The Chicago Cubs are the defending champions of Major League Baseball. Yes, you read that correctly. The CHICAGO CUBS are the defending champions of Major League Baseball. After a World Series drought lasting over a century, Mike Montgomery induced a groundout that ended the saddest streak in professional sports. Kris Bryant rifled a throw over to Anthony Rizzo, hardly hiding his smile across the way. The Cubs were World Series champions the second the ball entered Rizzo's glove. Now, the Cubs have a new task at hand. The Cubs must defend their Championship, new found territory for the newly successful team. The Cubs have 29 teams breathing down their necks, and a roster extremely similar to last year's. The few differences are the exit of Jorge Soler in favor of new closer Wade Davis, who replaces Aroldis Chapman. Jason Heyward has a new swing that is the talk of Spring Training, and Jason Hammel left for the Kansas City Royals in a controversial move.
Still, the talk of the town will be that the Cubs are the defending World Series champions until the season starts. Spring Training and the beginning of the season will be about celebrating the past, but once the season gets into the thick of things, the task will be defending the title. To do so, the Cubs will need plenty to go right. Let's take a look at 15 bold predictions for the Chicago Cubs' 2017 season. How will the defending champions do in this new campaign? Find out here.
The Chicago Cubs won the World Series (still a strange sentence to write) by coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the Cleveland Indians. This season, we believe there will be a World Series re-match. Only this time, it will be the Cleveland Indians winning it all. The Cubs are clearly the best team in the National League, while the Indians have all of the motivation to return to the World Series. Once there, it will come down to who can pull out more victories, and the Indians' Andrew Miller will prove to be the biggest difference between the two clubs. Expect the Indians to celebrate their World Series championship on the grounds of Wrigley Field after a hard fought six game series.
While the Cubs will not be back to back World Series champions, they will boast the most regular season wins in Major League Baseball. The prediction here is that the Cubs will win no fewer than 105 games, with 110 games serving as a strong possibility. The logic is that the Cubs have no weaknesses. The lineup is incredible from top to bottom, Kyle Schwarber is returning from injury, the top of the rotation remains Jake Arrieta-Jon Lester-John Lackey, and the bullpen replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, a completely reasonable trade-off. Sure the Cubs will have a World Series hangover of sorts, but that won't stop them from being an elite team from start to finish in the upcoming regular season.
The Cubs are considering everyone and their close and distant relatives for the lead-off spot in the lineup. Kyle Schwarber, despite being a lumbering giant on the basepaths, has even earned consideration for the role. When the season gets moving and everyone gets their shot, the man in the lead-off spot for the majority of the games will be Albert Almora Jr. Almora Jr. owns the most speed, the finest glove, and he hit well in the minor leagues. Joe Maddon enjoys players that can bring unique attributes to the table, and Almora Jr.'s all around flashy game will earn him a spot as a regular in the outfield and a regular in the lineup, replacing the recently traded Jorge Soler in there.
The Chicago Cubs' high scoring offense will only score more this season, thanks to the further development of two of the finest young stars in all of Major League Baseball. Sure, Anthony Rizzo is already past the point of truly developing, but that does not mean he cannot improve his game further. Rizzo and Bryant will each see their best seasons to date, as Rizzo will launch over 40 home runs into the stands, and Bryant will do so as well. Bryant's numbers will be particularly gaudy, as he is a young star only improving, something that should terrify the rest of the teams in the league. Expect a "breakout season" from Bryant, if he can even still have one of those. Regardless, more than 40 home runs.
See what we were just saying about Kris Bryant? Well, when you hit over 40 home runs, hit over .300, and hit over 120 runs batted in (all things we are predicting for the Cubs' phenom) and the Cubs win more than 105 games, the Most Valuable Player Award is not difficult to hand out. The Award will be Bryant's once again, as the Cubs will have an outstanding season behind the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout in the 2017 season. Trout is in his own league, but look for Bryant to solidify his spot as leading the way in the group behind Trout. The Cubs will see their youngster continue to rack up the big hits and continue to rack up the awards.
More positive bold predictions for the Chicago Cubs. Don't get yourselves too excited Cubs fans, there are still some negatives coming along. But if the Chicago Cubs are expected to win more than 105 games, the starting pitchers will win plenty of games on their own. That means the two aces of the pitching staff, Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, will win a whole bunch of games each. We're saying Jake Arrieta will win 22 games, and Jon Lester will win 20 in the upcoming season. Having two pitchers on the same staff win 20 games each is practically unheard of, but when you look at the Cubs' roster you can see why the possibility is there, and why it will happen in the upcoming campaign.
As we keep saying, the Chicago Cubs are very good at baseball. They are the best team in Major League Baseball by a pretty wide margin. That being said, a lot of their success will come from the remainder of their division being not so great. The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds are both in rebuilding modes, simply trying to get through the season while watching their young talent grow. The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will try to make the playoffs, but they do not have a lot of talent on either rosters. With that, no team in the National League Central Division will manage to come within 20 games of the division winning Chicago Cubs in the 2017 season. What a story that will be.
Yep, we told you the negative predictions would be coming eventually. Now not all of the remaining predictions are negative, but here is the first and the worst of the negative ones. Jason Heyward signed a mammoth contract with the Chicago Cubs back in the 2015 Major League Baseball off-season, but since then he has been one of the most disappointing players in professional sports. While the Cubs won the World Series, Heyward was serving as a major negative on the roster. Yet Heyward remains on the team because there is nothing else the Cubs can do with him, meaning he must contribute to the Cubs' success. Or at least try to. We're not hopeful for his success, as the outfielder simply doesn't have it anymore.
Miguel Montero had a nice conversation with Joe Maddon over a pasta dinner this off-season, reportedly, discussing his lack of playing time in the post-season and towards the end of the regular season. Many forget that it was Montero who got the game winning hit for the Cubs for their first World Series victory since 1908. Regardless, it makes no sense to believe anything will be different for Montero and the Cubs in the upcoming season. Playing time does not grow from the ground, and the Cubs still have Kyle Schwarber and Wilson Contreras to play behind the plate for them. Montero will be upset by his lack of playing time once again, and the Cubs will finally cut bait with the catcher.
Coming off of a serious knee injury, Kyle Schwarber's health is rightfully a hot topic in debates about the 2017 Chicago Cubs. Can his knee stay healthy? Will he be able to catch, or will he have to switch positions to the outfield or somewhere else on the diamond? Schwarber is a better athlete than most give him credit for, however, and he will prove that in the upcoming season. Not only will Schwarber have a fantastic season at the plate, he will manage to play in over 140 games for the Cubs and historically loose with his players manager Joe Maddon. Schwarber's health will be a non-story by the middle of the season as the Cubs continue to roll on and win games.
The one weakness someone could find on the Chicago Cubs' roster is their lack of a true fifth starter. Brett Anderson was signed with that role kept in mind, but Anderson is an injury running around in cleats. The Cubs' other options lack the success and the talent to make a difference in such a role, or they will not be able to rack up enough innings to consistently stay in the spot. The Cubs have the rest of the rotation figured out without trouble, but that fifth starter spot will be a major question mark. The Cubs will figure out the spot in September, when a call up proves himself capable of taking the ball. Fortunately for the Cubs, a fifth starter won't even be needed in the playoffs.
Jon Jay is a talented baseball player, but the Chicago Cubs have enough outfield options without him, and he does not fit into a role that the Cubs do not already have an option for. With that in mind, when Jay gets off to a rough start early in the season, the Cubs faithful will not give him a break. Joe Maddon will begin putting Albert Almora Jr. in the lineup far more than Jay, making Jay an expendable player. Jay will lose his roster spot when the Cubs need to call up another pitcher to test out for the fifth starter spot, landing with a team other than the Cubs on waivers. His Cubs career will come and go in the span of months.
We know we have been touting the Chicago Cubs' success in the 2017 season and how many games they will win and this and that, so it makes perfect sense you believe we think Joe Maddon will be named National League Manager of the Year. But that is not the case. We do not believe that, as the story usually goes that a team who struggles to make the post-season but barely makes it in a season they normally were not expected to make the playoffs has their manager win Manager of the Year. The Cubs are expected to win a ton of games and expected to easily make the playoffs, so the team would have to go absolutely wild for Maddon to win the award.
Let's be real here, despite already winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs will be all in once again for the 2017 season. One of their few areas of weaknesses is a long term spot in the outfield, as Jason Heyward at this point appears to be money lost, and the team can slot Ben Zobrist in at second base and use a left fielder as well. The Arizona Diamondbacks are expected to be awful in the upcoming season, and new management will want a slew of prospects in return for their star players. A.J. Pollock would fill a number of needs for the Chicago Cubs, while also bringing back plenty of prospects for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Works out for everyone involved.
Jed Hoyer is the General Manager of the Chicago Cubs, despite everyone believing it to be Theo Epstein. Theo Epstein is the President of the Chicago Cubs, having final say over most matters. With that in mind, when the Chicago Cubs are eliminated from the World Series and Jed Hoyer receives all of the blame after receiving none of the credit for the World Series win in 2016, he will hop onto the first job that offers him a team President role. Teams should be lining up to do so, so Hoyer will have no trouble finding his next job and leaving the organization he led to back to back World Series berths. What a time that will be for the Chicago Cubs' organization as a whole.