Chicago Cubs 2020: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

How will things shape up in the NL Central?

The party that was the Joe Maddon Era on Chicago's North Side ended with a whimper in 2019 as the team finished third in the NL Central. Now, the Cubs have a new (but familiar) skipper in former catcher David Ross, and a new mandate: stay competitive while reloading for a longer-term window of contention. The team’s core hasn’t become the foundation of a dynasty, the front office has made some mistakes in free agency, and ownership has now pulled tightly on the purse strings. Nonetheless, the Cubs have ample talent, a newfound chip on their big shoulders and an offense that still threatens to bludgeon the rest of the division — if things break right.

 

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Cubs

Chicago Cubs logo“It seems now like it was too much, too soon for this group. They’ve got tons of talent, a good mix of veterans and young guys — it’s not like they loaf or do dumb things regularly. It just doesn’t add up. It’s a little bit like they’re just going to an office and punching a clock; maybe having David Ross as manager will shake them up. There’s still room for Javy Baez to get even better; he’s already a star, but incredibly he’s only 27, and he can continue to refine his approach. Jason Heyward looked like he was moving his hips better last year and turning on some balls, so that was a positive, and you always know what you’ll get from Anthony Rizzo. Yu Darvish looked like his best stuff was back, and Jon Lester’s a bulldog; he’s not who he was, but he’s still effective. Craig Kimbrel was a mess last season, but they’ve got to trust that with a full spring training, he can be a top closer again. There’s still a lot of talent here, and you wouldn’t be surprised if they found a way to win the Central.”

 

Beyond the Box Score

 

Marquee Attraction This season will be the team’s first on its new, independent TV network, which the club expects to be a more lucrative model than their previous relationship with NBC Sports Chicago. The question, of course, is whether the team’s new carriage agreements with cable companies throughout their region will provide enough cash to make the Ricketts family more eager to spend the big bucks required for the team to remain competitive.

 

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A Finished Product? After years of expensive, substantial and highly lucrative renovations, the team has nearly completed its makeover of Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ 106-year-old home has always been a cash cow, but now it’s virtually a mint, and the fans can reckon with the positives and negatives of the changes in a more permanent way.

 

Missed Opportunities For the second consecutive winter, generational talents hit free agency, and for the second consecutive winter, the Cubs watched them sign elsewhere without making serious offers. The Ricketts family has imposed artificial payroll constraints on the front office, curbing the team’s ability to press its advantage over the rest of the division and costing them the chance to add elite talent.

 

Awkward? David Ross — a longtime teammate of Jon Lester and Jason Heyward, an early mentor to Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and a key recruiter when the team signed Craig Kimbrel last June — now must manage people he has considered dear friends and confidants. Everyone inside the Chicago front office believes the revered Ross can strike that balance, but it’s an unusual and tricky dynamic.

 

Deficient Defense The first two of Joe Maddon’s Cubs teams were, arguably, among the 10 best defensive teams in baseball history. The last few seasons have seen things take a sharp and ugly turn. With the rest of the league excelling in defensive shifting and prioritizing athleticism, the Cubs have fallen behind and become an old, slow unit. They need to change that in 2020, in order for their pitching staff to enjoy a bounce-back season.

 

Age Before … ? Even with Cole Hamels departing as a free agent, the Cubs have a veteran rotation for whom command and intellect will be more important than power. As the team watches a handful of veteran relievers depart, however, they face the prospect of a very inexperienced bullpen. Ross will be tasked with managing that group, and keeping it from imploding.

 

Projected Lineup

 

LINEUP

CF     Ian Happ (S)

3B     Kris Bryant (R)

1B     Anthony Rizzo (L)

SS     Javier Baez (R)

LF     Kyle Schwarber (L)

C       Willson Contreras (R)

RF     Jason Heyward (L)

2B     Nico Hoerner (R)

 

BENCH

C      Victor Caratini (S)

OF    Steven Souza Jr. (R)

INF   David Bote (R)

OF    Albert Almora Jr. (R)

INF   Daniel Descalso (L)

 

ROTATION

LHP     Jon Lester

RHP     Yu Darvish

RHP     Kyle Hendricks

LHP     Jose Quintana

RHP     Tyler Chatwood

 

BULLPEN

RHP     Craig Kimbrel (C)

RHP     Rowan Wick
LHP     Kyle Ryan

RHP     Jeremy Jeffress

RHP     Alec Mills

RHP     Ryan Tepera

LHP     Brad Wieck

RHP     Dan Winkler

 

2020 Prediction: 3rd in NL Central

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