With Opening Day just three days away for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs, the clock will begin ticking for both clubs. Each team is in rebuilding mode, but who will win more games in 2014?
Dan Shulman, the play-by-play voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, sides with the team on the South Side of Chicago.
“I would have to say short term – White Sox – and long term I think the jury is still out,” Shulman said.
“I don’t know if we have enough information yet about how good the Cubs’ young prospects are because they’re not that far along yet and I’m still waiting to see ultimately what kind of a player Starlin Castro turns into. If Starlin Castro, if this is what he is, then that’s another area where I think the Cubs are going to have to really consider things.”
The Cubs have hope that Castro will turn it around this season. After a dismal 2013, the shortstop may switch positions to help highly touted prospect Javier Baez with his transition to the majors.
Through 16 games in spring training, Baez hit .280 with five home runs.
He’ll begin the season starting at shortstop in Triple-A. With Castro signed through 2019, he’s not going anywhere. On the other hand, it must be nice for Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations with the Cubs, to know that their 24-year-old would leave his regular spot in the infield for one of the organization’s best youngsters.
New manager Rick Renteria will also look for improvement from Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs first baseman. Rizzo has hit .333 in spring with three long balls. If Rizzo can pick up the slack, Mike Olt, the third baseman who has struggled with injuries, would face less pressure in the lineup. We’ll see if Renteria decides to slot Olt at third base, though, to begin the season as Luis Valbuena could get the job to start off 2014.
The pitching staff on the north side of town does have Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood as a one-two punch. Samardzija pitched pretty poorly at times last season, accumulating an ERA of 4.34.
As the former Notre Dame wide receiver will look to improve upon those numbers, Wood just needs to pick up where he left off in 2013; he was the lone Cubs All-Star last year, going 9-12. Yet, through his entire four-year career, the southpaw has posted a record of 26-35. Renteria and company will need Wood to continue upon last year’s success.
What the Cubs are missing in their rotation is an ace, according to John Kruk, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball analyst.
“I think the biggest difference in the two teams is the White Sox have Chris Sale and the Cubs don’t have anyone close to that,” Kruk said. “That’s a big difference and a big comforting thing when you’re an everyday player to know that every fifth day you’re going to get that guy on the mound who will give you a great chance to win.”
Last season, Sale won 11 games in 30 starts. His 14 losses, however, should be accounted towards the White Sox offense; the lefty had the fifth-lowest run support in the league, receiving an average of 3.20 runs per game.
In order for the offense to improve, GM Rick Hahn needs his offseason moves to pay off. Hahn signed first baseman Jose Abreu and traded for outfielder Adam Eaton and third baseman Matt Davidson. While Davidson will begin 2014 in Triple-A, manager Robin Ventura has Abreu and Eaton penciled into his starting lineup.
Eaton’s speed will be much needed for the “Pale Hose,” especially after Alejandro DeAza’s insufficient base running last season. On top of that, having Abreu, who has made some star-studded plays defensively, will hopefully make the transition away from Konerko easier. The Cuban has hit .283 in spring, with 3 home runs and 12 RBI.
The jury is still out if the standings, come October, will agree with Shulman and Kruk’s predictions. We’ll have to wait and find out, but one thing is clear. Both squads need their youth to succeed in order to recover from their 2013 records.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks