Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here
Overall – 80 points (12th MLB, 6th NL)
Starting Rotation – 31 points (13th MLB, 7th NL)
Line-Up – 34 points (9th MLB, 5th NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 15 points (T-11th MLB, T-7th NL)
Offseason Additions – Kosuke Fukudome, Jon Lieber
Offseason Subtractions – Cliff Floyd, Jason Kendall, Jacque Jones, Mark Prior
Biggest Strength– Offense
The Cubs were only 9th in the NL in runs scored last year, but should have one of the best offenses in the league in 2008. Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano had slightly down years last year, but are too good of hitters to stay that way 2 years in a row. They added Kosuke Fukudome from Japan, who is already drawing rave reviews from Manager Lou Pinella and adds a critical left handed bat to the line-up. They also are bringing in one of the best catching prospects in baseball in Geovanny Soto. He may not light the world on fire this year, but is a huge offensive upgrade over Jason Kendall and the legitimately crazy Michael Barrett.
Biggest Weakness– Back of the Rotation
The Cubs have a solid top-3 and decent bullpen, but the 4 and 5 starters could force the offense to win a lot of 10-run games. Jon Lieber was awful for the Phillies the last couple years and can’t stay healthy. He compliments his 88 mph fastball with a 83mph fastball that moves slightly to right that he dares to call a “slider.” In the 5th spot, it comes down to Ryan Dempster, who has been an off-and-on closer the past couple years, and Jason Marquis who had a 5.73 ERA after the all-star break. Since they are throwing money all over the place, I would recommend they sign Kyle Lohse.
Key Player in ’08– Carlos Zambrano
Zambrano got his extension last year, but didn’t really pitch like he deserved it. He pitched fine by normal standards, but posted the highest ERA of his career (3.95) and the second-least strikeouts (177). Zambrano is only 26, and has electric stuff. Based on his make-up and age, he really should put it all together and have a Cy Young caliber season in the next couple years. If it’s this year, the Cubs could make a push for the NL pennant.
Player to Keep an Eye On– Felix Pie
It feels like Felix Pie (pronounced Pi-aye) has been the Cubs top prospect and involved in every Cubs trade rumor for the past decade. In fact, at 23, he will get his first shot to actually PLAY a full season of baseball. Pie is fast and could be a real asset if he can get on base in front of the big-time hitters. He likely won’t start the year at the top of the line-up, but if he can play his way up there, he’s going to score a ton of runs.
Outlook/Prediction– 1st Place, NL Central. The Cubs are playing in the right division. If they were in the NL West, there is a good chance they would finish 4th. They aren’t spectacular anywhere, but don’t have many holes in their team. I think that they are the type of team that will make the playoffs as constructed but is going to need to add an impact player at the trade deadline to be a legitimate threat in the playoffs.
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