After posting their worst regular season record since 1966, the Chicago Cubs continued their rebuild during the offseason.
The acquisitions of Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Nate Schierholtz, Scott Hairston, Kyuji Fujikawa, Scott Feldman, and Carlos Villanueva will help the Cubs in that rebuild, but they're still largely expected to finish last in the NL Central Division in 2013.
All of the above acquisitions, along with the continued development of several key prospects, should help the Cubs see improvement over last year's finish, however.
There have already been some encouraging signs thus far during spring training. There have also been some disappointing results as well.
Here is a list of Cubs players who have been on fire and others who have gotten off to a slow start thus far during early Cactus League action.
Brian Bogusevic started last season as the regular right fielder for the Houston Astros. Drafted in the first round as a pitcher in 2005, Bogusevic made the conversion to a position player in the minors and made his debut in 2010.
Bogusevic struggled at the plate for much of the 2012 season, however, hitting just .203 with seven home runs and 28 RBI in 146 games. The Astros determined that Bogusevic was not part of their future, granting him his release in early November.
The Cubs signed Bogusevic later that month to a minor-league deal, giving him an opportunity to land a job with his hometown team as a reserve.
Bogusevic has responded to the new opportunity with a sizzling spring thus far, hitting a robust .450 (9-for-20) with four doubles, a home run and four RBI.
With Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, and Scott Hairston penciled in for the outfield, there are precious few spots on the roster, but so far Bogusevic is stating a case for a role with the Cubs in 2013.
Entering his second season with the Chicago Cubs, David DeJesus doesn't have to worry about nailing down a roster spot. He's already penciled in as the starting center fielder and will likely bat leadoff for manager Dale Sveum.
DeJesus hit .263 with nine home runs and 50 RBI and a .350 on-base percentage in his first year in the National League.
In his second spring training for the Cubs, DeJesus has found the going to be a bit rough thus far.
In Cactus League play thus far, DeJesus is hitting just .083 (1-for-12). He started the spring hitless in his first 10 at-bats, finally registering a single against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
While manager Dale Sveum likely isn't worried about DeJesus' slow start, if he continues slumping early in the regular season, changes to the lineup will likely be in order.
Given the strong start thus far by new Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, closer Carlos Marmol has good reason to be looking over his shoulder.
Fujikawa registered over 200 saves during his career with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan's Central League. The Cubs paid Fujikawa $9.5 million over two years in the hopes that his success overseas would translate well on American soil.
So far, it's been a walk in the park for Fujikawa. In three outings, he has given up just two hits while striking out three batters and walking none.
With trade speculation continuing to swirl around Marmol, Fujikawa's strong start is a welcome sign. If he rolls that into the regular season, it could hasten Marmol's departure.
It would be a mistake to judge pitchers too early in spring training. Oftentimes they're working on specific issues on any given outing, whether it's fastball command, locating their curveball properly, or simply working to solidify their mechanics.
Chicago Cubs pitcher Scott Feldman is likely doing the same early on in his first season with his new team.
After a decent first outing in which he gave up one run on two hits against the Oakland A's, Feldman struggled against the Colorado Rockies, allowing four runs on six hits in two-plus innings.
Feldman wasn't worried after the game.
‘‘Fastball command [is] right where I want it to be,’’ Feldman told Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘Health-wise, I feel great. I feel like my legs are under me and my arm’s caught up to where it needs to be.’’
Again, it's way too early to be alarmed about a pitcher's performance in early exhibition action. But given the fact that the Cubs' rotation has been completely revamped, the new guys on the block can expect to have each performance viewed under a microscope.
Nate Schierholtz was signed by the Chicago Cubs during the offseason to patrol right field for them in 2013. They then spent the rest of the winter looking for a platoon partner for Schierholtz, finally inking Scott Hairston as his right-handed hitting complement.
Schierholtz so far has given manager Dale Sveum a reason to like at least half of that right field tandem.
In early Cactus League action, Schierholtz is hitting .400 with a home run and four RBI.
Scheirholtz, Hairston, and David DeJesus are likely just placeholders in the outfield while young prospects like Brett Jackson, Jorge Soler, and Albert Almora continue developing in the minors.
But it's an encouraging sign to see placeholders rake at the plate.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.