Wednesday, March 6, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

2012 Record: 61-101 (5th NL Central)
Key Additions
SP Edwin Jackson (4 years, $52 million)
SP Carlos Villanueva (2 years, $10 million)
SP Scott Feldman (1 year, $6 million)
SP Scott Baker (1 year, $5.5 million)
OF Scott Hairston (2 years, $5 million)
OF Nate Schierholtz (1 year, $2.25 million)
C Dioner Navarro (1 year, $1.075 million)
International Signings
RP Kyuji Fujikawa (2 years, $9.5 million)
RP Chang-Yong Lim (~5 million)

Key Subtractions
1B Bryan LaHair (Signed with Japanese team: JPL Softbank Hawks)
2B Blake Dewitt (Minor League Contract with ATL)
SP Justin Germano (Minor League Contract with TOR)
RP Jeff Beliveau (Claimed off Waivers by TEX)

Which new guy will help the most?
It’s safe to assume that free agent acquisitions will represent two to three fifths of the Cubs’ starting rotation going into the 2013 season. With that being said: the four acquired starters will not all make it to the rotation, and only one is guaranteed a spot: Edwin Jackson. Jackson has been one of the most consistent pitchers recently he’ll be out on the mound for around 200 innings, and throw to the tone of a ~4.00 ERA. He hasn’t been worth less than 1.3 WAR since 2006, when he was predominantly used out of the pen. Jackson’s biggest selling-point isn’t a high ceiling; it’s a model of consistency. A solid start every five days is how Jackson will help the Cubs strive to improve on their dreadful 2012 season.

Spring Training Battles
Can Brett Jackson earn the everyday CF job?

In order for Brett to begin the year in Chicago he’ll have to outperform Hairston and Schierholtz in spring training. Being a much better fielding outfielder, Jackson will have the edge, but his prospect status gives him the major disadvantage. The Cubs management could easily feel Brett could use some seasoning and send him down to AAA. Along with the battle against his teammates, Brett will have to battle himself, in order to earn the everyday job he’ll have to show management that his strikeouts will dip, resulting in him getting on base more, putting his speed to good use. 

With Garza, Samardjiza, and Jackson slotted as the top three, which two pitchers fill out the rotation?

Going into the year there are four starters looking for two open spots in the rotation. Scott Baker, Scott Feldham, and Carlos Villanueva all signed with the Cubs hoping to be a part of the 2013 Starting Rotation, but, disregarding any possible injuries, only one or two will make the rotation. Travis Wood is also in the mix. Looking at Scott Baker’s body of work in 2012 (1/3 of an inning), it doesn’t seem likely he could come right back into a rotation, but is still a viable possibly. Feldman is also on the bubble, he could very well not make the rotation, and will have to impress if he plans to begin in the top five. Carlos Villanueva has always had questions about his ability to pitch a full season; he wears down rapidly towards the end of the year. Carlos’ durability could definitely come into question when the rotation is being named, and may even be better suited for the bullpen. Travis Wood seems to have the best shot at making the rotation despite the lesser track record. Any two of these four pitchers could make the rotation given that there isn’t a big gap in ability and that’s what makes it exciting.

Questions Heading into the Season
Can the Cubs’ offense help their above average pitching staff make major improvements on last year’s record? 

Although the pitching staff looks very solid and has versatile depth, the offense is very much in question. When you expect a 23 year old sophomore (Anthony Rizzo) to quarterback your offense; that alone will bring doubts. Rizzo has a chance to be a special player, but only few can handle that pressure. Not only is Rizzo expected to be the best hitter, but most of the lineup’s production will have to come from young kids. Inexperience often goes hand and hand with question marks and worrisome doubts, but this lineup is full of special young talent and could surprise many.

Prospect Who Should Have the Most Impact in 2013
David DeJesus is slated to start the year in CF, but a good spring by Brett Jackson could force DeJesus in to his more comfortable RF. Brett is a naturally good fielding center fielder with speed and some pop in the bat, but has had tremendously awful issues when it comes to strikeouts. He struck out 59 times in 120 Abs in his 44 game stint with the Cubs in 2012, which is a cause for concern. A player striking out at a staggering rate of almost 50% isn’t acceptable at the big league level. Disregarding the defense and decent amount of HRs, you cannot do much when you cannot get on base. Brett will have to sort out his strikeout issues before he gets any serious consideration for the everyday CF spot.

Projected Roster (via
Projected 'Go-To' Starting Lineup
1 CF David DeJesus 
2 RF Nate Schierholtz  vs RHP 
3 1B Anthony Rizzo 
4 LF Alfonso Soriano
SS Starlin Castro  
6 3B Ian Stewart
7 C Welington Castillo  
8 2B Darwin Barney 

Projected Bench 
C Dioner Navarro
IF/OF Brent Lillibridge
OF Scott Hairston vs LHP 

Projected Starting Rotation 
1 RHP Matt Garza
2 RHP Jeff Samardzija 
3 RHP Edwin Jackson
RHP Scott Feldman 
5 LHP Travis Wood

Projected Bullpen
CL RHP Carlos Marmol 
SU RHP Kyuji Fujikawa BA#9
SU RHP Shawn Camp
MID LHP James Russell
MID RHP Carlos Villanueva
MID RHP Michael Bowden
LR RHP Hector Rondon  RULE 5
Projected Record
75-87 (5th in NL Central)

Although the Cubs’ have added strong depth to their rotation, their young lineup is still in question. The rotation projects well with the offseason acquisitions of Scott Feldham, Scott Baker, Carlos Villanueva, and journeyman Edwin Jackson, even with Garza’s health in question. If anything is going to carry this team to the .500 mark, it’ll be a healthy rotation. The Cubs’ aren’t going to be a playoff team in the very deep NL central, but this team could surprise some. 

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