Cubs

How Cubs, White Sox fared in 2016 MLB simulation

How Cubs, White Sox fared in 2016 MLB simulation

The Cubs have won the World Series!

That message flashed across the screen four times in 10 separate seasons of our MLB 16 The Show simulations.

On the other hand, the White Sox didn't make the playoffs ever in those 10 seasons, earning a record above .500 just once.

Obviously, this is just a video game and it cannot be taken as gospel. After all, the White Sox beat the Cubs in the World Series in one simulation.

But posting eight losing records in 10 seasons paints a pretty bleak outlook for the Sox in 2016 while simultaneously ramping up the excitement for Cubs fans (they won the World Series almost half the time; that's nuts.)

In all, 10 simulations of the 2016 season is hardly a large sample size, but we figured it was a nice, round number. (What were we going to do, simulate 100 seasons on The Show? We have stuff to do, like trying to analyze who it was on the receiving end of Negan's beatdown in "The Walking Dead" finale.)

[RELATED - MLB 16 The Show: Cubs-White Sox World Series showdown]

Ten simulations was also enough to stir up some crazy moments, including Avisail Garcia winning two (two!!) Gold Gloves and the Cubs trading Ben Zobrist for Bartolo Colon midseason (for reasons we can't even imagine) and then going on to win the World Series while Colon won a Gold Glove. The world of virtual reality is something, isn't it?

Here's a season-by-season recap of the simulations:

Season 1

CUBS

All-Stars: Hector Rondon, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward

Final record: 102-60, 1st place, 16 games ahead of STL
Runs scored: 710 (2nd in MLB)
ERA: 3.10 (3rd in MLB)

Postseason: Beat WAS in NLDS (4 games), beat LAD in NLCS (4 games), beat CLE in World Series at Wrigley Field (7 games)

Notes: Rizzo NL MVP (.307 AVG, 42 HR, 122 RBI); Kris Bryant World Series MVP; Jake Arrieta missed two weeks during the season with a hip injury

Thoughts: One simulation down, one World Series for the Cubs. This is easy!

WHITE SOX

All-Star: Dioner Navarro

Final record: 64-98, 5th place, 20 games back
Runs Scored: 598 (22nd in MLB)
ERA: 4.42 (30th in MLB)

Notes: Adam Eaton missed several months with a broken leg; Jimmy Rollins missed several months with a broken foot

Thoughts: Yikes. It’s hard to see a White Sox team with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon and a solid bullpen having baseball’s worst ERA, but apparently, The Show doesn’t like the Sox rotation as much as their 2015 numbers would suggest it should. Also, the 598 runs would be a 24-run dropoff from 2015 and are as many as the 99-loss White Sox scored in 2013.

Season 2

CUBS

All-Stars: Jake Arrieta, Rondon, Rizzo, Heyward

Final record: 104-58, 1st place
RS: 726 (3)
ERA: 3.04 (4)

Postseason: Beat NYM in NLDS (5 games, came from down 2-0 in the series), Beat LAD in NLCS (7 games, came from down 3 games to 1), Beat TOR 4-0 in World Series

Notes: Kyle Schwarber missed 2 months (fractured hand); Addison Russell named WS MVP

Thoughts: Two simulations, two championships for the Cubs! What's all this about a World Series drought? They were able to accomplish the feat without Schwarber for 2 months, though that's hardly comparable to getting injured in the third game of the season.

WHITE SOX

All-Star: Chris Sale

Final Record: 76-86, 5th place, 14 GB
RS: 599 (18)
ERA: 3.99 (27)

Notes: Alex Avila missed a month (MCL sprain)

Thoughts: A 3.99 ERA is more like it, even if it’s 27th in the majors (where’s the offense?). The White Sox had a 3.98 ERA in 2015 and went…76-86. So we’ll call this an accurate enough simulation, even if it’s not exactly flattering to the White Sox

Season 3

CUBS

All-Stars: Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Rondon, Rizzo, Heyward

Final record: 99-63, 1st
RS: 678 (6)
ERA: 3.18 (5)

Postseason: Swept by LAD in NLDS

Notes: Jorge Soler missed 4 months (fractured shin + fractured arm); John Lackey missed 4 months (head fracture)

Thoughts: Lackey fractured his head?? Ouch! No wonder why the Cubs didn't wind up anywhere this season. Also interesting to see Jason Hammel as an All-Star, but he put up All-Star caliber numbers in the first half last season and his downspins usually don't begin until the second half historically.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Sale

Final record: 63-99, 5th, 32 GB
RS: 572 (24)
ERA: 4.45 (30)

Notes: Adam Eaton, Garcia earn Gold Gloves; Navarro missed 2.5 months (fractured shin); Melky Cabrera missed 2.5 months (broken shin)

Thoughts: Another simulation with a bad ERA. But Avisail Garcia winning a Gold Glove? Maybe if Melky Cabrera has to miss an extended period of time he’d get to see the field, but through three games in 2016, Garcia hasn’t played the outfield yet. Also, he’s -24 in DRS and -23 in UZR for his career, which isn’t close to Gold Glove material.

 

Season 4

CUBS

All-Stars: Arrieta, Rizzo, Bryant, Heyward

Final record: 97-65, 1st
RS: 739 (1)
ERA: 3.04 (2)

Postseason: Beat WAS 3-1 in NLDS, lost to LAD 4-3 in NLCS

Notes: Bryant won the Hank Aaron Award (.332, 37, 110)

Thoughts: The Cubs essentially dominated the regular season, sporting the league's best offense and nearly the best pitching staff. Bryant turned in a monster season, but apparently wasn't enough for MVP honors. The Dodgers' megapayroll won out in the end to deny the Cubs a third World Series victory in four simulated seasons.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier

Final record: 84-79, 3rd, 9.5 GB
RS: 718 (3)
ERA: 4.01 (26)

Notes: Abreu MVP (.296, 45, 131); Sox still missed out on playoffs; Navarro missed 2 months (fractured wrist); Eaton missed 2 months (torn labrum)

Thoughts: An 84-win season is a positive simulation, but the way to get to this one is strange. If the White Sox finish third in runs scored but 26th in ERA, it’d be a major shock. But then again, if Jose Abreu hits 45 socks 45 home runs, anything is possible.

 

Season 5

CUBS

All-Stars: Hammel, Rondon, Rizzo, Heyward

Final record: 106-56, 1st, 9 gms
RS: 762 (1)
ERA: 2.95 (1)

Postseason: Lost 3-1 to LAD in NLDS

Notes: Miguel Montero missed 3 weeks (MCL sprain)

Thoughts: Well, another Hammel All-Star appearance and now this Cubs team was the top offense and defense, but none of it mattered as they ran smack into the brick wall that is the virtual Dodgers in the postseason once again.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Sale, Abreu

Final record: 81-81, 4th, 12 GB
RS: 663 (10)
ERA: 3.73 (18)

Notes: Cabrera missed 1 month (dislocated shoulder); Jose Quintana missed 3 weeks (inflamed hip)

Thoughts: Decent pitching and offense combine for a .500 season, a mark the White Sox haven’t hit since 2012. The Sale-Abreu All-Star duo is an easy call, even in April.

 

Season 6

CUBS

All-Stars: Lester, Rizzo, Bryant

Final record: 93-69, 1st
RS: 729 (1)
ERA: 3.27 (6)

Postseason: Lost 3-2 to WAS in NLDS

Notes: Rizzo won the Silver Slugger Award

Thoughts: Another strong regular season, but comes up short in the playoffs. Though, losing to the Nationals is a rather easy pill to swallow given Bryce Harper and Co. were seen as the World Series favorites before 2015 began.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Robertson, Navarro

Final record: 61-101, 5th, 32 GB
RS: 534 (27)
ERA: 4.45 (30)

Notes: Garcia missed 3 weeks (shoulder strain)

Thoughts: This would qualify as the fourth-worst season in White Sox history. Another simulation in which The Show doesn’t like White Sox pitching. The back of the rotation is an unknown, yes, but bad enough to have the White Sox have the worst ERA in baseball? That seems extreme.

 

Season 7

CUBS

All-Stars: Lester, Rondon, Rizzo, Bryant

Final record: 101-61, 1st
RS: 751 (1)
ERA: 3.00 (3)

Postseason: Beat MIA 3-1 in NLDS, lost 4-1 to LAD in NLCS

Notes: Bryant won Hank Aaron Award; Kyle Hendricks missed 1.5 months (fractured hand), Hammel missed 2 months (broken hand)

Thoughts: Would it be a disappointment in real life if the Cubs won 100 regular season games before being ousted again in the NLCS? Probably...

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Robertson, Rollins

Final record: 64-98, 5th, 22 GB
RS: 563 (25)
ERA: 4.16 (28)

Notes: Garcia Gold Glove; Robertson Delivery Man of the Year Award; Rodon missed 4 weeks (strained pectoral)

Thoughts: Jimmy Rollins makes an All-Star team and Garcia wins a Gold Glove. If either of those things actually happen in 2016, the White Sox probably will be feeling better about their chances than this 98-loss simulation suggests they should.

 

Season 8

CUBS

All-Stars: Rizzo, Zobrist

Final record: 97-65, 1st
RS: 755 (1)
ERA: 3.02 (2)

Postseason: Beat MIA 3-1 in NLDS, beat SF 4-2 in NLCS, beat BOS 4-0 in World Series

Notes: Heyward World Series MVP; Dexter Fowler missed 3 weeks (finger contusion), Cubs traded Zobrist for Bartolo Colon; Colon won Gold Glove

Thoughts: First off...BARTOLO COLON?? Very weird. With no major injuries to the starting rotation, was Colon just in relief? And if so, how was that worth trading Zobrist for? Just an odd move from the AI there. But, guess all's well that ends well, right? The Cubs won it all, so maybe the AI was on to something?

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Quintana, Abreu, Eaton

Final record: 67-95, 5th
RS: 611 (20)
ERA: 4.24 (28)

Notes: Danks missed a month (inflamed hip); Navarro missed 2 months (fractured leg)

Thoughts: Another season with 95 or more losses. For what it’s worth, FanGraphs projects the White Sox to finish 81-81.

 

Season 9

CUBS

All-Stars: Rondon, Rizzo

Final record: 100-62, 1st
RS: 648 (14)
ERA: 3.11 (4)

Postseason: Lost 3-0 to SF in NLDS

Notes: Zobrist missed 2 months (broken shin)

Thoughts: Who would figure the Cubs offense would be in the middle of the pack, yet they'd still win 100 games? Either way, it was a fruitless postseason that provides flashbacks to 2007-08.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Navarro

Final record: 62-100, 5th
RS: 613 (20)
ERA: 4.43 (30)

Notes: Danks missed 3 months (torn groin); Sale missed 3 weeks (pulled hamstring)

Thoughts: Missing Sale for three months would hurt, but not as much as the torn groin video game John Danks suffered here. Ouch.

 

Season 10

CUBS

All-Stars: Arrieta, Jean Machi, Rizzo

Final record: 99-63, 1st
RS: 686 (9)
ERA: 3.08 (4)

Postseason: Beat MIA 3-2 in NLDS, beat LAD 4-1 in NLCS, beat CLE 4-2 in World Series

Notes: Rizzo World Series MVP; Lackey Gold Glove; Hendricks missed 2 months (fractured wrist)

Thoughts: Wait a second...Jean Machi an All-Star??? That's weirder than seeing Bartolo Colon winning a Gold Glove on the Cubs. But hey, maybe the weirder the better? In both cases, it led to a Cubs World Series.

WHITE SOX

All-Stars: Sale

Final record: 69-93, 5th
RS: 660 (11)
ERA: 4.25 (29)

Notes: Rollins missed 3 months (fractured forearm)

Thoughts: Welp.

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

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USA TODAY

Even with an entire spring schedule to go, guessing the Cubs' 25-man roster is pretty easy

MESA, Ariz. — The frequent mission of spring training is to iron out a 25-man roster.

But at Cubs camp, that mission seems to already be completed.

With an entire Cactus League schedule still to play, the Cubs’ 25-man group that will leave Arizona for the season-opener in Miami seems pretty well set.

The starting rotation: Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.

The position-player group: Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist.

The bullpen: Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, Brian Duensing, Justin Wilson and Justin Grimm.

Boom. There’s your 25.

Joe Maddon, do you agree?

“You guys and ladies could probably write down what you’re seeing and be pretty accurate,” Maddon said Thursday. “I can’t deny that, it’s true. Oftentimes, when you’re a pretty good ball club, that is the case. When you’re not so good, you always get auditions during spring training.

“I think what the boys have done is they’ve built up a nice cache in case things were to happen. The depth is outstanding. So you could probably narrow it down, who you think’s going to be the 25, and I won’t argue that.”

It’s the latest example in a camp that to this point has been full of them that the Cubs are one of baseball’s best teams and that only a World Series championship will fulfill expectations. Had the front office stuck with a starting rotation of Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood and Montgomery, then there would’ve been a spot open in the bullpen. But the statement-making signing of Darvish jolted the Cubs into “best rotation in the game” status, sent Montgomery back to the bullpen and further locked the roster into place.

Guys like Grimm and La Stella have been forced off the 25-man roster at points in recent seasons, though even their spots seem safe. Maddon even said that a huge spring from someone else wouldn’t mean as much at what guys have done at the major league level in recent memory.

“Spring training performance, for me, it’s not very defining,” Maddon said. “You’re going to be playing against a lot of guys that aren’t going to be here, more Triple-A guys, even some Double-A guys. Some guys come in better shape, they normally look better early. The vibe’s different. You play a couple innings, you don’t get many at-bats, the pitcher doesn’t see hitters three times and vice versa. So I don’t worry about that as much.

“It’s more about, guys that might be fighting for a moment, what do they look like, does it look right, does it look good, how do they fit in? Is there somebody there that you scouted? Because what matters a lot is last year and what you did last year and the last couple months of last year.

“So of course guys that have been here probably have a bit of an upper hand, but we’re very open-minded about stuff. And I think when you look at the guys, you’re right, it’s probably pretty close to being set. But stuff happens.”

Could the recently signed Shae Simmons give Grimm an unexpected challenge for the final relief spot? Maddon said guys who have been with the Cubs in the recent past have a leg up. Could Chris Gimenez turn his experience with Darvish into a win over Caratini for the backup catcher spot? Maddon threw cold water on the "personal catcher" narrative last week.

Of course, Maddon left the door open the possibility of an injury that could open up a roster spot and even shake up the depth chart. But barring the unforeseen, this 25-man group looks locked into place.

That gives the Cubs an edge, perhaps, in that they can specifically find ways to tune up those guys rather than focus on getting enough at-bats for players who are fighting for roster spots. But most of that edge came during the winter, and in winters and summers past, when the front office built this team into a championship contender.

There have been plenty of years when the fans coming to Mesa to watch the Cubs play in spring training saw the blossoming of a big league player thanks to a monster spring or a surprise tear during March. That’s going to be unlikely this spring, a reflection of just how far this team has come.

“It’s easy for me to reflect on this because when I started out with the Rays, wow,” Maddon said. “That was a casting call trying to figure it out. You had very few settled positions when you walked in the door. And then as we got better, it became what we’re talking about. As we moved further along, you were pretty much set by the time (you got to spring training) except for one or two spots.

“So I think the better teams are like that.”

The Cubs are most definitely one of those better teams.