Yesterday, we took a look at the early Steamer projections for individual Cub position players, so if you missed that piece, start there. Today, we’ll take a look at the Steamer projections, but this time for the various Cubs pitchers – both starters and relievers.
A couple of up-front reminders: 1. You can see the full projections here at FanGraphs, as we’ll cover just some of the highlights below; 2. projections are inherently conservative, and 3. this is but one of many projections we’ll see this offseason.
In other words, don’t get starry-eyed or terrified based off what you see here, alone. Okay? Projection time. Let’s look at some key pitchers, and discuss the implications of their projections.
Stats: 196.0 IP, 3.45 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 4.3 fWAR
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jose Quintana is projected to be the Cubs’ most valuable starting pitcher in 2018 (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking?). In his age-29 season, the Cubs’ newest starting pitcher is projected to once again exceed the 4-WAR threshold, placing him firmly on the All-Star radar, while working with what would’ve been a top 20 ERA and top 15 FIP here in 2017. On top of that, Quintana is expected to make a full 32 starts, reach nearly 200 IP, and complete his second consecutive 200 strikeout season. Although his ceiling may be higher than this, you can sign me up for this production right now.
Stats: 173.0 IP, 4.02 ERA, 4.11 FIP, 2.7 fWAR
Kyle Hendricks, on the other hand, is not expected to continue the dominance we saw throughout the 2016 season and in the second half of 2017, but that may have been expected – not the actual regression, mind you, but the projections, themselves. Hendricks is the type of pitcher whose whole is greater than the sum of his parts. And given that he almost always exceeds his peripheral statistics thanks to extremely solid contact management and finished the 2017 strong and healthy, I’d be willing to bet that he once again bests the projections by the end of the year.
Stats: 65.0 IP, 3.15 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.0 fWAR – 37 Saves
In perhaps one of the most encouraging projections so far, Justin Wilson looks ready to bounce back in a big way next season – well, from where was in the second half with the Cubs, that is. If he can settle into the mold of a pitcher with that low of an ERA and FIP over a quality 65.0 innings this season, the back end of the Cubs bullpen will get some much needed stability. Even without any bullpen additions this winter (which I fully expect to come), a three-headed monster of Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr., and (good) Justin Wilson would have quite a high ceiling.
As you can see, Steamer was inclined to believe (for now) that he’ll get a majority of the Cubs save chances and do quite well with the opportunity.
Stats: 55.0 IP, 3.37 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 0.8 fWAR
I purposefully left Hector Rondon out of that sentence above, but not because I don’t believe in his arm. In fact, if these projections are to be believed, he’d add a fourth really strong arm to the bullpen mix. To be sure, a 3.37 ERA wouldn’t have ranked among baseball’s elite relievers last season (it would fall somewhere in the top 75 arms), but it would represent a big step forward for Rondon over last year’s mark (4.24 ERA), and would be extremely valuable in the middle innings.
According to these projections, Jon Lester is due for something of a bounce back, including an additional 15.0 IP, a 3.88 ERA (roughly top-25ish this season), and 3.5 fWAR. For reference, that would basically make him the 2017 version of Yu Darvish, and he was the 16th most valuable pitcher in MLB last season.
In the bullpen, Carl Edwards Jr. is expected to allow slightly fewer walks/9, but his strikeout rate is expected to dip, too. All things considered, that may not be the worst tradeoff in the world. Pedro Strop, meanwhile, is projected to have another quality relief season (boy, what an underrated part of the last four Cubs bullpen he’s been).
At the end of the position player’s group, we had some fun with the home run leaderboards. So this time around, why don’t we finish with the Cubs projected strikeout leaders:
- Jose Quintana: 200 Ks
- Jon Lester: 188 Ks
- Kyle Hendricks: 145 Ks
- Mike Montgomery: 129 Ks
- Luke Farrell: 95 Ks
- Carl Edwards Jr.: 86 Ks
- Eddie Butler: 84 Ks
- Justin Wilson: 82 Ks
- Pedro Strop: 63 Ks
- Hector Rondon: 62 Ks