MLB: The 1 Reason the Chicago Cubs Could Have the Best Rotation in the NL

The Chicago Cubs want to be in the race for the World Series title this year, and they want it bad. Last year the team finished second behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central with a 95-68 record. The Cubs’ pitching was good, despite a humble start by the then recently-signed Yu Darvish, who was out the bulk of the season due to elbow and triceps injuries. Despite some of the rotation woes, Chicago made the wild card round of the playoffs, but it lost at home to Colorado.

Health is the No. 1 reason the Cubs could have the best rotation in the NL. If they can stay healthy, the Cubs stand to have the best starting rotations in baseball, although they are going to have to top some tough competitors, including the Mets and Nationals.

Following surgery, Yu Darvish is back on his game

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2IP,0H,1BB,3K. #CUBS #springtraining

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The Cubs are hopeful that Darvish will be able to live up to his $126 million contract, which he signed in February 2018. He had surgery last September to clean out his elbow, and he is looking sound following his Cactus League work in spring training. Before 2018, the right-hander’s ERA was 3.42 with 1,021 strikeouts in 832-1/3 career innings.

Darvish is one of the game’s best pitchers if he’s healthy, but that’s a big if. He missed parts of the 2014 and 2016 seasons, and he sat out the entire 2015 season after Tommy John Surgery. He made 31 starts in 2017, but then the arm issues sidelined him again in 2018.

A healthy Darvish is the No. 1 reason the Chicago Cubs could have the best rotation in the NL, but if health sidelines him again then the team’s depth should keep it competitive. Keep reading if you need a refresher on the other starting pitchers on the Cubs’ staff.

Cole Hamels isn’t slowing down

At 35 years old, Cole Hamels is looking at his 12th year in the majors. He was traded to the Cubs mid-season last year by the Rangers. In 12 starts with Chicago, he had a 2.36 ERA in 76-1/3 innings. The Cubs took him up on the option clause of his contract to the tune of $20 million. The left-hander is looking to make his 400th start early in the season. Hamels has a 93-94 mph fastball, but watch for his swing-and-miss change-up, which is a key to his strikeouts.

Jon Lester is ready

Jon Lester could head one of the best starting rotations in the NL in 2019.
Jon Lester is a reliable staff ace for the Chicago Cubs. | Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images

Jon Lester is undoubtedly the ace for the Cubs, and he’s set to pitch opening day. The way he’s throwing in spring training, it looks as though he’ll be ready. Last season he went 18-6, good for a .750 win-loss percentage. It wasn’t his record high of .792 in 2016, but close enough. Last year the left-hander hit his second career home run off of Lance Lynn of the Twins. Will he go for his third in 2019?

Kyle Hendricks moving forward

Chicago is looking for the right-handed Kyle Hendricks to lower his ERA this year to warrant his $7.4 million salary. He needs to get a better jump out of the gate, which was sadly lacking last year. The 29-year-old lifelong Cub could be one of the emerging pitching stars in baseball, and he did finish last season well. Starting in July, Hendricks’ ERA dropped remarkably and he plans to channel that and continue on that upward trend.

Look for Jose Quintana to up his game

Jose Quintana said he was “content” with one of his most recent spring training starts, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He allowed four hits and gave up two runs to the Rockies, but that’s OK, it was only a spring-training game. It’s his third year in the NL and the 30-year-old looks to make a better impression than last year. When first traded across town by the White Sox in 2017 he had a 4-8 record. He must have enjoyed the move as he finished that year 7-3 for the Cubs. Last year he still had a winning record, 13-11, but he’s looking to improve on that in 2019.