The Cubs are a lowly 44-69, but that doesn't mean the team can give up on winning games and finishing strong. A positive last month of baseball in 2012 would go a long way to motivate both the team and players that 2013 will be a better year.
Although the team needs to step up collectively, certain players bear more responsibility than others at this time of year. There are veterans that need to finish strong to provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse and make themselves players who could be traded in the offseason, and there are young players that need to make a big splash in the Windy City to become fan favorites.
Here are your five Cubs who need to wow the fans at the end of 2012.
Rizzo is a guy with tremendous star power, but him fading at the end of the season would be a bad sign. It is important that he can maintain his stats for the rest of the year to prove to fans and management that he has what it takes to play a full slate of big league games.
In just the 40 games he's played with the Cubs, Rizzo has already belted nine home runs and driven in 24. He's also batting .290, a great average for a player that has the ability to hit nearly 40 home runs in the MLB.
Soriano gets a tough break from fans across baseball. Sure he's a little too nonchalant in the field at times and has struggled on and off, but over the course of his career he's been a fairly consistent power hitter. Although probably not enough to warrant an eight-year, $136 million contract, it's not his fault Cubs management offered him the money.
This year, Soriano has belted 20 home runs and driven in 69. He has 360 long-balls for his career, and will definitely reach 400 with two more years with the Cubs.
He's signed through 2014 and due to earn $18 million in each season, so a strong finish from him would help the Cubs because he would appear more worth the massive contract, or they would be able to trade him to a contender with cap room.
Dempster is gone. Maholm is gone. Garza is arbitration eligible and a free agent in 2014 that will likely bolt out of Chicago as soon as possible (that's if he's not traded).
That leaves Samardzija.
Although he's arbitration eligible, the former Notre Dame standout has been a fan favorite in Chicago and has plenty of potential that the Cubs should definitely want to resign.
If he stays, he will likely be rewarded with a huge contract and be nearly guaranteed the spot as ace of the pitching staff. A strong finish in 2012 will remind the Cubs how much they need to keep him around.
With one year and $9.8 million left on his contract, the Cubs are going to have to get everything they can out of Carlos Marmol to find a little value in his deal.
Although his body of work for 2012 isn't very impressive (4.46 ERA, 14 saves), Marmol has actually been dominant since the All-Star break. In 10.2 innings, he's compiled 6 saves and pitched to a tremendous 1.69 ERA.
With his hard fastball and wicked slider, Marmol is finally pitching the way the Cubs believed he would when they signed him to a three year, $20 million deal.
At only 22 years old, Castro has already played two-and-a-half Major League seasons. At his best, he has the potential to hit over 20 home runs while maintaining a .300 average, but at his worst, he is mistake-prone and incredibly young.
He's had some mental lapses on defense and running the bases, but he and Rizzo have the capability to be the faces of the franchise for years to come. If the Cubs begin to win in the next few years, Starlin Castro will get the satisfaction of knowing he was essential to the process.