Chicago Cubs: What the First Month of the Season Has Taught Us About Our Roster

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Chicago Cubs: What the First Month of the Season Has Taught Us About Our Roster

We knew they'd be bad. How bad was the question.

My standard response was "Just don't lose 100." I'm okay with a rebuilding year. Happy to see it, actually. I—like you, I'm sure—am just so tired of seeing retreads added to an aging core that wasn't that good to begin with.

We stand at 11-16, six games out of first. This record could easily be three or four games better if Carlos Marmol doesn't blow a few of them and Kerry Wood doesn't blow one game early in the year.

I can't fathom a Cubs fan who wouldn't be ecstatic with a 14-12 record at this stage in the game. That would put us two games out of first.

After a month, I think we have a pretty good microcosm of the what the season will look like and what the current roster is capable of doing. Thirty-plus days in, here's what we know—or least here's what I know, coupled with replacements where necessary.

 

Pitching Staff

Ryan Dempster

Started nicely and then hit the DL. Comes back and promptly chucks a gem...Marmol ruins it. Dempster is a pro, a veteran who brings great things to the clubhouse and obviously still has a lot left in the tank.

Whether he'll be a Cub in September is a tough call. I do think he'll be here at the end of the year as a stabilizing force for the youngsters.

 

Matt Garza

Got shelled against Miami in late April. Outside of that? He's averaged seven innings, 7.25 Ks per start against two walks with an ERA of 2.57. Yeah, this guy's good—and unfortunately not a Cub for long.

With so many pitchers going down, the Cubs will have too many good offers for him at the trade deadline to say no.

Replacement: For this year, Randy Wells

 

Jeff Samardzija

What a pleasant surprise this guy has been. You're lying if you said you saw it coming.

He's been the Vitters of the pitching staff. Potential, potential, potential. Well, he's here, and he's showing it.

Outside of two rough starts in the middle of April, Samardzija has been great. His command has been shockingly good, and his fastball is consistently hitting mid-90s.This guy has seemingly matured overnight. He's always been a good kid. Now he's a good pitcher.

 

Paul Maholm

His stats are sort of unreal. First two starts: four innings pitched, six earned runs, two Ks. Both loses.

His last three starts? Six innings, one earned run (no walks in his last two starts). All three starts were wins—another nice surprise the last couple of weeks. At 29 years old, he could be a very nice middle-of-the-rotation guy for the next few years.

 

Chris Volstad

Ahhhh Chris. The "0-fer." He's 0-9 over his last 17 starts dating back to last year with the Marlins. We've lost every game he's started.

Considering he was the bag of balls to be named later we got for dumping Zambrano, I can't be upset with Volstad.

Miami knew he was done. And being owed $2.6 million? I'm sure Miami was fine giving him up. This will be his only year as a Cub, and I don't think he'll make it to the end of year—which brings us to...

 

Travis Wood

Made his first start yesterday against the Dodgers. After a rough beginning, he settled in quite nicely. At 25, this guy needs a chance now. He needs to be in the rotation until he plays himself out of it. Meaning—Volstad is released, probably this week.

 

Kerry Wood

Full disclosure—my favorite current Cub and lifelong top five. Wood hasn't been good this year. I want him to pitch well.

Hopefully he get healthy and finish out the year, join the front office and be a part of the "something" that is coming.

 

Carlos Marmol

We've seen the best of Marmol. Those days are gone. Unfortunately, his trade value right now is near nil. I don't think he's gone this year. If he gets his head on straight, the guy is dominating.

He's only 29. He has time to right the ship. The Cubs have to give it a shot, and either he reclaims the closer role or he's traded for someone else's psyche patient next year.

 

Rafael Dolis

Love this kid. Has a seemingly rubber arm. He has pitched back-to-back twice and back-to-back-to-back once. Not a big K guy, but almost never gives up a BB either.

If he keeps this up, the Cubs need to lock him up.

 

James Russell

The American-born Dolis. Not a big K guy, but never walks anybody, either. If this is the route Theo and Jed are going in, I'm a fan. Big K guys typically have more arm issues.

These guys are getting it done without having to be overpowering. This guy will be a Cub for a long time.

 

Position Players

David DeJesus

Signed to a three-year deal, DeJesus has been exactly what most of us thought he would be—average.

He had a great at-bat yesterday to draw the walk in the 11th to give us the win. For a corner outfielder making $4.25 million a year, I expect a little more than a .250 average with no HRs and four RBI.

If he begins to heat up, he's gone at the trade deadline. His salary is palatable and could be a nice pickup for a team needing a spark. I do believe DeJesus will be traded to make room for his replacement—more on this below.

 

Starlin Castro

Doing everything we hoped he would. Yesterday was a bit rough. He drove in the two runs but came up short in a couple of later at-bats. Overall, he's hitting .345 with 18 RBI and 11 SBs. The SBs are a surprise—loving that.

Must work on his fielding or he will find himself at second base next year. Not the end of the world and a move I would welcome. Castro has a real chance to be a Chase Utley kind of guy.

Cubs make the playoffs?

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Darwin Barney

Still sort of an enigma. Last 10 games have been bad. He's 5-for-35. That's below the Dunn circa 2011 line, much less the Mendoza line. Barney had his average up to .311 on April 23 before nosediving to his current .245.

His time as a Cub is coming to a close. He's not consistent enough to keep a roster spot, especially if Castro makes the move over to second base. He plays out the year and gets beaten out in spring training.

 

Alfonso Soriano

A billion dollars a year. That's how much we're paying, right?

After a very nice spring training, I thought Soriano might have changed something. Shortened his swing? Started to hop at the plate since he's not doing it in the field anymore? That optimism is gone.

He's batting .245 with ZERO HRs. Between our two corner outfielders, we have zero HRs. Darwin Barney has one more than both of them—combined.

Because his salary is higher than the GNP of his native Dominican Republic, we're stuck with him. Soriano plays out the year, bats .250 next year and gets traded—finally—at the deadline. Cubs pick up a ton of salary but get Volstad back from A's.

 

Brian LaHair

Anybody else think this guy would bat .250 with a couple of HRs, 10-plus RBI and play average if not below-average first base? I'm mean, come on! The guy is right-handed.

Instead, he leads the NL in hitting with an average of .390. He's also clubbed seven HRs and has 16 RBI. He strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough but has been an unbelievable surprise.

LaHair is the reason the Cubs trade DeJesus. I believe he keeps this up—not the .390 average, but somewhere in the .330 range, and jacks 30-plus bombs with 80-plus RBI. They need to find a spot for him with Anthony Rizzo killing it in AAA.

Alfonso Soriano will be...

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Tony Campana

Is fast. Ridiculously fast. If you watched yesterday's game, he almost beat out two routine grounders: one to the pitcher and one to the second baseman.

I am hoping he can keep his average up. .325 is nice, but he doesn't walk enough. He needs to be on base. With a little more plate discipline, this guy could be Vince Coleman. Coleman rarely had an average above .280, but he averaged 47.5 walks a year for his first eight years.

This is where Campana needs to be. I'd be fine with 35-plus walks if he can keep the average above .300. Unfortunately, I think Campana's days as a Cub are numbered. We are loaded with outfield talent and potential.

From Brett Jackson to Matt Szczur, I don't know if we have space for Campana. He's not going to agree to be a Reed Johnson platoon-type guy yet. This guy can be an everyday player. I just don't know if he has what it takes to be an everyday player for the Cubs. I am flummoxed as to what we will do with him.

I would really hate to see him go. Is an outfield of Szczur, Jackson and Campana impossible? Not a lot of power there. And what do we do with LaHair if he keeps up the average and power?

 

Ian Stewart

I have been down on this guy since the beginning. I didn't like the trade then, and I don't like it now. Tyler Colvin is batting .295 while striking out too much. DJ LaMahieu is batting .311 with seven SBs and only 15 Ks in 119 ABs.

We received Casey Weathers in this trade, too. His ERA is 4.66, and he's got 13 BBs to 10 Ks in nine innings of work. Awesome. This was a bad trade.

Stewart is batting .204 and strikes out too much. Stewart will stay this year but will be relegated to a backup role next year if he makes the team at all. Next year has to be Vitters' year to show us what he's got or get traded.

I would not be surprised if Adrian Cardenas wins the starting job at third out of spring training next year (or another guy, see below). He's batting .319 and never strikes out—five in 94 ABs. He has seemingly below-average power for a third baseman but George Brett only averaged 15 HRs a season.

Knowing the Cubs would be bad, this year I have watched:

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Joe Mather

Having played for the Cardinals, I swore I would do everything I could to hate this guy. Didn't work. He was our best player for spring training. In very limited time, he's batting .286 with a couple of HRs.

This guy has the potential to be good. He needs a chance. He's another one who deserves a chance to show what he can do. His window is slim with his 30th birthday around the corner.

 

Geovany Soto

Geo's days are numbered—start the countdown, numbered. He's batting .147. That's a far cry from his ROY campaign in 2008.

He's been on a steady decline since. Both Wellington Castillo and Steve Clevenger need their chance behind the plate. In very limited duty, Clevenger was batting .500 before the injury.

Castillo is batting .000 in 11 ABs but was cranking to the tune of .320 down on the farm. Geo is gone at the trade deadline. He needs a change of scenery to potentially get his bat back. An American League team where he can platoon at DH, too, would fit the bill.

 

Jeff Baker

Uggghhh. Just ugggghhh. He's a fine enough guy, I guess. I just hate seeing him in the lineup. He's a nearly 31-year-old taking a spot from one of the kids. We already have one of these guys (see Stewart, Ian).

Ripping it up at .240, he strikes out almost 50 percent of the time. The only time a strikeout is okay is if you would have hit into a double-play. I understand needing veteran leadership, but I'm not sure this guy is providing it.

I'd like to see more time for Barney—play him every day to see if he can hit .300 and have a chance of staying. I don't see a market for him at the trade deadline. No way he's a Cub next year.

 

Reed Johnson

Huge Reed Johnson fan. I liked him until I watched the game against the Nationals—then I loved him. Seeing the catch against the Brewers to rob Prince Fielder—well, now it's a man-crush.

I was thrilled when the Cubs signed him. Total pro. Great platoon guy who can steal a base and save a run. I could see there being a market for him at the trade deadline, and it wouldn't surprise if the Cubs traded him. I'd be all for it. Let the guy go out with a winner.

Sadly, he won't be a Cub next year. The outfield is too crowded, and he is 35. His .189 BA isn't helping.

 

So, there you have it. Let's hear ya.

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