Year in Review: Top 10 Cub Occurrences of 2013

With Lou Piniella long gone, Wrigleyville Nation believes it is time to re-brand and re-define the Cubbie Occurrence. Here goes our first annual attempt:

10. Wrigley Field Renovation Plans Unveiled 

The formal plan was unveiled at the Cubs Convention in January. While no ground has yet been broken, the renovation is coming and is crucial for myriad reasons, including maximizing revenue streams in order to support increased spending on baseball operations and enhancing fan amenities. Also, the Cubs have long had the worst major league player facilities in baseball. Most major colleges have better clubhouse amenities and workout facilities for players. What will Masahiro Tanaka think of Wrigley Field after trips to Yankee Stadium and Chavez Ravine? Unfortunately, substandard player facilities at Wrigley probably hurt the Cub’s chances of signing Tanaka.

9. Jeff Samardzija Non-trade

Sometimes the best trade is the one you don’t make. He may yet get traded, but for now Wrigleyville Nation is pleased that Samardzija is still a Cub.

8. Garza / Feldman Trades

As in 2012, the Cubs traded 40% of their starting rotation in July 2013. The haul for Matt Garza  and Scott Feldman  included  C.J. Edwards , Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, Jake Arrieta, and Pedro Strop.  These trades are part of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s ongoing project to add depth to the organization by trading aging talent on the cusp of free agency for young talent over whom the team has many years of control. The prospect game is ultimately a numbers game. Nobody knows how particular prospects will work out so you need to have numbers and depth. With prospect trades, you deal in probabilities and both of these trades look good from that standpoint. Arrieta alone serves as a solid replacement for Feldman at the back end of the Cubs’ rotation, yet is younger and has more upside, and Strop has the stuff to emerge as a top bullpen piece in 2014. As for C.J. Edwards …

7. C.J. Edwards named Minor League Pitcher of Year

 C.J. Edwards was to Class A American professional baseball what Tanaka was to Japanese professional baseball in 2013. Utterly dominant! He did not have the gaudy won/loss record to match Tanaka’s 24-0 regular season, but his own eye-popping numbers led to Edwards being named MiLB’s staff choice for Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year: 116 innings pitched; 155 strikeouts; 1 home run allowed; 1.86 ERA; 1.01 WHIP; and a .182 opponent’s batting average. Next season will be huge for Edwards as he will likely start the season at Double A Tennessee. Southern League lineups do not feature quite as many holes as those in the low minors. If he continues to dominate, Edwards could be on the fast track to Wrigley Field by this time next year.

6. Daytona Cubs Win Florida State League Championship

Cub cynics will say it’s only the minor leagues. But instilling a championship culture in an organization is a process that has to start somewhere. With the Cubs, it may have started here as four of the Cubs’ top five prospects played for Daytona during parts of the 2013 season, including Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Edwards.  Also important, the team won its championship with dominant pitching  in the playoffs. Daytona’s outstanding season was recognized by Baseball America earlier this month when they were named Minor League Team of the Year. Individual highlights included Baez’s four-homer game in June and Matt Loosen’s no-hitter no-hitter in July.

5. Kris Bryant Wins Arizona Fall League MVP award 

Bryant was drafted by the Cubs with the #2 overall pick in the June draft after leading the nation with 31 homers last spring at the University of San Diego and being named College Player of the Year by Baseball America. Bryant was fast-tracked through 3 levels of the Cubs’ farm system last summer, ending his season by helping Daytona win the Florida State League championship. Bryant capped a whirlwind 2013 by capturing MVP honors after his eye-opening performance in the Arizona Fall League, becoming the first AFL player to win the Joe Black MVP Award in his first professional season since the inception of the award in 2002.The 6-foot-5 Bryant led the AFL in slugging percentage (.727), homers (6) and OPS (1.184) while also tying for the lead in runs (22), total bases (56) and extra-base hits (15) in 20 games. In half of one professional season, the 21-year-old Bryant has already shown he is a polished hitter. If Bryant continues to dominate the competition in Spring Training and during the early months of 2014 (he will likely start at Double A Tennessee) expect the “Wrigley Field Bryant Watch” to begin sooner rather than later.

4. Welington Castillo season

Judged by WAR , Welington Castillo had 2nd-best season by a Cub’s catcher in 75 years and emerged as a core piece for the Cubs in 2013.

3. Travis Wood Season

 Like Castillo, Travis Wood emerged in 2013 as a core player for the rebuilding Cubs. It is hard to overestimate the value of player like Wood, who pitched exactly 200 innings for the Cubs during his age-26 season, while finishing with a 3.11 ERA and representing the Cubs in the All-Star game in July. Wood’s season was a model of consistency as he repeatedly pitched deep into games and gave up more than four runs only twice all season. Wood may not be an ace, but he has the makeup and the stuff to be a critical fixture in the middle of the Cubs’ rotation for years to come.

2. Javier Baez Season

Baez lived up to his considerable hype in 2013, hitting 37 homers and 34 doubles while driving in 111 runs and stealing 20 bases during his age-20 professional season. Baez’s numbers actually improved after he advanced to Double A Tennessee at mid-season, where he hit 20 homers in only 218 at bats. Along with Bryant, Baez has a chance to be a transformative player for the Cubs.

1. Wrigleyville Nation goes Live!

We jest, of course, but wanted to take this opportunity to thank our readers and listeners in 2013 and invite you to continue sharing Chicago Cubs baseball and Wrigleyville happenings with us in 2014. We will continue to blog as much as possible and produce at least two podcasts per month. The year-end podcast featuring special guest Corey Fineran of Ivy Envy is set for imminent release, where you can hear a slightly different discussion of the Top Ten Cub Moments of 2013.

Happy New Year Wrigleyville Nation!

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