The Milwaukee Brewers are getting ready to travel to Chicago to take on the Chicago Cubs this weekend and they will not be the same push over team that Brewers fans have been used to seeing. Late last season the Brewers got a taste of the Cubs young bats, and they have even more on the roster now. With players like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell added to the roster along with the strong core that they had last year, this lineup is dangerous.
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Before the year began, this team promised that they were ready to compete and they have fully lived up to those expectations in this first month. Coming off a strong final game against the Reds, the Brewers will need to keep the bats hot if they are going to start May on the right foot against the very tough Cubs.
With the help of Jacob Misener at Cubbiescrib, here is a look at the Cubs and a preview for the series:
Kris Bryant is an amazing talent. What are your realistic expectations for him this season?
Bryant is one of the top prospects in all of Major League Baseball. Even without launching the homers he’s become known for in his young career, he’s made an immediate impact at the big league level in his time with the Cubs so far. I’d say with Rizzo, Soler and Castro surrounding him in the lineup, it’s realistic to expect a .280 average and somewhere around 20 homers — and that would be a big step backwards from the work he’s turned in to this point.
In very limited action things have not gone well for Jon Lester as a Cub. What does he need to do to get back to being the ace that he can be in the rotation?
Lester has not located his pitches well early-on this season, leaving his fastball and cutter up in the zone and out over the plate on too many occasions. If he starts to locate those pitches – especially early in the count – he’ll get back to being what we’ve come to know from the left-hander. The promising thing for Cubs fans (and the bad news for Brewers fans) is that even without Lester, the rotation has pitched pretty well in the first month.
Jake Arrieta has really turned things around with the Cubs. What has been his biggest adjustment as he has become a counted on starter?
Control, control, control. During his time with Baltimore, Arrieta posted a 1.74 SO/BB ratio. Since joining the Cubs in 2013, the right-hander has improved that mark drastically, coming in at a 3.18 clip in 35 games with Chicago. He’s also shown that he’s hungry to win – something that has been lacking in recent years. After finishing ninth in NL Cy Young voting in 2014, Arrieta is quickly proving last season was no fluke as he’s already 3-1 with a 2.03 ERA in four starts this year.
Right now, Baez is working down in Arizona getting back into the swing of things after the devastating loss of his sister, who passed away recently. Once he gets back into action with Triple-A Iowa, he’ll need to show that he can cut down on the strikeouts and demonstrate better discipline at the dish – especially after his prolific struggles against big league pitching late last season. If he does that, he may work his way back into the mix at Chicago – potentially at third base – as we’ve seen Bryant already take some reps in the outfield. Middle infield depth is a nice problem to have – and the Cubs have it in the worse way.
The Brewers are heading towards a probable rebuild. With the Cubs heading out of theirs what do you think was the biggest move/signing to get them in the direction they are in now?
It’s hard to pick just one move, but I personally feel that unloading some of the bigger contracts and being willing to field sub-par teams while rebuilding was huge. There’s been a ton of under-the-radar moves and signings, such as picking up Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon or even re-signing Jason Hammel this offseason. That’s where this front office separates itself from the pack. Theo is great at surrounding the core with very solid pieces – and with the core of Rizzo, Castro, Soler, Russell, etc. locked up for the foreseeable future, it’s a good time to be a Cubs fan.
We are still just into the season, but after the first month what are your predictions to where the Cubs finish?
Before the season began, I picked the Pirates to win the division. However, clearly, something is not right with Andrew McCutchen, who is a major piece of that offense. The loss of Wainwright in St. Louis is obviously important, but that organization seems to just plug in new youngsters into the rotation annually without missing a beat, so I think that’ll be negligible until postseason time, when they lack a true ace to go up against Kershaw, Bumgarner, etc. After the first month, I’d say the Cubs could very well win the Central in 2015 – something I never would have thought mere weeks ago.
Wily Peralta 0-3 5.03 vs. Jon Lester 0-2 6.23
Something has got to give as Lester and Peralta enter the game Friday looking for their first win. Lester looked good his last time out and the Brewers bats will look to stay hot like they were to close out the Reds series.
Mike Fiers 0-3 5.79 vs. Jake Arrieta 3-1 2.03
Fiers was dominant last season, but he has struggled with the long ball this season. Arrieta however has been the Cubs best arm.
Jimmy Nelson 1-2 4.03 vs. Jason Hammel 2-1 3.55
Minus a rough outing his last time out, Nelson has been excellent for the Brewers. The underrated Hammel should be a good test for the young right hander to close out the series.