Spring Training is just a few weeks away and we will soon start talking about the specifics of the players and positions for the 2013 Chicago Cubs. In episode 4.51 of the Ivy Envy Podcast, we gave you our lists of the best and worst of the 2012 Chicago Cubs. Before we completely move onto the 2013 team, let’s take a quick look back at some of the bright spots of the 2012 Cubs.
In Episode 4.51 of The Ivy Envy Podcast we gave you our lists for the best and the worst of the 2012 Cubs. Here are my top three best of 2012. If you would like to hear Andy’s and Kurt’s list, you can listen to that episode here.
#3 – Bryan LaHair (of April/May)
LaHair was a Triple-A veteran that came up and played 20 games with the Cubs in 2011. He hit .288 in 2011 and benefitted from a weak team that was shallow in depth and started the season at 1st base. It was obvious that he was probably just keeping the position filled until Anthony Rizzo came up. Rizzo tore it up in Iowa and LaHair was promptly pushed out of the position.
LaHair ended April batting .390 with 5 HR 8 doubles and 14 RBIs. He was batting .286 with 14 HR and 30 RBIs by the time the All Star Game rolled around. I mentioned that LaHair benefitted from a lack of depth on the team to get a spot. He also benefitted from a lack of depth at 1st base in the National League with the departure of Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols and he was the reserve 1st baseman at the 2012 All Star Game in Kansas City.
The funny thing is that Cardinals 3rd baseman David Freese was put in the game at 1st base before LaHair got in. He did finally get in the game. LaHair saw one pitch in the 9th inning and grounded out to short.
I wasn’t a huge fan of LaHair, for obvious reasons…he’s not that good. But at the same time, I think it’s cool a career AAA player was able to work his way into the All Star Game. He’ll be able to tell his grandkids about it.
#2 – Javier Baez
My number 2 best in 2012 is an indication of where the hopes for the organization lay. The hopes aren’t on one particular player, but rather a group of players. However, the one that probably has the most promise is Javier Baez..he’s my #2.
We had the opportunity to see Baez in Peoria and you can hear the interview that Andy and I did with him by going to ivyenvy.com/baez –
Baez played 57 games in Peoria and really established himself as a main attraction as the Chiefs toured the Midwest League. He was hitting monstrous home runs in batting practice and during games. He finished his time in Peoria hitting .333 with a .979 OPS. He had 12 HR and 33RBIs. He also stole 20 bases. What he did in Peoria was pretty exciting since he was only 19 years old…plus he had only played 2 game with Boise in 2011.
He was promoted to Daytona and struggled a bit there, but was definitely attracting attention in the Arizona Fall League before he injured his thumb. He was leading the league with 4 HR and 16 RBIs in 14 games. He has a very strong and quick swing…very reminiscent of Gary Sheffield.
Phil Rogers wrote a piece and quoted an anonymous long-time baseball executive that said “he’s going to be a star. He will be a far more impactful player than Starlin Castro”. His power is exciting and I guess just because he’s showing this promise and has made progress in 2012, he’s earned his way to being on our best of list.
I think his progress in the minors in 2013 is one of the most interesting story lines of the organization, really.
#1 – Jeff Samardzija
Samardzija is my #1 because he did well in his first full season as a starter. It feels like he’s been around forever…and he has, but now he’s finally doing what the Cubs drafted him to do.
He had a pretty rough June, he went 0 and 4 with an ERA of 10.41, but rebounded with a 2 and 1 July with a 1.91 ERA.
He ended the season with a 3.81 ERA. He had a 9-13 record, but with the line-up the Cubs had, I think it’s unfair to judge a pitcher on their record. In the second half of the season, he had a 2.58 ERA.
He had 180 strikeouts and 56 walks. He kept the ball down and forced more ground balls. Control has always been an issue with Samardzija. He had under 3 walks per 9 innings…and you can compare that to over 5 walks per 9 innings in 2011 and over 9 walks per 9 innings in 2010.
Basically, he solidified himself as a piece of the rotation. He’s a piece of the team that the front office had no interest in moving when they were willing to listen to offers on basically everyone else, including Starlin Castro.
With Garza no doubt being shopped, I think it makes Samardzija even more important and I’m really hoping for a similar 2013.