Having already ranked the Chicago Cubs as the top infield and the fourth best rotation, ESPN released its top ten rankings for the bullpen and outfield, and, spoiler alert: the Cubs fared quite well, once again.
Indeed, for 2016, the Cubs’ “bargain” bullpen comes in at 5th overall and the outfield, led by recently-acquired Jason Heyward, is ranked second overall. So if you’re keeping score at home, that’s four top five units in all of baseball. And while the position players are getting the attention they rightfully deserve, the entire pitching staff is holding their own, as well. Or maybe Buster Olney, who has been writing the pieces, is on the Cubs’ payroll. (I kid, I kid.)
In the bullpen rankings, the Cubs come in fifth overall, behind the Yankees – which, duh – the Royals, Red Sox and Astros and just ahead of the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Pirates.
To Olney, the Cubs’ bullpen might not have the dynamic back-end options of the teams ahead of them, but they do have the single greatest bullpen depth in MLB. With all of Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Travis Wood, Adam Warren and Justin Grimm backing up Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon, plus quite a number of intriguing arms behind them, that’s hard to argue. But remember, bullpens are notoriously fickle things, injuries and periods of ineffectiveness are the name of the game for most relievers. At least there’s a growing consensus that – all things equal – the Cubs do in fact have one of the best bullpens in the entire league.
For the outfield, the Cubs’ ranking is bittersweet. They come in second overall, which is fantastic, but that’s just behind the admittedly awesome Pittsburgh Pirates. Their outfield, which features all of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco, looks to be the strongest in the league, especially because of their defense. But I bet the Cubs’ outfield offense ultimately ends up on top.
Just behind the Cubs is the Marlins (who have a surprisingly great outfield), Red Sox, Yankees and Diamondbacks. The Cardinals make an appearance later down on the list, as do the Giants. The outfield is, no doubt, a National League led unit.
Oh, and of course I would be remiss if I failed to mention the average age of the the Cubs’ outfield: 23.6 years old.
So, according to ESPN, the Cubs have the best infield, second best outfield, fourth best starting rotation and fifth best bullpen. And while that’s exciting, remember that the Pirates (3 out of 4) and Cardinals (4 of of 4) do make an appearance on just about each list, as well. Still, combining those reviews with the early projections – which have the Cubs on top with 95 wins – I think it’s fair to say the Chicago Cubs are the team to watch for in 2016.