SLEEPER Ryan Theriot is a name to know in NL leagues. That's because he's a good contact hitter with some speed, is a second baseman by trade, and he's only behind Mark DeRosa.
BUST DeRosa's Arlington-inflated numbers don't have the substance to hold up for another season.
HITTER TO WATCH: Felix, Pie, CF Pie may be squeezed out in Chicago right now, but he's their center fielder of the future, a plus power hitter who'll be an above-average glove.
PITCHER TO WATCH: Sean Gallagher, RHP
Gallagher is probably the closest pitching prospect not already in the big leagues for Chicago, and he's more than a year off as he tries to recover his control.
MLB Preview 2007
FIXED Early this spring, Lou Piniella sidled up to Mark Prior and asked him how he was feeling. When Prior said he felt great, the Cubs' new skipper got straight to the point. "You're pitching Monday," he said. Instead of giving Prior, who has averaged 131 IPs in five major league seasons, the chance to make his own schedule, Piniella did it for him. And when Prior had arm and stuff issues near the end of spring training, Piniella didn't wait; instead, he gave the final rotation job to Wade Miller and wasted little time announcing that Prior would start the season either on the DL or in the minor leagues. It was another sign that Piniella is completely in charge, and that he won't accept mediocrity, or losing, this season. He may have to get used to sore arms, though.
NEEDS FIXING The Cubs spent $300M upgrading, but here's a more telling figure: 292. That's the gap between the number of walks issued by Cubs pitchers and the number of walks taken by Cubs hitters in 2006, the biggest disparity in NL history. In that context, newcomers Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis (156 BBs allowed in '06) and Alfonso Soriano and Mark DeRosa (just 111 BBs taken) fit right in. "We know we have to throw more strikes and take more balls," says Piniella. One curse at a time.
Before tearing his labrum in 2003, Ángel Guzmán was a phenom. Now he's back
to flashing high-90s heat. Guzmán, not the fading Mark Prior, could be the
Not even the charm of Wrigley can ease the blow of the average ticket price ($34.30), parking ($17) and a century-long championship drought. Lou Piniella's replacing Dusty Baker did give the club a boost in the coaching sweepstakes, and the offseason signing of free agency's grand prize, Alfonso Soriano, gave fans -- and players -- reason to hope.
"Pencil the Cubs in for 90 wins, and don't even think twice about it."