Chicago Cubs: 4 Players Theo Epstein Should Give a Trial by Fire

Tommy Stokke@StokkeTommyCorrespondent IMay 14, 2012

Chicago Cubs: 4 Players Theo Epstein Should Give a Trial by Fire

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    Brett Jackson, Anthony Rizzo and prospects, oh my!

    Chicago Cubs fans cannot wait for the major league arrival of the two big-name prospects with the intention of leading Chicago down the yellow brick road to a championship sooner rather than later.

    Fortunately, the man in charge knows it'll take more than a click of his heels to bring a championship home.

    Theo Epstein's hands are full with draft evaluations and questions from all angles asking when the two top prospects will be seeing time in the majors.

    On the surface it makes perfect sense. Rizzo is posting numbers that appear to be pulled out of a summer slow-pitch softball league with four multi-homer games.

    Jackson brings a little bit of everything to the table for a starting outfield that has hit as many home runs as I have this season.

    But the two big names aren't part of the four that should be sent out on an everyday basis to see what they've got.

    Yes, it's a rebuilding year. But there's plenty of time for Jackson and Rizzo to hone their skills in the minors. Jackson strikes out too much, and Rizzo has nowhere to play on the current team.

    Instead, here are the four names Epstein should throw into the fire, and see what they have to offer.

Tony Campana

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    The 25-year-old brings a whole new element that the Cubs haven't seen in quite some time.

    Speed.

    Any ball on the ground gives the speedster a chance at a hit. That's hardly an exaggeration.

    He deserves to spend the rest of the year in center field to show if he's capable of being a role player on this team for years to come.

    Is he the established leadoff hitter the Cubs have desperately lacked for years? His .320 batting average and .370 on-base percentage is a good start. But it's only been 50 at-bats.

    While Jackson works on his contact in the minor leagues, Campana deserves his opportunity. Jackson is hitting just .246 with 40 strikeouts compared to 18 walks. Those numbers don't translate well to the majors.

Welington Castilllo

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    Driving in just two runs on the year not via the long ball in over 80 at-bats doesn't bode well for a starting catcher with a reputation as an offensive catcher.

    I'm actually rather offended by the little offense provided.

    After winning the Rookie of the Year award, Geovany Soto has declined each year. He's shown up to camp out of shape. He's shown up in shape, only to find an inner tube around his waist by the All-Star break.

    When is enough enough?

    The sooner the better.

    Welington Castillo, 25, paid his dues in the minors and earned his opportunity at a starting job.

    In a rebuilding year, Castillo is clearly the heir-apparent to Soto. Why wait to break him in?

    In over 500 Triple-A at-bats, Castillo produced over 100 RBI and more than 30 home runs. He's got a plus-arm behind the plate. Now is the time to build familiarity with the pitching staff.

Travis Wood

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    Remember how displeased the Cubs were with Carlos Zambrano?

    Perhaps Zambrano would be easier to tolerate after replacing him and $18 million with Chris Volstad and his 6.92 ERA. That's good enough for third-worst in the majors.

    Not to mention he is averaging barely over five innings pitched a game, leaving the ball in the hands of a less-than-stellar bullpen.

    Can it really get any worse?

    Insert Travis Wood.

    In Wood's only appearance in the majors this season, he held the Los Angeles Dodgers to three runs while striking out four in six innings.

    Wood has major league experience, and despite struggles in the minors he brings enough to the table to unseat Volstad until another transaction, perhaps a trade, is possible.

    Wood struck out 36 batters in the minors compared to just 10 walks. He's a left-handed pitcher which creates more balance in the rotation. He also has a much better chance at being a long-term option over Volstad.

    It may be an argument for another day, but would it be out of question to think that an addition of Roy Oswalt gives the Cubs a chance to make a run at the division?

    Regardless, Wood makes more sense than Volstad in every aspect.

Adrian Cardenas

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    A greater argument will be made about this later in the week, but until then, this should hold you over.

    Darwin Barney has given me little-to-no reason to believe he is worth starting at second base in a softball league, let alone a major league club.

    I don't know what it is about him that makes me question him.

    Perhaps it's the bottom-10 major league batting average for second basemen, a position shallow in talent. Maybe it's because he walks less than an untrained puppy.

    Maybe it's because he remains a product of the Mike Quade system of falling in love with hustle during spring training only to play an unproven player through a five-month slump.

    We'll get to the reasons later.

    Adrian Cardenas hit .318 in Iowa, adding 12 extra-base hits in 94 at-bats. Barney has nine extra-base hits in 116 at-bats. He walks more than he strikes out, and he reaches base at a rate of .376.

    He has patience and brings a threat to the batter's box. Barney is nothing more than a utility player. It's time for Cardenas to get his shot.