Chicago Sports Roundtable: Bulls Playoff Outlook, Who will be the Next Breakout Star in Chicago?

Join the “TLS” writers in a roundtable discussion every Monday on The Loop Sports! This Week we discuss the state of the Bulls 2016-2017 playoff chances, and who we all think will be the breakout star of 2017 across the Chicago sports landscape.

The Loop Sports Staff Roundtable for the week of January 2, 2017:

On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “not at all” and 10 being “is it baseball season yet?”, how concerned are you about the current state of the Bulls 2016-2017 playoff hopes?

Source: Stacy Revere/Getty Images North America
Source: Stacy Revere/Getty Images North America

Patrick Flowers: At this point, there isn’t much to feel optimistic about with the Bulls. We didn’t expect much of them leading up to the season, after they decided to go young, and then not so much, we knew that the roster was no less flawed than it was last season when they missed the playoffs.

Their offense is anemic, their head coach is in over his head, Hoiberg has already lost the head-case Rajon Rondo after benching him for his dismal play thus far, and again the roster is just far too flawed. Right now I’d say I’m at an eight on the scale of how concerned I am with their chances that making the playoffs this season.

Matt Grabianski: The problem with the Bulls is that you just don’t know if they’re gonna show up or not. One day Butler scores 40 and they dominate, and the next they can’t play a lick of defense.

With that in mind I’ll say 7, just because they have the talent, but with inconsistency like this I think the only thing we’ll get out of this season is frustration.

Tim Moran: I would say a four at this point. Now, this doesn’t mean I think the Bulls are in great shape, but just that I think they have a good chance at the eighth seed. They’re only a few games out of it right now, so it’s reasonable.

The reason I’m only slightly worried is because Jimmy Butler is playing amazingly, and the team is just now getting used to Michael Carter-Williams and Doug McDermott. If they can figure out how to handle the lowest teams in the league, Butler’s play should be enough to carry them to an eight seed, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

This might sound contrary to some of my past writing, but an eighth seed is an eighth seed- it means you’re barely average, and you’re about to get destroyed by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

Owen Schoenfeld: This season was always going to be a mixed bag. Back in June, when Jimmy Butler was being dangled for a top draft pick, it looked like the Bulls were ticketed for the dark ages of rebuilding. Then the front office pulled a 180 and brought in Rajon Rondo, and more surprisingly, Dwyane Wade. If this were 2010, a championship route would be in order.
Instead, it’s Jimmy Butler plus a cast of aging stars and misfits who aren’t gaining traction in the league. It was never going to be a great shooting team. Chicago ranks 28th in FG% and is dead last in downtown efficiency. The reality is that they’re also a half game back of the eighth seed. Jimmy Butler’s a bona-fide star, Dwyane Wade is a draw, but this is a clunky unit that’s in-congruent with Hoiberg’s uptempo, shot driven offense from Iowa St.
This team likely sneaks into the playoffs and gets bounced early. Then the onus will be on Wade to court a big name free agent to pair with Butler or for GarPax to blow the whole thing up. Either way, the Bulls are Chicago’s latest team to be “mired in mediocrity.”
I’d say a 5 as far as concern for this campaign, but I’m terrified about the overall lack of direction.
Anders Johanson: I’m going to sound like the least-informed member of the Loop staff but I really don’t follow basketball as closely as I follow, say, minor league darts. Just as one example. From a quick glance at the standings it looks like the Bulls are tenth in their conference so that’s good?
I mean tenth can’t be too bad, right? In all seriousness I’d say things don’t look too bad for the Bulls at this point in the season. There’s five teams in the middle of the standings within one game of each other so the tide could turn pretty drastically over the course of just a few games. If the Bulls can come together and play as a group and beat the teams they’re supposed to beat then I can see them slowly moving up the standings as the season progresses. (Sets down “Sports Cliches and How to Use Them”) 

Who will be the breakout star of 2017 across the Chicago sports landscape?

Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America
Source: Denis Poroy/Getty Images North America

Patrick Flowers: I would love to say Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears, but he has already emerged as the new Bears starting running back, as well as a potential Pro-Bowler, so I will go in a different direction for my 2017 breakout star in Chicago Sports.

I am going with Zack Burdi, a local kid out of Downers Grove, who shot through the White Sox minor-league system after being drafted in last June’s MLB Draft. Burdi posted a 1-0 record with a 3.32 ERA over the course of 26 appearances between High-A Winston Salem and Triple-A Charlotte. Over his 38 innings pitched Burdi struck out 51 of the 154 batters faced, giving him a 12.1 K/9 ratio.

Burdi tossed a scoreless inning in the Arizona Fall League, and was even clocked at 105 mph this past season. Burdi was deemed the most major-league ready of all of the White Sox draft picks from last year, and will likely start the season in Triple-A Charlotte, but he won’t be there very long if he continues to pitch the way he did in 2016.

Matt Grabianski: Yoan Moncada. I was stunned when the Boston Red Sox gave up a talent like this one, and it’s clear that the Chicago White Sox are in good shape for the future with Moncada at the helm.

Most casual fans have no idea who he is because they don’t follow farm systems, but when he hits 30 homers in 2017 they’ll know his name and he’ll become the face of the South Side.

Tim MoranI’d have to go with Tim Anderson on this one. The kid hit for a .283 batting average in 99 games last year, and if Rick Renteria and Co. can get him to take a few pitches, he will develop tremendously. He’s got speed, is great with the glove, and has 15+ homer potential, but is brought down by his .306 OBP due to only 13 walks.

Let’s take a look at a golden example of a young player developing in the majors. In 2013, his first full major-league season, Anthony Rizzo didn’t perform like the knight-in-shining-armor-here-to-save-your-franchise player that many Cubs fans expected. His slash line was .233/.323/.419. But in 2014, those numbers skyrocketed, as he finished in 10th place in the National League MVP Award voting after racking up a line of .286/.386/.527.

The bottom line is that his first full season wasn’t indicative of his future seasons. Young players tend to get better- it’s what they do. So if Anderson can up his walks just a bit, you’re looking at a talented lead-off hitter who is hitting around .300 with his huge weakness (lack of walks) no longer huge. That’s promising, so look out for Anderson to attract a lot of attention on the south side.

Owen Schoenfeld: Yoan Moncada. Get to know the name. The electric, top-prospect came over as the centerpiece of the Chris Sale blockbuster. Boston paid a pretty penny to sign him as an international player and Moncada shined in his first full season of pro-ball. He had a .307/.427/.496 line across almost 300 plate appearances in High-A. Then he showed some pop in Double-A stint and was unequivocally rushed to the majors.

He struck out a bit too much in the minors, but again, this was his first full season stateside. The impressive bat speed and walk rate give him the makings of a plus hit tool. He’s got the raw power to hit 25 home runs and the above average speed to swipe 30 bags. He’s raw defensively, but has the athleticism and arm to be at least credible at second base.

In an ideal world, Moncada gets his lion share of plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte in 2017. Then again, premium talents tend to force the issue. I expect Moncada to open eyes

Anders Johanson: Happy to see the White Sox taking this question by storm. As much as I would love to be the next guy to toss my name in the Yoan Moncada hat I’m just not certain how much time he will get in the big leagues as of right now. That’s not to say that I’m not excited about the potential of him joining the White Sox this season because I am, but I’m going to echo Tim Moran’s answer and suggest you follow young shortstop Tim Anderson closely this season.

Anderson showed raw potential with the White Sox in 2016 both at the plate and in the field. In addition to Moran’s analysis I just want to point out the fact that out of the 99 games that Anderson played with the White Sox in 2016, 33 of them were multi-hit games.

Chances are pretty good that if Anderson gets one base hit in a game he’s going to get two. A little discipline never hurt even the most seasoned of veterans so I would love to see Anderson’s walk rate go up in 2017. Chris Sale’s and Adam Eaton‘s impact will be missed by all but Anderson should take this opportunity to really show the fan-base what he’s made of and claim his spot among the young American League shortstops out there right now.

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