Brendan Miller’s 10 Very Specific Cubs Predictions for 2017

1. Addison Russell hits 25+ homers, finishes with a +.350 wOBA, and produces more than 5.5 WAR.

I’m concerned about your mental status if you aren’t excited about Addison Russell. The young Cubs shortstop improved his contact rate in the second half of 2016, all while continuing to mash 21 homers. Sustained contact and power is a reality that sets up an MVP-caliber year.

2. Albert Almora produces more runs than an average centerfielder, cements himself as Cubs staple.

Almora looks more stout this spring and his homers are proof that a more balanced swing is bearing fruit. Even a slight power improvement to league average levels makes the future Cubs starting centerfielder a > 96 wRC+ hitter.

3. Willson Contreras leads MLB catchers in wOBA.

Steamer projects only four catchers with better wOBA mark than Contreras: Buster Posey (.357), Gary Sanchez (.348), Jonathan Lucroy (.340), and Yasmani Grandal (.339). While Steamer projects a .332 wOBA for the Cubs’ starting backstop, the model forecasts only 13 homers in 432 PA. Too low a projection, I think, because he hit 12 homers in 283 PA last year.

4. Kyle Hendricks goes vintage Zack Greinke on us by adding another major tweak to his pitch repertoire.

Not many were surprised when Hendricks, who is known for large frontal lobe capacity, suddenly threw more four-seamers in the playoffs. Greinke is known for changing pitch frequency annually, and I can see Hendricks doing the same. For example, the Cy Young candidate has already whispered about throwing more curves in 2017.

5. Pitchers attempt to work away on Kris Bryant, who will hit at least 8 opposite-field homers.

Kris Bryant’s father, Mike, talked to me about the MVP anticipating outside pitches. Mike mentioned that his son is more than capable of going to the opposite field — he hit 27 of his 42 minor-league homers in 2014 to the opposite field — if pitchers attack him on the outer third more often.

6. Jake Arrieta’s ERA and FIP borders on 4.00.

I had to bite my nails during 70 percent of Arrieta’s starts last year because of dwindling mechanics and a flatter slider. Unless he finds some of his 2015 and early 2016 magic, I think we’ll continued to be concerned.

7. Javy Baez improves his outside the zone swing rate from 42 percent to < 37 percent.

Javy’s a smart guy. He knew he had a problem after a rough MLB debut, so he followed up by quieting his swing and incorporating a no-stride approach. As the blonde-haired Puerto Rican star faces the same MLB pitchers again, I see him continuing to adapt, eventually laying off bad pitches.

8.  Carl Edward’s Jr. fastball produces most whiffs in National League for relievers, second in MLB behind Aroldis Chapman.

Edwards Jr. has a rare gift. He throws fourseamers with natural cutting action, whereas most have a touch of tailing spin. Natural four-seam cutting movement allowed Edwards to put up an MLB-best 34 percent whiff/swing rate last year. In a full year, he could put up the most four-seam whiffs of any NL reliever.

9. Cubs make a splash for a starting pitcher at the trade deadline.

Since Arrieta’s ERA might be scary, Theo and Co. could cash in their chips in for a starting pitcher come deadline time. Scenarios in which Jeimer Candelario or, gulp, Ian Happ are dealt aren’t hard to imagine.

10. Cubs win the World Series in 6 games against the Cleveland Indians.

Back when I was writing under the Cubs Related brand last year, I predicted the North Siders would win the World Series in seven games against the Cleveland Indians. Swear on Addy’s life. Let it be known, though, that I have lost way too much money roaming casinos to be trusted too much.

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