2013 Season Preview: Chicago Cubs

It's almost here Chicago Cubs fans. Another season of complete and utter futility. After crossing the century mark for losses last season, finishing with 101 losses, the 2013 campaign brings about more of the same for the Cubs, as they continue their epic rebuild of nearly the entire franchise. Will 2013 be any easier to watch? Or will the Cubs continue to fall flat on their faces and watch another massive sell-off when the trade deadline rolls around? 

Cubs on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
Hope for the Hopeless
2013 Season Preview
You May Say I'm a Dreamer (11:30 PM)
2013 Burning Question (12:45 PM)
This Is My Nightmare (2:00 PM)
2013 X-Factor (3:15 PM)

Depth Chart (as of 3/4)
C: Welington Castillo
1B: Anthony Rizzo
2B: Darwin Barney
SS: Starlin Castro
3B: Ian Stewart
LF: Alfonso Soriano
CF: David DeJesus
RF: Nate Schierholtz/Scott Hairston
SP: Jeff Samardzija
SP: Edwin Jackson
SP: Scott Feldman
SP: Travis Wood
SP: Carlos Villanueva
CL: Carlos Marmol

New Faces
There is a host of new faces joining the Cubs this season, mainly in the pitching staff. The Cubs added as much depth to their starting rotation as any team in the league. Of those that signed, only Edwin Jackson looks to be part of this team for the longer term, signing a four-year deal. The Cubs also signed Scott Feldman, Scott Baker, and Carlos Villanueva to fight for rotation spots. Kyuji Fujikawa will battle with Carlos Marmol for the closer gig, but will likely take it over once Marmol is inevitably traded. In the field, Schierholtz and Hairston will platoon in right field. 

Most of the Cubs' recent departures took place at the trade deadline last season, when they traded Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto, Paul Maholm, and Reed Johnson for prospects. Bryan LaHair went to Japan and the Cubs (mercifully) dumped Chris Volstad. Don't forget about fan favorite Tony Campana, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks after the spring got underway. Expect Alfonso Soriano and/or Carlos Marmol to join the ranks of the dearly departed in the very near future.

Impact Rookies
The one name to keep an eye on here is Brett Jackson. His callup last year couldn't have gone much worse at the plate. He probably would have struck out less if he closed his eyes and swung. But with a new and improved swing, he's off to a fantastic start this spring. Between that and his glove, he projects as a future All Star. If he mashes in the first month of the season, the Cubs could end up dealing Soriano or DeJesus in order to make room for him. Also keep an eye on Javier Baez, who is also off to a terrific start this spring. He's probably a late 2013 callup, but is next in line behind Jackson, as far as intriguing offensive prospects, who aren't too far off, go.

Position Battles
In the field, watch the hot corner. Ian Stewart and Luis Valbuena are duking it out to see who could serve as the Cubs' mediocre third baseman of 2013. Stewart's lack of health could give Valbuena the edge. The latter has a good glove and some nice pop in his bat. Scott Baker, Travis Wood, and Carlos Villanueva will all fight for spots in the rotation. 

Injury Concerns
Starlin Castro's hamstring is inflamed. That's about as terrifying an injury as a 101-loss ballclub can have. Losing a player who led the league in hits last season would be a blow to a team that can't really afford one early in the year. Keep an eye on that. Matt Garza will begin the season on the disabled list after ending last year on it, though the injuries are not related. Scott Baker is still working on returning from Tommy John surgery. Ian Stewart always seems to have something wrong with him.

Burning Question
Quite a few for a 101-loss team. But the big one is: will the Cubs keep or trade Alfonso Soriano?

Best Case
The Cubs somehow come together and make an improbable run. They remain healthy, get great pitching from their rotation, and solid stuff from the 'pen, Carlos Marmol in particular. Starlin Castro is an MVP candidate and Anthony Rizzo hits 40 home runs, with plenty of support from the rest of the offense. They completely shock everyone and win 94 games, good for a wild card spot.

Worst Case
The stink carries over from 2012. The Cubs continue to struggle in nearly every aspect of the game. They sell off anybody of importance, outside of Castro and Rizzo, at the trade deadline to continue building for the future. And in doing so, they likely set themselves back a couple of years.

Realistic Scenario
This team isn't going to be nearly as bad as everyone is expecting them to be. But they won't exactly be good either. The rotation is solid and the bullpen is improved. They have a strong infield and some nice pop in the outfield. They could hover around .500 this season and get everyone's hopes up for 2014.

About Randy Holt

Spending his days as an English teacher, Randy spends his afternoons, nights, and weekends as a writer on the Bloguin Network, as well as SB Nation. He is a staff writer for both Puck Drunk Love and The Outside corner, as well as Second City Hockey and Beyond the Box Score on SB Nation, showcasing his love for both hockey and baseball, as well as run-on sentences. A Chicago native (and Phoenix resident), he is an avid Game of Thrones viewer/reader and lover of red meat.