So here we are in Summer Camp, just single digit days away from the start of what could be the shortest season in the history of Major League Baseball. It could be cut even shorter by COVID-19 if cases get out of control, but for now I'm going to be optimistic and leave the doom to people like Ass Matt.
I'm also optimistic about the Cubs' chances of winning the division this year. Yes, the schedule is weird, and they have to play all in-division rivals and AL Central teams, and it's going to be odd, but with the Cardinals losing Jordan Hicks (which I totally support his decision!) and the Brewers being much, much worse on paper than they were last year, the Reds are probably the Cubs stiffest competition. Even then, I'm not completely buying what they're selling over there at the GABP.
But what of Craig Kimbrel, the Cubs high dollar closer, you might be asking? Yes, Kimbrel is cause for concern, and several other blogs and news sites have already written about it if you want to search them out. I'm not as worried, perhaps, as you might be, even if our little garden gnome did give up a bomb to Willy in his first Summer Camp outing.
That said, the Cubs bullpen actually has some depth, particularly in one guy that we might be forgetting about but who could make all the difference in this shorter season.
Oh hey there, Jeremy!
It hasn't been that long ago, just two years to be exact, that Jeffress sported a ridiculous 1.29 ERA with the Brewers, accompanied by a 10.45 K/9 rate and 15 saves which propelled him to the All Star game that year. In 2019, though, Jeffress was plagued by a hip injury all season that dropped his velocity a few ticks and ultimately led to his release by MIL. That said, when the Cubs were in spring training earlier this year, the velocity looked to be back up in the 96 mph range where it was in 2018. This is good. This is very, very good. Particularly if Kimbrel needs some help closing out games, Jeffress could be a guy the Cubs look for to take up some of the slack.
Also, Jeffress is kind of a good dude, which I also appreciate.
Personally, I still think there's a good chance Kimbrel will be just fine, and then we'll have a great 8th inning guy in Jeffress, like, RIGHT THERE. But if not, Jeffress rebounding could be the key to the entire bullpen in 2020. And I'm good with that.