Chicago Cubs 2024 Season Preview

The Chicago Cubs are a young, exciting team that could be a surprise in 2024. Let's preview their upcoming season and check out the roster.

MESA, ARIZONA - MARCH 4: Cody Bellinger and Nico Hoerner of the Chicago Cubs share a laugh at Sloan Park on March 4, 2024 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images)

The 2023 season ended in disappointing fashion for the Chicago Cubs, but there are high hopes for 2024. Below we are going to preview the Cubs 2024 season, and meticulously breakdown everything they have to offer as the new season begins.

Last year, the Cubs missed the playoffs by just one game. They finished second in the NL Central with a record of 83-79. Highlighted by Justin Steele, the Cubs had a few players step up in a big way. Steele finished 16-5 with a 3.06 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, and 9.1 K/9 in 30 starts. More analytically, Steele had a 146 ERA+, 3.02 FIP, and his 3.8 WAR was tied for 14th among all pitchers.

Cody Bellinger is worth mentioning when talking about the 2023 season. He finished 10th in MVP voting, and won a Silver Slugger award. He played both center field and first base for Chicago, so he proved to be extremely valuable. The Cubs finally re-signed Bellinger, so their lineup from last season remains largely the same.

As a team, the Cubs were able to finish in the top half the league in most hitting and pitching categories. However, their one major area of struggle came in the bullpen. The Cubs had the seventh-fewest saves, and they blew 22 saves in 57 save opportunities.

Ad – content continues below

Cubs Addressed Offseason Needs

The Cubs main departure this offseason, with Bellinger officially re-signed, is Marcus Stroman. Stroman signed a deal with the New York Yankees, so the Cubs were left without a strong starting pitcher.

Chicago addressed their starting pitcher need by going out and getting Japanese left-hander Shota Imanaga. Imanaga was one of the top pitchers in Japan as he pitched over 1000 innings for Yokohama. He had a career 3.18 ERA, 1.118 WHIP, and 9.16 K/9. He has already started making his mark for the Cubs as spring training has started.

Chicago also needed to address their bullpen. The Cubs, as mentioned, blew too many saves in 2023. If they just converted one or two more of those saves, they would have made the playoffs. To bolster their bullpen, the Cubs signed Hector Neris to a one-year deal. Neris brings experience and a lot of talent to the Cubs’ bullpen. In 2023, he had a career-best 1.71 ERA, and his ERA+ was an outstanding 246. His FIP was a bit high at 3.83, but you can not ignore his other stats. Neris should be a solid addition to the back-end of the bullpen in Chicago.

The Cubs had another need at both corner infield positions. They attempted to fill that void with a trade for Michael Busch. Busch immediately joined the top of the Cubs’ prospect list, and he has a great chance to make the big league roster out of Spring Training.

With the additions of Busch, Neris, Imanaga, and the re-signing of Bellinger, the Cubs made the necessary moves to compete in 2024.

Cubs Projected Lineups

The Cubs have plenty of decisions to make coming out of spring training, and there are many different options Craig Counsell could go with, but here are the two that seem to be most likely.

Ad – content continues below

Projected Lineup with Bellinger at 1BProjected Lineup with Bellinger at CF
Nico Hoerner – 2BNico Hoerner – 2B
Ian Happ – LFIan Happ – LF
Dansby Swanson – SSDansby Swanson – SS
Cody Bellinger – 1BCody Bellinger – CF
Seiya Suzuki – RFSeiya Suzuki – RF
Christopher Morel – DHChristopher Morel – 3B
Michael Busch – 3BMichael Busch – 1B
Yan Gomes – CPatrick Wisdom – DH
Pete Crow-Armstrong – CFYan Gomes – C

Bellinger is the main factor here. He could play both center field and first base, so it really depends on where the Cubs want him on any given day. He is good enough defensively to play both positions, though.

The Cubs are locked up in the middle infield, left field, right field, catcher, and wherever Bellinger lands. That leaves DH, third base, and first base/center field (dependent on Bellinger) up for grabs. There are a few different options the Cubs could go with, but Christopher Morel needs to be in the lineup.

Morel is taking more reps at third base, so with Bellinger in the outfield, Morel could be their starter at the hot corner. Defensively, Morel does not have the best stats. He has a negative OAA, and a negative success rate added; meaning he is not making as many plays as he should. However, he is putting in the work, and has already started flashing some leather at third base.

Despite his defensive struggles, Morel has an electric bat that can not be ignored. He finished 2023 with a .247 batting average, 26 home runs, and 70 RBI. Along with that, he had a 116 OPS+, and a .347 wOBA. He was higher than the 90th percentile in average exit velocity, barrel percentage, and hard-hit percentage, as well. He does have a very high strikeout and whiff rate, but his ability to hit for power is something the Cubs need in the lineup.

Michael Busch can play both corner positions. Since the Cubs traded for him, it seems likely he will be the starter at one of them. Busch is much better at first base than third base, but he is capable of playing both. His potential with the bat is what will really keep him in the lineup.

Busch played 98 games in Triple-A last season, and he hit .323 with an OPS of 1.049, 27 home runs, 90 RBI, and just 88 strikeouts to 65 walks in 98 games played. He was not able to truly prove his talent at the big league level last season in his short time up. However, the potential is there, and the Cubs need him to show it.

Ad – content continues below

At the DH position, the Cubs could go with Morel or Busch. However when both of them are in the field, Patrick Wisdom seems to be the top candidate. He slugged .500 last season, despite struggling. Wisdom hit just .207, but he launched 23 home runs, drove in 46, and his OPS+ was above average at 107. He ranks highly in average exit velocity (92.7 mph), barrel percentage (20.1%), and hard-hit percentage (54.7%). He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and whiffs, but his power at the plate is dangerous.

There is no room for Pete Crow-Armstrong if Bellinger is playing center field. However, he is most likely the starting center fielder if Bellinger is at first base. PCA plays a great defensive center field. He has even taken home a Minor League Gold Glove award in the past. His defense is elite, and his bat is just as good. He failed to record a hit in his 14 at-bats last season, but he flashed immense potential in the minors. He has a career .301 batting average, .891 OPS, 36 home runs, 147 RBI, and 71 stolen bases in 214 minor league games.

Cubs Projected Bench

The Cubs have a few options to go with on their bench. Nick Madrigal, Miguel Amaya, Patrick Wisdom/PCA, Mike Tauchman are the most likely bench options.

Madrigal is not a power threat at all. He hit just two home runs, and finished with an OPS+ of only 79. However, he makes a lot of contact (9.4% whiff rate, 8.2% K rate). He is also a solid defender, finishing in the 96th percentile with an OAA of nine. In addition, his OAA was 10 at third base. He is an option at third base, but his inability to hit for power and suspect throwing arm might be the reason he stays out of the lineup full time.

Miguel Amaya is a solid, young catcher, but it only makes sense that he backs up Yan Gomes. Amaya did play 53 games at the big league level in 2023, but he hit just .214. He is a decent framer behind the dish with a good enough arm good enough to get runners out.

Mike Tauchman, who has already made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, is the odd man out in the outfield. He could definitely start over PCA, but right now it seems more likely to have him come off the bench. Tauchman’s chase rate was in the 95th percentile last season, and his walk rate is in the 94th. He can play any outfield position, so he should still see the field multiple times a week.

Ad – content continues below

Cubs Projected Starting Rotation

Cubs Projected Starting Rotation
Justin Steele – LHP
Kyle Hendricks – RHP
Jameson Taillon – RHP
Shota Imanaga – LHP
Jordan Wicks (LHP)/Javier Assad (RHP)

The Cubs’ rotation is looking very good. Justin Steele is coming off a career-best season, capped off with a fifth-place finish in the NL Cy Young voting. He is an easy choice for Opening Day starter, and should be able to repeat that season.

Kyle Hendricks is the veteran of the group. He dealt with a shoulder injury in 2023, but he is fully healthy and ready to go for 2024. Even with his shortened season, Hendricks had his best ERA, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, and BB/9 since 2020. Having him healthy is going to be huge for the Cubs, and he has already showed that during spring training.

Jameson Taillon struggled in his first season with the Cubs. He had a 4.84 ERA, and his ERA+ was under 100. Taillon did have a very good walk rate, but it was one of the worst years of his career. The Cubs are hoping for a bounce-back season from Taillon this year.

Shota Imanaga, as mentioned earlier, was one of the best pitchers in Japan. He will be a middle of the rotation arm for the Cubs, but he has the talent to be a number two or three. Imanaga could definitely be the Cubs third starter, but three or four is where he will sit this year.

The Cubs have a decision to make for the fifth stater spot. It seems as if it will either be Jordan Wicks or Javier Assad. Both saw time in the big leagues last season, but Assad was the better of the two. Assad made 10 starts, but appeared in 32 games. His ERA was 3.05, and his ERA+ was 147. His 109.1 innings pitched in 2023, and experience is going to be huge for the Cubs this season. If a guess had to be made, then Assad would be the fifth starter to begin the season.

Cubs Projected Bullpen

Cubs Projected Bullpen
Adbert Alzolay – RHP (Closer)
Hector Neris – RHP
Mark Leiter Jr. – RHP
Yency Almonte – RHP
Jose Cuas – RHP
Julian Merryweather – RHP
Luke Little – LHP
Drew Smyly – LHP

The Cubs have a few bullpen pitchers that should be household names. The first being Adbert Alzolay. Alzolay will most likely be used as the closer this season. In 2023, he made 58 appearances, and recorded 22 saves. His ERA was sub-3.00, and his ERA+ was a very good 168. In 64 innings pitched, Alzolay had a K/BB ratio of 5.15/1. He is going to be a huge asset at the backend of the bullpen for the Cubs.

Ad – content continues below

Luke Little is the one left-handed reliever the Cubs have outside of Drew Smyly, who will most likely be a long relief/spot starter type. Little has the potential to make 60+ appearances in 2024. In 2023, He made seven appearances, threw 6.2 innings, and he had a K/9 of 16.4. That strikeout rate will most likely not be the case in 2024, but it will be high. He would benefit from a little more control, but Little is going to be a key piece in the bullpen for Chicago.

Julian Merryweather had his best season in 2023. He made 69 appearances, finished with a 3.38 ERA, 133 ERA+, and a 12.3 K/9. Merryweather had a very good season, and it flew a bit under the radar. He is a solid mid-relief option for the Cubs, and should make another 60+ appearances if healthy.

Mark Leiter Jr. had a fantastic year, as well. His whiff percentage (32.1), and strikeout percentage (28.6) were in the 84th and 88th percentile, respectively. Leiter had an ERA+ of 129, and opponents hit just .206 off him in 2023. If Leiter can repeat that success, the Cubs are going to be very good.

Prospects to Keep an Eye On

The Cubs could only have Matt Mervis and PCA up in the bigs to start the season, and they are two very good prospects. However, with the length of the season, injuries, and other factors, we are bound to see a few more prospects at Wrigley.

Alexander Canario is the first, and he has a chance to make the MLB roster early. Canario went 5-for-17 with a home run in his brief stint up last year. The outfield is a little stacked, but Canario will be the first one called up if someone misses time. He has a lot of power potential, and he plays some very good defense on the outfield grass.

Ben Brown is the Cubs’ number six prospect. He has a very lively arm, but his command could be a little better. In 2023, Brown threw 92.2 innings in the minor leagues, allowed opponents to hit just .217, and struck out 130 batters. He walked 56, which is a big reason why his ERA was 4.27. Nonetheless, pitchers are always missing time. It would not be a surprise to see Brown take the mound at Wrigley Field this summer.

Ad – content continues below

One more to keep an eye on is Matt Shaw. Shaw is number seven in the Cubs’ top prospect list, but he might not make his professional debut in 2024. Despite that, Shaw is definitely someone the Cubs are keeping a close eye on. He hit .357 across three levels with eight home runs, and 28 RBI. Shaw also made a lot of contact, and takes his walks. He is already showing out in spring training, and looks poised to be a very good player for the Cubs.

The Cubs are going to be a fun team to watch in 2024. They have the talent and ability to make some noise in the NL Central. With what the Cubs have on their MLB roster right now, they should feel very confident.