5 Potential Breakout Players for the Chicago Cubs
Breakout Players for the Chicago Cubs
Nobody expects the Chicago Cubs to be legitimate playoff contenders this season. President Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs' front office have been completely up front with the fanbase from day one. They are in this for the long-haul. The front office is trying to build a team that can win multiple World Series titles, not just make a run for one season.
The only way to do that is building through the minor league system. With the system in shambles when they arrived, Epstein and his staff had to completely rebuild the organization, and that is not something you can do overnight. While I do not expect the wins to be there this season, we are starting to see the impressive young talent get closer and closer to the big leagues. I have said this before, and I am sure I will say it again; the 2014 season is less about wins and losses on the North Side of Chicago and more about player progression.
The Cubs simply have very few proven players on their roster. Most of their squad is made up of young players with impressive, yet unproven talent. If the Cubs can get some of those players to breakout this season, they could be ready to compete as soon as 2015.
The Cubs have one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball. They have a deep and talented crop of prospects who will likely start to arrive in the big leagues this season. Before guys like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant get to Chicago, it would be nice if the Cubs had some established players on the roster to lead and take the pressure off the prospects.
The Cubs' roster is filled with potential breakout candidates. If a few guys can surprise and become solid regular players this season, the Cubs could be in great shape when their elite prospects are ready to go. Here are five Cubs I believe have great breakout potential this season.
5. Justin Grimm
Justin Grimm is a talented RHP who the Cubs acquired in a mid-season trade with the Texas Rangers last year. Grimm made 17 starts early in the season with the Rangers, and he did not look like he was ready for the big leagues. Grimm's ERA was 6.37 in those starts, and his WHIP was 1.652. It was a severe case of small sample size, but Grimm was much better with the Cubs who had him come out of the bullpen (2.00 ERA, 0.778 WHIP).
Grimm has a fastball that can reach 97-98, a solid change-up and an unproven curveball that shows great potential. The Cubs are having Grimm pitch out of the bullpen in Spring Training, and early reports have been extremely positive. I think Grimm has a great chance to make the bullpen out of Spring Training and is a great candidate to break out this season. Also, I would not count him out as a mid-rotation starter at some point in his career. He certainly has the arm to start, but that would likely happen down the road.
4. Junior Lake
Junior Lake is an extremely talented player who is finally getting his chance to prove himself in the big leagues. Consistency has always been an issue, but Lake has great physical tools. He showed them off last season when he hit .284/.332/.428 in 236 big league at-bats. The Cubs must see what they have in Lake this season, so he will get ample playing time in the outfield. If his power and speed combination come through on a consistent basis and Lake has a breakout season, the Cubs have a great piece for the future.
3. Arodys Vizcaino
After two seasons without pitching competitively because of a shoulder injury, 23-year-old RHP Arodys Vizcaino is finally ready to show off his stuff for the Cubs. Vizcaino is an incredibly talented pitcher with electric stuff. His fastball sits in the upper-90s, and he has a slider that has great movement. Control and obviously durability are issues, but if Vizcaino can stay healthy all season long, I strongly think he breaks out in 2014.
2. Mike Olt
Vision issues seem likely to blame for his 2013 struggles, but Mike Olt must reestablish himself this season. Between triple-A and double-A last season, Olt hit a pitiful .201/.303/.381 in 432 plate appearances. His problems with vision are apparently taken care of, and Olt reportedly looks great so far this spring. With a strong showing in Spring Training, I think Olt has a great chance to start at 3B for the Cubs this season. If his sight issues are behind him, nothing is stopping him from having a huge breakout season.
1. Welington Castillo
I strongly believe that Welington Castillo will establish himself as an elite MLB catcher this season. He made incredible strides behind the plate last year, leading all catchers in defensive runs saved (19) and defensive WAR (2.8). Even with his great progression, Castillo is still a little raw defensively, and even more improvement seems very likely. Castillo has yet to prove himself offensively in the big leagues, but he always showed nice power in the minors and hit .288/.388/.475 in the second-half last season. All signs point to Castillo having a breakout season in 2014 and cementing himself as the Cubs' catcher for many years.