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Cubs Tue Mar 08 2011

Neyer: Don't Sleep on the Cubs

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Cubs catcher Geovany Soto / Tribune photo: José M. Osorio

Rob Neyer had some good things to say about the Cubs when he previewed them two weeks ago for his new site, SBNation.com, but the longtime ESPN.com columnist went a step further when he stopped by Jonah Keri's podcast recently, picking them as his biggest surprise of 2011.

Now, that doesn't mean Neyer is ready to go out on a limb and predict the Northsiders will surge past the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers in the NL Central, but "if you're looking for a real surprise team," he said, "you could probably do a lot worse than the Cubs."

I think that the Cubs have a chance to be a lot better than people expect. ... On paper, they're still the fourth-best team in the NL Central. I get that, and that's right. But I think that if you're looking for a real surprise team, you could probably do a lot worse than the Cubs. ...

I think they have five or six positions where they could be much better this year than they were last year -- and that doesn't include the pitching, which probably should be at least as good. I would say they're going to be better at first base, third base, marginally left field, probably second base -- I'm forgetting one of them -- oh, shortstop, probably. [Starlin] Castro will go up maybe a notch. There's just a lot of room for improvement on that team. I can see them going 85-77 rather than 75-87, which is what they did last year.

Keri, a veteran journalist with his own impressive list of credentials, brought up catcher Geovany Soto, calling him "an unbelievably good hitter" who just needs to play every day after posting an .890 OPS in 387 plate appearances last season.

"Yeah, I mean he was phenomenal last year," Neyer agreed. "His OPS I believe was higher than Buster Posey's. One would assume he's going to play more often and that can't hurt either."

Check out JonahKeri.com for the full podcast -- which, like most of Keri's podcasts, covers a wide range of baseball and non-baseball topics. The Cubs stuff starts at the 51:25 mark.

 
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