Which Cubs Have Been Most Impressive This Spring?

Jason S. Parini@@JasonPariniBRCorrespondent IIMarch 18, 2014

Which Cubs Have Been Most Impressive This Spring?

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    Winter 2014 cannot end soon enough for Chicago Cubs fans, especially those living in the Chicagoland area.

    After enduring 96 losses in 2013, Cubs fans have had to endure 79 inches of snow so far this winter. That's right...there has been more snow than Cubs wins in Chicago.

    Thank goodness it's spring.

    Though not expected to be a legitimate contender until 2016, Cubs fans are already getting excited about the pool of promising prospects that the team is developing.

    Players such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora and Kris Bryant are expected to be the future of the team, and spring fever is in full force.

    While Baez continues to impress in Mesa, Ariz., other young stars have already been sent to minor league camp.

    Here we look at which players have been most impressive in spring 2014.

5. Elder Cubs Outfielders

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Newly acquired outfielder Justin Ruggiano, as well as Darnell McDonald, who played in 19 games for the Cubs last season, have both looked solid this spring.

    Ruggiano, 31, and McDonald, 35, are both short-term options for the Cubs as prospects, such as Albert Almora and Junior Lake, develop. However, they are looking solid at the plate this season.

    McDonald has posted a .455 on-base percentage while hitting safely in five of 17 at-bats. However, he has walked five times, a good stat for a team that was No. 11 in the National League in walks in 2013.

    Ruggiano has also been solid at the plate. He has gone 9-for-24 and walked twice, posting a .375/.423/.667 slash line.

    Ruggiano has three multi-hit games this season, including a three-hit affair on March 9.

4. Kris Bryant and Mike Olt's Power

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Overall, Mike Olt and Kris Bryant didn't exactly impress all-around this spring. The Cubs' two third base prospects struggled at the plate, hitting just .241 and .143, respectively.

    However, the two combined for five home runs in just 43 at-bats. They are two of only five Cubs with multiple home runs this season. Olt joins Anthony Rizzo as the only Cub with a multiple home run game this spring.

    The Cubs could certainly benefit from home run production from either prospect. Despite being second in the National League in home runs in 2013, the Cubs were second to last in the NL in runs scored.

    Olt is fighting for a starting job this spring and just may make the team. On the other hand, Bryant has already been sent to minor league camp and will begin the season in Double-A Tennessee.

3. Javier Baez

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    Chris Carlson/Associated Press

    If Cubs fans aren't excited about the future of Javier Baez, they're missing something.

    The Cubs announced that the young prospect will be "easing over to second base" for now, which will allow both Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney to see some time at shortstop.

    Baez has been on fire this spring. ESPN graded Baez as having a successful first day on the job at second, and his power has been even more impressive.

    Though only hitting .281, Baez has cranked three home runs and made news with his powerful home run swing. See the GIF here.

    Baez will start the season in Triple-A Iowa.

2. Cubs Closers

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Last year's closer situation was often abysmal for the Cubs.

    With 26 blown saves last season, the Cubs had a merry-go-round of closers throughout the season. This spring, however, is looking quite different. Nine of their ten wins have resulted in a save, and those saves are spread out between six different pitchers. Alberto Cabrera leads the Cubs with three saves. Jonathan Sanchez also has a pair.

    Blown saves were a serious problem for the Cubs in 2013 and must be improved on this year. Had the Cubs successfully closed even half of their save opportunities last year, it would have brought their record from 66-96 to 79-83.

1. Anthony Rizzo

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    After a difficult 2013 season, Anthony Rizzo is under much pressure to improve in 2014.

    Rizzo's spring thus far has been a very positive sign of things to come. In 28 at-bats, the Cubs' starting first baseman has two home runs and seven RBIs. Both of his home runs came in a March 15 game against the Kansas City Royals.

    Rizzo has a hit in eight of ten games and carries a .452 on-base percentage, the highest of any Cub with 20 or more at-bats.

    Rizzo also has not committed any errors this spring, another reassuring statistic.

    The Cubs' success (or lack of failure) this season will largely depend on Rizzo. The Cubs have wrapped up $41 million in Rizzo through 2021, which may put some added pressure on him.