NL Central Preview: Chicago Cubs

Ryan GaydosSenior Analyst IMarch 24, 2009

MESA, AZ - FEBRUARY 23:  Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs poses during photo day at the Fitch Park Spring Training complex on February 23, 2009 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The National League's top team last year will comeback and do it again. The Cubs return with Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee, and Geovany Soto in their lineup. Soto is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year and plans to stay on the same course. The second-year catcher hit 23 homers with 86 runs driven in. He batted .285 in 141 games.

As for the rotation, they lost Jason Marquis to Colorado but they gained Luis VIzcaino in return. Leading the staff is Carlos Zambrano (14-6, 3.91 ERA), then Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96 ERA) followed by Ted Lilly (17-9, 4.09 ERA), and Rich Harden (5-1, 1.77 ERA) who was acquired during the year from Oakland. If everyone could stay healthy, they Cubs are going to be a force.

In the bullpen, the loss of Kerry Wood will not effect them. Carlos Marmol will take over at the closer role with Vizcaino setting him up. Jeff Samardzija will mostly pitch in the latter innings. The Cubs also signed Kevin Gregg from Florida who had 29 saves last year so if Marmol fails then Gregg will be in.

Keep an eye on: Carlos Marmol, rp

Now that Wood is gone, Marmol has a chance to shine as the closer. Last year, in the set up role, Marmol was 2-4 with a 2.68 ERA and had seven saves. His production should quadruple.

Projected Lineup
1. Alfonso Soriano, lf
2. Aaron Miles, 2b
3. Derek Lee, 1b
4. Milton Bradley, rf
5. Aramis Ramirez, 3b
6. Geovany Soto, c
7. Kosuke Fukudome, cf
8. Ryan Theriot, ss

Projected Pitching Staff
1. Carlos Zambrano, rhp
2. Ryan Dempster, rhp
3. Ted Lilly, lhp
4. Rich Harden, rhp
5. Sean Marshall, lhp

Projected Bullpen
Carlos Marmol
Kevin Gregg
Luis Vizcaino
Neal Cotts
Michael Wuertz
Chad Gaudin
Jeff Samardzija

Top Prospects
1. Josh Vitters, 3b
2. Jeff Samardzija, rhp
3. Andrew Cashner, rhp
4. Hak Ju Lee, ss
5. Tyler Colvin, cf