Inbox: Who's ready to handle hot corner?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat fields questions from Cubs fans as spring nears
The Cubs mailbag is back. Got a question? Please send it to [email protected], and include your full name and hometown.
With Mike Olt and Kris Bryant coming up, the future at third base looks bright for the Cubs. In the immediate future, though, wouldn't it be smart to sign a veteran like Michael Young to mentor the younger players and to provide stability at third while Olt and Bryant develop? Young seems like he would be a good fit for the Cubs. Any chance of that happening?
-- Joel A., Florence, Ala.
Not likely, and not necessary. First, there are reports that Young is considering retirement. Second, if the Cubs did sign Young, he'd only be mentoring the young players for a few weeks in Spring Training, not during the season. The Cubs want the kids to play, not watch from the bench. Also, you forgot Luis Valbuena, who could be the Opening Day starter.
That said, Olt is the player to watch this spring. During the Cubs Convention, director of player development and scouting Jason McLeod reminded fans that Olt was untouchable when the team tried to acquire the third baseman from the Rangers in 2012 in the Ryan Dempster trade. Olt's vision problems appear to have been resolved, and the Cubs will have a good idea of where he is once he faces live pitching in Mesa, Ariz. Position players report Feb. 18, but Olt has already been working out at the team's new facility. Olt, 25, took part in the Cubs' rookie development camp earlier this month.
"I don't have anything I feel I have to prove," he said. "I know I put in a lot of hard work. I think last year was good for me to deal with a lot of adversity to make me a better player. I know I'm going to get better."
Bryant, who played at high Class A Daytona last season, most likely will open 2014 at Double-A Tennessee.
What role can we expect Justin Ruggiano to fill this season with the Cubs? Is he the everyday center fielder or will he platoon with Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz?
-- Matthew W., St. Peters, Mo.
Ruggiano, acquired from the Marlins on Dec. 12 for Brian Bogusevic, has played mostly center and left, but he will likely platoon in right with Schierholtz and share center with Junior Lake and Sweeney. We'll find out more about how manager Rick Renteria wants to use his outfielders this spring. The reason for the platoon is the players' splits: Last season, Ruggiano batted .248 against lefties, compared to .210 vs. right-handers, while Schierholtz batted .170 vs. lefties and .262 against right-handers. Sweeney, limited to 70 games because of an injury, batted .313 against lefties and .250 vs. right-handers.
Is there any chance the Cubs might have more speed on the bases? They need more stolen bases.
-- Bruce L., Fountain Hills, Ariz.
Looking at the current roster, Lake is one player who could steal more, but that's about it. He swiped 38 bases in 2011, 21 in 2012, and 14 last year in the Minor Leagues. I'd rather see the Cubs be smart on the bases, not necessarily fast. Just a note: the Cubs ranked 13th in the National League in stolen bases with 63 last season. The Cardinals, who reached the World Series, were last in the NL with 45.
What does the future hold for Darwin Barney and the Cubs? There are rumors that Javier Baez may snag the second base spot or Barney may get a larger offer to stay with the Cubs. Personally, Barney is my favorite player and I would hate to see him go.
-- Mike A., Kenosha, Wis.
Barney, who batted .208 last season, is the starting second baseman for now. He has started working with new hitting coach Bill Mueller. The Cubs have limited options, including Valbuena, who played second in Venezuela this winter. The Cubs want Baez to continue to play short, and he'll open the season at Triple-A Iowa. You may see him at third and second this spring, depending on what Renteria and the Cubs' staff decide.
Of the Cubs' big four hitting prospects, Jorge Soler seems to be the one with the most mystery attached. He has been ranked as high as No. 32 on prospect lists I've seen. I know he battled injuries a bit. What is an update on his progress and projection? How early can we expect to see him at Wrigley Field?
-- Tim B., Chicago
Soler, limited to 55 games last season because of a stress fracture in his left tibia, says he's 100 percent healthy and his leg has healed. He did play in the Arizona Fall League, but the Cubs told him to take it easy to avoid aggravating the injury. He was in Chicago during the rookie development camp and looks ready to go. Soler was recently ranked No. 49 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects , and he has dropped because of the limited playing time. When will he get to Wrigley Field? That's up to him.
What is going on with the Wrigley Field renovations? Living out of state because of work, I'm unable to follow. Has any work been done?
-- David Q., Bourbonnais, Ill.
The renovations have not begun, just maintenance work. However, the Cubs have applied for a permit for the see-through sign proposed for right field, despite opposition from rooftop owners. At the Cubs Convention, president of business operations Crane Kenney did say the $500 million, five-year renovation plan could be completed in four years once they decide to proceed. The delay is because of the threat of legal action by the rooftop owners.