Grading Each Chicago Cubs Position Player Entering June
One quarter of the way into the MLB season, the Chicago Cubs have already settled into the 5-slot of the National League Central, standing at a 21-34 record. While some problems haven't corrected themselves, other players have stepped up and answered the call to improve.
Some Cubs have struggled through the first quarter of the season, while other Cubs such as Emilio Bonifacio and Starlin Castro have shown consistency on the field.
Here we grade each 2014 Cubs position player entering June.
Starlin Castro: B-
Shortstop Starlin Castro entered 2014 under much criticism and has even been mentioned as a trade candidate by critics. His disappointing 2013 season saw him hit just .245 with a .284 on-base percentage. Thus far, he has rebounded and improved his offense. Through 55 games, Castro is hitting .267 with seven home runs, only three short of the 10 that he totaled last season, and two-thirds of the season remaining.
However, Castro's defense still needs to improve. He has committed over 20 errors in each of his first four seasons and is on pace to continue that streak with eight errors through 54 games.
Darwin Barney: F
Quite frankly, Darwin Barney has been awful. Barney has nearly matched his four errors from last season and is hitting an atrocious .177 with only a .245 OBP. Additionally, he has only driven in 11 runs and drawn nine walks.
Barney is in grave danger of being traded, as the Cubs have young prospects such as Arismendy Alcantara knocking on the door. Alcantara is hitting .262 in Triple-A Iowa and is projected to reach the bigs this year, according to MLB.com's Prospect Watch.
Anthony Rizzo: B
First baseman Anthony Rizzo started off the season quite hot, hitting .345 in his first 15 games. Though his average has decreased to .267, his on-base percentage is an impressive team-high .396 in 54 games, largely thanks to a team-leading 38 walks.
Rizzo has already committed two errors on defense but otherwise has been solid at first base. Overall, he has greatly improved from his disappointing 2013 and has once again become a leader on this struggling Cubs offense.
Luis Valbuena: B-
Now in his third year with the Cubs, third baseman Luis Valbuena has been splitting time with young prospect Mike Olt. While the two have played in 48 and 46 games, respectively, Valbuena has been of greater value to the club as a whole.
Despite having a decent .257 batting average, Valbuena's OBP is at a solid .380 thanks to his second-best 27 walks.
Valbuena has committed three errors at third base this season but has been flawless at second base while filling in for Darwin Barney.
Valbuena has also doubled 12 times, only one behind team-leading Castro. Valbuena has been a solid third baseman while the team develops Olt and young prospect Kris Bryant, who is ranked as the No. 8 prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com.
Mike Olt: D
Though disappointing overall this season, Mike Olt remains an enigma for the Cubs' future. Olt has been known to have vision problems; however, he insists that these are a thing of the past.
On one hand, Olt is hitting a disappointing .162 with 52 strikeouts. On the other hand, Olt is a home run behind Anthony Rizzo for the team lead, clobbering nine thus far.
Olt has also committed three errors at third, but that is to be expected for a young player early in his career regardless of the position.
If not for his home runs and 24 RBI, Olt would be an utter disappointment so far this season. Though not always reliable as seen by his .162 average, Olt can be a solid offensive weapon when playing well.
Emilio Bonifacio: B
Utility man Emilio Bonifacio has been an enormous asset for the Cubs. Bonifacio had a historic start to 2014, becoming the first big-leaguer to hit safely nine times in the first two games of the season.
Though his average isn't the ridiculous .750 that it was through two games, Bonifacio is still hitting a solid .270. He also has 10 doubles and three triples on the season.
Bonifiacio is by far the Cubs' biggest threat on the basepaths. The 29-year-old has 13 stolen bases, seven more than Junior Lake for the team lead.
Not bad for a player who was signed to a minor league deal and wasn't guaranteed a spot on the roster.
Junior Lake: C+
Young left fielder Junior Lake has been on and off this season, hitting only .219 in April with 28 strikeouts and 14 hits. However, he has rebounded well, hitting .273 in May with 15 RBI. Despite this, Lake leads the team with 62 strikeouts.
Lake's speed has also been impressive, as he is 6-for-7 on stolen bases this season.
Another aspect of Lake's game that needs improvement is his fielding. In 39 games in left field, Lake has committed four errors, only behind Castro for the team lead.
Ryan Kalish: C-
First-year Cub Ryan Kalish had a solid spring training, hitting .304 and striking out only six times. However, his regular season has been significantly less impressive.
Kalish is hitting an unimpressive .242 and has driven in only four runs in 98 plate appearances.
His time with the Cubs will likely be short if his game doesn't improve quickly.
Nate Schierholtz: C
Despite Nate Schierholtz's walk-off single on Tuesday, he has been disappointing thus far, especially considering he was only two home runs behind Rizzo for the team lead in 2013.
Schierholtz has only hit two balls out of the park this season and hit only .202 in May.
Welington Castillo: C+
Unfortunately for the Cubs, the team will be without catcher Welington Castillo, who was placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with a rib cage injury. Thus far, Castillo has been solid while occasionally splitting time with John Baker.
Castillo is hitting a moderate .242 but has plunked five home runs this season. His most impressive quality has been his defense. In 369.2 innings behind the plate, Castillo has only committed two errors.
John Baker: D
Back-up catcher John Baker has been disappointing so far. After hitting only .150 with the Padres in 16 games last season, Baker is hitting only .154 in 21 games with the Cubs.
Baker will see more time behind the plate in the upcoming weeks with the absence of Castillo, so the opportunity has arisen for Baker gain some redemption.
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