What the Cubs Need to Do to Be Successful

The Chicago Cubs have gotten off to a very slow start in the 2013-14 season scoring a total of 9 runs in their first 5 games and as a result of that they are 1-4. The buzz around the city of Chicago is all about the excitement of top prospects Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Kris Bryant tearing up minor league pitching and rapidly moving up in the Cubs System. All of these players have fantastic stats but the stats don’t truly matter until these players can be productive big league players. The problem is is that these prospects have shown day in and day out that they are ready to move on to the bigs. Almora, might not be quite there yet but Baez and Bryant have proven they are by dominating minor league pitching and posting good spring training numbers. Cubs GM Theo Epstein won’t pull the trigger on sending these guys up. Bringing these players up will significantly improve the quality of the team but many more changes will need to take place in order for the Cubs to be a team to win games on a consistent basis. Here are 3 other things that need to happen for the cubs to start their path to being successful

1. The cubs need to find a reliable, all-around, everyday 2nd baseman. There are many different solutions the their problem at 2nd but first let’s establish what the problem is. Darwin Barney has proven that he is an excellent fielding 2nd baseman but he is an absolutely horrendous hitter. In 2013, Barney posted an atrocious slash line of .208/.266/.303. Not only does this show that he rarely gets hits or gets on base, but when he does it’s mostly because singles. The Cubs have many possible solutions to this problem. One possible solution is to bring up Javier Baez and play him at short and Starlin Castro at 2nd or vice versa. Doing this might slightly weaken the 2nd base spot defensively, but drastically improve it offensively. With the Cubs pitching being surprisingly good in the first few games of 2014, their offense is a glaring problem and Baez would improve it instantaneously.

Another solution would be to slide Luis Valbuena over to 2nd and make Mike Olt the everyday 3rd baseman. Currently, Olt and Valbuena are splitting time at third which is detrimental to the team because both players have shown offensive value to the cubs. Valbuena had an excellent eye and has proven to be adept at drawing walks. He also has shown solid power as he hit 12 homeruns in 108 games in 2013. Olt has also shown the ability to hit for power as he had 5 homeruns in a very good spring training that earned him a spot on the opening day roster. Either of these solutions would be a much better fit for the Cubs then having Barney as the everyday 2nd baseman.

2. If the Cubs want to be good now, their bullpen needs to be consistent, and deeper. The bullpen has been a problem for the Cubs for a very long time. However in 2014 they might show some signs of improvement. In 2013, reliever Pedro Strop Posted a solid 2.83 ERA in 35 innings with the Cubs. In his time in Chicago, he only gave up 11 earned runs, 5 of which were in one performance. Along with solid numbers Strop possesses a 97 MPH power sinker in addition to his best pitch which is his slider. Strop will be put into a much bigger role this season and if the cubs want to succeed he will need to continue to pitch at a high level. In the offseason the cubs also signed lefty Wesley Wright and Jose Veras who in recent history have proven themselves as reliable bullpen options to their clubs. Players like Brian Schlitter and Hector Rondon will also need to step up for the Cubs. If Strop can continue pitching at a high level and the rest of the pen can consistently pitch in late innings. The Cubs will improve as a team very much.

3. Lastly if the Cubs want to succeed Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro must have bounce back years. There are many things that I could criticize about these 2 players but there a few problems in their games that are in the most need of fixing. In 2013 Rizzo only hit .233 if Rizzo continues to hit in the heart of the cubs line up, a .233 average is unacceptable. If he was hitting 50 homeruns it might be a different story but .233 with only 23 HRs isn’t going to cut it. In order for the Cubs to succeed, Rizzo will either need to hit 10-15 more homers or improve is average by around 30 points.

Starlin Castro is a much bigger problem for the Cubs. Spending most of the season in the 3 spot, Castro posted a weak slash of .245/.284/.347. Castro’s numbers were only a bit better than Barney’s which makes him a big problem. In addition to his poor offensive play, Castro has been an extremely inconsistent defensive SS his entire career. There is optimism for Castro though. In Castro’s first 2 full big league seasons, he was voted to the All-Star Game and hit close to .300 in both of those seasons. Castro has shown in his career that he has the ability to hit, the question. is will he be able to have seasons reminiscent to his all-star years. Only time will tell for Castro but if he can bounce back along with Rizzo the Cubs might actually be a legitimate team.

Although many things need to happen for the Cubs to be a playoff contender, fans should be optimistic for the future. With a farm system fortified with elite prospects throughout and an improving bullpen, the cubs need their “key players” to perform at a higher level. If all of these things can happen, there might be October baseball played at Wrigley sometime in the near future.




Print This Post



Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
dabynsky
Guest
2 years 1 month ago

Javier Baez is proven to be ready? Baez has had a mere 9 at bats in AAA and struck out six times. It is pretty clear that Baez had things to work on in AAA. I am not worried long term based on three games, but Baez seems to be following the pattern of struggle early on followed, hopefully this year, by dominating.

Nick
Guest
Nick
2 years 1 month ago

Didn’t waste my time after reading that you used Spring Training stats as evidence of Baez being ready.
Can’t believe Fangraphs would even post this.

Iron
Guest
Iron
2 years 1 month ago

That’s a bit harsh. I’d agree his points about Baez are fairly one-sided, but it wasn’t a bad community article. My biggest criticism is that it is written as three things the cubs need to do, and the first two are things cubs management could do(fix 2nd base, fix bullpen), while the third is something cubs management would have to just cross their fingers and hope for. But overall, I thought it was a good piece.

John Racanelli
Guest
John Racanelli
2 years 1 month ago

I guess at this point there is not much else to write about regarding the Cubs other than their improved farm system. This is certainly in vogue, along with Darwin Barney bashing due to a poor 2013 season at the plate. While all of talk is about prayers and hopes that Rizzo and Castro return to form, everyone else seems to forget that Barney was much more respectable offensively in 2011 and 2012. Hopefully Barney has a bounce-back year with the bat in 2014 as well.

Even if Javier Baez tears up AAA pitching, there is no chance he will be called up to the Cubs before June 1st so that the Cubs can delay the start of the clock running on his arbitration eligibility.

Kris Bryant had 146 total at bats in A ball last year and he did well. He also looked good in the AFL. He needs to at least show some ability to hit AA pitching this season, however, before the Cubs consider calling him up. There is absolutely no way you will see him on the big club this year, other than perhaps a September call-up when the Cubs are 20+ games out of 1st place.

Alberto Almora is starting the season at high-A ball and, to me, it seems way premature to think that he will earn a call-up before September 2015.

I would like to see what Mike Olt can do at third, but as the right-handed hitting side of the platoon, he is going to get far fewer starts than Valbuena. Further, except for rare occasions where the Cubs face lefties on consecutive days, Olt is not going to have much of a chance to get comfortable at the plate. The Cubs know what they have in Valbuena and, in my opinion, Renteria needs to start Olt on a consistent basis before they can know how he will be able to handle major league pitching and assess if his vision is truly back to normal.

As a life-long Cubs fan, I am optimistic that the Cubs have an improved farm system but am otherwise frustrated that the Cubs seem to have forgotten that I don’t root for Iowa or Tennessee or Daytona or Kane County or Boise. Due to the financial constraints the Cubs are working under due to the structuring of the sale from the Tribune to the Ricketts and Major League Baseball’s profitability requirements, it seems clear to me that unless the minor league system bears considerable fruit, there is not much chance for the Cubs until at least 2019, when they will shed the constraints of the leveraged partnership debt repayments and hopefully have a shiny, new TV rights deal in place.

htownhacker
Member
htownhacker
2 years 1 month ago

How old are you, SeanF?

wpDiscuz