There is a greater chance of the Cleveland Browns drafting a competent quarterback than there is that the Chicago Cubs miss the playoffs in 2017.
Here’s why the Cubs won’t miss the playoffs
The Cubs do it all. They get on base, they hit for power, they play good defense, they have reliable options in the bullpen, the starting rotation is outstanding and they have the best manager in all of baseball in their dugout.
Opposing pitchers will have nightmares the night before their start against the Cubs. From top to bottom, there isn’t an “easy” out in the starting lineup (aside from the pitcher’s spot). The lineup is anchored by third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, as they hit in the two-three hole, respectively. Bryant is the reigning N.L. MVP and is coming off a 2016 campaign where he hit .292, slugged 39 homers and drove in 102 runs. Not to be outdone, Rizzo also hit .292, slugged 32 homers and drove in 109 runs.
The loss of Dexter Fowler, who signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, in the leadoff spot is a concern. While the Cubs have multiple options to replace Fowler in center, there isn’t someone who fits the bill of a typical leadoff hitter.
Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs’ mammoth left fielder, has now taken the reigns as Chicago’s leadoff hitter. After only four at-bats last season, Schwarber tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season. He returned in the World Series, hitting .412 in five games and sparking an already loaded lineup. The lefty is off to a slow start, only hitting .222 and drawing just six walks to start the season. As he continues to adjust to being the leadoff hitter, Schwarber’s contribution will increase, setting the table for the Cubs’ lineup.
As I stated earlier, the Cubs’ lineup is stacked from top-to-bottom. Even if an opposing pitcher can navigate through the Bryant-Rizzo combination, the rest of the lineup will rear its ugly head.
Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Jayson Heyward and Wilson Contreras follow Bryant and Rizzo in the lineup. Zobrist doesn’t put up big numbers, but he gets the job done in every situation when called upon. His versatility is something that manager Joe Maddon loves to use. Russell and Contreras are former top prospects who exude talent and are on the verge of breakout seasons. For Heyward, he’s struggled mightily over the course of the past year, but he’s still capable of being a key contributor in the middle of the lineup.
As for pitching, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better combination of three starting pitchers that headline a rotation in all of baseball than the trio of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. Arrieta won the NL Cy Young in 2015, Lester is one of the best lefties in baseball and Hendricks is coming off a season in which he received Cy Young votes.
Out of the bullpen, the Cubs have plenty of options Maddon can call upon. Hector Rodon, Pedro Stroup, Koji Uehara and Mike Montgomery help form one of the better pens in all of baseball, setting things up for closer Wade Davis.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who the Cubs have out on the field because Maddon is a miracle-worker when it comes to managing a baseball game. Thanks to his unique style and view of the game, Maddon is the best manager in all of baseball. Heck, the man played a major role in bringing a World Series trophy to CHICAGO.
Outside of Chicago, there isn’t a team you can point to in the National League Central and be overly confident that they would win the division. When it comes to the Central division, it’s a debate as to who will finish in second and third, not first. The Pirates and Cardinals will have good clubs, but they’re not in a position to where they can compete throughout the course of a full season with the Cubs. As for the Reds and Brewers, it’s a battle for who can be the worst team in not only the Central, but all of baseball.
The Cubs are the most complete baseball team from top-to-bottom as we’ve seen in quite some time. As not only the best team in the NL Central, but all of baseball, you can bet your mortgage the Cubs will be gearing up to defend their World Series title come October.
Edited by Robert Hughes
Featured image by Ron Cogswell, courtesy of Creative Commons