The Cubs offense whimpered when it mattered most last season, scoring a combined 2 runs in a game #163 loss to the Brewers and a subsequent wild card defeat to the Rockies after that. Hitting was a major focus of the Chicago offense and it will be put to the test in the March 28th MLB free pick vs. the Rangers. Texas has a lot of questions to answer coming into the ’19 season but is still just a +100 underdog on Thursday.
A Lot of the Old Guard Returns for Chicago
There aren’t a whole lot of new faces in the Cubs dugout but what Joe Maddon hopes he does have is improvement. There’s a sentiment that Chicago had a down ’18 year but that’s kind of a rough thing to say for a team that won 95 games. Maddon engineered the team within a game of the division crown even while getting nothing from new signee Yu Darvish and with former MVP Kris Bryant battling shoulder injuries most of the year. Tyler Chatwood also had a horrible year in his first season with the Cubs but all three are expected to rebound and contribute for the upcoming year.
Chicago also hopes that the hiring of Anthony Iapoce to replace Chili Davis as hitting coach helps with the likes of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, and some other underperforming Cubs sluggers. Iapoce came over from the Rangers so he is very familiar with the Cubs opponent in the March 28th MLB free pick. Another advantage Chicago has Thursday is Jon Lester making his 4th opening day start with the Cubs and 8th overall. Lester was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA a season ago and only three current Rangers batters have ever faced the lefty.
Texas Continues Their Rebuild Through 2019
Texas isn’t ready to contend yet, which in a way is good timing as the Astros, A’s, Mariners, and potentially even the Angels are all within their playoff windows in the AL West. Chicago is just a -120 favorite in the March 28th MLB free pick at Globe Life Park in Arlington so maybe the Rangers won’t be as bad as everybody thinks – or at least not in the 1st game of the year. Joey Gallo could give Chicago fits today as he is a back-to-back 40 HR hitter. Adrian Beltre has retired however and Shin-Soo Choo is now 36 years old. There’s not a whole lot of offensive potential for Texas vs. the Cubs in this one.
If the Texas offense struggles, it’s going to be on Mike Minor to control the Chicago batters. Minor is making his first opening day start and has only faced Anthony Rizzo of the current Chicago hitters (2-9, .222). Minor went 12-8 last year with a 4.14 ERA. The Cubs did hit .260 vs. lefties last season, which was 6th best in the majors. Texas hit just .238 vs. southpaws a year ago however so Minor should expect a lot of help in this one.
March 28th MLB Free Pick Betting
There’s value all around on the MLB opening day and that’s true on Chicago here. Nobody knows what to expect from the Cubs offense with their new hitting coach but there’s just too much talent in one dugout compared to the other. Maddon ran a more hitting focused Spring Training and although Chicago does have a tendency to get complacent, today is not one of those days.
MLB Free Pick: Chicago Cubs -120