The Rundown: The Magic of Wrigley, 2018 Predictions, Strop Ready, Bryant Amazed by Team’s Offensive Potential

This is the last Friday of spring training. We spend every day from November through March fouling off every Uncle Charlie winter throws us just to get to Opening Day. In six days, the games start to count.

If there is one magic place in this world, it is Wrigley Field on a warm, summer day with a slight breeze pushing baseballs out toward Sheffield Avenue. A Cubs game removes the sting of Chicago’s winters. You take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, settle into your seat with a dog and a beer. Then you exhale. You’ve left the bad taste of last season behind and you greet the promise of a new season with the smell of fresh grass and the sound of a bat barreling up a fastball, seconds before said fastball exits the stadium.

This is your home, your spiritual center, playing witness to a sport that is equal parts analytics and athletic prowess. Baseball allows you to be both a geek and a jock, a combination no other sport can claim. Best of all, it’s played across spring, summer, and the best parts of autumn, and it’s nearly here. Play ball.

Oddsmakers list the Cubs at 7/1 to win the World Series 2018. With that in mind, I thought I’d make a few predictions of my own, not that they will be worth anything at the end of the year.

  • Victor Caratini and Chris Gimenez will get the two roster spots that are up for grabs.
  • The Cubs will finish the regular season with 97 wins and will win the NL Central by 7 games over the Brewers.
  • Kyle Hendricks will be the team’s lone 20-game winner, finishing 20-9.
  • The entire Cubs infield will be All-Stars this season, including Willson Contreras at catcher.
  • National League playoff teams: Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Brewers.
  • American League playoff teams: Yankees, Indians, Astros, Red Sox, Twins.
  • NLCS: Cubs  vs. Nationals
  • ALCS: Yankees vs. Indians
  • World Series: Cubs vs. Yankees
  • Shohei Ohtani will be sent to the minor leagues before the end of April and will not return this season.
  • The Giants will trade Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto and start a long-needed rebuild. The team will lose 90 games in 2018.
  • The Orioles will trade Manny Machado to the Yankees.
  • Teams that aren’t tanking that will be by mid-season: Giants, Orioles, Royals, Mets, Rays, and Rangers
  • NL MVP: Willson Contreras
  • AL MVP: Jose Altuve
  • NL Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer
  • AL Cy Young Award: Chris Sale
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuña
  • AL Rookie of the Year: Willie Calhoun
  • NL Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell
  • AL Manager of the Year: Rick Renteria

Cubs News & Notes

Cubs RP Pedro Strop pitched a 1-2-3 inning yestreday, just his second outing of the spring. But Strop says he is “ready to go.”

A lot has been written about the team’s starting lineup and rotation, but the Cubs could have one of the best bullpens in baseball with Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, and Brian Duensing.

Brendan Miller looks at ways that Yu Darvish can optimize his elite spin rate to generate more strikeouts.

Kris Bryant said he got “goosebumps” driving home the other day while thinking about what the Cubs can do on offense this season: “We might have a 30-home run leadoff hitter.” Bryant also said that every player in the lineup is capable of a 25-HR season.

MLBTR did an offseason-in-review piece on the Cubs yesterday. Meanwhile, MASN reviewed the NL Central.

This piece by the Columbia Chronicle previews the 2018 seasons for both the Cubs and the White Sox.

How About That!

Matt Kemp appears to have won a starting OF position with the Dodgers.

Jake Arrieta made his first appearance of the spring yesterday. The Phillies’ new ace struck out two batters in two innings while giving up three hits.

Giants starter Jeff Samardzija reportedly has a strained pectoral muscle that will shut him down for at least a week and likely force him to start the season on the disabled list.

For the Astros, anything less than competing for a title would be a disappointment.

David Cone thinks Ohtani needs some time in the minor leagues to start the season.

Dave Parker recalls the Pirates’ 1973 spring training, the team’s first after Roberto Clemente’s death, in a poignant essay for The Sporting News.

Hot Takes & Syrup

  • Umpire Tommy Hallion must have been having a bad day because he ejected five players in yesterday’s Red Sox-Phillies tilt. Umpires need spring training, too. Maybe he felt he needed work on perfecting his “you gone” gestures. Not sure if any of the players that were tossed used a certain NSFW word that is known as a no-no amongst the umpiring brethren.
  • The Lowell Spinners, a class-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, have invited Donald Trump and Joe Biden to settle their differences in a boxing match at LeLacheur Park on August 17th.The Spinners’ press release announcing the invitation says that if the two do accept, “the boxing match will take place regardless of the weather, no matter how stormy it may get.”

They Said It

  • “The goal is to win the World Series. That will always be the goal from here on out. We have a great group here ready to do it again.” – Kris Bryant
  • “We reached the World Series in ’16 and won it and were one step to it last year and I think that it sat in everyone’s stomach and we weren’t satisfied. Even with the players that we’ve added, they know what’s expected here. Definitely a different demeanor rolling in. Everyone’s hungry. Everyone showed up ready to roll.” – Kyle Schwarber
  • “These guys absolutely get it. They’re on a mission, no question.” – Joe Maddon

Friday Walk Up Song

I Got Loaded (Live) by Los Lobos. “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains. Think about that.” – Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh

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