The reasons for the slow start are many, but overall there are some very encouraging things happening with this team. Starlin Castro, and Anthony Rizzo are the biggest reasons for encouragement. Lately they have been hitting and the Cubs are scoring a lot of runs. As go these two so go the Cubs. lately both have been on a tear. This past home-stand Against the Phillies, and Pirates both Rizzo and Castro hit .500. Both have played great defense too. Castro has had 2 miscues early on, but aside from those has been spectacular in the field. Looks like the panic early on that these two would fade into oblivion are all but distant memory.
To piggy back on the offensive rejuvenation banter it has to be an encouraging sign that Junior Lake, Mike Olt, and even Wellington Castillo have been hitting the ball with authority lately. Lake has spectacular ability, and can be dynamic on offense, but his defense has been a real encouragement as he’s been getting good jumps on the ball and playing fundamentally. Olt was a concern and been kind of written off after having vision issues last season, but he looks like a legitimate right handed power hitter who can give you plus defense at the hot corner. Castillo has been calling a good game and looks to be a better leader behind the plate, and has been getting good wood on the ball of late. He can be a future all star at catcher maybe even as early as this season. Emilio Bonifacio has been beyond a pleasant surprise. Playing all over the field, and getting on base at an alarming rate, and wreaking havoc on the base paths. He may turn into the best value signing in the entire free agency period this season. Even Darwin Barney has looked promising at the plate with a renewed patient approach. Seems like he’s buying into the organizational philosophy and maximizing his value as more than just an all glove player, and offering an above value offensive game.The starting pitching has been amazing! With the exception of Edwin Jackson‘s last start they’ve been among the most impressive staff’s in all of major league baseball. Jason Hammel looks like another great value signing by the Epstoyer regime. Travis Wood just had the latest dominant performance, and could easily be 2-0. Jeff Samardzija has been pitching like the ace the organization, and himself have been hoping he’d be. Carlos Villanueva put in a good days work in his one outing so far this season as a replacement player. Jake Arietta is getting closer to the big leagues with two impressive rehab assignment starts, and when he does that knocks Villanueva down into the bullpen.
As for the bullpen there have been some encouraging performances. Despite the recent game where they gave away a 4-0 lead, and giving up 5 runs for a 5-4 loss they’ve been doing well and have been hard to square the ball up on. Carlos Rondon, Pedro Strop, and Justin Grimm have filthy stuff and have been making bats miss. Looks like that trio is going to be counted on to be a core part of the pen for the permanent future. On top of that there are arms in the minors waiting to get called up. Flame throwers like Arodys Vizcaino, Neil Ramirez, Armando Rivero, are throwing smoke in the minors, and will likely be up at some point this season.Blake Parker is another pitcher who figures to contribute to the big club this season, and had a nice debut with the Cubs in 2013. Brian Schlitter has been a surprise too. James Russel has struggled, but has pitched a lot. Perhaps a rest would do the trick to rejuvenate his arm. Zac Rosscup, Chris Rusin, and Eric Jokisch could add valuable left handed arms to the mix. In AA, Armando Rivero is throwing 97 mph with a solid slider and improving command. So the relief situation look like a good one developing right before our very eyes.
The development of the players that figure to be a part of the core is still the real goal going forward. That part of it looks to be right on target.