Today is officially Opening Day for all of Major League Baseball and yes, that includes the Chicago Cubs, bless their incompetent hearts. If you haven’t already heard or read, the Cubs have a plan that involves not spending absurd amounts of money on free agents just to do so, as well as rebuilding their farm system so that it produces multiple significant contributors at the Major League level, as opposed to one every decade. I will give a brief rundown of each 2014 Chicago Cub, from 1-25 (not including several Cubs who will begin 2014 on the disabled list).
SP Jeff Samardzija: The de facto ace of the Cubs’ staff, “Shark” is mostly a good starter who shows flashes of very good on occasion. He’ll likely be traded before the July 31 deadline or decide that life as a fourth receiver on the Bears isn’t so bad at all.
SP Edwin Jackson: I didn’t quite get the signing of Jackson to a 4-year, 52-million dollar deal before the 2013 season, which is really 44 mil after a signing bonus of 8 million. He was bad in 2013, but his FIP and xFIP suggests he’ll be better in 2014. Because, advanced metrics.
SP Jason Hammel: The former Baltimore Oriole was good a few years ago. Yeah…that’s about it.
SP Travis Wood: The southpaw was good in 2013, making 32 starts and posting an ERA of 3.11 in 200 innings. I doubt he’ll be as good in ’14, but I am looking forward to seeing him pinch-run late in a close ballgame.
SP Carlos Villanueva: Villanueva, a veteran swing, can keep his job by simply not being awful. Easier said than done.
LHP James Russell: Russell has been very good out of the pen the last two seasons and has made me forget all about my affinity for Sean Marshall.
RHP Pedro Strop: Strop could probably close for this team, but that job belongs to Jose Veras at the moment. Don’t worry, Pedro. After July 31, the gig will likely be yours.
RHP Justin Grimm: Grimm is just 25 and was a part of the trade that brought former Cub starting pitcher Matt Garza to Texas. Grimm was excellent in just 9 innings for the Cubs after the swap, and I guarantee Theo and Co. are praying he’ll be decent in ’14.
LHP Wesley Wright: The lefty and former Houston Astro should prove to be a valuable arm out of the pen and more importantly, adds to the color at Wrigley. Literally.
RHP Hector Rondon: Rondon had control issues in 2013, but then again, he was a Cubs pitcher in 2013, so it makes sense.
RHP Brian Schlitter: Schlitter graduated from Maine South High School, in Park Ridge, Illinois. And he’s tall.
RHP Jake Arrieta: I’ve liked Arrieta for a while now and was actually happy when he became a Cub after coming over in the Scott Feldman deal. He has the potential to easily fill a spot in the middle of the rotation, provided he’s healthy and not, you know, terrible.
RHP Kyuji Fujikawa: Fujikawa wasn’t all that bad–despite his numbers–before being shelved for the rest of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’s still on the DL and probably won’t miss losing in relatively frigid temperatures.
RHP Jose Veras: Veras signed with the Cubs because obviously, he wants to pitch in low-pressure situations before being dealt to a contender during the peak of the season.
John Baker: I assume Baker is on the big league club because it’s wise to have at least two catchers on the 25-man roster and starter Wellington Castillo isn’t a robot, contrary to popular belief.
Wellington Castillo: A defensive stud, Castillo only has to get his bat going on a more consistent basis and he can be recognized as one of the game’s better young catchers. Catchers are so great, aren’t they?
SS Starlin Castro: After a bad 2013, things can’t possibly get any worse in ’14. Well, they definitely could, but I highly doubt they will. Expect Starlin to slash .300/.340/.420 and enrage old, White baseball writers in Chicago for years to come.
1B Anthony Rizzo: When everyone was gushing over the lethal work Rizzo was putting in as a minor leaguer in the Cubs’ system, I was patient to see what he would do at the ML level. Last year was definitely rough for him, but like, Starlin, he should improve this season. If not, I will begin chants of “Vo-gel-bach” wherever I go.
2B Darwin Barney: Barney is a whiz with the glove. At the plate, he stinks. If this were still 1955, Barney would be the perfect second baseman. Unfortunately for Barney, this is 2014, so start hitting the damn baseball, Darwin.
3B Mike Olt: I fully expect Olt to hit 25 homers and post an OPS+ of at least 105 because he can see now. I miss Valbuena already, though.
2B Emilio Bonifacio: I’d love it if Bonifacio could wrestle the job away from Barney. Then again, it’s not saying much to beat out Darwin Barney for that spot.
3B Luis Valbuena: Oh, Luis. You got robbed, man.
Ryan Sweeney: I like Sweeney. Sure, if my team were legit title contenders, there wouldn’t be a spot for him, but yeah, I like Sweeney, nonetheless.
Junior Lake: Lake will have his “man” moments this season and if opposing pitchers have made adjustments, will frustrate the hell out of me even more.
Nate Schierholtz: Anyone else expect Schierholtz to not come close to duplicating his 2013 campaign? At best, he should be league-average. Good for the Cubs because they’re the Cubs.
Justin Ruggiano: Ruggiano’s OPS from 2011-13, yearly: .673 (2011), .909 (2012), .694 (2013). So…this means we should brace ourselves for Super Ruggiano in 2014, right?
Ryan Kalish: Not much should be expected of the 26 year-old pride and joy of Red Bank, New Jersey. Although, fist pumps after wins should be kept to a minimum.