<
>
Insider

What (or who) could take down the Cubs in 2017?

Justin Turner's Dodgers are just one of the teams taking aim at the Cubs in 2017. What are their chances? Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

If there were any remaining doubts about the trajectory of the Chicago Cubs, they quelled them by winning the team's first World Series in the lifetime of practically everyone alive today. They didn't grab a crown by squeezing into the playoffs with 85 wins and then running a hot couple of weeks. They manhandled the league, winning 103 games with a roster featuring multiple MVP and Cy Young candidates and made the National League Central a real snoozer of a division race before the summer even started.

Naturally, the team's bandwagon has gotten bigger. They're one of the favorites to be the best team in baseball again in 2017. The Cubs remain my pick, and the ZiPS projections agree, placing the team as the favorite to repeat this season.

But the bandwagon may be going a little too fast, with people sometimes acting as if the Cubs simply cannot be stopped. The fact is, they can, and as strong as they are, the realities of the roster, league structure and how baseball works suggests that Chicago's season is far more likely to end in an elimination loss than with uniforms soaked with bubbly.

Angles in the outfield

The realistic best-case scenario is easy to see. Kyle Schwarber makes a full bounce back from surgery, Jason Heyward regains his pre-2017 form (if not the full promise he showed as a rookie) and the alliterative amalgamation of Jon Jay and Albert Almora in center field provides solid league-average performance.

But a lot can go wrong. Schwarber's power is overwhelming, but anyone who tells you that a player missing almost an entire season with major reconstructive surgery of two knee ligaments doesn't result in at least some uncertainty is probably someone you want to be shopping your magic beans to. Even if Schwarber's bat is everything that's expected, there were questions about his defense in the outfield even before last season. If he's a minus-15 defensive runs saved player out there or something, he's not actually a plus contributor.