Contingency Plans - the Pitchers
Yesterday, we took a look at the contingency plans in place for the Cubs hitters. We discovered that as many as three regulars could be injured at one time and the Cubs would have the ability to pick up the slack and continue to rain a glorious and holy offensive fire upon the pitching staffs of the league. ("A glorious and holy offensive fire..."? Now THAT is a descriptive!) So, let's see what the Cubs do if...
Jeff Samardzija - The first arm I tap to replace an injured starting pitcher is the Shark. Maybe he's ready, maybe he's not. Maybe he has growing pains to go through. But for his potential alone I'd give him the first nod.
Yesterday, we took a look at the contingency plans in place for the Cubs hitters. We discovered that as many as three regulars could be injured at one time and the Cubs would have the ability to pick up the slack and continue to rain a glorious and holy offensive fire upon the pitching staffs of the league. ("A glorious and holy offensive fire..."? Now THAT is a descriptive!) So, let's see what the Cubs do if...Carlos Zambrano gets hurt
...and Ryan Dempster
Aaron Heilman - If two starters go down at once, I'd work on the Aaron Heilman reconditioning program. Once Heilman is ready to start, he might effortlessly become one of the better pitchers in the rotation based on his solid play this Spring.
...and Rich Harden
Chad Gaudin - Here's where it starts to get ugly. I still believe that Gaudin has the potential to be a good'un (get it? Gaudin, good'un? They almost sound similar!), and it wouldn't be the first time a pitcher totally sucked in March and cranked it up in April, but Gaudin no longer appears to be the great insurance policy that he once was.
...and Ted Lilly
Mitch Atkins - This is a tough call. If Angel Guzman is still a Cub, then he gets the first nod just because of his experience. Atkins, though, is the 15th prospect on our Top Prospects list and in Iowa last year went 8-1 with an ERA of 4.47 in 10 starts. The ERA is not exactly something to be excited about, but he's probably as close as the Cubs get in 2009 to having a Sean Gallagher-type who might be ready to pitch in the majors when called upon.
...and Sean Marshall
Kevin Hart - Again, a tough call. This is the worst case scenario. Remember - Hart only gets promoted to replace Marshall if every other Cubs starting pitcher has already been hurt at the same time. (Maybe they piled into somebody's vehicle clown-car style and had a crash or something.) Hart is also a little old now to be considered a viable prospect - 27 - but he's pitched exceptionally well in Iowa and he did well this Spring with the Cubs. Hart actually has had a very interesting Spring. He's tossed 9 innings, allowed 6 ER, and struck out 14 to 2 walks. I wouldn't count on him to deliver reliable, winnable performances every single game, but if he can give the Cubs 5+ innings of work every outing while the Cubs desperately await any of their other starting pitchers to return from our theoretical injuries, then that's really about all they could ask for.
Carlos Marmol gets hurt
Kevin Gregg - Assuming Marmol is the closer, Gregg becomes the replacement closer. Obviously, it's vice-versa if Gregg gets the nod and is hurt. Gregg has demonstrated that he should be reliable to close in '09. Actually he just might have a smaller chance of flaking out than Marmol does.
Again, the Cubs show a lot of strength here despite what some of the talking heads might say. Back when the Cubs dealt Marquis to Colorado, some of the bored Chicago sports writers about went Bree Gordon on us and flipped out because there was some fear about the Cubs having less depth in case of a variety of worst case scenarios. But assuming that Gaudin gets his groove back, the Cubs could probably survive as many as three rotational injuries at once. Find for me one team that can say the same thing.
Better yet, find me one team that wouldn't take one of the Cubs alternates right now. There are probably a handful with solid, filled rotations, but most teams have trainwrecks for 5th starters. Not the Cubs.
As much as I detest his ability to draft and develop prospects, I'll give Jim Hendry credit this time. The Cubs are deep, they are solid, and they will win a lot of games in 2009 ... even if the worst case scenario happens up to six times at once.