Joe Maddon CubsThe Cubs’ flexibility is undeniable.

Manager Joe Maddon’s team features seven players who are on the current 40-man roster who played at least two defensive positions for the 2015 team — including four who played at three different spots. In the offseason, the front office added Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist to the mix for 2016. Both have played multiple defensive positions prior to their signings and could do so again in the coming months and years of their respective contracts.

Below is a table featuring each of the Cubs’ projected regulars and primary bench players (sorry David Ross, Munenori Kawasaki and Matt Szczur) who have played at least one defensive inning at multiple defensive positions in their career.

PLAYERC1B2B3BSSLFCFRF
Schwarber136.0295.214.0
Zobrist92.04825.144.11764.0656.0203.02317.1
Russell746.0471.1
Bryant6.01209.139.018.041.0
Baez1.0269.264.0300.0
La Stella809.252.0
Fowler7279.01.0
Heyward233.06756.1



Noticeably missing are Miguel Montero and Anthony Rizzo, who have spent their entire defensive careers at catcher and first base, respectively.

The team’s versatility in the field appears to be matched only by their projected lineup.

Below is a look at where each of the Cubs’ projected regular contributors has batted in their career (at least 100 plate appearances), with statistics via FanGraphs (including the team’s top two back-ups, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez).

SCHWARBERPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
2nd228.239.368.505.874.378141
FOWLERPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
1st2504.267.362.428.790.348109
2nd769.254.348.386.734.32892
3rd255.274.377.353.730.327101
HEYWARDPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
1st570.280.354.427.782.346122
2nd996.251.347.410.757.338111
3rd587.259.336.427.763.335110
5th396.269.353.402.755.334113
6th383.310.391.591.982.418166
7th281.240.335.401.735.321100
SOLERPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
4th133.207.263.347.610.26362
5th111.356.387.6151.003.428175
6th115.348.313.352.665.28980
BRYANTPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
2nd122.250.328.491.819.352123
3rd300.254.343.462.805.348120
5th143.323.413.581.993.425173
RUSSELLPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
9th437.246.310.410.719.31497
ZOBRISTPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
1st609.241.329.372.702.31198
2nd1437.272.369.429.797.352125
3rd1093.267.347.412.759.334113
4th627.280.363.465.828.361128
5th594.281.377.481.858.372136
6th243.262.374.535.909.388144
9th240.216.269.349.618.27161
RIZZOPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
2nd221.296.398.527.925.398155
3rd1725.266.358.475.833.362130
4th352.269.358.502.860.367133
BAEZPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
2nd230.168.226.322.549.24752
MONTEROPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
4th1196.250.340.370.710.31492
5th2034.282.351.473.825.355118
6th807.258.336.420.757.329101
7th390.276.356.477.832.362120
8th314.244.335.378.713.31281

As you can see by the table, most of the Cubs have dabbled in multiple spots in the order, which should give Maddon ample opportunity to tinker and fine tune things over the course of 162 games.



However, that table only scratches the surface. It’s also worth considering, even if only for fun, how each player has performed in various spots in the order relative to each other (some guys are more comfortable hitting in certain spots).

Below is a look at how each spot in the batting order shakes out with regards to a player’s experience in that particular spot.

In gathering data for this observation, I set a minimum of 200 plate appearances for a player to receive consideration for a particular spot in the order.

But in the cases of Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, a pair of players who have hit in several spots in the order but have fewer than 1,000 plate appearances under their belts, I dropped the requirements to 100 plate appearances for the sake of this research.

BATTING 1STPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Fowler2504.267.362.428.790.348109
Zobrist609.241.329.372.702.31198
Heyward570.280.354.427.782.346122
BATTING 2NDPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Zobrist1437.272.369.429.797.352125
Heyward996.251.347.410.757.338111
Fowler769.254.348.386.734.32892
Schwarber228.239.368.505.874.378141
Baez230.168.226.322.549.24752
Rizzo221.296.398.527.925.398155
Bryant122.250.328.491.819.352123
BATTING 3RDPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Rizzo1725.266.358.475.833.362130
Zobrist1093.267.347.412.759.334113
Heyward587.259.336.427.763.335110
Bryant300.254.343.462.805.348120
Fowler255.274.377.353.730.327101
BATTING 4THPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Montero1196.250.340.370.710.31492
Zobrist627.280.363.465.828.361128
Rizzo352.269.358.502.860.367133
Soler133.207.263.347.610.26362
BATTING 5THPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Montero2034.282.351.473.825.355118
Zobrist594.281.377.481.858.372136
Heyward396.269.353.402.755.334113
Bryant143.323.413.581.993.425173
Soler111.356.387.6151.003.428175
BATTING 6THPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Montero807.258.336.420.757.329101
Heyward383.310.391.591.982.418166
Zobrist243.262.374.535.909.388144
Soler115.348.313.352.665.28980
BATTING 7THPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Montero390.276.356.477.832.362120
Heyward281.240.335.401.735.321100
BATTING 8THPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Montero314.244.335.378.713.31281
BATTING 9THPAAVGOBPSLGOPSwOBAwRC+
Russell437.246.310.410.719.31497
Zobrist240.216.269.349.618.27161



There are six spots in the order in which Zobrist’s wRC+ is at least 10 percent better than league average, four different spots where Heyward’s on-base percentage is at .350 or better and seven spots in which they can put a player with a wRC+ that is at least 20 percent better than league average. In other words, it’s nice to know that the Cubs’ two big offensive additions this offseason are likely to be successful wherever they’re plugged into the lineup.

No matter which way you slice it, the Cubs’ lineup projects to be stacked, deep and dangerous based on the histories of the players who can be plugged into the lineup on a daily basis. And when you consider the numerous defensive alignment possibilities in tandem with the numerous lineup possibilities, it’s easy to see how the options for Joe Maddon balloon rapidly.


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