Chicago Cubs: How does the Cubs starting rotation stack up?

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

One thing hasn’t changed since early 2018. On paper, the Chicago Cubs starting rotation should once again be one of the team’s biggest strengths.

The New Year is upon us. With several major free agents still unsigned, there’s still plenty of excitement coming our way before Opening Day 2019 hits and another season of Chicago Cubs baseball begins.

Roughly 25 starting pitchers remain free agents and a host of trades could be made before pitchers and catchers report in mid-February.  While the Cubs have questions that need answering before then, the Cubs rotation is locked and loaded.

Top of the rotation aces

Jon Lester, who turns 35 next month, will again top the rotation as the wily veteran left-hander with steady demeanor and determination.  His 18-6 record in the 2018 campaign was his best since the 19-5 mark he set in 2016.  His ERA dropped a full point from to 3.32 from his 2017 effort, and his WHIP improved to 1.247.  Lester attacked his struggles in July and August last year the way you’d expect him to, with a professional and calm approach of someone who’s been one of the game’s best pitchers.

The Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas, who few had heard of before last year, is the likely Opening Day starter for the Redbirds.  Mikolas spent three years pitching in Japan after an inauspicious start to his MLB career.  In 2018 he pitched to an 18-4 record, a 2.83 ERA and a 1.071 WHIP. and had everyone asking “Who the heck is this guy?”  Right now he’s probably the best top-of-the-rotation guy in the NL Central.

This year, the Brewers lost their likely top starter before Opening Day even hit.  Jimmy Nelson injured his throwing shoulder late in the 2017 campaign diving headfirst back into first base.  He required surgery and missed all of the 2018 season. Though it is very likely Nelson makes the rotation out of Spring Training, my pick for Opening Day starter for the Crew is Jhoulys Chacin.  He certainly earned it after last season, going 15-8 with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.163 WHIP.

Pirates and Reds.  Jameson Taillon looks to be the top dog for the Pirates.  The 27-year-old righty had his best year last season and while Chris Archer was the team’s notable addition last year, he didn’t live up to expectations.  For the Reds that Opening Day spot is still a bit in flux as they just added Alex Wood in the trade with the Dodgers.  I like Luis Castillo right now as the likely top hurler in that staff, though Wood is certainly able to fill that role as well.

Advantage: Cardinals.  Mikolas is a man on a mission. Barring injury he’s the best big arm in the Central, though Lester is a very close second – despite his age.