Monday, February 28, 2011

Who will be the Cubs' backup infielder and catcher in 2011?

Darwin Barney's name alone makes him a great candidate for the Cubs' bench.

With a spring training game officially in the books, it's high time we take a look at some of the position battles that will ensue over the next month. Today we'll take a look at the infield and catcher positions. Who will spell Geovany Soto? Will Darwin Barney make the team? Will Augie Ojeda be mistaken for a bat boy at spring training? So many questions.

Starting infield: Carlos Pena, Blake DeWitt/Jeff Baker, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez

Bench: Blake DeWitt/Jeff Baker

Spots available: 1

Possible IF bench players: Darwin Barney, Bobby Scales, Augie Ojeda, Scott Moore, Marquez Smith

Early prediction: Darwin Barney. A 25-year-old 2007 draft pick, he played 30 games with the big club at the end of last year, batting .241 with a .294 OBP. He had a respectable .976 combined fielding percentage at second, third and short. He was solid at AAA last year, batting .299 with a .333 OBP, and he had 14 errors, mostly at short. If he can put the bat on the ball and play solid defense, his versatility in the field could make him a nice addition off the bench.

I was tempted to go with Marquez Smith, a 26-year-old who was also drafted in 2007. He batted .314 with a .384 OBP in 91 games at Iowa last year, but he's mostly limited to third base where he struggled to the tune of a .938 fielding percentage last year.

As far as the second base platoon, Blake DeWitt got the lion's share of the playing time after coming to the Cubs in the Ted Lilly trade. He struggled, but probably has a higher ceiling than Baker. Expect Baker to play against lefties, though, given his .350 average last season against southpaws. My guess is that Quade will be open to one of the two "winning" the job in spring training, but my money would be on a pretty strict platoon come the regular season.

Starting catcher: Geovany Soto

Possible back-up catchers: Koyie Hill, Wellington Castillo

Early prediction: Koyie Fucking Hill. Who has a .211 career average as a Cub. I hate him like Alfonso Soriano hates outfield walls. I say start Soto 150 games and throw Zambrano behind the plate for the other 12 just to keep him on his toes.

Castillo, who's just 23, had six hits in 21 at-bats (.300) after being called up last September.

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