As the Cub’s Spring Training schedule hits its 3rd week, it’s time to take a look at some of the storylines that stand out so far. Of course, it’s important to take ST stats and such with a grain of salt, but for the sake of talking points here are some narratives that are worth mentioning.
These young guys can play
For a team that has so many of their core players in their mid-20s, it’s scary to think that they have even more young talent on the way – scary for the other 29 clubs that is. The Cubs “Big 3” position prospects – Ian Happ, Eloy Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario – are hitting a combined .358, slugging .642 and have 4 home runs and 13 RBIs. They are all in the team’s top 3 in hits, Happ leads in RBIs, Candelario is tied for the team lead in runs scored and Jimenez and Happ are tied for the team lead in homers. The three are also tops on the team in at-bats, so it’s clear Coach Maddon and staff want to get a good look at the youngsters this spring. They haven’t disappointed.
Heyward’s struggles continue
Coming off his worst season as a professional, Jason Heyward was a trendy pick to come back strong this spring, especially after he worked tirelessly in the offseason to improve his swing. So far his hardwork hasn’t translated well, as the 27-year-old is only hitting .087 with an abysmal 30% strikeout rate. Both of his hits came in a game against the Angels, which means that of his 9 games played so far, 8 of them have ended with 0 base knocks. Granted this is Spring Training, but this is the perfect opportunity for Heyward to get back in the groove when the games don’t mean anything. Let’s hope he gets back in the swing of things and finishes the spring strong.
Kyle Hendricks is proving last year was no fluke
After Kyle Hendricks’ breakout year in 2016, where he pitched to the tune of a 2.13 ERA (which led the MLB) and a sub-1 WHIP, pundits were quick to give their takes on why it’s unlikely he’ll have the same success moving forward. Being the reserved, quiet man he is, you’re not going to see Hendricks defend himself from the critics with his mouth. He’ll let his pitching do all the talking, and he’s done that so far this spring. In two games, the 27-year-old has thrown five innings, giving up 0 runs and only two hits while striking five and walking none. Seems like he’s in midseason form already.
Cub’s new pitching acquisitions struggling out of the gate
Let me remind you again that this is Spring Training and the games don’t mean anything. BUT… some of the new pitching additions for the Cubs haven’t quite put it all together yet in their new uniform. Brian Duensing, Wade Davis, Caleb Smith and Brett Anderson have all had their fair share of troubles this spring, albeit in limited innings. Duensing and Smith are in the running for a roster spot, but with the former’s 5 ER in 5.1 IP and blown save against the Mariners coupled with the latter’s 3 HRs given up in 4 IP, both leave more to be desired as of now. Anderson is in the mix for the 5th spot in the starting rotation, and while he did pitch a spotless inning in his only start so far of the spring, he has been spotty in his other two appearances. Perhaps what’s most surprsing is new closer Wade Davis’ shortcomings. The 31-year-old has appeared in two games thus far and the results have been ugly. In his first appearance he could only record one out, giving up 3 ER before being yanked. His next outing was better, but he still gave up a run, though he struck out two. Coming off of a forearm injury that sidelined him multiple times throughout 2016, the problems may stem from him not being fully healthy, so one should take these results with some skepticisim. The most important thing for Davis should be to build up his strength and be as healthy as possibile come April.