Chicago Cubs Biggest Winners and Losers of April
This season was expected to be a very solid step in the right direction for the Chicago Cubs.
However, this season hasn't given much reason for optimism yet on the North Side. There have been several players, including many in the bullpen, that have disappointed so far. That being said, there have been just as many players who have gotten off to good starts.
It's been only a month and plenty of storylines could change as the season wears on, but as of right now, here are the four players that fall on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Winner: RP Justin Grimm
Along with Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm has been the best reliever in the Cubs bullpen this season.
His 0.82 ERA in 12 appearances is extremely impressive, especially when combined with his 13 strikeouts in 11 innings. There is a good chance he could be the team's closer if he keeps pitching well, as Jose Veras was ousted from the position. Pedro Strop also may have blown his chance at the spot when he gave up four runs against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth inning on the night that marked Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary.
One problem with inserting Grimm into the closer role could be that he's not used to pitching in the high-pressure that accompanies save situations, but none of the options tried by the Cubs have worked thus far, so it's worth a shot.
Loser: Closer Jose Veras
Jose Veras, admittedly has lost it so far this season. He was horrendous to start the season, and his ERA still sits at an astounding 15.88. He's 0-for-2 in save situations and probably won't get another chance to close a game for a while.
Veras is going to get an opportunity to settle down by working in the seventh inning and perhaps that will help the situation. For now, though, Veras is at the forefront of the Cubs' very disappointing bullpen.
Winner: 2B/SS/3B/Outfield Emilio Bonifacio
Bonifacio started this season better than anybody in the league as he was hitting just below .500 through the first two weeks of the year. He's settled down, like anybody else would, but is still proving to be a great signing for the Cubs.
He's still batting a sterling .353 this season, good enough for best on the team. In addition, Bonifacio has nine stolen bases, top five in the National League. While it remains to be seen whether or not Bonifacio stays hot, he's performing as well as any Cub right now.
Loser: Outfielder Nate Schierholtz
Schierholtz could be a piece the Cubs move at the deadline, but it seems like he's getting harder to move every game. After having an impressive season last year, Schierholtz is slumping majorly in the season's first month and in the process is hurting his trade value tremendously.
Batting .222 with zero home runs and 20 strikeouts, it's clear Schierholtz isn't seeing the ball well at all this year. With no production from a bat that is supposed to be slotted in the middle of the Cubs' order, it's no wonder the Cub's offense is struggling through the season's first month.
Winner: 1B Anthony Rizzo
Looking for a bounce back season after a relatively disappointing 2013, Anthony Rizzo is tearing it up.
Rizzo is batting .300 with three home runs and 10 RBI, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The Cub first baseman has an approach at the plate that is far better than it was a season ago. He's drawn 12 walks while striking out 15 times.
He's going to strike out his fair share, but the fact he's being patient at the plate is extremely encouraging.
Loser: Outfielder Ryan Sweeney
For someone who played well enough in 2013 to earn a new two-year contract, Sweeney isn't living up to expectations this season. He has struggled this year, putting together just a .205 batting average thus far while displaying no power. Just one of his nine hits this year has been an extra base hit.
If the Cubs hope to turn around their offensive woes, they need far better performances from their outfield other than utility player Emilio Bonifacio.
Winner: SP Jeff Samardzija
The subject of most Cubs offseason talk, Samardzija is making himself a lot of money early on this season.
Whether he signs an extension with the Cubs or is traded and signs an extension elsewhere, Samardzija is performing so far in 2014 as a borderline elite starting pitcher.
In five starts, he has a 1.53 ERA and 27 strikeouts compared to just nine walks. The Notre Dame product has been masterful this season and is looking more and more like a true ace. Sadly, Samardzija is 0-2 due to a lack of run support and the failure of the bullpen.
If those issues persist, they could become additional reasons for him wanting to leave Chicago.
Loser: RP Pedro Strop
It was extremely promising when Strop came over from the Baltimore Orioles last season and pitched well for the Cubs.
That performance in the second half of 2013 made the Cubs think they may have a future closer. And they still might, but it doesn't look like Strop's ready to be on that stage yet. He has really struggled so far this season, and his latest blown save may have cost him a shot at the closer job this year.
Strop's 4.32 ERA with seven walks in just 8.1 innings are both concerning. He seems better suited for the set up role right now, so that's where he should stay in 2014.