N.L. Central Prediction: Chicago Cubs
They still have the bangers in the lineup. Do they have mash or a mess on the mound?
See, what I did there was… never mind. Cubs fans can be forgiven for looking at Jake Arrieta‘s ERA from the last two years and asking “why did we get this guy?“ Yes, he posted a 4.64 and 5.09 ERA the last two years. But, let’s not forget that Philadelphia’s bullpen was the worst thing ever following him. Can we expect the Jake Arrieta of old? Probably not. But he will give you everything he has. He will compete. And for a group struggling for a playoff spot, that’s pretty valuable. He should be a pretty good fifth starter and with a ton of experience. Zach Davies was good with Milwaukee and there is no reason to believe he won’t be good in similar conditions in Chicago. He should be a solid number-four starter. Kyle Hendricks had a really good 2020 (2.88 ERA) but he’s probably not number-one-starter material. But he fits nicely in as a two or a three. So that leaves us with… Wait who does that leave us with for the number one starter? It’s not Alec Mills or Trevor Williams. Or Adbert Olzalay, though Adbert does win some kind of award for top pitcher names in the league. It appears the Cubs are hoping somebody can step up and fill the roles filled previously by Jon Lester and Yu Darvish.
Javier Baez will continue to fly about the infield and will either carry the team on his back offensively or will strike out 73 times in a row. Kris Bryant will continue to play third base and left field. Matt Duffy and Eric Sogard can fill-in in the infield and outfield as well. There’s not a lot of power there but they are solid offensively. Anthony Rizzo will continue at first. Willson Contreras will continue a catcher and Jason Heyward will continue in right field. It’s still the nucleus of the team offensively that won the World Series. Besides Heyward, the Cubs have Jake Marisnick (.230 career average but high on the range scale defensively) and Joc Pederson who can hit.250 with 25 bombs. It looks like he dropped some weight after a pudgy 2020. There is also Ian Happ who is averaging 32 home runs per 550 at-bats.
What does it all mean? They are in a great position to trade for somebody’s number-one starter specially if that somebody is thinking about rebuilding. Without that, they should win their share of games against other teams’ third, fourth and fifth starters. But, they’re gonna lose a lot of games against number-ones and number-twos.