The Cubs have battled back in the last few weeks to climb to 4.5 games behind the disappointing Cardinals and surprising Reds. The Cubs have had a rough season so far, but with an injection of young talent, they could overtake the top of the Central before the All-Star break, if they catch some breaks.
The Wild Card comes to mind almost immediately. The NL East might produce one, the Mets are better than believed, but still are an average ball club. The Nationals are good now and will get Strasburg soon, but it won't be enough. The Reds could challenge for a spot and they are getting Chapman sometime in July. Can they keep it together, with all their young talent? I doubt it. The NL West can get a wild card team, because the Padres are playing very well, and the Giants are fairly talented (pitching is out of this world). The Dodgers aren't going to make the playoffs. The Cubs can beat out the NL East if they win more than 85 games. With the Pirates and Astros (and Brewers) 85 seems fairly likely. Same for the NL West. Sure, the Rockies could come out of nowhere, but for me, 85 wins is the goal the Cubs needs to make. I highly doubt they will catch the Cards, despite injuries they are too good.
The Cub's biggest problem is timely hitting. How often do you watch Sportscenter and see the Cubs lost 3-2 with 2 men on base when the last out is recorded? The starting pitching continues to be spectacular but the bullpen is less than stellar outside of Sean Marshall. Marmol walks too many hitters. Zambrano needs to come back to the rotation to have a shot at the playoffs. He has so much talent, although we won't ever see it all at once. Lilly is still making his way back. Silva is an All-Star so far, such a welcome surprise because he was the guy thrown in for the Bradley trade (which we already won). The pitching will be there, but it needs to be so good for the Cubs to get over .500.
Lee and Ramirez are going to be on their downside soon. Castro is too young to rely on game in and game out, but has been very good. Byrd has been a nice addition. Colvin has been pretty good. Soriano is having his best season ever for the Cubs. Ramirez will probably get a late season charge if given the opportunity. But all that hitting doesn't count if we can't score consistently.
If the Cubs can hit better with runners on base, watch out. They can pitch with the best of them and play good defense. They have to play even smaller ball to squeeze out runs or just turn it on when the weather gets better. I am starting to believe a little more in this team, and if the rookies pan out, next year could be big for the Cubs.