After a strange 2020 season, the 2021 MLB season will be starting on time. Currently, teams are slated to play all 162 games which means pitchers’ workloads will return to normal. More innings and more batters on more teams mean pitchers will actually have time to ramp up, unlike in 2020. During spring training, teams will need to start getting a feel for what their rotations might be. Here is an early look at the Chicago Cubs projected 2021 pitching rotation.
His excellent production should continue, if not improve in 2021. With a shortened season and uncertain circumstances, he still managed to post an ERA of 2.88. He also led the MLB in strikeouts per walk and walks per nine innings.
This one is a no-brainer, even with the return of the Cubs’ former ace, Jake Arrieta‘s, return to the team. Hendricks is at the top, and should be.
2. Zach Davies
One of the Cubs’ best offseason moves was signing former San Diego Padre Zach Davies. He was a key piece of 2020’s most exciting team and is ready to move up a starting rotation with the Cubbies.
Last year was Davies’ best, as he earned an ERA of 2.73 and won seven of his 12 starts. His tenure in San Diego was preceded by five years in Milwaukee, where he led the league in games started in 2017, at 33. He is a durable starter who is hitting his stride. He should earn the second starting spot easily, considering the Cubs lack of seasoned pitching talent.
3. Jake Arrieta
Jake Arrieta was the Cubs’ ace during their three straight trips to the NLCS, including their World Series championship in 2016. This stretch included two no-hitters and a Cy Young award. Now he has returned to the place that made him a household name.
His stats have not been as eye-popping since leaving the Cubs for the Phillies. Arrieta’s first year was his best in Philadelphia, collecting an ERA of 3.96 and winning 10 games. He did lead the National League in any stats during his Phillies tenure.
Considering his resume and his importance to the city and Cubs history as a whole, Arrieta will likely secure a starting spot. Third in the rotation seems right, but he could slide down if his stats continue a downward trend.
Maybe the biggest question mark on a Cubs’ roster full of them, is Trevor Williams.
The former Pirate has only posted an ERA under 5.00 twice, once in 2017 (4.07) and once in 2018 (3.11). In 2020, Williams started 11 games, won only two and collected a huge ERA of 6.18. He also led the league in home runs surrendered, at a whopping 15.
He only earns a spot in the rotation due to his experience, but he may quickly find himself out of the lineup if his 2020 trend is a sign of things to come.
5. Alec Mills
The Cubs have enough options to employ a six-man rotation. Players like Brailyn Marquez, Adbert Alzolay and Tyson Miller could all slip in either for Alec Mills or after him in the starting rotation. Many teams are threatening to try this strategy out in the regular season, since starters’ innings continue to dwindle year to year. Chicago is one of the teams most suited to do this.
Mills, though, is the starting option most deserving of the fifth spot in the rotation. Last year, in the midst of a pandemic, he threw one of the most unlikely no-hitters of all time. That is enough to earn him a chance alone, even if his numbers do not necessarily say the same thing. In 11 games started and 62.1 innings pitched, Mills had an ERA of 4.48. He went 5-5 in those games with one no decision.
Considering how in-flux the pitching position is, the Cubs can have Mills on a short leash. Expect one of the above players to take his place if he significantly disappoints.
Featured Image courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times
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