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Chicago Cubs 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant

After a shorter offseason than any team in baseball history had ever known, the Cubs got off to a very slow start in 2017. By the end of the year, though, they reached their third straight NLCS. In 2018, they have a good chance to reach a fourth straight. New coaches surround manager Joe Maddon, and the pitching staff features a bevy of new names with fresher arms, headlined by the big addition of presumed ace Yu Darvish. Given the youth and polish of their positional core, the team figures to be firing on all cylinders by Opening Day. 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the CUBS

“They’re the obvious favorites in the Central again. It’s a seasoned veteran lineup with depth and good balance of lefty and righty hitters. Their infield is one of the best in baseball, the backbone of the team offensively and a tremendously athletic defensive unit. Ben Zobrist didn’t hit much last season, but his versatility still helps them so much. They need to get Kyle Schwarber going, or trade him. He’ll never be an average defender because he does not run well and get good jumps. He’s a dead low-ball hitter who gets exploited up in the zone, and he’s so disciplined that he can seem apprehensive with his approach. But the biggest question is Jason Heyward. He just doesn’t have very good bat speed. I like Albert Almora’s ability; they just need to let him play. Their rotation is very strong, with Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks, as well as the additions of Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Steve Cishek and Brandon Morrow were smart signings for the pen.”

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Beyond the Box Score

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Money's Coming

The Cubs stayed under the luxury-tax threshold in 2017 and are hoping to do so in 2018 as well. That would set them up to pursue one of the elite talents likely to hit next winter’s free agent market, such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. More important, however, their current local TV deal expires after 2019, and whatever replaces it should bring a new windfall of cash that could render tax concerns moot.

Bryce and Bryant, BFFs?

 Harper, especially, has become a hot topic among Cubs fans, who cite not only his admiring public comments about the team, ballpark and fan base, but his connection to Kris Bryant. Both men are from Las Vegas; they’re nine months apart in age; and Bryant’s father coached Harper when Harper was young. 

Everything but the Ivy

 The renovation of 104-year-old Wrigley Field is so radical that it no longer looks or feels like the community ballpark it was even 10 years ago. Replacing the main seating bowl has accommodated the installation of clubs for elite season-ticket holders; foul territory continues to disappear as premium seating creeps in; and land on either side of the stadium has been repurposed as an extension of the park.

Consolidating Power

In an era that sees power move mostly from the manager’s office to the front office, manager Joe Maddon has reversed that flow. While team president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer still make all final decisions, Maddon’s new coaching staff includes guys with whom he has a long, happy history (including Jim Hickey and Chili Davis) in the places of guys whom the front office hired, in some cases before Maddon even arrived. Gone, too, are players in whom Maddon has shown little trust, such as Miguel Montero and Hector Rondon.

The Skinny Jansen

Carl Edwards Jr. throws a fastball with such singular cutting action that it could just as easily be called a cutter, and it would join that of Dodgers relief ace Kenley Jansen as the hardest such pitch in baseball. What Edwards lacks, so far, is Jansen’s pinpoint command. That’s where Hickey could come in. Under his tutelage, pitchers have generally adopted deliveries with less momentum but greater stability, leading to better control. Though Jansen outweighs Edwards by 100 pounds, their arm slots are similar, and Jansen uses a lower-effort delivery. Hickey could try to shape Edwards in Jansen’s image. 

Projected Lineup

CF    Ian Happ (S) 
3B    Kris Bryant (R) 
1B    Anthony Rizzo (L) 
C     Willson Contreras (R) 
LF    Kyle Schwarber (L)
SS    Addison Russell (R) 
RF    Jason Heyward (L)
2B    Javier Baez (R) 
C     Victor Caratini (S)
UT   Ben Zobrist (S)
OF   Albert Almora (R)
INF   Tommy La Stella (L)
RHP     Yu Darvish
LHP     Jon Lester
RHP     Kyle Hendricks
LHP     Jose Quintana
RHP     Tyler Chatwood
RHP     Brandon Morrow 
RHP     Pedro Strop
RHP     Carl Edwards Jr.
RHP     Steve Cishek
LHP     Justin Wilson
RHP     Justin Grimm
LHP     Brian Duensing

LHP     Mike Montgomery