Sunday, April 21, 2024

Things We Saw During Cubs’ Win In Spring Opener

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After waiting all winter, fans were greeted with a beautiful day and a ballgame in Mesa, Arizona. On Friday, the Chicago Cubs hosted the crosstown rival White Sox in the spring opener. While spring training is not necessarily about the final score, the Cubs won the game by a score of 8-1.

For weeks, the focus around the Cubs has been more on the business than the baseball side. Fans and players alike have questioned why free agent Cody Bellinger has yet to sign with the team. Chairman Tom Ricketts has not agreed with Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, regarding his approach to ongoing negotiations. Ricketts also made a point to say he does not believe the Cubs need to spend top-dollar in order to compete. He, President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer, and General Manager Carter Hawkins believe Bellinger would be welcomed, but they feel great about the team competing as constructed.

Their plan to succeed is dependent on the development and success of the young talent currently rostered. Spring training is a time to try different lineups and defensive positioning to discover the potential of all the top talent in the system. Friday’s spring opener allowed the Cubs to see some of the talent translate from the training fields to an actual exhibition.

Christopher Morel Starts With A Bomb

Christopher Morel started at third base for the Cubs and was second in the batting order. After a nice scoop-and-throw in the top of the first defensively, he came up to bat after an Ian Happ single. He took three pitches outside before receiving a meatball right down the heart of the plate. He promptly sent the ball to the lawn behind the wall in left field, really all that was needed for a Cubs’ win.

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Morel ended the day 1-3 after grounding out twice to third base after the home run. He saw three ground balls come his way at third and executed the play each time for the outs. Overall, Morel had a lovely day at the office.

We expect to see more Morel at third base, as the Cubs are hoping he is their long-term answer at the hot corner. The Cubs have not had consistency there since the departure of Kris Bryant. Morel is a utility player, though. He can give the Cubs innings in the infield and outfield and DH as needed. If we continue to see what we saw today, the Cubs will want him in the lineup as much as possible.

Cubs’ Top Pick Contributed Early

2023 first-round pick Matt Shaw got the start at second base for the Cubs today. The infielder batted at the bottom of the order but went 2-3 with a double and one run batted in. This is an example of the Cubs diving into the opportunity spring gives teams to evaluate what they have coming up the pipeline.

Shaw will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Cubs, but he is a name we will be hearing more of as time goes on. He played twenty games for high-A South Bend and fifteen for AA Tennessee right after being drafted. Shaw can find himself suiting up for AAA Iowa by the end of this season.

This is another option the Cubs have moving quickly through their system in the infield. By the end of 2024, we should have a good idea of where things stand with the depth in the infield. Should things go awry, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Shaw will make his way to the big leagues as soon as 2025.

Jordan Wicks’ Starts In Cubs’ Opener

Left-handed starter Jordan Wicks got the nod from manager Craig Counsel to take the mound for the Cubs’ spring opener. He made his presence known immediately, striking out Kevin Pillar on a curveball in the heart of the zone to start the game. Wicks stayed in the game through 1.2 innings before Counsell took him out of some trouble he created. He faced eight batters and surrendered just one run.

Wicks will be part of the competition for the final spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation. Wicks, Drew Smyly, Javier Assad, and Hayden Wesneski are all duking it out to take the ball on the fifth day of the season. Counsell will give each of them consistent starts to evaluate who will give him the best chance at a win every fifth day.

Today was an excellent start for Wicks. His curveball had the movement we saw when he debuted in 2023. He and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy will review the tape to decide what they’ll work on in his next outing.

Caleb Kilian’s Inning Plus Of Work

Speaking of young arms, Caleb Kilian got some work in today and looked great. He worked two full innings and struck out two along the way. The young right-hander is someone the Cubs would like to force himself onto the big league roster to start the 2024 season.

Killian came over in the trade that sent Kris Bryant to San Francisco in 2021. He started three games at the end of 2022 and three at the beginning of 2023. None of the six went exceptionally well for him, as he accumulated a 12.42 ERA and was promptly sent back down to the minors.

A good spring from Kilian would make the Cubs have to find a spot for him in the bullpen. Ideally, he would be the bridge from starter to closer, ideally handing the ball to either Adbert Alzolay or Hector Neris to finish off a Cubs’ victory. But he’ll need to work on earning Counsell’s trust in the next month to prove he can be a reliable option.

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Hehateme30
Feb 24, 2024 9:45 am

Not that it really matters cause it’s just one spring training game but, no one mentioned Joe Hudson, being two for two with five RBIs. I know he’s a non-Rostered catcher, and he’s only had a handful of bats in the major leagues. And it’s probably been three years since he’s even batted in the MLB, but it was a nice start for him.

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