A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE CUBS
I think they're about a .500 team. They could overachieve, but this team has a lot of moving parts, impact prospects like Kris Bryant, on their way. They usually don't all get ready at the same time.... Anthony Rizzo is not as good defensively as some, but he can definitely hit a ball out. He has his best years coming.... Jorge Soler has the ability to be an All-Star-caliber rightfielder. He can hit for power, he can really throw, he's a sound defender when he wants to be, but he's got to come ready to play. I don't like what appears to be lack of effort.... Starlin Castro is a quality shortstop, but at times he plays out of control and makes careless errors.... Dexter Fowler is a placeholder. He does get on base, but he's a streaky hitter, his stolen base percentage is below average, and he's not consistent with his defense. He'll make an ESPN highlight play and then make a poor read on a routine fly ball.... Upgrading their catching with Miguel Montero and David Ross will definitely help. Welington Castillo wasn't great defensively and didn't retain the pitch plan.... Jon Lester is one of the top four or five starters in baseball, a true No. 1. He's a tough guy who pitched through some ailments a couple years ago.... The bullpen's a concern. I like Hector Rondon better as a setup guy, not so much as a pure closer. Pedro Strop is a power guy whose command comes and goes. It'll be real interesting to see if Jason Motte can rebound. He did not look good at the end of last year.
Kris Bryant is the best prospect in baseball, a power-hitting third baseman whose spring performance dropped jaws from Goodyear to Tempe. No matter how well he hits, though, the Cubs have to open the season without him. If they stick Bryant on the roster on Opening Day and he succeeds, he can become a free agent at the end of 2019. If they wait just two weeks to promote him, they push back his free agency for an entire season, through '20. The '15 Cubs could still be a ways from contention; Chicago can take a lesson from the Braves, who brought Jason Heyward to the majors on Opening Day '10, then felt they had to trade him last winter rather than lose him after '15 as a free agent. By waiting to promote their young stud, the Cubs are simply trading two weeks of a 23-year-old Bryant for six months of a 28-year-old slugger in his prime.
LEAGUE RANK 8
MANAGER JOE MADDON 1ST SEASON WITH CUBS
2015 PROJECTED STATISTICS BY ROTOWIRE.COM
BRAD MANGIN FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (LESTER)