The Cubs' Historic Combination of Youth and Talent

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The Cubs’ Historic Combination of Youth and Talent

Analysis and Commentary

rizzo bryantThe Cubs’ core of talented, young position players is well known and respected around baseball. They were well known and respected as prospects before the last few seasons and nearly all of them proved why that was the case in 2015.

Still, not all of them have reached their potential quite yet. One is struggling to get a foothold in the majors (Javier Baez), one has struggled to stay healthy (Jorge Soler), another has been elite at one aspect of his game, but is still working on the other half (Addison Russel), and one looks like all he needs his more plate appearances (Kyle Schwarber). All have immense potential, a few look really likely to reach it.

There are three others, though, who’ve arguably reached their potential already. They’ve played at the top of their game and have finished among the best in the league. One wasn’t even on the team last year.

I’m talking, of course, about Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward.

In 2015, that trio finished tenth, eleventh and sixteenth, respectively, in WAR among position players in baseball. Kris Bryant (6.5) led the way, with Jason Heyward (6.0) and Anthony Rizzo (5.5) not far behind. Three of the top sixteen position players by WAR play for the Cubs and they accomplished this feat with power, patience and defense. All additional character traits, and off-the-field bonuses aside, these three guys were among the best of the best and they did it in largely sustainable ways.

After Jason Heyward signed on with the Cubs, Owen Watson (Fox Sports) decided to do a little digging.

The question? How many teams since 1950 had at least three position players with greater than 5 WAR in a single season.

The result? 82. Just 82 teams in 50 years accomplished what seems very likely for the Cubs in 2016. (As it would appear, 30% of those teams went to the World Series.)

While 82 teams in over 60 years is distinct company, of course, that is still a big number. But here are some smaller numbers: 26, 24, 26. Those are the ages of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward. And suddenly, when those ages are accounted for, that 82 number gets a whole lot smaller.

Watson readdressed the question and framed it slightly differently. The new question? How many teams since 1950 have had three position players under 28 years old each with more than 5.0 WAR? The result? Just 16. 16 teams in 65 years have had three position players under 28 years accumulate 5.0 WAR, and that, my friends, is a very, very low number.

Not all three players will necessarily repeat their performance from last year, but there are three or four additional Cubs who could arguably reach that threshold, as well.

For more on the Cubs and their historical group of young position players, go check out Watson’s article at It’s a fantastic read that makes you smile and make you wonder (as the headline asks): Will Cubs’ Historic Combo of Young Talent Produce a Dynasty?


Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.