The middle of the Cubs’ lineup, anchored by Javier Baez, could stand improvement in situational hitting, which is a focus for Joe Maddon. 

9:00 AM ET

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Chicago Cubs kick off what might be the most unpredictable season since they became annual contenders earlier in the decade. From algorithm predictions to media “experts” to Las Vegas oddsmakers, there is simply no consensus for 2019 on the team that won the most regular-season games from 2015 to ’18. Are the Cubs closer to a 100-win team or an 80-win team?

We’ll start to find out on Thursday, when they take on the Texas Rangers, but in the meantime, here is a guide — looking at the possible ups and downs — to this year’s Cubs.

Offense

What could go right: The team gets back to a slugging/walking mentality while improving its situational hitting, such as bringing home a man on third with fewer than two outs. The middle of the order could be devastating now that Javier Baez has established himself at the plate and Kris Bryant is healthy. Think of Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Baez and Kyle Schwarber batting 2-5 with Willson Contreras returning to form

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