Leading off a new series of 2018 previews written by UK-based fans is this piece by David Wyatt. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter, and comment below if you’ve got anything to say about his predictions…
2017 was a strange year for Cubs fans, coming off the back of our of first World Series title in over 100 years, the team suffered from the dreaded championship hangover. Starting slowly, the Cubs found themselves over five games back of the Brewers at tAll-Star Break, but they surged to a 49-25 second half record to win the National League Central for the second year in a row and finish six games ahead of the surprising Brewers and nine games ahead of the rival St Louis Cardinals.
Comings and Goings
In: Yu Darvish (SP), Tyler Chatwood (SP), Brandon Morrow (RP), Drew Smyly (SP), Steve Cishek (RP),
Out: Jake Arrieta (SP), John Lackey (SP), Wade Davis (CL), Jon Jay (OF), Koji Uehara (RP), Hector Rondon (RP),
The Cubs knew they had to make changes to the pitching rotation after a disappointing and frustrating 2017. However, the first moves the Cubs made didn’t come on the field, but rather in the dugout. Joe Maddon decided to part ways with pitching coach Chris Bosio, hitting coach John Mallee and third base coach Gary Jones. Naming Jim Hickey, Chilli Davis and Brian Butterfield to fill the positions respectively. The Cubs still have a young impressive lineup, and management is desperate to secure another World title before difficult decisions need to be made in relation to who to re-sign and who to let go.
If the Cubs rotation manages to stay healthy in 2018, it could be one of the most impressive in baseball. Headlined by Jon Lester, the pitching staff will include Kyle Hendricks who in four years in the MLB has pitched to a 2.94 ERA, along with Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. It’s a new look rotation that hopes to deliver consistent quality innings. The Cubs will also look to new closer Brandon Morrow who shut them down in the National League Divisional Series while pitching for the Dodgers to be as reliable at closing out games as Wade Davis was in 2017.
The Cubs also have one of the best lineups in baseball with the likes of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo cleaning up. With Javier Baez, Ian Happ, Addison Russell and Wilson Contreras among others, the Cubs will be looking to improve even further on their 2017 numbers when they finished 4th in total runs, 9th in HR and 4th in OBP. The big question for the Cubs is who leads off? The Cubs have tried several players since losing Dexter Fowler to the St Louis Cardinals, but nobody has cemented their place atop the lineup. So far this spring, Ian Happ and Albert Almora have been receiving the most playing time in the leadoff spot.
The starting rotation should be elite, the bullpen should be reliable and the offence should be one of the most prominent in baseball, what could possibly go wrong?
98-64 – I think this may be the best team the Cubs have fielded since Theo Epstein came over to the north side. I’m predicting another NL Central division title and a trip back to the World Series to face the Astros.
When you have one of the premier hitters in the game, it’s tough to pick against Kris Bryant. He’s a complete player who has yet to hit his maximum potential. He’ll be the team MVP.
One to watch
Ian Happ – He’s one of the best natural hitters I’ve seen, as long as he gets AB’s he’ll put up the stats.
David Wyatt – @davidwyatt_