Here are some of Cubs' projectables, projects and projectiles
Satchel Paige used to warn: "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
We'll amend that for Cubs fans by saying: Don't look back. You might remember 101 losses.
The season finally ended Wednesday with a 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros as the Cubs finished a dreadful season on the field with a record of 61-101. The Astros, by the way, were 55-107.
As bad as things were on the field, the road ahead looks infinitely interesting, even if it's going to be bumpy for at least the next few miles.
Cubs President Theo Epstein will meet with the media on Thursday. At that time, he may provide a hint or two as to what the Cubs may do this winter. Then again, maybe not.
For now, instead of looking back, we'll take a look at what the Cubs have in hand and how it figures to play into the plans for 2013.
Two key figures in the Cubs' future didn't put in full seasons, but both provided plenty of hope for positive projections: pitcher Jeff Samardzija and first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs aren't likely to acquire an ace starting pitcher over the winter, so Samardzija figures to go to spring training either as the No. 2 starter behind Matt Garza, or as the No. 1 if Garza's right elbow slows him.
Samardzija's season ended after 174 innings as the Cubs gave him most of the final month off because it was his first full year as a starter in the big leagues.
The record for Samardzija was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA and a WHIP of 1.22. His 9.2 strikeouts per 9 innings ranked him second in the National League to Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez. What's more, Samardzija showed signs that he's learned how to pitch as opposed to just throwing.
Rizzo came up June 26, and in 87 games, he hit 15 homers and drove in 48 with an OPS of .805.
"It's huge," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, beginning with Samardzija. "That guy's a No. 1 or a No. 2 on a staff, and he's proven that. To have him for a whole season, to have Rizzo for a whole season, those kind of things are great to have and great to know that you have some cornerstones, some people to throw your hat on and see what happens on an everyday basis with a guy that can hit 30 and drive in 100 at first base and catch the ball, a No. 1 type starter that's going to go out there and give you 200-plus innings.
"When he's on the mound, that's that guy where, 'We're winning today.' Those are the kind of starting pitchers everybody needs. When you have one, two, hopefully, three or four of them, when their name is on that lineup card, you're like, 'We're winning today,' and he's one of those type guys."
Epstein may not say much about what the front office will do when he speaks Thursday, but Sveum laid it out pretty well Wednesday.
Third baseman Josh Vitters and center fielder Brett Jackson showed they both may need to start next season at Class AAA Iowa for more seasoning after struggling at the plate.
So add those two positions to the list of Cubs needs to go along with two starting pitchers and perhaps a bullpen arm.
"I think there are some guys that are here that still have to probably develop," Sveum said. "Whether they make the team or not, they still have to develop. Sure, there will be turnover. We have to fill some holes in areas, in starting pitching, the bullpen, third base, power bats.
"These are your Christmas lists. It's not easy to get what you want under the Christmas tree, either. I'm sure there will be turnover, sure there will be some more development for some of the young players. We'll wait and see. That's why winter is so fun, because you don't know who's going to be non-tendered, free agents, how the market is. Or you go to spring training and some guys come back and they've made adjustments like Rizzo did, and they're ready to play at this level."
Sveum also said he feels shortstop Starlin Castro, who hit 14 homers this year, can approach 20 next year and may have done so if he had played in a different park, without the wind blowing in as much as it did at Wrigley.
No doubt the Cubs will launch several players this winter, and after a 101-loss season, they should.
Third baseman Ian Stewart was a clubhouse visitor Wednesday as he made a rare appearance after going out in June with wrist surgery. It's unlikely the Cubs would, or should, tender Stewart a contract.
Fill-in starting pitchers Justin Germano and Jason Berken likely don't fit into the plans as the Cubs try to fill in behind Garza, Samardzija and lefty Travis Wood. And it's no certainty that disappointing starter Chris Volstad (3-12, 6.31 ERA) will be tendered a contract.
And of course, closer Carlos Marmol and left fielder Alfonso Soriano will be the subjects of trade speculation this winter despite prohibitive contracts.
Sveum said he'd prefer to have Soriano stay put.
"No question about it," he said. "To have 32 home runs and 108 RBIs and to play left field like he has, with his speed and the legs he has, he's done a great job in the outfield. Everything he does in that clubhouse, his work ethic, is unmatched from my career. I haven't seen too many people in my career that go about their business on an everyday basis like Sori does."
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