Cubs

Colvin steps up big at first in Cubs win

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Colvin steps up big at first in Cubs win

Tuesday April 5, 2011Posted: 4:35 PM Updated: 7:40 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Carlos Pena emerged from the training room on Tuesday with his right hand bandaged, keeping it compressed so that his thumb doesnt swell up. This is why the Cubs took out an insurance policy with Tyler Colvin.

The pain isnt overwhelming, but the Cubs are being cautious with their first baseman. Pena is listed as day-to-day with a mild sprain of his right thumb, and that gave Colvin a chance to test out everything he relearned in spring training.

The Cubs arent certain what theyll do at first base once Penas one-year pillow contract expires at the end of this season. Either way, Colvin figures to be a big part of their future.

Colvin showcased himself as the left-handed run producer the Cubs envision in a 6-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He launched a two-run homer into the right field bleachers, drew a bases-loaded walk in the pivotal seventh inning and handled everything thrown his way at first base.

When you looked out across Wrigley Field on Tuesday afternoon, you saw these players developed by the organization Colvin at first, Darwin Barney at second, Starlin Castro at shortstop and Andrew Cashner on the mound.

Youre always talking about that in the minor leagues, Man, once we all get up there, Colvin said. Thats the way you have to think. (And) I think thats the way you win (by) having homegrown players who have grown up together. (You) get up here and play the same game. You know what to expect out of them.

Teammates tease him about how the front office talks up Camp Colvin, the strength and conditioning program he followed to great effect at the teams Arizona complex.

The Ricketts family uses Colvin as an example in their stump speech, and the marketing department features him in promotional materials. Colvin is low-key and doesnt seek out the extra publicity, but hes comfortable enough with it.

The way Colvin sees it, thats much better than not being noticed at all.

Colvin had the same sensible approach to working out again at first base, a position that until this spring he hadnt really played since his sophomore year at Clemson University. He learned from a Gold Glove defender.

I like him out there, Pena said. Naturally (he) does a pretty good job there, but there are a couple things that we discussed and hopefully I helped him out a little bit. Hell be fine.

Colvin looked smooth at first base on Tuesday, scooping several throws out of the dirt and initiating a key double play in the eighth inning.

At 6-foot-3, Colvins a big target, and hes athletic enough to play all three outfield positions. That could be where he remains long-term, though the Cubs still need to protect themselves.

Penas injury isnt considered serious. But the Cubs watched Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee struggle through thumb problems last year. Lee even needed offseason surgery. Those issues sabotaged their offense.

Pena told manager Mike Quade that he was ready to go on Tuesday and available to pinch-hit. Pena called it a freak thing and wants to play Wednesday, though with an off-day scheduled for Thursday it could make more sense to give him extra time to heal.

Pena injured his thumb during the seventh inning of Mondays win. Pena made a play and tossed the ball to pitcher Sean Marshall, who was covering first base. Pena braced for the fall and landed awkwardly on his glove hand, bending his thumb back.

If he walks in here (Wednesday) and says Im 100 percent, he plays, Quade said, (but) I dont want him to come back and have something thats going to linger for weeks or more.

Pena laughed when a reporter asked whether he was worried about being Wally Pipp-ed. Colvin isnt about to challenge Lou Gehrigs streak of consecutive games played.

The Cubs hesitated to mess with Colvin and move him to first base late last year. But now he certainly doesnt look out of place.

I guess he was ready, huh? Quade said. He did a wonderful job over there.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

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USA TODAY

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

MESA, Ariz. — The frequent mission of spring training is to iron out a 25-man roster.

But at Cubs camp, that mission seems to already be completed.

With an entire Cactus League schedule still to play, the Cubs’ 25-man group that will leave Arizona for the season-opener in Miami seems pretty well set.

The starting rotation: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

The position-player group: Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

The bullpen: Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Justin Grimm.

Boom. There’s your 25.

Joe Maddon, do you agree?

“You guys and ladies could probably write down what you’re seeing and be pretty accurate,” Maddon said Thursday. “I can’t deny that, it’s true. Oftentimes, when you’re a pretty good ball club, that is the case. When you’re not so good, you always get auditions during spring training.

“I think what the boys have done is they’ve built up a nice cache in case things were to happen. The depth is outstanding. So you could probably narrow it down, who you think’s going to be the 25, and I won’t argue that.”

It’s the latest example in a camp that to this point has been full of them that the Cubs are one of baseball’s best teams and that only a World Series championship will fulfill expectations. Had the front office stuck with a starting rotation of Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood and Montgomery, then there would’ve been a spot open in the bullpen. But the statement-making signing of Darvish jolted the Cubs into “best rotation in the game” status, sent Montgomery back to the bullpen and further locked the roster into place.

Guys like Grimm and La Stella have been forced off the 25-man roster at points in recent seasons, though even their spots seem safe. Maddon even said that a huge spring from someone else wouldn’t mean as much at what guys have done at the major league level in recent memory.

“Spring training performance, for me, it’s not very defining,” Maddon said. “You’re going to be playing against a lot of guys that aren’t going to be here, more Triple-A guys, even some Double-A guys. Some guys come in better shape, they normally look better early. The vibe’s different. You play a couple innings, you don’t get many at-bats, the pitcher doesn’t see hitters three times and vice versa. So I don’t worry about that as much.

“It’s more about, guys that might be fighting for a moment, what do they look like, does it look right, does it look good, how do they fit in? Is there somebody there that you scouted? Because what matters a lot is last year and what you did last year and the last couple months of last year.

“So of course guys that have been here probably have a bit of an upper hand, but we’re very open-minded about stuff. And I think when you look at the guys, you’re right, it’s probably pretty close to being set. But stuff happens.”

Could the recently signed Shae Simmons give Grimm an unexpected challenge for the final relief spot? Maddon said guys who have been with the Cubs in the recent past have a leg up. Could Chris Gimenez turn his experience with Darvish into a win over Caratini for the backup catcher spot? Maddon threw cold water on the "personal catcher" narrative last week.

Of course, Maddon left the door open the possibility of an injury that could open up a roster spot and even shake up the depth chart. But barring the unforeseen, this 25-man group looks locked into place.

That gives the Cubs an edge, perhaps, in that they can specifically find ways to tune up those guys rather than focus on getting enough at-bats for players who are fighting for roster spots. But most of that edge came during the winter, and in winters and summers past, when the front office built this team into a championship contender.

There have been plenty of years when the fans coming to Mesa to watch the Cubs play in spring training saw the blossoming of a big league player thanks to a monster spring or a surprise tear during March. That’s going to be unlikely this spring, a reflection of just how far this team has come.

“It’s easy for me to reflect on this because when I started out with the Rays, wow,” Maddon said. “That was a casting call trying to figure it out. You had very few settled positions when you walked in the door. And then as we got better, it became what we’re talking about. As we moved further along, you were pretty much set by the time (you got to spring training) except for one or two spots.

“So I think the better teams are like that.”

The Cubs are most definitely one of those better teams.