Chicago Cubs Outlook for 2024 following an encouraging training camp

Chicago Cubs Outlook for 2024 following an encouraging training camp

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The Chicago Cubs have made several cuts to their big-league camp roster, trimming it down to 50 players. Among the players who were cut were top prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong, along with several other players who were optioned to Triple-A Iowa or Double-A Tennessee.

Five non-roster invitees were also reassigned to minor-league camp.

Despite the move, Crow-Armstrong gained valuable experience this spring and gave the coaching staff a reason to keep an eye on him in the minors. He is part of a Cubs system that boasts a lot of depth to complement their high-ceiling top-prospect talent.

“When we signed Cody, our thought right now is that the best place is for PCA to start in the minor leagues and start his season that way and then just knock down the door for us and make us figure something else out on the major-league side,” manager Craig Counsell explained. “Signing Cody, it made sense to go that direction. … I don’t think he’s surprised, but I think he’s disappointed.”

Meanwhile, right-hander Ben Brown, who was on the verge of helping the Cubs out of the bullpen late in the season when an injury sidelined him, has shown quality stuff this spring and is already on Counsell’s radar. However, Counsell doesn’t believe that promotion to the bullpen versus the rotation initially to get experience could be Brown’s best path to the majors.

The Cubs cut their roster down to 50 players on Friday, with Crow-Armstrong, Brown, Luis Vasquez, and Brennan Davis optioned to Triple-A Iowa while Michael Arias and Porter Hodge have been sent to Double-A Tennessee. Owen Caissie, Matt Shae, Pablo Aliendo, Ethan Roberts, and Riley Thompson.

Left-hander Imanaga is another player who is continuing to work on his game during Cactus League games. During his most recent game against the Seattle Mariners, Imanaga allowed two runs on four hits, including a home run, in three innings.

He is quickly learning that big-leaguers can feast on his fastball if he doesn't command it well. However, his five strikeouts during the game demonstrate how effective the pitch can be when working off his secondary stuff.

Even veterans such as Kyle Hendricks are using Cactus League games to hone their skills. Hendricks has been focusing on getting a better feel for his curveball, which accounted for only 3% of his pitches thrown last season.

He knows he needs another secondary pitch in starts when his typical fastball-changeup combination isn’t as effective. During his most recent start against the Diamondbacks, he threw 15 curveballs to only two changeups.

The Cubs have had a mixed record in recent years, with below .500 finishes in both 2021 and 2022 for the first time since 2014. However, they bounced back in 2023 with a surprisingly good season, finishing just one game out of a playoff spot. So, of course, expectations are high heading into next season, and sports betting sites available in the USA will likely experience an influx of wagers where their playoff chances are concerned.

Overall, the Cubs are using the Cactus League games to give their players valuable experience and prepare them for the regular season. While some players may have been cut from the big-league camp, they still have the potential to make an impact in the future.

As they head into the 2024 season, the Cubs have decent projections and playoff odds, with new skipper Counsell hoping to turn the organization into a consistent contender.

One advantage the Cubs have is that they play in a relatively weak division, giving them a decent chance of making the playoffs. They are projected to have an 82-80 season, with less than a one-in-four chance of winning the NL Central, but a two-in-five chance of making the playoffs overall. However, after their strong showing in 2023, another second-place finish with a record of around .500 would be considered a disappointment.

The Cubs have a solid core of players, including Hoerner, Swanson, Happ, Suzuki, and Bellinger, with the addition of prospect Armstrong expected to bolster the group, though he will remain a prospect for now.

The front of the rotation is also exciting, with Steele and Imanaga leading the way, while the Hendricks-Jameson Taillon combo should prove reliable. However, there is a need for another big bat on the team, as their current plan for first base and DH relies heavily on Michael Busch and Christopher Morel, who may not hit enough to merit playing time at those positions.

Overall, the Cubs have a decent chance of making the playoffs in 2024, but they will need to address some weaknesses in their roster if they want to compete for a World Series. With a new manager at the helm and a strong core of players, there is reason to be optimistic about the team's future prospects.

However, only time will tell if they can successfully build on their recent successes and take the next step towards becoming a consistent contender in the National League.

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