Thursday, April 18, 2013

Updating On The 5 Most Exciting Cubs

In the winter, I declared my affinity for five players entering the season, five stories worth following. They were, in order of interest:
  1. Kyuji Fujikawa: The former Hanshin Tigers closer is injured, on the 15-day DL, and apparently hurting since spring training. Despite that, he posted a 2.62 FIP and 2.98 SIERA, but his 12.48 ERA does perhaps the best job of illustrating his lack of control. His stuff never seemed not-filthy, but he fell behind hitters quickly and had to toss meatballs because the only strikes he could throw were meatballs. When he comes back, which will hopefully be soon, he will be the closer. I expect he will be impressive, too, unless he dogs it again and tries to pitch through pain.
  2. Nate Schierholtz: Two homers and a .361/.425/.667 slash?! There's no way he maintains this 187 wRC+, but this whole experiment, this whole Free Schierholtz endeavor, is off to a wonderful start. Nate is on fire.
  3. Edwin Jackson: I believe I've watched each of Jackson's three starts so far, and his pitching slash does a good job of showing his mixed results: 6.06 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 3.72 SIERA. I am excited about him developing into an innings-eating No. 2 or 3 starter, and I would not be surprised for all three of those numbers to normalize around 3.50 ERA/FIP/SIERA through 200+ IP.
  4. Scott Feldman: Hoo-boy. Maybe I should have put Carlos Villanueva in this list instead? Feldman has a 6.00 ERA, 6.64 FIP, 6.12 SIERA line. His strikeout rate (8.0% K-rate) is below his walk rate (14.0% BB-rate). He will be better than this. Sooner would be better.
  5. Ian Stewart: Naturally, Stewart got injured in the spring, like minutes after I wrote about him, and he's still yet to swing a bat or wear a glove in a game.

Okay, let's change and update this list.

  1. Nate Schierholtz: Can he keep a solid slash after his BABIP cools down? I hope so.
  2. Carlos Villanueva: He has an 0.67 ERA and 3.58 FIP through his first two starts, but more importantly, he's thrown a combined 14 innings through just 2 starts, and he looked impressive both times. Can he stake a permanent claim in the rotation?
  3. Dioner Navarro: He is not good at framing pitches, blocking pitches, or throwing out runners, but he was once a top prospect because of his minor-league OBP. Last offseason, he trained with Joey Votto. Then he slammed 5 Spring Training dongers and now 2 more dongers through just 21 PA in 2013. Could his bat finally be turning legit?
  4. Welington Castillo: The Cubs starting catcher, Castillo, presently leads the team in wins above replacement (0.4 fWAR) and has the second-best offensive numbers (145 wRC+). His moment in the sun was a long time coming, and if he can sustain this, he could cement the catching position for a many years to come. Navarro is more interesting on the merit of a possible change, but Castillo is currently solidly entrenched at the backstop -- at least in my eyes.
  5. Kyuji Fujikawa: Given the inability of pretty much every Cubs reliever to perform at the closer position, I have to keep faith that Japan's arguably best closer of the last decade will come back and dominate. I am keeping the faith, Kyuji. Don't let me down.

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