anthony rizzo cubsThe ZiPS projections for the 2014 Chicago Cubs are finally out at FanGraphs. Although projections are always going to be hit and miss, they still provide an interesting perspective on how a team is shaping up on paper.

This year, ZiPS sees the Cubs as an approximately 78-win team, which is probably shocking to you, but that comes simply by adding up the WAR to a replacement level (48 wins) team. I suspect the range of wins using that system is probably pretty narrow. (And, I should add, the man behind the system, Dan Szymborski, advises against adding up the WAR to reach a win total. But, like, we all do it because it’s fun. Guilty!)

That said, ZiPS does appear to like the Cubs’ bullpen (3 wins total), the possibility of a rebound from Starlin Castro (3 wins), the center field and third base platoons (3 wins each), Anthony Rizzo (3 wins), and the catching tandem (3 wins). The rotation is fairly meh (ZiPS is not high on Jake Arrieta), though.

You should review the full set of projections for yourself – there are simply far too many to share here – but there are some interesting things to note:

  • Junior Lake is projected as a 0-win player in left field, with a line of .252/.295/.380. That’s with a .338 BABIP, and amounts to a mere .297 wOBA. That wouldn’t carry second base on a good team, let alone left field.
  • Christian Villanueva is actually projected to be the better offensive player over Mike Olt, should each get significant playing time in the bigs this year (.302 wOBA to .300). I doubt that actually happens, though.

  • Speaking of surprising prospect projections, how about Javier Baez (.246/.295/.486, .340 wOBA) and Arismendy Alcantara (.255/.307/.405, .314 wOBA)? That’s an All-Star shortstop and a league average second baseman right there. Each will start at AAA.
  • Starlin Castro projects to rebound (.280/.319/.413, .319 wOBA), and Anthony Rizzo projects to be very good (.255/.336/.464, .343 wOBA).
  • Only three Cubs batters – Rizzo, Baez, and Nate Schierholtz – project to have an OPS+ over 100. That’s a recipe for a bad offense.
  • ZiPS really likes Jose Veras, Pedro Strop, and Wesley Wright (all with ERA projections of 3.43 or better), so it’s no surprise that the bullpen as a whole projects well. Even Blake Parker, Hector Rondon, and James Russell project as a touch better than average, too.
  • As I said, the rotation looks rough, with only Jeff Samardzija projected to be above average. Travis Wood and Edwin Jackson are right around average (maybe slightly better), and Jake Arrieta is projected to be WELL below average. I can understand that one, given his spotty performance. Arrieta is a guy on whom you dream about the stuff, not a guy you count on. So it is with the 2014 Cubs, in general.

  • Yes, the player comp dropped on Javier Baez is Cal Ripken, Jr., so you should probably start making your Cooperstown travel arrangements for 2045.

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