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3 Players To Watch Series

LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs were World Series Champions for the first time in over a century in 2016.  The “curse of the billy goat” was broken and the Cubs were lovable losers no more.  It seemed like that young core of Rizzo, Bryant, Baez and Schwarber could build a dynasty on the North Side.  The Cubs would drop the NLCS to the Dodgers in 2017 and by 2019 they wouldn’t even make the postseason.

Anthony Rizzo would leave for the Yankees, Kris Bryant for the Rockies, Javier Baez to the Tigers and Kyle Schwarber to the Phillies.   Jon Lester became plagued with injuries and has moved on from Chicago.  Even Wilson Contreras has left for St. Louis.  One of the only holdovers from that 2016 is pitcher Kyle Hendricks.  So, the 2023 Cubs have officially moved on from that 2016 teams and as a result of a busy off-season, they may be ready to compete again.

Nico Hoerner, 2B

The Cubs infielder will enter what will be effectively his second full season as a starter.  And, with the signing of shortstop, Dansby Swanson, Hoerner will find a more permanent home at second base.  Hoerner was the Cubs first round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and had a productive 2022 season, hitting 10 HR / 55 RBIs / .281 BA / .736 OPS.  He should settle nicely into that Cubs lineup, that seen some drastic improvements over the off-season.  According to reports, Hoerner is demonstrating leadership characteristics in the Cubs clubhouse this spring.

Dansby Swanson, SS

Unlike Hoener, Dansby Swanson is not a product of the Cubs system.  Instead, Swanson is the prize signing of the Cubs very busy off-season.   The 28 year old, native Georgian couldn’t come to terms with his hometown Braves, so he took his talents to the Windy City.  One factor many people have overlooked is his wife, Mallory Pugh, who’s a professional soccer player with the Chicago Red Stars.

Swanson had a career year with Atlanta in 2022, hitting 25 HR / 96 RBIs / .277 BA / .776 OPS.  He was named to the NL All-Star Team and won a Gold Glove for his stellar defensive performance.  Swanson was also considered the leader in the Braves clubhouse, particularly after Freddie Freeman’s departure following the 2021 season.  In other words, Dansby Swanson brings the whole package to the North Side.  Cubs fans will come to love him quickly.

Cody Bellinger, OF

The former 2017 Rookie of the Year and 2019 NL MVP signed a one year / $17 million deal with the Cubs in the off-season.  Bellinger looked like a superstar in the making when he came on to the scene in 2017, captivating the crowd a the Home Run Derby and blasting 39 homers that season.  He’d put up 47 in his 2019 MVP year.

Bellinger hasn’t been the same player after dislocating his shoulder in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS, but he could be poised for a rebound season at the Friendly Confines in 2023.  He could be one of the most interesting players to watch in all of MLB this season.

Lovable Losers in 2023?

The Cubs have finished the last couple seasons with losing records.  Their off-season moves, however, indicate they’re not satisfied with just a rebuild.  The addition of Swanson and Bellinger, along with Trey Mancini and Eric Hosmer bring in veterans that are ready to compete.  The Cubbies also signed pitchers James Tallion and Drew Smyly.  While the Cardinals and Brewers are predicted to be on the top division, if the new Cubs mesh well expect them to raise some Ws this season.

Brian is the Managing Editor at Legends on Deck and Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. He's been writing about baseball at LOD since 2017. He grew up in the Detroit area and is a lifelong Tigers fan. However, he shares some affinity for his son George's favorite team, the Atlanta Braves. Brian also has a particular interest in the amateur side of the game, including high school, college and collegiate summer league baseball. Brian and George also love collecting and selling baseball cards. You can find them selling on eBay (@Kossball) or posting on George's Instagram (@Kossball). Brian lives in Horizon West (Winter Garden), Florida with his wife (Grace), three daughters and George the Card Kid. You can also reach him at brianmkoss@gmail.com

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