Epstien Plan: Year Three

Put aside the rooftop dispute, the relatively unknown coach hire and the new mascot. On April 4th, the 2014 Chicago Cubs will be playing at Wrigley field, like it or not. This off-season has been a test of the Cub faithful and average fan alike.

Theo Epstein has been the man with the plan since 2011 when he was hired by the Cubs. After showing no improvement on the major league level, some fans are looking to jump ship. Epstein has stuck with his guns and stayed the course of a true rebuild. Going into year three of his contract, will the fans let him continue? ©Scott Slingsby used under a 2.0 Generic Licence

Theo Epstein has been the man with the plan since 2011 when he was hired by the Cubs. After showing no improvement on the major league level, some fans are looking to jump ship. Epstein has stuck with his guns and stayed the course of a true rebuild. Going into year three of his contract, will the fans let him continue?

©Scott Slingsby used under a 2.0 Generic Licence

It is no secret, the Cubs are rebuilding. This is not a quick turn around. This is not a 'see results now' kind of project. When the Cubs hired Theo Epstien in 2011, it was a commitment to stripping it down to the roots and starting over. This off-season has tested the patients of everyone. The opening day roster might look worse than last years and for fans it is hard to see why this team is not contending.

When spring training ends, the Cubs will be forced to put 25 names on a roster. Do not for a second think that roster will look remotely the same by mid-July. We will take a look at what the Cubs will look like and what it might look like in years to come.

 

Catcher

It doesn't look like the catcher of the future is in the Cubs organization just yet. They like Welington Castillo, but I am not convinced the Cubs want him for the long haul. He hits and fields his position well enough for now, but this is a position that will be addressed later. 

First Base

Unlike Castillo, Anthony Rizzo is the man. After taking some steps backward last season, the Cubs are looking for Rizzo to be the big bat and athletic first baseman they have envisioned for so long. Not much to say here other than it is time for him to preform.

Second Base

This is an interesting position. Darwin Barney is a fan favorite and an above average fielder. He has never been a great hitter in the majors but his defense has kept him around. There are some talented second basemen in the Cubs organization that are sure eyeing his spot. Arismendy Alcantara (don't ask me to say it) could find himself in the mix pretty soon. He won't be able to play defense like Barney but he hits for average and steals bags. Also note he hit 15 home runs last season in double-A and I forgot to mention he is 22 years old. This could be closer competition than people think in spring training.

Third Base

I don't know where to start here. I am going to list all the names and then throw a dart. There is so much talent here one of these players has to hit. I will say that Luis Valbuena is not going to be a Cub for much longer.

  • Kris Bryant
  • Mike Olt
  • Jeimer Candelario
  • Christian Villanueva

I swear if the Cubs get another third baseman I might throw up. Some of these guys are a few years off but one of these player will be better than good. There also is a chance that some of these players get moved around.

Shortstop

Starlin Castro better start playing up to standard and quick. Batting .245 and having 22 errors last season wont't cut it when Javier Baez is lurking. Baez is considered, by some, to be the best power hitter in the organization and when you hit .294 with 20 home runs, people tend to notice. Castro has the job to himself this season, but Baez looks to be MLB ready sooner than later.

Outfield

Brett Jackson, Junior Lake, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler are the names you want to see at Wrigley. Unfortunately, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz will be the ones you will see at the start of the year. Lake is super raw at the position, Almora and Soler look like they are on the fast track and Jackson needs some polishing. Might not be a ton of power in the outfield, but when they are all capable of hitting .300 plus and have a OBP of close to .400, that can be over looked. This position needs time to mature more than the others. I like the talent they have, but if push comes to shove the trade pieces they have in this group is unreal.

Pitching

This is an area of need. Jeff Samardzija wouldn't be the number one pitcher on any team in baseball but is trying with the Cubs. Yes, he has talent. No, he is not a number one pitcher by any means. Travis Wood has been reliable and it was good for him to hit the 200 innings pitched mark for the first time in his career. He is a nice piece but not 'the guy'. There is some guy pitchers in the works like CJ Edwards and Pierce Johnson, but they need more in this area. 

The bullpen is still a mess. Like last year, be read for lot of new names until someone sticks. I also would like to take a moment to remind everyone that Edwin Jackson is awful.

I urge all Cub fans to stay patient. Brace yourself for 90 plus losses so if they exceed expectations you can feel much better about the season. Don't jump ship just yet, trust Epstien now so that some day, maybe someday their can be a championship parade on the Northside that makes the world pause for a bit.