MLB spring training 2018: Three things on the Cubs' to-do list

By Ron Clements 21 February 2018 258
MLB spring training 2018: Three things on the Cubs' to-do list

The Cubs made a late charge last season to win the National League Central.

The 2016 MLB champions will look to return to the World Series after getting bounced by the Dodgers in the 2017 NL Championship Series. 

The Cubs didn't make a lot of moves this offseason, but they already have the pieces in place to make another postseason run. 

Here are three things on the Cubs' to-do list this spring:

1. Start strong 

The Cubs were playing catch-up most of 2017 as the Brewers led the Central for most of the season. While Milwaukee fell off at the end and the Cubs eventually won the division, Chicago clearly had the most talent of any team in the Central — and still do.

The Cubs also added prized free agent Yu Darvish to the rotation that was already one of the best in baseball. If the Cubs can keep the chemistry they had in 2016 and the latter part of 2017 for the start of the 2018 season, they can play front-runners all year. 

2. Figure out what to do with Kyle Schwarber 

Schwarber is a dangerous hitter, but he strikes out far too much to play every day. Schwarber hit 30 home runs last season, but with only 59 RBIs. He struck out 150 times and had a batting average of just .211.

The Cubs insist on using the 24-year-old catcher in left field and want him to be a full-time outfielder, but he just is not very adept at chasing down balls in left. 

Schwarber deserves a spot somewhere in the lineup, but with Willson Contreras entrenched behind the plate, it will be hard to keep Schwarber in left if he continues to struggle. 

3. Preach plate discipline 

Schwarber had a terrible 30.9 percent strikeout rate last year, but he isn't the only Cubs player who needs to be more choosy at the plate. Infielders Addison Russell and Javier Baez, while both defensive wizards, have struggled in the batter's box. 

Russell had a slash line of .239/.304/.418 in 2017 and struck out 23.6 percent of the time. Baez had a strikeout percentage of 28.3 and only drew a walk in 5.9 percent of his plate appearances. If the Cubs can get Russell and Baez to draw more walks and put balls into play this season, the Cubs will be difficult to stop. 

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Ron Clements

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