Theo Epstein’s 2012 Cubs?


During the Chicago-land media circus yesterday there were plenty of comments by the Cubs new President of Baseball Operations that give us an idea what the 2012 Chicago Cubs might look like. If you missed all of the interviews yesterday, don’t worry. The internet is chock full of high quality write ups (I recommend this one from Bleacher Nation). Take a look at the new philosophies of the new front office and then ask yourself, what might the 2012 Cubs look like?

Based on the comments Theo made, I put together a possible lineup for Opening Day. It isn’t a World Series winning lineup, but I think it would be a .500 team. That is a good place to start.

We’ll begin with a possible batting order.

1 – Brett Jackson – CF. The Cubs are going to develop from within, and this guy is the cream of the farm system. He strikes out more than your typical lead off hitter and will be forced out of center field when Matthew Szczur arrives, but for now his high OBP and mix of power and speed will look good atop the lineup.

2 – Starlin Castro – SS. It seems that Epstein is willing to be patient with Castro’s defense. That is exactly the correct approach to take with a young shortstop. His bat might be more useful as a three hitter, but I like his speed better out of the second slot given who I have batting behind him.

3 – Josh Vitters – 1B. It might be too early in his career to bat Vitters third, but I think he will grow into this position. I like him here because he makes excellent contact. That opens up a lot of hit-and-run options for the Cubs that should help lessen the impact of their lack of power. I still see Vitters as a .290+, 25+ HR guy over the long haul; those numbers are perfect for a three hitter.

4 – Bryan LaHair – LF. It appears Epstein has permission to cut loose under-performing and over-paid veterans. Alfonso Soriano, that probably means you. LaHair has the power and the patience to bat cleanup everyday, and I think his defense will be an upgrade over Soriano. Epstein seems willing to give AAAA players a chance, so LaHair should get an opportunity soon.

5 – Geovany Soto – C. I wanted a right handed bat here, and Soto might be my best bet. I still think there is a chance that Soto is traded, and that would place Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger platooning in this spot. Should that happen, drop the catchers to seventh and bump everyone else up a slot.

6 – Tyler Colvin – RF. The comments made about AAAA players regarding LaHair could apply to Colvin as well. He hit in his rookie year, but had very little chance to hit last season. I think he gets another shot as an everyday player. Colvin and LaHair will be the two biggest sources of power in this lineup. The Cubs will be relying on speed and base running to offset that weakness.

7 – Blake DeWitt – 3B. If DeWitt falters, Ryan Flaherty will be waiting to take his place. DeWitt is a tough guy to strikeout. That will play well in this lineup, even if I would rather have more power at third. He is also a very flexible player. In the hands of a good manager, that could be a valuable asset.

8 – D.J. LeMahieu – 2B. LeMahieu might be the best hitter in the lineup, so why I have placed him eighth? I could have batted him third, but I wanted more power there. The same goes for fifth. I thought about sixth, and if you ask me tomorrow I might have him sixth. The reason he is eighth, though, is because of the steals he has been piling up in the AFL. LeMahieu is not that fast of a player; his steals are likely coming from his skill as a base runner, not his speed. His high average and low strikeouts will mean he is on base quite a bit, and his lack of power means that base will probably be first. That makes him ideal to bat in front of the pitcher, who is likely to do little but bunt anyway. I see him hitting a lot of singles, moving over on a bunt by the pitcher, and coming home on a double from Jackson or Castro. Long term I think LeMahieu bats second, but for now I’ll leave him eighth.

Like I said, its not a perfect lineup. The top half is solid, but young. The bottom half is mismatched and out of place. Overall, though, I think in the hands of a manger willing to call for the steal, the double steal, and the hit-and-run, this lineup could be effective. It won’t overpower anyone, but it will score runs in virtually any ballpark and any set of weather conditions.

For a team that is starting to build its way to dominance, it really isn’t a bad place to start.