The Miami Marlins are just 1-5 on their current nine game road trip and finished the month of August with an ugly 8-20 record. The team hopes to turn things around in the final month and got off to a great start by routing the Atlanta Braves 7-0 on Sunday. The Marlins upcoming opponent, the Chicago Cubs, had a disappointing 8-20 August like the Fish.
To preview the series between the Cubs and Marlins, I had an email chat with Jacob Misener, the editor at the Chicago Cubs Fansided Site, Cubbies Crib. Jacob and I chatted about everything from Starlin Castro‘s future with the Cubs to how the plan set out by GM Theo Epstein is working out so far.
Without any further ado, here is my chat with Jacob:
Ehsan Kassim: How confident are you in Theo Epstein’s rebuilding program? How soon do you see the Cubs becoming contenders?
Jacob Misener: As someone who has watched the Red Sox for the better part of a decade, I’ve seen what happens when you build a club from the ground up. You win. Boston got away from that at the end of Epstein’s tenure, and it cost the team a ton of money, and it cost Theo a job.
Chicago will be a .500 club next season, but I’d be surprised if they were a legitimate contender any time before 2015. By then, a lot of the top talent in the minors will be coming to the major league level – Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler – potentially even Kris Bryant.
EK: Starlin Castro has been a disappointment in 2013, any chance the Cubs try to move him this off-season?
JM: That’s the million dollar question in Chicago right now. A lot of Cubs fans are calling for Castro’s head after the year he’s had, not just at the dish, but in terms of his mental focus.
Personally, I think he stays. He’s 23 years old, and has already put a 200-hit season under his belt. Everyone has down years, including Castro. That being said, with Epstein, anyone is fair game and if the right package was put together, they would trade just about anyone on this roster.
EK: How bright of a future does Jeff Samardzija have for the Cubs?
JM: Again, time will tell. You can’t deny this guy is a competitor. He’s got a great, live fastball, and is mixing in his complimentary pitches better this year. In his last start, he cruised through five innings of scoreless ball before imploding in the sixth.
He’s under team control through 2016, and is eligible for arbitration after the season. They’ve tried to lock him up with a deal comparable to the one Derek Holland received from Texas, but were unsuccessful. He’s only in his second professional season as a starting pitcher, so I think the verdict is still out on this one.
EK: Which prospects can we look forward to see playing in September for the Cubs?
JM: Unfortunately, not very many. Most of the club’s top-notch talent is no higher than Double-A and Epstein is adamant that these kids aren’t rushed to the big leagues.
Call-ups will likely include Luis Valbuena and Ryan Sweeney. There’s also a lot of talk that Scott Baker, who hasn’t pitched at the MLB level since 2011 will make his Cubs’ debut this month after rehabbing with Class-A Kane County over the past month. This could help him get back in the flow of things, and make a run at a rotation spot next spring.
EK: Can you give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Marlins will face this series?
JM: Travis Wood toes the rubber for the opener, and he’s been one of the most solid pitchers in the division this year. He’s never going to overpower hitters, but he understands how to best use his stuff to his advantage. He’ll likely give Chicago 5-6 innings, allowing a handful of runs.
Edwin Jackson follows him. I could write a small Shakespearean play on this guy’s season. He was horrendous in the first half. Absolutely terrible. 5.11 ERA. Then, he seemed to rebound and get things under control. But, in typical Cubs fashion, he struggled again. His ERA is just a shade under 5.00 for the second half. He has to avoid the big inning early on, and locate pitches. He makes too many mistakes up in the zone, and gets hit hard early – a lot.
Jeff Samardzija wraps things up on the hill in the series for Chicago. Coming off two straight wins in which he combined for 17 innings of sterling work, he cruised for five innings last week before hitting a brick wall after Junior Lake‘s miscue in the sixth. This guy has all the tools to be great. But when your defense and offense don’t show up behind you, it really has its effect – especially on Shark.
EK: Any predictions for the series?
JM: The Cubs need Rizzo and Castro to show some signs of life here in the season’s final month. August was a terrible month for Chicago (8-20) and a solid finish might help even the ship a bit. Junior Lake continues to impress, and after a couple months with Chicago, his average is still above .300. The pitching, more or less, has been there all season long. It all comes down to – will the bats score more than 1-2 runs a night? Another note, the Cubs have a much better record on the road than at home, so this could mean more wins for a Marlins team that has been much better than many expected, despite their W/L record.
A big thank you to Jacob for taking his timeout to talk to us. We at Marlin Maniac wish all Cubs fans the best of luck for the upcoming of the series. If you get a chance, do check out some of the great content over on Cubbies Crib. I answered some questions for Jacob on CC about the Marlins on the site as well. (link forthcoming)
My bold prediction for the series: The Marlins take games 1 and 3, which includes a strong Major League debut for left hander Brian Flynn on Wednesday evening. Giancarlo Stanton and Jake Marisnick each go deep twice at Wrigley Field.