NL Central: Burning Questions for Each Team

Chicago Cubs – Can expectations be tempered?

Take a second to watch the clip above.  MLB is stingy with video, so to avoid the risk of reusing material “Without the expressed written consent of Major League Baseball,” this GIF will have to do. The collective prospectgasm that ran through the Windy City following the back-to-back-to-back jacks slammed by Cubs megaprospects Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant undoubtedly nearly broke the Internet in Chicago on Tuesday. 

After the dust settled, the Cubs sent out the following tweet.

If I had to guess, the combination of having Joe Maddon fall into their lap, signing Jon Lester, and having these three studs nearly ready for their big league debuts, many in Chicago are envisioning an end to the Curse of the Billy Goat in the near future. I think a bit of brake pumping is in order for long suffering Cubs fans, but agree they are headed in the right direction.

Soler and Baez will start the season in the starting lineup. Bryant will likely start the season in the minors, but it is only a matter of time, service time, that is, before he will be joining the Cubs in Wrigley. I expect the Cubs to do everything in their power to delay the start of Bryant’s MLB service time clock and buy an extra year before he hits free agency. Soler and Baez both got a taste of Major League pitching last season, with Soler proving more ready for the jump. The Cuban émigré handled himself well in 24 games with a nice .292/.330/.573 slash line and six home runs. Baez was a bit more overmatched, slashing .169/.227/.324. He also struck out 95 times in only 52 games, a pace that would shatter the single season record for whiffs by an extremely wide margin.

There is plenty of reason for optimism in Chicago, but laying playoff expectations on this team is unrealistic.  The Cubs rotation, beyond Lester is still a bit unproven. I would like to see Jake Arrieta string together two consecutive successful seasons before I christen him a true No. 2 to Lester. Kyle Hendricks may also be the real deal, but I just need to see how he handles a full season at the Major League level. The Cubs will also be banking on another “up” season from the inconsistent Jason Hammel.

The Cubs have enough firepower to break through the .500 level, but those thinking World Series in Joe Maddon’s first season in Chicago need to take a deep breath and allow Soler, Baez, and Bryant a full season to develop.

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