Sunday, February 10, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

Theo's gonna bring his magic to the North side! Hooray! Well, Theo Epstein inherited a mess which is still in progress. The Cubbies have had a rough go of it since their ill-fated NLCS appearance in 2003 and blamed it all on poor Steve Bartman. Maybe they need to bring back Moises Alou. Anyway, the Cubs are in the midst of a major renovation of the roster. Fortunately, there are some solid youngsters in place, such as middle infielders Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney as well as slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The pitching staff has their own youngster to build around in Jeff Samardzija (and I spelled that without looking at Google to spell check!), but they have their holes. Let's take a look at the Cubbies

Starting Lineup
CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz/Scott Hairston
3B Ian Stewart/Josh Vitters
C   Wellington Castillo
2B Darwin Barney

Now, this could change quite a bit, but here's why I am going with this. I believe that DeJesus wins by default. You could put the RF platoon 2nd, but I think Hairston will bat 5th when he plays and it makes sense to put Castro higher. 3-4 and 6-8 won't change. Vitters and Brett Jackson need more minor league seasoning. This lineup is passable but needs some work and for Jackson and Vitters to grow into the hitters the Cubs expect. This is neither a World Series winning lineup nor a lineup for the future but a "eh, it's alright" lineup.

Starting Rotation
SP Matt Garza
SP Jeff Samardzija
SP Edwin Jackson
SP Scott Feldman
SP Scott Baker

Edwin Jackson's gotta be thrilled to not have to move around to another team. He practically lived out of a set of luggage. I've never (and I mean never) been a Jackson fan, but he'll provide a rotation veteran. Garza will be solid, provided he's healthy. He, Feldman and Baker are clear trade deadline chips with the expectation that Travis Wood, Arodys Vizcaino or Carlos Villaneuva will replace them. At least the Cubs have depth and options: more than they've had in years. If Samardzija can produce over the entire year, he can be deadly. A rotation that is improving will help Chicago long term.

CL Carlos Marmol
SU Kyuji Fujikawa
SU Shawn Camp
SU James Russell
SU Michael Bowden

I believe Wood and Villaneuva will get the other bullpen spots if they don't make the rotation. Camp, Russell and Bowden are all solid middle-relief types, who pitched to mid 3 ERA's or lower. Now, the back end of the pen is where it gets a little messy. The Cubs brought star closer Fujikawa over from Japan and right now he's got the 8th inning role, but I think it's only a matter of time before Marmol implodes again. I would stay away from this bullpen right now until Fujikawa is in at closer.

I can see why President Obama is a White Sox fan. It's gonna be another rough year for Cubs fans. I'm predicting a last place finish with the opportunity to compete with Pittsburgh for 4th. Look to 2014.

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