“You can see the mornin’, but I can see the light.” – Bachman Turner Overdrive, Let it Ride
Tomorrow is baseball’s first real Opening Day since 2019, or at least that’s the way the league is spinning it. We had the pandemic in 2020 and last year fans weren’t allowed in many stadiums that still had coronavirus protocols in place. If you were being nitpicky, you could argue that this year’s start was postponed due to the lockout, but why rain on Rob Manfred’s parade?
Stadiums will be packed across the country for tomorrow’s and Friday’s games because hope does spring eternal, and the expanded postseason means a playoff berth is not out of the question except in Arizona, Baltimore, Oakland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Depending on how the ping pong ball bounces, that’s probably five of your six lottery teams for the 2023 draft with the first to tank among the Cubs, Nationals, Rockies, Athletics, and Guardians likely to join them. I don’t believe the North Siders will be tanking this year, however.
The Cubs are a tough team to project. They could be much better than last year’s 71-91 squad, but it will take surprise seasons from the likes of Clint Frazier, Drew Smyly, Nico Hoerner, Justin Steele, and Alec Mills. Chicago will also be counting on bounce-back seasons by Jason Heyward and Kyle Hendricks, more than two months of big-league production from Ian Happ, and a quick adaptation to American baseball by Seiya Suzuki. If Nick Madrigal can be the team’s first bona fide leadoff hitter since Dexter Fowler blew out of town, that would be a big help.
As far as things the Cubs can reasonably rely on, Frank Schwindel should continue to hit, Marcus Stroman will be the team’s most effective starter, and the bullpen should be every bit as good as last season. Chicago’s lineup will look a little more formidable once Brennen Davis arrives, but they’ll still struggle against right-handers — especially those that come armed with big fastballs — since they still don’t have much lefty pop.
By my count, the Cubs will have as many as 20 players on this year’s Opening Day roster who weren’t here at this time last year. Time will tell if Stroman, Smyly, Madrigal, Suzuki, Frazier, Wade Miley, Daniel Norris, Mychal Givens, Yan Gomes, and David Robertson are better than Zach Davies, Jake Arrieta, Eric Sogard, Joc Pederson, Jake Marisnick, Trevor Williams, Brandon Workman, Tony Wolters, Ryan Tepera, and Andrew Chafin. I’m guessing they will be, which is why the Cubs could surprise.
Lest we forget, Chicago also had Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Craig Kimbrel on the 2021 Opening Day squad. That firepower will be tough to replace, though nobody should count out Schwindel, Patrick Wisdom, Jonathan Villar, and Rowan Wick. The combined projected output of those four Cubs, along with the aggregate numbers of those mentioned previously, shows a markedly improved roster on paper. There is no real star power on this year’s team other than Suzuki and Stroman, but the synergy seems a whole lot better.
Cubs News & Notes
- Ryan Jensen, Caleb Kilian, and DJ Herz sit atop this year’s Cubs Insider list of top 20 pitching prospects, as selected by Greg Huss.
- The Ricketts family continues to strengthen their bid to purchase Chelsea Football Club, adding Dan Gilbert’s Rock Entertainment Group to a consortium that already included hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin.
- MLBTR published its offseason review of the Cubs. As I mentioned above, Chicago experienced quite a bit of roster churn.
- Hendricks is the team’s sole link to past and future glory days.
- In his final appearance of spring training the other day, Stroman simulated five innings against a mix of Cubs prospects and major league batters. The right-hander struck out eight, walked one, and allowed one hit among the 22 batters he faced.
- Suzuki has won over Chicago’s clubhouse.
- Per fivethirtyeight.com, the Cubs have an 18% chance of making the playoffs and a 7% chance of winning the NL Central.
- The Chicago Tribune says Chicago is the fourth-worst team in baseball, just ahead of the Pirates, A’s, and Orioles.
- If you’re looking to score a new Hawaiian shirt, a David Ross bobblehead, or a 1984 replica jersey, be sure to check out the team’s list of 2022 giveaway days.
Odds & Sods
One of my favorite scenes of the movie Invincible is when the Eagles held their tryout camp under first-year head coach Dick Vermeil. Maybe the Cubs were simply trying to find that left-handed slugger the team needs when they held their Field of Dreams event yesterday at a very foggy Wrigley Field.
-BP at Wrigley Field ☑️
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 6, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Execution of bitterness, message received loud and clear.” – INXS, Don’t Change
A mass exodus during the 3rd inning of yesterday’s Cactus League finale left the Cubs fending off the Rangers with players who are not on the 40-man roster, and it wasn’t pretty. At least Michael Hermosillo had a pretty three-run bomb before heading north.
- Scott Effross completed Cactus League action with a 0.00 ERA in seven innings of work. Ethan Roberts didn’t allow any earned runs, either.
- Alfonso Rivas batted .385 in 31 at-bats with a home run and six walks. I’m giving him camp MVP honors.
- Davis and fellow outfield prospect Alexander Canario combined for four home runs and 10 RBI in 18 spring at-bats.
Spring Training News & Notes
Cumulative spring stats across the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues may indicate we are about to see a power surge during the regular season.
The Yankees have already postponed tomorrow’s opener against the Red Sox. The game will be played on Friday.
The Sporting News predicts that the Dodgers will defeat the Blue Jays in this year’s World Series.
Hermosillo is going to be fun to watch this season.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 5, 2022
They Said It
- “I don’t think anyone really crushes [high heat]. Guys that do the best with that pitch don’t swing at it. Mike Trout, and Juan Soto… just don’t offer at it, so I went with that approach. It does look enticing, ask any hitter, but rather than go fishing up there, [I’m] just [going to] stop.” – Wisdom
- “When I was deciding where to sign, I talked to guys over here and they mentioned that they had a slider that would be good for my arm slot. Once I got here, I got to work and I’ve been throwing it in games and it feels good.” – Norris
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Fooled Around and Fell in Love by Elvin Bishop featuring Mickey Thomas – I have a feeling the 2022 Cubs are going to be easy to root for because of their underdog mentality, understated swagger, and slim expectations.