Cubs Predicted to Finish Fourth in NL Central

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Where will the Cubs finish in 2020

On Tuesday, USA Today released their annual predictions for 2020. The publication has projected just 82 wins for Chicago. A week ago, I wrote an article with my own NL Central predictions, and I must say that on paper, I concur.

For the most part, the predictions mirror last season’s MLB standings. The NL Central is where you see the biggest shakeup, with the Cubs predicted to finish in fourth place. The Cubs finished third in 2019. Surging through the standings are the Cincinnati Reds, projected to finish second.

USA Today’s Predictions

Some online betting sites currently list the Cubs and Cardinals as favorites to win the division.

The Cubs have done little to improve this winter. The team wants to capitalize on its window of opportunity that netted them a World Series Championship (without cheating) in 2016, however, that window looks to be slamming shut. The team hasn’t signed any upper-tier free agents, nor have they involved themselves in any notable trades.

Improvements Elsewhere in the Division

With the exception of Pittsburgh, who are now making a late attempt to do something to improve, everyone else in the division has made at least some positive changes. The Cards didn’t need much but picked up a good pitching prospect (Matthew Liberatore). The Reds have added pitching (Pedro Strop) as well as exponentially improving their offense (Mike Moustakas, Nicholas Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama). The Brewers looked like they’d do nothing but disintegrate, but then quickly added catcher Omar Narvaez and pitching.

Can the Cubs Compete?

If the Cubs are to compete, David Ross needs to be able to get a ton of production out of the roster that Theo Epstein has given him. Even with the lower-tier signings, the Cubs have the potential to win, but it’s going to require a lot of people having bounce-back seasons, including some of those who’ve been with the team.

Compensating for the loss of three veteran relievers (Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek and Strop) won’t be easy. Jeremy Jeffress will need to become the Cubs’ veteran go-to guy. I have faith that new Cubs Ryan Tepera, Casey Sadler, and perhaps even Dan Winkler can step up, but the Cubs will also need continued success from some of the young guns who’ve carried over from last season (Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck and Kyle Ryan).

Cubs Need to Improve at the Plate

For the amount of offensive power the Cubs possessed, hitting with runners in scoring position was an issue in 2019. Increased patience at the plate is something a lot of guys will have to focus on in spring training, as last year saw almost everyone constantly chasing bad offerings.

David Ross is also going to have to instill a team approach to offense. Players will need to focus on situational hitting, rather than looking for the home run. They’ll also need to become far more aggressive on the bases, having ranked last in the NL in 2019 in that category. Sacrifices were almost on-existent for Chicago in 2019, causing them to be ranked 6th in the National League.

With many placing little to no expectations on Chicago, the Cubs could figure to turn a lot of heads in 2020. No matter the final outcome in September, the Cubs should have no problem starting the season better than their 3-7 (.429) start last season.

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Where will the Cubs finish in 2020


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