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2023 MLB Season Preview: Chicago Cubs

The Cubs made some big moves, but don’t look particularly strong on paper

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs are looking to bounce back from a tough 2022 season in which they finished 74-88, third place in the NL Central. While the 2022 season was tough, the Cubs are going into 2023 with high hopes buoyed by some big moves, though it’s not clear whether this type of optimism is warranted given the personnel up and down their roster.

Expectations for 2023

After a run of six straight winning seasons, including five playoff appearances, from 2015-2020, the Cubs have failed to clear 75 wins in each of the last two seasons. They’ve retooled their roster by adding former Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson, along with a bunch of veterans: Eric Hosmer, Tucker Barnhart, and Trey Mancini. They’re also hoping Cody Bellinger returns to his 2019 MVP form and cratering afterwards.

Despite these moves, projection systems still have the Cubs in the 75-78 win range, and some (not all) have them closer to the Pirates than the Brewers in terms of talent level. You could squint and see 80-85 wins if a lot of things go right, but this roster has a lot of softness, and the veterans they added, in some cases, offer more name recognition than expected production.

Projected Lineup

Via Roster Resource:

  1. Nico Hoerner - 2B
  2. Dansby Swanson - SS
  3. Ian Happ - LF
  4. Trey Mancini - DH
  5. Cody Bellinger - OF
  6. Eric Hosmer - 1B
  7. Patrick Wisdom - 3B
  8. Tucker Barnhart - C
  9. Christopher Morel - RF (Seiya Suzuki is likely to miss the start of the season with an oblique injury)

Projected Bench

Yan Gomes - C
Edwin Rios - 1B/3B
Zach McKinstry - UTIL
Nelson Velasquez - OF

Projected Rotation

Marcus Stroman - RHP
Jameson Taillon - RHP
Justin Steele - LHP
Drew Smyly - LHP
Adrian Sampson - RHP

Projected Bullpen

Brandon Hughes - LHP
Michael Fulmer - RHP
Brad Boxberger - RHP
Adbert Alzolay - RHP
Rowan Wick - RHP
Julian Merryweather - RHP
Michael Rucker - RHP
Keegan Thompson - RHP

Biggest Strength

Nowhere does the Cubs roster rank among the best in the league, but the closest they come, position-by-position, is probably at shortstop and right field. Shortstop, of course, is projected to earn gaudy WAR totals courtesy of Dansby Swanson, who managed 6.4 fWAR last year. Nico Hoerner, who is sliding to second base with Swanson’s addition, represents another fine shortstop option should Swanson have to miss time. Right field will be a bit touch-and-go while Seiya Suzuki returns from an oblique ailment, but he gives Chicago a better option at that position than most teams have.

Biggest Weakness

This roster is not without its weaknesses. Patrick Wisdom didn’t do anything particularly well last year other than stay on the field and looks like a weak starter on this team, but the Cubs have backup options like Christopher Morel. More glaring is catcher, where a combo of Tucker Barnhart and Yan Gomes is mostly just aimed at not bleeding value, and first base, where the Cubs are apparently committed to dedicating PAs to Eric Hosmer, who hasn’t even cleared 1 fWAR since 2017.

Reinforcements from the Farm

The Cubs have a robust farm system, but many of their impact players are still cooking. Caleb Killian got a cup of coffee last year and should be around to fill in for what doesn’t look like a particularly stable rotation. Miguel Amaya might provide a boost by supplanting one of Barnhart or Gomes whenever the Cubs decide he’s ready. Alexander Canario, acquired with Killian in the Kris Bryant deal, has raked throughout the minors and along with Matt Mervis, gives the Cubs some corner bat-first options.

Braves history/outlook against the Cubs

Atlanta has an 8-5 record over the Cubs in the last three seasons, and split their six games against them last year. The Braves will play the Cubs in two three game series once again in 2023. The first series will take place August 4th-6th in Chicago, while the second will take place September 26th-28th in Atlanta.

The Braves haven’t lost a season series to the Cubs since 2017, when they went 1-6 against them.

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