Cubs in the Post-Season

by James Darby
 

          It’s time to celebrate Chicago! The Cubs are 2016 National League Central Division Champions. Although it’s all good times right now on the north side of Chicago and everyone is excited about the division championship, Joe Maddon and his team know this is just the first goal they have reached and even though they didn’t get to celebrate the division crown on the field at Wrigley, the Cubs would rather celebrate a World series title at Wrigley. To get to that World Series title Joe Maddon is going to have put together a creative roster. Maddon will need reliable arms in the bullpen and hitters who can come off the bench and make contact or come in as a pinch-runner in crucial situations. After all, playoff baseball is a whole different beast from the regular season. Starting Pitchers can be on much shorter leashes, and three runs in four innings could get a manager to go to their bullpen. Over the last few years we have also seen an increase in managers keeping a player on the playoff roster based only on their speed. If Joe Maddon and the Cubs are down a run in an important part of the game he could have to go to his designated runner if he so chooses to carry one. This is one thing I think Cub fans should feel very at ease with, and that is the fact Joe Maddon basically turns into a mad scientist when he constructs rosters and line ups. He will plug guys into certain situations you would never expect to see them in, and by the time that player is done performing, Joe Maddon is looking like a genius. Even with Joe Maddon being one of the best at putting a roster together he will have to inform some players that they will not make the team based on the fact that the Cubs have so much depth all around. So who’s in and who’s out for the playoff roster? Here is my prediction for what the Chicago Cubs play off roster will look like. 
     Lets start off with the catching situation. I believe Joe Maddon will carry three catchers during the postseason, which include: Wilson Contreras, David Ross, and yes, Miguel Montero. 
Contreras will be in the line up the most I believe since he is the Cubs best hitting catcher, and David Ross will be on the team with the main purpose of being Jon Lester’s personal catcher. Ross will also serve as a good pinch-hitter off the bench at times as his nine home runs this season are the most for him since 2012 when he was in Boston. Now the tricky one is Miguel Montero. It’s been a rough season for Montero who has had to deal with injuries and being forced to the bench more often once Wilson Contreras was called up, and hitting well below the Mendoza line for majority of the season sure didn’t help make it a fun summer for Miggy. Even with the benching, and lack of offense, and mean tweets from Twitter, Montero has been positive about it all and has shown signs of his bat maybe coming to form. Montero was hitting .201 at the all-star break but since the break is hitting a more respectful .240 and has a .429 on-base percentage in the month of September. Montero can also give Joe Maddon another left handed bat option off the bench, and defensively allows Maddon to possibly make more changes during a game then he usually does, knowing he has three catchers. If he needs to pinch hit for Contreras and then pinch run for Ross all in the same game, people will be happy that Montero is on this roster. 
     The infield should look the same for the starters with: Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, and Anthony Rizzo from Third to First. The outfield should also not have to many surprises with Dexter Fowler starting in center field, and Jason Heyward in right field mainly for his defense. Left field could be interesting as it has been a revolving door at that position all season long since Kyle Schwarber’s injury in the third game of the season. I believe Jorge Soler will get majority of the starts in left since it gives the Cubs another power option in their line up with a guy who is a threat to knock one out of the park at any time. Soler’s .474 batting average and three home runs in last seasons postseason should also be a reason he needs to start in the play offs. What about the bench though? Already having two catchers on the bench could limit a manger, but thankfully Joe Maddon has multiple players who can play multiple positions. That’s why for the bench I believe joining Ross and Montero will be Javier Baez who has cut down his strike out percentage for the second straight season while also being able to play some remarkable defense at second base, third base, and short stop. Having a player like Baez allows Maddon to feel extra comfortable carrying just one other bench infielder which looks like it could be Tommy La Stella. Tommy who has had a bizarre season with being sent down, and not reporting to triple-A and then thinking about retiring during the middle of season could have been a distraction to this team. Luckily the Cubs had a big enough lead in the division and great club house leaders like Bryant and Rizzo to not allow La Stella’s situation become a distraction. So whether you like it or not I believe we will see La stella on this postseason bench because he is another guy like Baez who can play multiple positions and he will be another left handed option off of Joe Maddon’s bench. Lets just hope he improves that .133 September batting average and can cut down on a few of those errors. The back-up outfield position looks like it can have three guys vying for one spot. With both Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist being more then capable of play defense in the outfield, Joe Maddon may only need to carry one extra outfielder and who will it be? I think will see that spot go to Matt Szczur, who has shown to be one of the Cubs best pinch-hitters while being able to play all three outfield positions. 
             The starting pitching shouldn’t have to many questions, perhaps just figuring out the order in which they will pitch. None the less, expect: Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey to be the postseason roster. So where does Jason Hammel go? With Jason Hammel being the lone starter who has struggled a bit in the second half, it could be hard to see him in the bullpen, but I think Joe Maddon will keep the righty in his pen. If Hammel goes to the pen, it can give him the opportunity to just attack hitters and show all his pitches in one inning, rather then have him start and maybe save his breaking ball for later in the outing. The Cubs have had success like this before when they move a starter to the bullpen. It’s worked out well for  former starters Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill and that’s why I expect to see both of them joining the bull pen as well. Also in the bullpen you should look to see the no brainers like Aroldis Chapman, and Hector Rondon in the bullpen as well. With the success Carl Edwards JR. has has this season I’m expecting him in the bullpen as well along with Mike Montgomery, who actually has been pitching well as a sixth starter but is probably more suited to come out of the bullpen as a lefty specialist. The last arm in the bullpen could also be interesting to watch and see who get’s that spot. With Justin Grimm pitching well of late including a 0.82 ERA in August I feel he is best suited for the final arm in the bullpen giving Joe Maddon a solid bullpen. 
     This is the roster I believe the Cubs will go into the postseason with and barring any injuries should stay together through out this play off run. With that being said there was a lot of talent I left off the roster. I don’t see infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan making the roster due to his struggles at the plate. Albert Almora JR. might be the most talented youngster getting left off the roster. Sorry Almora, maybe next year when you have just a little more experience. In the bullpen I’m a bit worried on Pedro Strop and his recovery from his injury. Strop has not pitched since August 10th and when he comes back, you hope he will be ready for the postseason, but I’m going to need to see at least 2 really good outings from him before I put him in the bullpen. Also acquired at the trade deadline was Joe Smith who I really wanted to keep on the roster due to the fact that left handed hitters are hitting .133 off of Joe this season. If Justin Grim seems to struggle towards the end, I could see Joe smith sneaking onto this playoff roster. In the end though lets all just be glad that we won’t have to deal with the headaches of putting the postseason roster together and leave that to Joe Maddon. After all isn’t the saying “In Joe we trust”? I trust Joe Maddon to put together a roster that will have the North side of Chicago celebrating all October Long.

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