As the Chicago Cubs continue to struggle at the beginning of the 2013 campaign, the future of many underperforming players become unclear...or rather, demotion becomes more and more inevitable.
Many players, such as Dave Sappelt (who won a roster position over Brian Bogusevic, now hitting .383 with Triple-A Iowa) seem destined for the minor leagues.
Although the Cubs have played sloppy in basically every aspect of their game, certain eye-sores are more evident than others (stay tuned for that article, it will be coming up).
One player who is under much pressure is first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo, who is seen as part of the future of the club, has drastically underperformed thus far. He is hitting .190 with only a .299 on-base percentage.
Rizzo also leads the team in strikeouts with 18. Starlin Castro is tied with Alfonso Soriano for second at 14.
Earlier Sunday, Chicago newspapers raised the question, "Could Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro be demoted to triple-A?"
Castro? No, but it is far from impossible.
Castro (as of right now) should remain in the majors. He is hitting .304 and continued his 13-game hitting streak Sunday.
However, Rizzo is struggling mightily. Perhaps Rizzo's struggles can be linked to his decision to compete in the World Baseball Classic with Italy?
Rizzo missed the beginning of spring training while competing in the Classic. Therefore, his time to focus on actual "training" and basics rather than playing was greatly diminished.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum addressed the two in question following today's game (h/t Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune):
The bottom line is you have to perform. Whether you need more development or you decide all those kind of things. ... There’s still that accountability. Many, many people throughout the history of the game (have been demoted).
The two have also been criticized for their defense, or lack thereof. Paul Sullivan of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated that "As for Rizzo and Castro, it’s their defense that has Sveum up in arms."
Rizzo's defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) stands at -0.2, which is only 0.1 below his final dWAR last year.
Starlin Castro's dWAR stands at 0.0.
In other words, both are replaceable in the field.
In no way should fans (or Rizzo) be panicking. It's only April, the Cubs are (under)performing in many ways as expected and it's far from abnormal for players to have a "sophomore slump." Perhaps a little pressure and threats for improvement will do him some good to make him realize that although the Cubs are putting a great deal of hope in him for the future, his job is anything but guaranteed.
On the other hand, perhaps a little pressure will have a negative impact.
Here's to many steps in the right direction for Rizzo, Castro and the Cubbies in 2013.