Profiling the Cubs offense

I've covered the Cubs Bullpen and the Cubs Starters before, today I'd like to focus on how I think the lineup shakes out. With Choo gone it makes this unit perhaps a bit more stable than the other units. There will be a lot of fluidity here, lineups are rarely ever set in concrete and there are enough platoon candidates here to justify a revolving door policy. I didn't include the bench guys yet, there are a few names that we will touch on later as the season gets closer. I expect there to be more than a few updates to this version as well. Ditto the guys in the minors who will be knocking on the door in 2014. Those guys will be profiled later.

1. Luis Valbuena (2B) - (391 PAs .218/.331/.378)

The 28 year old Venezuelan enjoyed some through the early parts of the season before completely falling off the table in June and never fully recovering his April-May form. Valbuena maintained good plate discipline throughout his malaise however, and finished the year with a 13.6 BB%. I doubt he'll ever hit for much average but a .331 OBP isn't anything to scoff at either. It's for these reasons that I think Valbuena will supplant the light hitting defensive maven Darwin Barney. While I do think Barney is a useful player I also think his value is marginalized on a team with as many offensive holes as the Cubs currently have. With Shin-Soo Choo off the market the Cubs will need as much supplemental offense as they can muster and Valbuena fits the bill.

2. Starlin Castro (SS) - (705 PAs .245/.284/.347)

There wasn't a player as disappointing as Starlin Castro was in 2013. I had him tabbed for a breakout year at the plate but he took several steps backwards complete with high profile lapses in concentration and issues with the coaching staff. The latter led to Dale Sveum's dismissal. The Cubs are invested in Castro and will seek to give him as many plate appearances as they can. Hitting second will do that for Castro. 2014 will be a very important year considering the middle infield talent that figures to be knocking on the door by September. Any combination of Mike Olt, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara will make for a crowded infield and Castro needs to show that he belongs at the front of that conversation. I doubt you build a team around Castro but I also think his skillset is such that he's a useful player to have around. It's been gradual but his defense has improved from year to year. Let's just hope that the bat return to form.

3. Anthony Rizzo (1B) - (690 PAs .233/.323/.419)

Rizzo hit one of the most metal homeruns in Cubs history (475' of pure loud) and then proceeded to never get on track. He's a curious case. Rizzo hit 65 XBH showcasing some impressive gap and some over the fence power, but the average hovered around .240 before cratering down to .233 in July and August. Rizzo had a low BABIP (.258) but that might be due to defensive shifting more than bad luck. Rizzo also has an ugly platoon split against LHP (.189/.282/.342) which is a concern moving forward. I never thought he would hit for much average but I had Rizzo tabbed in the .260 range more than the .230 range. He has legit power and good loft in the swing. There was a concern that he might be dropping his hands too low which would explain some of the missing singles. The on base skills are there, the power is there, the contact rates need to show up just a bit more.

4. Nate Schierholtz (RF) - (503 PAs .251/.301/.470)

Schierholtz showed up and supplied a surprising amount of power considering the player's recent history. He'll have to continue moving forward considering that northside pariah Alfonso Soriano isn't around anymore. Schierholtz hits like Soriano when he's pitted against RHP (.262/.300/.499) but he turns into bad Adam Dunn against LHP (.170 .308 .245). John wrote about this but here's where a platoon makes a lot of sense especially with new acquisition Justin Ruggiano who hit .248/.329/.504 against lefties last year. We know what Nate is at this point, righty masher with a good arm. I doubt there will be any surprises with his production this year.

5. Junior Lake (CF) - (254 PAs .284/.332/.428)

2013 was the year of Lake puns; Lake effect and...well really that's about it. It was also the year that Junior Lake rose from the prospect grave and came back to haunt Kevin Goldstein's ghost. Kind of. Anyway, Lake surprised in a big way last year. In my opinion he also surprised in an unsustainable way. I like Lake, I appreciate his aesthetic and I desperately hope that I'm wrong about him because he is so very fun to watch. From an analysis standpoint I don't think I'm wrong and I think he'll settle into a utility role at some point this year after Kris Bryant comes up. Lake has loud, obvious tools and no idea what to do with them. I have him in center because of the tools but it's just as likely that he swaps with Sweeney because of his rough edges.

6. Mike Olt (3B) - (432 AAA PAs .201/.303/.381)

If Mike Olt has a tremendous spring training (dumb as it sounds) he wins the 3B job and the Cubs have some decisions to make. Olt was the Rangers top prospect just a year ago. Vision problems hurt him last year and the hope is coming into 2014 that those issues are behind him and he'll return to form. The Cubs are hoping that the Olt who posted a .288/.398/.579 in 2012 shows up in 2014.

7. Welington Castillo (C) - (428 PAs .274/.349/.397)

The Beef was a good surprise in 2013 as he provided solid defense and showed up well enough with the stick. Castillo's power disappeared in 2013 and the OBP was inflated by hitting in front of pitchers but he hit well enough in the 6th hole (.274/.349/.397) to make 2014 an intriguing one. The Cubs were reportedly seeking out upgrades at catcher all offseason and haven't landed one yet. That's fine, I think they have a fine backstop in Castillo. Catcher's tend fluctuate wildly so some regression with the bat wouldn't be unexpected, but the glove plays.

8. Ryan Sweeney (LF) - (212 PAs .266/.324/.448)

Sweeney isn't outstanding, but on this Cubs team it doesn't really matter. He's a good defensive outfielder who might be miscast as an everyday CFer, but this Cubs team doesn't have one of those so he might end up there anyway. He hits for ok power, has ok on base skills, doesn't run particularly well but he has an OK walk rate (8.0 BB%) and might make an argument for being the leadoff hitter.

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Baseball, Cubs, lineups, mlb, offense


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  • Maybe you should do an expected Iowa lineup, it would probably be more exciting than this lineup. That lineup largely hinges on Castro and Rizzo bouncing back.

  • I'll be doing potential lineups for the minors at some point. Probably when I have a better idea of who is making the MLB team and who trickles down where.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Can't wait but understand you have to know who is playing where.

  • Olt's AAA numbers are ugly. That plus this FO liking to give a guy a full year's ab's at AAA, I don't think he makes the club regardless of his spring.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    500 AB's is not required, especially for players who have already had a cup of coffee in the majors, but his 420 PA's already in AAA is close enough if he has a good spring.

  • In reply to Theo Epstein:

    Mike Olt at AA: 432PA, .290/.396/.585

    Mike Olt at AAA: 420PA, .197/.302/.368

    A handful of spring training ab's aren't gonna convince me he needs to be anywhere but Iowa to start the year.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Im not saying he's necessarily earned a promotion but I think the belief (hope) is that his drop in production is due to his eyesight issues and not because he was overmatched at the level. So the view is that a dominant spring with good eyesight would validate this belief. Its an optimistic outlook for sure but not unreasonable.

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    In reply to Carne Harris:

    Iowa's third base situation is going to be awfully crowded. Christian Villanueva will start there, Baez may have to move there at some point, and Bryant should be up there before long as well.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    That's the main argument for doing it but it's also textbook "rushing a guy" - letting organizational need instead of developmental progress dictate a player's advancement. If you're going by developmental progress, I think it becomes pretty likely a couple of those guys jump Olt.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Those AB's in AAA were in 2013. He had vision problems from his concussion, which I am sure you know about. If he has a good spring, and by that I mean hits with power, doesn't swing at bad pitches and keeps his average at least at 250 range, which is all he will hit anyway, he will be the starter at 3B for the Cubs. It is not rushing a guy, who has already experienced the majors for a cup of coffee and had an injury lead to a lost season, in which he still received 432 PA's on the year.

    He turns 26 during the 2014 season.

  • In reply to Theo Epstein:

    Huge, huge, assumption to think all his problems at AAA were due to vision problems. If they were then sending him down to Iowa to prove it doesn't hurt anything. If they weren't, then promoting him to the big club does.

  • Unless there's a surprise trade made by the start of 2014,by that I mean a bat (outfielder variety) brought in too provide some power and OBP skills, then this coming season looks to be a repeat of the last one. Not much offense but at least the bullpen looks to be much improved,after all Marmol won't be trotted out there in save situations anymore. Starting pitching looks to be unsettled at present but a miracle signing of (Tiger) Tanaka would make tis team a highly competitive one. By mid Summer we'll be anxiously waiting on Baez and possibly Bryant. Alcantara would be a huge surprise to me if he were to make the roster at beginning of season.We can only hope Olt lives up to his former hype. Spring training can't come to soon.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Agreed - I think this is a club that (again) struggles to consistently score runs (although not as bad as the end of last season,... Yikes!), but that keeps things close most days with good defense, adequate starting pitching, and a better bullpen than the beginning of last season.

    By mid-late season, if some of the 'kids' are ready to come up - that could be an interesting team - or a frustrating one if the kids struggle with a transition to the big leagues.

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Mr Riot no Marmol,hopfully a better Rizzo,Castro will make team better. A replacement of Barney will help. I think SP and RP is better. Platoon in RF looks good. I can't help to hope for Lake who is exciting to watch which we need. Sweeney is a decent player and of course always hope for a surprise. I think the Cubs will be better and even thought I wasn't a Renteria fan he may makes us better. Cheer up friend i'm excited.

  • Pretty much how I see the lineup playing out IF Olt breaks camp as the everyday 3B.

    If he starts in AAA, we'll see the Valbuena/Murphy platoon at 3B or maybe a Valbuena/Roberts platoon and Barney as 2B. If Barney continues his trend of hitting barely above the 0.200 line, or Olt makes the case he needs to be promoted - I think yours is the lineup we see come June.

  • You should do a month by month lineup as players move in and out of the system. By September, the offense could be pretty good. But this no bueno. Any team reliant on Valbuena can't be good.

  • Pro tip, Mauricio: Place scare quotes around the word "offense."

  • In reply to Eddie:


  • Attention K-Mart shoppers: Cubs lineup in aisle 5. Attention K-Mart workers: cleanup in aisle 5.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    True enough SSJ. That is NOT a pretty lineup offensively.

    Not half bad defensively though.

  • I think that Sweeney and Valbuena would be flip flopped. Valbuena does have a higer walk rate but Sweeney is a bit more athletic which is something that you need at the top of the lineup. Not that it is going to matter......

    Also, I am wondering what is the minimum Olt has to do to break camp as the starting 3B. Stats don't mean anything in AZ, so I am wondering if it is just solid contact, seeing the ball well etc is what the FO and coaches would be looking for.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I suspect you're right. With Bryant tabbed for AA, and Villaneuva tabbed to probably start at AAA, I'm sure the FO would prefer Olt at the ML level, provided he's over his eye issues. Of course, with the paucity of 3B talent thru-out the majors, a trade could be possible at any point in Spring Training or the first half.

  • Wait. What? Scheirholtz has a higher OBP (.308) vs LHP than RHP (.300)?

  • Boy, talk about Christmas cheer. Hard to decide which excited me more--the thoughts of my kids ripping through the wrapping on their presents or this lineup ripping through the NL.

  • Might want to check Castillo's overall average vs. his 6th hole performance - they are the same which seems odd.

    There are a lot of 'IFs' that need to come to fruition in order for the Cubs to do any damage. Castro / Rizzo are the keys, obviously. Olt showing up helps things immensely. If we are in it at the start of July and Baez / Bryant are doing their thing - I think Theo moves them up so see if they can provide a spark. I dont think he will arbitrarily move them up for the sake of pleasing the fans / media. But if the Cubs are within striking distance of the WC - I think Theo realizes that this team really, really needs some positive press. If they struggle, he can send them back down for more seasoning. Plugging Bryant in LF/RF and Baez at 2B could be a nice offensive upgrade...

  • I think the one thing I've been disappointed about this year is not doing something (yet) to improve the team OBP. I think the Ruggiano platoon will help and I think a full year of Sweeney will be nice -- but it probably won't be more than what DDJ gave while he was here.

    I'm also a bit wary of Lake being able to sustain his numbers and carry them over a full season. So far he's shown a way of proving everyone wrong, though, and I hope it continues. I suspect much of his value may have to come from his ability to play quality defense at a premium position (CF), while providing average power on offense.

    Olt is potentially an upgrade, but it appears the Cubs are going to have to hope Castillo builds on the second half and that Castro and Rizzo bounce back with good seasons.

  • I thought one thing on the offseason check list was to get some protection for Castro and (mostly) Rizzo so they didn't feel the pressure they had last year after Soriano was traded? After Soriano was dealt, it really caused them to take huge steps backward. I know there isn't much for free agents OF with solid power bats, so do you see them making a trade anytime this offseason or ST to help with that? I can imagine the "deer in headlights" look Rizzo would have after reading this article and seeing this line up...

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    In reply to IowaCubbie:

    That was the plan this offseason along w what John has been preaching ( well including the mental giants on the FO) improving the OBP.

    So far they have failed at both but it's only December, we have to believe these guys won't fail the whole offseason. Help is coming to protect the futures ( there investments) in Castro and Rizzo.

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    I tend to agree that we still have time, especially with this front office. I can see how they would wait for the mad rush to be over and see who is left that would take a contract (either years or money) after there aren't as many teams looking, typical Supply and Demand scenario. I am just curious who is still out there in the FA Market that would fit this mold? Or would it have to be a trade? Maybe a Russell+ trade? I don’t know who we really have that has trade value that we would be willing to give up. I think the FO has a great plan from July 2014 and after but we still have some gaps to take care of before that time. If we don’t fix a few of them, we could be setting our current MLB core players up for a slow start this spring. Here’s to hoping that Olt comes out with the same game he had in 2012!

  • At this point, assuming Rizzo is batting 3rd, who will bat clean up ?

  • In reply to Rbirby:

    Probably the Schierholtz/Ruggiano platoon.

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    For me and as of now, Sweeney is our lead-off guy. I like Valbuena's approach to the plate, and I'm okay with a lower BA at the top of the lineup, as long as the OBP is solid, but Valbuena's BA is just too low for #1. Also, I'm all for giving Olt the #4 spot if he has a solid spring.

    As of now, I'm predicting this:

    1. Sweeney - CF
    2. Castro - SS
    3. Rizzo - 1B
    4. Olt - 3B
    5. Schierholtz - RF
    6. Lake - LF
    7. Castillo - C
    8. Valbuena - 2B

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    I think I agree with John I like the rf platoon for clean up. Also Lake in CF. I hope I'm wrong but I'mnot excited at this time about Olt. I think at this point I'd have Val leading off in this lineup and Olt batting down. I also hope there will be a surprise coming. If Lake can play cf as a regular the team will be more exciting.

  • Can we please stop labeling Lake as a potential utility guy? He cannot play IF. If he isn't a starting OFer, then he becomes a backup OF or a minor leaguer.

    He has zero value on the IF. He is atrocious there, and an organization that stresses defense will not put him there on anything other than an emergency basis. If people think Castro is frustrating on defense, they would commit suicide if they had to watch Lake.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Maybe he meant utility player as opposed to utility infielder?

    It does appear they are going with Lake exclusively in the OF but he was a full-time 3B as recently as last year at Iowa and hadn't played the OF in any regular season in his professional career. His move to the OF came out of necessity because of injuries and having nobody else from the roster worth calling up. Until then most had assumed that when he came up, he'd come up as a 3B.

    At any rate, I think we're just talking about a versatile player here who can play multiple positions, mostly LF, CF, RF, but probably also 3B if he had to, provide some power and speed off the bench if he doesnt' start. There's some utility with Lake so maybe this is just about semantics.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Semantics probably. I guess the term utility could be applied to OF, but its not something I was ever brought up with, nor have I ever heard anyone else refer to it that way. When I think of utility player, I think of a guy that can move around the IF and play OF if he had to. To me Lake is just an OF, period. He has absolutely no instincts for the IF. He has bad footwork, no timing, and to top it all off his arm is erratic.

    I just think people have the belief that because Lake played IF throughout his minor league career and never really played any OF until he got to the majors that he would be able to play 3B or 2B in some capacity for the Cubs and I just do not believe that to be the case. He would be a major defensive liability if forced into action at either spot. Square peg, round hole. I think the Cubs left him there as long as they could hoping it would come together, because his offense would play better in the IF, but the light never went on for him.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Utility guy as it pertains to filling in at all three OF positions and earning part time PAs.

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    In reply to mjvz:

    I wonder, how many times have you seen Lake play the IF? I've never seen his defense described as "atrocious". He played SS through much of his minor league career, and while he was moved off of there, as John mentions, he was coming up as third baseman. While his D may grade out below average, I think the rest of his tools could certainly bring enough value to spot start at all three OF positions, as well as third, or even first.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    I've seen him play many times. At Peoria, at Tennessee, at Iowa and ST. I will admit, I only saw him play 3B once last year, all of my other looks he was at SS or 2B, but he is not a major league caliber defender at 3B/SS/2B in my mind. He has no internal clock for baserunners, his footwork is bad and he struggles to make quick transitions and so he often is forced to make hurried throws which leads to a lot of errors.

    I think one thing people forget is that Lake has grown at least a couple, if not several inches since he signed with the Cubs. His legs are very long. People have questions regarding Bryant's ability to play 3B simply because of his height and Lake has a very similar lower body build. You have to be very technically sound to handle playing IF with that type of body and Lake is anything but technically sound.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I don't want this to come off like I do not like Junior Lake, because it is not true. He is a terrific athlete, appears to be a very hard worker, and brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to a ballclub. He is also reportedly a very good teammate and person. This is strictly my personal observations of his abilities.

    Giving Lake every opportunity to find a home in the IF throughout his minor league career was absolutely the correct organizational approach. He would have been much more valuable had it worked out, but it just didn't happen. Lake was always the type of athlete, where he could transition to the OF without much practice and he was able to do a decent job while learning the position at the MLB level. I have stated in other articles that I think he should be given the everyday CF job. Letting him get his feet wet in LF last year was fine, but now that he will have a full offeseason and ST working as an OF, he should be able to push Sweeney to a corner with little problem, he is that good of an athlete and the position fits his skillset much better.

  • While there are times I think this rebuild is going to slow and we don't have enough core pieces, maybe this is the type of off season a club would have when transitioning to a prospect driven team. If we think that the Cubs could have anywhere from 1 to 4 prospects up by August, you need to have positions to play them every day.

  • Chance Lake hits 5th: 10%
    Chance Sweeney hits 8th: 0%

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I think Sweeney is the lead-off hitter (by default).

    Sweeney, CF
    Castro, SS
    Schierholtz/Ruggiano, RF
    Rizzo, 1B
    Olt, 3B
    Lake, LF
    Beef, C
    Barney, 2B

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I like this lineup rxcept for Barney - maybe input Murphy instead

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Sweeney started 18 games hitting sixth and 10 games apiece at 5th and 8th.

    Lake's second most common Batting Order slot was 5th.

  • In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    Lake was red hot when he came up. I don't expect (nor should anyone reasonably expect) him to continue to hit like that.

    Sweeney did hit 8th against lefties, I did forget about that. I suppose that could continue, but he never hit that low against righties.

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    In reply to Mauricio Rubio Jr.:

    No offense, but that was also with an imbecile filling out the lineup cards. the same guy who protected Bryan LaHair with the useless Steve Clevenger.

    Not saying those players won't appear in those spots, but going off of Dale's lineups really shouldn't be any sort of an indicator.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Not to defend Sveum here, but there's really no good evidence that lineup protection really works. He could have been trying to get his guys with better approaches closer to the top of the lineup -- and Clevenger was one of the Cubs better OBP guys early in the year. If LaHair didn't make it, it was because of his own shortcomings.

  • Valbuena has had plenty of time to un-seat Barney as an everyday 2B, and hasn't. It's because he is nothing more than a bench/utility player. Barney may be destined for the same fate.... but he will be given the chance to see if he can turn it around offensively.

    Ironically, his offensive woes are on the same time-line and regressing plane as Castro's. Not coincidentally, the same time as Rowson replaced Jaramillo. In 2011, Barney slashed .276/.313/.353/.666. Not earth shattering by any means, but with his defensive skill set; that's a tradeable commodity at the deadline.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Finally somebody is making the Rowson/Jamarillo connection. Also if I remember right Dale was working personally with barney in the pre-season last year. Barney will get a chance to redeem himself before they give the job to the Valbuena/Murphy platoon. If Barney comes back they can et a prospect for him at the dedline,

  • Nice analysis but I don't see where we go into the season with Valbuena @ 2nd... Barney hasn't been traded yet and I think he starts 2014 with the Cubs. With the exception of Ruggiano and the bullpen any improvement with the team will have to come with individual results being better.

  • Well, a one should get pretty good odds in Vegas with this lineup. I think Barney starts at 2b and Olt gets a few reps at AAA. It's a do over with new field management.

  • Would a platoon of Val and Murphy improve 2nd base?? I agree with everyone that Val is not the answer at 2nd but a slight upgrade of Barney. Maybe.

  • I'm still convinced Vitters will make a push for the LF spot. He's crushed AAA the past 2 years and if his walk rate stays at the 11% it was in 100 AAA PA's last year he has the potential to be a pretty big OBP type because he's always hit for average but previously only walked at a 5-6% clip. Plus, he gives you someone who can fill in at both CI positions and both corner OF positions.

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    In reply to beckdawg:

    I have no confidence in Critters at all. Plenty of guys have crushed AAA pitching and gone on to be bums or worse at the MLB level. Remember Roosevelt Brown? He put up ridiculous numbers at AAA 3 years in a row, but was a bust as a big leaguer. For that matter, Do the names Bryan LaHair or Micah Hoffpauir ring a bell? I think Vitters has only a slightly better chance of sticking in the majors than you or me.

  • That was the scariest note on Rizzo I think I've ever seen. I didn't realize his splits were that bad.

  • I think you have to give Olt the 3rd base job out of spring training (unless he is atrocious) because it might be his only shot to prove what he can do... Give him a half a year or so and when you start calling guys up he's either locked 3rd base down or he gets benched/optioned. I envision Alcantara running away with 2nd base and Baez taking 3rd... In this scenario and if Olt hits who do you think moves to the OF? I would guess Olt.

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    In reply to Rudy:

    I think if Olt is successful at 3B, Baez takes over at 2B and Bryant in RF. I think it's a little too soon to be penciling in Arismendy Alcantara anywhere just yet.

  • In reply to Rudy:

    I agree with you Rudy in Olt needs to be handed the 3rd base job out of ST unless he embarrasses himself. This team isn't going anywhere so why not give Olt a 1/2 yr to see what he can do? Oakland, because they don't spend a bunch on free agents, does this type of thing. Look what they did with sticking Josh Donaldson at 3rd & giving him a chance to develop - he rewarded the A's with a career yr last yr.

    IMO, we won't see Alcantara this yr on the big Cubs - he'll need a full year in Iowa. I believe Baez will be ready before Alcantara and Baez will take over at 2nd provided Olt works out at 3rd. If Alcantara starts pushing to reach Wrigley, then we'll have some decisions to make especially if Bryant is ready. This would be a great issue to have!

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    I just think it's absolutely crucial that Alcantara is given every opportunity to claim the 2nd base job because he is the only lefty(switch hitter) in the pipeline and he profiles well as a top of the order hitter with great speed to boot.

  • Castro lead off, Sweeney second. Olt still the biggest question mark with the vision problem.

  • I believe our strongest asset on this club is our middle bull pen set up guys........and believe me, next season these guys will see plenty of action......

    What happens if W. Castillo hits the DL for a long time?.......can the Cubs survive with a 200 hitter?

    What if Rizzo is a 240 hitter?.........will the Cubs speed up Vogelbach or tell Bryant to learn first base?

    What if Castro's mind is still on his money that he lost and still hitting poorly?........will any language change Castro?.....

    Who replaces Schierholtz?......Szczur, McDowell, Ruggiano, Ha.....take your choice......

    If the Cubs are doing poorly by June, would Theo also trade Travis Wood?......

    What if Baez, Soler, Almora & Bryant are killing the ball in the minors and the Cubs are in last place?.....should Theo promote them all to the majors to save the Cubs fan base?

    Right now, the Cubs have 3 legit starting players out of 8 field positions......everyone else is a back up or a AAA player.........No #1 pitcher...No #2 pitcher......Their #3 pitcher might be gone before Spring Training.........can Edwin Jackson be our best starting pitcher?

    Was Choo ever on the Cubs radar?....did Theo even discuss numbers with Choo's agent?....or Ellsbury agent?.........or was Theo too busy talking with Ruggiano and McDowell agents.

    Would someone like Tanaka, eager to get on a MLB winning team, would even think of signing with a club who has not won a World Series in 105 years ( plus three straight 90 plus loss seasons) when you have the Yankees & Dodgers knocking at your door !

    Tanaka signing with the Cubs is a Santa Claus.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    Why would the Cubs trade Travis Wood? He's young, inexpensive, effective and under team control until 2017.

  • I think the best thing we can say about this lineup is that it creates some flexibility for next season when the Cubs should be more in on free agents and some prospects may be ready to join the season. I also think the Cubs will have a better idea of what their needs will be.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not much on next years free agent list.....Colby Rasmus might be the best OF....Kershaw price will be $200 million pitcher, and Hollywood is much better than Wrigleyville...........most of the next year free agents should be signing up for AARP.

    If Theo & Jed has not figure out what the Cubs needs are by now, then we are on a long road just to make it to the playoffs, let alone to a World Series appearance.

  • This whole analysis is rather depressing. Mauricio, it's well written but very sobering.

    It just underscores how much this regime has riding on Castro &Rizzo regression + emergence of Bryant/Soler/Baez/Almora. They either feel very confident in most of the above happening or have impressive poker faces. The FA mkt won't be providing much in way of positional player help ,anytime soon, if revenue streams allowed some spending.

    It seems like we'll have some options for improving the long-term SP(Shark trade, Tanaka, next yrs FA crop) but acquiring a stud young bat may require some difficult choices.....

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I agree. It's looking very grim, and knowing that we can't expect the upcoming kids to be saviors, we'll have to wait until 2019's new media deal to afford some good players on the market and hope the economy doesn't pull a Cubby Occurrence along the way to derail that as well. We've got another 6 years or so of dumpster diving. Hopefully Baez and the rest won't retire or break down before that.

    We need to extend Shark and hope whomever we draft in June can shoot up thru the ranks.

  • Everyone just automatically throws Rizzo in the 3 hole. IDK if he is a lock for that spot. I think ideally, he's our #5 hitter, eventually. Out of necessity, given what we have on the roster now, he gets bumped up... but Schierholtz & Ruggiano platoon profiles as our most potent offensive & run producing weapon(s) right now. That should be our 3 hitter unless we see a dramatic rebound from Anthony this year....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I definitely agree that Rizzo will not hit 3 or 4 once Baez and Bryant come up, but given what we have right now I don't see two better options to bump him out.

  • In case you didn't already like Javier Baez and weren't convinced he's a good guy behind all that brash confidence, then check out this piece by Carrie Muskat,

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    His old HS coach tells me he does stuff for the kids around Jax pretty frequently, so none of this surprises me.

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    I might be in the minority with Junior Lake. But i think he will keep getting better. He has a lot of tools like everyone agrees. But I think his work ethic is a big factor. He keeps working to improve himself. As he's gone through the minors he has looked better and better. In winter ball reports were his outfield defense has looked much better. I just have a feeling he will get better.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    I'm with you, Sean! I feel like so many dismiss him as a utility guy. Did anyone expect him to do what he did last year? No way! He has skills that can't be taught. And, he has shown improvements where he has needed to improve. He has played very well at winter ball & I think he can still be a stud. Yes, I'm very bullish on Lake!!

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    Furthermore, Lake started with a system with little emphasis on development ( at least that's my opinion). Now, he is a part of a system that emphasizes such. What if?

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    In addition to his work ethic, he seems to be a quick study. Like all young guys, he makes mistakes but he seems to learn from them and not repeat the same ones.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    I think that the Cubs have to give him a chance to prove that the showing last season wasn't a fluke. I mean a guy that many scouts have been down on gets a green light in the big leagues, playing a defensive position (OF) that he has almost no familiarity with, against major league pitching for the first time, and he manages to hit considerably over his body weight in Batting Average, not look completely lost in the field, and not crumble under pressure.

    Sure - he's a work in progress, strikes out a bit too much (IMO), and makes mistakes - but unless they want to get him some more reps in the MiL to start the season to fix some not-so-obvious problem,.... you gotta give the kid a chance. If he stinks up the place in ST, then give him the time he needs to work out the bugs in the lower level.

    He's got all the tools - if he can figure out how to use them well.

  • In reply to Sean Holland:

    His approach is the big question. It looked like MLB pitchers adjusted to him and he hadn't adjusted back the last month of the season. If he can take a few walks and lower his K rate, he'll be an everyday player. If he's going to continue to chase balls in the dirt 8 inches off the plate (ala Castro) then he's probably going to find himself in some sort of platoon or back at AAA by years end.

    I'm pulling for him. Jed is on record as saying they want to give him as many AB's as possible so we'll see what happens. So far he keeps proving his doubters wrong.

  • In 2013 Starlin Castro played:
    40 games batting lead-off
    78 games batting 2nd
    3 games batting 3rd
    15 games batting 5th
    7 games batting 6th
    13 games batting 7th
    2 games batting 8th
    1 game batting 9th

    Hopefully Renteria finds one spot for Castro and leaves him there for the entire season.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    I agree, and honestly I hope it's the 2 spot for 100ish games. Means he's hitting well as well.

  • Valbuena should have a good obp next year. His babip was a ridiculously low .233. If he had an avg babip he'd be .390 lead off guy. Or even a .263 babip would make him a good leadoff hitter.

  • My main problem with the Valbuena hype, fanaticism & projections, or whatever we want to call it (lol) is that they are only being based on last year. The previous years & whole body of work be damned? If that was his best year to date, what makes people think that he will repeat last years "success" story?

    I agree with your assessment of Olt. He seems to be the biggest "could be... might be... It ?..." of this spring camp. Could make this years team interesting IF he is ready.

    I really like Lake. Maybe he won't be part of the future :stud starter" OF. But I think he could be a bit speedier clone of Mark DeRosa... I like his versatility in the field & at the dish, has that pop, but can still surprise & lay down a bunt single on occasion. Hopefully he gets that plate discipline this regime is preaching or does just well enough to get something of value in return for him if he doesn't fit "the mold".

    Good article. Thanks, Mauricio.

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    I hope they give Logan Watkins a real shot at second base.

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