In nineteen days Cubs pitchers and catchers will report to Mesa, AZ for this year’s Spring Training. Since winter had been relatively mild this year, it is more difficult than usual to believe that baseball is about to hit the ground running. Just in case the idea of baseball gearing up for what I’m sure will be another exciting season isn’t enough to whet your appetite, the Cubs’ front office released the names of their 21 non-roster invitees this afternoon.
The list includes nine pitchers (righthanders Marco Carrillo, Manuel Corpas, Jay Jackson, Rodrigo Lopez, Trey McNutt, Blake Parker and Dae-Eun Rhee and lefthanders Trever Miller and Chris Rusin), three catchers (Michael Brenly, Jason Jaramillo and Blake Lalli), five infielders (Alfredo Amezaga, Edgar Gonzalez, Jonathan Mota, Bobbly Scales and Matt Tolbert) and four outfielders (Jim Adduci, Jae-Hoon Ha, Brett Jackson and Jon Mather.
A few names on the list certainly stand out for a variety of reasons. First is Rodrigo Lopez. The 36-year-old righthander went 6-6 in 2011 with a 4.42 ERA in 26 games (16 starts). His lifetime career stats include a 81-88 record and 4.82 ERA (720 ER/1,3441 IP) in 253 appearances (215 starts). I wish I could say I was super impressed with this decision, but Lopez struggled too much past the fourth inning of his 2011 starts with the Cubs for me to be thrilled.
Speaking of pitchers, there’s Trey McNutt, 22, making the cut. McNutt was 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA in his first full year at Double-A last season. He was the Cubs 32nd round draft pick in 2009 and has three professional seasons under his belt. McNutt’s name often came up last year when the Cubs were shuffling their starters and relief pitchers, but he never made it past Tennessee. I’ll be interested to see what sort of improvement he shows after the off-season.
Trey McNutt, 22, went 5-6 with a 4.55 ERA (48 ER/95.0 IP) in 23 appearances (22 starts) last season with Tennessee, his first full year at Double-A. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was selected by the Cubs in the 32nd round of the 2009 Draft and is 18-8 with a 3.13 ERA (83 ER/239.0 IP) in 61 appearances (53 starts) during his three-season professional career.
Outfielder Brett Jackson is another prospect-invitee I’ll be keeping a close watch on. With six outfielders already contending for spots on the 25-man roster, it is unlikely that Jackson will see the Bigs this season (bar a break-out Spring Training), but the .274 batting average with 23 doubles, five triples, 20 homers, 58 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .379 on-base percentage through 115 games is encouraging. He is young, fast, has moderate power and seems to be patient at the plate. On the surface there’s very little to not like. However, not all players that seem ripe with potential at the Double-A or Triple-A level pan out once they make it to the major leagues. Given Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s “draft and develop” philosophy, I’d wager a guess that Jackson spends most of the season in Iowa with a potential call-up should a spot open due to injury. That being said, he’s only 23 and I can’t see him being put under pressure to rush unless Marlon Byrd and Alfonso Soriano depart before the season’s end.
There are definitely other stand-out players and names on this year’s list of non-roster invitees, but I know relatively little about many of the others. Rather than rushing to copy and paste what Cubs.com says about these players, I hope to do some research and post an informed analysis on the remaining 18 players in the coming days.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that garnering an invite to Spring Training does not automatically mean that any of these players have spots with the Cubs. There are still trades to be made and contracts to be tendered before February 19 and much can happen between now and then. We’ll just have to wait and see how shines and who falls once March rolls around.