The Chicago Cubs are in the middle of what might be the greatest movement of young talent in the history of baseball. I guess that will play itself out; however, that does make finding people to look to bounce back on the offensive side of things difficult. Thank God for the Cubs pitching staff however, because they have two guys that can’t get much worse than they were last year. The bad news is that I don’t see Edwin Jackson improving. The good news is that Travis Wood’s track record suggests that last year was a blip.
In Cincinnati we find the opposite problem as most of their team under-performed last season. In a blind round robin, throw a dart at the board and figure out which offensive player was going to bounce back seemed like as good of a standard as any, but I owe it to you to do a little more work than that. Is Brandon Phillips done? Probably not, but he’s closer to the end than he is to the beginning and the Reds will trade him as soon as he’s producing. They are already trying to trade Jay Bruce (who I really like), so it’s probably not Jay. Joey Votto is going to have to turn it around or soon people will mistake him for Ryan Howard. All of this is nice, and it’s easy, but I think that Billy Hamilton is going to have a breakout season. I could see him hitting .288 with a .389 OBP, and with that I see him stealing 75+ bases and becoming the next Kenny Lofton.
Milwaukee is home to a lot of beer companies, and in the non-baseball world I’ve heard people refer to it as Chicago’s trash bin, but thanks to the Cubs… in baseball Milwaukee might as well be Mecca. This one is a slam dunk for me in the fact that Juan Segura has a ton of talent, had a great track record and then broke out big time in 2013 before looking more like a Minnesota Twin than a Major League ball player last season. The only thing I would like to add is that a buddy of mine once told me that Jonathan LuCroy was going to be a real ball player. I laughed. Tony, I was wrong.
My beloved Pittsburgh Pirates have seen a dramatic turnaround from the last 4-5-19 years (haha). McCutchen is about as close to the truth as a Midwest ball player can be, and had he played for a team on the east or west coast it would be a battle between him and Mike Trout for the new face of baseball. However, Andrew disqualifies himself in this post because he’s freaking awesome, and that isn’t what this is about. I admitted right at the start of this that they are my beloved, and it’s hard to say that .291 is a down year, but I think 2015 is the year that Starling Marte becomes a household name. If he can improve on his disgusting habit of striking out far too often he could put up numbers that look more like Cutch than you might expect. I also feel that Gerrit Cole is far better than his numbers suggested last year as well, and I expect him to have a breakout season. Again breakout and bounce back are two different things, and looking at this team the person that let this team down the most was former first round pick and 3rd baseman of the future was “Potato” Alvarez. Sadly, he is what he is and this is going to go to last year’s rookie Gregory Polanco, who has been one of the best prospects in baseball for a little while now, and the poor kid was lost at the plate against major league pitchers last year. His talent is too much to be this big of a flop. He’s also got an even bigger prospect behind him in the minors, so this is his year to prove he’s the man or Austin Meadows will be here in September and Polanco will go the way of Jose Tabata.
The Cardinals are coming off of another stellar season, and have about as well run organization as there is in the game right now. The offseason started out with tragedy when the uber-talented and prized piece of the future Oscar Tavares made the mistake of drinking and driving, which ended his life at 22, and the life of his fiancé. However this is the one team in baseball that always seems to bounce back from adversity and injury. In 2015 they are still the class of this division, and it’s hard to see anyone taking a step back. If they stay healthy they will be as dangerous as any team in baseball. Looking for a bounce back player is also rather difficult because they did have a lot of injured players last year that were supposed to contribute chief amongst them is starting pitcher Jamie (hi-me) Garcia. He defines why the Cardinals are great, and sadly will likely be ahead of my Pirates once again come October.