to retain an extra year of control over one of the best prospects in history. However, it almost goes without saying that the 20-year-old third baseman is ready to make an impact in the big leagues after he led the Minors in average (.381), slugging (.636) and OPS (1.073) in 2018. With his 80-grade bat and potential to hit 35-plus homers, Guerrero should become one of the sport's premier talents in short order.

Video: MLB Network on Vlad Jr. being game's top prospect

Orioles: Richie Martin, SS
Left off the A's 40-man roster despite his breakout 2018 season in Double-A, the '15 first-rounder became the first selection in the Rule 5 Draft in December. A plus defender who runs well and hits for average, albeit without much pop, Martin is penciled in as the Orioles' Opening Day shortstop right now, and he does enough things well to stick on the active roster in a reserve role.

Rays: Brandon Lowe, 2B/OF 
Breaking out in earnest in 2018, Lowe slugged his way up to Triple-A and hit 14 homers there to earn his first big league callup in August. With the Rays, he overcame an 0-for-19 start to his career to finish with six home runs and a .774 OPS in 129 at-bats, keeping his prospect status in place. Given Tampa Bay's emphasis on defensive versatility, Lowe, with his ability to play both second base and the outfield, is a candidate to get regular at-bats in '19.

Red Sox: Colten Brewer, RHP
In search of low-cost bullpen options, Boston acquired Brewer from the Padres in November in exchange for second-base prospect Esteban Quiroz. Brewer has a difference-making pitch in a 92-96 mph fastball with tremendous natural cut, and he also has a power curveball that he doesn't always land for strikes.

Yankees: Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP (MLB No. 66)
New York doesn't have an obvious rotation opening after trading for James Paxton and re-signing J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia. But Loaisiga impressed at times during his big league debut last summer and has three pitches (fastball, curveball, changeup) that grade as plus or better when at their best.

AL Central

Indians: Yu Chang, SS/3B
Chang is not going to dislodge Francisco Lindor from shortstop, but he is capable of playing second and third base and winning at least a utility role this spring. He could approximate the production Cleveland gets out of Jason Kipnis at second base for a fraction of the veteran's $14.5 million salary.

Royals: Richard Lovelady, LHP
The Royals do have a pair of Rule 5 Draft picks in Sam McWilliams and Chris Ellis, and we know they like to keep those guys, as well as hard-throwing prospects like Josh Staumont. But Lovelady's funky delivery and potential to have three very usable pitches gives him the chance to get some high-leverage innings very soon.

Tigers: Christin Stewart, OF
The second of Detroit's two first-round picks in 2015, Stewart reached the Majors for the first time last September after hitting 93 home runs in 460 Minor League games. He homered twice in the big leagues, hitting both as part of a multihomer performance against the Royals, and he impressed with an approach that has improved in every season. While his limitations on defense suggest that Stewart will likely see most of his time as a DH, he has the combination of massive raw power and on-base skills to stick in the role.

Twins: Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
Gonsalves' first taste of the big leagues didn't go so well last year, but the hope is the adversity he faced there, along with some mechanical tweaks he's made, will help him going forward. The Twins' rotation is crowded, but look for this lefty to help out at some point in 2019.

White Sox: Eloy Jimenez, OF (MLB No. 3)
Jimenez not only should win a corner-outfield job with the White Sox, but he also should be their best offensive player as a rookie. While the No. 3 overall prospect may have his arrival in Chicago further delayed by service-time considerations, he's ready to rake after batting .337/.384/.577 with 22 homers in the upper Minors a year ago.

Video: MLB Network on talent of No. 3 prospect Eloy Jimenez

AL West

A's: Jesus Luzardo, LHP (MLB No. 12)
A lot of eyes are on the top lefty pitching prospect in baseball, as he is being given every chance to make the A's rotation this spring. Keep in mind, though, he's only made four starts above Double-A, so a little seasoning could be in order. Expect him to pitch well enough in Cactus League games to make the decision very tough.

 Video: Luzardo on feeling no pressure and improving in 2019

Angels: Ty Buttrey, RHP
The Angels clearly liked Buttrey enough to get him in the Ian Kinsler trade with the Red Sox last summer, but they were more impressed with his complete repertoire than they anticipated. In addition to his outstanding fastball, he has the chance to have two excellent secondary pitches, which points to a future pitching late in games.

Astros: Josh James, RHP (MLB No. 62)
A 34th-round pick out of Western Oklahoma JC in 2014, James broke out last year by leading the Minors in strikeout rate (13.5 per nine innings) and claiming a spot on Houston's postseason roster. He misses bats with three pitches and should open the season in the Astros' rotation provided he throws enough strikes.

Mariners: Justus Sheffield, LHP (MLB No. 43)
The M's acquired Sheffield in the Paxton deal with the expectation he'd contribute to the rotation in 2019. If everyone is healthy, Seattle has a set five ready to go, but the young lefty will get a long look and could break through with a strong spring, or at least be ready to be the first one to answer the bell when there's a need.

Rangers: C.D. Pelham, LHP
Pelham rocketed from Class A Advanced to Texas last year and has the highest upside of any of the left-handed relievers on the club's 40-man roster. With a fastball that can reach the upper 90s and a cutter that can be unhittable at times, he just needs to throw strikes to become a late-inning force.

National League East

Braves: Touki Toussaint, RHP (MLB No. 50)
So many pitchers, so little room. A number of pitching prospects who contributed to the Braves' playoff push will get innings in Florida, with Mike Soroka, Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson coming most to mind. Toussaint, though, made a lasting impression and landed on the postseason roster, giving him a small leg up.

Marlins: Sandy Alcantara, RHP
Alcantara might have the best stuff of any of Miami's rotation candidates, though he still needs to prove he can harness it on a regular basis. He can reach triple digits with his fastball and carve up hitters with his slider and curveball when they're working.

Mets: Peter Alonso, 1B (MLB No. 51)
After he tied for the Minor League lead with 36 homers and led it outright with 119 RBIs in 2018, Alonso enters the season with nothing left to prove in the Minors. There was clamoring from fans for the Mets to promote him late last season, and that is likely to carry over into Spring Training. The Mets must keep Alonso in the Minors until mid-April if they want to ensure an extra year of team control, though with the organization seemingly in win-now mode, a spot on the Opening Day roster could be a possibility.

Video: Top Prospects: Peter Alonso, 1B, Mets

Nationals: Victor Robles, OF (MLB No. 4)
After making his debut in the big leagues as a 20-year-old and then winning a spot on the Nationals' postseason roster in 2017, Robles appeared poised for an everyday role in the team's outfield last season until a hyperextended left elbow in April derailed his progress, landing him on the injured list for three months. Robles should finally get his chance as the Nats' center fielder in 2019, and has the type of across-the-board tools -- headlined by top-of-the-scale speed and defense -- that could make him an impact player in all facets of the game.

Phillies: Enyel De Los Santos, RHP
The Phillies have some pitching depth amassing at the top of the system, with lefties like Ranger Suarez, JoJo Romero and Cole Irvin all just about ready to help out. De Los Santos chipped in last year and has the stuff that would fit well out of the bullpen if that's where the need is in Philadelphia.

NL Central

Brewers: Keston Hiura, 2B (MLB No. 20)
The No. 9 pick in the 2017 Draft, Hiura raked his way up to Double-A in his first full season, then garnered MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League after he led the circuit in RBIs. The Brewers likely will send Hiura, a plus hitter with plus power potential, to the Minors to begin the season so as to offer him more upper-level experience. However, second base has also been a black hole of production for the club in recent years, and there's no better prospect at the keystone in the Minors than Hiura.

Cardinals: Alex Reyes, RHP (MLB No. 33)
After Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2017 and delayed the start of his campaign in '18, Reyes, the Cardinals' top prospect in each of the past four years, returned to the Majors last June, only to leave his first start with a torn tendon in his lat muscle that required season-ending surgery. His rehab schedule has him on track to pitch during Spring Training, and if he proves to be healthy, Reyes, with his power stuff and knack for missing bats, would be a welcome addition to the Cards' Opening Day rotation.

Video: Mayo on Reyes being a prospect to keep an eye out for

Cubs: Dakota Mekkes, RHP
Mekkes led NCAA Division I in hit rate (4.1 per nine innings) and strikeout rate (15.2) at Michigan State in 2016, and has put up similarly crazy numbers in three years as a pro: 1.16 ERA, 5.3 hits and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. He succeeds largely on the basis of a low-90s fastball that plays way above its velocity because of his extension and deception, just the kind of different look that would fit nicely in the middle innings for the bullpen-needy Cubs.

Pirates: Kevin Newman, SS
Jordy Mercer is gone, so there will be competition for the shortstop gig in Pittsburgh. Most think Erik Gonzalez will be the guy, but Newman will get the chance to win it and push Gonzalez to a utility role. The former first-round pick has hit in the Minors, but looked overmatched during his brief big league debut last year.

Reds: Nick Senzel, OF (MLB No. 6)
Senzel was primarily a third baseman. Then he saw time at second. Now he's learning how to play center field. Even though injuries curtailed Senzel's 2018 season, the Reds think Senzel's bat is just about ready, so they're trying to find a spot for it in their lineup, and center might be the best opportunity right now.

NL West

D-backs: Yoan Lopez, RHP
Signed by Arizona for more than $8 million in 2015, Lopez overcame a host of struggles early in his career, both on and off the field, to put it all together in '18. He made the jump from Double-A, where he had averaged 12.7 K/9, to the Majors in September and showcased electric stuff out the D-backs' bullpen, pairing a fastball that reached 99 mph with a wipeout mid-80s slider.

Dodgers: Alex Verdugo, OF (MLB No. 35)
One of the best pure hitters in the Minors, Verdugo has batted .321 in Triple-A the past two seasons as one of the youngest regulars in the Pacific Coast League. But Los Angeles still has a logjam of outfielders, even after trading Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig to the Reds, so he faces an uphill battle.

Giants: Chris Shaw, OF
No Giant managed more than 16 home runs last year, a total Shaw easily could top if he wins San Francisco's wide-open left-field job. He has averaged 23 homers in three full Minor League seasons and his first big league shot was a 468-foot blast off Seunghwan Oh last September.

Padres: Francisco Mejia, C (MLB No. 26)
Acquired from the Indians at last year's All-Star break for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, Mejia slashed .328/.364/.582 with seven homers in 31 Triple-A games after the trade before joining the Padres in the big leagues as a September callup. He's an advanced switch-hitter who makes a lot of hard contact from both sides of the plate, though his defense is inferior to Austin Hedges'.

Video: Top Prospects: Francisco Mejia, C, Padres

Rockies: Brendan Rodgers, INF (MLB No. 10)
With DJ LeMahieu signing a free agent deal with the Yankees, second base is up for grabs in Colorado. Rodgers, who has seen time at three infield spots in the Minors, joins fellow prospect Garrett Hampson and recently graduated prospect Ryan McMahon among those competing for the job. He might start the year in Triple-A, but look for him to hit his way back up quickly.

Cubs add lefty reliever Cedeno to 'pen mix

MLB.com @MLBastian

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said on Tuesday that he wanted to try to squeeze one more reliever into the mix for Spring Training. It did not take him long to check off that box.

On Thursday, the Cubs announced a deal with left-hander Xavier Cedeno on a non-guaranteed contract that will include a $900,000 base salary with incentives available, as first reported by The Athletic's Patrick Mooney.

MESA, Ariz. -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said on Tuesday that he wanted to try to squeeze one more reliever into the mix for Spring Training. It did not take him long to check off that box.

On Thursday, the Cubs announced a deal with left-hander Xavier Cedeno on a non-guaranteed contract that will include a $900,000 base salary with incentives available, as first reported by The Athletic's Patrick Mooney.

"We'd love to be in a position where we can withstand a couple injuries in Spring Training," Epstein said on Tuesday, "and still put a really quality bullpen out there. That's one area where the market's been pretty soft and pretty slow developing, and we've been active."

Cedeno, 32, appeared in 48 games between stints with the White Sox and Brewers last season, posting a 2.43 ERA. Prior to joining the White Sox, he pitched for the Astros, Nationals and Rays from 2011-17. He has a career ERA of 3.69 over 175 2/3 innings.

Tweet from @MLBastian: Brandon Morrow built up to 90 feet in catch this morning. His unavailability for April has contributed to the Cubs' bullpen competition this spring: https://t.co/IUBF61Wkf9