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Series Preview: Chicago Cubs

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The Reds welcome the defending world champions to Great American Ball Park for a three-game series.

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Even after dropping two out of three to the Orioles, the Reds still find themselves in first-place in the NL Central. They'll look to get back to their winning ways on Friday. Unfortunately, it will be a tall task as they welcome the defending world champion Chicago Cubs to Great American Ball Park. The Cubs went 14-5 against the Reds in 2016, and they outscored Cincinnati 143-69 in those contests. That run of success included an April no-hitter from Jake Arrieta.

Let's hope the Reds can change their luck against the Cubs in 2017.

Last Season and What's Ahead

You probably don't need much of a refresher on the Cubs 2016 season. They went 103-58, won the NL Central by 17.5 games, and won their first world championship since...blah, blah, blah. We're all a little over the Cubs at this point, aren't we?

Chicago comes into tonight's game with an 8-7 record, although they've dropped four of their last six. FanGraphs projects the Cubs to go 85-62 in their remaining games. That's the second best-projected record in baseball, trailing only the Dodgers. Baseball Prospectus also projects Chicago to go 85-62 the rest of the way.

Notable New Faces

Jon JayThe Cubs signed Jay to a one-year, $8 million deal to help fill the void in the outfield left by Dexter Fowling heading to St. Louis. In 11 games this season, Jay is hitting .333/.440/.429.

Koji UeharaChicago signed the 42-year-old Uehara to a one-year $6 million deal. Thus far, Uehara has thrown 6.2 innings out of Chicago's bullpen.

Brett AndersonAnderson was brought in to bolster the back-end of Chicago's rotation. Injury issues have plagued Anderson throughout his career, but he's been a solid pitcher when healthy. Anderson is 1-0 with a 4.40 ERA in three starts for the Cubs this season.

Brian Duensing - The 34-year-old left-hander appeared in 14 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season. He's only pitched 3.1 innings in relief this season.

Wade Davis - With the loss of Aroldis Chapman, the Cubs had an opening for a new closer. The team filled that need by trading Jorge Soler to the Kansas City Royals for Wade Davis. Davis has been among baseball's best relievers since 2014, but he did deal with forearm issues throughout 2016.

Fare Thee Well

Dexter Fowler

Aroldis Chapman

Jorge Soler

David Ross

Jason Hammel

Travis Wood

Clayton Richard

Trevor Cahill

Chris Coghlan

You can read a full breakdown of the Cubs offseason here.

The Lineup (2016 stats in parentheses)

Kyle Schwarber - LF (Only appeared in two regular season games due to injury)

Kris Bryant - 3B (.292/.385/.554, 39 HR, 121 R, 102 RBI, 8 SB)

Anthony Rizzo - 1B (.292/.385/.544, 32 HR, 94 R, 109 RBI, 3 SB)

Ben Zobrist - LF (.272/.386/.446, 18 HR, 94 R, 76 RBI, 6 SB)

Addison Russell - SS (.238/.321/.417, 21 HR, 67 R, 95 RBI, 5 SB)

Jason Heyward - RF (.230/.306/.325, 7 HR, 61 R, 49 RBI, 11 SB)

Willson Contreras - C (.282/.357/.488, 12 HR, 33 R, 35 RBI, 2 SB)

Javier Baez - 2B (.273/.314/.423, 14 HR, 50 R, 59 RBI, 12 SB)

Throughout the series, you'll see Chicago rotate a few players around. Albert Almora and Jon Jay are likely to see time in the outfield. Miguel Montero will catch when Contreras isn't playing.

The Pitchers (for this series)

Jon Lester (vs. Tim Adleman) - Friday at 7:10 ET

Lester finished 2016 going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA. He still can't throw to first base, and I'm setting the over/under at 3 for Billy Hamilton steals tonight.

Jake Arrieta (vs. Cody Reed) - Saturday at 1:10 ET

Jake Arrieta went 18-8 with a 3.10 ERA in 2016. There has been some concern regarding Arrieta due to a dip in his fastball velocity.

John Lackey (vs. Bronson Arroyo) - Sunday at 1:10 ET

Eric Thames recently homered off of Lackey. Naturally, Lackey seemed to suggest that Thames must be using PEDs. That pretty much sums Lackey up.

The Best Cubs vs. Reds Highlight of 2016

via GIPHY

Prediction

I'm as optimistic a Reds fan as they come, but Adleman, Reed, and Arroyo versus the Cubs? We could be in for a long weekend.