Chicago Cubs: Three players under the most pressure in 2020

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs, Craig Kimbrel (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Craig Kimbrel

When he signed the massive three-year contract during the 2019 season, Craig Kimbrel was expected to be the team’s savior, that final piece of the puzzle to help make the Cubs an elite team again. As we know, it did not go according to plan: Kimbrel battled injuries, and when he was on the mound, he gave up a whopping nine home runs in just 20 2/3 innings.

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Last season’s abysmal performance have led some to believe that the potential Hall of Fame closer has passed his prime, and expectations coming into the season, before it was shut down, were relatively low. Yet in a 60-game season, every close game becomes magnified, and the pressure will be on Kimbrel to deliver whenever he has the chance at a save opportunity.

This becomes even more true when we consider how much talent the Cubs lost in their bullpen this past offseason. Some think the new-look bullpen could be a strength, as the front office did add a lot of potential low-risk, high-reward arms. Yet regardless of how well the middle relief works out, Kimbrel will have to come through in the ninth inning for this team to have any chance.

The good news for Kimbrel is that it’s not too late to change the narrative. If he bounces back and has a good season, what happened in 2019 will likely be written off as an aberration.

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Still, Cubs fans will be on the edge of their seats the first time that Kimbrel gets the ball in a save opportunity. Will he be able to find a second wind for his career? It’s one of the biggest questions the team faces heading into the shortened 2020 campaign.