In the first four parts of this series, I laid out the Cubs' roster as it currently stands and projected out many of the different decisions that will need to be made during the season.
I kept subjectivity to a minimum and did my best to present the information as fully as possible, allowing readers to formulate their own ideas of what may happen this year.
Now I'm going to finally open myself up to some criticism.
Here are the five predictions that I feel confident making for the Cubs' 2010 season:
1. Tom Gorzelanny will take over as the fifth starter when Ted Lilly returns.
This is nothing against Carlos Silva. The fact of the matter is simply that there will only be a couple of starts for each player to build upon their spring outings.
Although Silva finished off the spring slate with a few strong outings, Gorzelanny just did a better job missing bats and managed to log the same number of innings in fewer games.
If the performances by both pitchers are remotely close, I think Gorzellany gets the nod in order to keep two lefties in the rotation and not force James Russell, the very effective southpaw reliever, to the minors.
2. By the middle of May, Tyler Colvin will be starting almost every day.
In the early goings, Colvin will likely see at least a few innings in almost every game from a combination of pinch-hitting, acting as a defensive replacement, and the two to three starts a week that Lou will be giving him.
From what I saw of him in Arizona, both in games and in earlier workouts at Fitch Park, I have no doubt in my mind that this kid will perform.
He obviously won't keep up with the .468 average or .753 slugging percentage that has catapulted him into the spotlight, but if he maintains the same swing that I saw crushing balls over Sixth Street in Mesa, then he'll be pushing for at least five starts per week.
3. Jeff Stevens will be the first pitcher called-up from the minors and will find success pitching the seventh inning.
Here's another predicition, one that I can almost guarantee: out of all the predictions I make in this article, this one will have the most and strongest doubters.
Stevens' 7.11 ERA with the parent club last year and his 6.14 ERA this spring are going to act as ammunition in all the attempts to shoot it down, but that simply isn't the whole story.
He's been great in the minor leagues the past three seasons, all but 15 games of which were played in Double or Triple-A, and last season was particularly great.
In 42 games for Iowa, opponents hit only .177 off of him while he posted a 2.03 ERA and a 1.040 WHIP.
Also, his line in the big leagues is skewed by three bad outings occuring in the middle of his 12.2 big league innings. When you examine the other 10 innings, you get a line of a .176 opponent batting average and a 0.90 ERA.
The lone run he allowed was a solo shot by Eric Byrnes.
I expect him to have a great start in Iowa and get his call the second a spot opens in the Cubs' bullpen. Opportunities will present themselves in the middle innings and he will shine.
Whether or not he can take over the setup role is another story altogether.
4. Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner will both get called up in July.
With the announcement of the minor league rosters on Monday, it turns out that both players are starting the season in Double-A Tennessee.
That, coupled with the fact that neither player is on the 40-man roster, likely means that the Cubs will not rush them to the big leagues.
Expect them to instead follow a timetable similar to Jeff Samardzija's 2008 season, staying in Double-A for all of April and May and biding their time in Triple-A Iowa for about a month.
Hopefully they can have the same kind of impact, too.
5. The Cubs will win no fewer than 86 games and be in the division race until at least the September 24-26 series against the Cardinals.
This prediction is actually the result of a few much bolder predictions that I was considering for this article, but I wasn't quite ready to put them into a boldface type.
Here is a quick rundown of those predictions:
● Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster will each reach 200 innings on the year while Randy Wells and Ted Lilly both get to 185.
● Carlos Marmol will have streaks of games where he's hitting batters and can't find the strike zone, but will be dominant enough in his other outings to put together a solid year with around 30 saves and an ERA just above 3.00.
● Both Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez will hit right around 40 doubles and 30 home runs while maintaining a .300 average.
● Geovany Soto will hit for at least a .270 average with 25 doubles and 15 home runs.
● Alfonso Soriano, under the tutelage of Rudy Jaramillo, will improve his batting average to .280 or higher once again, but will fail to add any more than five home runs to his total of 20 from last season.
● Castro will stay with the Cubs the rest of the season after his call-up, but won't have a breakout season. Instead, he will hit around .260 and provide a great glove at short, even if a fair share of errors are thrown in (i.e. Elvis Andrus in 2009).
● Cashner will also finish the season with the big league team and have a similar level of production. His final line will most likely consist of an ERA upwards of 4.60 and a few more walks than strikeouts.
● The Cardinals will remain healthy, the Brewers will remain solid, and the Reds will finally explode onto the scene. As a result, those three teams will beat up themselves and the Cubs during the season and make it a four-way battle for the division heading into the final month of the season.
Depending on your perspective, you may think I'm being overly optimistic or pessimistic in my views on the season. And in all honesty, you could be right.
Of course, I wouldn't be much of a Cubs fan if I didn't hit both ends of the spectrum on a regular basis, would I?
So if you have no other reason to watch the Cubs this year, do it to gather evidence against me.
In the meantime, let me know what you think will happen. I'm all ears.
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