Cubs Opening Day: Three predictions for the 2021 season

(Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports) /
1 of 3
Ian Happ / Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

It’s here. The dawn of a new baseball season is upon us and this year, Cubs Opening Day feels a little bit different. Last season, of course, we didn’t get MLB action until late in the summer. This year, though, millions of Americans are vaccinated, fans will be in the stands and we’re inching closer to a ‘normal’ society.

This year, Chicago represent a team that has an incredibly wide range of possible outcomes. If everyone plays up to their capabilities and the front office doesn’t sell off at the deadline, perhaps there’s one more October run in this group. If guys stutter, it could be a long year at the Friendly Confines. Or, maybe guys perform and the front office trades them regardless.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways this season can play out. But before first pitch this afternoon, I’m going to try my hand at predictions (because apparently I like being wrong). Here are three Cubs Opening Day predictions for the upcoming season.

Cubs Opening Day: Ian Happ sets a career-high, hits 30 home runs

For much of last year’s 60-game shortened season, Ian Happ looked like a sneaky NL MVP candidate. Then, he fouled a ball off his face and faded hard down the stretch. Still, in just 57 games, the Cubs outfielder hit 12 home runs and slugged .505. In the month of August, he slugged .640 – so when he’s hot, he’s hot.

This year, he’ll enter the regular season as the team’s leadoff hitter, setting the table for the likes of Willson Contreras, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. All this to say teams might find it more difficult than normal to pitch around Happ, who’s more than capable of jumping on a get-me-over fastball to open a game.

With extension talks with Rizzo at a standstill and no update on Bryant or Baez, Happ is looking more and more like a critical part of the team’s future plans. If he can put together a 30-homer campaign in 2021, he’ll go a long way in cementing his place on this roster for years to come.