MESA, Ariz. -- Let’s put a lid on the Chicago Cubs' 2013 spring training, their last at HoHoKam Park (which the Cubs have called their spring home since 1997) and the longest in history due to the World Baseball Classic.
There were some mundane days, but even for a team coming off 101 losses, there were plenty of storylines, players and moments of interest. Here’s the wrap-up:
Spring record: 16-18-1
Batting average leader (min. 20 at-bats): Brian Bogusevic, .410
HR leader: Alfonso Soriano, 5
RBI leader: Dioner Navarro, 16
ERA leader (min. 10 innings): Chris Rusin, 1.93
Most impressive veteran: It was close between David DeJesus and Starlin Castro; the latter missed two weeks but never missed a beat. DeJesus gets the nod simply because he was consistently good at the plate from day one to the end. He finally went a game without a hit because he got only one at-bat on the final day. Before that he was on fire, hitting in 14 straight and batting .364 in Cactus League play overall. And many of his outs were hit as hard as his hits.
Most impressive prospect: It’s closer than you might think between Jorge Soler and Javier Baez. Baez was simply better later in camp so that’s what people remember. Asking the experts, Soler is more refined at the plate and perhaps in the field as well -- but Baez has more flair. Soler did more of his damage in batting practice before games while Baez did it in games, so we’ll give the nod to him. The instincts in both players were impressive.
Best off-field moment: When Baez’s name “came up” a little too much in meetings, as one player put it, Cubs veterans decided to pull a fast one on him by dressing up his car with a major league logo and a large bumper sticker that said “Rookie on Board.” The 2011 first-round pick took it all in stride -– and had to drive with it on his car for a day.
Best on-field moment: Baez gets the nod here as well. His four home runs on seven pitches over two days broke up the monotony of camp and created a buzz. They were also rocket shots. Honorable mention goes to Jeff Samardzija, who hit two home runs in his first four at-bats of the spring.
Best quote: This goes to Dale Sveum, when he called a back-of-the-shoulder ailment to Junior Lake a “trapeze” injury. He was trying to say “trapezoid.” He was wrong there, too.
Strangest spring moment: It didn’t occur on the field, but a massive hailstorm that also brought snow caught everyone off guard. Samardzija was pelted while putting on the 12th hole, while players’ cars were covered in the wintry mess. The fields and grass parking lots the next day were soaked.