3 players who have to improve for the Chicago Cubs to have a shot in 2024

Reinforcements are on the way, but the Cubs will need improvements from several players if they're going to punch a postseason ticket this year.
Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs
Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs / Griffin Quinn/GettyImages
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It wasn't without drama or late-inning stress. Still, the Chicago Cubs bounced back from Friday's disastrous meltdown to even up the series against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. The two teams will do battle in the rubber match on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field to settle the score here in early May.

Looking past this weekend's series, it's clear that the Cubs are playing a dangerous game. Between the bullpen struggles and an offense that has looked like a shell of its former self with Cody Bellinger and Seiya Suzuki on the shelf, 'easy' wins have been few and far between. If not for a starting rotation that, top to bottom, is pitching far beyond expectations, the picture could look very different for Craig Counsell's club right now.

But we can't put all the weight on those returning from the IL. Here are three guys who have fallen well short of what Counsell will need from them early on - and must turn it on as the summer gets started.

Dansby Swanson has been a liability for the Cubs on both sides of the ball

After bringing home a Gold Glove in his first year with the Cubs, Dansby Swanson is off to a bumpy start in year two of his seven-year, $177 million contract. His usually stellar defense has left plenty to be desired and, with key contributors sidelined, he's failed to step up offensively, as well.

The underlying data doesn't have any glaring red flags when it comes to his soft performance at the plate, other than he's hitting the ball on the ground too often in the team's first 30+ contests. Exit velocity, hard hit rate and barrel rate are all relatively in line with his career numbers, so there's no reason to panic here.

Defensively, it's been a strange season for Swanson, who already has four errors after making just 11 last season. Again, given his track record, there's cause for optimism. This is a guy who has always been a stalwart defender and there's no reason to think he's bottoming out or that age is hindering his abilities at this point.