So, not to be a pessimist, or a Debbie downer, but after 97 wins and 100 years without a world championship, the mighty thunder of the Cubs bats managed to score a whopping six runs en route to being swept by the Dodgers in last years NLDS.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Cubs were supposed to get by the Dodgers, squeak out a series win over the Brewers in the NLCS, then advance to their first World Series since 1945. But no. The echo from Wrigley, yet again, "Wait until next year." And, yes, next year is nearly upon us.
In looking at the Cubs offensively this year, many of the same pieces are there. You have your Lee, Ramirez, and your Soriano. But several key role players are gone with the likes of DeRosa, Ward, and Cedeno.
Players that can play in several different places on the field, and contribute at the plate. They are replaced with Aaron Miles, Milton Bradley, and Mike Fontenot appears to be getting more AB's this year.
When looking at the lineup, it begins at the top with Soriano. The key for him is his health. He did play in over 100 games last year, but had nearly as many strikeouts as games played. Don't get me wrong when he is healthy, he is a difference maker. But this year playing along side another injury prone OF in Milton Bradley, it is imperative he stay healthy.
The two hole looks to be Ryan Theriot. He was solid last year, and the smart money is that he will be again this year. Following him is the meat of the order. D-Lee, Ramirez, and Soto.
I expect the same 20-25 homers, the .300 average, and the 100 + RBI's out of the two of them. Expect and even bigger year from Soto.
Last year he kind of wore down near the end of the season and tailed off. With a full major league season under his belt, look for him to belt out 30 homers, bat over .300, and smack 40 doubles.
Batting sixth and seventh will be the platoon of outfielders. Reed Johnson is a bleacher bum favorite, and will getting plenty of playing time. Fukudome looks to get himself going and stay going. He started off so hot last season, that when he came down to earth, it actually made him look like just an average player, which he is not. Fukudome just needs to learn to lay off those outside pitches.
Milton Bradley is an interesting addition. If he can stay healthy (he DH'd last year in Texas) and avoid tearing knee ligaments during arguments, then he could be a key bat near the end of the lineup.
At the end I expect the Miles/Fontenot platoon. Not much to say here except that this needs to be a spot that can get hits ahead of the pitcher.
When looking at the bats as a whole, I think the everyday lineup will be good. The only question marks will be health issues, and whether the proven veterans can play at the level they did last year.
In a division were CC said see ya, and many of the teams are trying to find a solid rotation, it could be another big season for the bats of the Big Blue. Now we have to hope they don't go into hibernation before October...