While it is nice to win spring training games, the Chicago Cubs are much more worried about evaluating players’ performances than wins and losses this spring. For this reason, the absence of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo for most of the spring can be seen as a positive for the club, as they have been able to get better looks at some of the younger players. Some of these younger prospects along with a few veterans have performed extremely well, but there have been a few players that have had slow starts.
Scott Feldman has been causing the most concern for the Cubs this spring. Feldman has an ERA of nine and WHIP above two in his seven innings of work so far this spring. Feldman was named to the starting rotation recently by manager Dale Sveum and with both Matt Garza and Scott Baker starting the season on the disabled list, the Cubs will be relying on Feldman as their number three starter. Some Cubs fans have already started to call Feldman this years Chris Volstad, noting his struggles last season after being acquired in the Carlos Zambrano deal. While it is not a good sign that Feldman is struggling, it is also not a death sentence considering he has only thrown seven innings so far. As long as Feldman stays the course and peaks once the season starts, he can avoid being permanently dubbed Chris Volstad 2.0.
20-year-old Javier Baez has gotten extensive playing time in the absence of Castro this spring and he has not disappointed. Baez has compiled a .310 average to go along with two home runs and six RBI’s so far this spring. He has impressed coaches with his lightning fast bat speed, which has drawn comparisons to a young Gary Sheffield. Baez’s emergence this spring has made it clear that the Cubs have a decision to make regarding his future with the organization. He probably won’t see the major league club in 2013 but he could be ready to contribute in 2014. The Cubs have to decide if they want to move him over to second base and get rid of Darwin Barney, or test him at third base where he could fill a gaping hole in the Cubs infield. No matter what position he ends up playing, this spring should have Cubs fans excited about Baez.
The Cubs might have themselves a competition for the starting catcher job by the end of spring if Dioner Navarro continues his torrid pace. He is hitting .294 with two home runs and a team leading eight RBI’s this spring. The Cubs would love for Wellington Castillo to be the catcher for years to come, but Navarro brings experience and some potential veteran leadership to a Cubs clubhouse with tons of young players. Navarro could also help some of the younger pitchers like Jeff Samardzija as they grow and try to become a reliable pitching staff. The job may be Castillo’s to lose, but Navarro is doing everything in his power so far this spring in order to make it a tough decision for the Cubs coaches.
Performances in spring training games early in March are not always the best indication of how players will perform during the season, but they certainly do count for something. The spring is an exciting time for the Cubs, since it allows fans and coaches to get a look at many of the young players who are expected to make up the core of the team in the near future. The first couple weeks of spring training should have Cubs fans not only excited for 2013 but also the future, which appears to be bright on the north side of Chicago.