Going into this spring the Cubs Major League roster seemed about as close to set as one could be in February. On the offensive side of the ball there seemed to be only one real spot up for grabs and really that is not going to change. But the lack of space on the 25-man roster does not mean that there aren’t any guys in big league camp trying to impress. There are plenty of guys that are trying to prove their worth these first few weeks of the spring while they have a shot at it in front of Joe Maddon, Dave Martinez, and all the other big league coaches.
Two guys that have really impressed over the first couple of weeks are a couple of guys with much different back stories but they each have a lot to prove in the month of March.
The first guy is a Cubs blogger’s favorite but a complete stranger to those casual Cubs fan up there. John Andreoli has had a strange few years through the minors having quite a few very solid seasons in the outfield with a couple really bad years sprinkled in there mostly due to injury. But after a very good season last year in Iowa, Andreoli has truly made his push to make it to Chicago. Still relatively young at 25 years old, he has been absent on nearly every single Cubs prospect list (including mine) due to his lack probably lack of upside but he is trying to prove those expert lists wrong. Profiling as a true fourth outfielder who can play every outfield spot and hit for a very good average with little power, Andreoli has shown flashes of more power this spring with 3 homers (one being the inside-the-park variety) and a triple in 13 games while also hitting .364. While there still is an outside chance of him making the team when camp ends, the more likely scenario for him is to carry over this success in Major League camp to AAA Iowa early on in the season. There he is able to provide solid depth while he waits for either an injury in Chicago or a guy like Tommy La Stella or Matt Szczur to struggle in the bigs. If there is a guy on the roster to root for it is John Andreoli.
The next guy is what most would consider a big name in the Cubs farm system and that is Jeimer Candelario. Coming into this season Candelario was ranked #3 in the Out of the Vines position player prospects and he has not disappointed. Playing 11 games so far this spring, Candelario has a .357 batting average with 2 homers and 3 doubles out of his 10 total hits. His homers aren’t cheap shots either with one of them being a liner to the opposite field. That power is something he will need to show he can continue to improve after a breakout year in the doubles department last season. If some of that doubles power can turn into home run power, then the league is looking at a mainstay at the hot corner from years to come. That being said, that long tenure at third base won’t be in Chicago as he is blocked at his two main positions by guys by the name of Bryant and Rizzo. As a Cubs fan you are rooting for this guy to continue to dominate pitching this spring into his season in the high minors to increase his trade value. I see him as a main trade piece already and if he can continue to show promise, he will only bring back better Major League talent.
So while watching Major League studs like Addison Russell and Jason Heyward can be fun and pass the time while waiting for the real season to start, you could also watch guys like John Andreoli and Jeimer Candelario tear up the Cactus League while they get their opportunities in Major League Spring Training.