Nico Hoerner, Cody Bellinger headline projected Cubs stolen base leaders
By Jake Misener
Thanks to Major League Baseball's rule changes, teams are putting increased emphasis on athleticism, not only defensively, but on the basepaths. With pickoff restrictions in place and larger bases, the art of swiping a bag is back, baby - and the Cubs could help jump start their offense by taking advantage of it.
Unless everything goes their way - and I'm talking Cody Bellinger returning to MVP form, Ian Happ replicating his 2022 consistency while sprinkling in more long balls and Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson turning in All-Star-caliber campaigns, the Cubs are going to have to manufacture a good number of runs. They just don't have that one guy you know is going to produce runs on a nightly basis at this point.
Cubs need to be more active on the stolen base front
That's where taking advantage of favorable matchups on the basepaths comes in. Through its first five games, Chicago has just three stolen bases - a far cry from the MLB-leading Baltimore Orioles, who have 11 (and are yet to be caught, for what it's worth).
Two of the Cubs' stolen bases belong to Nico Hoerner - with the third courtesy of Miles Mastrobuoni. Funnily enough, Fangraphs projects Hoerner as the guy who will lead the team in steals this year - but has him pegged for just 14. That seems awfully light given the impact rule changes are having and the fact he stole 20 just last year, though.
Right behind Hoerner, Fangraphs has new Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger at 13, Dansby Swanson at 12 and Mastrobuoni at 11. When people think of Bellinger, his speed isn't usually the first thing that comes to mind - but he's a plus baserunner and defender, using his long stride to cover a lot of ground in a hurry.
I think both Hoerner and Bellinger will swipe 20 this year - and wouldn't sleep on Swanson getting there, either (he had 18 during his 2022 All-Star campaign with the Braves). But look for David Ross to have his guys active on the basepaths, looking to seize momentum and create some runs as the season wears on.