The young Chicago Cubs core that helped bring a World Series title to the North Side now lacks a safety net – and that might help unlock their potential.
It seemed predestined. The final out of the 2016 World Series had to be a play involving Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. A slow roller, an emerging grin and a high throw that sailed perfect into the first baseman’s mitt. Hollywood couldn’t write the Chicago Cubs’ historic Game 7 win any better.
But if you look past those two superstars, the Cubs’ young core played an unmistakable role in that historic season. And, not just in 2016, but really the team’s recent three-year run of remarkable success.
In each of those seasons, though, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had contingency plans in place. Key veterans like David Ross, Jon Jay, Dexter Fowler and the likes were integral parts of the roster each season. If young guys struggled, these guys were there and ready to assume the roles needed.
2018, though, seems to be quite different. In the outfield, Chicago opted for a combination of Ian Happ and Albert Almora in center field. Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber will flank those two, with Ben Zobrist undoubtedly getting reps in the corner spots, as well.
Aside from Zobrist, though, it’s time for this core to assume the responsibility on a day-in and day-out basis. And, with plenty of experience under their belt, despite their relative age, it could unlock the potential in several of these key players.