Chicago Cubs: Previewing the 2016 season

Mar 29, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 29, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo against the Oakland Athletics during a spring training game at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Can last year’s young Cubs step up again?

The 2015 Chicago Cubs depended a great deal on their young players. Their oldest players on the infield were Castro and Anthony Rizzo, and they were just 25 years old.

The young Cubs came through in almost every way in 2015. Under the guidance of Maddon, they did not feel, or did not care about the pressure they should have been under.

This season, there is a lot of different pressure on them. Playing and having fun with no expectations is greatly different from being expected to come out on top. If some of the players get in a slump, people will be clamoring about how under-achieving they are.

Kyle Hendricks will be key in the rotation. He had an up and down season last year after showing flashes of great pitching in 2014. He will need to be more consistent in his pitching this season. He has made some adjustments in his form, so hopefully he can have a breakout 2016.

Kris Bryant was the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year award winner. Of course, he had tremendous pressure from the moment the Chicago Cubs drafted him.

Bryant was a can’t-miss prospect. The Cubs, however, know the feeling of having those type of players not live up to the hype. He did it in 2015, but he must continue it in 2016. If he can cut down on some of his strikeouts, he may just be able to take a bigger step in 2016.

Kyle Schwarber will have tremendous pressure on him.

People will remember the monster shots he hit last season, helping the Cubs get to the playoffs.

What many forget is how he struggled as time went by. Yes, he struggled defensively, mostly because he was playing out of position. He spent an entire winter working on that, so he should be better defensively. He will not be the best defender, but there are others who can come in the later innings and help, much like how the 1984 Chicago Cubs did with Gary Matthews.

What I am referring to is Schwarber’s average as the season progressed.

He hit .302/.412/.488 in July after he was brought up from the minors in July. In August, that slash went down to .221/.324/.537 (when he hit nine homers). In September/October, his slash was .208/.352/.389.

As the season went on and pitchers got to see more of him, Schwarber’s average went down. He will need to improve on his pitching recognition in 2016 if he is to be a Chicago Cub for the duration of the season.

While many see a Jorge Soler trade happening, I would not be surprised if Schwarber is sent packing if his hitting does not improve. Yes, he can hit prodigious home runs, but he cannot help the team out if he is hitting .200.

The kids will continue to have their fun. What would make things more fun is getting those victories.

Next: How will the rotation hold up?