The Cubs' 18-27 record makes it a little more difficult to find overachievers, but there have been a few -- primarily on the pitching staff. With an under-powered roster, the Cubs need to have a significant amount of over-achievement in order to even have a chance to keep pace in any kind of playoff race (I advise for everyone to stop holding their breath on that one).
Even though the team has had more agony than comfort thus far in 2013, there actually have been players who are giving Cubs fans something to cheer about. Unfortunately, the only thing that means is those players are booking first-class tickets to another team come the trade deadline.
Scott Feldman (4-3, 2.19 ERA)When the Cubs signed Feldman in the offseason (for the affordable amount of $6 million per year), it was for two purposes. First, it was to help fill in a starting rotation that was in desperate need of arms. Second, it was to add another veteran who, with the proper performance, could be trade bait when the trade deadline rolls around.
In those two regards, Feldman has been a successful signing. If you look at the last month, his numbers are phenomenal (3-0, 0.94 ERA in four starts). Feldman is not a slouch pitcher so the fact he is having success isn't shocking, but this much success is definitely surprising. The success is nice, but I would be surprised if the Cubs don't attempt to benefit from it by sending him to a contender sometime this summer.
Travis Wood (4-2, 2.24 ERA)Wood's development is more exciting than Feldman's for Cubs fans because if it is legitimate, as opposed to a fluke, it will solidify Wood in the Cubs' rotation for years to come. At only 26, Wood can be a pitcher the Cubs build around if he continues his success.
Wood is one of those pitchers who feels like he has been around forever, even though it has only been four seasons. His lackluster 2012 campaign (6-13, 4.27 ERA) left little room for any kind of excitement surrounding his potential but through nine starts in 2013, he is yet to give up more than three runs. Where Feldman is likely to be traded for his success, Wood will probably be seen as more of a long-term solution for the Cubs as they continue to rebuild.
Luis Valbuena (.255 AVG, 5 HRs, 14 RBIs, .360 OBP)Valbuena is not putting up star numbers at third base, but he is significantly above his previous years in terms of performance. As was expected after Aramis Ramirez's departure a few seasons ago, third base has once again become a black hole of sorts for the Cubs. Valbuena, with help from Cody Ransom, has stabilized the position.
Even at 27, he's hardly a long-term solution, but what he has brought to the Cubs this season has been significant. He is almost 30 points above his career batting average of .227 and is more than 60 points above his career on-base percentage of .299. Valbuena's performance has been directly responsible for Ian Stewart being left to toil in Triple-A. I am not sure what they could ultimately get for him, but I will bet Valbuena will be on the trade market should any team come calling.
Kevin Gregg (0.00 ERA, 6/6 on save opportunities)Signing Kevin Gregg could end up being a stellar move for the Cubs. Not only has he been a major contributor in an otherwise terrible bullpen, but Gregg could also make for a nice arm to have in July. Having the Cubs' bullpen blow leads is painful, but if they are 25 games out around the deadline it won't really matter anymore.
Gregg has been a nice surprise but at almost 35 years old, I would be shocked if the Cubs don't try and unload him at the peak of his value.
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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 and Yahoo! Sports. He is also a senior in college majoring in English and Creative Writing.
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