Chicago CubsManager: Joe Maddon
Stadium: Wrigley Field
2007 Record: 85-77 (1st in NL Cent)
Team Page | Roster | Schedule
2007: Batting Stats | Runs Scored (ranked 8th in NL)
|2008 FANTASY PROJECTIONS|
|OFF THE BENCH|
After adding the left-handed-hitting Kosuke Fukudome, the Cubs have improved the balance of a lineup that was built around elite right-handed hitters Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. There's a ton of power on this team, which produced a club-record 45 homers last September. Geovany Soto hit three of those. He had 29 homers overall between Chicago and Triple-A Iowa, where he had an MVP season in the Pacific Coast League; he joins Fukudome in having the potential to hit 20-plus homers this season. The Cubs had enough run production to win a division title in 2007 even though Mark DeRosa was the only hitter who performed better than expected.
Alfonso Soriano's hacking sets the tone for a lineup that doesn't often make pitchers work deep into counts. Ryan Theriot has the approach that Lou Piniella wants, but it remains to see if he's talented enough to raise a .266 batting average from last season. Felix Pie, a minor league phenom, hit .215 as a rookie and has only a slight hold on center field. Geovany Soto is considered a solid receiver, but it's still surprising that Piniella is willing to count on a rookie catcher.
HITTER TO WATCH:
The Cubs boast two rookie hitters who'll make their impacts this year: Kosuke Fukudome, a patient, doubles-hitting right fielder with good range and a plus arm; and Geovany Soto, a very strong catcher who should hit for power, but who has an unorthodox swing that may make adjustments tricky.
PITCHER TO WATCH:
Reliever Jose Ceda works in the upper 90s and could make the Cubs' bullpen, but his command is shaky and his control is below average.
-- Keith Law, Scouts Inc.
JUST THE FACTS
• Kerry Wood is still nasty. But if he wants to keep the closer's job,
he needs to prove his arm and bad back can withstand the workload.
• Chicago will love Kosuke Fukudome. He can run, throw, take a pitch or hit it out. He's the perfect No. 2 hitter, but he might bat third, fifth or sixth in Lou Piniella's evolving lineup.
• The O is one hitter short. And that guy is O's leadoff man Brian Roberts, whom the Cubs have been trying to pry away from Baltimore for months.
• There's one No. 1 and four No. 4s. After ace Carlos Zambrano, the rotation doesn't scare anyone.
• The 100-year drought ends this season. OK, that's not a fact. But a palm tree that flowers once a century recently bloomed in Madagascar.
"Lou is not going to let them rest," says an NL exec. "He'd love to make the Hall of Fame, and winning it all with the Cubs would put him in."
"In politics, I don't think anyone could survive a drought like the Cubs. The Republicans didn't control the House for 40 years, but that ended in 1994." --
Dan Lipinski, D-Ill.
-- Tim Kurkjian
MVP of the Arizona Fall League, speedster Sam Fuld is giving the highly touted Felix Pie a run for his money for the starting center-field job. Even if he doesn't grab a regular lineup spot, he could stick as a reserve outfielder and pick up a bunch of stolen bases.
Ryan Dempster's recent stats as a starter aren't anything to write home about, so a full-time move to the rotation doesn't inspire much confidence. Should he struggle, it doesn't seem likely that he'll get any saves, either, given the other options in the Cubs bullpen.
-- James Quintong
Challenged by muscle strains to both his hamstring and his quadriceps last year, Alfonso Soriano was told by the Cubs to take it easy during the offseason and to really allow his legs to rest. Rest he did, and apparently it paid off, as Soriano came to spring training looking fresh and healthy. He suffered a minor setback when he broke the tip of his middle finger, but the Cubs were relieved that he still could exercise his legs while his finger recovered. At this point, confidence that he can run all-out is the biggest hurdle for Soriano, but that should improve as the season progresses.
-- Stephania Bell