The Chicago Cubs will head into yet another season with low expectations. That doesn't necessarily mean that there isn't at least some intrigue in regard to this club, though. With top prospects and at least one major potential trade chip remaining on the club, there are questions for this team that go beyond the club that the Cubs will field in 2014. With an up-and-coming club like the Cubs, narrowing it down to three questions is tough, but these are perhaps the largest queries for the team in the upcoming campaign.
When will Javier Baez make his appearance with the Cubs?
For Javier Baez, it isn't a question of if he's going to reach the big leagues, it's a matter of when. He's impressing again this spring, having already broken a couple of car windows, in addition to what he's doing to the balls that at least stay in the ballpark. This is a kid who has major, major upside from an offensive perspective. He needs to refine a few things, like pitch selection, at the minor league level, though, before the Cubs call him up.
There's also the matter of where he's going to play once he does arrive. Shortstop is obviously taken for the time being by Starlin Castro. Third base could be occupied by Mike Olt if things go according to plan. The Cubs may have to move Castro or Baez to second to accomodate the rising prospect. We may reach a point where that's the largest obstacle in calling him up.
Will Jeff Samardzija be on the team by season's end?
The Cubs and Jeff Samardzija have had their fun little back and forth in the media, particularly on Samardzija's end, but now it's time to pitch and see what happens. The Cubs shopped him around this winter, but wanted a package that was too rich for pretty much everyone around the league. They'll likely bank on him coming out strong in the first half of the 2014 season in hopes that a team will overpay them like they overpaid for Matt Garza.
Of course, the potential remains that the Cubs could try and sign him to an extension. But with Samardzija doing his best to try and burn every bridge possible with dumb comments to the media about loyalty and the like, a trade by the deadline seems far more likely at this point.
Can Starlin Castro bounce back from an awful 2013 season?
We heard Starlin Castro comment about the numerous voices that were in his head about his approach at the plate. As the Cubs tried to get Castro to be more patient at the plate, his walk rate actually went down and he struck out more. He hit just .245 and reached base at a percentage of just .284. Regardless of his shortcomings with the glove, the Cubs need to get Castro going again, and it's entirely possible that he could come out strong in 2014.
He looks good at the plate so far, and the Cubs have laid off a bit on trying to get him to adjust at the plate. There is a concern, though, in that Castro actually swung at a larger chunk of fastballs, yet all of his numbers went down. This is going to be a situation to watch, especially with Baez on his way up.