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Chicago Cubs: Leadoff spot a huge question mark for Joe Maddon

Nov 1, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist hits a single against the Cleveland Indians in the third inning in game six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs outfielder Ben Zobrist hits a single against the Cleveland Indians in the third inning in game six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Cubs entered the offseason knowing they were going to have to do some work. Despite ending the year as World Series champions, their journey has only just begun.

We all had a feeling that a few key pieces to this Chicago Cubs championship roster were going to move on. First, it all started with outfielder Dexter Fowler who rejected his second consecutive qualifying offer.

Now, he’s gunning for a multi-year deal looking for $18 million per year. That is a lot of money but surely, other teams are going to be gunning for his services. Which hurts because he was a solid leadoff man for the Cubs.

Actually, Fowler played a huge part in the Cubs winning the World Series. Knowing that his bat is going to be missing from this lineup is going to be such a downer.

However, that’s how this business works. Players come and go. Professional baseball is a business just like any other league out there.

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So, when looking at the current roster — mainly the field itself, who is going to step up and fill Fowler’s leadoff spot? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to be something easy and it may be a little frustrating.

But Joe Maddon is going to work his magic and find the right guy for the job. Maddon may have fumbled the ball a little bit in the postseason but he’s still a fantastic manager.

Filling Big Shoes

Let’s dive into this head first and narrow it down to a few names. First off, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, and Addison Russell should be ruled out. Having Russell bat down in the order worked perfectly for him throughout the regular season.

He put up huge numbers at his position. In fact, numbers that haven’t been posted by a Cubs shortstop in a very long time. So who does that leave? Albert Almora Jr., Jon Jay, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and possibly, Javier Baez.

The battle right now is having Baez get some more playing time. The Co-LCS MVP was tearing up the first two rounds of the playoffs, swiping tags, coming through with clutch hits, basically stealing the show.

And then you have Zobrist. Zobrist tallied the go-ahead RBI double down the third base line, sending Cubs’ fans into a frenzy. What a wild moment that will be relived over and over again as time goes on.

MVP Takeover?

With center field being platooned by Almora Jr. and Jay, there isn’t much wiggle room for both Zobrist and Baez. Not assuming that Javier is going to start in the outfield. Zobrist could see some playing time in left or right field with Baez jumping in at second base.

Heyward? Well, he needs to make a few tweaks in the batters’ box. His offensive production dropped, drastically but the Cubs didn’t sign him for his offense. Jason’s glove is what reeled in that massive eight-year deal.

Next: Cubs News: Petty Sox? Fowler unlikely to return, not impossible

If he’s capable of fixing his approach, which just so happened to be staying on top of the heater, Heyward is a candidate. Until then, right now, Zobrist and Baez appear to be the better options when it comes to the leadoff spot.

Thankfully, we have Spring Training to help Maddon figure these things out. Granted Baez is going to be participating in the World Baseball Classic alongside Francisco Lindor. Javier could be a strong candidate considering the fact that he lowered his strikeout rate in 2016.

Will someone wake me up when it’s time for the Cubs to take the field again? Next year is definitely going to be exciting. And Opening Day is going to be booming when the World Series Chicago Cubs are introduced.

All these questions regarding the leadoff spot, closer role, bullpen pieces, and the fifth starter will have solid answers.

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