Blog Entry

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs

Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:02 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2012 7:57 pm

By Matt Snyder

After watching the Cubs go from a 97-win club to a 71-win version in just four seasons, owner Tom Ricketts took serious action in 2011. He fired general manager Jim Hendry and landed his version of a big fish, in former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. Epstein took over as club president then added Jed Hoyer as general manager and Jason McLeod as senior vice president of scouting and player development, among other front office pieces. The new management group then hired Dale Sveum as the big-league manager and started to clean house. It's going to be a long process, but said process has begun in earnest.

Scott Miller's camp report: Cubs Giddy With Optimism | Likes, Dislikes

Major additions: OF David DeJesus, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Ian Stewart, LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Travis Wood
Major departures: RHP Carlos Zambrano, OF Tyler Colvin, RHP Andrew Cashner, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Carlos Pena, LHP Sean Marshall, LHP John Grabow

Probable lineup
1. David DeJesus, RF
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Bryan LaHair, 1B
5. Alfonso Soriano, LF
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B

Probable rotation
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Randy Wells
5. Travis Wood

Chris Volstad will also be in the mix, but I gave Wood the nod because he's left-handed.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Carlos Marmol
Set-up: Kerry Wood, Jeff Samardzija

Important bench players

IF Jeff Baker, C Welington Castillo, OF Tony Campana, OF Reed Johnson

Prospects to watch
There are two here in particular that could make an impact in 2012: OF Brett Jackson and 1B Anthony Rizzo. It's entirely possible both are in the lineup come August. With Rizzo, it's a matter of whether or not LaHair can hit in the majors long-term -- as he could merely be one of those so-called Quadruple-A players. If that is the case and Rizzo is hitting well in Triple-A, the Cubs might well decide to turn to Rizzo. With Jackson, he's blocked all over the outfield, however, center field could easily be cleared in July. If the Cubs fall out of contention prior to the trade deadline -- and let's face it, that's a pretty good bet -- Byrd is a great trade candidate (sorry, I don't think the Cubs can deal Soriano just yet due to his contract). Byrd is in the final year of his contract and can play all three outfield positions, so surely some contender would cough up one mid-tier prospect for him. If that happens, the logical step for the Cubs would be to see how Jackson fared in center field for the final two months to determine if he can stay there or if he needs to be moved to a corner.

Fantasy sleeper: Bryan LaHair
"Usually, when a player in his late 20s puts up eye-popping numbers at Triple-A like a .331 batting average, 38 homers and 1.070 OPS, he's dismissed right away as a Quadruple-A player, but apparently the Cubs' front office thinks LaHair is different -- and not just because of his impressive 59 at-bat stint in the majors last year. The experiment could still be a failure of Kila Ka'aihue proportions, which is why you shouldn't bother with LaHair in mixed leagues, but late in NL-only formats, why not?" - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Carlos Marmol
"If blown saves were Marmol's only problem, it'd be one thing, but the bottom line is he's not the efficient out-getter that Epstein and Hoyer would like their closer to be. His walk rate is as bad as it gets, and as a result, he's always pitching out of jams. Sure, his high strikeout rate helps compensate for it, but if he produces anything short of a best-in-the-league-type hit rate, his WHIP is in the danger zone." - Scott White [Full Cubs team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
The deep pitching staff throws well and pays immediate dividends, as the bullpen improves with much better rest. Plus, behind the changes in right field and third base, the defense is also improved. Even Marmol's control issues drastically dwindle. LaHair and Stewart prove they can hit major-league pitching throughout the season and DeJesus turns out a perfect leadoff man for the suddenly balanced offense. And the Cubs find themselves right in the thick of the NL Central race with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers until the end of the season, possibly even finishing somewhere in the top three.

Pessimistic outlook
By the end of July, Garza, Dempster and Byrd are all traded as the Cubs have no shot of making the playoffs. The Cubs try to avoid the cellar in a battle with the Astros, but continue the rebuilding effort and look forward to hitting the 2013 free agency class full-steam (less than $40 million is committed to 2013 payroll so far). Really, this is more realistic than pessimistic, because as much as the Cubs' coaches, players and front office say they're trying to win this year, it's obvious this is a two-year plan at the absolute minimum.

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Since: Mar 29, 2012
Posted on: March 29, 2012 10:23 pm

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs

I think this will be the first year in a long time the Cubs will be working on fundememtals. No more bad news Cubs in the field, laying down bunts, advancing runners, etc.   Lot's of youth and low payroll next year, we should know what positions we need in free-agancy.  Remeber Dusty Baker's first year expectations were for last place and they surprised everyone a few outs form the World Series.  I see the Cubs soon being in the playoffs almost every year with Theo. 
I don't have high expectations this year but wait til next year.  Oh I think I say that every year.

Since: Dec 31, 2009
Posted on: March 7, 2012 12:16 pm

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs

As a lifelong Cub fan, I can handle losing. As long as there are signs of progress and then results to match. Remember nothing in the Universe is as strong as a Cub fan! We can take endless punishment and disappointment year after year. We are forever optimistic even in the face of doom. So if it takes a few more years to get it done, so be it. We will still be there with an Old Style in hand ready to cheer on the Cubs win lose or draw.

Since: Nov 27, 2009
Posted on: February 26, 2012 1:15 pm

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs

This team looks so bad!! They'll be lucky to win 70 games. Another long year for the Cubbies!!

Since: Feb 1, 2009
Posted on: February 26, 2012 7:46 am

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs

Ugh!  That projected batting order is looking grim!  If LaHair is going to hit clean up, hopefully he can turn into a Garrett Jones late-blooming type prospect.  Otherwise, no pitcher will have any reason to fear the heart of the Cubs order and we will be clamoring for Jackson & Rizzo!

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: February 25, 2012 8:06 pm

Spring primer: Chicago Cubs

In order for the Cubs to have an optimistic outlook, the main thing they have to do is cut down on Castro's errors. This will be his 3rd season, and if he still is making errors in numbers he did the last 2 seasons, he has to move out of the SS position. The Cubs will never win anything with a SS who makes so many errors, it just won't happen. Second thing is to trade Byrd ASAP and get Jackson to playing CF in the major league level.

Since: Jan 17, 2012
Posted on: February 24, 2012 10:49 pm
This comment has been removed.

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