Originally written December 09, 2012 on hardballchat.com:
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over an eroding franchise before the 2012 season. The Houston Astros provided them with a buffer in 2012, but that will be gone in 2013. With the Pittsburgh Pirates continually improving, it is likely that the Cubs will take a step back before they step forward. Epstein and Hoyer are going to try to avoid the temptation to go for the quick fix. Most of their problems reside on the mound, but there are a few holes in the regular lineup as well.     TRIF Rank Comments C   Geovany Soto -3.0 25th The Cubs finally had enough of his inconsistency and shipped him out last August. 1B   Anthony Rizzo 2.8 9th The bright spot in the Cubs rebuilding hopefully will build on his first extended time in the big leagues. 2B   Darwin Barney 17.2 1st His defense was so unbelievable that even the coaches took notice. 3B   Luis Valbuena 3.3 9th The Cubs re-signed Ian Stewart, so those two will fight it out in Spring Training. SS   Starlin Castro 0.4 16th Castro improved a lot and the Cubs rewarded him with a lucrative long-term deal. LF   Alfonso Soriano 5.9 3rd He deserves more recognition for his resurgence last season. CF   Tony Campana -0.6 19th With Nate Schierholtz in the fold it looks like Dejesus will move here, but Brett Jackson may hold them all back. RF   David Dejesus -4.3 23rd He has been a steady performer for nearly a decade. Total     21.7 4th Can you believe a team this bad was this good collectively with the glove? Catcher It is hard to say which direction the Cubs catching will go. They have Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo ready to share the catching duties this season. Both are solid prospects, but neither has had any extended time at the position outside of what they did last season after Geovany Soto was dealt. Soto was the ultimate tease. He turned in two very good seasons that will likely surpass anything Castillo or Clevenger is capable of. Still, he surrounded those seasons with three dumpster fire campaigns that got him jettisoned out of town. First Base The year started well with Bryan LaHair at first base, but Anthony Rizzo is the long term answer. LaHair will ply his craft in Japan as he left right field vacated for Nate Schierholtz. Rizzo constantly put up cartoonish numbers in the minors and we finally saw glimpses of that last season. You hate to put pressure on a guy, but this team will go as far as he and Starlin Castro take them. Second Base When you are saving 17 runs above average you can excuse some offensive shortcomings. In point of fact, Barney is probably closer to average overall offensively, so he is a good baseball player when you consider all three facets of the game. Barney is a terrific example of how value can come in many different forms. Third Base Supposedly, Ian Stewart is over an injury that has limited him the past two seasons. If that is the case then maybe the Cubs have a fighting chance of having a decent third baseman. Otherwise, he and Luis Valbuena might provide enough offense to compare to a 90 pound weakling. Defensively, both players are above average, so the Cubs will hold out hope that Stewart can hit his weight. Shortstop Starlin Castro combined two elements that drive me crazy as a fan. First, he was a substandard fielder. Secondly, he didn’t draw enough walks. He improved on both counts last year, but the walks still have a long way to go. Defensively, he is average at worst and maybe even above average in the grand scheme of things. Throw that in with a guy that seems destined to collect 200+ hits every year. Left Field It seems silly to suggest this now, but based on last season you have to wonder if Alfonso Soriano will become a borderline Hall of Famer. He will likely surpass 400 home runs and well over 1000 RBIs. Defensively, he went from being a butcher to becoming a player that added value to the equation. You could almost claim that he earned his salary. Almost. Centerfield Welcome to the hole. The clubs started with Marlon Byrd, but dealt him and stuck with Tony Campana more than any other player individually. The Cubs hope Brett Jackson is the guy over the long haul, but he is a strikeout machine. Take those away and he is an exciting prospect that could roam out there for more than a decade. Right Field David Dejesus was signed to provide stablility and it looks like that will happen in center field this year. Nate Schierholtz has been a decent outfielder for the past several seasons, but this is the first time he will play in a normal ballpark from the word go. He’s keeping the slot warm for when someone develops down on the farm.     The post Total Run Index Series: Chicago Cubs appeared first on Hardball Chat Baseball Blog.

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