This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Cubs, who under Theo Epstein’s management have rebuilt their minor leagues and brought feelings of hope to Chicago households again. Not too much hope though. Cubs fans know better than to let their defenses down like that. This hope manifests itself in the form of casual affirmations like “Maybe we’ll win one in the next hundred years.”
Projected Lineup: SS Starlin Castro, 3B Donnie Murphy, 1B Anthony Rizzo, RF Nate Schierholtz, LF Junior Lake, CF Ryan Sweeney, C Welington Castillo, 2B Darwin Barney
The Cubs have made significant progress towards exorcising the spirit of the billy goat.
Oh, excuse me. My fact-checker tells me that the billy goat isn’t a “spirit” per se. It’s more of a general curse, imposed on the Cubs by a man who just happened to own a billy goat. Curses are so complicated sometimes.
The Cubs have established a young core of players, expected to carry the team through the tough times and into the good times. The problem, at least as 2014 is concerned, is that these young players aren’t quite good enough yet. The seeds have been planted, but now the Cubs must wait to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Anthony Rizzo, one of the key players as the Cubs look to the future, has a few kinks to work out. He’s terrible against lefties—hitting a mere .189 against them last year.
Junior Lake is another guy with an inherent flaw. Lake’s issue is that he never walks. In 254 plate appearances after he was called up to the majors last year, he only took 13 free passes to first base.
Darwin Barney is an interesting case. He can’t hit at a major league-caliber level, that much has been clear for years. But his value is difficult to quantify, because he’s one of the best defensive second basemen in the game. He seems like he’d be that slick defensive infielder that every championship team needs to win it all—and when the Cubs eventually get to the World Series, Barney needs to be there.
But the Cubs have more infielders waiting in the wings. Arismendy Alcantara is a middle infielder who is good with the glove, and can hit well enough to be in the majors right now. He could be starting at second base by the end of the season, relegating Barney to more of a “late inning defensive substitute” role.
Pitching-wise, Travis Wood has become the ace of the staff, although I wish he’d change his number to 34 so Cubs fans could all recycle their Kerry Wood jerseys. Really, it’d be the least the team could do to make up for the many years of hardship the fans have gone through.
They’ve shored up the bullpen by bringing in former Astros greats Jose Veras and Wesley Wright. Sure, they may not be top-tier guys, but really anything’s an improvement after the torturous year of Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, and a number of other guys who decided to make the term “save situation” synonymous with “AAAAAUGHHH NOT AGAIN”. Just think of how many games the Cubs can expect to improve based strictly on the number of leads Carlos Marmol threw away last year. As any Cubs fan will tell you, the sky’s the limit for the post-Marmol era.
Projected Finish: 73-89, Fourth place in NL Central