Cubs News: Predicting the five pitchers in 2021 rotation

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

While the top two spots in the Chicago Cubs rotation is a no brainer, questions remain after that.

After 60 games in the shortened 2020 season, the Chicago Cubs rotation was consistently the brightest spot on an excellent but flawed squad that won the NL Central. If the Cubs hope to repeat the feat in 2021, they’ll need that rotation to be just as good and for a much longer season. Just what will that rotation look like, though? Here’s a sneak peek at some guesses.

Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks are about a solid top two as you could ask for at the moment. While their stuff and repertoire couldn’t be more dissimilar, they both walk very, very few hitters en route to a dominating kind of performance when everything is working.

Darvish can run it up there near triple digits, utilizes about a dozen different kinds of pitches, and has ridden an emotional rollercoaster over the past few years since being dispatched by the Astros in the 2017 World Series while “tipping his pitches” and dealing with injuries in his first year with the Cubs.

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On the other hand, Hendricks seems to possess zero emotions on the mound, preferring to clear the mechanism and pitch without emotion as much as possible. In fact, it’s almost impossible to tell when Hendricks is winning or losing, so convincing and effective is his stoic demeanor on the mound.

While those two are locks, the next three spots are anything but, although there are some pretty favorable possibilities from the group we saw pitch in 2020. First off, that list is someone who had a superb start and finished to the short season, with some large bumps in the middle part. When he’s on and locating, the guy is basically Kyle Hendricks Jr. or “lite.” Of course, the guy I’m referring to is none other than Mr. No-Hitter, Alec Mills.

If you didn’t get a chance to see Mills in 2020, you missed out on a guy who could be a very cheap and very talented option in the three or four positions of the rotation. Pressed into duty because of an injury to Jose Quintana early in the season, Mills asserted himself from the get-go, and after the top two spots should be the next closest thing to a lock-in 2021.

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Another pitcher we saw impressive stuff from in 2020 who could knock (or kick down) on the door for a spot in the rotation is Adbert Alzolay. He only started four games, but it was clear as day that his stuff will feature and feature well if given a spot in the rotation. Able to kick it up to about 97 mph when he needs to, Alzolay also spent time working on his curve, change-up, and new out pitch- slider. The slider, coupled with his other stuff, makes him really tough to deal with, and his price and age makes him not just a promising prospect in the rotation but an exhilarating one.

The first two spots in the rotation are a lock, and the next two should fall into place fairly easily, given what we saw in limited action in 2020. The last spot, however, is going to be the most interesting. It could be a battle between prospects and MLB dumpster bin discounts the front office signs this winter, or it could end up going to a very familiar face. No, I don’t think the Cubs are bringing back Quintana or Tyler Chatwood, although neither would be terrible on a team-friendly one-year deal. I’m referring to big Jon Lester, a harbinger of curse-ending.

Lester certainly has meant a lot to the Cubs and Chicago, but it’s also clear he’s not the guy he was six years ago. Is the organization cool with that and keeping him around for another year or two on a minimal deal attached to his $10 million buyout? Will he be brought back to vie for that last spot?

It’s certainly a possibility, especially with his ties to the organization, the already pricey buyout needed to be paid, and his positive adjustments in the second half of the season. While he may not be the guy who’s going to go seven every five days, he could get you five or six most starts with the hope that he tosses some gems in with 30 starts.

Next. Two franchises who took the same route. dark

Even though the 2021 rotation could feature all familiar faces, you can guarantee that the club will be bringing in some extra rotation possibilities, mostly of the dumpster dive variety. However, if some trades start rolling to infuse the core with a different look, it’s also very possible a higher caliber pitcher could be targeted in trade to upset this list.