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5 bold predictions for the Cubs in 2020

In which I go out on the proverbial limb to forecast the year to come.

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Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

In reviewing the “bold predictions” post I made here one year ago, I discovered that a couple of them actually came true, or close to true, anyway.

However, a look at that post also tells you that I didn’t really go bold enough. Several of those were in the realm of “Sure, that’s probably going to happen.”

With that in mind, I decided to go much bolder with this year’s Bold 5.

Kris Bryant and Albert Almora Jr. will be traded to the Nationals for Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom, Joe Ross and Sean Doolittle

I’ve posted some variations on this deal here previously. Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic posted a 2020 prediction piece in which he posits a Bryant deal to the Nats:

Sources indicate that the Nationals may be ready to make a run at trading for Bryant, but those could also be signals to push Donaldson to make a decision sooner than later. The Cubs would likely ask for center fielder Victor Robles as a centerpiece in any deal, which would surely give Washington pause.

Maybe trading Robles would give Washington “pause,” but seriously — if you’re getting a potential MVP candidate, then Robles has to be part of the deal. Sending Almora back in the trade would at least give Washington someone they could put in center field and hope he’s better than he was in 2019.

In any case, even if that specific deal doesn’t happen, I will predict that Bryant will not be a Cub on Opening Day.

Nico Hoerner will make the team as the Opening Day second baseman, hit .290/.350/.440 and be named National League Rookie of the Year

Every time someone says “Nico Hoerner needs more minor league time,” I keep thinking about this article by Jordan Bastian posted during spring training last March:

After the Cubs picked Nico Hoerner in the first round of last summer’s MLB Draft, John Baker picked up the phone and called David Esquer.

Baker, who now works in the Cubs’ mental skills department, played for Esquer at the University of California, and he knew he could trust his old coach to give an honest opinion about the kid Chicago just selected out of Stanford. Esquer -- now the head baseball coach with the Cardinal -- raved about Hoerner’s makeup and intelligence, along with his skills on a baseball diamond.

”It was funny,” Baker said on Thursday morning. “He told me, ‘Don’t bring him around big league camp, because everyone’s going to want him to stay.’ It was very prophetic”

Hoerner appeared in 14 spring-training games and went 8-for-17 with three doubles, two triples and a home run, with no strikeouts. Sure, those are spring numbers, but he held his own against big-league pitching. He was hitting well at Double-A Tennessee when he broke his wrist. Then, as you know, he came to the Cubs in September when they were desperate for anyone who could play shortstop and had this MLB debut:

Hoerner hit two home runs in his first six games, three homers overall, and though he faded a bit over the last week (who on the Cubs didn’t?), he wound up with respectable numbers of .285/.305/.436 (22-for-78).

The Cubs have a keeper here. What’s the point of sending him to Iowa for, say, a month or two?

Yu Darvish will continue his dominance begun in the second half of 2019. He’ll lead the National League in strikeouts and win the Cy Young Award

That K prediction might not even be so bold. Darvish is the active leader in strikeouts per nine innings (minimum career of 1,000 innings) with 11.1, just ahead of a pretty good group: Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Gerrit Cole.

That ratio was even higher over Darvish’s last 13 starts of 2019, when he struck out 118 in 81⅔ innings. That’s 13.1 K/9, and even better, he walked only seven batters in that span. That’s 0.8 walks per nine innings over those 13 starts.

Darvish has had Cy-quality seasons before. He finished ninth in A.L. voting in 2012 and second in 2013. Granted, that’s seven and eight years and a Tommy John surgery ago, but the way Darvish threw in the second half of 2019 indicates, to me, a big year is coming in 2020.

Javier Baez will be signed to a six-year, $150 million contract extension

“But Al,” you’re saying, “The Cubs aren’t spending any money this winter!”

My response: This contract will take effect in 2021. Baez will be signed to a one-year deal through the arbitration process for 2020, so the AAV of the extension won’t be included in the 2020 luxury-tax calculation. The Cubs have quite a bit of money coming off the books after 2020, and they’ll spend some of it on keeping Javy.

The Cubs will win the N.L. Central and David Ross will be named Manager of the Year

The steady leadership of the Cubs’ new manager and the performances above, as well as good-to-excellent years from Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras and others will allow the healthy Cubs to overtake the Brewers, Reds and Cardinals and take the division title.

Sure, I could have said they’d win the World Series. That’s too easy for a “bold” prediction, though, so I figured I’d stick with Ross winning MoY in his first managerial season.

Now it’s your turn. Leave your bold Cubs 2020 predictions in the comments.


How many of Al’s bold 2020 predictions will come true?

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  • 10%
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  • 13%
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