A rotation headlined by Ryan Dempster isn’t exactly going to excite anyone, but this is a group with a chance to be a pretty solid rotation, even if it doesn’t blow anyone away.
Demspter returns for the final year of his contract, after the Cubs picked up his option over the winter. Statistically, he’s coming off of a very poor 2011, which included a 4.80 ERA, but his peripherals were still pretty decent, which indicates that heshould rebound this season.
The cream of this starting crop is obviously Matt Garza, who returns for his second season on the North Side, despite a multitude of trade rumors all throughout the winter. Though Dempster gets the Opening Day nod, Garza is the ace of this staff. The only question remains whether the Cubs will sign him to an extension or deal him at some point during the season.
At no. 3, you have Jeff Samardzija, who makes the jump to the rotation after a quietly excellent season in the ‘pen in 2011. He’s definitely earned a spot there with a strong spring, but I wonder if the Cubs wouldn’t be better served to keep him in his role as a reliever and groom him into a potential closer of the future.
The two new guys, Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm, are very similar to each other, with Volstad having the higher upside of the two. Neither are fireballers, and both are ground ball pitchers. They’ve been very good this spring, but the true test will be how they transition to Wrigley, given their penchant for giving up the long ball.
You can understand why much of the North Side isn’t exactly overwhelmed by this bunch, but the optimist that somehow resides within me thinks that this has a chance to be a pretty solid starting staff.
Dempster should rebound, Garza has some of the best stuff of any pitcher in Major League Baseball, and Samardzija has the ability to be very effective, as long as he mixes up his pitches. The real questions are Volstad and Maholm and if their styles will adjust to Wrigley Field.
If they do, this could be a pretty good starting five. It definitely won’t be among the league’s elite, but it isn’t really a bottom of the barrel group either. I’d call them middle-of-the-road as things stand right now, but they have a chance to work their way up in 2012.