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MLB Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs: Five Players To Watch In 2013

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Chicago Cubs: Five Players To Watch In 2013

Chicago Cubs: Five Players To Watch In 2013
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

2013 is a year that is expected to be filled with hope for the Chicago Cubs. After finishing the 2012 season with an embarrassing 61-101 record, the fans and players need to have a little confidence that this team can only get better.

General manager Theo Epstein made numerous trades during the offseason, desperately trying to bring help to this crumbling team. It seems as though he found a few players who have the potential to make 2013 a decent year for Chicago.

While the Cubs are still looking for help at the plate and on the mound, 2013 has brought a few players that seem to show some potential, a little ray of light in this seemingly never-ending dark tunnel that the Cubs travel down each and every year.

No, 2013 probably won't be the year that Chicago's Lovable Losers make a run for the playoffs, but with a little more strength on this team, they can improve themselves, setting up a more successful team for the years to come. This is a year to focus less on the negatives and become more open-minded about the possibilities the Cubs have.

There are new additions to the Cubs clubhouse this year, as well as a few familiar faces returning for another season of baseball that should give the city of Chicago hope that this team can slowly start to rebuild themselves into a successful franchise. With a little patience and a lot of practice, Chicago should expect better things from the Cubs in 2013.

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Edwin Jackson

Edwin Jackson
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs acquired Edwin Jackson from the Washington Nationals in December, signing the right-handed starting pitcher to a four-year $52 million contract.

Jackson seems to be a hopeful addition to the Cubs pitching staff based on his performance with the Nationals last year. Jackson had a record of 10-11 with an ERA of 4.03 in 31 games for the 2012 season.

The 29-year-old pitcher was recently given the nod to be the starting pitcher for the Cubs' home opener at Wrigley Field on April 8 against the Milwaukee Brewers, according to the Chicago Tribune. He is second in the pitching rotation, behind ace Jeff Samardzija.

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Luis Valbuena

Luis Valbuena
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Valbuena had luck on his side when teammates Josh Vitters and Ian Stewart were both sidelined with injuries during Spring Training, giving Valbuena a fair amount of playing time at third base. Because the Cubs lack players at third, it seems as though Valbuena will be given the job as the Opening Day third baseman.

Although the 27-year-old had a weak season in 2012, hitting only .219, he seems to have redeemed himself during the offseason while playing in a Venezuelan winter league, where he hit .306, according to Cubs.com

Manager Dale Sveum has praised Valbuena throughout Spring Training, reassuring him that he will have a spot on the Opening Day roster. He also told Cubs.com of the third baseman, "He'll be playing third quite a bit."

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Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

2013 will be Anthony Rizzo's first full season as a Cub, and he should probably anticipate a heavier weight to carry on his shoulders this year.

The 23-year-old captured baseball's attention last June when the highly anticipated rookie made his Cubs debut and led his team to a better second half of the season. Now that he has a few months of big league play under his belt, it's time for this young man to show the city of Chicago what he can really do.

Whether it's a defensive play at first or stepping up to the plate, big things are still expected of Rizzo as he continues to be the Cubs' most prized possession. It's safe to say that this young man will be the star of the team, and hopefully he can lead the Cubs in the right direction as they begin a new season of baseball.

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Kyuji Fujikawa

Kyugi Fujikawa
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Expect a lot of attention to be focused on Kyuji Fujikawa this season, a Japanese relief pitcher the Cubs acquired during the offseason, while the uncertainty future of the Cubs' bullpen plays out.

As trade rumors surround current closing pitcher Carlos Marmol, the spotlight is slowly being shifted towards Fujikawa as becoming the new closer. The 32-year-old had an impressive career with his team in Japan, earning 220 saves over 12 years of play, according to MLB.com.

We all know that Marmol has always struggled as the Cubs' closer and although general manager Theo Epstein claims he will continue to be the closer in 2013, the thought of Fujikawa taking over the role seems more intriguing each day.

If Marmol continues to struggle in 2013, expect Fujikawa to show what he is capable of delivering on the mound.

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Carlos Villanueva

Carlos Villanueva
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

With starting pitchers Matt Garza and Scott Baker on the disabled list as the 2013 begins, Carlos Villanueva will be an interesting player to watch as he tries to fill in the gaps in the Cubs' starting pitching rotation.

The 29-year-old earned an ERA of 4.16 with a 7-7 record during the 2012 season with the Toronto Blue Jays. He has had a bit of a rocky spring with a 5.87 ERA over three starts, but it's not time to give up on him yet.

Villanueva's numbers aren't exactly something to get excited about, the Cubs are desperate, especially when it comes to pitching. The right-hander could be considered least a mediocre pitcher, and could prove to be an asset to the Cubs in their time of need.

Who knows? Maybe Villanueva will permanently replace Garza in the starting rotation if he performs well enough in April and May.