graph going upBetween 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.

Those projections are out, and I’d like to offer a few of them for discussion purposes (you can see more here and here, or you can pick yourself up a copy of the 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.

  • Kyle

    Same caveat as always: For whatever reason, the Bill James Projections (which he no longer does personally, just licenses his name) are known to be extremely overoptimistic, across the board but especially with young hitters.

    The MLB average OPS for non-pitchers last year was .725. These projections basically have every Cubs hitter besides Barney as an above-average hitter, which obviously just ain’t true.

    • hansman

      “The Bill James projections are, historically, among the most optimistic, so you should regard them cautiously.”

      Thank you for repeating what Brett said.

      • Kyle

        You’re welcome. It’s a point I feel needs emphasizing because otherwise we’re going to have to hear about Olt’s projected .750 OPS (which would make him like a 4-5 win 3b) all offseason.

        • ari gold

          Really? .750 OPS would be 4-5 wins? Even with above average D, that seems pretty high.

          • hansman

            The closest comp to that line up there was Chase Headley last year and he posted 3.6 fWAR.

          • Jon

            Headly put up 3.4 wins with a .747 OPS. All depends on level of defense he can give.

            • hansman

              According to Fangraphs, it was slightly above-average.

              • jay

                I’d be curious to see what Bill James’ predictions were for Castro and Rizzo LAST year. That would probably tell us all we need to know about how seriously we should take him.

                And, if Olt’s vision problems are behind him, then why could he still not hit at all last year, even at the end??

                • ari gold

                  to be fair, Castro didn’t come close to anyone’s projections. Not sure about Rizzo

                • Kyle

                  I’ll do you one better. Here’s 13 players who were on the Cubs at the time last year’s Bill James projections came out, with projected OPS and actual OPS.

                  Player ProjectedOPS ActualOPS
                  Rizzo 863 742
                  Castro 794 631
                  Valbuena 732 708
                  Soriano 766 791
                  DeJesus 734 729
                  Castillo 739 746
                  Barney 668 569
                  Clevenger 707 511
                  Campana 644 675
                  LaHair 800 out
                  Jackson 758 minors
                  Vitters 704 minors
                  Stewart 754 minors

      • scorecardpaul

        Thank you for repeating what Kyle said

        • hansman

          I actually repeated what Brett said. It just looked identical to Kyle’s because Kyle’s was identical to Brett’s.

          • On The Farm

            I literally LOL’d, and I hate using “lol”.

    • Eric

      I feel like I’ve already read this somewhere.

    • ssckelley

      Woo hoo, everyone is piling on Kyle this morning.

      BRETT ALREADY SAID THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

      My all caps are more effective along with added exclamation points.

  • Jon

    That Olt projection is a pipe dream. Let him first prove he can tread water in the PCL league first, before assuming some surgery is going to fix all that ails him.

    • Eric

      I think you’re right about him but I disagree with starting him in the PCL. Vision or no, he has big power. If he can improve our infield defense and luck his way into 20 homeruns then I’m all for it.

  • David

    Regardless of vision issues, you may have a chance to get 20-30 homers with Olt, and you aren’t going to get anywhere close to that with Valbuena/Murphy. I say give Olt a shot, with Valbuena being the versatile bench player he can be.

    • J.F.Edwards

      Actually, the disparity from last year’s performance is not far off of Olt’s projection.

      Cubs 3B 2013 580 70 128 30 2 30 70 70 151 .221 .314 .434

      Mike Olt (proj) 485 65 109 25 1 24 70 66 158 .225 .318 .429

  • themusicbox

    Let’s just face it… we are gonna suck again next year.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Somehow I think we’ve heard this tune before.

    • DarthHater

      Well, then, I guess there’s just nothing more to be said on any Cubs-related subject. Hey, everybody, you can all stop talking now.

      • hansman

        You first.

    • Brian Myers

      The key is that we’ll start to see “the rookies” toward the end of the year coming up to the majors. At times they will look like that too, Rookies. But it also means we’ll start to see more exciting play and the first glimmers of hope. Suck? It’s very likely it will. But we’ll start to see the first signs of the plan coming together… and they will likely be marginally better overall.

      The best part? We will finally have players to cheer. Barney and Dempster (I realize he’s been gone a year) are not the kind of players you want to be your stars, even if you love them as individuals. Rizzo should be the great supporting character (think Leon Durham or Ron Cey from the 1984 club). The great players are on the horizon.

  • mjhurdle

    Positive Cub projections? Obviously flawed and should be disregarded.

    Unattributed quotes that suggest that Cubs *might* be punting 2015? EVERYONE PANIC!!

    This is going to be a great off-season :)

    • Fishin Phil
      • hansman

        It usually helps if you post the picture in your comment

        • Fishin Phil

          Never mind.

    • hansman

      “Unattributed quotes that suggest that Cubs *might* be punting 2015? EVERYONE PANIC!!”



      • Kyle

        That’s not remotely what’s happened.

        I’ve said all along that the unattributed statement doesn’t need to be taken as gospel. I, personally, believe that it meshes with a whole lot of other data points and points to a specific short- and medium-term plan for the franchise.

        But I’ve always acknowledged that predicting which way the Cubs’ front office will zig or zag is difficult and that there’s plenty of room for alternative opinions on the matter, all of which will be made moot in a few months as they actually do things.

    • Kyle

      Bill James Projections’ overoptimism has been a subject of discussion in the sabr-world for a long time. You can take my word for it, you can look into it yourself, or you can assume that it’s just some sort of attack on your fandom. Which do you think is going to lead you to the most accurate conclusion?

  • ari gold

    It’s disappointing, but I would take Castro’s projection for 2014. Not what we envisioned after the 1st couple years.

  • JB88

    Let’s be honest with ourselves, this team is a long way from competing as currently constructed. The starting rotation looks decent, but not one of the better ones in the division, let alone game. The bullpen looks promising. The position players? Good god, that is a sad bunch right now. You might, MIGHT, have three players amongst that group that will be regulars when the Cubs anticipate competing (Rizzo, Castro, and Castillo). I don’t see a true starter amongst the outfielders and second and third are real messes from the standpoint of batting production.

    Of course, Bryant and Baez producing at the ML level makes the team look a lot better. You still need some bench talent and an entire outfield. I pray that all of the Big Four make it, but stats suggest otherwise. And it is a big reason that I am extremely disappointed that the Cubs haven’t started looking to bring in outside, major league ready talent.

    I can be patient for another offseason, but this team needs some veteran leadership and it just seems to be missing. The talent seems to be coming, but where are the leaders to bridge that gap?

    • terencemann

      I still don’t understand why the Cubs would want to trade minor league players for outside talent if they don’t have a great sense yet for how good those players will be?

      • JB88

        Oh, I’m not suggesting trading minor league players. I’m just cautioning that this team still needs a lot of work. I don’t know if the answers are in-house, to be acquired through FA, or to be acquired via trade, but I do think that the offense, in particular, is not a few lucky bounces away from being a good team. We aren’t about to be the 2012 Baltimore Orioles or the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates. We’ve got a fair amount of building to do.

        I wish that some of that included adding some pieces that looked like longterm pieces, including in the outfield, or at least bridge pieces, but it certainly appears that the Cubs are content with rolling out a team in 2014 that will challenge the Astros for the worst in baseball. And, while that sucks majorly, I’m okay with a year or two more of this if there truly is a plan and that this is just part of the plan to be competitive.

        If this is just the Ricketts being cash-strapped and they truly lack the resources to make this team competitive, longterm, that would really shake my fandom.

  • Jon

    IMO, we’ll be lucky to get Moustakas(2013) production from Olt.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Anything we get out of Mike Olt on a temporary basis would be a bonus. My expectations are quite low. Hopefully he can somehow win a job out of spring training and provide a tolerable enough combination with Valbuena at 3rd base until Baez or Bryant arrives to take over the hot corner.

  • Blackhawks1963

    My thoughts? The “current” lineup card includes 2 1/2 “core” players to focus on mostly.

    Castro: While I’m not a fan of Castro or his ten cent head and seeming lack of motivation, he should settle in to be a quality and consistent hitter. Will he ever be patient? Nope, but I do see him becoming a poor man’s Hanley Ramirez with the bat. Which anybody would gladly take.

    Rizzo: A hugely important player moving forward. He gets incessantly bashed, but even in a down sophmore season and with virtually no lineup protection for a young hitter he still produced roughly 40 doubles and 25 home runs. He has a sweet compact swing from the left side, but is probably always going to be prone to stretches of ugliness while his average sits in the .270’s range. His evaluation rests on his run production ability…and if his first two years are any indication, then he should be just fine. Plus he is a plus defender at 1st base.

    Castillo: I’m really on the fence with Castillo…hence why he’s my 1/2 of a core player designation. Lets just say I’m dubious as to whether he is a legitimate everyday catcher in this league. Regardless, he should be serviceable with the bat. His most important task will always be the work he does behind the plate and in working with a pitching staff. I’d love to see Kurt Suzuki added to the mix and for the two of them to have a 60-40 job split.

    The rest of the lineup options?

    Schierholtz is a nice ballplayer who does a lot of things pretty well, but he’s not a core type. Ideally the Cubs find him a platoon partner this winter.

    I see Lake having a future has a super-utility type, but am not sold on the sustainability of his hitting. Major league pitchers are going to attack him mercilessly with breaking balls and hard stuff inside. I look at Lake and see a guy who will put up prodigious strikeout totals, but maybe he can become a Glenallen Hill type, which would certainly have value.

    Sweeney is a journeyman type and nothing more. Some Cub fans fell in love with the guy when he came in and hit very well before going on the DL for 2 months. He’s a nice ballplayer in a spare outfielder sense. Beyond that we are asking way too much.

    Barney and Valbuena are good utility infielder types who have been forced into playing too much. Hard therefore for me to criticize each of their shortcomings as hitters. Both have a lot of value to bring if the luxury exists to use them properly. Which it probably does not, at least to start the 2012 season.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      I always get a chuckle when people bring up Castro’s lack of motiviation. The guy that plays every inning of every game, and campaigns the manager to let him play whenever they try and give him a day off.

      • mjhurdle

        I blame Bobby V’s rant that game that was televised on ESPN.
        After that, all of a sudden Castro was dumb and had no motivation. No one seems to know why they think that in particular about Castro and not others that made stupid errors (like a certain pitcher that air-mailed every throw to first), but they keep saying it until they honestly believe it is true.

        • Norm

          I don’t think many see ‘motivation’ as an issue with Castro; obvious exception being Blackhawks1963. It’s more about ‘focus’, IMO.

  • terencemann

    Steamer has been out for a little while and it’s even higher on Rizzo than James:

    • hansman

      They are also down on Olt. Have him pegged for a .681 OPS

    • hansman

      It’d be interesting to take all of the big-time projections, average them out and see how those numbers compare to actual production.

      • cub2014

        You could take our top 5 hitting prospects
        and 3 of them will never have the half
        season that Lake had. Unfortunately that is
        the reality of it. And Lake could be the next
        Jerome Walton so………….

      • On The Farm

        I would think using just Streamer and Bill James you would probably get a pretty fair shot at what 2014 production will be. But I suppose I put a lot of weight into Streamer, it seems pretty legit from when I would look at it midseason streamer to where the players ended the year at.

      • Rebuilding

        Fangraphs does that in the Spring

    • Brett

      Thanks for that, TM. I was aware of Steamer, but it’s not one I’d used in the past. I’ll have to check it out more closely.

    • Kyle

      I’m a big fan of Steamer and I love that it loves Rizzo so much. A lot of the legit projection systems seem to.

      It’s not hard to see why. That Steamer line is basically his 2013 line repeated with reasonable BABIP and a tiny increase in power.

  • Jono

    My layman opinion is that that’s not a very optimistic projection for Castro. I expect him to do that. There’s a difference, right?

    • Kyle

      Well, it’s got him for a .730 OPS, which I think would have put him 5th among qualified SS’s this year. It’s also 100 points higher than he did this year. So yeah, I think it’s optimistic, although certainly within the realm of possibility.

      • Jono

        The OPS isn’t so bad. I know this is going to get a lot of facepalms around here, but I’m looking at that batting average (freak out time!).

        But you have a point with OPS. Castro was around .750-.770 before 2013. So .730 wouldn’t be disappointing given his .631 OPS in 2013

        And I’m still learning saber. I understand batting average is not important, but it’s what I’ve been trained to look at. I completely agree with all the people who are about to jump on me for using that stat as a measuring stick.

        • ari gold

          Batting average is pretty important since it’s a big piece of OBP. We don’t want a bunch of guys batting .200 because it’ll be tough to have even a .300 OBP. It’s all part of the equation.

          • Jono

            right, I meant using it by itself

            • ari gold

              yeah I should have probably picked up on that.

      • Jono

        But wait, you’re kind of playing into my point. A .730 OPS is more of the expectation (or my expectation). I probably wouldn’t call it optimistic, just an expectation. I expect him to rebound. An optimistic projection is to match his career high OPS of .773

        You tricky Kyle. You had me off my point for a minute.

  • jj

    If this is optimistic for Castro, I’d hate to see a pessimistic prediction. From 2010-12, Castro hit .297/.336/.425, a line I anticipate Castro will reach or exceed in 2014.

  • ssckelley

    No reason to bring up Baez if we are not going for it until 2016. Start him in AA next year and then promote to AAA midseason and then start him in 2015 down in AAA for that extra year of control.

    Also bring up Brett Jackson and Vitters next season to give them both 1 final shot and to make sure the Cubs do not go crazy in the standings next year to protect that first round draft pick in 2015.

    • JB88

      You have to start bringing up these players sooner rather than later, because, even if 2016 is the target year, the Cubs can’t be relying on rookies or second year players to be the core of the team.

      • Jono

        bingo. That’s why 2015 was always an *optimistic projection*….


    • Blublud

      Right. Lets just keep him down until we have a team that’s over .500 at the break. If fact, lets just just keep him down until the renovations are done, we have a full TV contract, and we are projected as the preseason WS favorites. Let just keep him down u til 2020. We will definitely get his prime years for the cheap using that method.

      There is a reason why no team ever does this ever. Team bring prospect up early doing winning seasons because of need, but never late because of losing. The most you might see is a team choosing not to call a prospect up in Sept that’s ready for servislce and 40 man reasons, but that prospect will almost every single time be up early the next year.

      If the Cubs start intentionally slow rolling prospects because the team sucks beyond what I said above, it will make it harder to sign prospects. Lets see how much over slot they have start going just to get 1st round picks to sign.

  • Stevie B

    I’ve been a true blue fan since, I’d say, 1982, and I have never been through a complete, from the ground, rebuild.
    This is as trying as it gets, but you know what???

    I’m still a Chicago Cub fan, and will be till I’m buried.

  • cub2014

    I think Lake is your unconventional leadoff
    hitter going into next year.

    In the batting order he mostly batted 1st,
    2nd,5th & 6th:
    batting 1st he hit .405 .436
    batting 2nd he hit .224 .269
    (worst spot for a free swinger)
    batting 5th he hit .286 .362
    batting 6th he hit .276 .323

    Yes small sample size but based on his
    aggressiveness WHY would you ever
    bat him 2nd?

    • JB88

      Dear god, I hope Lake isn’t the Cubs leadoff hitter of the future. Because you can kiss any dreams of 900 run seasons goodbye with a guy who is going to stuggle mightily to put up a .310 OBP.

    • On The Farm

      Yeah, a 9 game sample size at the leadoff (39 PAs) just isn’t going to be enough for me to deem him the unconventional leadoff man.

      Why would you ever bat him second? In a lost season why not put Castro, Rizzo, and Lake at the top of lineup to get them the most PAs possible?

    • hansman

      Wait, but Castro hits best at the top of the lineup. Ok, maybe we can teach one of them to bat LH and send them both up at the same time.

  • itzscott

    If Bill James’ projections are overly optimistic, whether to trade Shark shouldn’t even be a question.

    The sooner, the better if there’s to be any sort of worthwhile return.

    • Jon

      I would agree. A non-improving Shark is definitely a source for concern.

  • CubbieBubba

    he’s lost his left hand… he’s going to be ALL RIGHT

  • Voice of Reason

    Instant credibility loss when you project olt to hit over 20hrs.

    What a joke.

  • The Logos

    Yeah, who is this Bill Johns guy, anyway? I agree with you, if this guy ever wants any credibility in the baseball world, he needs to get his stuff together.

  • Diamond Don

    They need to see what Olt can do at PCL before they give him a shot the second half of 2014. If he does well, trade him as Baez will be the starting third baseman in 2015.

    • Chad

      Is that how it will play out? Phew, one less thing to worry about. We know Olt can hit when his vision is good, so if he comes out raking in ST why not give him a shot on the big club? See what ya got kind of thing.

  • Carne Harris

    Man, I’m crossing everything but my plums that Olt starts at Trip A next year. Check out his minor league numbers – he’s dominated AA but really struggled at AAA. I can see the desire to rush him with Bryant breathing down his neck, but ideally I’d heart seeing both have strong first halves and Olt moving up to the bigs, making room for Bryant at Iowa.

    • ssckelley

      OMG, those AAA numbers are horrible!

  • Blublud

    The Cubs have 2 and possibly 3 guys who are above average defensively and offensively for their position. Castillo and Rizzo, for sure, and Castro, depending on how you look at him defensively. The have Lake in CF, who can become very good defensively and his bat should be average there. If they could add Alcantara, Baez and Bryant at some point in 2014, who should all be average for their defense and above average on offense at 2nd, 3rd and RF, they could go into 2015 not all that far from being competitive. They are building a pretty good BP. Maybe a LF (Choo) and a starter away from being pretty good.