The 2012 season was a pretty ugly one all the way around for the Chicago Cubs.
If it weren’t for them playing in the same division as the Houston Astros, they would have been in the cellar by a mile. Though they had stretches where they actually looked pretty decent, this team overall in 2012 was one that couldn’t pitch, couldn’t hit, and sometimes couldn’t field.
But there are the positives. And those positives begin with the emergence of a young core group of players in the lineup, all of them on the infield. Though their lineup has a long way to go, and there are some promising players making their way through the minor league ranks right now (Jorge Soler), the turnaround will start with these three: Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, and Darwin Barney.
Castro was a surprise to almost nobody, except he was actually better than expected in one major aspect of his play. His bat was, once again, steady. He’s proving to be one of the better hitters in the league, and if he adds a few more big flies to his final numbers, he’s going to be an even bigger force at the plate.
But where we saw Castro really improve was in his fielding. Yes, he still had 27 errors on the year. His mechanics were improved, though, and he just looked more comfortable. The numbers should reflect that eventually.
Anthony Rizzo helps to make his life a little bit easier, and he did on several occasions this season. Rizzo was brought in as the headline acquisition for the new regime, and he performed as well, if not better, than advertised.
Rizzo has the look of a franchise first baseman, in every way. He has the bat. He has the glove. And he appears to have the intangibles. What was perhaps the most impressive aspect of his first action for the Cubs was how he rebounded from his first slump. He made adjustments and then came back in a big way. His ability to do so was a question mark, and one of few, when he was acquired.
Then there’s Darwin Barney. He doesn’t come with the bat that the likes of Rizzo or Castro do. And that will have to, and should, get better. But what a glove he has. Barney committed just two errors on the season, and he tied the record for consecutive games without committing an error.
There’s other aspects to a lineup besides the offense. Not everyone is going to be a powerhouse at the plate. Barney has some pop in his bat, and he’ll probably make hitting a focal point this offseason. Regardless of what he does with the stick, he’s still a very valuable part of this Cubs team.
Between the trio of Castro, Rizzo, and Barney, the Cubs have the making of a very solid lineup. That’s where their core of the future will begin. Now it’s time to build around that core. And get some pitching.