Chicago Cubs: Five players crack the ESPN Top 100 for 2020
Despite all the bad news and negativity regarding the Chicago Cubs, they’re still entering 2020 with five players in ESPN’s Top 100 players list
The Chicago Cubs have faced a lot of scrutinies lately for their unwillingness to spend money and inability to make deals, but odds are they’ll still be in the race in the NL Central. Considering the core of talent they always have, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for them to have an outstanding year and ESPN recognized this.
In their recent preseason rankings of the top 100 MLB players for 2020, ESPN had five Cubs players making the cut: Javier Baez (No. 21), Kris Bryant (No. 24), Anthony Rizzo (No. 56), Willson Contreras (No. 70), and Yu Darvish (No. 80). Compared to the rest of the NL Central, the Cubs have the most players making the list, with Milwaukee having four, St. Louis and Cincinnati having three, and Pittsburgh having one.
The rankings, for the most part, make sense. Baez has been Chicago’s best player since 2018, but he fell off a bit last year after his terrific MVP runner-up season. His OPS+ dropped 16 points, and injuries made it hard for him to stay on the field later in the year, necessitating the call-up of top prospect Nico Hoerner.
Bryant dropped three spots for this list, but his place at 24 is still fair, given his production at third base. He hasn’t risen to the same offensive heights as his 2016 MVP campaign, and defensively, he’s outclassed by the likes of Matt Chapman, Nolan Arenado, and Anthony Rendon. Still, he had an OPS+ over 130 for the fourth time in his career and he was an All-Star in 2019.
Rizzo took the biggest hit in terms of ranking for the Northsiders, dropping from 38 to 56, which is somewhat surprising given that he improved from his 2018 season. His defense is as sharp as ever, winning yet another Gold Glove in 2019 and nearly hitting for a .300/.400/.500 slash line.
Of all of the Cubs, though, Contreras’s ranking is the one I disagree with the most. I generally disagree that he’s ranked behind Yankees backstop Gary Sanchez, especially after 2019, in which Contreras was better offensively and defensively. Sanchez’s power was impressive though with 34 home runs last year, and Contreras has struggled with his framing, earning a -8.9 rating on Fangraphs.
Finally, there’s Darvish, who is arguably the most generous placement of the Cubs on this list. Darvish did have a bounce-back last year, but only really in the second half when he pitched to a 2.76 ERA with only seven walks. That’s not saying what he did was any bit short of fantastic, but it feels somewhat generous of ESPN to rank him so high after only half a season of reliable performance.
It’s nice to see the Chicago Cubs receiving some recognition for the good players they have, and it should remind fans that things aren’t all doom and gloom. This team can succeed; they just need to put it together. The only other thing that bothers me is the fact that Kyle Hendricks isn’t on this list, but hey, it’s not my list.