The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs.
It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.
With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:
2017 record: 93-69, second place in NL West
Offseason additions: Steven Souza Jr., Alex Avila, Jarrod Dyson, Brad Boxberger, Yoshihisa Hirano, Fernando Salas, Albert Suarez, Neftali Feliz, Antonio Bastardo
Offseason departures: J.D. Martinez, Chris Iannetta, Adam Rosales, Gregor Blanco, David Hernandez, Fernando Rodney, Brandon Drury, Anthony Banda
X-factor: A.J. Pollock
What happened to the guy that enjoyed the breakout 2015 season?
The dyanmic centerfielder was one of the best players in the game that year, finishing in the Top 15 in NL MVP, earning a trip to the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove. He hit .315 with an .865 OPS, scored 111 runs, hit 20 homers and stole 39 bases while racking up 7.4 WAR in 157 games.
But Pollock has fallen on some tough times since then. Slowed by injuries the last two years, he's appeared in just 124 games since that 2015 campaign, posting a .264 AVG and .794 OPS.
In his final year before free agency, Pollock will need to remain healthy and performing at the 2015 level if the Diamondbacks are going to have a repeat trip to the postseason.
1. David Peralta - LF
2. A.J. Pollock - CF
3. Paul Goldschmidt - 1B
4. Jake Lamb - 3B
5. Steven Souza Jr. - RF
6. Alex Avila - C
7. Ketel Marte - 2B
8. Nick Ahmed - SS
1. Zack Greinke
2. Robbie Ray
3. Taijuan Walker
4. Patrick Corbin
5. Zack Godley
This lineup is still very good, but the loss of Martinez will hurt. Souza has a nice blend of power and speed and is a better defender than Martinez, but losing that absurd kind of power behind Goldschmidt is impossible to replace.
Health will be key for this team, as there isn't a ton of depth beyond the main players. Jarrod Dyson is a great fourth outfielder, but he's also 33 and on the downspiral in his greatest asset: speed.
Lamb and Peralta tear up right-handed pitching, but both are susceptible to lefties and serve in more of a platoon role. Goldschmidt is one of the best players in the game and Pollock has the potential to join that conversation. Marte may also be on the verge of a breakout.
The pitching staff has question marks. The bullpen lost Rodney and Hernandez, gaining a host of unknowns in the process. Archie Bradley has never closed before and Boxberger provides some experience there, but things are not very stable beyond those two.
The starting rotation was very good in 2017, but will need a repeat performance if they're going to once again make it to the NLDS. Former Cubs prospect Godley has impressed and Ray is one of the best strikeout artists in the game, but Greinke is getting up there in age (34) and Corbin has been inconsistent the last few years.
So much went right for the Diamondbacks last year and while their window of contention is open right now, the question is: For how long?
Prediction: Third place in NL West, just misses second wild card spot
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