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1 CUBS

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OVERALL RANK 1

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP CHICAGO

I don't think they'll get to 103 wins again. They're still very good, but the pitching went perfectly last year. They had five guys make 29 starts. That never happens, especially with guys in their 30s like Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.... I think they might go with six starters, at least for some stretches, with Mike Montgomery and Brett Anderson at No. 5 and 6. It's not a bad idea.... I don't think Kyle Hendricks was a fluke. He's a Greg Maddux type, command and control. His margin for error isn't much because he doesn't have power, but everyone else has power in this day and age, so he gives a really different look.... Wade Davis wasn't real sharp at the end of last year, even before he went on the DL. This spring he's been O.K., but his cutter isn't as electric as it used to be.... I heard a lot about Jason Heyward's adjusted approach this spring, lowering his hands, but I haven't seen any results yet.... It's natural to think Kris Bryant will come back to earth, but, boy oh boy, he won MVP during what was supposed to be his sophomore slump. I don't think you'll see a falloff. He's more patient, drives the ball the other way. Shoot, he has it all.... To have the kind of at bats Kyle Schwarber had in the World Series after missing almost the full season—lots of guys have bat speed and power, but he was locked in right away. He could hit .300 with 30 home runs.... Javier Báez is a smart player. On a soft line drive, he won't catch it, on purpose, so he can get a double play. That suggests he'll continue to improve in other areas, like plate discipline.

MANAGER JOE MADDON

3RD SEASON WITH CHICAGO

B-T BA OBP SLG WAR

LF KYLE SCHWARBER [INJURY RISK] [BARGAIN] [RISING]

L-R .246 .355 .487 1.2 [2015 STATS]

3B KRIS BRYANT [TEAM MVP] [BARGAIN]

R-R .292 .385 .554 7.7

1B ANTHONY RIZZO [DEFENSIVE STAR] [BARGAIN]

L-L .292 .385 .544 5.7

2B BEN ZOBRIST [DEFENSIVE STAR]

S-R .272 .386 .446 3.8

SS ADDISON RUSSELL [DEFENSIVE STAR] [BARGAIN]

R-R .238 .321 .417 4.3

RF JASON HEYWARD [DEFENSIVE STAR] [DECLINING]

L-L .230 .306 .325 1.5

C WILLSON CONTRERAS [RISING]

R-R .282 .357 .488 1.8

CF ALBERT ALMORA JR. [ROOKIE]

R-R .277 .308 .455 0.7

BENCH

B-T BA OBP SLG WAR

IF JAVIER BÁEZ [DEFENSIVE STAR] [RISING]

R-R .273 .314 .423 3.4

OF JON JAY [NEW ACQUISITION]

L-L .291 .339 .389 1.1

C MIGUEL MONTERO [DECLINING]

L-R .216 .327 .357 -0.3

W--L ERA K/9 WAR

LH JON LESTER

19--5 2.44 8.7 5.3

RH JAKE ARRIETA [BARGAIN]

18--8 3.10 8.7 3.4

RH KYLE HENDRICKS [BARGAIN]

16--8 2.13 8.1 5.0

RH JOHN LACKEY

11--8 3.35 8.6 2.5

LH MIKE MONTGOMERY

4--5 2.52 8.3 2.0

SV ERA K/9 WAR

RH WADE DAVIS [NEW ACQUISITION] [INJURY RISK]

27 1.87 9.8 1.8

RH HÉCTOR RONDON

18 3.53 10.2 0.4

NEW ACQUISITION

2016 STATS

*2015 STATS

(R) ROOKIE

TEAM MVP

DEFENSIVE STAR

INJURY RISK

BARGAIN

RISING

DECLINING

MODEST PROPOSAL

Last year's championship owed as much to the Cubs' elite defense—which turned nearly three of every four balls in play into outs—as anything else. The return of converted catcher Kyle Schwarber to left and the loss of Dexter Fowler in center are reasons for concern in 2017. One way to bolster the defense is to play Albert Almora Jr. every day in centerfield. An excellent defender, Almora is projected to share time with Jon Jay and perhaps Jason Heyward. Playing Almora regularly would protect Schwarber and allow the 22-year-old Almora's bat to develop. Jay is a better fit for fourth outfielder.

BOTTOM LINE

Their pitching could take a small step back, but the Cubs are still the team to beat in the Central.