Between now and the start of the 2014 season, there will be a number of predictions and projections offered based on a variety of statistical models. The Bill James projections are, historically, among the most optimistic, so you should regard them cautiously. Still, there are always informative nuggets, and you can get them in the Bill James Handbook.
As was the case last year, Bill James’ system digs Anthony Rizzo, predicting a .266 /.344 /.489 line with 30 homers and 42 doubles. That would be a significant bump from 2013. Starlin Castro is also projected for improvement, at .279/.321/.409. You’d always take that for a shortstop, but it doesn’t make him a middle of the order bat. For what it’s worth, James projects that, if Javier Baez were given starting time next year, his line – .270/.324/.438 – would best Castro’s.
Mike Olt is projected to put up a .225/.318/.429 line, with 24 homers and 25 doubles, which is a sum you gladly take from an above-average defensive third baseman. It’s fair to wonder to what extent Olt’s lingering visions issues (in theory now behind him) played into the projection. If they’re factored in, I think Olt’s looking like a mighty fine starting option next year.
James’ system sees a good year in store for Travis Wood (3.70 ERA over 197 innings), Pedro Strop (3.43 ERA over 65 innings), and Carlos Villanueva (3.74 ERA over 115 innings). Edwin Jackson bounces back slightly with an ERA just over four, and Jake Arrieta walks far too many batters (53 in 117 innings) to be effective. Jeff Samardzija essentially duplicates what he’s done the last two years.
Thoughts on the projections? They paint the picture, in the aggregate, of a poor offensive team with some middle-of-the-pack pitching. Of course, this is using a pre-offseason roster, so a lot can change.