Which non-roster invitees could realistically make Cubs roster?


by - Staff Writer -
Ian Miller could make the team with his elite speed (Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports)
Ian Miller could make the team with his elite speed (Patrick Gorski - USA Today Sports)

As the pitchers and catchers report to camp this week, I want to look a bit further down the road regarding the rest of the roster. With the rest of the roster reporting to camp next week, and the first Spring games set for late February or early March, what can fans expect from this roster?

There will be a lot of roster turnover for starters this season, so plenty of new faces will be in camp. That could ultimately be a good thing as fresh blood in the clubhouse could bring an edge that this team has been lacking. You also have a bunch of players on contract years playing for long-term deals.

I expect players like Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant to put together strong seasons as the results from this year will dictate the size of their next contract. Along with hitters trying to prove themselves, you have an unproven pitching staff eager to show teams they can compete. You add in the non-roster invitees who need to compete to break the team, and the 2021 spring training side of things could be the most competitive it has been in years.

With the regular players that will make the 26-man roster comes the 25 non-roster invitees that the Cubs invited to camp. These 25 players will have an opportunity to make the team out of spring and stick with it if they can.

Here is who I think has a shot at making the club as a non-roster invitee this year.

Outfield Ian Miller or Nick Martini: The Cubs currently have four outfielders on their roster and will be looking to add a fifth by the end of spring. In December, the Phillip Ervin signing gave the Cubs him as an option, but there could be better in camp in both Miller and Martini. Starting with Miller, who was on the roster last season.

Miller is a speedy left fielder who led the Cactus lead in steal last season. He is never going to be a great hitter, but his legs are his specialty.

For a team that lacks overall speed, Miller should be on this roster as he can change the game with his legs. On the other hand, Martini is more of a utility outfielder who can play every outfield position. Another left-handed bat that could be added to the roster, Martini, has the potential to do damage with consistent playing time. That won't come unless people are hurt, but his bat would be an excellent option off the bench.

Infielders Matt Duffy or Alfonso Rivas: The Cubs will be inviting five infielders to camp, not on the roster in Matt Duffy, Patrick Wisdom, Abiatal Avelino, Alfonso Rivas, and Trent Giambrone. Wisdom saw two games with the Cubs last year, while guys like Duffy have plenty of big-league experience. If you were to go strictly off spring training stats the past two seasons, Giambrone would be a lock as he has crushed the baseball in Arizona.

Duffy and Rivas seem like good bets for the final roster spot in terms of how the current roster is constructed, but Giambrone could be a sleeper. The Cubs are looking for infield depth, especially at second base, where Duffy and Giambrone fall into play. Both are also versatile enough to play multiple positions giving the Cubs options.

For most of his career, Rizzo hasn't had a backup as the Cubs have used Victor Caratini and others to fill in. Romine is undoubtedly an option, but Rivas, to me, is someone the Cubs will take a long look at. The once highly touted prospect in the A's system was nearly drafted by the Cubs but was reacquired when the team dealt Tony Kemp. Although not a power hitter, Rivas is a lefty and has a beautiful swing to go with him. He is someone I would like to see get some time.

Catchers: Jose Lobaton: The Cubs will enter camp with three non-roster invitees in Jose Lobaton, P.J. Higgins, and tipped-options="ajax: { data: { type: 'Player', sport: 'baseball', playerId: '413' } }">Taylor Gushue. Miguel Amaya is also expected to be in camp, but he is currently on the 40-man roster. The Cubs have Willson Contreras and Austin Romine listed as the two catchers on the roster. With a 30-man roster to start the season last year, David Ross carried three catchers out of gates, and I could see him doing that this season.

By carrying three catchers early on in the season, it would give Contreras extra days off early in hopes of keeping him fresh down the stretch. Fans can say they would like Amaya to make the roster, but unless he will start every day, there is no point. Lobaton, to me, is someone who could challenge for a roster spot mainly because of Romine's ability to play first.

Lobaton is a defensive-minded catcher with a great arm and a perfect backup early in the season. I am surprised he didn't get called up at some point last season, especially given Josh Phegley's struggles.

Lefties Adam Morgan and Rex Brothers: To say the Cubs will have a makeshift bullpen this season would be an understatement. For the second consecutive season, the Chicago front office hasn't addressed the need for bullpen help, often using reclamation projects. Expect this year to be much of the same.

Jed Hoyer reiterated the need for lefty relief help or a veteran presence in the pen as one of the team's additional needs. With the market thinning out, he may be left looking internally where Rex Brothers and Adam Morgan can be a fit. Brothers was on this roster last year and made several ineffective big-league appearances.

Morgan, on the other hand, is an intriguing piece. The former Phillies starter turned reliever could thrive in the Cubs pen and be used like how Mike Montgomery was used in the past. He is a swing guy with starter experience that could fulfill plenty of roles for this team.

Righties: Shelby Miller: The Cubs have plenty of righties who will be in camp this season, but none has more promise than Miller. Again, another starter, Miller, has been bothered by injuries the past three seasons. With a fresh start and a full off-season, the Cubs will give him a real shot to make this team.

Not only will Miller be used as a starter this spring, but he will be used in various bullpen roles too. Essentially if things work out, Miller could find himself in the rotation pushing buys like Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay to swing roles. If things work out differently, the Cubs just added a potential bullpen arm to fill the void left by Tyler Chatwood or Jeremy Jeffress if he is not re-signed.

Whatever the Cubs do during spring training, they have plenty of options regarding how they want this roster to look. With 11 position players guaranteed spots, I expect one if not two non-roster invitees to make the club out of camp. The Cubs also have 10 or 11 pitching spots already locked up, meaning two of those spots will be up for grabs. Competition is never a bad thing, and expect this spring to be highly competitive.

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