10 Bright Spots in Chicago Cubs' Otherwise Gloomy Season
Even though this isn't the Cubs' year, there are still lots of things to be happy and optimistic about. From Ryan Dempster to the 2012 draft, things have gone well for the Cubs this year.
And while just as many things have gone wrong, we Cubs fans always look on the bright side. The Cubs have pieces at the major league level, Triple-A level and all the way down, giving Cubs fans something to be excited about.
As the season moves along, trade talks will bring young new faces to the organization and give the Cubs more options to work with going forward.
It is an exciting time to be a Cubs fan, believe me. Let's take a look at a few reasons.
10. Dan Vogelbach
Bare with me, this is not about to be a list of prospects some of you may have never heard of.
But Dan Vogelbach is certainly raising eyebrows with the AZL Cubs and will likely join Low-A Boise in the near future. In the meantime, Vogelbach is hitting .367 with six home runs and 26 RBIs in 18 games this season.
He has struck out 11 times to seven walks in 79 at-bats. If this is a sign of things to come, we could have a very lethal bat on our hands.
9. Alfonso Soriano
As much as people want to criticize, Alfonso Soriano has had a fairly good season.
Since May 1, Soriano owns a .288 average with 17 home runs and a .350 OBP. The Cubs are not close to competing, but with Soriano playing as much as he is, he can and could play himself into a trade.
While the Cubs would be on the hook for most of his salary, moving him would open the gates to the future, which Cubs fans appear more than ready for.
Keep it up, Fonsi!
8. Josh Vitters
Coming into this season, I had just about heard enough about Josh Vitters.
But in his first season in Triple-A, Vitters is exceeding expectations and will likely get a chance to play third base regularly in Chicago before the 2012 season ends.
He is hitting .300 with 13 home runs and a .353 OBP in 92 games this season, his best average since 2008 in Single-A. Once the Triple-A season ends, which coincides with September roster expansions, expect to see the former first rounder gracing the north side for the very first time.
7. James Russell
Russell is in the midst of his third season with the Cubs. The first two have been far from perfect, with a cumulative ERA of 4.52.
This season has been a complete turnaround for Russell, who has established himself in a role that was left vacant in the Sean Marshall trade this past offseason.
He owns a 2-0 record with a 2.51 ERA and 34 K in 45 games this season.
6. Shawn Camp
Shawn Camp has shown glimpses of being a great reliever, but 2011 was not his best year and left some questioning whether the 36-year-old had anything left.
All those questions have been put to rest as Camp owns a 2.81 ERA in 46 games this season. He has a 1.08 WHIP, becoming the go-to arm in the bullpen. He has 36 K to 11 walks this season.
5. Bryan LaHair
All-Star first baseman Bryan LaHair knew what he was getting himself into this season. He was coming off his best professional career, given an everyday job with a big league club with the caveat being he may lose his job to a 22-year-old at any moment.
That did not distract LaHair who over the course of the season prepped for the move to the outfield and has embraced it. LaHair is hitting .282 with 14 home runs and 31 RBIs to 33 runs scored. He is struggling versus lefties, but this is a year to work out the kinks and be ready to play right field virtually every day for the Cubs going forward.
He is also a trade candidate and could net the Cubs a nice pair of prospects if the right offer comes along.
4. Travis Wood
Travis Wood is the pitcher who came over in the Sean Marshall trade to the Reds. The former top prospect began the year in Triple-A, but quickly joined the team after Chris Volstad failed to put it together.
Wood has pitched extremely well for the Cubs and is quickly establishing himself as a permanent member to the rotation.
In 10 games this year, Wood is 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA and 42 K to 24 walks with a 1.13 WHIP.
3. 2012 MLB Draft
The Cubs have signed their first 20 picks of the 2012 draft and most of them have already gotten their professional careers underway.
Alberto Almora, who sent Cubs fans into a tailspin for his unemotional response to being drafted, signed and will begin playing in the next week or so.
Thirteen of the Cubs' first 20 picks are pitchers, giving the Cubs organization a fresh young crop of pitching talent to monitor. This appears to be a good draft for the Cubs.
It is impossible to tell this early, but the fact that so many players have signed and it doesn't appear that anything crazy or overly aggressive was done, the Cubs are sitting pretty and will continue to build from the ground up through trades until next year's draft, which they will likely find themselves in the top five picks.
To take a look at the Cubs' 2012 draft class, click here.
2. Anthony Rizzo
The Cubs have won 12-of-16 games.
It is no coincidence that Anthony Rizzo was called up as this hot streak got underway. Rizzo has impressed all season long and nothing appears to be getting to his head.
He is hitting .356 with four home runs and 10 RBI to nine runs. In just 15 games, Rizzo's impact has been felt in Chicago.
The Cubs have found their first baseman of the future and hopefully he is here to stay.
1. Ryan Dempster
Ryan Dempster currently has the best ERA among starters in all of baseball.
With a 1.86 ERA, Dempster is becoming the most coveted starting pitcher on the trade block. Not only that, but he has 33 consecutive scoreless innings and continues to be lights-out against opponents.
Dempster finished 2011 with a 4.80 ERA, so his 2012 season has given the Cubs tremendous leverage in trading him for prospects, something Dempster understands and is apparently channeling into his outings.
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