30 Teams 30 Days - Chicago Cubs

Overview - These are the defending World Series champions. It is not hard to pick them to win this division. They have lost Dexter Fowler and that puts a hole in centerfield and at the lead off spot. The team is young so the upside is still apparent. The pitching was number one in the major leagues last year but the loss of Jason Hammel could put another chink in their armor. They hope to replace him internally with Mike Montgomery. The big question that will be facing the Cubs next season is where to put Kyle Schwarber. He is more a DH playing in a league without a DH so left field or an occasional catching assignment will be enough to get his bat in the lineup.

Strengths - When John Maddon sets the lineup he really does not have a set positional pattern. Kris Bryant will see most of his time at third base. He can also play a corner outfield. His 39 homeruns and the Cubs division win got him the MVP award last year. The Cubs need a spot to play Javier Baez so when Bryant plays a corner outfield the Cubs will use that opportunity to play Baez at third. Last year Baez showed his versatility by playing every position on the infield. The Cubs could use his bat in the lineup. Shortstop is capably handled by Addison Russell. His batting average was low last year (.238) but his defense was strong and he slugged 21 homeruns with his 95 RBIs third on the team. The veteran Ben Zobrist can also play any position, but second base is his main spot. He hit 18 homeruns with 76 RBIs, fourth on the team. Anthony Rizzo could have also won the MVP when you look at his numbers, finishing fourth in the voting. He drove in more runs than Bryant (109 versus 102) and equaled him in just about every other statistical category. Kyle Schwarber provides a solid bat in the outfield but his glove is shaky. He missed almost all of last season due to a knee injury. Jayson Hayward is a gold glove winner in right field but his bat has never met his promise. Combine the skills of Schwarber and Heyward and you would have a superstar. Starting pitching is strong with the first three starters. Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks all finished in the top ten in Cy Young award voting. They each won 16 or more games. The bullpen lost Aroldis Chapman but they hope to replace him with Wade Davis. Davis is coming off an arm injury so there may be a little drop off. Hector Rondon has closing capability and it will be interesting to see how long Koji Uehara will stay effective. At 42 years of age with a fastball not near 90 he still strikes out more than a hitter per inning.

Weakness - Not a lot of weaknesses. The loss of Dexter Fowler leaves a hole in centerfield. They signed Jon Jay to replace him but his skill sets fall far below that of Fowler. It also lessons their bat at the leadoff spot. Albert Almora Jr. is a prospect who can also play the position but he is not proven. His defense is excellent but his bat has been light. A third option would be to move Jason Heyward to center and allow Ben Zobrist to play the outfield. This would open a more permanent spot for Javier Baez at second base.

Breakout Prospects - A number of young players are already in the Cubs starting lineup leaving little room for prospects. Albert Almora Jr. has an opportunity to squeeze into centerfield as a result of the departure of Dexter Fowler to the Cardinals. No one questions his glove, which many consider gold glove caliber. The bat has always been light, last year hitting .303 but with a .317 OBA in AAA. Rob Zastryzny is a lefthanded starter who could see time in the bullpen or fit into the fifth rotation spot if Mike Montgomery struggles. He is one of those lefties that relies more on deception rather than power. Alec Mills is a right handed arm who can fill the back end of the rotation. He lacks overwhelming stuff and needs to locate his pitches well to get hitters out.

Prospects to Watch - Eloy Jimenez has the potential to be an All Star, with excellent power, a solid arm for right field and the ability to hit for average. The only tool he lacks is speed. Ian Happ is a man without a position, bouncing back and forth between second and outfield. His bat should play if a position can be found for him. Dylan Cease and Duane Underwood are two hard throwers who can hit mid to high 90s with their fastball. Injuries have slowed both in their progression to major league opportunity. Jeimer Candelario is a hit machine who plays the same position as Kris Bryant. Defensively he could require a move to first, but that position is occupied by Anthony Rizzo. A trade is more likely for him to get playing time.

Expected Finish - Myworld does not see a lot of competition for them and a first place finish is pretty certain. How far they can travel in the playoffs is the biggest concern.

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