Cubs prepare for World Series repeat

Cubs prepare for World Series repeat

Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs successfully ended the longest championship drought — 108 years — in any major sport this past season.

They have looked strong during spring training with the likes of prospects Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez, Jr. coming on strong and giving the team a great problem to have — too many good players and not enough positions for them.

The team is looking for a repeat as World Series Champions for the first time since 1907-1908, but it will be no easy task as it now has a target on its back.

Unlike Cubs teams in the past, this team is stacked with a great mix of young talent that is still improving such as reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and, of course, Kyle “The Schwarbino” Schwarber, who has yet to play close to a full season of baseball.

The team also has a solid core of veteran leaders such as Jon Lester, John Lackey, Miguel Montero, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo, even though Rizzo is just entering his fifth full season as an MLB player as he is is only 27 years old, and is considered by many to be one of the leaders of this team.

Players to watch

As previously mentioned, there are several marquee players on the big league team to watch, but the two most interesting are Baez and Schwarber.

Baez is one of the best fielders in the game, making flashy tags and plays all over the infield, but the Cubs still have Zobrist signed for three more seasons, creating a log jam in the middle infield.

This is a great problem to have, as Zobrist and Baez are both capable of playing the outfield, with Zobrist more of a corner outfielder and Baez capable of playing a respectable center field when needed. This could come in handy, especially if outfielder Jason Heyward’s struggles continue this season.

Heyward changed his swing during the offseason and remains one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball, but eventually the team will have to think about benching him if the hitting struggles persist.

Schwarber has already put himself into the Cubs’ record books with the most postseason home runs before playing an entire season.

His monster home runs are something out of a movie, but after tearing his ACL in the third game of the 2016 season, he no longer is expected to be a catcher but more of a corner outfielder.

He struggles on defense, and after injuring himself in the outfield this past season, it will be something to watch throughout the year.

Surely the team will not take his bat out of the lineup, but the question is how many games will he play this season. I’d expect him to play around 120 games this season.

Though he’s improved, he still struggles against left-handed pitchers, and the Cubs will not want to push their luck while he returns from injury.

Another player to watch is prospect Ian Happ. He was sent to minor league camp March 27 after an impressive spring training with five home runs and 17 RBIs while batting .392. He is projected to be a Zobrist-type player, as he can play second base and the outfield.

Tony Andracki, Cubs secondary beat writer for Comcast SportsNet, said the only way Happ will reach the majors is if there is an injury or two at the major league level.

This is a good problem, as the Cubs are one of the deepest teams in all of baseball on the offensive end, which, if need be, could lead to a trade deadline deal for a pitcher if Jake Arrieta is unable to return to Cy Young form or if an injury occurs.

Happ will most likely receive the Bryant and Schwarber treatment and be untouchable in trades, but if the right offer is given, the Cubs could be forced to listen.

Division foes

The N.L. Central will be one of the weaker divisions in baseball, as it has two of the worst teams in baseball in the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.

The Reds have a slew of young pitching talent, but that does not always translate to major league wins, and outside of Joey Votto, their lineup has a lot of unproven players.

They do have prospect third baseman Nick Senzel, but he may not be called up until later in the season. Adam Duvall is another young talent who broke out this past year but relying on young pitching will make for a long, difficult year for this team.

The St. Louis Cardinals are always a pesky team, but they may not have the starting pitching and the consistent bats to hang with the Cubs; but with shortstop Aledmys Diaz, pitcher Carlos Martinez, second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Stephen Piscotty, they have a great, young core to build around and could potentially challenge the Cubs for the division championship.

However, lack of pitching depth will catch up to them mid-season and will falter out of the playoff picture late.

The toughest opponent this season for the Cubs in the Central division will be the Pittsburgh Pirates.

They have one of the deepest pitching rotations in baseball with Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova and two young studs in Tyler Glasnow and James Taillon as well as veteran outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte.

They also have outfielder Gregory Polanco and first baseman Josh Bell, who is one of the better prospects in all of baseball, to support the pitching staff.

The trade rumors about McCutchen will again surface until the July 31 trade deadline passes will affect his performance throughout the first half before the team settles down and makes a late playoff push.

The push will inevitably fall short as the Cubs will remain consistent with their play throughout the year and again take over as division champions.

The Chicago Cubs successfully ended the longest championship drought — 108 years — in any major sport this past season. They have looked strong during spring training with the likes of prospects Ian Happ and Eloy Jimenez, Jr. coming on strong and giving the team a great problem to have — too many good players and not enough positions for them. The team is looking for a repeat as World Series Champions for the first time since 1907-1908, but it will be no easy task as it now has a target on its back. Unlike Cubs teams in the past, this team is stacked with a great mix of young talent that is still improving such as reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Addison Russell and, of course, Kyle “The Schwarbino” Schwarber, who has yet to play close to a full season of baseball. The team also has a solid core of veteran leaders such as Jon Lester, John Lackey, Miguel Montero, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo, even though Rizzo is just entering his fifth full season as an MLB player as he is is only 27 years old, and is considered by many to be one of the leaders of this team. 

Players to watchAs previously mentioned, there are several marquee players on the big league team to watch, but the two most interesting are Baez and Schwarber. Baez is one of the best fielders in the game, making flashy tags and plays all over the infield, but the Cubs still have Zobrist signed for three more seasons, creating a log jam in the middle infield. This is a great problem to have, as Zobrist and Baez are both capable of playing the outfield, with Zobrist more of a corner outfielder and Baez capable of playing a respectable center field when needed. This could come in handy, especially if outfielder Jason Heyward’s struggles continue this season. Heyward changed his swing during the offseason and remains one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball, but eventually the team will have to think about benching him if the hitting struggles persist.  Schwarber has already put himself into the Cubs’ record books with the most postseason home runs before playing an entire season. His monster home runs are something out of a movie, but after tearing his ACL in the third game of the 2016 season, he no longer is expected to be a catcher but more of a corner outfielder. He struggles on defense, and after injuring himself in the outfield this past season, it will be something to watch throughout the year. Surely the team will not take his bat out of the lineup, but the question is how many games will he play this season. I’d expect him to play around 120 games this season. Though he’s improved, he still struggles against left-handed pitchers, and the Cubs will not want to push their luck while he returns from injury. Another player to watch is prospect Ian Happ. He was sent to minor league camp March 27 after an impressive spring training with five home runs and 17 RBIs while batting .392. He is projected to be a Zobrist-type player, as he can play second base and the outfield. Tony Andracki, Cubs secondary beat writer for Comcast SportsNet, said the only way Happ will reach the majors is if there is an injury or two at the major league level. This is a good problem, as the Cubs are one of the deepest teams in all of baseball on the offensive end, which, if need be, could lead to a trade deadline deal for a pitcher if Jake Arrieta is unable to return to Cy Young form or if an injury occurs. Happ will most likely receive the Bryant and Schwarber treatment and be untouchable in trades, but if the right offer is given, the Cubs could be forced to listen. 

Division foesThe N.L. Central will be one of the weaker divisions in baseball, as it has two of the worst teams in baseball in the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers. The Reds have a slew of young pitching talent, but that does not always translate to major league wins, and outside of Joey Votto, their lineup has a lot of unproven players. They do have prospect third baseman Nick Senzel, but he may not be called up until later in the season. Adam Duvall is another young talent who broke out this past year but relying on young pitching will make for a long, difficult year for this team. The St. Louis Cardinals are always a pesky team, but they may not have the starting pitching and the consistent bats to hang with the Cubs; but with shortstop Aledmys Diaz, pitcher Carlos Martinez, second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Stephen Piscotty, they have a great, young core to build around and could potentially challenge the Cubs for the division championship. However, lack of pitching depth will catch up to them mid-season and will falter out of the playoff picture late. The toughest opponent this season for the Cubs in the Central division will be the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have one of the deepest pitching rotations in baseball with Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova and two young studs in Tyler Glasnow and James Taillon as well as veteran outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte. They also have outfielder Gregory Polanco and first baseman Josh Bell, who is one of the better prospects in all of baseball, to support the pitching staff. The trade rumors about McCutchen will again surface until the July 31 trade deadline passes