2014 Record – 73-89, 5th NL Central
Jon Lester, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, Jason Hammel
Luis Valbuena, Justin Ruggiano, Welington Castillo (eventually)
Projected 2015 Lineup
- CF Dexter Fowler
- LF Chris Coghlan
- 1B Anthony Rizzo
- SS Starlin Castro
- RF Jorge Soler
- 2B Javier Baez
- C Miguel Montero
- 3B Kris Bryant
Projected 2015 Starters
- Jon Lester
- Jake Arrieta
- Jason Hammel
- Kyle Hendricks
- Travis Wood
This could be the most exciting team in the baseball this year, both on the field with the long ball, and in the press room to try to predict. The variance of young talent could put this team back in the low 70’s for wins despite their additions. The rotation is a quiet strength for this team if they all play to expectation, not even potential. But the lineup will scare off safe betters. I’m confident they’ll compete for a wild card spot, but this is going to be a very intriguing team. Let’s see.
X-Factor – Miguel Montero
Pitch framing and catcher skills are two of the hottest statistical areas right now. According to Baseball Prospectus, Montero was 10th in runs added via framing and 90th in his ability to stop passed balls. In comparison, Castillo was 22nd in passed ball stopping and 102nd in framing. The big difference seems to be that Castillo was a -50 in framing and Montero is a +14, making that the bigger fix than any passed balls issue.
With the bat, Montero had a .243/.329/.370 batting line, similar to Castillo, but with an OBP about 30 points higher. Castillo has much higher power potential, but Montero is no slouch and the glove combined with the zero net loss with the bat could be a huge bonus for Chicago.
Most To Prove – Javier Baez
Oh, the swing. I love it so much. I’m not saying it’s great or even tenable. But when I can see the number on a guy from the pitcher’s perspective cam, I’m intrigued by the torque. Baez has quieted his hands, a major issue with his swing and miss, and the problem isn’t solved. The potential is there though. Baez could hit 40 HRs a year with Bryant in the middle of the Cubs order. He could also start in Triple-A…maybe even probably at this point.
There are no players in baseball with the hype of Baez that may have more to prove on the field. I hope for baseball’s sake that he proves it because he will be a very exciting player to watch in the years to come if he puts it together.
2015 Impact Prospect – Kris Bryant – 3B
The spring training stats that follow – as of 3/24 – will convince you that Bryant is ready to take over 3B on Opening Day in Chicago. .480/.552/.1.520 (yes, that’s his slugging), with 8 HRs, 7 strike outs, and 4 walks. Spring training is the worst time to jump on a band wagon, but here, the bandwagon was already flying down the hill at full speed before Bryant knocked it out of the park.
By almost any stretch of the imagination, Bryant will start the season in Triple-A to “work on defense” and possibly in the outfield. Depending on what the front office wants to do with the infield depth, they may hasten Bryant to LF and shuffle Castro to 3B when they bring up Addison Russell. But make no mistake, this is the Cubs impact prospect and probably baseball’s impact prospect for 2015.
Why They’re Worth Watching
This team has one of the widest possible variances of outcomes in all of baseball. Whether you’re a fan or not, watching whether the Cubs can finally put it together will be an interesting story all season. That’s all without saying that some of the most promising young players are always worth a peek.
Bryant breaks camp with the team, the young guys put it together and/or don’t experience regression, Lester pitches like last season, the bullpen pitches like the end of last season. 90-72
Spring training shows a hole in Bryant’s swing that gets exploited or he gets injured and doesn’t get called up, Baez doesn’t fix his strikeout issues, Lester doesn’t live up to the contract, Hendricks and Arrieta regress. 72-90