If the Cubs want to accomplish their goal of winning the World Series, the franchise will need its stars to shoulder the load in October. In such a unique season, though, depth will also play a key role in the month-long march to the Fall Classic.
Following Thursday's 7-0 loss to the Pirates, the Cubs announced their 12-man pool of players who will be eligible for the playoffs. This group is in addition to the 28-man active roster, giving the team 40 players to draw from as it navigates each postseason round.
The dozen players are permitted to travel with the Cubs, hold workouts and serve as injury replacements for each postseason round. The group essentially serves the same function as the group that had been training at the South Bend, Ind., alternate training site this year as part of the 60-man regular-season pool.
Here is a breakdown of the 12-man taxi squad for the postseason:
Pitchers: LHP Rex Brothers, RHP Tyler Chatwood, LHP Brailyn Marquez, LHP Josh Osich, RHP Colin Rea, LHP Justin Steele, RHP Rowan Wick
The name that jumps out here is the 21-year-old Marquez, who is MLB Pipeline's No. 1 Cubs prospect and the 64th-best prospect on the Top 100 list for MLB. This does not mean Marquez will definitely be bringing his 100-mph fastball to the October stage, but the possibility exists, while he continues to hone his command.
"I think people forget that this is a guy that has never pitched above high-A ball," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said recently. "He's made nice progress this year and is certainly someone we have a lot of high hopes for going forward."
Last season, the lefty had a 3.13 ERA with 128 strikeouts and 50 walks in 103 2/3 innings (22 games) between Class A South Bend and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. Over his final 12 outings, Marquez piled up 76 strikeouts against 23 walks with a 2.01 ERA across 62 2/3 innings.
It is also worth noting that both Chatwood (10-day injured list, right forearm) and Wick (10-day IL, left oblique) were included. Chatwood could become available if the Cubs make a deep October run. Wick's status is less certain, but including him in the pool leaves the possibility open for a late-October return.
Infielders: UTIL Ildemaro Vargas, 1B/3B Patrick Wisdom
Vargas served as a utility man and Cubs manager David Ross liked the switch-hitter against lefty pitching, but a right hamstring issue sent the infielder to the 10-day IL on Monday. Wisdom, who has had MLB stints with the Cardinals (2018) and Rangers ('19) was signed to a Minor League deal in August and has been training in South Bend.
Outfielder: CF Albert Almora Jr.
Following the acquisition of veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin, the Cubs optioned Almora to South Bend in order to get regular at-bats. Chicago also added outfielder Billy Hamilton, who has filled a pinch-running and late-inning defensive role off the bench. Combined, Maybin (righty bat) and Hamilton (defense in center) fill the type of role Almora had earlier this season with the Cubs.
Catchers: P.J. Higgins, Josh Phegley
The Cubs are set with their catching tandem of Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini, but depth behind the plate is critical. Phegley was on the Cubs' Opening Day roster as a bench bat, but has been in South Bend since a roster crunch following the Aug. 31 Trade Deadline.