As the 2014 pennant race starts to kick into gear, we explore a number of teams who need to look to 2015 and beyond for their chance to compete. The second of these teams is the Chicago Cubs.
Cubs fans went into 2014 with little to no hopes of competing in the National League Central. As of the All-Star break, the Cubs are indeed a last place team, but one that can look toward the future. Several players they hope to build around are already shining in the major leagues, while others continue to develop in the minors. Earlier this month, Chicago bolstered an already strong farm system by trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel for several prospects. (You can read more about how that trade benefits the Cubs here.)
Although the current roster is languishing in last place, several players have emerged as potential stars. Since being acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres, the Cubs have been waiting for 24 year old first baseman Anthony Rizzo to break out, and this year he has. After hitting just .233 last year, Rizzo has raised his average to .275, and his OBP to .381. His 20 home runs rank third in the league, and he is being recognized with a a selection to the National League All-Star team. Seeing his potential, the Cubs signed him to a long term deal that keeps him under team control at a reasonable price ($41 million minimum) until 2021.