Cubs’ IF Nick Madrigal; Photograph by way of Minda Haas Kuhlmann
It’s no secret the Chicago Cubs have been in rebuild mode for the reason that 2020 offseason after they traded Yu Darvish for subsequent to nothing after he completed second in NL Cy Younger voting. On the 2021 commerce deadline, the membership moved a complete of 9 gamers in every week and adjusted the trajectory of the franchise for years to return. For reference, Kyle Hendricks is the one participant from the 2016 World Collection Championship crew nonetheless with the membership. The Cubs weren’t in a position to attain any extension offers with their core items, resulting in anarchy on the 2021 deadline.
The World Collection years had been over, and Chicago started constructing one thing new. Lots of the prospects acquired over the past two seasons are beginning to have an effect, which is why the Cubs are ranked across the #10 farm system baseball, relying on which rating system you take a look at.
Final season, the Cubs weren’t good. The crew ranked within the backside third of the league in worth produced by offense, pitching, and fielding. It was irritating to look at as a result of the Cubs had been crying broke, although they’re within the third largest media market within the nation, in accordance with Nielsen. They had been a big market crew performing just like the Pirates, who the Cubs had been barely higher than.
The largest challenge was pitching. The Cubs’ starters and relievers ranked twenty fourth and twenty eighth, respectively, in worth produced final season, which is problematic and highlights an organizational challenge. Scott Effross was one of the best pitcher on the crew final yr, however they traded him to the Yankees on the deadline regardless of his 5 extra years of crew management. Justin Steele was the next-best pitcher, and Marcus Stroman confirmed flashes of his previous self however general had simply an okay yr. Nobody was actually dealing.
Kyle Hendricks is holding the rotation again; he’s previous his prime and unable to supply significant worth. There’s some hope for the longer term in Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson, who’re younger and can get higher with time. In any other case, there may be a lot to be desired. In free company, they signed Jameson Taillon and Michael Fulmer. Tallion is a strong addition. He isn’t a strikeout king but in addition doesn’t stroll individuals. Fulmer provides depth to a depleted bullpen and has a chance to bounce again after regression within the second half of 2022. He has seemed nice this spring, which is hopefully an indication of what’s to return.
Offensively, the 2022 Cubs struggled to constantly plate runs. There was a whole lot of swing-and-miss within the lineup, and lots of rookies had been studying easy methods to hit on the main league degree. The lineup development was not balanced. Key gamers like Zach McKinstry and Nick Madrigal lacking prolonged time led to the shortcomings. Moreover, offense was down throughout the league in 2022. That isn’t to say Chicago’s lackluster offensive season was acceptable, nevertheless it additionally was not an area downside. The Cubs’ present lineup would possibly profit from the MLB’s new rule adjustments and bounce again in a giant manner.
The possession group invested in hitters this offseason, bringing in Cody Bellinger, Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini, and Dansby Swanson. They improved, particularly defensively, however the Cubs nonetheless don’t seem like they’ll compete for the division crown. Bellinger is an fascinating story due to what his ceiling is: MVP-caliber baseball. In fact, that could be a degree he hasn’t performed at constantly since 2019. He would possibly profit from the change of surroundings; worst case state of affairs, he’s on a one-year deal. There is no such thing as a such factor as a foul one-year deal. Hosmer is an improve within the lineup however a borderline legal responsibility at first base, rating within the thirtieth percentile for Outs Above Common. Mancini can DH and presents extra energy to the lineup. Getting Dansby was the most important transfer of the offseason. He’s signed by the following 7 years and appears to be the centerpiece for the Cubs to construct round. Whereas not being identified for his energy like the opposite free agent signings, Swanson, together with Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal, presents a great contact bat to stability out the sluggers within the lineup.
On the opposite aspect of the coin, they misplaced Willson Contreras, among the best offensive catchers within the league, to the St. Louis Cardinals. Filling the void will likely be troublesome; they are going to most likely platoon at catcher, with Tucker Barnhart being the on a regular basis catcher. That is nothing of notice; he presents little or no, however Chicago wants somebody to catch the ball.
The farm system is loaded with outfield expertise. Pete Crow-Armstrong, acquired from the Mets in change for Javier Baez and Trevor Williams, is essentially the most touted prospect within the system. Crow-Armstrong presents a lot pleasure for the longer term. Nevertheless, participant growth has been a hurdle in recent times. Progress from inside has been restricted, and there have been few homegrown items to succeed lately. OFs Brennan Davis and Kevin Alcántra hope to alter that and are the following largest names within the farm system. The Cubs could have a backlog of proficient outfielders within the coming years, which is an effective downside to have.
There’s additionally concern relating to pitching growth. Only some groups have this side of the sport found out, and the Cubs try to change into one in every of them. Hayden Wesneski and Caleb Kilian have each had robust outings this spring and are combating for spots within the pitching rotation. Each younger studs had been acquired by trades over the past two years. Wesneski was the headliner of the Scott Effross commerce, and Kilian was part of the Kris Bryant commerce. Cade Horton and Jordan Wicks are the 2 largest pitching prospects nonetheless within the farm system and want at the very least one other yr to develop earlier than they’re near MLB-ready.
Merely put, the Cubs should not in a spot to problem the Cardinals for the division, however they’ve the next ceiling than most suppose. They’ll compete with the Brewers purely due to the Brewers’ lack of offense. The Cubs lineup has upside, however there’s a little little bit of a backlog of place gamers, which suggests the lineup may be altering each day. The season objective for this younger membership is to win the season collection towards the Pirates, Reds, and Brewers and end second within the division. Reaching that might be an enormous step ahead. Their ceiling is what the pitching will permit, which sadly doesn’t seem like something nice. This membership is shifting in the correct course, however holes nonetheless must be addressed, whether or not by free company or inner growth. This crew wants extra time earlier than it’s again to October constantly, and that’s okay. The rebuilding course of is sluggish, however the progress seen from the acquired items is big and one thing Cub followers needs to be enthusiastic about. It might all the time be worse; bear in mind, the Rockies exist.