New manager Rick Renteria will be putting up with a Chicago Cubs team that is in the process of rebuilding its team with young and potentially great players. The question for this team is if Renteria will have the managerial skill to lead these young players to the postseason in the next few years.
The Cubs signed the former San Diego Padres bench coach to a three-year contract last week with a two club options through 2018, giving Renteria a long time to get to know some of the new faces, such as top prospects Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Junior Baez, and Albert Almora. Renteria is no stranger to young players as well, managing several minor league teams in his career for the Florida Marlins and the Padres organizations.
Bryant (.365, 17 RBI, 6 HR in fall league) is doing very well in the Arizona fall league, and could possibly be with the Cubs next season as their starting 3rd baseman. Outfielders Almora (.314, 12 RBI, 1 HR in fall league) and Soler (.260, 14 RBI, 1 HR) are performing at very good levels as well, and after the success of Junior Lake in 2013, their major league debuts may be sooner than expected.
Baez decided to skip the fall league’s to prepare for next season, but if he keeps performing the way he did last year with the AA Tennessee Smokies (.274, 57 RBI, 17 HR), he could be a valuable infielder in the near future. If Renteria is as great as they say when it comes to working with young talent, it should be interesting moving forward with the Cubs.
Renteria will also have to deal with improving the skills of more Cub players, including Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, and Anthony Rizzo. Without improving their skills, we can see the Cubs falter over the next few years without a solid offense.
Castro struggled in 2013, batting just .245 over the season, 38 points less than the year before and the lowest in his young career. Castro also had an incredibly low OBP (on-base percentage) at .284, 39 points less than last year and another career low. Barney’s stats weren’t great either, batting .208 last season with another dreadful OBP of .266, both career lows.
Rizzo also struggled with average, dropping from .285 to .233, as Rizzo was not able to hit consistently last season. Renteria believes though that Rizzo, who he worked with before Rizzo left San Diego, has a very promising future ahead of him.
With all these new players and new problems in front of him, Rick Renteria has the intriguing challenge of taking a rebuilding Cubs team and making them into a force for the next couple of years, not only trying to create contenders but possibly finding a world series team hidden underneath the struggling franchise.
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