The Chicago Cubs’ 2012 season mercifully ended on Wednesday, leaving Cubs fans to do what they do best: hope for a better showing next year. On the plus side, the team’s late-season performance offered some obvious reasons for optimism, and even the youngsters who arrived with the September roster expansion showed flashes of productivity.
Here are the three most promising performances from the late-season arrivals:
1. Dave Sappelt can hit major league pitching now
He’s no Miguel Cabrera, but Sappelt improved dramatically over his shaky performance with the Reds in last September’s trial run. The pint-sized outfielder—nicknamed “Mighty Mouse” by Dusty Baker while in Cincy—hit .275 and slugged .449 in 26 games in a Cub uniform.
Those numbers added 30 points in batting and 130 in slugging to what he’d shown previously at the Major League level, making Sappelt a legitimate candidate for a reserve outfield spot next season. He’s not going to be a superstar, but every team needs solid utility players of the kind he looks ready to become.
2. Chris Rusin has the mental toughness to be a starter
For all that Chris Rusin won two of his five decisions in his major league debut, his 6.37 ERA doesn’t exactly mark him as a future star. Still, the young lefty showed one crucial trait for any pitcher: the ability to handle adversity.
The best example comes from Rusin’s last start, when an error on catcher Anthony Recker gave the Diamondbacks a 2-1 first-inning lead. Rusin could easily have fallen into a “here we go again” mentality (he’d surrendered a combined 11 runs in his previous two outings), but instead found his stride and didn’t allow another run in his five innings of work.
3. Tony Campana knows what to do with his skill set
Although Campana was up and down from Triple-A all year, his last trip up was with the Cubs’ September call-ups. Once he was back at Wrigley, he went right back to doing what he’d been doing all year: hitting ground balls and stealing bases.
Campana’s blazing speed is the only reason for a major league team to consider keeping him around, and having racked up 30 steals in 33 tries—plus a wide variety of infield hits—is a good start. Now, if only he could learn to take some pitches and increase his dismal walk totals (11 in nearly 200 plate appearances on the year), he might start looking like a full-fledged leadoff man.