Quick Notes from Opening Weekend: Chatwood Feels Good, Megill Rules, Caratini Displays Big Bat

Only a fool would compile a list of takeaways from the second game of the spring, which is why I’m the one writing this post. There might have been one yesterday if not for the late start and my observance of National Margarita Day, so I’ll include some additional notes on the Cactus League opener at the end. And who knows, I might even turn this into a regular thing if it ends up being popular with the kids.

I suppose that means I should keep this a little shorter than usual to make that happen. Here goes nothing…

Chatwood off to strong start

Tyler Chatwood‘s opening frame lasted a little longer than he’d have liked, but he worked around a single and an error to get an inning-ending double play. He didn’t register a strikeout, nor did he issue a walk. The velocity readings showed 94 mph a few times, which is really solid at this early juncture, though it’s reasonable to worry that a move back to the rotation will see him dip from last season’s career-high 96 mph average.

Chatwood utilized the sinker with far greater frequency in 2019, throwing it nearly 40% of the time, and that’s one several trends to follow this spring. Getting his groundball results back up in the 57-58% range would be huge, especially as he faces longer outings. Sounds like he’s aiming to do exactly that.

“I think there’s still a lot of untapped potential,” Chatwood told reporters after leaving the game. “Right now, it’s the best I’ve ever been. I’m able to set up pitches, I’m able to see stuff, have confidence if I miss and come back with a breaking ball. So I feel really good and I’m excited to get going. I’m not worried about my mechanics, I’m able to just worry about executing pitches.”

Megill knows his role

Though it isn’t the conclusion you’d draw from his inning of work, I titled this post based on Trevor Megill‘s status as a Rule 5 pickup from the Padres this winter. The 26-year-old righty stands 6-foot-8 and can run the ball up to the plate at speeds approaching triple digits, which is why the Cubs took a flyer on him. He’s got a good shot to make the roster as is, but it’s a no-brainer if the strikeouts stay up.

Megill has registered 216 strikeouts in 157 minor-league innings (12.38 K/9), including 71 in 50.1 (12.69 K/9) with Triple-A El Paso last season. The four projection models used by FanGraphs have him between 9.83 and 10.96 K/9 at the MLB level in 2020, the high end of which would be incredible. He may allow a few more homers, but the positive WAR projections are excellent for a reliever.

“He understands who he is,” pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “That’s one significant thing with a lot of minor league guys, is understanding how they fit into the major league level. And he has a really good idea of what makes him successful.”

I like Megill as the righty version of Brad Wieck, another towering pitcher the Cubs picked up from the Padres last season. The Cubs didn’t just reshape their bullpen to get cheaper, they went after hard throwers who can miss bats. Having a lefty-righty duo that could be around for years to come sure would be nice.

Caratini shows pop

Victor Caratini was just about the only thing working for the Cubs offensively, rapping a long double from the right side before blasting a solo homer from the left side. After scuffling a little at the plate in limited action when he first came up, Caratini broke out with a 108 wRC+ last season that was much more reminiscent of his outstanding production in the minors.

David Ross has talked about possibly carrying Josh Phegley as a third catcher, but the switch-hitting Caratini has acquitted himself well behind the plate and is more than capable of backing up Willson Contreras.

Saturday’s takeaways

  • Duane Underwood Jr. looked good, picking up a strikeout and allowing a hit in his inning.
  • Jharel Cotton was one of the Cubs’ first low-key moves of the offseason and his stuff looked crisp over the course of a clean frame.
  • Kris Bryant struck out in his first leadoff at-bat, but came back with a two-run single the next time up. So much for not getting enough opportunities to drive in runs, huh?
  • Willson Contreras decimated a baseball for the Cubs’ first homer of the season.
  • Marquee’s coverage was really solid, whether it was the crisp picture or having players wearing mics throughout the game. Having Len and JD in the booth offers a strong measure of continuity. Now if they could just figure out the coverage.
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