It's that time of year again, pitchers and catchers report in less than a month on Wednesday February , 17th and position players following shortly after on february , 22nd, the cubs haven't had a huge offseason, but there is still plenty to be optimistic about. The first spring training game is march , 4th vs. the Oakland A's.
1. Marlon Byrd: While Byrd certainly is not a prolific slugger and only an average defender, he will improve the cubs defense in center field from last year, with Kosuke Fukodome moving back to right field where he is a plus defender. Byrd also despite his road splits as far as slugging %, will help on offense as well, on the road he still hit for average, and with more hitter friendly parks in the NL central, than the AL west his slugging% numbers might increase or atleast balance out. Byrd will be a solid role player for the cubs in 2010.
2. Rudy Jaramillo: What impact will he have? A positive one, he helped turn several players careers around and to develop young hitters as well in Texas. He helped turn Derosa, and Byrd in the right directions, after they both had back to back seasons with a sub .700 ops and were both career back ups until they joined Jaramillo in Texas. Here is a link to a couple other articles about the cubs new "hitting guru" Rudy Jaramillo.
3. Xavier Nady: His arm should be a concern, but if healthy, the cubs will have a very good platoon in right field, and a solid backup for Soriano, and Derek Lee. He could even beat out Fukodome and be the starter in right-field if he shows his arm is healthy enough. Nady's career line is .280/.335/.458. Nady will be a huge asset for the cubs this year.
4. Gregg Maddux: One of the best pitchers in game ever, brings an immense baseball IQ to the cubs organization. Here's a link to a very interesting article about what Gregg Maddux brings to the table by the Chicago Sun Times. Maddux will be helping coach during spring training, with player development and scouting during the season, as well as insight into trade possibilities and player signings.
5. New Owners Ricketts = more flexibility at the trade deadline. Last year with the ownership situation Hendry had very little flexibility at the trade deadline, that won't be the case in 2010 according to Hendry.
6. Aramis Ramirez: With a healthy Ramirez, sticking to his career norms he will hit between 10 to 20 more homeruns, 35 to 50 more rbi and score 40 to 50 more runs than he did last year. That alone would help to add some more wins to the cubs in 2010. Also should Ramirez miss any significant amount of time, look for Chad Tracy to take over, or Josh Vitters to get called up if he progresses well this year. Chad Tracy is a lefty and can play first and third, the cubs signed him to a minor league deal, he showed a lot of promise a couple of years ago for the diamondbacks, then he had some injuries and hasn't lived up to expectations, but is still fairly young maybe Jaramillo can get him turned around.
7. Rebounding players: Fangraph/Bill James/ Marcel/ CHONE predictions all have players such as Geovanny Soto, Alfonso Soriano, and Mike Fontenot (If Fontenot is on the team opening day) improving from last years performance, and Jaramillo will be helping with that cause. Even if two of the three make improvements the cubs offense will be helped immensely. Soto showed he is serious about improving, losing 37 pounds this offseason. Jaramillo said watching tape of Soriano he found some mechanics, he can help Soriano fix with a few minor adjustments.
8. Pitching Depth Runs Deep: Ted Lily, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, are locks for the starting rotation. Lily will start the season on the DL. Tom Gorzellany, Jeff Samardzija, Sean Marshall, Carlos Silva, and Andrew Cashner are all competing for a spot in the rotation (if Samardzija doesn't earn a spot in the rotation he will be starting in the minors, he won't be a candidate for the bullpen . With quality prospects like Jay Jackson, Chris Carpenter, and Casey Coleman not far away, from the big leagues. In the bullpen we will have Carlos Marmol, Angel Guzman, John Grabow, (Sean Marshall, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzellany), with Justin Berg, Esmailin Caridad, John Gaub, Jeff Gray, Blake Parker, David Patton, Jeff Stevens and some others as possibilities.
9. Cubs Farm System: The Cubs farm system is quickly moving up the charts, in terms of rankings compared to other teams. With all kinds of quality position players, and solid pitching the cubs future looks very bright. For some in depth analysis, check out chicagocubsonline.com . Some of these top prospects will be at spring training this year, Starlin Castro, Josh Vitters, Brett Jackson, Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, Darwin Barney, Wellington Castillo, Robinson Chirinos, Chris Robinson and others.
10. Addition by Subtraction: Something I'm very excited about is the departure of 2009 failures, 1. Milton Bradley (aka Wilting Badley) while he still put up a good OBP, his selfishness in focusing more on keeping his numbers up Obp than changing his approach with runners on and trying to drive in runs was very irratating along with his bad attitude and constant distraction, blaming everyone but himself for his own shortcomings. 2. Kevin Gregg/ Aaron Heilman these two put together cost the cubs several games last year and floundered in crucial situations, I cringed everytime I saw either of them entering the ball game. 3. Aaron Miles .185/.224/.242 need I say anymore. 4. Neal Cotts/ Chad Fox: Cotts' tenure with the cubs was dismal plain and simple, Fox was on the DL 90% of the time and wasn't very impressive when able to pitch.
I'm very excited about the our chances this year, we have some quality depth at all positions. We will be able to make moves at the deadline, and we might see some of our top prospects make there major league debut this year. GO CUBS!!!