Earlier this offseason, we got our first look at the ZiPS projections for the Chicago Cubs, and, in case you forgot, they foresee another Cubs divisional title (albeit with even fewer wins than this season) in 2018.
Today, we get another set of projections, but this time they’re the individual player-based Steamer projections at FanGraphs! Woo!
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 offensive players, and discuss the implications of their projections.
Stats: .282/.393/.542; 34 HRs, 141 wRC+, 4.7 WAR
Anthony Rizzo, as I’m sure you know, is among one of the most consistent players in baseball. You can pretty much always count on him for 30-32 HRs, at least a 10% walk rate, and at most a 18% strikeout rate. He’s obviously exceeded each of those marks throughout his career, but was also a bit worse at the plate this past year (133 wRC+). That Steamer is projecting an offensive resurgence, then, is both believable, but also pretty exciting.
Stats: .284/.389/.534; 33 HRs, 139 wRC+, 6.1 WAR
According to Steamer, Kris Bryant will basically be Anthony Rizzo at the plate next year. His WAR total, of course, is much higher because of the added value Bryant provides on defense and baserunning (both of which are projected to be solidly above average). But although a fourth consecutive 6.0 WAR season would be amazing and immediately thrust Bryant into sole possession of 17th most WAR by a Cub of ALL TIME (yeah, seriously), I’m actually guessing that this is slightly too conservative for him on offense. I’m gonna guess that he has another 145+ wRC+ season and probably creeps closer to 7.0 WAR.
Stats: .239/.338/.482; 25 HRs, 112 wRC+, 1.6 WAR
Kyle Schwarber’s 112 wRC+ is actually projected to be third highest on the team behind Rizzo and Bryant. And although that would obviously represent a significant improvement over his 102 wRC+ mark here in 2017, I’m guessing his final wRC+ is something closer to the 129 wRC+ mark he put up in the second half of the year. If the defense doesn’t become average overall in left field, that’s probably about where the bat will need to be, too, for him to become a seriously valuable player.
Stats: .266/.342/.418; 14 HRs, 99 wRC+, 2.2 WAR
Jason Heyward is projected to take another step forward at the plate this season, but still come up just short of league average (99 wRC+). But, hey, if the advanced defensive metrics bounce back like we think they should (it sure didn’t look like he lost a step in right field, and he did just win his fourth consecutive Gold Glove), that would mean he’d be something like a 3.5 WAR player, which … hey. That would be quite a bounce back.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, I would lock down this slash line right now (versus taking whatever’s behind the curtain), if given the opportunity.
Among the notable remaining bits, which you can check out here at FanGraphs, Willson Contreras is expected to take a step back both offensively and defensively next season, but frankly, I’m not seeing it. He’s still just 25 years old and is going into his second full season in the Majors. Put me down for more big things.
Ian Happ also projects to take a step back to being a just-about-average bat (.247/.319/.458, 99 wRC+), and Ben Zobrist bounces back to being, well, also a just-about-average bat (.260/.353/.413, 102 wRC+).
Notably, none of the Cubs three defensive wizards – Albert Almora Jr. (92 wRC+), Javy Baez (94 wRC+), and Addison Russell (96 wRC+) – are expected to be above average contributors at the plate next season. Again, I know my own reminders should make me feel better about this, but, dang, that would be a rough outcome if all three came true.
And, finally, since the Cubs do love hitting dingers, I thought we could close with a look at the Steamer Projected Home Run Leaderboards:
Home Run Leaderboards
- Anthony Rizzo: 34
- Kris Bryant: 33
- Kyle Schwarber: 25
- Ian Happ: 25
- Javier Baez: 23
- Willson Contreras: 20
- Addison Russell: 18
- Ben Zobrist: 14
- Jason Heyward: 14
- Albert Almora Jr.: 10
If the Cubs close the season having ten players reach double-digit home runs and six having 20 or more, I think we’d all be happy – especially for the three guys at the bottom of the list. If Heyward, Zobrist, and Almora combine for nearly 40 home runs, I think that’d be a huge win.
Stay tuned. We’ll take a closer look at the pitchers next.