The talks about decimating and rebuilding the Chicago Cubs is getting to me. The reason being that we still have a competitive team, with talented players on the roster.
So when a "Cubs fan" tells me there is no hope for 2011, and the only hope for the Cubs' future lay on the shoulders of Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, I have a tough time biting my tongue.
So I will break it down for you into two categories—first I will answer some general questions that Cubs fans have and than I will give you a positional break down as well.
Here are a five questions that you may have, and here are the answers:
Question 1: Aramis Ramirez is no longer a formidable third baseman, should we deal him and get something back?
Answer: No. Ramirez is having a solid season, while the only thing holding him back at this point is his average with RISP.
He may get lazy on defense at times, but Aramis certainly is still a top-10 overall third baseman and should continue to be for a few more years.
Question 2: Does Carlos Pena's recent surge in May mean anything?
Answer: Yes. Pena's career average in the month of May is .215, which is pathetic, but by the time it comes around to June, he hits a much more respectable .265 and has a slug percentage of .545.
Just like the summer weather, Pena's power stroke will find its way to Wrigley with time.
Question 3: Alfonso Soriano is awful, why don't we just bench him and play Tyler Colvin?
Answer: Soriano is leading the league in home runs right now, and even though his average is around .250, the Cubs' offense is severely lacking in the power department.
Colvin does need playing time, but not only does Soriano have 11 homers, he is also worth more than Wrigley Field.
Question 4: Geovany Soto is having a terrible year and now he is hurt, time to give Wellington Castillo a chance?
Answer: I would like to see Castillo get some consistent playing time now that the opportunity has presented itself.
Let's face it, Koyie Hill is not going to hit any better than .220 over an extended period of time, we might as well give Castillo a shot at proving his worth and then possibly dealing him or Soto.
Question 5: What the heck is wrong with Ryan Dempster and can we expect any contributions from Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner when they return?
Answer: Dempster has slowly regained form, he had a 10.00+ ERA exiting April but has lowered it to around five or six now. Expect him to continue to return to form and be the Cubs' most consistent pitcher.
As for Wells and Cashner, all the Cubs need are some pitchers who can go five to seven innings and not over extend the bullpen. That's where Cashner and especially Wells become valuable.
As for the positional break down, it goes as follows:
Catchers: Geovany Soto has yet to return to his rookie-season form, and the hope of him doing so is fading. There is some positive to him heading to the DL though, we can now see what the Cubs' farm system has in the way of catching prospects.
Wellington Castillo will have the first shot at proving himself once manager Mike Quade gets annoyed with Koyie Hill. Grade C-
First Base: Carlos Pena is hitting .290 since the beginning of May with three home runs and a 10:12 walk to strikeout ratio.
His defense has always been considered elite, but if he can start squaring the ball up on a more consistent basis, the Cubs' offense will take off in the Wrigley wind. Grade B-
Second Base: Who expected that Blake Dewitt would be the least played player at this position? He was supposed to be the centerpiece of the Ted Lilly deal and now he is watching Darwin Barney be the Cubs' second best hitter.
Regardless, Barney has been playing very well, but as I said in previous articles, don't expect him to improve much more from here. Grade B
Shortstop: Starlin Castro has already had a crazy roller coaster season. He started by hitting close to .400 for a few weeks and than went into an 2-for-32 skid, but has remarkably not dipped below .300.
That is not to mention he is once again back up to .340 as of May 15th. He has remarkable range but he has mental lapses that lead to careless errors. Grade A-
Third Base: Despite preforming poorly in key circumstances, I am not too worried about Aramis Ramirez. We all know the kind of clutch hitter he is, so there should be no doubt that at some point he will start coming through. He is hitting .293 right now, but with only one home run. That total will go up once the temperature hits 80 on a regular basis. Grade B-
Left Field: Alfonso Soriano is absolutely terrible in the outfield, and yes, he would probably be equally as bad in the infield at second base.
But if he can keep up his power production, he should be able to make up for it. He leads the Cubs in dingers, and if he can continue, a .250 average should suffice. Grade B
Center Field: Marlon Byrd is a peculiar player. He hits for average, but never higher than .300 and rarely finishes with above average power numbers. Yet, he is the Cubs' three-hitter, which surprisingly, I agree with.
On a team with such streaking hitters, Byrd generally stays consistently productive, giving the Cubs at least one go-to guy. He also plays a very good center field. Grade B+
Right Field: Kosuke Fukudome is fooling us yet again...or is he? We all know he can be a solid producer in the first half, but I don't remember him setting the table at the top of the order this well before.
So don't get too overly optimistic, but at the same time, try and hide your pessimism until July. Grade B+
Starters: It is hard to say that they have either impressed or disappointed at this point. A lot of people are viewing Matt Garza's 1-4 start as a major bust, but from what I have been seeing, he has some crazy stuff.
Carlos Zambrano has been pretty good, better than his 4.30 era would indicate, and the same goes for Ryan Dempster as of late. They need Wells and Cashner to return to reduce the pressure of having to overextend themselves. Grade C+
Relievers: It has been okay up to this point. I just think they have been overworked at this point in the season. Once the innings start being reduced, expect an upswing in numbers. Believe it or not, the Cubs have one of the best late-game relief trio's.
Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol have all proven they are elite in their own area and if you hand them the lead, they expect to get it done. Grade A-
Cubs' Cumulative GPA: ~3.0