Cubs 2022 season preview: Projected lineup, rotation and five things to know as Chicago looks to form new core

Earlier than 2015, the Cubs had been to the NLCS 3 times. They went three straight from 2015-17. Earlier than 2016, they hadn’t received the World Collection since 1908. Earlier than … you understand what? We do not have to do that. Everybody is aware of. Everybody will get it. It is over. That period is completed. 

The 2021 Cubs made it painfully apparent for die-hard Cubs followers when a bit of the World Collection core was traded in July and the staff stumbled to a 71-91 end regardless of being tied for first place as late as June 24. It was the worst Cubs end since 2013 and the eyes ought to now be fastened on the longer term. What’s finished is completed. What’s going to occur subsequent? 

Win complete projection, odds

  • 2021 file: 71-91
  • 2022 SportsLine projection: 74-88
  • World Collection odds (through Caesars Sportsbook): +10000

Projected lineup

  1. Rafael Ortega, CF
  2. Frank Schwindel, 1B
  3. Willson Contreras, C
  4. Seiya Suzuki, RF
  5. Patrick Knowledge, DH
  6. Ian Happ, LF
  7. Nick Madrigal, 2B
  8. Andrelton Simmons, SS
  9. Jonathan Villar, 3B

Bench: C Yan Gomes, IF Nico Hoerner, OF Clint Frazier, OF Jason Heyward

There are every kind of shifting elements right here. Hoerner will see begins at second, brief and presumably a number of outfield spots. Heyward’s days of being a starter aren’t totally behind him and he may even see time in middle. Frazier wasn’t introduced in to only experience pine, as he’ll get begins each at DH and within the outfield. Villar may bounce across the diamond. Knowledge can begin at both nook infield spot to unencumber DH for another person. Contreras is among the handful of catchers who may viably DH when he is not behind the plate. 

Additionally, David Bote will return from shoulder surgical procedure sooner or later whereas Alfonso Rivas, Ildemaro Vargas, Sergio Alcántara, Michael Hermosillo and others may get a glance sooner or later. 

Merely, there might be mixing and matching every day. 

Projected rotation

  1. RHP Kyle Hendricks
  2. RHP Marcus Stroman
  3. LHP Wade Miley
  4. RHP Alec Mills
  5. LHP Drew Smyly

Once more, every kind of shifting elements. 

Steven Brault, Steele, Thompson, Norris and Adrian Sampson are among the many many Cubs being stretched out as doable starters in spring coaching. Steele and Thompson particularly final 12 months obtained seems to be for the Cubs each as starters and relievers. Mills and/or Smyly may find yourself within the bullpen. 

Brailyn Márquez’s inventory rose enormously just a few years in the past, however 2020’s lack of a minor-league season teamed with a shoulder damage final season have meant simply 2/Three of an inning of regular-season sport motion since 2019. He is nonetheless solely 23 and has huge upside, however he would want an enormous stint in Double-A after which Triple-A, in all probability, earlier than becoming a member of the fray. 

Projected bullpen

Nearer: RHP Rowan Wick
Setup: RHP David Robertson, RHP Mychal Givens, RHP Chris Martin
Center: RHP Jesse Chavez, RHP Scott Effross, RHP Manny Rodríguez
Lengthy: RHP Keegan Thompson, RHP Justin Steele, LHP Daniel Norris

Proper-handers Tommy Nance and Robert Gsellman are additionally within the combine whereas righty Adbert Alzolay and lefty Brad Wieck have what seem like fairly critical accidents, although they might issue late within the season. 

I selected Wick as nearer, however there possible will not be only one. Robertson and Givens are early-season save candidates and somebody like Effross or Rodríguez may emerge because the season goes on. 

It is ‘completely different’

Perhaps groups ought to workshop their mottos? I do not know, I am simply undecided “it is completely different right here” is an extremely advertising job to promote the fan base on getting thrilling about this staff. I suppose at the very least it is not false promoting? It is completely completely different. That is how they’re firing up the fan base now: 

No offense to Happ, Schwindel and Knowledge, however photos like that the previous a number of years would have featured all-time likable Cubs that helped win the World Collection in 2016 like Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Anthony Rizzo. 

Beneath the floor, although, there is a actuality that issues wanted to alter. “Completely different” is what was wanted. The 2018 staff misplaced the wild card sport. The 2019 staff collapsed in September and missed the playoffs. The 2020 staff received the division in a 60-game season after a 13-Three begin by going simply 21-23 the remainder of the way in which — earlier than scoring just one run in two playoff losses to the Marlins in Wrigley Discipline. The 2021 staff was succeeding with smoke and mirrors till issues caught up and so they misplaced 11 video games in a row to successfully finish the season. 

Two realities can exist on the identical time. The primary being the Cubs’ earlier core needs to be given all of the credit score on the earth for ending the pretend curse and successful the World Collection. The second being that the group was stale and it was simply by no means going to occur once more with out drastic modifications. 

These modifications have been made. The one vestiges of the 2016 championship are Contreras (presumably might be traded this season), Heyward (could be largely a bench participant this season) and Hendricks. Oh, and David Ross, however he is the supervisor now. 

So, yeah, it could be awkward and lend itself to mockery to promote “it is completely different right here,” however completely different was finally what was wanted, even when a payoff will not be occurring in 2022. 

The Contreras query

Contreras goes by stretches the place he seems to be like one among baseball’s actually elite catchers. He additionally goes by stretches the place he seems to be misplaced on the plate and slightly too overzealous behind it. He is now one 12 months away from free company and it seems he and the Cubs cannot come to an settlement on an extension. 

Heard that latter half earlier than? Yeah, the Cubs simply went by this final 12 months with a number of franchise icons and membership president Jed Hoyer confirmed he had no concern buying and selling gamers, regardless of the sentimental worth. 

In fact, Contreras is a useful catcher and if the Cubs are planning on turning issues round right here within the brief time period, it might make sense to maintain him round. 

The 2-time All-Star hit .237/.340/.438 (108 OPS+) final 12 months, a far cry from his career-best 127 OPS+ in 2019, however because of defensive changes, particularly together with his framing capacity, he had a career-high 4.1 WAR. He additionally has three 20-homer seasons underneath his belt in solely 4 100+-game seasons. 

Simply because negotiations with different gamers did not work, that does not imply they will not work with Contreras. However he is additionally been round lengthy sufficient for us to understand the inconsistencies aren’t going wherever. It is easy to dream on one thing like “what if he does this for a full season?” — however after 621 profession regular-season video games, he is turning 30 years outdated this season. That is what he’s, no? And can he wish to be paid for what he’s or what he believes he may be? 

If the Cubs fall out of rivalry by mid-July, which appears a fairly respectable likelihood, count on to see Contreras fairly closely concerned in commerce rumors. 

How good is Suzuki? 

The excellent news for Seiya Suzuki is with Contreras round to start out the season, he would not have to instantly shoulder all of the highlight on offense. Coming off the heels of what simply occurred within the final half-decade or so, he will not should cope with being thought of a franchise savior or something and that is at all times a plus. 

Suzuki is 27 years outdated has spent the final 9 seasons in Nippon Skilled Baseball, Japan’s highest league. He is been a beast the final a number of years. 

  • In 2018, he hit .321/.439/.625 in 125 video games with 32 doubles, 31 homers, 96 RBI and 87 runs.
  • In 2019, in 140 video games, he hit .335/.453/.565 with 31 doubles, 28 homers, 87 RBI, 112 runs, 25 steals and he walked 22 occasions greater than he struck out. 
  • In 118 video games in 2020, he hit .300/.409/.544 with 26 doubles, 25 homers, 75 RBI and 85 runs. He dropped down to 6 steals and struck out 73 occasions in comparison with 72 walks. 
  • Final 12 months, in 134 video games, he hit .317/.433/.636 with 26 doubles, 38 homers, 88 RBI, 77 runs, 9 steals, 88 walks and 89 strikeouts. 

The Steamer projection system has Suzuki taking part in 133 video games for the Cubs this season, hitting .286/.386/.528 (140 wRC+) with 26 doubles, 29 dwelling runs, 87 RBI, 81 runs and 9 steals. That line would’ve been ok to be thought of the Cubs finest participant final season. 

Can he dwell as much as that? The swing seems to be the half, particularly within the energy division: 

It’s going to be enjoyable to observe. 

What’s going to stick? 

For 2022, the Cubs have loads of inquiries to reply. They’re going to begin seeking to kind these out on April 7. There’s a variety of depth, however the jury continues to be out on whether or not or not it is high quality depth. 

Optimistic sorts may squint their technique to seeing a good sufficient ballclub to make a run at one thing like 84 wins and presumably the ultimate wild-card spot. The Reds with 83 wins final 12 months would’ve been the six seed underneath this new playoff format, in any case. Gamers like Ortega, Schwindel and Knowledge confirmed late final season they may very well be worthwhile. We have seen the nice spurts from Happ and Contreras. Frazier is free of no matter was occurring with him within the Bronx. Madrigal and Hoerner and contact-and-average hitters. Simmons continues to be an distinctive fielder at brief. 

Talking of which, if the Cubs create a terrific defensive infield round Simmons, look no additional than Hendricks, Stroman and Miley within the rotation — all of whom had been within the high 20 within the majors in groundball fee final season. 

There’s sufficient depth and expertise after these three to fill out 4-5 high quality rotation spots and a great bullpen. 

There’s additionally sufficient draw back right here to complete even worse than the 91-loss staff did final season. A lot may go unsuitable. There is a cause they’re signing every kind of depth items and it may very well be construed as a “simply hope one thing sticks” plan. Bona fide playoff groups do not should resort to that. 

This is not possible one of many 5 worst groups in baseball, but it surely additionally actually would not appear like a playoff staff. 

Discovering the subsequent championship core

This implies the most important job for the Cubs in 2022 is discovering what gamers they’ve within the group that may very well be a part of the subsequent World Collection staff. 

We already lined Contreras and the way it’s a query that wants answered. Suzuki is definitely in these plans. Stroman and Hendricks may very well be gone after 2023, so who is aware of? 

After which it is all in-season analysis. From the Ortega/Schwindel/Knowledge sorts to Hoerner/Madrigal on right down to prospects like Marquez and hotshot Triple-A outfielder Brennan Davis, probably the most important job for the Cubs’ entrance workplace in 2022 is to seek out which gamers match with the long-term plan. 

Even within the distant likelihood that the Cubs can dangle round in rivalry for the ultimate NL playoff spot, the 2022 12 months is rather more about deciding the longer term path for a lot of the roster throughout the group. Certain, squeaking into the playoffs could be a relative success, however it might be a way more profitable season to get questions answered on dozens of gamers, even when these solutions are unfavourable. 


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