(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: Chicago Cubs. On deck: Chicago White Sox.)
CHICAGO CUBS (2012: 5th NL Central 61-101, 36 out)
It has been 104 years since the Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. Coming off 101 losses in 2012, there’s an excellent chance it will be 105.
The strength of the Cubs, if there is one, is up the middle with SS Starlin Castro, 2B Darwin Barney and CF David DeJesus. There’s a ton of potential at first base in Anthony Rizzo, who will have a full season to prove his worth. Certainly the opportunity is there.
Third baseman Ian Stewart was highly touted at Colorado, but never lived up to expectations. If Stewart can’t make it with the Cubs, chances are he just can’t make it anywhere.
Alfonso Soriano has been the subject of trade rumors for years it seems, but he’s still a Cub and remains an enigma. Once considered one of the top prospects in baseball as a second baseman with the New York Yankees, Soriano has since moved to left field. He’s capable of 30 homers and 30 steals, but also the leading candidate to be dealt in midseason to a club in pennant contention.
Matt Garza was acquired a few seasons back from Tampa Bay to anchor the pitching staff. That hasn’t happened and in fact he starts the season on the disabled list. That leaves former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija as the ace on a questionable pitching staff.
After some years in the bullpen, Samardzija moved into the starting rotation last year and finally showed signs of being the big-armed pitcher the Cubs thought he would be.
Like Samardzija, Edwin Jackson has a big arm and has been around (Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Cardinals, Nationals). Jackson was an All-Star in 2009, threw a no-hitter in 2010 and at age 29 still has some good seasons ahead of him.
After those two, who knows? Carlos Marmol is in the bullpen but it’s a long way between the rest of the staff and this closer. And that’s really the problem with the Cubs. Not many people have much confidence they will do much in a division with the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers have dominated.
LVH projects the Cubs at 72 wins, 11 more than last year’s disaster. Maybe that can happen, but right now we’re not betting on it.
CHICAGO CUBS Projected wins (72)
Infield: C: Wellington Castillo; 1B: Anthony Rizzo: 2B: Darwin Barney; 3B: Ian Stewart; SS: Starlin Castro.
Outfield: LF: Alfonso Soriano; CF David DeJesus; RF: Nate Schierholtz.
Pitching: Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva.
Closer: Carlos Marmol.
Top reserves: SP Matt Garza.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].