2011 MLB Team Preview – Chicago Cubs

Key Additions—Matt Garza, Carlos Pena

Key Losses—Derek Lee, Ryan Theriot

Lineup—While many will point to the addition of Carlos Pena as a big boost to their lineup, I just don’t see that big of an upgrade over Derek Lee. Remember, Pena hit below .200 last year, and although he had good power numbers, that is just an awful batting average. Unless he comes back strong, he isn’t the middle of the order bat that the Cubs need. A big key to this offense though will be Aramis Ramirez. When he is on, he is a very good stick, but he needs to start producing again. The outfield is well below average. Alfonso Soriano is aging, awful in left field, and his bat just isn’t what it used to be. And he has 4 yrs and 72 million left on that deal. Marlon Byrd and Koseke Fukudome are both subpar outfielders. The middle of the lineup is young but has a chance to be pretty good. I like Starling Castro, and Blake DeWitt provides a relatively good stick for 2b. They can only hope that Geovanny Soto returns to his rookie of the year form. All in year, compared with some of the other lineups in this division, they won’t be able to stack up enough to compete.

Rotation—I love the addition of Matt Garza. Sure, moving over from the American League will likely grow his ERA, but he is a guy you can count on to give you tons of innings and provide good starts the majority of his outings. What a great move acquiring him. He will fill one of the top of the rotation spots along with Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano. Dempster has become a pretty solid starter, and Zambrano is very good when his head is on straight. Unfortunately for Cubs fans, that isn’t too often. He is also owed a ton of money, so Cubs fans need to hope he finds his stuff and attitude back. The back end of the rotation with Randy Wells and Carlos Silva is good enough to win some guys, and actually help this rotation be pretty steady. While I don’t think they are the best rotation in the division, I do like what they have done here.

Bullpen—For some reason, I think this bullpen has the potential to be pretty good. They have a good mix of lefty/righties in that pen, with John Grabow and Sean Marshall from the left side, and Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Marmol from the right side. Marmol asserted himself as a very good closer last year, and as long as he can keep his walks down he will continue to get the job done. And although Kerry Wood often gets a bad rap, he will slide in nicely in that 8th inning roles. With those lefties I mentioned, they also have the ability to match up with other teams, which is a nice bonus to have. All in all I think this is a pretty solid pen.

Impact Rookie—Jay Jackson, RHP. A two way star at Furman, the fireballing Jackson has 4 pitches, the best of which is a mid 90’s fastball. Though he regressed slightly last year, he made 25 starts for AAA Iowa and could be an early call up should they need an arm whether it be in the bullpen or the rotation.

Outlook—I like what the Cubs did in the offseason, but I can’t help but think about how this team is handcuffed with a few salaries. Having over 36 millions committed to Zambrano and Soriano over the next few years is tough to overcome unless they really turn it around. As much as I like their pitching staff overall, I just don’t think their lineup can compete with the other teams in this division. Fact is, it will be another season of waiting for Cubs fans.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

NL Central Preview:

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Houston Astros

Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals


2011 MLB Team Preview – Chicago White Sox

Key Additions—Adam Dunn,

Key Losses—Bobby Jenks, JJ Putz

Lineup—You will soon find out that I am a huge fan of Adam Dunn, so adding him to this lineup is a big boost. With Dunn and Konerko in the middle of this lineup, that is 2 solid run producers. While I still see some question marks in what AJ Pierzynski can bring you behind the plate, and what they will get out of Brent Morel at 3rd, all in all I like how this offense shapes up. Just imagine what would happen if Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin return to form. However, what they may have in a lineup they completely lack in defense. Rios is no longer a great center fielder, and Pierre has a very weak arm. But I do believe from top to bottom this is the best lineup in the AL Central.

Rotation—I think this rotation all depends on the ability of Jake Peavy to stay healthy. If he is, then he slides up and gives them a bona-fide ace at the front end of the rotation. If not, they will really need Gavid Floyd and John Danks to have big years. But my thoughts are that Peavy will bounce back and give them a big year, thus moving everyone down a notch. And when you have the always steady Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson is your #5 with his stuff, you have to believe you are in good shape. All in all, along with the best lineup, I believe this is the best starting pitching in the division.

Bullpen—So far I have had a lot of good things to say about this team, but the bullpen is where I think they will have problems. Yes, Matt Thornton has had a 3 very solid years, but making the transition to closer will test him further. Do I think he can do it, absolutely, but the problem with letting Jenks go means not only does Thornton move up a spot, but everyone else moves up a spot, and that causes trouble. With a rotation made up of 3 guys who will struggle to go late in games, those 7th/8th inning guys will be crucial, and I just don’t believe they have the arms in the bullpen to be effective on a nightly basis.

Impact Rookie–Chris Sale, LHP. A year ago at this time, Sale was climbing up draft boards at Florida Gulf Coast University. Now he’s a 21 game MLB vet with 4 saves under his belt. Sale will be Thornton’s toughest competition for the closer spot, but like Thornton in his years with Seattle, walks could be a problem.

Outlook—As I mentioned above, the bullpen for this team scares me quite a bit. I just don’t see how they are going to get the consistency that is needed. But adding a hitter like Dunn and having Peavy for what they hope will be a full year should be enough to compete in the division. Of course, you never know what Ozzie Guillen is going to pull, but all in all the lineup and rotation enough to believe in them going into 2011.

Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent

AL Central Preview:

Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins