This is a pretty simple concept and you’re all intelligent people, so I’ll spare you too much of a preamble here. In this, my third attempt at making bold predictions (see my lists from 2015 and 2016 if you’re so inclined), I throw intuition and educated guesswork into a blender and pulse liberally. As always, the plan is to follow up on these as the season continues to see how I did.
Of course, you can feel free to call me out on them right away if you like.
1) The Cubs sign Brett Anderson to round out the pitching staff
Boom, nailed it! Always nice to start off with a softball. In case you’ve been under a rock, this one already happened. In keeping with the theme of the post, I’ll add that Anderson remains relatively healthy and makes 12-15 starts while also logging 30-35ish appearances out of the pen.
2) Kyle Schwarber sets record for leadoff home runs
Alfonso Soriano hit 12 leadoff homers (that’s to start a game, not an inning) in 2007, which set the standard for both the Cubs and the National League as a whole. Four years prior, Sori smacked 13 leadoff dingers for the Yankees to establish the AL record. With Joe Maddon leaning toward using Schwarber at the top of the order, we could see the bar set a little higher. Would that make it a War Bear WAR bar?
3) Addison Russell slashes .265/.360/.450
While this wouldn’t be a monster stat line on it’s own, it represents jumps of 30-40 points in each of the respective categories. Russell has existed in a perpetual state of ready-to-bust-outiness, and this is the year he truly realizes his latent offensive potential.
4) Albert Almora wins a Gold Glove in center
Have you seen this kid play defense? There are more athletic fielders out there, but I don’t think you’ll see any with better instincts and greater desire to be the best. I know a lot of folks are going to miss Dexter Fowler, but seeing Almora patrolling center on the daily is going to be a real treat.
5) Jason Heyward serves up heaping helpings of crow
I’ll be the first one to admit that I was not always complimentary of Heyward’s plate approach last season. Heck, my laments about his propensity for rolling over to the right side even got me labeled as a racist fomenter of negativity. At the same time, though, I was steadfast in my defense and support of the Cubs paying the man what they did. It was never about giving a ton of money to one man for his singular talent, but about allocating money to make the team better.
Still, Heyward’s individual performance at the plate was nothing if not disappointing. He’s been working tirelessly since the end of the season to get his swing back to where it was earlier in his career, which, combined with a higher comfort level, will bear plenty of fruit. And good fruit, too, not durian or cantaloupe. Haters beware.
6) The Cubs draft a pitcher with their first pick
The bat-first strategy employed over the last five years has had a major impact, but shifts in both draft position and the team’s makeup may alter things. No longer are the Cubs in line for a top-5 pick, nor are they in need of position players in the immediate future. Pitchers, though, pitchers they could use in short order. Without a pick in the first two rounds last year, the Cubs chose starter Thomas Hatch in the third. They’ll go back to that well with their first pick this time around.
7) They also swing a trade for a young starter
Remember what I just wrote about that glut of position players? Knowing that they’ll need to replace a good chunk of their rotation for 2018 means the front office is going to be willing and able to deal from a strength to bolster a weakness. I don’t see Eloy Jimenez going anywhere, but the rest of the top 5 prospects will be in play.
8) Early overreactions abound
Okay, this isn’t all that bold given the nature of fandom. Still, it’ll be funny to see how many people start freaking out when the Cubs go 3-7 to start Spring Training or when Dexter Fowler hits a walk-off homer for the Cardinals to win the season opener.
9) The Cubs win 105 games
It’s hard to imagine doing better than 103 wins and a World Series title, but the Cubs might very well be a stronger team this season. Anything can happen over the course of 162 games, but it’s not a stretch to say that the offense could be better with the defense and pitching staying about the same. Avoid that early July swoon and you’ve got even more than 105 wins.
Listen, there’s plenty of room for regression in several categories too, so I don’t want to make this sound like it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Working in the Cubs’ favor is their division, which went from boasting the three best records in baseball to being sort of a landfill. Even all the grass and trees being planted can’t completely mask the pipes installed to relieve the gas being put off by Milwaukee and Cincinnati.
10a) Kris Bryant repeats as MVP
Corey Seager should be even better as the Dodgers continue to make plenty of noise, but I believe Bryant will improve upon the few weak spots in his game en route to another trophy.
10b) Anthony Rizzo wins MVP
But, Evan, you said Bryant was going to repeat as MVP. Yeah, and? They’re gonna share it, dude.
There you have it, my annual attempt to compete with those ubiquitous online listicles. Got any predictions of your own?