Middle of the Pack- Preview 2020 Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs decided they didn’t need to do much this offseason, in fact they decided that less is more.  Chicago decided that it was time for a change. They started with their manager, out goes Joe Maddon, in comes David Ross.  They didn’t stop with the coach. They continued to allow players to walk out the door without much effort to re-sign anyone.  Departing from the windy city, Cole Hamels, Nick Castellanos, Pedro Strop, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Steve Cishek. The Cubs still have a great roster…right?

Lineup- The core is still awesome.

The Cubs still have their core lineup intact.  Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Wilson Contreras and Jayson Heward (I guess he counts) all still make up one of the most fearsome lineups in the national league.  

The center field position is the biggest question mark with the biggest potential.  Ian Happ and Albert Amora will battle for the job with the winner most likely being Happ as he brings more potential with the bat than Almora.  Happ has a wRC+ of 127 in his 58 games last season compared to Almora’s 64 in 130 games. Chicago would love a resurgence of Steven Souza Jr. who will be returning to Major League Baseball in 2020.  It’s hard to project much out of Souza Jr. until he performs in the game.  

Second base is another spot that is up for grabs in the Chicago lineup.  Cubs top prospect Nico Hoerner is the frontrunner for the job. Veterans Daniel Descalso and Jason Kipnis will compete for the position but if Nico Hoerner shows anything during the spring he should be the name written into the lineup on opening day.  

The Rotation is questionable. 

Projected Rotation:  Kyle Hendricks, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and Tyler Chatwood.

The Cubs decided to let Cole Hamels walk while not having a real plan as to who they were going to replace him with. The only off-season addition of note for the rotation was Jharel Cotton who has pitched in the majors since 2017.  Chicago will rely on their veteran starters to stay healthy and improve on their performances from 2019. A healthy Darvish is a step in the right direction for the rotation. A bounce back year from Jose Quintana is needed for the organization, Quintana’s 1.39 WHIP going along with a hard hit percentage of 38.2 were both the highest of his career. Quintana will never be a guy that will strike out a lot of batters, he has to reinforce his pitch to light contact approach and allow his solid defense to back him up.  

Bullpen- Kimbrel has to bounce back.

The Cubs have Craig Kimbrel.  While he wasn’t the shutdown closer he has shown in his career he will have a full off-season to prepare.  Kimbrel has to be the cornerstone of a bullpen that has a lot of questions. In front of Kimbrel the Cubs will feature some unproven arms Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan, Dan Winkler and Brad Wieck. Chicago added a former closer Jeremy Jefferess hoping to get the dominant player of 2018.  If Jefferess is able to perform to his potential the Cubs could have a solid 1-2 punch in the back end.   

Conclusion

Pecota projections have the Cubs with 85 wins, putting them behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.  The Cubs offsense can compete with anybody. Putting Kris Bryant in the leadoff spot should be interesting but they have the power behind him for that to make enough sense.   The question will be whether or not the starting staff can stay healthy and perform better than they did in 2019. The bullpen has some solid pieces to keep them inthe mix.  

David Ross’s first year as manager doesn’t worry me at all.  Catchers are basically managers in training and Ross should command the respect of a reltively veteran team.   The Cubs farm system ranks 28th (bleacher report) so if they do need to make a big move at the deadline that can be difficult.  The Cubs will compete for a playoff spot but I don’t see how this team has a chance to win the Central over the Cardinals and Braves.  The Cubs are in a place of mediocrity. Wouldn’s shock me to see some panic if they get out to a slow start. Kris Bryant may be the guy on the move.

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