Chicago Cubs News: How realistic is a postseason run in 2023?

Chicago Cubs Introduce Dansby Swanson
Chicago Cubs Introduce Dansby Swanson / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

After a fantastic offseason for the Chicago Cubs and the front office, the question now turns to how ready the Cubs are to compete in 2023. Looking at potential lineups, there is a solid floor for production with quite a bit of upside the more you dig than simply on-the-surface statistics. Let's quickly take a look at a hypothetical lineup for this coming season based on FanGraphs Steamers' projected wRC+ in 2023:

1. Nico Hoerner (109 wRC+)
2. Ian Happ (113 wRC+)
3. Dansby Swanson (104 wRC+)
4. Seiya Suzuki (128 wRC+)
5. Eric Hosmer (110 wRC+)
6. Trey Mancini (106 wRC+)
7. Cody Bellinger (97 wRC+)
8. Christopher Morel (104 wRC+)
9. Tucker Barnhart (76 wRC+)

Two takeaways here; for one, you love seeing the lineup improvement from an "on paper" standpoint. On opening day in 2022, the Cubs had four players that are either no longer here or won't be everyday starters moving forward and wound up with a below-average mark last season. Those four were Rafael Ortega (97 wRC+), Frank Schwindel (78 wRC+), Nick Madrigal (70 wRC+), and Jason Heyward (61 wRC+). Willson Contreras' mark of 132 will be missed offensively, but more on him later. This season, the Cubs start with seven players who all put up above-average marks in 2022.

On the flip side, in terms of projected wRC+, you won't find a Cubs player within the top 40 bats in the league in 2023, and they still obviously need that true star player in their lineup. For example, reigning MVP, Paul Goldschmidt, recorded a 177 wRC+ in 2022, which would have blown anything the Cubs did offensively out of the water from an individual standpoint.

Still, offensively, this is an intriguing lineup heading into next season. Considering Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini had down years at the plate and still recorded above-average marks, there is at least some optimism that any improvement from either player can seriously project the team much higher.

Cody Bellinger could undoubtedly bounce back and be an integral piece of this Cubs offense, though he has struggled to find his former self. Regardless, with four bats in the lineup that should produce, followed by three more that offer a solid floor but higher ceiling, the rest of the National League should not be sleeping on the Cubs from an offensive standpoint. If his shoulder no longer hinders his swing, Bellinger can quickly return to form and be more in that 110+ range.

Chicago Cubs: Comparing the team overall to the St. Louis Cardinals

Where Contreras led the team in wRC+ in 2022, his production defensively left much to be desired. As a game caller, Contreras' ERA vs. Yan Gomes was vastly different. With two-time Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart behind the plate this season, the game-calling and defense behind the plate will improve.

Pitching-wise, comparing the Cubs and Cardinals: Chicago had a starting rotation ERA of 3.95, compared to St. Louis' 3.92. Of course, the Cubs' rotation finished the second half with a mark of 2.89, 3rd best in the NL. In the second half for team ERA's, Chicago topped St. Louis with a 3.24 mark compared to STL's 3.85. A solid chunk of that for St. Louis came from former Cub Jose Quintana. He posted an ERA of 2.01 after the trade deadline but departed the team to the Mets this offseason.

The Cubs' pitching has been underrated and will continue to be a critical strength for them to succeed. You can safely say the Cubs' rotation at least finished better in 2022. Where they face their biggest challenge, however, will be competing with St. Louis' offense, based on a 2023 projected lineup with wRC+:

Tommy Edman: 104 wRC+
Willson Contreras: 119 wRC+
Nolan Arenado: 129 wRC+
Paul Goldschmidt: 140 wRC+
Brendan Donovan: 120 wRC+
Tyler O'Neil: 117 wRC+
Lars Nootbar: 124 wRC+
Juan Yepez: 121 wRC+
Dylan Carlson: 115 wRC+

You'll need to tip your cap where credit is due here. The Cardinals' offense will be just as strong in 2023 as the Cubs' pitching needs to be. Unsurprisingly, the Cardinals' offense ranked 4th in runs per game in the National League last year with a mark of 4.76 last season, and to be fair, that trend has every reason to continue in 2023.

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The Cubs offensively were 22nd in the league last season (4.06), but they made improvements this winter. I predict that the Cubs will land offensively in the 13th-15th range, assuming those guys that had down years last year (Bellinger, Mancini, Hosmer) step back up a little. Chicago's offense will be sufficient. However, the pitching will be vital for any chance to hang with the Cardinals in 2023.