For the most part a team’s Opening Day roster is set when spring training begins, but that doesn’t mean a few guys can’t win jobs during March, while others may lose them as they get ready for the start of the regular season. Here are three players who are trending up through the first half of spring training that may open up opportunities for them on the Cubs or possibly another team in 2023.
The Cubs have completely shifted their focus behind the plate to a defense-first position. The Cubs let Willson Contreras go in free agency and then paired up Yan Gomes with Tucker Barnhart. The Cubs pitching staff loves the pair of veteran catchers, but when the season starts, the expectation for offensive production from the catcher position is going to be really low.
However, in a long season and especially when you consider how grueling the catcher position is, and we’re talking about two guys in their 30s, the Cubs are at some point going to need call up a catcher. The Cubs signed two guys to minor league deals to add more depth in the offseason, but it’s been right-handed hitting catcher Luis Torrens who has been impressive so far in spring training.
I absolutely love Torrens’ swing and of course it’s going to look pretty when he’s hitting rockets. Torrens is 5-for-11 at the plate, with two home runs and a double, getting on base two additional times with walks.
Torrens, 26, struggled with the Seattle Mariners in 2022, posting a .581 OPS in 166 plate appearances. Yet, he’s shown that he can be a league average hitter, posting a 101 wRC+ and hit for some power, 16 home runs in 456 plate appearances from 2020-21.
He’s not going to win a roster spot out of spring training, but Torrens may be moving ahead of Dom Nuñez on the depth chart heading into April and if the Cubs are faced with an injury to Gomes or Barnhart, then Torrens might be the first option to go to from the minors and you’d feel fine if he has to be the backup for a couple of weeks.
Left-handed hitter Mike Tauchman signed a minor league deal with the Cubs and he showed up to spring training with a chance to make the team as a bench guy, but after Seiya Suzuki went down with an oblique strain, Tauchman’s chances increased dramatically.
Suzuki will begin the season on the injured list and even the best case scenario seems to point to the Japanese outfielder missing the majority of the first month in 2023. While the Cubs may use Patrick Wisdom or Trey Mancini in right field, Tauchman has much more experience playing in the outfield and he also gives the Cubs another left-handed batter to use in the lineup.
Tauchman is making the most of his playing time in spring training, going 7-for-22, with four walks. On Saturday, Tauchman hit his first home run in Cactus League play against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That was against a lefty and what’s interesting about Tauchman’s spring is that he’s 5-for-10 against left-handed pitching.
The 32-year-old may very well be in the lead to be the team’s fourth outfielder on the Opening Day Roster.
The thing about David Bote is that his hot spring training may not lead to a spot with the Cubs, but with some other team.
See, I just can’t see the Cubs starting the year with Bote on the team after they booted him off the 40-man roster early in the offseason and then proceeded to acquire a handful of players who are seemingly ahead of him on the depth chart. Nevertheless, Bote has been hitting everything in sight during spring training, going 9-for-20, with four extra base hits, (2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR) walking four times and driving in five runs.
Bote has had shoulder issues since 2021, but appears to be healthy now and if his great spring continues, then a GM for another team might call the Cubs to see if they can get him.
In 2022, Bote was an above average hitter in 41 games, posting a 110 wRC+, with a .746 OPS in 127 plate appearances.