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Chicago Cubs 2022: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Season Prediction

Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs

With the core of the 2016 World Series winner long gone, Marcus Stroman and the new-look Cubs aim to lay the foundation for the next championship club

When did the 2021 season begin for the Cubs? Maybe it was Dec. 2, 2020, when the team non-tendered Kyle Schwarber. Or two days later, when longtime TV play-by-play announcer Len Kasper was hired to work in the radio booth for the White Sox. Or the end of that month, when the team traded Yu Darvish to the Padres for Zach Davies and three prospects. The rest of the teardown occurred at the trade deadline, with Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel all dealt for prospects. The six straight winning seasons starting in 2015 are a memory. This will be a rebuilding year, although the Cubs did dip their toes into the free agency waters to sign two of the bigger names on the market. Still, the focus will be more on waiting for the prospects to arrive and form the core of the next contending Cubs team. It won't be in 2022.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the Cubs

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"I think Frank Schwindel might be the real thing — he hit everything, not just mistakes. Patrick Wisdom was more of an all-or-nothing guy who'll run into a few homers, and Rafael Ortega can't hit lefties at all, but he showed that he should finally stick as a platoon bat. I'm not sure about their rotation; individually, I like Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Alec Mills, but collectively, I'm not sure. Stroman's a little different — he's always got a wrinkle or two to throw guys off — but I feel like teams are gonna get real comfortable facing all those pitch-to-contact guys in a row. I'd like to see them commit to Willson Contreras with a long-term deal, and I'm excited to see what Nick Madrigal can do as an everyday guy — he's a throwback kind of guy. They're a long, long way from the kind of young, powerful, patient lineup that won the World Series in 2016, so they'll have to do a lot of work in player development. But in the meantime, it's nice to see that they'll at least have a shot at being competitive."

Beyond the Box Score

Not just the players The Cubs shuffled their front office, hiring GM Carter Hawkins from Cleveland and assistant GM Ehsan Bokhari from Houston. The team has a new hitting coach (a revolving door in recent years) in Greg Brown and new assistant hitting and pitching coaches. Their task ahead, bridging to a club with young talent still in the low minors, won't be easy.

Chicago Cubs 2022 Baseball Cover

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Frank the Tank The Cubs selected Frank Schwindel on waivers after the A's designated him for assignment last July. He was 29, had played in three organizations, and was 4-for-35 in 14 major league games. He became the team's first baseman after the Anthony Rizzo trade and proceeded to win NL Rookie of the Month for both August (.344/.394/.635, 6 HRs, 18 RBIs) and September (.344/.388/.600, 7 HRs, 22 RBIs, 26 runs scored). He was one of eight NL hitters with an OPS over 1.000 over the season's final two months. Cubs fans are hoping the clock doesn't strike midnight on their 220-pound Cinderella.

Slow it down Last season, Cubs starting pitchers threw the slowest four-seam fastballs (average 91.2 mph), two-seam fastballs (89.5), and changeups (80.6) in the league. Soft-tossing Zach Davies has been replaced by soft-tossing Wade Miley, and free agent signee Marcus Stroman is a pitch-to-contact hurler. The starters' inability to miss bats (lowest strikeout rate in the league) led to a 5.27 starter ERA and an overworked bullpen (fourth-most innings in the league). It'll also put pressure on the defense.

Honoring Fergie On Opening Day, the Cubs will unveil a statue of Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins, who was 167–132 with a 3.20 ERA in 10 Cubs seasons with a franchise-record 2,038 strikeouts. His statue will join those of Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Harry Caray.

The Throwback In 2021, NL position players hit .249 and struck out in 22 percent of plate appearances. Second baseman Nick Madrigal, in four professional seasons (two in the minors, two in the majors) has never hit lower than .303 or struck out in more than eight percent of his plate appearances.

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The high point On June 24 last year, Davies and three relievers no-hit the mighty Dodgers in Los Angeles, moving the club into a first-place tie with the idle Brewers. It created hope that the team might successfully defend its 2020 division title. From that point forward, their 29–58 record was the second worst in all of baseball.

Projected Lineup

LINEUP

CF   Rafael Ortega (L)
1B    Frank Schwindel (R)
LF    Ian Happ (S)
C     Willson Contreras (R)
3B    Patrick Wisdom (R)
DH   Seiya Suzuki (R)
RF    Jason Heyward (L)
SS    Andrelton Simmons (R)
2B    Nick Madrigal (R)

BENCH

C     Yan Gomes (R)
OF   Clint Frazier (R)
UT   Jonathan Villar (S)
INF  Nico Hoerner (R)

ROTATION

RHP    Kyle Hendricks
RHP    Marcus Stroman
LHP    Wade Miley
RHP    Alec Mills
LHP    Drew Smyly

BULLPEN

RHP    David Robertson (C)
RHP    Rowan Wick
RHP    Mychal Givens
LHP    Brad Wieck
RHP    Chris Martin
RHP    Scott Effross
RHP    Manuel Rodríguez
LHP    Justin Steele

2022 Prediction: 3rd in NL Central