Baez among Cubs looking to rebound in 2016

February 9th, 2016

Which Cubs players are looking to bounce back in 2016? As the Cubs count down to Spring Training, takes a look at some hot topics, including which players are on the rebound.

After a 97-win season, it would seem that the Cubs didn't have anyone struggle last year, but here are a few players to watch in '16:

IF Javier Baez: Baez did deliver a huge three-run homer in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals. He also batted .289 in 28 games with the Cubs in September. But the 2015 season did not begin well. Projected as the starting second baseman, Baez hit .182 in Spring Training and was assigned to Triple-A Iowa. In April, he had to deal with the tragic death of his younger sister, Noely, and missed a month. Baez then injured his hand on a slide in June that sidelined him nearly two months. With the addition of Ben Zobrist, plus Addison Russell's stellar play at shortstop, Baez is now trying to find a fit on the 25-man roster. A standout on defense, the 23-year-old could fill in at second, short or even outfield. The Cubs still need to see that he has cut down on the strikeouts (100 in 369 at-bats between the Minors and Majors in '15).

LHP Rex Brothers: In 2013, Brothers was a dominant reliever with the Rockies, posting a 1.74 ERA in 72 games and converting 19 of 21 save opportunities. But he struggled the next year -- 0-for-6 in save situations and a 5.59 ERA over 74 appearances. Brothers opened '15 in the Minor Leagues. When promoted in July, he made just three appearances before being sent down again and returning in September. He finished '15 with a 1-0 record and 1.74 ERA in 17 games. If the Cubs can get Brothers, 28, back on track, he could give them another solid late-inning lefty in the bullpen. 

RHP Neil Ramirez: Ramirez was limited to 19 games last season with the Cubs because of injuries. The 26-year-old right-hander had been projected as part of the late-inning mix after his stellar 2014 season when he compiled a 1.44 ERA over 50 games. A healthy Ramirez could take some of the pressure off set-up pitchers Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop.

OF Matt Murton: Murton had six strong seasons from 2010-15 with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan, compiling a .308 average with 77 homers and 417 RBIs. The 34-year-old redhead is now back in the United States, signing a Minor League deal with the Cubs. Chicago originally acquired Murton from the Red Sox in July 2004 as part of the Nomar Garciaparra trade. He batted .294 with 28 home runs and 104 RBIs in 308 games with the Cubs. He won't bump Jason Heyward from the lineup, but could he find a spot on the big league team? It'll be fun to watch.