“[It’s been] five days since you laughed at me, saying ‘Get that together, come back and see me.'” – Barenaked Ladies, One Week
I’ve been hard on the Cubs this offseason, but as I was preparing for my fantasy baseball auction last night I changed my views in a radical way. A lot of it has to do with Brennen Davis, as the advanced analytics site I use projects a profile trending toward All-Star caliber. That doesn’t mean we can anoint him the NL Rookie of the Year, but Davis should play at that level once he’s matured as a player. With an expected call-up shortly after the start of June, he still projects to hit 20-25 home runs.
It gets really exciting when you think about an outfield of Davis, Seiya Suzuki, and Clint Frazier, who will also be part of a DH triumvirate that includes Ian Happ and Willson Contreras, all fully capable of outperforming expectations. That rotation relegates Jason Heyward to OF4, which, and I hate to say it because I respect the heck out of J-Hey, is addition by subtraction. Once you add the high-contact bats of Frank Schwindel, Nick Madrigal, and Nico Hoerner to that lineup, it’s a little easier to get excited about a post-Memorial Day team that should play tough, gritty baseball with the ability to light it up in bunches against just about anybody.
Davis isn’t the only rookie I’m excited about, either. The service I use projects the big league debut of Caleb Kilian to coincide with the ascension of the Cubs’ No. 1 overall prospect. According to the site, Kilian will slot in the rotation (by rank, not order) right after Marcus Stroman, Kyle Hendricks, and Wade Miley, and is expected to be worth 1.8 WAR by the end of the season. For comparative purposes, Adrian Houser, Steven Matz, and Jon Gray offer similar profiles, which means 6-10 wins over two-thirds of a season with a FIP in the 4.15-4.25 range.
I can’t name the site because everybody in my league reads Cubs Insider and I can’t divulge anything that takes away my competitive edge in the league. Regardless, Chicago is projected to be a strong second-half team that could finish with 81-84 wins pending accurate rookie projections and other intangibles. If you add a power bat from the left side and another proven starter before the deadline, this could be a bottom-seed playoff team. Who knows? Maybe they’ll swing a trade for Carlos Correa if the Twins are out of the race.
If anything, the above projections validate statements made earlier by Jed Hoyer that he expects the Cubs to compete this year while building for an even brighter future. It’s certainly possible and a big part of it is that the Brewers are the only legitimate first-division team in the NL Central. Though we haven’t talked much about Chicago’s intradivisional opponents this winter, the Cardinals’ pitching is a mess, the Reds have stripped it down to the studs and floorboards, and the Pirates are, well, the Pirates.
Make no mistake, Hoyer has not built a World Series team. If the Cubs make it to the postseason, they just don’t profile as a team that can make an extended run against the likes of the Dodgers, Padres, Braves, Brewers, and Phillies. Then again, San Francisco entered the 2021 season with a PECOTA projection of 75 wins, the same neighborhood in which the Cubs (74.5) reside today, and the Giants finished 107-55.
It is unfair to compare the two teams other than to say nothing is impossible, but baseball is more about probability and hard data points than possibility and random chance. Though I believed as late as last week that the Cubs are a 71-win team, I do now think 80-82 wins are by no means a stretch. The flipside of that is that Hoyer has a lot of tradable assets, too, and the second half of this season could be more about building a contender for 2023 instead.
Cubs News & Notes
- David Ross is pumped up about starting the season with a home opener.
- Suzuki, Frazier, Madrigal, and Justin Steele all have a shot to be this year’s breakout candidates.
- Suzuki is one of the preseason favorites to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Don’t count out Davis.
- Keith Law of The Athletic thinks the Cubs have a semi-legitimate shot at playing .500 baseball this season (subscriber content).
- Mike Axisa of CBS Sports believes Suzuki will finish with a top-5 season for a Japanese import. He’ll need to end the season with an OPS+ of 130 or higher to do so.
- Other writers also see the Cubs as a sleeper this season, with a real possibility of exceeding current PECOTA projections.
- There’s a good chance you’ll see old friend Victor Caratini at Wrigley Field today because the Brewers acquired the catcher along with cash considerations from the Padres yesterday. San Diego will receive outfielder Korry Howell and catcher Brett Sullivan.
- If you’re heading out to Wrigley Field today, here is your up-to-the-minute weather forecast.
- Hendricks will take the bump today against reigning Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.
- When Burnes last took the mound at Wrigley Field, he struck out 15 Cubs over eight scoreless innings, including a stretch of 10 consecutive strikeouts to tie the MLB record.
- Prediction: Cubs beat the Brewers 6-4 after a late-inning rally against Milwaukee’s bullpen, and Ethan Roberts earns his first major league save. Suzuki and Schwindel will be the offensive stars.
Shooting the Gap
Here are my predicted finishes for this season:
- NL East: 1. Phillies 2. Braves 3. Mets 4. Nationals 5. Marlins
- NL Central: 1. Brewers 2. Cubs 3. Cardinals 4. Pirates 5. Reds
- NL West: 1. Dodgers 2. Padres 3. Giants 4. Diamondbacks 5. Rockies
- AL East: 1. Rays 2. Blue Jays 3. Red Sox 4. Yankees 5. Orioles
- AL Central – 1. Tigers 2. White Sox 3. Royals 4. Twins 5. Guardians
- AL West: 1. Mariners 2. Angels 3. Astros 4. Athletics
- NL Wild Card: 1. Braves 2. Padres 3. Giants
- AL Wild Card: 1. Blue Jays 2. Angels 3. White Sox
- NL Champion: Brewers
- AL Champion: Angels
- World Series Winner: Brewers – it’s the pitching, folks.
Climbing the Ladder
Everybody’s in first place today, so I thought I’d share my baseball playlist “Today is Baseball Day” with you all, and please don’t say everybody is also tied for last. It’s Opening Day for the love of Mike, so have a little fun.
Odds & Sods
If you really want to get completely nutty as Cubs fans, it’s worth pointing out that the NL Central has not seen a repeat division winner since Chicago did it in 2016 and ’17.
- 2021: Brewers
- 2020: Cubs
- 2019: Cardinals
- 2018: Brewers
I don’t think the Cardinals have a shot this year, and though Milwaukee (-200) is favored, put $100 on the Cubs (+1200) and forget about it until you collect in October. I probably should add a disclaimer that says gambling is addictive and that this data is provided for entertainment purposes only.
MLB News & Notes
The Blue Jays have been nomads for two years, and barring another surge in COVID cases, they’ll finally play a full season at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, where they were 25-11 in 2021.
All-Star third baseman José Ramírez and the Guardians are in agreement on a five-year, $124 million contract extension. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and because it starts next season, it also includes $150 million in guaranteed money.
NBC’s Peacock streaming service announced its full slate of exclusive games on Wednesday, a lineup of early Sunday games played primarily on the East Coast.
Truist Park in Atlanta is selling a Wagyu beef patty with cage-free pan-fried eggs, gold-leaf-wrapped foie gras, grilled cold water lobster tail, heirloom tomato, Tillamook cheddar cheese and truffle aioli on a toasted, buttered bun served with Parmesan waffle fries. The cost is a gut-busting $151.
Calling Their Shots
2022 predictions from writers at baseball’s more popular sites.
- Sports Illustrated
- CBS Sports
- Sporting News
- The Ringer
- Yahoo! Sports
- Bleacher Report
- Baseball America (free content)
- The Athletic’s Jim Bowden ($)
It should be a national holiday!
Happy Opening Day!! pic.twitter.com/N7Vqs5m9zW
— The Other Boys Of Summer (@NegroLeagueFilm) April 7, 2022
They Said It
- “I don’t know if there’s a better place I’ve ever been, and Opening Day is special. Start of a new journey. It’s exciting. Exciting for the fans, exciting for the players, exciting for me, the coaching staff. Everybody’s pumped up.” – Ross
- “Anything can happen. We had a couple of key additions, and we weren’t playing that bad of baseball, either. I felt like we were in every game last year, minus one big inning or losing late, one-run games where we were a hit away. But I think we’ve got a great group of guys in here and we can make something happen.” – Schwindel
- “I don’t see a real path to contention [for the Cubs] unless, say, Hoerner and Frazier both have big breakout years, but I also think they’ll be more competitive than most teams are a year after a fire sale, and that’s good for their fans and the sport in general.” – Law
Thursday Walk-Up Song
Drunk in the Day by Wally Dogger – You knew it was coming since it is now a five-year tradition. If you squint hard enough, you’ll find me stumbling down Southport around 6:00 pm this evening. Go Cubs Go!