The 2016 Chicago Cubs were good at everything: hitting, pitching, fielding, baserunning, and hell, they even perfected inspirational speeches during rain delays.
Last season was anything but a fluke and this team is far from a one-off. Theo Epstein & Co. appear to have built what looks to be the makings of a modern day dynasty, due to the nature in which they went about constructing their roster.
The Cubs are filled with young, exciting players, with the likes of Javier Baez and Addison Russell, driven by the model MVP in Kris Bryant, and anchored by one of the game's most well-respected coaches in Joe Maddon.
As defending champs, the Cubs aren't sneaking up on anyone this year; however, there are a few reasons why the North Side could be even better come October 2017 and we may be talking about back-to-back champs.
Heyward's Bounce Back
Jason Heyward, fresh off the most frustrating, yet satisfying year of his career, which culminated with the placing of a World Series ring on his finger, is already beginning to show signs of life at the plate. Hitting close to .300 through the first three weeks of the season, Heyward's work with hitting coach John Mallee, to overhaul his swing, appears to be paying early dividends. He may never live up to the $169 million he has remaining on his contract, but his glove, combined with an improved approach at the plate and the Cubs have a rock solid option trotting out to right field every game.
Let's just say, the importance of adding Kyle Schwarber back to the lineup is the difference between getting to the World Series and actually winning it. The Schwarber factor is real and this will be the first full season, knock on wood, that Kyle has played in Chicago -- no small factor given the Cubs' 49-28 record in his regular-season starts. Although Schwarber has less than 500 regular-season plate appearances, he's quickly demonstrated that he can have the same impact in the lineup as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo -- that says a lot.
Yes, the Cubs may have lost Aroldis Chapman, but they acquired Wade Davis, Koji Uehara and Brian Duensing to add to an already talented group of Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm. Between Davis, Rondon, Strop and Edwards Jr., the Cubs have four relievers who frequently throw 95 MPH helping give Maddon the best bullpen he's ever had.
Jake The Snake
Over the last three seasons, only Clayton Kershaw has been more dominant than Jake Arrieta. Jake, who has posted an impeccable 52-19 record as a member of the Cubs, coupled with a sub 2.5 ERA, is on a mission to prove to management that he deserves a long-term deal. That means one expect to get Arrieta's best, night- n night out.
A Video Game-Esque Starting Lineup
Seriously, just look at it:
1. Kyle Schwarber LF
2. Kris Bryant 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo 1B
4. Addison Russell SS
5. Jason Heyward RF
6. Wilson Contreras C
7. Javy Baez 2B
8. Jon Lester P
9. Albert Almora Jr. CF
Yeah. Not many easy outs in that lineup.
The defending champing champs are looking to reign, let's win 2!