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5 bold predictions for the Cubs and MLB in 2021

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

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

We have turned the calendar to a new year, and I’m pretty sure all of you are happy to see 2020 in the rear-view mirror, for any number of reasons.

I’ve written articles on this topic for 2018, 2019 and 2020 and... well, if you click on those links you’ll see that not many of them actually happened, particularly the ones regarding a contract extension for Javier Baez.

I was close on a couple of the 2020 predictions, though. I said Yu Darvish would continue his 2019 second-half dominance, lead the NL in strikeouts and win the Cy Young Award. He did continue to dominate and he finished fourth in the league in K’s and second in Cy Young voting. And I wrote that the Cubs would win the NL Central and that David Ross would be named Manager of the Year. They did win the division and Ross finished third in MoY balloting.

So either those weren’t so bold, or I’m getting better at this.

Or not. This year I’m adding MLB in general to the mix of bold predictions. Here goes!

The 2021 MLB season will not start on time

I covered this topic in this article yesterday. I’ll stand by that. COVID-19 cases are increasing in many locations, particularly California, host to five MLB teams. It might look now, on January 5, that we’ll have an on-time start, and MLB continues to insist it’ll be so. Many things can change between now and mid- to late-February.

Zach Davies will have the best year of his career and be “Kyle Hendricks lite”

Davies already has a similar skillset to Hendricks — soft-tossing, relying mainly on a good breaking pitch to “get guys out.”

Being around Hendricks and the Cubs coaching staff will bring out the best in him. He won’t be quite as good as Darvish has been since mid-2019, but he’ll be a solid No. 2 starter behind The Professor.

I’ll double down on this prediction by saying the Cubs will sign Davies to a contract extension rather than let him walk in free agency.

Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will all have huge bounce-back offensive seasons

Want specific predictions? Okay, here goes:

Báez: .280/.330/.510, 28 home runs, 15 stolen bases
Bryant: .290/.390/.530, 37 home runs
Rizzo: .285/.400/.500, 31 home runs

Adbert Alzolay will harness his considerable talent and be named National League Rookie of the Year

Alzolay turns 26 in March and has only 33⅔ MLB innings to his credit. But in September 2020, after his recall from the South Bend Alternate Site, Alzolay put together a couple of lights-out outings in which he held opponents to a .138 BA and struck out 15.

Granted, it was just nine innings. But the coaching staff felt Alzolay had taken the next step forward in his development, something they always felt he had within him.

He’ll continue that and be one of baseball’s biggest surprises in 2021.

Oh, you want a specific prediction.

15-10, 3.11 ERA, 185 innings, 55 walks, 195 strikeouts.

The Cubs will win the NL Central and get at least to the NLCS

You might have seen this projected WAR tweet last week:

The NL Central is going to be the NFC East of baseball. The Pirates are tanking — they could lose 110 games. The Reds have lost 40 percent of their starting rotation. The Brewers have made no significant moves to improve a team that finished under .500. The Cardinals let their starting second baseman go.

The Cubs are the best team in the NL Central and they’ll show it, even if it takes only 85-88 wins to take the division. Then they’ll get a favorable early matchup in the postseason and draw the Dodgers in the NLCS, as they did in 2016 and 2017.

Beyond that? I’m not going to be that bold.

Poll

Which of these bold predictions is most likely to come true?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    The 2021 MLB season will not start on time
    (1059 votes)
  • 14%
    Zach Davies will have the best year of his career and be "Kyle Hendricks lite"
    (287 votes)
  • 17%
    Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will all have huge bounce-back offensive seasons
    (348 votes)
  • 6%
    Adbert Alzolay will harness his considerable talent and be named National League Rookie of the Year
    (131 votes)
  • 10%
    The Cubs will win the NL Central and get at least to the NLCS
    (213 votes)
2038 votes total Vote Now