The Chicago Cubs are nearing the end of a long-term rebuilding plan. It feels like Theo Epstein has been working on this plan for a decade. Many of Chicago’s young, homegrown players will be called up by the end of the year.
The Cubs made a big splash this offseason by signing Jon Lester to a long-term deal and by hiring Joe Maddon after he opted out of his contract with Tampa Bay. He turned around that franchise and is one of the smartest managers in the game.
Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Jorge Soler have Cubs fans drooling. The trio make up the corps of young talent Chicago has been developing in the minors.
Can Chicago be a real contender this season or is it a year too early?
Here is the 2015 MLB season preview for the Chicago Cubs.
2014 Win/Loss Record: 73-89
Key Additions: SP Jon Lester, C Miguel Montero, SP Jason Hammel, OF Dexter Fowler, OF Chris Denorfia, RP Phil Coke, RP Jason Motte, RP Joe Ortiz, C David Ross & RP Drake Britton
Key Losses: 3B Luis Valbuena, RP Wesley Wright, OF Justin Ruggiano, C John Baker, RP Carlos Villanueva, RP Kyuji Fujikawa, OF Ryan Kalish & SP Dan Straily
Interleague Schedule: AL Central
Projected Starters: Miguel Montero, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Tommy La Stella, Starlin Castro, Chris Coghlan, Dexter Fowler & Jorge Soler
Projected Starting Rotation: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood & Kyle Hendricks
Closer: Hector Rondon
Fantasy Sleeper: 2B/OF Arismendy Alcantara – Alcantara is a man without a position. He came through the minors as a middle infielder, but due to the Cubs abundance of talent there, he’s been pushed to the outfield. Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia are all battling for at-bats in the outfield. Alcantara is still learning the outfield position defensively, but his ability at the plate is well-rounded. He has the skills to be a 20/20 player…but that could be asking too much this season. I don’t see him getting enough at-bats to hit those marks, but I like him as a sleeper.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: 3B Kris Bryant – The Cubs farm system is absolutely loaded with bats, but the only one you need to worry about right now is Kris Bryant. He will start the year at Triple-A, but he will be called up by June. He hit 43 homers in the minors last season and many established scouting services have him as the best prospect in baseball.
Team Analysis: Cubs fans are some of the most cynical sports fans in the world. I can say that because I’m a life-long Cubs fan. I remember all the crushing defeats and the few times I gave in and believed…only to be crushed. I want to be cynical about this team, but there isn’t much I can pick apart.
The Cubs have some of the best young talent in all of baseball. Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara are just the first three to have been promoted to the Majors. They also added Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler in trades this offseason. The Cubs could have one of the most explosive offenses in baseball. New skipper Joe Maddon is known for getting the most out of every player.
The Cubs don’t have the same young talent in their rotation or bullpen. They signed Jon Lester and Jason Hammel to join Jake Arrieta as the aces of the rotation. I feel like they still have a few more signings/trades before they are a legit contender in the National League.
Chicago will take a big step in the right direction and could be a legit World Series contender by 2016 or 2017. The young bats will need to show they can do it consistently in the Majors before we can anoint them as the team of the future. It should be a fun season.
2015 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 83 (Prediction: OVER)
2015 Projected Win/Loss Record: 84-78 (3rd 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.