>Well, it’s that time of year again ladies and gentlemen. Baseball season is just around the corner and you can just feel spring coming up (well outside of the cold of course). So that means one thing…let’s check out how our favorite teams are going to do! For this preview I’m going to break it up into four separate ones: infield, outfield, pitching and prospects.
Catcher: Geovany Soto broke out onto the scene three years ago, when he was named NL Rookie of the Year after having a monster first season as a major league starter. While he hasn’t put up those ridiculous numbers since, last season was a step back in that direction after a tough sophomore campaign. He got his average back up to .280 last year. Although his power numbers (17 HR, 53 RBI) haven’t gotten back to the levels of his rookie year, the power bats the team has put around him doesn’t put the pressure on him to put up huge numbers again. The Cubs have multiple possibilities for Soto’s backup, as they added Max Ramirez off waivers this winter. He is added to the already full stable of backstops including Wellington Castillo and Koyie Hill.
First Base: The Cubs signed Carlos Pena to a one-year $10 million contract in the offseason. The team is hoping that Pena has a bounce back year after hitting for only a .196 average last year. Now while Pena has never been one to hit for a great average, his power is something that intrigues teams. In the last four years he has hit 28 or more home runs, including three consecutive years between 31-46. One thing that could scare the team is the lack of a true backup. Tyler Colvin, who is now an outfielder, will be one of the backups, having played the position in college.
Second Base: Second base might be one of the weaker spots on the team, as neither of the candidates for the position (Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt) jump out at you as a star player. DeWitt looks like he will be the starter and Baker a utility guy who can play three of four infield positions. DeWitt came over in a trade-deadline deal last season and hit .250 in 184 at bats with the Cubs.
Shortstop: With the emergence of Starlin Castro, the shortstop position is set for years to come. Yes, his defense needs some work (27 errors last season), but the possibility to improve is so great, the team is willing to put up with his growing pains. It’s so easy to forget that Castro turns just 21 years old this spring. In his first season, 125 games played, he hit .300 with three home runs, 41 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases, all while fluctuating between where he was slotted in the lineup. With his speed, he is more suited to be a top of the lineup type of guy, but what manager Mike Quade does with him should be interesting.
Third base: A familiar face returns to man the hot corner: Aramis Ramirez. He will be hoping to get over injuries that have bugged him in the past and use his strong second half of last season to propel him to a normal Aramis Ramirez season. When healthy, Ramirez has been a feared hitter, who can hit around 30 home runs and well over 100 runs batted in. And outside of last season, his average has hovered around .300 as a Cub. He is the perfect middle of the order player who also can provide some verteran leadership for some of the younger players. However, if the Cubs are to be successful, he is going to have to avoid injuries. If he does, watch out NL.
As you can see, there is quite a lot of talent in the infield this year. Injuries will play a big role, especially with Ramirez. If everyone can stay healthy and Castro doesn’t experience a sophomore slump, could be good times.