Chicago Cubs Preview: Cubs Bullpen looks to bounce back
Last season, the Chicago Cubs had one of the worse bullpens in all of major league baseball. This off-season, the Cubs bullpen was heavily worked on and was the main area addressed in the off-season.
But is it good enough to help lead the Cubs to success this season? After-all a good bullpen is one of the keys to success. Here is what to expect from a revamped Cubs bullpen.
Jose Veras: The Cubs signed Veras to a onee-year deal earlier in the off-season to be their closer. Veras will come in and replace closers Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg.
Veras does have good stuff, but his downfall is consistency. Veras can be inconsistent at times and his stats will go from great to bad if that happens. If Veras can stay consistent, he’ll be a great bargain deal for the Cubs and just him will make the Cubs bullpen a lot better.
Pedro Strop: The Cubs acquired Strop mid-season last year in the Scott Feldman/Steve Clevenger trade. Strop came in as the set-up and showed great ability. When he was good, he was very good and will set-up for Veras this season.
As good as Strop was last season, he did have one downfall. Strop was a strike out pitcher but did lose the strike zone at times. Strop did have walks on his resume and a main problem when he was on the Baltimore Orioles. If Strop can stay in the strike zone, he’ll be one of the best setups in major league baseball.
Wesley Wright: Wright was another low bargain signing to the bullpen. The left-handed pitcher was non-tendered by the Tampa Bay Rays in December. Wright will be the second lefty in the bullpen, alongside southpaw James Russell. Wright can be a good a good addition if he stays on track.
Wright does have good pitches, but will have to be a good day. His fastball is in the low 90’s and has a great curveball. As a lefty, the curveball is a put-away pitcher and he just has to keep the ball down. The curveball could be loopy at times and he can’t let that happen or he’ll be in for trouble.
James Russell: Russell was the Cubs best pitcher last season in the first half. The second half was a complete different story. In the first half last season, Russell would come in and get outs to help the Cubs get out of a jam. But it all changed when he struggled in the second half of the season.
Russell was overworked last season and may have been a main reason for his poor second season. If Russell is not overworked this season, I expect another good season out of him. Having Wright will help take a load off of his shoulders. The better question is, will Russell be traded this season? He’s be in the rumors for the past two seasons now and a trade could move him out of Chicago.
Carlos Villanueva: Villanueva is a swing pitcher and we will see him in the starting rotation and out of the bullpen. From the start, Villanueva will most likely start the season as the long-relief guy out of the bullpen. Villanueva is another good guy to have on a team as he is versatile. But just like Russell, will Villanueva be traded mid-season? Villanueva is in the last year of his contract and we all know the Cubs like to trade last-year contract players. Plus, Villanueva will be a valuable piece to a contending team.
Villanueva does not have the greatest stuff, but enough to get outs and be a valuable pitcher. If Villanueva loses the strike zone and can’t throw his pitches where he wants to, he will be in for a lot of trouble and will get hit all over the place.
Blake Parker: The Cubs have been high on Parker for a while now and now he’ll get his chance to prove why the Cubs have been high on him. Many thought Strop would be the closer and Parker the set-up man. But with Veras the closer, Parker will be the set-up man or just a main relief pitcher out of the bullpen.
Parker can be a very effective pitcher on the Cubs, but he has one downfall like many Cubs pitchers coming up in the minors. Parker walks his share of batters and could get him in trouble. But he does have put away pitches and could get out of the jam. It’ll just be better if he stays out of that pickle.
Hector Rondon: Rondon was a Rule V draft pick last season. We don’t know what the Cubs mindset last season was, but if the Cubs wanted to, they couldn’t send him down or would have lose him back to his old team. Rondon did look great at times when he was on his game.
Rondon didn’t get much action last season as he wasn’t pitching great and the Cubs didn’t want to lose him. Rondon did have his moments, bit when he was in he did get hit a good amount of times and could not find the strike zone at times.
James McDonald: Two seasons ago, McDonald was one of the better pitchers out there for as part of the season. He had great command and could make outs. McDonald will be tried out in the starting rotation and at the end of the day, I think the bullpen is a better fit for him at the current time.
If McDonald can show to be healthy, he’ll be a great low bargain deal for the Cubs. I think the bullpen best fits McDonald to prevent further injury. The big if is can he stay healthy? We haven’t seen much yet from McDonald, so that answer is still up in the air. If I had to chose, I think McDonald starts off in the minors to strengthen his arm.
Alberto Cabrera: Cabrera is an interesting case. Cabrera is out of options and if the Cubs chose to not take his out of spring training, he’ll have to clear waivers.
Cabrera has great stuff and he dies show it. If put all together, Cabrera will be a big addition to the bullpen. Cabrera just has to limit the walks and limit the damage from when he gets the chance out there.
Zac Rosscup: Rosscup will get his shot at some pint this season, but I don’t think out of spring training. I think he’ll start off at Triple-A and be a mid-season call-up due to an injury or trade. Rosscup shows great abilities out there and will be apart of the bullpen for years to come. But the time isn’t nearly ready.
*The Cubs will have to make two roster moves mid-season. Kyuji Fujikawa and Arodys Vizcaino will have to be activated of the DL mid-season and added to the bullpen.
Prediction of the Cubs bullpen out of spring training:
Closer: Jose Veras
Set-up: Pedro Strop
Set-up: Blake Parker
Left-handed relief: Wesley Wright
Left-handed long relief: James Russell
Right-handed long relief: Carlos Villanueva
Relief pitcher: Alberto Cabrera