Cubs announce player pool; 10 spots open
CHICAGO -- The first step toward baseball officially returning to Wrigley Field has arrived.
On Sunday, the Cubs submitted their 60-man player pool to Major League Baseball, giving the first look at the group that Chicago will lean on in the upcoming 60-game season. The club left 10 spots vacant for potential additions. The core of the roster is filled with the usual stars -- a group led by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Willson Contreras, among others -- but a handful of the final slots were given to some interesting prospects.
The Cubs' pool will include 39 players training at Wrigley Field for summer camp, leading up to the July 23 or 24 regular-season opener (yet to be announced). Chicago will also have 11 players working out at Class A South Bend's facilities, which are being utilized as the Cubs' alternate training site. Players must report by Wednesday, with the first workout scheduled for Friday.
According to MLB's Operating Manual, all players on a 40-man roster “that the Club anticipates participating” during the season will be part of the player pool, while the rest will be made up of non-40-man roster players under contract. Any 40-man-roster players who are not included in a player pool (for example, maybe a prospect who isn’t deemed ready for the Majors) will still be paid during the season.
Here is a breakdown of the roster Chicago turned in prior to Sunday's 3 p.m. CT deadline:
# -- Notes player heading to alternate training site
^ -- Notes non-roster player
Catchers (5): Miguel Amaya#, Victor Caratini, Willson Contreras, P.J. Higgins^, Josh Phegley^
No surprises here. Contreras started for the National League in each of the past two All-Star Games and returns as the Cubs' No. 1, with the switch-hitting Caratini behind him. With the designated hitter in play this year, it will be interesting to see if manager David Ross finds games in which to keep both bats in the lineup.
Phegley represents the top option as the third catcher, and he was in the mix for a bench job at the end of March as the Cubs weighed their approach to the 26th roster spot. Now with 30 roster spots on Opening Day, it could be easier to carry a third catcher, if so desired.
Higgins joins the crop of catchers at Wrigley Field, while Amaya (No. 4 on the Cubs' Top 30 list) will continue his development at the South Bend site for now.
Infielders (9): Javier Báez, David Bote, Kris Bryant, Daniel Descalso, Robel Garcia#, Nico Hoerner, Jason Kipnis^, Christopher Morel#^, Anthony Rizzo
During Spring Training, the Cubs were still considering their options for the competition at second base, which would in turn impact the makeup of the bench. With rosters expanded to 30 (then to 28 after two weeks and back to 26 a month into the season), Chicago can delay some of those decisions while mixing and matching.
Hoerner (No. 1 prospect) can be mixed in at second, while serving as a backup to Báez at shortstop.
Bryant and Rizzo are expected to be atop the lineup in the Nos. 1-2 slots, setting the tone for what the Cubs hope is a dynamic offense. Even in an abbreviated campaign, though, don't expect the trade rumors that swirled around Bryant to go away in the weeks leading up to the Trade Deadline (Aug. 31 this year).
Outfielders (6) Albert Almora Jr., Brennen Davis#^, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Ian Miller^, Kyle Schwarber, Steven Souza Jr., Mark Zagunis#^
The pleasant surprise here is the inclusion of the 20-year-old Davis, who played 50 games with Class A South Bend last year. Davis hit .305 with 20 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs and a .907 OPS and put himself on the radar as a top prospect. Now, the outfielder will have a chance to keep training and developing around more seasoned players.
The MLB cast here is as expected, though the addition of the DH opens up some options for the Cubs. Chicago will have flexibility to rotate Happ, Schwarber and Souza (out all of 2019 due to a left knee injury) through the DH slot as the club sees fit in the name of matchups and defense.
The fleet-footed Miller made a strong impression during Spring Training (.382 average and eight stolen bases in 17 Cactus League games) and was in the mix for the 26th roster spot. He could also benefit from the larger roster on Opening Day.
Pitchers (28) Jason Adam#^, Adbert Alzolay#, Rex Brothers^, Tyler Chatwood, Jharel Cotton, Yu Darvish, Juan Gámez#^, Kyle Hendricks, Danny Hultzen^, Jeremy Jeffress, Craig Kimbrel, Jon Lester, Dillon Maples, Brailyn Marquez#^, Trevor Megill, Dakota Mekkes#^, Alec Mills, James Norwood, José Quintana, Colin Rea, Michael Rucker#^, Kyle Ryan, Casey Sadler, Ryan Tepera, Duane Underwood Jr., Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Dan Winkler
Right before Spring Training came to a halt, Ross was debating whether to announce Darvish or Hendricks as his Opening Day starter. That decision remains on hold, but they'll be joined by Lester and Quintana in the rotation. Chatwood was not officially named the fifth starter, but he was the heavy favorite for Ross in mid-March.
There was a lot of competition for the final bullpen slots in March, and the expanded rosters now make things a little easier on the Cubs' decision-makers. Kimbrel returns as closer, with Wick, Ryan and Jeffress as setup options. Sadler, Tepera and Winkler made strong impressions during the spring, while Mills had a job on the staff locked up.
Wieck underwent a cardiac ablation in February, but the last three months gave him recovery time. Righty Brandon Morrow (multiple health setbacks in the spring), on the other hand, was not listed in the player pool and is not in the 2020 plans.
One highlight of the announced pitching group was the addition of Marquez, who reached Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach in 2019. In 22 starts across two Class A levels, the 21-year-old lefty had 128 strikeouts against 50 walks with a 3.13 ERA in 103 2/3 innings. Marquez has a fastball that can reach triple digits.
Another under-the-radar addition is that of the 26-year-old Gámez, who was signed in December out of the Mexican League. In the Mexican Pacific Winter League between 2019-20, the right-hander had 32 strikeouts vs. 19 walks with a 2.43 ERA in 33 1/3 innings.