The Chicago Cubs April Bleacher Report Card

Tyler FranzCorrespondent IApril 30, 2009

CHICAGO - APRIL 17: Aramis Ramirez #16 of the Chicago Cubs (L) congratulates teammate Carlos Marmol #49 after a win over the St. Louis Cardinals on April 17, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 8-7. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Following up on the season preview article, let's take a look at how the have Cubs fared so far. Chicago got out to a strong start but has struggled the last few weeks of April.

Injuries to key players Milton Bradley, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Marmol have hampered the Cubs, who have been unable to produce consistently throughout the month.

First Base: C+

Three-time Gold Glove winner Derrek Lee has been injured recently with neck spasms and has not yet found his groove this year, hitting only .200. Lee continues to show signs of decline.

Micah Hoffpauir has done a good job offensively as a backup in both the outfield and at first, hitting .308 with two home runs in limited at-bats, but needs to improve his fielding if he wants to see more time.

Second Base: B-

Mike Fontenot has been a solid fielder in his first season as the everyday 2B. Fontenot's .227 average is not reflective of his success at the plate, where he has been solid for the Cubs hitting in the bottom half of the order.

Aaron Miles has been a disappointment thus far, hitting .195 in limited at-bats. Miles' fielding has been surprisingly weak, as the Cubs have hesitated to deploy him as the utility player that he is.

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Shortstop: B+

Everyday shortstop Ryan Theriot has been one of the few consistent hitters for the Cubs in 2009, hitting .308. The Riot continues to do what he does best, slapping opposite-field bloop singles and hits back up the box to get on base. Theriot is a player who does his job and can be counted on regularly.

Third Base: B+

Aramis Ramirez has had significant early success but recently has missed games due to injury and will likely end up on the DL. Nevertheless, Ramirez is hitting .358 with three HRs and 14 RBI in 2009. Ramirez is on pace to have a great year if he can remain healthy.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, one of their main issues, depth at third base, will have to be addressed due to the Ramirez injury.  

Aaron Miles has been mediocre as a fill-in, and the Cubs do not have another option at third.

Catcher: C

Geovany Soto has hit a sophomore slump so far in 2009, hitting only .111 in 45 at-bats. Soto needs to produce in order for the Cubs to be successful and has a lot of work to do. Luckily, it's early, and Soto still has plenty of time to find his hitting.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for the Cubs has been backup catcher Koyie Hill. Hill has been a defensive catcher throughout his career but has been hot early at the plate, hitting .370 in eight games this year.

Hill has showed leadership and poise behind the plate and has been a great fill-in for Soto, who missed some time in the first week with a shoulder injury.

Left Field: A

All-Star left fielder Alfonso Soriano has been nothing short of sensational. Soriano has remained injury-free, despite multiple injuries to teammates around him, and is amongst the tops in baseball with seven home runs.

Soriano has carried the Cubs and could have an MVP-caliber year if his success continues. He has even run better this year, with three steals already, and is hitting .298.

Center Field: A

Lou Piniella is no doubt excited that CF Kosuke Fukudome had a tremendous month in April. Fukudome was in danger of becoming an overpaid benchwarmer after his abysmal second half to 2008 and Spring Training. In April, however, Fukudome hit .358 with four HRs and a team-best 15 RBI.

Reed Johnson has been solid in the platoon with Fukudome, and although Johnson hasn't yet found his stroke at the plate, he has two highlight reel catches so far, including a grand slam rob of Prince Fielder.

Right Field: D

Milton Bradley has come as advertised. Bradley has an ejection, multiple injuries, and a poor relationship with Chicago media.

While it appeared that Bradley was ready for a fresh start in Chicago, he has brought the same attitude and character issues with him that have prevented him from remaining with any team for more than one year.

At the plate, Bradley is hitting .097 and has struggled in the field as well.  

Micah Hoffpauir has also underperformed in the field, and the Cubs may want to consider moving Fukudome to right with Johnson in center if Bradley's issues continue.

Starting Rotation: D+

No Cubs starter has an ERA under four with the exception of Ted Lilly and Rich Harden, who both have had several shaky outings.

Carlos Zambrano looks like the most consistent of the group, while Ryan Dempster is steadily proving that 2008 was a fluke year for him, as he has posted a 5.40 ERA without a win in five starts.

Nevertheless, the Cubs starters have shown promise and will likely turn around as the season progresses.

Bullpen: F-

The Cubs bullpen could not be worse. Closer candidates Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg both have ERAs above six, and Gregg has been slowed by his recovery from knee surgery.

Luis Vizcaino had no command and walked so many hitters that he was released.

Furthermore, no bullpen member, with the exception of Aaron Heilman, has an ERA under four. Surprisingly, Heilman has settled down after a shaky start and has been the most reliable pitcher in relief for the Cubs, not that it's saying much.

David Patton has pitched like a Class A pitcher, posting a 9.35 ERA, and even Jeff Samardzija couldn't provide support after being called up, as he has a 6.75 ERA in three appearances.

I wish I could say there's some move or change the Cubs could make, but the reality is that the bullpen needs to improve for the Cubs to have any shot of being a playoff-caliber team.

Overall: B-

Despite the Cubs' lack of consistency, they still stand at 10-10. The Cubs couldn't have played much worse and still are a .500 team. If the hitting improves and the team gets healthy, the Cubs could get back on the right track.  

Having said that, there is a lot of room for improvement in both pitching and hitting, and the Cubs have their work cut out for them. This team needs its leaders to step up and carry the team.

Cub of the Month: LF Alfonso Soriano

Honorable mention: CF Kosuke Fukudome

Cub Pitcher of the Month: SP Rich Harden

Honorable mention: SP Ted Lilly

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