Card, Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Pirates, Reds
Not a lot to disagree with in this article from MLB.com
I also have them finsihing fourth.
Every year, people look at this team and say: "If their pitching stays healthy, they could win it all." And then the pitching doesn't stay healthy. On paper, Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Greg Maddux, Kerry Wood (returning from shoulder surgery) and Jerome Williams and/or Glendon Rusch, is a top-shelf rotation. The Cubs also bolstered the bullpen in the offseason. They are fine at the infield corners with Derrek Lee coming off a magnificent season and Aramis Ramirez. And they now have a genuine leadoff hitter, and plenty of added speed, with center fielder Juan Pierre. But they have untested players at shortstop (Ronny Cedeno) and in left (Matt Murton). The presumption of good health among the pitchers has been tested, but not with particular success.
Projected regular-season finish: Fourth place
Biggest Spring Training challenge: The Cubs will have to determine early if Cedeno and Murton are the answers. They will also need to patiently nurse Wood along the path to full and productive health. He is not expected to be ready for Opening Day, but this is a case of the sooner, the better for the Cubs.
Best position battles: Who will play second base? Who will bat second? Incumbent second baseman Todd Walker might be the obvious answer, but he also might be headed elsewhere. A happy solution at the second spot in the lineup would be the emergence of either Cedeno or Murton. At second base, Jerry Hairston and Neifi Perez, who was invaluable filling in at short last season, remain as alternatives.
Wild Card: You know the answer to this one. Everyone talks about Prior and Wood, but the Cubs' most dependable starter over the last two seasons has clearly been Zambrano, not only because of his talent, but because he is regularly healthy enough to take the ball. He has started 64 games over the last two years, to 48 for Prior and 32 for Wood. If the rotation stays healthy, this is obviously a contending club. If not, this could be a fifth-place club.
This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.