Chicago Cubs: A Spring Training preview for the NL Central

(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Chicago Cubs

After missing the playoffs for the first time in five years in 2019, the Chicago Cubs and manager Joe Maddon parted ways, leading the way for former catcher David Ross to take the reins. Ross inherits a team that still has a lot of star power but also has some holes.

Most of the big names are returning: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant (despite all the trade rumors), Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, and Jason Heyward. Second base and center field remain unsettled. At second, Nico Hoerner might get a shot as a rookie, yet the team hasn’t brought in a veteran to compete for the job. Steven Souza Jr. came in to add to the outfield depth, though he didn’t play in 2019. There still is hope that Albert Almora Jr. and/or Ian Happ can earn some more playing time with a good spring.

On the mound, the first four in the rotation return in Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana. It’s a decent if not impressive rotation; the team will be banking largely on the hope that Darvish’s tremendous second half of 2019 was no fluke. The fifth spot is still wide open, though Tyler Chatwood appears to have the inside track. The bullpen is a big question mark, with lots of innings up for grabs this spring. The team lost Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, Pedro Strop, and David Phelps while making only minor additions. Then there’s Craig Kimbrel, who was a disaster in his first year as the Cubs’ closer in 2019.

It’s conceivable that enough could go right for the Cubs in 2020 that they could win the division. It’s also conceivable that the season could be a disaster. Ross remains a big wild card. Will he bring a fresh perspective that the team needs to whip them back into their pre-2019 shape? Or is his hiring just delaying the inevitable decline of this once promising young core?