FanGraphs Positional Rankings Loves the Cubs Infield, Though They Rank First at Only One Spot

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FanGraphs Positional Rankings Loves the Cubs Infield, Though They Rank First at Only One Spot

Analysis and Commentary

Right now, FanGraphs is revealing their 2018 Positional Power rankings, which, unlike some of the other rankings you’ll see around this time of the year, are based entirely on WAR from their depth chart projections.

In other words, these are not subjective rankings – though, each does come with significant commentary and analysis, which you’ll definitely want to check out. They are, instead, mathematically calculated. Moreover, these rankings are not measuring the individual projected performance of a single starter at any given position, but rather the collective WAR each position for each team is expected to generate in 2018.

In other words, it’s not Willson Contreras versus Yadier Molina. It’s Willson Contreras, plus Chris Gimenez, plus Victor Caratini, plus Taylor Davis versus Yadier Molina, plus Francisco Pena, plus Carson Kelly. Get it? (Playing time is apportioned, of course, and that’s the one spot where there’s a little bit of subjectivity.)

So far, FanGraphs has gone through the entire infield – catcher included – so I thought now was a nice time to check in and see what’s what. You can take a peek at every available ranking right here, but I’ll be sure to link the individual posts as we go along. And remember, all 30 rankings can be found at FanGraphs, but for today, we’ll limit to the top ten (or when we hit the Cubs, whichever happens first).

Catcher:

  1. Giants: 4.3 WAR
  2. Yankees: 3.6 WAR
  3. Athletics: 3.5 WAR
  4. Dodgers: 3.2 WAR
  5. Astros: 3.2 WAR
  6. Cubs: 3.1 WAR
  7. Royals: 2.9 WAR
  8. Cardinals: 2.8 WAR
  9. Blue Jays: 2.7 WAR
  10. Mariners: 2.7 WAR

Although you might be surprised to find the Cubs group of catchers outside of the top five, I will point out that Contreras is tied with Jonathan Lucroy for the third best individual projection, behind only Buster Posey and Gary Sanchez. And if there’s one ranking I’d take the over on without thinking, it’d be this one.

Indeed, Craig Edwards, the author of this particular post, seems to agree: “If Contreras, who turns 26 years old in May, can repeat last season’s numbers and stay healthy, he will probably produce a four-win year.” Projections are what they are – just part of the bigger picture – so take from this what you will.

First Base:

  1. Cubs: 4.9 WAR
  2. Reds: 4.8 WAR
  3. Diamondbacks: 4.3 WAR
  4. Braves: 4.2 WAR
  5. Dodgers: 3.6 WAR
  6. Giants: 3.3 WAR
  7. Phillies: 3.2 WAR
  8. White Sox: 2.5 WAR
  9. Cardinals: 2.5 WAR
  10. Rangers: 2.4 WAR

With 4.7 of the 4.9 total WAR coming from the one-and-only Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs’ first base position projects to be the best in baseball this season, and that’s saying a lot. I should point out that Joey Votto’s 4.8 WAR edges out Rizzo’s 4.7 WAR projection, but the backup thereafter tilts the standings to Chicago.

Even still, guys like Paul Goldschmidt (D-Backs), Freddie Freeman (Braves), and Cody Bellinger (Dodgers) lurk just behind Votto, reminding us that first base is pretty loaded in MLB right now.

Second Base:

  1. Astros: 5.0 WAR
  2. Twins: 3.8 WAR
  3. Indians: 3.1 WAR
  4. Orioles: 3.1 WAR
  5. Mariners: 2.9 WAR
  6. Red Sox: 2.9 WAR
  7. Cardinals: 2.9 WAR
  8. Nationals: 2.8 WAR
  9. Angels: 2.8 WAR
  10. Giants: 2.7 WAR
  11. Blue Jays: 2.4 WAR
  12. Cubs: 2.3 WAR

At second base in 2018, the Cubs are expected to get contributions from Javy Baez (350 PAs, 1.1 WAR), Ben Zobrist (280 PAs, 1.0 WAR), Ian Happ (56 PAs, 0.2 WAR), Tommy La Stella (7 PAs, 0.0 WAR) and David Bote (7 PAs, o WAR), but remember, Baez, Happ, and Zobrist, in particular, will be spreading their value around (i.e. these are only partial projections).

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

And although the overall total knocks the Cubs out of the top ten for the first time, the upside is there. “If there were a metric that measured holy crapness,” wrote Med Rowley in the Cubs write-up, “some stat that could quantify the feeling one has when confronted with an absolutely bananas play, I’m not convinced that anyone could beat Javier Baez.” Agreed. Baez has the chance to rocket the Cubs second-base rankings way up this list, but until he proves it (or Zobrist gets younger), the Cubs are probably ranked appropriately.

Third Base:

  1. Blue Jays: 6.3 WAR
  2. Cubs: 5.9 WAR
  3. Rockies: 5.0 WAR
  4. Nationals: 4.7 WAR
  5. Dodgers: 4.2 WAR
  6. Astros: 4.1 WAR
  7. Mariners: 3.9 WAR
  8. Rangers: 3.9 WAR
  9. Indians: 3.9 WAR
  10. Angels: 3.6 WAR

Third base is an even more loaded position than first base – and, keep in mind, it lost Manny Machado to shortstop – but Kris Bryant and the Cubs rank second only to Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays.

Also …

Shortstop:

  1. Astros: 6.3 WAR
  2. Indians: 5.8 WAR
  3. Dodgers: 5.2 WAR
  4. Orioles: 5.2 WAR
  5. Angels: 3.8 WAR
  6. Nationals: 3.7 WAR
  7. Red Sox: 3.6 WAR
  8. Cubs: 3.5 WAR
  9. Giants: 3.2 WAR
  10. Yankees: 2.7 WAR

It’s hard to get too upset about the Cubs showing here, given that four of the guys ahead of Addison Russell (Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Manny Machado) are legitimate MVP candidates this season. There’s simply an upper-tier of shortstops, comprised of those first four names, and Russell is currently in the tier just below that. There’s nothing wrong with that, and he still, of course, has the potential to breakout.

So ultimately, the Cubs infield ranks out like this:

Catcher: 6th
First Base: 1st
Second Base: 12th
Third Base: 2nd
Shortstop: 8th

One first-place finish, four top-ten finishes, and a second-base group with upside (Baez) and bounce-back (Zobrist) potential. All things considered, that’s a VERY good showing.

Be sure to check out FanGraphs article to read up on each individual ranking.


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Author: Michael Cerami

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