Which Cubs will surprise this spring?

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. -Rogers Hornsby

We can stop staring out the window. The baseball calendar says that spring has finally arrived.

It’s a time of great hope and expectations for fans.  For a team it is also a time for renewal…a chance to start with a clean slate.  And for some players, it’s an opportunity to get their first look, or perhaps jump start a stalled career.

It seems every year there is a player or group of players that spring seemingly out of nowhere. It can be a non-roster player that catches the manager’s eye as RP Blake Parker and utility player Joe Mather did last March.  Or it may be a young veteran who shows that he’s ready to take things to the next level, as Jeff Samardzija did last season  Other times, it can be a budding young star who shows us that he’s much more ready than we think, as a 19 year old Starlin Castro did in 2010.

As the first example shows, spring success can often be fleeting (though Parker showed enough to get another invite this spring).  But sometimes, like Samardzija and Castro, they can become a core piece of the long term plans.

So with that I ask, who will be this year’s spring surprises?  Here are a few candidates…

We gotta play ’em one day at a time…

These players’ careers may not have gotten off to the fastest start but maybe patience is the key here. Like Samardzija last season, these players could use a good spring to carry into what will hopefully be a breakout season.

  1. Ian Stewart, 3B:  Stewart has been hampered by a wrist injury the past two seasons but feels that surgery has finally corrected the problem.  If he can stay healthy and productive, it would be a huge boost to the Cubs.  Stewart’s strengths as a ballpayer — power, defense, and the ability to grind out ABs — make him a good fit with front office philosophy.
  2. Nate Schierholtz, RF: Schierholtz was once a top prospect with the Giants but playing half his games at AT&T has put a drag on his overall numbers and, although he improved last year, Schierholtz has generally struggled against LHP.  His career numbers on the road vs. RHP are much more encouraging ( .281/330/.443 and .334 wOBA), and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Schierholtz put up some career numbers in a platoon role this season.
  3. Scott Feldman, RHP: The Feldman signing has been lauded as a great value deal for the Cubs. At first glance a 6-11 record with a 5.09 ERA doesn’t look very good, but there is plenty of reason to think Feldman can be much better this season with the Cubs.  His peripherals (3.81 FIP and solid strikeout ratio of 7 Ks/2.3 BBs) bode well, as does a move from one of the most hitter friendly ballparks in baseball.  His stuff should play better in the NL as well.

Sleeper: Jeff Samardzija went from starter in the minors, to struggling reliever, to successful MLB starter. Can Alberto Cabrera follow the same path?  There are some similarities between the 2011 Samardzija and the 2012 Cabrera in that both are physically gifted pitchers with great stuff… but with inconsistent command and an unrefined approach.  Samardzija shored up his weaknesses and became a good MLB starting pitcher. Can lightning strike twice? Cabrera isn’t going to make the team, but a big year at Iowa may put him in position later in the season should the Cubs deal starting pitchers at the deadline again.

I’m just happy to be here, hope I can help the ball club…

The Cubs are surprisingly set as far as the 25 man roster goes, but there are job opportunities for a utility player and maybe a bullpen spot or two.  These guys can snag those spots with a good spring…

  1. Hisanori Takahashi, LHP:  The Cubs are looking at Travis Wood as a starter, so that leaves James Russell as the only lefty reliever.  Takahashi had a tough year (5.54 ERA) but showed he can still miss bats (9.3 Ks/9 IP) and still throw enough strikes (2.5 BB/9 IP)
  2. Brent Lillibridge, OF-3B:  After a solid 2011 season, Lillibridge fell off the map last year.  His biggest advantage is that he can play two positions in which the Cub could use a right-handed bat.  His energetic style of play is sure to get attention as well.
  3. Edwin Maysonet: IF:  Maysonet also offers a RH bat who could spell Stewart at 3B but has the  additional advantage of being able to play a respectable SS.  The Cubs current backup SS options are less than ideal.  Luis Valbuena isn’t quite what you want defensively and Darwin Barney is going to be playing 2B on an everyday basis.

Sleeper:  Technically these guys are all sleepers but I like Cory Wade in this spot.  His ERA (6.46) was awful last year, but his xFIP (3.65) was pretty respectable.  We know he’ll throw strikes (1.85 BBs/9 IP) and that alone will get Dale Sveum’s attention.

I’m just going to give it my best shot, and the good lord willing, things will work out….

In all likelihood, these players aren’t going to make the team, but a strong effort this spring could put them on the fast track to the big leagues…

  1. Javier Baez, SS:  Can the latest Cubs phenom turn heads the way Starlin Castro did 3 years ago?  The approach may not be MLB ready but there are few in baseball, even at the MLB level, who have the kind of bat speed that Baez has.  At this stage, it’s likely experienced pitchers will be able to fool him, but if they decide they want to consistently challenge him with power stuff, it’s going to be a different story.  The Cubs have said Baez is only in MLB camp to get experience, but an impressive spring and a big year in the minors will speed up his timetable.
  2. Brett Jackson, CF:  Much has been made of Jackson re-tooling his swing and there is cautious optimism that he can lower his strikeout rate to an acceptable level.  The first big test comes this spring as Jackson unveils his new stroke against live pitching.  Jackson has everything else the Cubs want in a player: defense, speed, power, plate discipline, and strong mental makeup.  The Cubs don’t have a true CF’er at the moment and if Jackson shows he can make more consistent contact, then the job will be his by mid-season.
  3. Junior Lake, SS, 3B, OF:  Lake is about as toolsy as they come, but an unrefined approach threatens to undermine all that physical talent.  He has made some progress with that approach and he continues to produce offensively even as he reaches the upper levels, including an outstanding stint in the winter leagues this past offseason.  Lake has been on Sveum’s radar since last season so a good spring will get him a step closer. The question will be if he’ll hit enough to be a big league regular, but if not he can sill be an asset to the Cubs as a versatile player who can provide speed and a little power vs. RHP off the bench.  His ability to play SS, 3B, and probably all 3 OF spots adds to his value, especially to a team that lacks depth at those positions.

Sleeper: There is nothing wrong with Trey McNutt‘s sfuff.  It’s as good as almost any Cubs pitcher on the roster.  The problems have been commanding it and staying healthy.  He’s on the 40 man roster now so he’ll get longer look.  If he puts it together, he could move quickly and put himself in line for a call-up later in the season.

As usual, we’ll probably see a few surprises this spring.  Some may do just enough to make the team short term,  others may use it as a springboard to a breakout season, and perhaps a young player or two will put themselves in position for a call-up in the near future.

Who do you think will be the 2013 spring surprises?




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    Unless the Cubs only bring 5 infielders north (4 starters plus Valbuena), someone on this list is making the team. One of Maysonet, Lillibridge, or Lake pretty much has to make it, if the Cubs don't carry 5 infielders, which they won't.

    Maysonet is more glove-first, and Lillibridge is more bat-first, so probably depends on how either looks, but I think one of these guys makes the club.

    The one thing in Lake's favor is that he's already on the 40-man roster

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    In reply to Zonk:

    PS: For my part, before we signed Hairston, I would probably take Lillibridge, but now I think we just need a glove at SS to spell Castro. That's Maysonet.

    Not that either are really any good, but as stop-gaps, I guess that's what's available

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I guess you could also say Logan Watkins is a candidate, but given that the Cubs like their prospects to spend a year in AAA, both he and Lake will probably start the year in Iowa.

    Vitters is also on the 40 man, but his lack of versatility hurts him a bit -- unless he shows he can fill in at LF, RF, and 1B. In that scenario I suppose the only way to back up Castro would be to slide Barney to SS and Valbuena to 2B. Don't think the Cubs want to do that often, so it could mean another 162 game season for Castro.

    One more candidate is SS-2B Alberto Gonzalez, who can't really hit but is the best defender of them all.

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    As far as the pitching staff, let's assume the Cubs carry 12 pitchers. At this point in time, it looks like:

    Shark, Garza, E-Jax, Wood, and Feldman (Baker starts on DL)

    Marmol, Fujikawa, Russell, Camp, Villaneuva have ML contracts, and are locks (barring a Marmol trade, of course, or DL)
    Rondon has to make the club, or be returned to CLE
    Bowden is out of options, and pitched decently down the stretch

    Seems pretty full as it is, doesn't it? Barring injury or trading/releasing someone from roster, this is your 2013 opening day pitching staff

    Alot can happen b/w now and then, and very well might, but not alot of room for extra guys to make it right now

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think Bowden and Rondon go into the spring as the favorites, but I'm not ready to call them locks. Rondon is a rule 5 guy, but he still has to show something. Castillo was no lock last year. They didn't just give him the job. He pitched pretty well last spring and I think he at least partially earned that spot.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I'm thinking the Cubs will try to trade Marmol during ST... Bruce Levine thinks Marmol doesn't finish ST with the Cubs... After Bowden did well last season, it's logic to expect him to have a good shot at making the team and I doubt they let Rondon go unless something's wrong with him and they don't think it's worth keeping him... That said,. I think they'll consider trading Marmol and opening a spot for either Takahashi, Rusin or Raley as their 2nd lefty out of the pen.

  • Haven't been able to post recently, but I've been reading articles on my phone... Good articles, John and Felzz.

    I like the fact that you mentioned Cory Wade as a sleeper, I think I mentioned some days ago he was my favorite sleeper, I like his walk/K ratio and he's had success in the past... My other top candidate will be Brent Lillibridge, he is not the type of player the FO usually looks for... He strikes out often and rarely walks, but he is very athletic, has an all-out style of play and he's versatile enough he could platoon with Stewart, give Rizzo a day off or 2 and even take over in the OF on any given day while providing some power, here's hoping he has a rebound year and hits more like he did in 2011, if he does, he could be a key man off the bench.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thanks Caps. Lillibridge just seems like the kind of guy who will get the manager's attention with his energetic, gritty play. Wade had such an odd year last year when you look up and down his stat sheet. Some of it just doesn't seem to add up. And as you said, he's had success in the past so I think that ERA last year has to be a fluke.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly, Lillibridge is that type of player that won't impress people with stats, but will impress a manager with their style of play and versatility, we've seen it in the past.

    And about Cory Wade... If I tell you "guess his era" and then I mention 1.8 BB/9 8.8 K/9 and 1.385 whip... You'd say probably an era in the mid 3's, maybe high 3's... So, I totally understand what you mean about the odd line and could very well be a fluke... I think he could end up being what Shawn Camp has been for us.

  • I'd go with Wade too for one of the bullpen spots. Bad 6.46 ERA last year, but a 4.50 FIP, and an even better 3.65 XFIP. Plus 8.77 K/9 and a great 1.85 BB/9. I'm big on him.

    I think what we signed Ian Stewart for totally gave us value (especially in that crappy 3b market), but even healthy (and playing in Colorado), Stewart never put up an fWAR above 1.3, so my expectations are always pretty low for him. I'm gonna go with Valbuena. He tore up winterball and I get the feeling he put some things together. I see him doing enough to win the starting 3b job out of spring training.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I kicked around the idea of adding Valbuena but ultimately went with Stewart because I think he's more likely to make an impact if he does break out and have a career year. But if Stewart falters and Valbuena takes over again, then it wouldn't surprise me to see him put up surprising numbers.

  • normally i dont like the idea of having a short bench when it comes to the infield, but with this team i think it might make some sense to start the year.

    the outfield depth is pretty much set with soriano, dejesus, shierholtz, hairston and sappelt. catcher is set too with castillo and navarro. rizzo and castro, barring injury, knock on wood, will most likely see 150+ games at their respective positions and hairston can give rizzo a few days off if needed. barney should play the vast majority of the first 80 games as well. and that only leaves third which as of right now looks like a 70/30 split between valbuena and stewart.

    i think valbuena can handle being the only infield bat off the bench for the first 2 months of the season. the reason i am proposing this is because i dont want the cubs to DFA anyone else on the current roster for someone who could have a joe mather like impact, thats just not worth it to me. carrying another pitcher wouldn't be so bad and if there was an injury to the infield then they could address it when the time comes.

    now if someone blows the cubs away in spring training and looks like a piece that they NEED, im all for it, but barring that i think they should go with what they have on the 40 man for at least the first month.

    note: if someone gets traded between now and opening day this could all be irrelevant, however im not anticipating that happening at this very moment.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    I agree. I don't want to DFA anyone else either. But tough to go with a 5 man infield for that long.

    Small spring training deals are a possibility too. I think if they can't make a deal, then those non-roster guys become much bigger long shots.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Arodys Vizcaino will be put on the 60 Day DL. The team will be able to add at least one name to the 40 Man without DFA'ing anyone.

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    In reply to tim815:

    The Cubs could have cleared a spot on the 40-man roster already by placing a player on the 60-day DL.

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    I'm pulling for J. Lake to put together a break out spring and break camp with the team. I realize this is not in line with Thoyer's philosophy, but a young player capable of playing all over the diamond with a nice power/speed combo would fit well on this roster.

  • In reply to NaughtyJohnny:

    He really fits the profile of what the Cubs need for that last spot pretty well. Another thing that will work in his favor is that he's already on the 40 man and the Cubs wouldn't have to make an additional roster move if they bring Lake north.

    I think he'd be the favorite if only he had played at Iowa last year. He still has a shot but I think it's unlikely to open the season.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It would be fun to see what Lake could do. Otherwise, who do you DFA next (barring a trade of course)? And like Josh said, it's probably not worth the risk of losing someone for Lillibridge or the rest of the poopoo platter.

  • In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    I wouldn't want to DFA anyone else either, but they do need another infielder and the guys on the roster (Vitters, Watkins, Lake) haven't played a full year at AAA. Maybe they make an exception because of the situation. If so, then I do like Lake for that spot.

    But who knows? It'd be unusual but maybe Josh is right and they go with 5 infielders. They could keep Gonzalez or Maysonet ready at AAA in case of an emergency.

    I suppose in that case they would take an extra pitcher, maybe a lefty reliever like Rusin or Raley (assuming they are still constrained by their roster).

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    In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    Assuming that Baker and Vizcaino start the year on the DL (not unreasonable, I don't think), that's two slots that NRI guys can compete for, if I understand the rules correctly.

  • I like your top 3 picks to surprise - Stewart, Schierholtz, and Feldman. And Baker, of course, but probably not in Spring.

    I wouldn't be surprised if it takes Stewart a while to get up to speed, too, but I think he'll come around eventually. I'd be surprised if we don't see at least double digit HRs this year.

  • In reply to TheFiveYearPlan:

    If those 4 guys have breakout seasons then it's going to be a pretty good year for this team. Stewart for me is high floor/high risk. He's on that non-guaranteed deal. Makes me wonder what happens if he has a bad spring...they may just go in a different direction. Obviously I'm hoping that's not the case. I'm hoping he plays the way the Cubs expected him to last year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I hope they don't drop him too quick. It might take him a bit getting up to game speed, but those talents don't just disappear.

  • I do believe that the 2013 Chicago Cubs are going to play better than most expect.

    I like the approach taken so far by the FO.

    Want to wish the Chicago Cubs Ownership, management, staff, and the fans the very best! :)

  • In reply to GoCubs:

    The biggest problems with last years team was SP depth, 3rd Base, Catcher, and Center.

    Starters will definitely be better. Also I expect better production from each of those spots.

  • Well, we know Campana won't surprise this spring with the Cubs. Yeah, I know, there are a lot of Campana haters out there. But just watch....as a Cubs fan, you will see Campana contribute in the next year or two with a team that actually wants to win a World Series championship.

  • In reply to MikeWadle:

    Campana may be able to play a small role on a good team, but if he wins a World Series ring, it's going to have a lot more to do with being at the right place and the right time than anything he'll do on the field.

  • In reply to MikeWadle:

    Theo doesn't want to win? Really?

    Campana is a very good bench player for a very good team. He has no role with the Cubs. When the Cubs are a good squad, they'll hopefully have a speedster (Szczur) that can run like Campana, but hit and play defense better.

    Plus, Campana may start in Iowa anyway.

  • I don't count myself as a Campana hater, but I just don't think he's a starter on a decent team. he's the kind of guy a lot of fans love, scrappy, tries hard, but that's because he's really not that talented. I really think Feldman is going to be the guy who surprises people and has a good year , right up until the Cubs trade him.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    "he's the kind of guy a lot of fans love"... I agree Steve and I agree with the folks who point out how many of this type player have become Cubs fans favorites over the years. Seems like a great kid and he may well play a role for a winner but, for the Cubs, I think the old cliche about not being able to steal first base is the key.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Like many here, I take no glee in Campana being DFA'd. There just really wasn't any other choice and while his speed is a nice weapon, he didn't fit what they wanted to do overall.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Surprisingly Campana was worth 11 runs in baserunning or about a 1 War in his limited role the last two years. If he could get some more refinement in the field he could be pretty valuable to this team. If he was a two trick pony then I'd be really be disappointed to let him go.

    I really hope the Cubs can keep him. In 2 years when the Cubs are playing in October, this guy will be huge in close games.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    I don't disagree. His baserunning isn't just plus. It's something of a unique commodity, which is probably the main reason the Cubs hung on to him for so long.

    That said, I think some teams are better able to accomodate that commodity on the roster. I just don't think the Cubs are good enough to carry a specialty player.

  • Exactly, what good is a speedy guy if he can't get on base? He's just not starter material, especially with the Cubs who put so much emphasis on getting on base. Scrappy, effort guys are catnip to many fans

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    He can't steal first base but he can get on as a pinch runner and stand a pretty good chance of stealing a run. IMO, that would be his value, entering in the late innings in one-run games. And with what looks to be a a pretty good defensive team (at least in the IF) with improved SP, they should have a good number of close, low-scoring contests. He should be used as a pinch runner rather than a pinch hitter, That said, as has been pointed out, he simply doesn't have as much value to this particular team. He's exciting to watch on the basepaths but since they had to DFA someone, he made the most sense.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    I think this sums up his positives and negatives pretty well.

  • In reply to WSorBust:

    How often can he do that? 25-30 games per year?

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Lake is my pick to click this spring. He had a few nagging injuries last year that hurt his numbers but had a good end to the year and put together a great winter and seems to have figured his swing out. I still think he will start at AAA but will be the first guy called up if someone gets injured or he continues to rake in Iowa.

  • I'm terrible at predicting things. Most people are. But I know who I'm rooting for to have a breakout season.

    Brett Jackson and Trey McNutt.

    I'm rooting for Brett Jackson not only because he might be the only center fielder on the roster. And our current outfield is dog foo. Dejesus plays center field like he's being swarmed by bees. And if Schierholtz lasts the year I'll be issuing people an apology. Oh right, Scott Hariston's OBP was lower than the dude who was DFA'd for him. GOW!!!!!

    McNutt would not only be a win for him, but would mean that we have a minor league staff that can work out problems and harness talent into actual skills. McNutt becoming a solid pen piece would make me very encouraged and hopeful for the Johnsons, Blackburns singing in the dead of night, Maples, Paniaguia's, etc. etc.

  • In reply to felzz:

    Platoons are the plan in the OF. I think the Cubs are using platoon split information to create a Frankenstein outfield and hope the sum is greater than the individual parts. If it doesn't work I imagine you, Fels, will be leading the torch and pitchfork mob at the gates.

    I really like your point on McNutt. This guy was ranked neck and neck with Chris Archer when both were Cubs. Archer is still a top 100 prospect while McNutt has fallen out of the Cubs top 20.

  • Brett Jackson is the guy I'm watching this Spring. I have little hope for Stewart, and most of the rest of the guys mentioned are either far off or not very talented. Jackson should be the next core piece to filter up from the minors and establish himself with the Cubs.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I agree Jackson has the best shot and is the closest at becoming a long term impact guy from this list. My intention was to try and cover all levels of spring surprises. The piece is more about who will catch the team's eye this spring and, as Joe Mather proved last year, it doesn't necessarily mean they'll actually make any kind of impact. Then, that are some that will carry it into the season and make at least a short term impact. Lastly, some will do enough to put themselves firmly in the long term plans.

  • Vitters is conspicuous in his absence, Tom. You giving up?

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Tom, John, whatever. Sorry, Arguello.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Not really giving up...yet. I was actually between McNutt and Vitters for that sleeper spot. Vitters can hit RH and play 3B, which alone has value to this roster. He's also on the 40 man and has the most experience in AAA. You can make a pretty good argument that he has the best shot of all to grab that last IF spot.

    The irony to me is that if they do call him up and give him that limited role, it may mean the Cubs are already admitting he may not be an everyday player long term (some scouts think that already). If they think he still has a chance to be an MLB starter, it would seem better for him to go down to AAA to get more playing time and work on his defense.

  • I am just hoping nobody surprises us in a negative way. Could you see if Castro, Rizzo or Samardzija have terrible springs? Yikes.

    I don't see Lake making the club out of ST as it would deter his development if he was getting 5 ABs a week. Get him down to Iowa and learn 3B or RF and let him get better with the changes he needs.

    I am going to go with Scott Baker. I know he will be limited early in camp, but all reports say he will be ready to go in early April. When healthy, this guy could be a solid #3 in the NL. Here is to hoping that he comes back strong...

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I've been touting E. Jax. for the last few yrs. and now he's a Cub and is a solid # 3 and Baker if he comes back strong would makes a solid # 4.
    It's nice to have the depth in starting pitching this year and with the front office dealing the cards it will be interesting too see who they spin off in any deals. I'm hoping Garza sticks around,that would give us two innigs eaters in Garza and E. Jackson.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Yikes! I don't even want to think about that right now!

    I was talking more about who will surprise in March than who will make the team. Only the first 3 mentioned are likely to take it into the season. The last 6 are guys who will either use a big spring to make the team or to put themselves in position for a call up in the near future. Lake is in that second category

  • Pitchers and catchers reported yesterday......the rest of the position players must repoort by next Wednesday.....pinch runners need not report.

  • The biggest mistake I think the FO made was letting Oakland sign over us the Cuban outfielder.

  • In reply to robertxyz:

    They offered Cespedes the same $ Oakland did, just not for as many years. If we had signed Cespedes, Soler likley would not have been there. Cespedes was really good, especially in the 2nd half, for the As. He was also a gamble who appears to have worked out. Given the circumstances, Id say the FO did the wise thing.

  • In reply to robertxyz:

    They tried and I think their offer was pretty close. Oakland was creative and put in that clause that would make him a free agent earlier. Got to give them credit for their ingenuity, even though it may mean they'll lose Cespedes a lot earlier than they'd like.

  • The headline implied, and citing Ian Stewart, reinforces, that the missing part of the headline was "....in being really that awful."

    We are dealing with the Cubs.

  • In reply to jack:

    I'm not quite that cynical, but the article doesn't guarantee any of these guys will be good -- or even that they won't be awful. We're talking about spring surprises and some of them, whether they are veterans like Joe Mather or hot-shot prospects like Gary Scott turn out to be busts. That, in no way, means they didn't have a surprisingly good spring that helped vault them into a MLB job.

  • Like Felzz, I hope Brett Jackson has a breakout year in center. Would be huge for this team's future if he made himself a core player.

    My dark horse surprise pick is Luis Valbuena. There are some indications that he may have figured something out. Let's hope he carries this through into the season.

  • In reply to Denizen Kane:

    As far as guys who can become long term core pieces this season, the Cubs have a lot more riding on Jackson than any other name on this list. If I had to pick one guy to have a breakout spring, it would be Jackson. We can wait longer on Baez and most of the others are short term guys.

    I have some hopes for Valbuena too. I certainly think he's better than what he showed last year. Though I don't think his ceiling is all that high, he can still play a solid role for a team.

  • I would really like Stuart and B Jackson be the two positional break out guys. Stuart because we really need a 3B and I don't think Vitters is the answer. He just has too many flaws. Jackson because I think he can be the next Rizzo. I would be very happy if the coaching staff can fix a player's flaws/problems with their first call up and have that player succeed later. They did it with Rizzo last year.

    For pitchers I would like Baker to return to his pre TJ self. And I would like to see them have Cabrera do what Shark did last year.

    But I am not fussy. If a bunch of the other guys have breakout years instead of the ones I hope for, I will be just as happy.

    I have a feeling this is going to be a pleasantly surprising year.

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    OT: Any interest in a Cubs Den rotisserie league?

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    I would be interested in a Cubs Den H2H league. Also, if anyone is interested, I have started an ESPN and a Yahoo league. I hope to get 20 teams in each. I can send invitations.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I can post something on it later. I don't think I'll be in them, though. I tried last year and just had too many things going on to keep up. I'm happy my wife lets me spend so much time on this blog, but the fantasy league was pushing it :)

  • My opinion is for the Cubs to be an above 500 team, theyd basically need career years out of several players. Ian Stewart would have to be the 2009 Ian Stewart, Hairston/Scheirholz would have to go 25/90 between them, Beef would have to hit 15-20Hr, drive in 75 and catch at least 120 games. Jackson, Garza, Baker would likely have to be 2-3 games over 500 each, Spellcheck would need to be a true ace, and Marmol and Fujikawa would have to be 80% shutdown in the late innings RPs. I just dont see all that happening.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Those are some pretty nice years for a lot of key players. If all those things happen, I think they'll be over .500. That said, I don't think all that is happening either.

  • I think this year's 'surprise' coming out of Spring Training will be that there are no big surprises.

    The only thing that might be somewhat of a surprise is IF Sorinao is traded prior to opening day,... IMO.

  • On Campana: Not only do I think he can get on base, but I think in a full year he could steal 100 bases. Maybe I'm "old school", but it's hard for any player to get into a groove if he is riding the pine and not getting consistent at bats.

    Hoping he clears waivers and makes it back to Triple A so he can get some everyday at bats in.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    Or he doesn't clear waivers and gets to play with a major league club. Sure isn't going to play for the Cubs.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    That would be awesome to see, but he never stole more than 100 bases even in the minors.

    I hope he passes thru waivers and we can keep him on the Iowa roster this year.

  • In reply to givejonadollar:

    For all those w/ high hopes for TC and/or would enerally hope for good things for the young man, I think full time duty in AAA is absolutely critical for his future to potentially be anything more than what it now is. Personally, I would love to admit I was wrong about TC's ceiling next year at this same time, next year. But I don't think that can happen here on a total PT basis unless you believe, he will be tomorrow, what he is today.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I'm not against that myself. I've seen Tony steal 2nd and 3rd with ease even with good (pickoff) pitchers on the mound and good arms behind the plate.

    He needs to learn to walk more, but it's hard to walk when you are attempting the bunt. I love the idea of WAR, and places like fangraphs, who try hard to measure player performance, but I really think they dismiss heavily the importance and benefits of having guys with speed.

    I've watched the Cubs lose a lot of 1 run games the last couple of years and I think Tony could have changed a good number of those if he was on base.

    My argument is, if a guy has 30 stolen bases, should it not be somewhat equivalent to a guy who knocks doubles? I realize there are factors there, like RBI's, who is on base, and the fact that you are getting a double with one swing and not two actions. (A swing, hit, then a stolen base, or even another, making it a triple.)

    What stat is there for how much Tony disrupts, (totally and absolutely), the defense and pitcher when he is on base? I realize Tony has a lot to work on, and I don't think he is a core piece by any means, but it aggrevates me that people of his skillset are so poorly looked upon in today's NATIONAL LEAGUE game. :)

  • As far as "who surprises" in Spring Training...I would say Darwin Barney will surprise as a much better hitter and BJax will surprise with his new approach at the plate leading to fewer strikeouts.

    Who I really hope surprises are Valbuena and Stewart, causing a pleasant problem at 3B for the FO to sort out.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    That would work for me.

  • The "Surprise" for the Cubs this year will be their pitching. We might be 8 starters deep. The bullpen looks great.

    Seems like many teams wants Campana and his speed.....maybe a trade for a mid level AA player could be in play.

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