The Chicago Cubs are in the middle of a long-term rebuilding plan. They are building the team through the draft and their farm system is now one of the best in baseball. Many of those prospects are still a year away, so many Cubs fans are already looking ahead to the 2015 season.
Expect the Cubs roster to looks drastically different by the end of the season. Jeff Samardzija may even be traded before the season begins.
New manager Rick Renteria takes over a team of mostly cheap role players keeping seats warm until Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant are ready to appear in the Majors.
Can Starlin Castro regain his All-Star form? Will Anthony Rizzo make a leap forward and become a better all-around hitter?
Here is the 2014 MLB season preview for the Chicago Cubs.
2013 Win/Loss Record: 66-96
Key Additions: SP Jason Hammel, RP Jose Veras, RP Wesley Wright, C George Kottaras, OF Justin Ruggiano, 2B Emilio Bonafacio & OF Chris Coghlan
Key Losses: C Dioner Navarro, RP Matt Guerrier, OF Julio Borbon & OF Brian Bogusevic
Interleague Schedule: AL East + Chicago White Sox
Projected Starters: Welington Castillo, Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Luis Valbuena, Starlin Castro, Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano & Nate Schierholtz
Projected Starting Rotation: Jeff Smaradzija, Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Jake Arrieta & Jason Hammel
Closer: Jose Veras
Fantasy Sleeper: OF Justin Ruggiano – It’s hard to pick a fantasy sleeper on the Cubs this year. I expect their 40-man roster to constantly be in flux. They have a handful of blue-chip bats nearing a call-up. If you assume Mike Olt, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez most of the season in the minors, Ruggiano is my pick as a sleeper late in deep league fantasy drafts. He has power and can hit for average. Ryan Sweeney could split time with him, so that hurts his value. Keep an eye on Olt, Bryant, Soler and Baez’s progress in March. If any one of those players are poised to start the season on the roster, they are worth a flyer as well.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: 2B Javier Baez – Baez is one of the best prospects in all of baseball. He hit a total of 37 homers and batted .282 in 130 games in a season when he split time between high-A and Double-A. If he impresses enough in Spring Training, there’s an outside shot he could start the season with the club. It’s a slim chance, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. Also, 3B Kris Bryant is in the same boat. The Cubs have little to lose giving either one of them Major league experience.
Team Analysis: Chicago is a team trying to figure out their future. 2014 will be used to try out which players they want to keep as their elite minor league talent begins to move up throughout the season. They did attempt to lure Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka to the team, but that was a move to enhance their future. All of their offseason signings are cheap rentals to fill out their roster. They hope to luck out once again and possibly move a few of them for prospects like they did with Scott Feldman last season. Manager Rick Renteria has a very long leash, as was brought in to nurture the young talent and hopefully get Starlin Castro back on track. The NL Central race will be tight with the Pirates, Cardinals and Reds all looking like potential playoff teams, but the Cubs will end the season at or near the bottom. The Cubs are in a great position for 2015 and if they can get a top-tier pitching prospect for Nate Schierholtz at the trade deadline, this season will be exactly what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer planned. I hate to say this even before the season begins, but ‘Wait ‘Til Next Year’ is already being said in Wrigleyville.
2014 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 69.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2014 Projected Win/Loss Record: 68-94 (5th in NL Central)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.