Contingency plan - the hitters
It wasn't too long ago that one of the biggest acquisitions on the Cubs was a talented outfielder with injury proneness. And when he was healthy, Rondell White put up great numbers. In a season and a half with the Cubs, White managed to play in 114 games - 14 after he was acquired in 2000, and 95 in 2001. In 390 at bats, he batted .310 with 19 homers, 59 RBI, and he broke about 12 million hearts with his inability to stay healthy. The problem wasn't that we didn't expect him to get hurt - you'd have to have been an idiot not to think it was bound to happen. The problem was that the Cubs had nobody of substance to replace him when he was on the DL. In other words, when White went down, the backups were Delino DeShields and Roosevelt Brown - neither of whom were world breakers.
This year, the Cubs have invested a lot of money and hope in another extremely talented, often injured outfielder. But what happens when Milton Bradley gets hurt? Who do the Cubs have to replace this year's starters, and how well will they play? Let's take a look.
Geo Soto gets hurt
Wellington Castillo - Young and talented, Castillo may be the next Cubs minor league catcher talented enough to play in major league baseball. (He'd also only be the second or third one in 60 years.) He's not expected to be a heavy hitter like Soto is, but he makes contact and has defensive tools on the same level as Henry Blanco. Regardless of whether or not Bako becomes the backup this year, Castillo would be the call I'd make to replace an injured Soto on the team.
Derrek Lee gets hurt
Micah Hoffpauir - Ah, the hottest topic of debate amongst semi-illiterate Cub fans. Apparently all you need to have a fan club in Chicago is an immense season at Iowa in your 3rd or 4th year there and one good month at the Major League level. If you can achieve that feat, fans will be ready to burn their favorite player's jersey in order to insert you in his place on the roster. Maybe they're transient White Sox fans. Anyway, if Lee goes down with an injury, Hoffpauir is the obvious first choice to replace him at first base. Sorry Cub fans - Hoff almost certainly will not surpass Lee's productive (or defensive) capabilities in 2009, but he'll be a passable replacement.
Mike Fontenot gets hurt
Aaron Miles - Miles is a soft-hitting singles hitter who would be a starter on many teams in baseball. If he becomes the replacement for a dinged Fontenot, he'd be the #8 hitter in the Cubs lineup and the team probably would get by just fine for a while without their Lil' Babe Ruth.
Ryan Theriot gets hurt
Aaron Miles/Andres Blanco - Shortstop is one of the thin positions on the Cubs right now. If Theriot gets hurt, then the likeliest choice is Aaron Miles. But if it's Andres, then we should know that Blanco is a light-hitting shortstop like Theriot who is batting better than .300 this spring and is a career .252 hitter at the Major League level. He's only 24, though, so maybe he can improve on that.
Aramis Ramirez gets hurt
Jake Fox/Bobby Scales - Welcome to the next thinnest position on the Cubs. If Ramirez misses a prolongued period of time, the Cubs are screwed. Best case scenario, they move Fontenot over to this position and he gives them very thin defense. Worst case, the Cubs turn to Jake Fox or Bobby Scales. Both guys have had great springs, with Fox hitting 4 homeruns and driving in 16 RBI before being cut by Piniella yesterday. Bobby Scales is another versatile guy who has batted .333 so far this Spring. I'm not convinced either will translate well into full-time starting at the major league level, so probably the best option is moving Fontenot to third and starting Miles at second.
Alfonso Soriano gets hurt
Reed Johnson/Micah Hoffpauir - When the Fonz goes down, it will probably be Reed Johson who gets the bulk of the starts in left field. Reed has proven to be a very scrappy, white ballplayer. Should Reed need to play elsewhere, Micah Hoffpauir will probably get the nod.
Kosuke Fukudome gets hurt
Reed Johnson - At the moment, the only Cub with center field cred is Reed. Should Soriano and Fukudome collide in the outfield and both require time off, it will be Johnson who starts in center while Hoffpauir pulls duty in left. Another player who can patrol the outfield on a limited capacity is Aaron Miles.
Milton Bradley gets hurt
Reed Johnson/Micah Hoffpauir - Let's say that all three outfielders get hurt at the same time, then the likely promoted player might be Sam Fuld (who had a great Spring before getting cut), who could play any outfield position along with Reed and Micah. Fuld is also quite scrappy and fun to watch, although he lacks the offensive punch of even Kosuke Fukudome.
I think it's safe to say that because of Reed Johnson, Aaron Miles, and Micah Hoffpauir, the Cubs have the ability to survive up to three injuries at one go. But if they lose anything more than that for a prolongued period of time, it'll be tough to win with offense.
Maybe to you that sounds dire or grim, but ask yourselves ... how many other teams out there could survive for a few weeks (or even a month) at a time with three regulars on the DL? The answer is: few or none. The Cubs definitely have some depth problems on the left side of the infield, but they are a solid looking ballclub.