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Chicago Cubs: Players With One Last Chance in 2014 to Avoid Bust Status

Prospects and Signings Alike Fight for Relevancy

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY | Ah, is there anything more vintage Chicago Cubs than the prospect or free-agent signing that doesn't pan out?

Every team has them, but whether by my own imagination or cold, hard fact, the Chicago Cubs seem to have way more of them over the years than just about everyone. Perhaps this can explain why the prospect of signing Masahiro Tanaka to $100 million-plus contract scares the daylight out of me.

But we're here to look at a few players that the Cubs already have on their roster. Players who are bordering on being labeled as the dreaded "bust."

But in line with ill-fated Cubs optimism, 2014 will provide these players one last shot:

Kyuji Fujikawa - Relief Pitcher
With an ever-struggling Carlos Marmol making life horrifying most afternoons, Fujikawa was brought in to either set up for Marmol, thus bringing stability to the gap between starter and closer, or to fill in should Marmol continue his march of mediocrity as closer.

Marmol struggled as many expected, but Fujikawa ended up hurt on multiple occasions -- culminating in a need for Tommy John surgery, which, of course, sidelined him for the season.

Fujikawa only pitched in 12 games. Consequently, his less-than-stellar production can be argued away as a small sample size (while injured). But when a man comes from Japan with a career ERA of 1.77, and had multiple seasons with ERAs under 0.70 (over 126 appearances), expectations are high.

How Fujikawa bounces back from his surgery will go a long way to where he falls on the "bust" meter.

Brett Jackson - Outfield
Once considered a top prospect in the organization, Jackson's continued struggles -- both in the majors as well as the minors -- have buried him.

His only time in the majors saw him post a .175 AVG and offered little spark outside of his defense. When he was sent to the minors for 2013 (while battling injury), he hit a collective .210 across three different minor league affiliates and could not muster a .300 OBP. He also struck out a ton -- 121 times in 95 games in 2013.

As the Cubs prepare to infuse their major league team with some of their up-and-coming talent, Jackson could be buried for good without a strong showing in spring training.

Edwin Jackson - Starting Pitcher
OK, technically, Jackson has three more opportunities to prove he isn't a bust since the Cubs signed him to a four-year, $52 million contract prior to the 2013 season.

But with a shoddy 8-18, 4.98 ERA season as his opening salvo, I'm not convinced management (or fans) will wait around for four years before they start voicing their opinions on Jackson.

Jackson is a little different than the others on this list because he is already an established player in the league and you can more or less guess what his overall production will be. Regardless, there seems to be a rule that a player's potential to "bust" resets every time he signs a new contract, much less an overpriced one like Jackson's.

Josh Vitters - Third Base
This guy is in major trouble.

Not only has he performed dreadfully (also battling injury) after being considered a top prospect at third base, but he's quickly being buried by all of the backlog of the Cubs' infield prospects -- Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant, Mike Olt, Christian Villanueva.

Vitters did manage to hit .295 in 100 plate appearances in Triple-A, but those encompassed his entire playing time for 2013 outside of 17 plate appearances in the Arizona League.

Vitters either has to explode during spring training and swipe the job from any number of other candidates, or he may never see the majors again.

Brian is a lifelong Chicago Cubs follower. Living in Illinois his entire life has given him a chance to closely follow and report Chicago sports as a freelance writer through Yahoo Contributor Network and Yahoo Sports. He is also a senior majoring in Creative Writing.

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