The 2nd base job is the only real position up for debate for Manager Lou Pinella and his staff to decide in Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona during the next 2 months. How will it turn out?
Right now, Pinella and the staff are probably leaning towards some sort of combination of Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot at 2nd base. Fontenot showed that he really couldn’t handle the load of being the full-time 2nd baseman in 2009 (.236 batting average in 377 at-bats). Baker played the 2nd half of the season and performed at a high level for the Cubs (.305 batting average in 203 at-bats). But Pinella and the Cubs could be a little gun-shy of anointing Baker the everyday player considering how bad Fontenot was exposed as an every day player. Baker is right-handed and Fontenot is left-handed, so assuming that neither player outshines the other significantly in spring training, the easy solution is to platoon the 2 players. I have a feeling that’s how things will start in 2010, with Pinella favoring one of the other after a month or 2 of the season.
One alternative could be an entirely different 2nd base/shortstop combination. If minor league sensation Starlin Castro really shines during Spring Training, and if Pinella and the staff believe that the 20-year old is ready to play in the big leagues, you could see a Ryan Theriot / Castro combination. Theriot can play 2nd base and Castro is a solid shortstop, so it would be an interesting move for the Cubs to make coming out of Spring Training. My bet is that the Cubs continue to let Castro develop in the minor leagues for one more season. As the season progresses, if Castro continues to excel at Double-A and Triple-A, you could see the Cubs bring him up mid-season or in September once major league rosters expand. Castro is clearly the shortstop of the future, so fans at Wrigley Field are chomping at the bit to get a glimpse of the youngster in the very near future.
Stay tuned – this should be a really fun position to watch, especially if Castro really shines in Spring Training. That could make things really tough on GM Jim Henry and Pinella…