State Of The Union: What’s In Store For The 2013 Chicago Cubs?
Thursday December 13th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer): Follow @bernieolshansky
Needless to say, it has been a dismal last few years for the Chicago Cubs. The last time they made the playoffs, it was 2008 and they were swept in the NLDS. They have not won a World Series since 1908 and do not look like they will be ending that drought anytime soon. The Cubs had a horrible 2012 in which they went 61-101. The record basically tells the story. The Cubs ended up trading Ryan Dempster, a fixture in the Cubs’ pitching staff for the past decade converting from a closer to a starter mid-tenure. In this feature, I will cover what’s ahead for this storied franchise.
For 2013, the Cubs really have not made any improvements. So far, their big offseason signing has been Nate Schierholtz, who was traded from the Giants to the Phillies as part of a package for Hunter Pence. Schierholtz will be joined in the outfield by Brett Jackson, a highly regarded prospect, and Alfonso Soriano. This outfield is not exactly a marquee group, but it will get the job done. Soriano should continue to provide some pop as he has hit 82 HRs in the past three years combined, and Brett Jackson should get on base and drive in runs with his gap-to-gap power. Schierholtz will fit right in with the rest of the lineup.
Although the offensive production of the outfielders is important, the success of the 2013 Cubs will be dependent upon the infield. Starlin Castro will need to continue what he has been doing for the past three years in hitting for average. Castro had a bit of a down year last year, only hitting .283 (he hit .300 and .307 in 2010 and 2011 respectively). Look for Castro to bounce back nicely and provide a boost in the average category. Castro is still developing, and one of the parts of his game that is lacking is power. Castro has not hit more than 14 HRs in his three-year career. In my opinion, it is just a matter of time before he finds his stroke and starts having 20-30 HR seasons. This could single-handedly bring the team to the next level. If the Cubs want to be successful in 2013, young First Baseman Anthony Rizzo will need to step up. This will be Rizzo’s first full season in the MLB, so it is important that he gets off to a good start and limits his slumps to only a few games. Rizzo hit 15 HRs in only 87 games last year, so look for anywhere from 20-25 HRs this year, maybe a few more.
Pitching-wise, the Cubs are limited. Jeff Samardzija took over the spot at the top of the rotation once Ryan Dempster was traded to the Texas Rangers, and Travis Wood and Paul Maholm backed him up. Matt Garza was injured for some of the season, only starting 18 games and throwing 103.2 Innings. If Garza can stay healthy and Samardzja can somehow replicate his success from 2012, the Cubs might be in decent shape. Carlos Marmol, the volatile closer, might be in for some trouble. The Cubs just signed pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa for two years and $9.5 Million, and Fujikawa could challenge Marmol for the closer’s role. The Cubs could still trade Marmol—they already tried doing so when they agreed to send him to the Angels for Dan Haren. They could not close this deal because of Haren’s health issues. This will be something to watch over the course of the next few months.
There does not seem to be a clear-cut winner quite yet of the NL Central, so an optimist could say the Cubs have a shot at the playoffs—especially with the extra Wild Card. I see the Reds repeating as Central Champions, but you never know; maybe the Cubs will surprise everyone and end their World Series drought.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshansky, Baseball Writer & Facebook Administrator. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter Follow @bernieolshansky***
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Posted on December 13, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles, MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged 2013 chicago cubs, alfonso soriano, anthony rizzo, Brett Jackson, Carlos Marmol, chicago cubs, dale sveum, dan haren, hunter pence, jeff samardzija, jeff smar, kyuji fujikawa, matt garza, nate schierholtz, NL Central, paul maholm, ryan dempster, satrlin castro, theo epstein, travis wood, wrigley field. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.