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  #1  
Old Feb 28th 2009, 8:33 am
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TheBenjamin TheBenjamin is offline
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Cubs thoughts: bench

This round of my thoughts on the current state of the Cubs seems to be the most obvious, outside of one position. I think that for the most part, like every other area on the 25 man roster, it has already been decided on who will be on the team. The bench is likely no difference, even though we do have alot of guys who are in competition. Because there are alot of guys in the competition, I will stick with the guys who I beleive wll be on the shortened bench, as well as a wild card candidate or two.

Paul Bako was signed a few weeks ago to be in competition with Koye Hill to be the back up to Geovany Soto. A lot of people are really upset that Henry Blanco was not kept, and to tell the truth I am one of them. I have always said that Blanco is the best backup catcher in the majors. I understand why he was released, but I will not say that I agree with it. Anyway, back to the current backup situation. Lou Piniella wanted to get more left handed, so Blaco left and Bako was signed. Backup catcher, I feel isn't all that important, because if your backup catcher has to play any serious amount of time, you are in trouble no matter who the backup is. While it is Bako's job to lose, Hill might have a leg up if he has a good Spring, and might win the job outright if it is close, simply because he is a switch hitter. Something that is common on the Cubs bench. So wether it is Bako or Hill, I am not overly concerned.

Micah Hoffpauir seems to be a shoe in to grab a spot on the bench. He is a lefty bat and has some decent pop. He can play first base for Derrek Lee here or there when Piniella believes that he needs a day off. But for the most part he will likely fill the void that was created when Daryle Ward was not kept at the end of last season. The two are basically the same player when you think about it. Limited defensively, decent left handed pop. While his lack of defense, and ability to play various positions might be a slight down fall for him, I don't think that it will be enough to keep him from making the club.

Aaron Miles and Mike Fontenot are also in competition here. As I talked about in the everyday player post, they each want to earn a spot as the starting second baseman. Whichever one doesn't win the job, will be on the bench. If I had to chose between the two, I would rather have Miles on the bench. He is a switch hitter which would give us a lefty and a righty bat on the bench in just one player. On top of that, he can play everywhere on the field, which would be very useful late in games when Piniella likes doing his double switches. While he can win the starters job, I feel that he is best used as a bench player.

Kosuke Fukudome and Reed Johnson are also in competition for the Centerfield starters job. Like Fontenot and Miles, they have a safety net of having the bench role waiting for the player that does not win the starting gig. This competition is Fukudome's to win, mainly because he is left handed. That being said, Johnson has a leg up in the competition because he will be in camp all year, unlike Fukudome who will be in the World Baseball Classic. I don't see anyway that Johnson does not win the starting gig if Fukudome does not show any signs of improvement from his horrid 2008 season. Either man could win, and both could be a huge asset coming off the bench. Johnson can play every outfield position, as I am sure Fukudome could do the same, with above average defense. Johnson off the bench would give you a right handed bat in key situations, and Fukudome would be that late inning lefty bat. Though if Johnson wins the job, Fukudome would be used primaraly for defense.

That laves one bench role available. I believe that this job goes to Joey Gathright, though there are a few outfielders who might try to step up and steal the job away from him. Those players are: Jake Fox, So Taguchi, Jason Dubois and Sam Fuld. I don't think that either one are all too likely to make the team though. Gathright and Fuld are left handed bats, so that will not factor into the decision for who wins the job between the two of them. Fox, Taguchi and Dubois are right handers who might win the job if Piniella feels that he needs another righty on the bench.

Gathright was one of the first players the Cubs signed in the offseason, and has tremendous speed, and can give you a decent bat if called upon. He can play all three outfield positions, which gives Piniella the versitality that he loves so much.

Fuld had an impressive month two years ago, and followed it up by having an outstanding Arizona Fall League. He hasn't done much since then, and is limited defensively. He had a major setback last year, and was demoted to Double A. I doubt he makes the squad.

Fox has limited major league experience, and hasn't done much with the chances that he has been given. He is a long shot at best. I have nothing really to say about him.

Dubois is the right handed Hoffpauir, limited defensively with decent pop. He wouldn't be a bad addition to the bench, due to his pop, but only for that reason. Just like Hoffpauir he can not play many positions, just first and possibly a corner outfield slot. I cant see both Hoffpauir and Dubois making the club, and between the two of them, give me Hoffpauir.

That leaves Taguchi as the final person to have a shot at making the club. He can play all three outfield slots, and can play decent defense. Nothing over;y specacular about him though. He was likely signed to give Fukudome another Japanese player to talk to when he gets to camp after the WBC has ended. While Taguchi wouldn't be a bad addition, I don't see him beating out Gathright for the final spot. Main reason that is, is because of Gathrights speed.

So here is my prediction for the bench:

Bako, Hoffpauir, Miles, Johnson, Gathright. However Hill, Fontenot and Fukudome could replace Bako, Miles and Johnson respectively based on performance in camp.
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Old Feb 28th 2009, 10:40 am
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Your analysis' of the team have been very outstanding, Ben! Great job!

I tell ya, just after the last couple of games, I'm feeling a bit better about the bench situation.... Hoffpauir has been amazing! 2 homers, 7 RBI's in just two games....at the very beginning of ST...(yes, it's early and the games don't count, but after months of an icky taste in my mouth from the october crumble, it is refreshing to see such promise!)Reed Johnson already making a "web-gem-like-throw-his-body-all-over-the-field-like play" in the very first inning...but I really thought I read where Lou is going to platoon Reed and Kouske on a regular basis on center, with Fukudome also backing up Bradley....

I have also been impressed with Gathright, as well. I do believe he will be the other bench player...

I always feel bad for Jake Fox...he comes in, has a fabulous spring training, and then disappears into the minors until next spring.
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Old Feb 28th 2009, 6:51 pm
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thanks for the kind words heather. I am a writer by nature, and I love baseball. so they go hand in hand. wish i could do it professionally
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Old Feb 28th 2009, 6:57 pm
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I got an email from mlb.com a few weeks ago looking for freelance writers to be analysts. Check mlb.com to see if there is a link on there anywhere.... you'd be good at it!
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Old Feb 28th 2009, 7:03 pm
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thanks, i will check it out
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Old Feb 28th 2009, 7:05 pm
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BTW...another good game for Hoffy today. He will have Sunday off and celebrate his birthday!
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Old Feb 28th 2009, 7:06 pm
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Hoff will make the club, unless he gets injured, i dont see him missing it
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Old Feb 28th 2009, 7:33 pm
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nothing on MLB.com or Cubs.com for a freelancer, so the position must be filled. I will keep my eyes open though.

Look for more posts and thoughts as the season goes on, as I will hopefully do ones on games and what not
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Old Mar 1st 2009, 10:57 am
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The real question is who will be brought up when Milton Bradley goes down?
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Old Mar 1st 2009, 10:59 am
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Likely one of the outfielders competing for the final bench spot. So Taguchi, Jason Dubois, Jake Fox.
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