First off, let me tell you that I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan. There arecertain things Cubs fans aren’t comfortable doing, one of them is boasting how this is finally the year they will win the World Series. We know better than that and are often more critical about the team. We don’t like to get our hopes up since they have always been shattered in laughable fashion.
The Cubs made some huge moves this offseason. The newly-signed veterans will allow some of their younger players to platoon.
Here is the 2016 MLB season preview for the Chicago Cubs.
2015 Win/Loss Record: 97-65
Key Additions: SP John Lackey, OF Jason Heyward, 2B Ben Zobrist, SP Adam Warren, RP Rex Brothers, RP Aaron Crow, RP Jean Machi, OF Shane Victorino, RP C.J. Riefenhauser, C Tim Federowicz, SS Munenori Kawasaki & OF Matt Murton
Key Losses: SS Starlin Castro, OF Chris Coghlan, SP Dan Haren, OF Austin Jackson, OF Chris Denorfia, RP Jason Motte, RP James Russell, RP Tommy Hunter, RP Phil Coke & Fernando Rodney
Interleague Schedule: AL West
Projected Starters: Miguel Montero, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Dexter Fowler & Jason Heyward
Projected Starting Rotation: Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel & Kyle Hendricks
Closer: Hector Rondon
Fantasy Sleeper: 2B/OF Javier Baez – Arismendy Alcantara started out last season as a potential ‘utility’ player in hopes the Cubs could use him at second base and outfield. Alcantara started out April hitting well below the Mendoza line. He found himself in the minors the rest of the season. The Cubs are playing Baez some in centerfield in Spring Training. The infield is crowded since they added Zobrist, so Baez will need to learn centerfield if he hopes to stick with the Major League club out of Spring Training. His batting average won’t be pretty, but he will still have middle infield eligibility this season and his power is hard to ignore.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: OF Billy McKinney – It’s really hard to pick a prospect to watch this season for the Cubs. They’ve called up nearly all the blue chippers and many of the top prospects in their farm system aren’t ready to contribute or are blocked by someone on the Major league roster. McKinney was acquired in the Samardzija/Hammel deal from Oakland in 2014. He’s young and doesn’t have much power, but he could hit for a nice average in the Majors. We may not see him until 2017 at the earliest.
Team Analysis: The Cubs are coming off an amazing year. Their youngsters were able to hit (and hit well) and they ended the year with 97 wins. Not bad for a team picked to finish near the middle of the pack in NL Central last season.
The Cubs made a few big signings this offseason. They stole John Lackey and Jason Heyward from the Cardinals and signed super-utility player Ben Zobrist. All three players have postseason experience with Lackey winning World Series rings in 2002 (Angels) and 2013 (Red Sox).
This young team needed more veterans and that’s what Theo Epstein brought to the team. David Ross played a huge role as mentor last season and he now has help. John Lackey will also help shoulder some of the load away from Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester.
As I said earlier, I’m a Cubs fan, so I tend to be underwhelmingly optimistic (if that’s a word), coming into a new season. I hope they do well, but I tend to hide those feelings in case of the expected curse-ish letdown. The NL Central will be tough to win once again, but the Cubs have enough firepower to keep up with the Cardinals and Pirates.
2016 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 94 (Prediction: OVER)
2016 Projected Win/Loss Record: 95-67 (1st 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.