As was done in days of yore, dm and I are rolling out projection posts going into the season. We're not doing anything too complicated – just doing some simple averaging of the systems out there with some tweaks of our own if we see them. There will be inherent flaws in this – each system presumably makes different less than obvious assumptions, whether in terms of playing time, league environments, time spent at various positions, etc. But it's good enough to get an idea of what the systems expect and spark some conversation. The players' 2015 numbers are also included at the top of the table for reference.
We'll start with the guy who will get most of the time at second base.
|Ben Zobrist||2015 Stats||535||129||36||3||13||62||56||3||4||.276||.359||.450||.349||-11.5||-0.9||2.1|
As you may recall, I was not a huge fan of the Zobrist signing at the time. What position did the Cubs have more depth at than middle infield, and why the hell were they locking up guys in their mid 30s to long term deals? Of course, as time passed and they picked up Heyward, which I had figured to be a pipe dream, this made more sense and was a clear going-for-it move. But in my head the initial displeasure at the move still lingers, like the smell of burnt microwave popcorn that your dumbass coworker made two hours ago that won’t go away.
I’ll be glad to be wrong, in many ways it’s the opposite of the Lackey deal. Chalk it up to my complete lack of attention to the AL, in that I remember that crazy 8+ WAR outlier year from 2009 but not the 5+ WAR that he averaged from 2010-2014.
His numbers took a nosedive last year, mostly due to a big drop in his defensive numbers that likely had a lot to do with a nagging injury. Offensively his numbers were great, even better than his two previous seasons. I’m a little surprised to see the defensive projections giving him so little credit after one season, but this could just be me getting confused by the dumb way fangraphs factors in defense these days. It's tough to tell if he's bounced back just from the spring, but if he was going to as awful as his numbers suggested last year we probably would have seen it.
One other possible reason the Cubs went after him is that he’s a very different type of hitter than most of the rest of the team. Just look at that strikeout to walk ratio. Or don’t, I can’t tell you what to do. How some fans get worked up about strikeouts is a little overblown, but I’m sure Ron Santo will be smiling somewhere if this helps to reduce the feeling that runners on third with less than two outs might as well put out a lawn chair.
|Javier Baez||2015 Stats||80||22||6||0||1||4||24||1||2||.289||.325||.408||.315||2.5||0.3||0.5|
Baez should get most of his starts here, though he should see plenty of time at 3b, SS, and CF too, provided he stops jamming fingers while needlessly sliding into first base. Maddon and the Cubs seem to be setting him up to be this team's new Ben Zobrist, though I don't think he'll have nearly as much opportunity to play as Zobrist did in Tampa. I think they'll still manage to get him into 3-4 games a week, but if he catches fire it's tough to see at whose expense the playing time will come. Maybe Fowler's the guy who sees the most PT eaten up, since everyone else the Cubs are committed long term. It's the kind of problem you love to have.
|Tommy La Stella||2015 Stats||75||18||6||0||1||5||7||2||0||.269||.324||.403||/317||0||-0.1||0.2|
|Tommy La Stella||ZiPS||343||82||17||2||4||29||36||4||1||.267||.333||.375||.313||-3||***||1|
|Tommy La Stella||PECOTA||262||63||13||1||4||25||31||2||1||.269||.342||.380||.326||-0.9||-0.4||0.7|
|Tommy La Stella||CAIRO||347||80||17||1||4||32||42||4||1||.259||.332||.361||.309||***||***||1.1|
|Tommy La Stella||Steamer||181||45||9||1||2||16||19||2||1||.277||.343||.380||.318||-0.9||-0.4||0.3|
|Tommy La Stella||Average||283||68||14||1||4||26||32||3||1||.268||.338||.374||.317||-1.6||-0.4||0.8|
La Stella is another great guy to have come off the bench, like Zobrist he’s a contact hitter but is also decent at getting on base. His options situation, as well as the memory of last year’s seemingly 6-month quad injury make me think he won’t spend as much time on the team as he probably should. With Javy on the DL the Cubs have an extra week or so to figure out of they’re going to cut bait on Sczcur, and it’s going to come down on whether they want a better defensive replacement or pinch hitter going forward. I thought it was La Stella all the way earlier, but now I’m not sure which way they are leaning.
Setting some playing time predictions at 2b, I’m going to go with 450 PAs for Zobrist, 200 for Baez, and 40 for La Stella. I’m also going to bump Zobrist’s defense up a bit, not to the full win+ he was providing pre-2015 but up to half a win or so. This would give a combined second base WAR of 3.5
*I'm bumping this one up too, since I think the projection systems are far too conservative at how good Addison Hustle's defense is.