They might pan out, they might flop (Felix Pie anyone?), but as the Cubs move toward the 2014 season, there are a few players currently on the roster who are poised for potential breakout campaigns.
A few semi-unexpected contributions could go a long way for the Cubs' rebuilding schedule and might give the Cubs a chance of staying out of the NL Central cellar.
He was, by far, the Cubs' most consistent starter in 2013. His 3.11 ERA speaks well of him, but he also only surrendered 163 hits in 200 innings. He had 24 quality starts (including 18 of his first 19), and other than a semi-rough August (1-3, 4.17 ERA), put up quality numbers the entire season on a team that lost 96 games.
It's also easy to forget that Wood has only pitched in four major league seasons. He has pitched more innings each year (peaking at 200 last season), has lowered his ERA each year since becoming a regular starter in 2011 (4.84 to 3.11), and has also seen his WHIP decrease from 1.49 (2011) to 1.14 (2013).
At not quite 27, Wood looks primed to have a strong showing in 2014 and (hopefully) beyond.
Junior Lake (.284 AVG, 6 HRs, 16 RBIs in 2013)
Lake, 23, sort of came out of nowhere last season and gave the Cubs a viable boost when he came up in mid-July.
Over his first seven games, he hit .484 (33 plate appearances) and sported an OBP of .500. He cooled off after that start but still managed to hit .275 over August and September. His strikeout numbers were a little high (68 strikeouts in 64 games) but can be forgiven since it was Lake's first shot in the majors.
He has speed (evidenced by his 18 infield hits -- seven of those being bunts), is a little all-or-nothing on defense, and sports some power. Lake is undeniably raw in a few areas (defense is arguably the main area), but, with age on his side, has a real chance to be a long-term contributor for the Cubs.
Pedro Strop (2-2, 2.83 ERA in 2013 for the Cubs)
With his first major-league appearance coming back in 2009, Strop has some experience. And buried in that experience are a few really nice seasons.
In 2011 and 2012, Strop had ERAs of 2.05 and 2.44, respectively. He only appeared in 23 games in 2011, but had 70 appearances the following season. After struggling mightily with the Baltimore Orioles over the first few months of 2013 (7.25 ERA, WHIP of 1.7), the Cubs enjoyed the 2012 version for the remainder of the season (2.83 ERA in 37 appearances).
Other than his earliest days and the blip with the Orioles last season, Strop has quality career numbers every year. Whether or not he ends up as the Cubs' closer (I'd like to see him there, personally), at only 24, he appears to be a great-looking, much-needed anchor at the back end of the Cubs' bullpen.
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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