This continues my 2010 MLB preview. I intend to touch on every team in the major leagues in installments by division. The lineups I provide will be what I predict will be the most productive for each team for the MAJORITY of the season (e.g., Jason Heyward will be listed as the Braves RF even though he may not begin the season as the starter).
I will also provide the stereotypical letter grade to each team's lineup, rotation, bullpen, and depth/bench. Though it is trite, I think all baseball fans can identify with the letter grade system.
Teams will be addressed respective to their predicted finish in their division.
2. Chicago Cubs
Ryan Theriot - SS
Alfonso Soriano - LF
Derrek Lee - 1B
Aramis Ramirez - 3B
Marlon Byrd - CF
Kosuke Fukudome/Xavier Nady - RF
Geovany Soto - C
Mike Fontenot - 2B
OUTFIELD: The outfield is strong offensively, as well as quite deep. But defensively, they lack athleticism. Marlon Byrd can play CF a little better than Kosuke Fukudome, but he still isn't a true CF. I like the Xavier Nady signing for depth, and wouldn't be surprised if he unseats Fukudome as the starter if he proves to be healthy. Soriano is coming off an injury, so the Nady signing looks even better in light of that. It's time Soriano left the leadoff spot. He can do many of the same things in the no. 2 hole that he did in the leadoff spot, while helping his team score more runs.
INFIELD: The cajun middle infield is solid offensively and defensively but isn't spectacular. Theriot adds fire with his hard play. Fontenot is more expendable, and Jeff Baker will take away some of his ABs. Derrek Lee returned to form last season and is the unquestioned leader of this team. He plays gold glove defense year in and year out. Aramis Ramirez needs to remain healthy this season and help Lee drive in runs.
CATCHING: Geovany Soto hit a wall last season, a true sophomore slump. He should bounce back; maybe not to his 2008 R.O.Y. totals, but improvement won't be hard when you hit .218 the previous season. Koyie Hill is a solid defensive backup.
Carlos Zambrano - R
Ted Lilly - L
Ryan Dempster - R
Randy Wells - R
Tom Gorzelanny - L
I don't see Carlos Silva wrestling the fifth starter job away from Tom Gorzelanny this spring. Carlos Zambrano needs to come back healthy and ready to win this season. Leadership is needed from him. Ted Lilly has been quietly solid every year he's been with the Cubs. Ryan Dempster has been very good since moving into the rotation, too. I don't know if Randy Wells is the real deal. He may be a one-hit wonder. Time will tell.
Carlos Marmol will close, but I don't know if he's as great as some think he is. Control is a major issue with him and it wouldn't be a surprise to see hitters consistently sit on their hands in the box until he throws the first strike. John Grabow, Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardzija, and Sean Marshall are all solid relievers.
The outfield is pretty deep with Nady and Micah Hoffpauir both able to back up the corner spots. Hoffpauir is also the backup to D-Lee at first. Fontenot and Baker can both play 3B also, in case Ramirez gets injured again this season. Andres Blanco was a pleasant surprise behind Theriot last season.
THOUGHTS: The Cubs are solid at all parts of their game, much like the Cardinals, but I don't trust their recent health issues. They had injuries everywhere last season and the pitching rotation isn't as good. A lot rests on Randy Wells' shoulders. If he proves to be no fluke, then the rotation will succeed. If he falters, there isn't enough starter depth behind him to make up for it. The Cubs will be good, but not good enough to take the division from St. Louis.