The 2012 season for the Chicago Cubs was as disastrous as we all thought. It was actually two games worse than either I thought or hoped. I'm not sure where reality lies, so it's a distinct possibility that my heart's wishes clouded my brain's logic in thinking they would not lose 100 games.
They did. I'm sadder for it.
I do believe the Cubs are moving in the right direction. I think the young team of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are exactly what we need. An infusion of young energy is a welcomed change from the stuffy atmosphere that's been plaguing us for years.
2013 is a litmus test for us. We need to make the moves necessary, as well as walking away from the unnecessary ones, in order to be successful—or at least exciting and fun to watch.
I expect the Cubs 2013 season to be like a high wire act: You simply can't look away. Everything could be just fine, or it could spiral out of control in a most spectacular fashion.
In a year that saw the Cubs employ six catchers—Wellington Castillo, Geovany Soto, Steve Cleavenger, Koyie Hill, Anthony Recker and Blake Lalli—we really need someone to step up and claim the position.
Our catchers batted a combined .191 this year. That's pathetic. They didn't bring Adam Dunn's power to the plate, so this kind of average simply won't do.
Soto is gone, so he's not an option. I liked Soto a lot in his time with the Cubs, but it was definitely time for him to go. I think he'll find new life with the Rangers. (Even more so when they don't resign Mike Napoli.)
The Anthony Recker experiment made no sense. I love the guy's name and I'm pretty sure he could have my knee caps broken with a phone call, but we don't have room for him.
Blake Lalli? Wasn't he on Gossip Girl?
Basically this comes down to Cleavenger and Castillo. I think they'll both make the roster. Who the starter is a total crap shoot. Spring training will dictate who cops the first squat behind home plate.
This is a classic example of half full. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are entrenched...and this thrills me. These guys are great young talent.
Darwin is an interesting guy. I love his defense, though his range isn't spectacular. What he does get to, he gobbles up.
Third base is a disaster zone. I know there are some Ian Stewart fans, or at least believers. This cannot continue. These are the guys that stay with the girl that constantly lets them down. She's a bit of a slob, she flirts with other guys, she's constantly late...but all of a sudden, just when you are ready to stop the vicious cycle, she sits on the couch, cracks a beer and waxes nostalgic for the days of Moreland, Sandberg, Durham, Dernier, Trout...she'll be everything you want.
Stop it. Stewart will never be everything you want. Stop being sucked in by what he could be. He ain't. He's 27 and batted .201 this year. He struck out almost 33% of the time. He is not the answer unless the question is "Who did we get stuck with while Tyler Colvin and DJ LaMahieu thrived in Colorado?"
The saddest part of all of this is that we're Vittered. (Def: Vittered, To have one's head so far up one's bum that they would need a bay window in their stomach to see, i.e. to field the routine grounder.)
Luis Valbuena is a nice player, but he has utility man written all over him.
Outside of that? We got nothin'. I said we have no one else. Don't make me write about him. I won't.
I'd like to see the Cubs bring up Javier Baez. Let's see what the kid can do. Can Castro play third? I shudder at the thought of how many errors he'd make. We're better served to move him to 2nd and let Baez take over shortstop.
Trade: Dan Vogelbach—a big Prince Fielder kind of guy who hits the tar off the ball but has no future with the Cubs unless Rizzo gets hit by a bus or they enact the DH rule for the National League too, and "He who shall not be Vittered, I mean named" for Will Middlebrooks.
The Cubs and Redsox play nicely and this trace would benefit both teams. Vogelback could be their new Papi, and who knows, maybe the other guy benefits from a change of scenery.
Starters: Castro, Rizzo, Barney, Middlebrooks.
Bench: Valbuena, Cardenas and TBD veteran.
Finally! We have hit a place of real promise.
Have you all heard of this new guy we got? Tied for fifth in the National League in home runs, third in RBI, all the while leading the NL in fielding percentage, having made one error all year and ranking second with 12 OF assists.
We have got to sign this guy long term! Oh wait...
David DeJesus played well enough this year. Not well enough that he's a sure fire shot to start in RF next year, but well enough to be on the roster and traded at the deadline.
Bryan LaHair is not going to be a Cub for long. He started like a house on fire last year only to fall apart once summer hit the Windy City. He is a great guy to have on the team as insurance at first base and to play a little OF. Other than that? Nuh uh. He gets traded at the deadline. We have other guys who can fill in at first, and the OF is way too crowded. We don't need to give time to a guy who is not going to be here long term.
Bring on the youngins! Love this part of our outfield.
Tony Campana is one of the most exciting players in baseball. If only he could get on base more! He is Michael Bourn waiting to happen.
Brett Jackson—I like Brett Jackson, but he is dangerously close to getting Vittered. When he was finally called up to the majors, all he did was bat .175 and strike out 49.9% of the time. Not good. This is another guy who needs to get his act together before we label him a CP2 (The second coming of Corey Patterson.)
Dave Sappelt is an interesting cat. He batted .275 with little to no power and stole only one base, which leaves me wanting from the speed perspective. But he's a pretty good contact hitter. His OPS was .351—not awful. I'm not sure if he fits in long term, but he definitely fits in next year.
Now to the infants.
Matt Szczur is a guy that that I get excited about just saying his name, much less spelling it. All the Zs—it's just cool. First of all, he was a two sport star at Villanova. Love the toughness he brings to the diamond. At Daytona he batted .295 with 38 SBs. (He was caught 12 times, but he has time to work on that. Where is Davy Lopes when you need him?)
In the last draft we took Albert Almora. This is looking like a huge coup. So far in his professional career, he's hitting a combined .321 with only 8Ks in 120 ABs. And he plays dynamite OF.
Jorge Soler—total enigma. Born 1992? Maybe. Or we could get Pujols-ed. The guy is a specimen. If he's really 20, 6'3, 205, this guy has all the tools to be awesome. He batted .299 with an OPS of .369 while stealing 12 bases and only striking out 19 times in 134 ABs.
Starters: Soriano, Campana and DeJesus
Bench: Sappelt, Jackson and LaHair
It all starts with Chris Voldstad...because we're going by height.
Mess. Total mess. Our starting pitching was so bad last year. Two of our brightest spots, Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm are gone.
Jeff Samardzija was a revelation. Have to say, I had this guy written off. Didn't think he had the stuff to pull off the turnaround we saw last year. Guess he needed time to lose the football muscles and tone and tweak the baseball ones. This is definitely a guy we can build around. He's not a No.1 starter, but he's a solid 2/3.
Matt Garza is a stud. Which is why we all hope he puts up Cy Young numbers through June. This guy could bring back a hefty sum if he pitches to his ability. This is a case of his ability totally trumping his Wins/Losses. He's not going to have a good record next year because even with a high 2, low 3 ERA, he's going to lose a lot of games 3-2 and 2-1. Our offense is simply that bad. Fortunately I do believe his numbers will speak for themselves, and I think we will trade him at the deadline because we have to. But for the first half of the season this guy is our ace.
Travis Wood is schizophrenic. I thought this was a pretty good get for an inter division trade that saw Sean Marshall go to the Reds. Wood went 2-3 in June with a 7.36 ERA. He went 0-5 in July with a 4.14 ERA. In September he dropped the ERA to 3.34 and went 2-2. Love that his ERA dropped three consecutive months. Great sign for next year.
If Justin Germano is anywhere near our rotation next year we have veered off path. He finished the year 2-10. This cannot solely be blamed on lack of offense not backing his stellar performances. In August he was 1-3 with a 6.67 ERA. Sweet! In September he was 0-6 with a 7.76 ERA. In September games he had a 23/13 K/BB ratio. I'm not down for that.
Brooks Raley needs some time. The kid is 24. He was thrown into five starts last year and pitched...well, let's be honest. He pitched poorly. But again, he's 24. The kid is feisty and athletic.
Down on the farm we have precious few pitching prospects. Don't get me wrong, this is a far cry from having no pitching prospects in our minor league system.
Casey Coleman could grow up to be something some day. He has to find his control, harness his power and learn to pitch. He's not going to blow guys away with his velocity anymore.
Arodys Vizcaino is our reward for trading Maholm. He's coming off of Tommy John surgery but looks to be on track. This guy's stuff is nasty, and he doesn't turn 22 for a couple weeks. In 2011 he was the Atlanta Braves' top pitching prospect. The Atlanta Braves! Those dudes know pitching.
Trey McNutt has an awesome name. I hope he ends up with a personality like Brian Wilson so we can yell things like "You're McNutts!" I fully plan to employ the phrase "You've just been Nutted" when someone strikes out against him. McNutt needs to cut down on the walks. His overpowering fastball is a great weapon, but his curve is what will get him out of a lot of jams.
Trade: Send Jeimer Candelario, a corner INF for the future, and Lahair, a nice player who can play 1B, OF and DH to Seattle for Danny Hultzen.
Starting 5: Garza, Samardzija, Wood, Hultzen and Raley
Our team ERA was third worst in the NL, and we had the fewest saves (28) in Major League Baseball. Our save percentage was 57%.
We hit the second most batters in baseball, second only to the White Sox, but they're thugs, so it's expected.
Our K/BB ratio was 1.97. One of only two teams in baseball with a ratio of less than 2.00.
Where to start?
Carlos Marmol is a favorite Cub to despise. I really like Marmol's filthy, seriously Rated-X stuff. But then he brings me back to reality with a HBP or wild pitch...ultimately leading to the blown save. He could be so good—he was! Now, he's trade bait. Let's hope he steps it up in the first half of the year because with both he and Garza available, we could get a huge return if these guys pitch to form—earlier form.
James Russell—Love this guy. He's a battler. He's hitting 27 before the season starts, so let's hope he is just settling into his prime. He has a better than 2-1 K/BB ratio.
Rafael Dolis—With Russell these two formed a pretty good one two punch for the Cubs. At 24 he showed nice poise. His control needs some work, but I think that'll come with time.
Shawn Camp is a nice veteran presence on the team. His stats were eerily similar to Russell's.
The rest of the crew is pretty non-descript but fill the void for now.
Roster: Marmol, Russell, Dolis, Camp, Corpas, Vizcaino (to bring him back slowly from surgery), Castillo and Bowden might see some time.
The team I'm hoping to see next year is a young one. A team I can get excited about. I know we're not going anywhere next year, and I don't want to see the team spend money this year to pay someone for a throwaway year. We need to save our money for 2014 and beyond.
We need to see what we have on the farm. The kids that are close need to make the jump.
I don't mind losing, but I want to do it with style.
I want to see Castro and Campana combine for 100 SBs.
I want to see Castro vie for the batting title.
I want Rizzo to knock in 100 while putting over 30 into the bleachers.
I want Mark Grace in the booth with Len Kasper.
I just don't want to get Vittered.
If we're gonna go down, let's do it spectacularly.