|2010 Season Preview: Chicago Cubs|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on March 12, 2010
The team has some young talent in its farm, but if new ownership is to be believed, the attitude might well be, win sooner, not later, and that talent could be on the trading block if the team looks like it's in the mix come July.Â That's a big if, but as mentioned above, this division is wide open.
Painting the Town:
Escaping the Wind:
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths:Â Starting pitching (kind of), Offensive Potential in the Middle of the Lineup
That means that when the dust settles and the pitching staff is healthy once again that the Cubs feel that their starters -- Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly, Randy Wells and Carlos Silva -- will match up well against anyone in the division.Â It's outside the division that it might really be a problem since Zambrano is only marginally a number one pitcher, Wells is still fairly unproven and Silva has to prove he can throw anything other than batting practice to the opposing team (6.82 ERA over the past two seasons -- while playing in a pitcher friendly park).
Still the Cubs don't have to finish with better records than teams in the east or west (good thing).
Like most teams in this division the Cubs don't have an overwhelming offense, but what they have has a lot of potential -- especially when it comes to power.Â The lineup however does have quite a few holes and question marks, there is no question that hitters 3 through 5 -- Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Marlon Byrd -- can hit, and there is plenty of hope that Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto can contribute big time.
But Soriano is a big question mark in many ways.Â Now at age 34 it's obvious that the twilight years of his career have either already begun or are just a season or two away.Â His speed which once could be counted on for 30-40 stolen bases is mostly gone, his power numbers have fallen consistently since 2006 and he's only managed to play 115 games per season on average too.Â The Cubs believe that the post surgery Soriano can do a lot better, but unless he impresses a bit more this spring it's hard to imagine that the improvement will be dramatic.
While Soriano has upside with the bat, you have to wonder if the same can be said for catcher Geovany Soto who crashed back to earth last season (.218-11-47) after his 2008 rookie campaign (.285-23-86).Â The answer is that Soto probably can produce numbers somewhere between those two extremes based on what he'd done both here and in the minor leagues too.Â Still, until he proves that last year was a fluke he has to be counted as a weak link in a lineup that really has too many.
As the Cubs come into the season with no true leadoff hitter the team will probably rely an awful lot on the light hitting Ryan Theriot (.284) to fill that void.Â If he can handle the pressure he should be all right -- he has a modicum of speed and a solid OBP, but it's not the most familiar of roles for him and expectations will be high.
Kosuke Fukudome (.259) will bat second, and while he's failed to impress many, his high OBP (.375 last season) is the reason he's the number two hitter in the lineup.Â He's far from the weakest link.Â That honor belongs to Mike Fontenot who hit just .236 last season and doesn't seem to have a lot of upside.
Weaknesses: Bullpen, Defense, Bottom of the lineup.
As mentioned along with the offense above, the bottom of the Cubs lineup looks to be Alfonso Soriano, Geovanny Soto, Mike Fontenot and the pitcher.Â That could be a very big vulnerability if Soriano and Soto struggle.
The bullpen is another potential hazard for the Cubs, especially right now as they've just received word that setup man Angel Guzman tore a ligament in his throwing shoulder.Â The Cubs will have to throw a patch on that and look for some help, or rely heavily on youngsters to fill the late inning voids.Â Closer Carlos Marmol isn't a sure thing either, he's failed twice to hang onto the job and only managed to regain it towards the end of last season.
One question that need answering: