Reserve outfielder Ian Miller is getting a lot of love on social media and among Cub bloggers as someone who deserves consideration to break camp as part of Chicago’s 26-man roster. I understand the root-for-the-underdog mentality and, though Miller is having an outstanding spring, the Cubs will not be heading north with a roster that best positions them to make the playoffs if he makes the team.
Ian Miller's MLB-leading 8th stolen base of Spring Training sets up an game-tying RBI for Anthony Rizzo in the 2nd inning.
Miller in the mix for the 26th roster spot. pic.twitter.com/SiQ9Nt3gIz
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) March 8, 2020
If Chicago rosters 13 pitchers and the team leaves Mesa in good health, that may not leave room for Miller. In fact, even if David Ross decides to carry just 12 pitchers, it still would be a stretch to give the 28-year-old journeyman a big league job unless a trade or two is made. Let me break it down for you:
- Catchers: Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini
- Infielders: Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Jason Kipnis, Anthony Rizzo, David Bote
- Outfielders: Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Steven Souza Jr., Albert Almora Jr.
- Eligible utility players: Daniel Descalso (under a guaranteed contract for $2.5 million), Nico Hoerner, Josh Phegley, Hernán Pérez, and Miller
Not to mention, Yasiel Puig is still available as a free agent, not tied to a loss of draft pick, and the Cubs front office has puzzlingly shown no inclination to try to get beneath the competitive balance tax threshold.
How is Yasiel Puig still not on a team yet…? Let the guy eat! ⚾️? pic.twitter.com/3vPQ47KaC9
— Chalk Talk Nation (@chalktalknation) March 8, 2020
Ross understands the decision isn’t going to be an easy one.
“I’ve come in with an open mind,” the first-year skipper said yesterday. “Do you take more of a utility guy? Do you take more of a bat? A guy you can move around? A speed guy? There’s just a lot of different options for us.”
I know Miller had another big game yesterday and his eight stolen bases in Cactus League play should count for something. But there’s a reason why he’s got just 17 big league at bats under his belt during a seven-year minor league career. He’d be worth the roster spot if the Cubs weren’t expected to compete for the NL Central title. But assuming Ross is stuck with Descalso and chooses between Hoerner, Pérez and Phegley while carrying 12 pitchers, there’s just no room for a sixth outfielder.
“Isn’t that fun to watch?” Ross said of Miller. “He’s definitely exciting to watch, especially a guy on a team where we don’t have that really in our game too much.”
Were it my choice, I’d rather see the Cubs keep Phegley and go with three catchers, especially since Caratini can spell Rizzo at first and Contreras can play some outfield.
“When you’ve got the catching core that I have,” Ross added, “and some of the best at-bats off the bench, when the other catcher’s not playing, for me, it might be nice to have a guy like Phegley.”
As a former catcher, Ross would know best.
Cubs News & Notes
- Position battles continue at second base, in the outfield, and for the role of fifth starter, where Tyler Chatwood remains the favorite despite a couple of strong performances by Alec Mills.
- Ross needs José Quintana to string together good outings on a more frequent basis this season, and the key lies in his changeup.
- Quintana has added some depth to his curveball this spring.
- Craig Kimbrel had an unsightly outing in his second spring appearance yesterday. The Cubs lost 8-1 to the Diamondbacks and the closer gave up his second Cactus League home run as he failed to escape the third inning.
- The Cubs lost to the Reds in the other game in Las Vegas. Phegley hit a home run in the 11-9 loss and Miller was 2-for-3 with another stolen base, his eighth in Cactus League play.
- Despite signing with Cincinnati, Nicholas Castellanos still has a soft spot for Cubs fans (subscription to The Athletic required).
- Wrigley Field could be a potential host to the 2022 All-Star game. How cool would it be to see a Bryce Harper vs. Schwarber Home Run Derby rematch at the Friendly Confines?
Odds & Sods
Let’s say you have to pick 10 items for your COVID-19 quarantine kit if it comes to that. How do you make it 14 days without leaving your home for supplies and Amazon Prime deliveries are canceled?
- Non-perishable food, including frozen pizzas, of course.
- A copy of Stephen King’s The Stand.
- Drinks with electrolytes.
- Netflix, Spotify, and of course any media outlet that gets you reruns of old Cubs games.
- An internet connection.
- Crossword puzzles.
- A stick to poke dead bodies once you are allowed to leave your home.
- Some kind of Zombie manual in case the virus mutates and makes flesh-eating monsters of your friends and family members.
Spring Training Notes
According to the Los Angeles Times, Puig reportedly received a $10 million offer from a National League team for one year, but turned it down.
Japanese officials postponed the start of the 12-team professional baseball league season on Monday because of the spread of the coronavirus.
Harper had an interesting take over the weekend when discussing the Astros. “You’re gonna see this year if they’re the truth — if they’re really gonna go out there and do what they do,” Harper said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia.
This just in: Cardinals manager Mike Shildt likes his team.
The organization may not be feeling any reciprocal love from ace Jack Flaherty this season. The 24-year-old righty finished fourth in Cy Young voting last season, but rejected a lowball offer from St. Louis “on principle” so, per team policy, Flaherty will receive a $10,000 reduction in salary this season.
Rangers outfielder Willie Calhoun has a fractured jaw as a result of taking a 95 mph fastball to his face. The pitch was thrown by Dodgers starter Julio Urías, who told reporters he was shaken up after the HBP.
He’s no Sidd Finch, but still…
Rocky Perone was a 21-year-old Australian born prospect for the Padres in 1974
Only issue was that he was actually 36-years-old, not Australian and named Richard Pohle
Here is the story of one of the most interesting “prospects” in baseball history
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) March 6, 2020
They Said It
- “I take a lot of pride in my speed. It’s why I’m here. I understand that’s why I’m here. I had a pretty good opening meeting with Rossy. They just told me they want to see me run, try and create some runs in unconventional ways. That’s what I’m trying to do.” – Ian Miller
- “I didn’t really expect anything. I just wanted to win so much. I feel like everything that was happening those two months and how I was acting, maybe me feeding off [Cubs fans], me feeding off the city. I can’t really describe it.” – Nicholas Castellanos
Monday Walk Up Song
Hey St. Peter by Flash and the Pan
- What went wrong? I suppose nothing if your $100 videography budget ($441.54 in 2020 dollars) is the best you can do, including money for sound, costumes, catering, and location shooting. The duo apparently couldn’t afford extras, other than that fake cadaver, as this video makes it look like the two are the lone survivors of some type of end of life event.
- How does it play today? A little scary if you live in fear of catching the coronavirus. Otherwise, weed is strictly prohibited in just three states, so if you do not reside in Idaho, South Dakota, or Nebraska (first offense decriminalized), light up like it’s 1977 and enjoy.
- A Bonus! If you’ve never heard of Flash and the Pan, you might recognize this song if you’ve seen the movie Less Than Zero or spent any time at all clubbing in the mid-to-late 80’s.