MADISON, February 10, 2014 — Over the next few weeks this column will unveil MLB Power Rankings starting with the weakest team and working towards the strongest. Today the process continues by looking at number 27, the Chicago Cubs.
2013 Record: 66-96 with a -87 run differential.
Key Losses: OF Brian Bogusevic, C Dioner Navarro and RHP Kevin Gregg
Key Additions: C George Kottaras, OF Justin Ruggiano, LHP Wesley Wright, RHP Brett Marshall, RHP Jose Veras and RHP Jason Hammel
2014 Projected Lineup:
SS Starlin Castro
3B Luis Valbuena
1B Anthony Rizzo
OF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
OF Junior Lake
OF Ryan Sweeney/Justin Ruggiano
2B Darwin Barney
2014 Projected Rotation:
Jake Arrieta/Chris Rusin
Jason Hammel/Carlos Villanueva/James McDonald
Best Case: Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro both bounce back and show that their subpar 2013’s were flukes and that they will be building blocks for the Cubs going forward. The Cubs are able to work out an extension with Jeff Samardzija and he gets his walk percentage back below 8% where it was in 2012. Edwin Jackson gets back to being the league average starter that he was the previous four years instead of the below par results he posted in 2013 with a 79 ERA+. Travis Wood is able to repeat the results that he posted in 2013. Jose Veras, Nate Schierholtz and Jason Hammel all perform well throughout the first half allowing the Cubs to trade them at the deadline for prospects. Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Arismendy Alcantara all make it to the majors and perform well in the second half allowing Cubs fans to dream of 2015 after finishing just ahead of the Brewers for fourth place in the NL Central.
Worst Case: Jeff Samardzija continues to struggle with his control, which limits his effectiveness to near league average, although he continues to log lots of innings. Edwin Jackson’s results from last year prove to be the beginning of a decline as his WHIP stays above 1.40. Javier Baez and Kris Bryant both struggle with their strikeout percentage, which limits their effectiveness. Starlin Castro’s downward trending BABIP continues and his offensive struggles combined with his defensive shortcomings make his contract appear to be an albatross. The Cubs finish last in the NL Central and fans start to grow frustrated at the end of year three of Theo Epstein’s tenure.
Prospect Watch: Javier Baez is considered one of the best power hitting prospects in baseball, he posted a .282/.341/.578 slash line last year, and for the time being plays shortstop, although he could be moved to third or a corner outfield spot. The Cubs drafted third baseman Kris Bryant third overall after he hit 31 HR’s, which would have placed him 69th for TEAMS in NCAA baseball, in his junior year. Both of these prospects could find their way to Chicago’s north side in 2014 once the Cubs figure out where to play them defensively. Although they are likely at least a year away Albert Almora and Jorge Soler could find themselves comprising two thirds of the Cubs outfield, if not at the beginning, by the end of 2015.