Going into the regular season, the Cubs’ key concerns are Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler. They played inconsistently last season and in a stacked lineup like the Cubs have, their situation isn’t exactly a big concern to have.
“My biggest thing with him is that he understands how to get ready to play every day,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’m not looking for great plays, I’m not looking for 30 homers, I’m not looking for him hitting .310. It’s just a matter of getting a young player who will understand the Major Leagues on a daily basis, that his prep work is good, that’s he’s ready to play when asked to play. Those are the biggest things about ‘Georgie’ moving forward.”
He’s got a rocket of an arm in the outfield and at any given moment he can launch a ball into the stratosphere. Jorge Soler struggled in April of last year and eventually ended up on the hurt list. This is a different team this season and with guys like Jason Heyward pushing him in camp, expectations are going to be higher.
As for Kyle Schwarber, there’s no questioning his plate thunder. Affectionally labeled as, the “Sultan of Schwarb” by yours truly after his striking resemblance to Babe Ruth, it’s his defence that needs work this season. I’m expecting Kyle Schwarber to end up in an American League uniform before too long. Maybe not this year, but he’ll be a DH before his career winds down.
“We need to get that playoff performance out of him on a more consistent basis,” Maddon said. “For me, what I’m talking about, that’s all prep work. It’s a matter of teaching him how to get ready on a daily basis and we will. When we do that, you’ll see more of that kind of performance on a consistent basis.”
Now, imagine a few years ago when the main concern for the Cubs was not finishing dead last in the League? I’ll definitely take a few dropped balls from Schwarber and Soler any day.
Another area in need of addressing is the play of Kyle Hendricks. The Professor struggled last season going 8-7 and an ERA of 3.95. He’s got a bigger cushion with the addition of John Lackey and that veteran presence should help Hendricks a lot. I think Hendricks is a great pitcher and we haven’t yet seen his best stuff. He’s unorthodox and lanky but there’s a certain looseness to his approach that can fool the most seasoned batter. He’s going to rebound this year.
“I had some struggles,” Hendricks admitted. “My mechanics weren’t really working but at least at the end of the year I kind of found it. I started getting it back. Now I have these cues to my mechanics that are different than before, so hopefully I can run with it.”
We hope so too.