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Cubs emerge as division title favorites in preseason standings projections

The Cubs are considered favorites to win the NL Central Division based on preseason projections from three different outlets. With less than two weeks before Opening Day for the 2018 MLB season, the numbers are looking positive for manager Joe Maddon’s team.

Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs¬†and USA Today all project the Cubs to win the division title with between 92 and 94 victories. Part of the optimism for the team is the weakness elsewhere in the division, which doesn’t have an obvious club capable of contending with the Cubs on paper.

PECOTA, the system used by Baseball Prospectus, projects the Cubs to post a 92-70 record with a plus-114 run differential. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Anthony Rizzo each project to top 30 home runs for one of the best offenses in the league.

FanGraphs likes the Cubs even more with a projected record of 94-70 in a two-team race for the division. The Cardinals finish second with a 87-75 record, then the Brewers, Reds, and Pirates all project to finish below .500.

Manager Joe Maddon will try to lead the Cubs to a division crown this season. | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

USA Today, which describes its system as “semi-scientific,” projected the Cubs for a 92-70 record in February. However, that’s before the Yu Darvish signing, so it’s possible that could bump their win total even higher.

In general, there’s a common theme from the projections: The Cubs are the clear favorites in the division, with the Cardinals as the main competitor, followed by the Brewers. The prognosticators give little chance to the Pirates or Reds of doing much damage in the NL Central.

This is baseball, so anything can happen, but the Cubs enter the 2018 season on an encouraging note based on their statistical projections. There’s a good chance they’re about to begin a run toward another postseason appearance.