Friday, April 7, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Chicago Cubs


The Chicago Cubs made history in 2016 and finally ended the curse that kept them from winning a championship since 1908.  Can they make history again in 2017 and repeat?

My 2016 Predictions
1st in NL Central, lose in NLDS
Jake Arrieta will spend at least 1-2 months on the DL.

2016 Results
103-58, 1st in NL Central, won the World Series
Going into the 2016 season, few would argue against the fact that the Cubs were the most talented team in the league.  Being so young, I thought they were one or two years away from finally putting it all together.  I was wrong.  They dominated the regular season and showed that destiny was on their side by making their way all the way to the championship.  It is impressive to pull off something like this when the pressure of so much futility is on your backs.  The Cubs overcame that and did the impossible.  As for my Fearless Prediction, Jake Arrieta may not have ended up on the DL, but he did see a drop off in production as his work load finally caught up with him.

Additions / Subtractions
The scary part when you think about the 2017 Cubs is they are bringing back almost the exact same roster they had in 2016.  Very few changes were made simply because so much of their roster is so young.  Aroldis Chapman went back to the Yankees, but the Cubs traded Jorge Soler to the Royals for the dominant Wade Davis.  Jason Hammel signed elsewhere in free agency, but he was replaced with veteran Brett Anderson.  Dexter Fowler signed with the Cardinals, but he was replaced internally with the Cubs' outstanding farm system.  Not to mention, Kyle Schwarber is now healthy, considered one of the best young hitters in baseball.

Most Important Hitter
Jason Heyward
If anyone on the Cubs was disappointed by the way the 2016 season turned out, it was Jason Heyward.  After signing the huge contract before 2016, Heyward's bat fell asleep, leading to a .230 average with 7 home runs and 49 RBI's.  This led to Heyward watching most of the postseason from the bench.  The Cubs are talented all over the field, but unless Heyward starts to produce at the plate like he is capable of, 2016 might be remembered for both the World Series win and one of the worst free agent contracts ever given.

Most Important Pitcher
Kyle Hendricks
For the second year in a row, a pitcher for the Cubs came out of nowhere and is now considered one of the best in the game.  2015 brought us Jake Arrieta.  2016 brought us Kyle Hendricks.  Although the Cubs' lineup is filled with young talent, their starting rotation is quite old, with Hendricks the only pitcher under 30 starting the year in the rotation.  With Jon Lester continuing to age and Jake Arrieta entering his contract year, the Cubs need Hendricks to emerge as the ace of the staff moving into the future.

Player to Watch
Albert Almora, Jr.
The player benefiting the most from the absence of Dexter Fowler in the Cubs' outfield is rookie Albert Almora, Jr.  Almora got a decent run last season, playing in 47 games.  He barely kept his rookie status for 2017, and now he is entering the season as the team's starting centerfielder.  The Cubs have an outstanding farm system, but Almora is one of the few great prospects they have that is poised to make an impact for the Cubs this season.  Some might have an impact through trade, but Almora will be patrolling the outfield for the Cubs for awhile.

2017 Prediction
1st in NL Central, lose in NLCS
The Cubs are once again the most talented team in baseball.  I see them once again having the best record in baseball.  With all that said, it is extremely hard to win back-to-back World Series championships.  It hasn't happened in almost 20 years, and it has only happened three times for a National League team.  (One of those three just happens to be the last time the Cubs won...)  The Cubs will have a good run, but I see the age of their pitching catch up to them, leaving them just short of the World Series.

Fearless Prediction
The Chicago Cubs will set the record for most wins in a season in 2017.
I see the Cubs writing a similar script to the Golden State Warriors in 2017.  The Warriors were the up-and-coming team everyone loved that played their way to a championship in 2015.  The 2016 Warriors won more games than any other NBA team in history, but they couldn't win the title.  I see the Cubs following a similar path.  Everyone loved the 2016 Cubs as they won their title.  With the makeup of this team, I could see them respond this season by having a historic run.  However, it seems every historic run ends in something less than a championship.  Look for the Cubs to top the 116 win total set by the 2001 Mariners and the 1906 Cubs.

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