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Three right, three wrong: An update on my Cubs predictions for 2023

We’re just about three-quarters of the way through the season. How did I do?

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

This is intended to be sort of a companion piece to “Three up, three down,” only in this one I’ll be grading myself on various predictions I made for the Cubs this year.

These come from statements I made in my “reflections” piece before Opening Day and also the BCB staff roundtable we had around the same time.

Just thought it would be fun to go back and look at things I wrote and how right — or wrong — they were.

Three right

Cody Bellinger

Gonna pat myself on the back for this one. In fact, I predicted a season for Bellinger that’s somewhat below where he actually is:

Bellinger was just bad from 2020-22. In part, that was due to a couple of serious injuries, from which he is now back to 100 percent. I’m certainly not expecting him to replicate his 2019 MVP season — though, of course, it’d be real nice if he did. I don’t see any reason he couldn’t put up an OPS of .850 with 30 home runs, though, and combined with being a Gold Glove center fielder that’s a vast improvement over what the Cubs put out there in 2022

Bellinger sits at 18 home runs with a .935 OPS as of today. Hitting 30 homers? Not impossible, but mid to upper 20s is more likely — and 30 could have happened if he hadn’t missed a month with a knee injury. That OPS is 85 points above what I thought he could do, and it’s been over .900 for the last 22 games.

In the roundtable, both Duane Pesice and I said Bellinger would be Comeback Player of the Year. Pretty sure that one’s a winner.

Adbert Alzolay

I called for Alzolay to be the closer even before Opening Day:

If the Cubs have a weakness it’s the bullpen. There are untested arms and guys who haven’t had much MLB success there. Michael Fulmer might be closer-by-default, though Brad Boxberger has enough MLB experience to take over that role if needed — and maybe in the end that role goes to Adbert Alzolay.

The bullpen was a weakness until the last few weeks, when pitchers stepped up, and the role of closer indeed went to Alzolay.

If only they’d tried that earlier. Just look at these nasty sliders!

Dansby Swanson

Dansby Swanson certainly replaces some of the offense lost when Willson Contreras was let go. Plus he provides Gold Glove defense. To me that’s the most important improvement, defense. I really do think the up the middle defense improvement is something you will notice. And that matters especially with the ground ball starters the Cubs have. I noticed the huge dropoff in defense when the 2021 selloff happened.

Spot-on. You’ve surely noticed how good Swanson is defensively and he’s second in MLB among shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved with 12, and leads all N.L. shortstops in Fangraphs’ defensive rating (13.6).

Defense matters and you’ve seen that all over the field with this year’s Cubs.

Three wrong

Hayden Wesneski

Coming off a strong September 2022 and an excellent Spring Training, I called Wesneski a “Rookie of the Year candidate.”

Welp. That’s not gonna happen. Wesneski has shown flashes of what we saw last year, but had a detour to Triple-A Iowa for a while and overall his 4.65 ERA and 1.220 WHIP in 69⅔ innings is mediocre.

I still think there’s talent in Wesneski and he still could become a decent MLB starting pitcher.

Nick Madrigal

As most of you know, I had been a critic of Madrigal going back to last year. In this year’s roundtable I said:

I have seen NOTHING from him that tells me why the White Sox used the fourth overall pick on him.

Well. I didn’t think Madrigal would adapt to third base but he’s been pretty good there. And he’s started to show some of the bat that he had on the South Side. In 27 games since June 14: .294/.368/.412 (25-for-85) with seven doubles, a home run and 13 runs scored.

Yes, a home run! [VIDEO]

Mike Tauchman

A lot of people were wrong about Tauchman, who started the year at Triple-A Iowa, where he hit .279/.427/.443 with three home runs in 24 games. In this article toward the end of Spring Training, I asked whether Tauchman or Nelson Velázquez should make the Opening Day roster to replace Seiya Suzuki, who was out with an oblique injury. In a poll in that article, 81 percent voted for Velázquez. In the end, both wound up at Iowa and Edwin Rios made the Opening Day roster. Sheesh.

Tauchman was called up when Bellinger injured his knee in Houston in mid-May. It was supposed to be just a cuppa coffee for the Chicago-area native, but he played his way into staying on the roster and now he’s pretty much an everyday regular. He’s batted .278/.374/.431 (62-for-223) with the Cubs with 13 doubles and seven home runs. There’s a really good article about him today in The Athletic by Sahadev Sharma in which Tauchman talks about how he’s learned how to harness his own strengths and improve on them:

“A very critical thing for every guy who makes it to the big leagues is to ask, what are my strengths and how can I best use them? How can I hone my strengths?” Tauchman said. “Obviously you’re trying to improve things that aren’t strengths. But there are aspects that got you here and the margins are a lot tighter now, so you still have to get better at those things.”

I was very, very wrong about Tauchman and he’s played his way into being a useful outfielder for this team perhaps for a couple more years after 2023. And Velázquez is in Kansas City.

No article mentioning Tauchman would be complete without showing you his game-saving catch in St. Louis [VIDEO].

That catch was cited by Jed Hoyer as specifically one of the reasons he decided to be a buyer and have this team go for the postseason. It’ll be one of the best memories of this season.


Which Cub’s performance this year has surprised you the most?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Adbert Alzolay
    (53 votes)
  • 19%
    Cody Bellinger
    (154 votes)
  • 3%
    Nick Madrigal
    (32 votes)
  • 69%
    Mike Tauchman
    (564 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave in comments)
    (7 votes)
810 votes total Vote Now