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Original Issue

5 Chicago Cubs

Enemy Lines


They're not going to be very good—think 90 losses—but they're doing a great job of acquiring talent. If they hit on some of the guys they've picked up and get a good free agent here and there, they can turn things around fast. I wouldn't be surprised if they're contenders in 2014.... Jeff Samardzija is more of a No. 3 or 4 on a contending team. He has to pitch deeper into games.... Edwin Jackson is also solid as a 3 or a 4, but Carlos Villanueva isn't more than a fifth starter.... They made a nice signing in Kyuji Fujikawa, who was a closer in Japan. He throws 90 to 92 with a curveball and a splitter—he knows how to pitch. He could close for them instead of Carlos Marmol.... They're putting together a really nice core. Starlin Castro is such an exciting player, but he's only 22 and he's still raw. He tries to show off his arm, and he'll make a highlight play and then botch a routine grounder. But all the tools are there for him to be an All-Star. He's ready to hit 30 home runs this year.... They spent a ton of money on Cuban prospect Jorge Soler. He's no Yoenis Cespedes—Cespedes is Bo Jackson—but Soler has above-average power, and I think he can play right with above-average arm strength. He just has to improve his pitch recognition and his two-strike approach.... People are saying shortstop prospect Javier Baez is the next Gary Sheffield, and I can see why. He can hit for average with pop, and he runs. I think they'll move him to third or the outfield. Soler, Baez, Fujikawa—all are first-round-caliber guys. The Cubs are coming.

The Lineup

2013 Projected Statistics


Second season with the Cubs




The K Meter

Percentage of 2012 plate appearances that ended with a strikeout, and major league rank

BY HITTERS | 20.7% | 21ST

BY PITCHERS | 18.4% | 25TH

Best Case

The build for the future continues (adios, Soriano and Marmol), and the prospects keep the Cubs entertaining—and near .500.

Worst Case

The young core flops, and the high-priced vets are so bad that they're untradable. It's another 100 losses on the North Side.

Albert Chen has more on the Cubs at

Modest Proposal

Josh Vitters was the third pick in the 2007 draft. Nearly six years later the Cubs still aren't sure what they have in the third baseman. The 23-year-old has hit for good averages in the minors (.283 career, .304 last year at Triple A) but without developing power, and his lack of plate discipline is Delmonesque: He's drawn just 93 unintentional walks in more than 2,100 plate appearances. In what will be another rebuilding year for Chicago, it should see what it has in Vitters by making him the everyday third baseman. The incumbent options, Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena, are journeymen with little upside. (Combined, they hit .203 with nine home runs in 505 plate appearances last year.) Vitters may have been awful in an August call-up (.121/.193/.202 in 109 trips to the plate), but he has little to gain by heading back for a seventh minor league season. The Cubs can use 2013 to learn whether they have an inexpensive solution at third for the next few years—and if not, they can plan to hit the trade and free-agent markets.



Edwin Jackson