Cubs Preview: Offense Still Boasts Big Power

The Cubs need an answer at leadoff but are well-stocked behind that.

Bruce Levine
February 05, 2020 - 12:58 pm
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(670 The Score) The Cubs scored 814 runs in 2019, the fifth-best mark in the National League.

They produced that offensive output despite having a black hole at the leadoff spot, where they had an ugly .212 batting average and .294 on-base percentage. As the Cubs ready for the start of spring training next week, they're still searching for an answer at the top of their order. 

Barring a trade, the Cubs will have to consider their internal options again. First baseman Anthony Rizzo had the most success there in 2019 but doesn't seem like the full-time answer. Outfielder Kyle Schwarber and outfielder Jason Heyward both have struggled at the top of the order and been much more like themselves elsewhere in the lineup. Third baseman Kris Bryant could be an unconventional option to lead off -- if the Cubs don't trade him before Opening Day. Past them, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ is perhaps the most logical option, as he holds a career .340 on-base percentage.

If the Cubs can find an answer internally or externally at the leadoff spot, they're well-stocked throughout the rest of their lineup. 

They still boast an elite group of infielders. Rizzo has continued to be as consistent as ever, while shortstop Javier Baez followed up an MVP runner-up finish in 2018 with a strong 2019 that was slowed late by a thumb injury. Despite his tenuous future with the Cubs, Bryant remains one of the best players in the game. Nico Hoerner, 22, seems will play plenty of second base and may be primed to handle the everyday job there. Catcher Willson Contreras is coming off of back-to-back All-Star seasons.

There's more uncertainty in the outfield but plenty of familiar faces. Schwarber remains the Cubs' everyday left fielder and is coming off a monster second half in 2019, as he hit 20 homers and posted a .997 OPS after the All-Star break. The other two outfield spots will be filled by the mix of Happ, Heyward, Albert Almora Jr. and Steven Souza Jr., the only position player whom the Cubs signed to a big league deal this offseason. Souza missed the entire 2019 season with a serious knee injury, but the Cubs are hopeful he can add some thrust to the outfield by regaining his form of 2017, when he hit 30 homers for the Rays. 

The Cubs' bench will be headlined by infielder David Bote and catcher Victor Caratini, who serves as a strong backup for Contreras. Infielder Daniel Descalso is in the mix as well, and utilityman Hernan Perez could win a spot on the 26-man roster after signing a minor league deal with a spring training invite. 

Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer still have time to made a trade before Opening Day arrives on March 26. Whether such a deal would strengthen the Cubs for 2020 or hurt them in the short term with the exit of Bryant remains to be seen.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.