Joe Maddon has the best kind of problem. He has too many good players to fit into the eight position player spots on the baseball diamond. Jason Heyward has been a positive offensive for an entire month for the first time in his Cubs career. Combine that with his elite glove and base running and it makes it awfully hard to keep out of the lineup. Ian Happ hit more home runs than any switch hitting rookie in Cubs history, and was just one shy of the rookie record for switch hitters set this season. Kyle Schwarber has awoken into the power hitting beast we expected in the second half. Addison Russell looks healthy and seems to always play best with the spotlight on. Javier Baez has become El Mago. Ben Zobrist was the MVP in the World Series last year. Albert Almora's base running was key in that World Series, and looks like the bat might have finally developed to match the glove and base running.
The Cubs are loaded with hyper talented 20 somethings. I just wrote over hundred words without mentioning the Cubs perennial league MVP candidates. And yet I think the Cubs best chance of success in this postseason is playing a 32 year old Cardinals castoff who was barely an average hitter by wRC+ (101 with 100 being league average). It hinges on something John talked a lot about (and something I also am a proponent of) which is lineup differentiation. Jon Jay provide something that is lacking in the Cubs lineup currently.
The Joe Maddon Cubs have been nothing but winners. The 92 win, division champion represent the first step back in any conceivable metric the Cubs have taken since Theo Epstein bottomed the franchise out in 2012. However, the Cubs charmed run has had one glaring failure which occurred in a four game stretch in late October 2015. The Cubs faced the most talented and deepest pitching staff they have faced in the 2010s, and the young bats ran ice cold while Daniel Murphy tormented anyone in blue pinstripes on the mound. The Cubs face an extremely deep and talented pitching staff. ERA is not a perfect metric, but it is impressive when you are expected pitchers 2,3 and 5 in that measure in the first 3 games of a series. Well at least Daniel Murphy is still a Met. Wait the Mets somehow let him go and he signed with a division rival?
The Cubs reaction to the 2015 NLCS was to offer the largest contract in club history and the next biggest free agent signing of the same offseason was another position player where they had to trade a former all-star middle infielder to clear a spot. The Cubs realized that the Cubs propensity for swing and miss was an issue in the postseason, and they went out to aggressively fix that problem. Unfortunately Jason Heyward went from a well above average hitter to among baseball's worst full time players at the plate at age 27. Ben Zobrist was magnificent last year, but injuries have finally caught up with the Zorilla. After a solid August, Zobrist has a measely 68 wRC+ in September.
The Cubs have had 11 hitters with over 200 plate appearances in 2017. These 11 hitters comprise the list of players you can reasonable expect to start a postseason game. The Cubs have had 4 players make contact over 80% of the time they swung a bat.
Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward have not been stellar offensive forces this season. Heyward has been better recently, and deserves to start for his run prevention skills. However any offensive production this postseason should be considered gravy. Ben Zobrist is still not the player he was last year. That leaves Anthony Rizzo and Jon Jay and the giant gap between Kris Bryant and Albert Almora.
Contact is only one factor in the calculus. Jon Jay is a pesky hitter. He drew a lot of attention for the lengthy 15 pitch at bat in Milwaukee. Jay has several at bats like that, and his ability to have extended bats is incredibly important while facing elite pitching. The Cubs could use a player that makes the starter work instead of allowing the Nationals power pitchers to establish themselves and pitch deep into games.
Jon Jay is not an elite baseball player. He was among the best part time players in the game this year, but the Cubs have players that would be more valuable playing over 162 games. The postseason is different though, and the Cubs need contact mixed in with their talented but at times contact challenged lineup.