Friday, November 4, 2016

Scouting the 2017 Chicago Cubs

I know. I know. They just won the whole thing a few days ago. But I can't help myself. 

As a devoted Cubs fan, I'm scouting what the team will possibly look like next season. 

Willson Contreras
Miguel Montero
Kyle Schwarber-?

Analysis: Ross is retiring, so Montero, a veteran and someone who has put up good numbers over the years, will split time with Contreras. The big question is which guy will catch Lester. I doubt Schwarber will play much at catcher, if at all, after coming back from a major knee injury

Anthony Rizzo-1B
Javier Baez-2B, also plays SS, 3B, and 1B
Addison Russell-SS, can also play 2B
Kris Bryant-3B, can also play all OF positions
Ben Zobrist-2B, SS, and 3B, also plays LF and RF
Tommy La Stella-2B and 3B

Analysis: Going from the right side to the left, the best defensive lineup is Rizzo, Baez, Russell, and Bryant. It'll be interesting if they resign Kawasaki, a role player. La Stella provides solid depth here. It's a strong defensive and offensive infield. 

Albert Almora Jr.-CF, LF, or RF
Ben Zobrist-LF or RF
Jason Heyward-RF or CF
Jorge Soler-RF or LF
Kyle Schwarber, LF
Matt Szczur

Analysis: There are real questions here with Fowler likely to sign elsewhere. Coghlan is a free agent. The Cubs traded for him mid-season, so they obviously like his makeup. But he's bench material amongst this group. To me, Szczur played well enough to earn regular pinch-hitting and defensive substitution duties. 

Do the Cubs make the decision to have Almora play centerfield or move Heyward there, so Zobrist can play RF and Schwarber can play LF? Unfortunately, the odd man out seems to be Soler, a guy I see as a really promising hitter. He has tremendous power but needs to stay healthy. Regardless, there's depth here even without Fowler resigning, but the big question is, "Who plays centerfield?" 

But if you think about the lineup without Fowler, the other important question is "Who bats leadoff?" Almora had a .308 OBP this season, but those numbers came in limited playing time. Heyward's OBP was not good. So if the Cubs invest leadoff duties in Almora and he falters, the options aren't good. They could put Schwarber as their leadoff hitter, which is an unconventional move but Maddonesque. I like Schwarber in the 2 hole though because you have Bryant batting third and Rizzo batting fourth. Finding who will be the leadoff hitter is crucial for next season. 

The elephant in the room is Heyward's hitting. They have to work on his quirky swing this off-season. As commentators talked about during the playoffs (and I think it was Smoltz), he has a consistent habit of squeezing the bat before he starts his swing, which makes him late on fastballs. For a guy that physically talented, he should be hitting for a much better average and much more power. I know I got tired of him flying or grounding out with runners on base this season. 

Starting Pitchers
Jon Lester
Jake Arrieta
Kyle Hendricks
John Lackey
Jason Hammel

Analysis: This is a solid rotation. If anyone falters, I could see Montgomery working as a starting pitcher. That's what he was doing for Seattle when the Cubs traded for him. 

Carl Edwards Jr. 
Justin Grimm
Mike Montgomery
Hector Rondon
Pedro Strop
Rob Zastryzny

Analysis: Big questions here. Chapman and Travis Wood are free agents. I'd like to see the Cubs resign both. The former is going to be expensive. The other two true closers out there on the market are Jansen and Melancon. Both are filthy. If the Cubs don't land Chapman, I could see them going after either of those dudes. Or they could go back to Rondon as closer. He did well when he was the closer this season, so that's a possibility. 

Edwards has emerged as a strong reliever, and it's clear Maddon has confidence in Montgomery. Grimm had his ups and down this season, and when Strop is on, he's a solid reliever. One guy who did well for them was Zastryzny, a lefty. I expect he'll be on the opening day roster next season. 

So we'll see whether the Cubs land one of the big-time closers and whether they resign Wood.   

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