The weekend presented a tail of two teams for the Chicago Cubs. On one hand, they looked very good in the early-going of a four-game set against the St. Louis Cardinals. With a chance to take three of four, they got off to a 5-0 lead on Sunday afternoon before melting down with a number of mental miscues. Nonetheless, this weekend, as well as last, have given quite an indication of what we should expecting in the very near future from the Chicago Cubs.
Most around the game, whether analysts, scouts, or rival executives, will tell you what they’ve been telling you for the last couple of years: the Cubs are headed in the right direction. The second half of the 2014 is the point in which we’ve really seen the fruits of the labor of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer pay off, with the likes of Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez, and Jorge Soler. The scary part for opposing teams, such as the Cardinals, is that they aren’t done with the blue-chippers being called up yet. And they plan to be busy this offseason.
The Cubs already featured a pair of All Stars in their lineup this season, in Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Alcantara brings a finesse bat with some pop, as well as a terrific glove to the mix. Baez brings an all-or-nothing approach to the plate right now, but at each level it’s taken him a few weeks to adjust before the strikeouts go down. In Soler, the Cubs have the next in a line of impact players from Cuba, as he features a top notch approach and (as we saw in his first three games) some outstanding power.
Additionally, the Cubs have the likes of Addison Russell and Kris Bryant on their way up to the bigs. Russell could force Starlin Castro out, or to third base at the very least, as an all-around talent. Bryant brings another huge bat, as he’s done nothing but mash at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels this season. The only thing holding him back at this point is service time issues. Don’t sleep on Kyle Schwarber, this year’s first round pick who could end up in the outfield or emerge as a long-term solution behind the plate, either.
And that’s just the positional side of things. The Cubs have Jake Arrieta and a Maddux-esque Kyle Hendricks (absurd comparisons be damned) as pieces in their rotation, as well as some solid pieces in their bullpen. A bounce back from Travis Wood could be possible as well. They’re expected to look at some upper tier options this winter as well, such as Jon Lester, James Shields, or Max Scherzer. One would expect at least one of them is a realistic option. The bottom line is that the Cubs will have the ability to add such players this winter, and their claim of Cole Hamels off of waivers in early August illustrates their desire to do just that.
In Dave Cameron’s column in which he opines that the Cubs are definitely on the right track to turn things around next year, he points out that the Cubs should be a .500 team according to BaseRuns actual projections. They’ve been one of the better clubs in the National League since May, they just haven’t gotten the clutch performances they need from their offense or their pitching. Nonetheless, that certainly helps to give an indication of where this club is at.
And really, it all comes back to the offensive side of things. An impact addition in the pitching staff should make a difference, and at least one of the reclamation projects of Felix Doubront or Jacob Turner could pan out thanks to the wizardry of pitching coach Chris Bosio. Even with the dedication to improving the Cubs on the mound, it’s all about the offense for this Cubs team.
Offensive firepower is the name of the game for this Cubs team. They have an elite offensive first baseman in Anthony Rizzo. Starlin Castro has been a hits machine over the course of his career. Javy Baez and Jorge Soler bring tremendous power to the equation. Kris Bryant and Addison Russell are on the way. There are solid supplementary offensive pieces in there as well. Chris Coghlan is quietly having a fine year. Alcantara isn’t the showman that the others are, but can still produce and add some pop at different points in the lineup. Luis Valbuena can play multiple positions and add a touch of power.
The Cubs have made it their goal to find sustained success in undergoing this rebuild. Through building up their ability to score runs, they’re going to do just that. They’ve stockpiled young talent, and it finally looks ready to pay off. The Cubs may not be a World Series contender, but they’re going to be a popular wild card pick, at the very least. With the callups of Soler and Baez, with others on the way, this team is on the verge of becoming a terrifying opponent for National League clubs.