“More than any other American sport, baseball creates the magnetic, addictive illusion that it can almost be understood.” – Thomas Boswell
I suppose now is as good a time as any to make some predictions, though, based on past record, prognostication is not one of my highlight skills. Still, it’s a fun exercise that often reveals more homerism than astute analysis and less intelligence than heart. Baseball is a nine-inning game, so I’ll climb out on that proverbial limb nine times this morning, limiting my evaluation to in-team discussion only.
Kris Bryant hitting bombs is a beautiful sight pic.twitter.com/xIz3E8Hr2F
— Cubs Insider (@realcubsinsider) March 21, 2021
- The Cubs will extend Kris Bryant before (or instead of) Javier Báez and/or Anthony Rizzo. I’m basing this one on position scarcity, an opportunity for Jed Hoyer to complete a team-friendly deal due to recent performance, and the team’s history of poor third base choices.
- At least one of the big three core players will sign an extension for no more than three years. If I had to commit to naming said player, it would be Rizzo.
- The one player the Cubs will miss more next season than any other is Zach Davies. I hope Hoyer can find a way to keep him. No starter has been more quietly consistent than Davies except Kyle Hendricks.
- Chicago will win the NL Central with a record of 88-74 and will experience an extended postseason run. The adage that defense wins championships doesn’t apply to baseball as much as other sports, but teams that don’t give away runs and extra outs do win a lot of ballgames. Keep in mind that the last time the Cubs were this good defensively was 2016.
- Craig Kimbrel will not finish the season as a member of the Cubs, but it won’t be because he stinks. In my mind I see this setting up the way the Red Sox handled Nomar Garciaparra in 2004. Brandon Workman or Rowan Wick will assume closer duties and Kimbrel, continuing his hot streak from last year, will help Hoyer fill a need at the deadline, perhaps a leadoff hitter or left-handed starter. As a bit of sub-context, I do believe Hoyer will fleece somebody at the deadline too, though not in any potential Kimbrel trade.
- Shelby Miller will bump Alec Mills from the rotation by mid-May, if not sooner. This isn’t really a stretch because Miller has been awfully good this spring and I do believe the Cubs are more comfortable with Mills as a swingman than anybody else on the staff.
- The Cubs rotation will lead the National League in quality starts. I’ll attribute this one to outstanding defense, run differential, and Millsy starting a limited number of games. For the past six seasons the Cubs have won a lot of games where they’ve scored double-digit runs, but they’ve played a great deal of low-scoring ones, too. Regardless of how those have turned out, their starters have given the team an opportunity to win most contests, and that should continue this year, but with greater success.
- Willson Contreras will be Chicago’s lone All-Star Game starter, no matter how well the team plays. The Dodgers and Padres are loaded and will dominate fan selections for this year’s game.
- Bryant will win the Comeback Player of the Year award. He’s going to have a monster season, and really, he has to because he’s never going to get another shot to bank a life-changing contract.
Cubs News & Notes
- David Ross has named Hendricks as his Opening Day starter and the rest of the rotation, at least for the first 15 games of the season, will probably include Davies, Mills, Trevor Williams, and Jake Arrieta.
- Arrieta is expected to start the season as the team’s No. 2 starter, with Davies slotting right behind him.
- The veteran right-hander, now in his second stint with the Cubs, pitched well in yesterday’s 3-1 loss to the White Sox.
- An arbiter reportedly has ruled in favor of MLB, determining Adbert Alzolay will indeed have a fourth option this season, and a likely ticket to Iowa to start the season.
- The Alzolay decision also allows the Cubs to carry 14 offensive players, which would seem to indicate that both Miller and Eric Sogard will break camp with the big league squad.
- Sogard, Nico Hoerner, and David Bote are all locked in right now, and the competition to open the season as the team’s starting second baseman has been fierce.
- Wick (intercostal) threw a light bullpen session on Monday, but there remains no announced timetable for his return and the reliever is still expected to open the season on the injured list.
- Marquee Sports Network announced Tuesday that Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg will join the broadcasting team as a multi-platform analyst. Sandberg will contribute to select spring and regular-season broadcasts, pre- and post-game shows, studio and in-game interviews, podcasts, and more.
Odds & Sods
Is it crazy to think Arrieta could be as good as he was the last time he donned the #49 Cubs jersey?
— MLB (@MLB) March 24, 2021
Spring Training News & Notes
The league will be issuing a memo to teams this week that it plans to use Statcast to try to catch pitchers illegally doctoring the baseball.
Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer downplayed the offensive onslaught against him by Mariners batters the other night, attributing the three home runs he gave up to going through the motions to get his pitch count up. Seattle manager Scott Servais had a nice retort: “[Our guys] were swinging with one eye shut.”
You don’t see articles like this very often, but The Ringer provided a list of Dodgers and Padres players most likely to incite a bench-clearing brawl. I would have chosen Max Muncy or Joe Kelly, but San Diego reliever Keone Kela takes top honors.
Jon Lester, who missed about a week due to parathyroid surgery, pitched for the Nationals yesterday, his second start of the spring. Lester said he felt good after the 31-pitch effort and is expected to make two more starts before the team breaks camp.
The Brewers could be baseball’s biggest surprise team this season.
The league’s 30 teams will deploy different strategies to cover a workload increase from 540 to 1,458 innings this season.
I don’t often root for players outside the Cubs organization, but I’m really pulling for Brent Honeywell Jr. this year.
on September 19, 2017, Brent Honeywell Jr. came in relief and threw 2.2 scoreless IP to help the Durham Bulls win the Triple-A National Championship
1,281 days and four surgeries later, he's finally back
happy #HoneyDay, everyone
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) March 22, 2021
Extra Innings Designated Runner
If you would have told me in January that a knock-down, drag-out battle for second base between Hoerner, Bote, and Sogard would come down to the final few Cactus League games I would have died of laughter. I may be eating a lot of crow with regard to Hoerner by season’s end.
They Said It
- “I feel like Kyle [Hendricks], his resume, his leadership, his poise — all that goes into being the Opening Day starter, just the extra kind of pomp and circumstance that goes with opening day and especially in this coming year as well. I mean, every arrow points to to Kyle.” – David Ross
- “[Shelby Miller] continues to prove himself and kind of identify what he can do. We don’t have his type of velocity in our rotation. We don’t even have as much of that in our bullpen, so it’s a nice arm that knows how to pitch, that has experience, that handles the moment well that I’ve seen so far. … I think he sees the success and is building confidence. There’s a lot of different ways to look at his value, but it all is positive for us and the organization.” – Ross
Wednesday Walk Up Song
The Rising by Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band – It’s odd to say but the Cubs have an opportunity to surprise a lot of teams this year. Baseball America recently predicted a third place finish for Chicago. I just don’t see it.