By scandalous, of course I mean stupid. Earlier in the offseason I made 103 predictions that won’t happen in 2011. That was pure nonsense whereas this is pure speculation. Huge difference. Some of these could actually come true. And they’re not all optimistic.
11. Brett Jackson will see the majors by June. I don’t know why. I only added this at the last minute because I forgot I said there would be 11 of these things and just did ten.
10. Starlin Castro will hit 25 homeruns this year. He leads the team in homers this spring with 4. That means nothing, but it supports this optimism, so I referenced it. But I’m still rather confident about this prediction. I love his swing. He seems to put the barrel of the bat on the ball with ridiculous consistency. He’s going to get a boatload of at-bats thanks to playing every day and taking very few walks. Combine all those factors, and I expect to see a lofty (but not gaudy) homerun total for the kid.
9. Andrew Cashner will flirt with 20 losses. This isn’t to say Cashner will have a terrible season. I think he’ll actually pitch reasonably well. But I think we’re going to see him consistently yield big innings in a lot of games. Not so much that he’ll get sent down or into the bullpen. Three runs here. Four runs there. And with an offense that could really struggle, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cashner became the hard luck starter who just gets even less run support than the others.
8. Mike Quade will keep his job. Jim Hendry won’t. Tom Ricketts has yet to make any severe, sweeping changes to the Cubs organization. He has tinkered with things, run some promotions, and planted a noodle here and a Toyota sign there. But the face of the team itself has undergone only minor changes from season to season. After 2009, the biggest change was dealing Milton Bradley. After 2010, it was lifting the interim tag off of Mike Quade (even that was the most minor change the Cubs could make, keeping the guy who was already there). Should the Cubs fail to contend, I don’t expect wholesale changes. I do expect one change: Jim Hendry will lose his job. Quade will get at least another half season to hope the ship turns around with him on it.
7. No one on the Cubs will steal 20 bases. I’ll take it a step further and guess that no two Cubs will combine to steal 20 bases. As berselius pointed out earlier, Quade has backed off statements that the Cubs will be aggressive in the base-stealing department. By mid-May, I’m betting he’ll back way off.
6. Geovany Soto will drive in more than 100 runs. He’ll hit higher in the order. He’ll play more. He’ll get a little luckier. He might even walk a bit less since he won’t be hitting in front of the pitcher. Or Darwin Barney. Or Alfonso Soriano. I don’t expect the walk total to go way down, but I do expect him to benefit from better run-producing conditions than he’s seen in previous years.
5. Kerry Wood will avoid the DL. This might be the boldest prediction on here, but something tells me the guy has learned a little bit about keeping himself healthy and avoiding fluke nagging injuries like the blister outbreak of 2008. Also he pitches in the bullpen, so he’s not half the injury target he was during his years as a starter.
4. Sean Marshall will have an off year. The guy has been phenomenal in a setup/LOOGY role the past couple seasons. It just seems like he’s due to underwhelm. In 2010 he posted a 2.28 FIP and a 2.50 xFIP to go with his 2.65 ERA. I hope to DeRosa that his 2011 numbers are closer to last year’s than to his career FIP of 4.38. All the projections seem to think he’ll have a worse year than last but still better than any year prior to that. I’m bracing for something worse. Not awful, but not Superman.
3. Alfonso Soriano will have a quietly impressive season. Soriano is going to strike out a lot. He’ll make too many errors. But he’s going to be spending a lot of time in the 7th slot in the batting order. Even if he does go on a couple of his patented homerun sprees, he’s probably not going to bat anywhere higher than 5th and even that will be rare. Just don’t be surprised if Soriano beats his projections without anyone calling much attention to it.
2. Jeff Baker will start well over 100 games. Darwin Barney may be the mini-Marlon, but in terms of playing time I think he’s going to be the anti-Marlon Byrd. It’s a tough one to predict, because the Cubs figure to struggle on offense and defense. But of all the defensive upgrades Mike Quade can make, Barney-for-Baker seems like a pretty small one. My gut tells me Jeff Baker will have more success this year than ever against righties, and he’ll wind up securing the everyday job at 2B because of his improved bat.
1. The Cubs will finish in 2nd place. This is probably even wronger than everything else in this post, but I think it can happen. For what it’s worth, I expect it to be a very distant second to the Reds. It won’t happen without some really good luck for the Cubs and some terrible (even injurious) luck to the Cardinals and Brewers. I’m not even close to ready to say “It’s Gonna Happen,” but it could.