The Cubs record isn't very good right now and the bullpen has been incredibly infuriating. The offense has a spark, however and it's being powered by Emilio Bonifacio and some of the kids we've been hoping would have good seasons. Let's take a look at the U25 crowd.
- Anthony Rizzo - Have you noticed something different with Rizzo this year? My eyes have been telling me that Rizzo is going the other way against the shift early on in the season. I've long said that if Rizzo could somehow find a way to recover the singles he was missing last year his overall slash line would greatly benefit from it. It's ridiculously early in the season and I don't expect his robust slash line to hold up at all over the course of the season but, well, 375 .459 .531 has a way of grabbing your attention. Let's take a look at two charts here.This is where Rizzo hit balls against LHP in 2013:And here's what he's doing early in 2014:
You can also check this link to see what types of balls he's hitting against LHP. Again, it's early and that's the main caveat but it certainly looks like Rizzo is doing a better job against same side pitching and he's not hitting as many pop ups as he has in the past. I think of Rizzo as a .260-.270 hitter with the on base skills to post OBP's in the .360+ range. Given the power that he possesses if he can maintain the improved approach against lefties that he's shown early on this season I think it bodes extremely well.
- Starlin Castro - I remember this guy. Let's take a look back at where Starlin struggled inexplicably last year:
Those are Castro's Swing and Miss rates on fastballs last year.
We will need about 65 more PAs before these samples become reliable but of all the indicators on how Starlin Castro is hitting his WHIFF rates on fastballs, specifically fastballs down the middle, is perhaps the most important. For contrast here are Castro's rates in 2011 when he was teasing at elite level talent.
Keep an eye on the swings and misses on the hard stuff. It'll let you know how well Castro is playing.
- Junior Lake and Mike Olt - There's been a lot of hand wringing about the playing time both of these players are receiving early in the season. There are various reasons why fans shouldn't freak out about this and they all relate to the calendar. It's too early to fret over playing time and platoon situations. I do think Mike Olt and Lake will eventually get to 500 PAs apiece if they're both going well. There's no one pushing Olt for playing time quite yet. Lake is a fun mystery to revel in. I'm still skeptical about his big league future and he looks like a very talented 4th OFer to me but he's making it very difficult to hold on to that evaluation. I want to believe in Lake and sometimes I'll close my eyes and allow myself to dream the scenario where he's a 30-20 guy with a .340 OBP. It's an irresponsible dream and one that is based mainly in the abstract but I enjoy it.