Although we don’t yet have the ZiPS projection (possibly the most accurate of the projection systems – though they’re all very close) for the Chicago Cubs in 2015, it’s worth a periodic check-in with the projections we do have available to see how the Cubs are looking as the offseason unfolds.
I think most folks who follow the Cubs closely would agree that, although there has been a clear organizational need for impact pitching for a long time, the greater concern in the near-term is the offense. That was the case each of the last few years – when the front office did an impressive job of putting together a competitive rotation without a (perceived as) major acquisition or prospect emergence – and it looks to be the case in 2015. Yes, the Cubs have a ton of offensive upside in 2015 and beyond, but it’s not necessarily something the team can count on, especially in 2015 when so much of the talent will be young, and relatively new to facing MLB pitching.
Thus, I’d like to see the Cubs add a significant bat for 2015. That may or may not happen, based on what opportunities present themselves, and I’m not saying the Cubs should trade the farm for a short-term upgrade.
But when I look at the Cubs’ 2015 Steamer projections, I can’t help but notice some things:
- The Cubs have just two bats projected as solidly above average (Anthony Rizzo – 138 wRC+; Jorge Soler – 119 wRC+).
- The Cubs have only one more bat projected as above average, and it’s Starlin Castro at just 101 wRC+. (He’s going to top that if healthy, though.)
- Miguel Montero and Luis Valbuena project as exactly average. Tommy La Stella (99 wRC+) and Ryan Sweeney (93) are just below average, but they project more as role players than regulars. Welington Castillo is at 95, but he’s not long for the Cubs. Chris Coghlan is also at 95.
- The Cubs’ second best bat, projected for a 128 wRC+ in 2015 is actually not yet on the team – Kris Bryant. There are reasons to believe he can be a big contributor in 2015, but counting on any rookie to help carry the offensive load is always a risky proposition.
- If we’re generous, we could say the Castro projection is way too low, and the Bryant projection is legit. That would give the Cubs above-average production at four spots, and average or worse at the other four positional spots. With good pitching, maybe that’s enough to carry the team in 2015. Indeed, it might be necessary.
But, as I sit here on a Friday afternoon thinking things over, I notice that the Cardinals project to have seven above-average offensive regulars and the Pirates project to have five. Heck, the Brewers project to have six, and the Reds project to have four.
No, offense isn’t everything. No, projections aren’t everything, either. But, on paper, at this moment in the offseason, the Cubs’ offense doesn’t look like a strength.
Fortunately, the Cubs look to have solid pitching. Further, there’s a few months left in the offseason. And finally, the Cubs have more offensive upside than any team in the NL Central (if everything went right, I mean), and I don’t think it’s particularly close.
I’m just saying I’d feel a lot better with another bat.