Whether or not the 2013 Chicago Cubs season is another big disappointment or a competitive improvement rests primarily on the ability of young stars Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Acquiring players like Edwin Jackson, Kyuji Fujikawa, and Scott Hairston will help improve the team overall, but the organization will need their young infielders to have outstanding seasons for any chance of contention.
Starlin Castro has already been selected to two all-star teams in three seasons, and led the league in hits in his second season. His batting average has always been at least solid, and usually better, putting together a .297 average over his first three years.
The bigger problem lies in his OBP; he needs to be more selective with pitches and get on base more often in general. His power numbers have been respectable, increasing his numbers in home runs and RBIs in each season. 2012 was his weakest season in terms of contact numbers: .283 AVG and .323 OBP. If he can boost each of those by at least .030, he is a threat to break 100 runs for the first time in 2013. The Cubs organization has commented on wanting to improve Castro’s fundamentals at the plate, and rightfully so, but it is worth noting that Castro is still only 22-years old, with a lot of room to grow as a player.
Anthony Rizzo, 23, showed good power in his first year with the Cubs, hitting 15 home runs in only 87 games in the MLB. His plate discipline is stronger than Castro’s, as well, with a .342 OBP. If Rizzo is able to stretch his power numbers into a full season and get around the 30 home run and 30 double mark, it will improve the Cubs’ offensive prospects drastically. Rizzo appears to be a more mature player, and will only get better.
Although hoping for a playoff berth from the Cubs after a 100 loss season in 2012 is perhaps wishful thinking, Rizzo and Castro at least have the ability to make things interesting. Look out to see if Castro’s OBP rises as Cubs coaches work with him on his approach at the plate.
Rizzo and Castro are the future of the Chicago Cubs team, and 2013 is as good a year as any to really break out.