Since the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Chicago Cubs have a dismal 1-9 record entering play on August 11. The trades made sense in that the Cubs were going nowhere anyway, and they needed to clear salary and bring up some of their highly-touted prospects to begin their Major League careers and gain valuable experience for the future.
Two of the Cubs' most notable prospects made their Major League debuts during the 1-9 stretch. Outfielder Brett Jackson and third baseman Josh Vitters joined first baseman Anthony Rizzo, called up in late June, and the three new Cubs now take the field with shortstop Starlin Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney in a young but talented core that the Cubs and their fans hope will soon bring a winner to Wrigley Field.
Rizzo started off on a tear, but he has cooled off of late. He is hitting .299, 9 HR, and 24 RBI in 38 games. For such a young player (age 23), he shows a lot of poise. He has the demeanor of someone who has played a few years. For a power hitter, he strikes out relatively few times (approximately 14%), and he has already driven in some big runs for the Cubs. They won 18 of 28 before the trades, and Rizzo was one of the reasons why.
Jackson and Vitters have not had that same type of start. Jackson is only 2 for 17 with 11 strikeouts, and Vitters is 2 for 15 with 2 RBI. Statistics do not mean a whole lot right now. Not everyone can have the same type of start that Rizzo enjoyed. The important thing is that they see as much Major League pitching as they can for the remainder of 2012. It can only help in their development to get that experience in now. I like that they have their chances and the team plays hard every day despite the results.
On the mound, rookie left-hander Brooks Raley made his debut on August 7 against the San Diego Padres. It did not turn out well either (seven earned runs in four innings), but he will have more opportunities with Matt Garza out injured, possibly for the rest of the season, and Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm traded. Raley was 4-8 in Triple-A but with a respectable 3.62 ERA. The Cubs will have rotation spots available next year, and Raley may have a chance at one of them. He will start next on August 12 against the Cincinnati Reds. Getting his innings in now will give him some needed experience just as getting at bats will do for Jackson and Vitters.
I understand that the Cubs will lose more this season and likely a lot next year. I like, though, that they have begun giving these and other prospects chances to play and get some valuable experience under their belts. Perhaps by 2014, the young Cubs, by then not so young, mixed with the right available veterans from other teams, can turn the rebuilding team into a steady winner.
Cash Kruth, For Handful of Cubs Prospects, Future is Now, cubs.mlb.com, August 10, 2012.
Cash Kruth, Garza Hoping to Return to Mound This Season, cubs.mlb.com, August 10, 2012.
Chicago Cubs, Individual Player Pages (linked above), cubs.mlb.com as of August 11. 2012.
Yahoo! Sports, Scores and Schedules for August 12, 2012, sports.yahoo.com/mlb.
Raymond grew up in Florida and began watching the Cubs on WGN in 1982. He became a fan in 1984 when Ryne Sandberg hit the two famous game-tying home runs off Cardinals closer and former Cub Bruce Sutter. Raymond then solidified his team loyalty when the Cubs won the division later that season and has been a fan ever since. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly MLB radio call-in show. Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
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