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Here’s why 2022 will be absolutely critical for the Chicago Cubs

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs / Nick Madrigal
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Several key guys will look to cement their roles on the team

As of right now the “core piece” that still remains is Willson Contreras, and he has another year of control in 2022. Nothing can be ruled out for this coming offseason, including Contreras being dealt, but for right now it is probably best to assume he will be part of the team in 2022. Around him will include some guys on the current roster, but mostly called up prospects and MLB players acquired in trades/signings this winter.

Two key guys the Cubs are building with include Nico Hoerner and newly-acquired Nick Madrigal, who came over in the Craig Kimbrel deal with the White Sox.

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Hoerner, 24, had put up a strong .313/.388/.388 slash, but dealt with multiple injuries, and saw his season end in the process. He has yet to play 100+ games in a season due to injuries, a late-season call-up in 2019 and the pandemic-shortened season in 2020. Madrigal is a very interesting case as he has shown insane contact abilities and is hitting .317 in his first 83 career MLB games (all with the Sox).

As I said, he has been out since mid-June and will miss the rest of the season. Both of these are big contact guys who will be playing up the middle in 2022. Next season will be the first year they play together and hopefully establish a duo up the middle that will reside on the North Side for years to come. They can get that done, it is a big step in moving forward.

2022 will also be the year prospects who have just started getting their feet wet in the Majors this year can get a full season’s worth of work and show what they can provide long-term. This includes the likes of Justin Steele, who made his first career MLB start Tuesday, and Greg Deichmann, who made his MLB debut last week after coming over in the Andrew Chafin trade.

There will also likely be opportunities to see if the likes of Rafael Ortega, Patrick Wisdom or Manuel Rodriguez have a spot on the team as depth guys going forward. Not expecting them to be major pieces, but reliable depth is never a bad thing to have.

2022 can be a great chance to see if Rowan Wick and Codi Heuer can be integral parts of the bullpen. Heuer came over from the Sox in the Kimbrel deal and was very promising his rookie year in 2020 (1.52 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 0.887 WHIP, 25K in 23.2 IP) but struggled this year before coming to the North Side. Now and next year is the chance to prove his worth. Wick has been very promising for the Cubs since he came up a few years ago, but has to stay healthy.