Sure Enough, Cubs Are Also One of the Deepest Teams in Baseball

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Sure Enough, Cubs Are Also One of the Deepest Teams in Baseball

Chicago Cubs

wrigley bench dugoutBy now, I’m sure most of you have seen the early projections for the Cubs upcoming season.

When FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus each released their initial projected standings, the Cubs were picked to win 95 (best in MLB) and 92 (second best in MLB) games, respectively.

Since those initial projections came out, though, the Cubs have made some significant transactions, and some publications have come out with new projections and updated odds.

For example, on Monday, FanGraphs unveiled its first full projected standings/playoff odds report and the Cubs are on top with an unthinkable 96.8 expected wins. Similarly, Baseball Prospectus has updated their own projected standings, now showing the Cubs tied with the Dodgers for the most wins in baseball – 94 games a piece.

Of course, it’s not hard to understand why the Cubs are projected to win so many games. With big names like Kris Bryant (5.7), Jason Heyward (5.2), Anthony Rizzo (5.1), Jake Arrieta (5.2) and Jon Lester (4.3) all projected to have huge seasons (fWAR Projections per Steamer), the Cubs are certainly not short on star power.

But what about their depth?

Depth is often taken for granted by fans. The easiest example is the knowledge that every team in baseball is going to use more than five starting pitchers in a given season. It happens to every single team, every single year, but we so rarely discuss the depth beyond the fifth starter spot without too much focus or concern. (The Dodgers are probably thinking about it quite a bit right now.)

Even rarer do we discuss one teams depth vis à vis another, even though we can understand why it’s important. The problem, of course, is that it is so hard to analyze, discuss and rank “depth,” because there’s not a clear-cut definition of what depth is, or how it will be used from team to team.

Fortunately, that didn’t stop Jeff Sullivan from giving it a go.

In an article at FanGraphs, Sullivan examined the depth of every team in baseball, in order to rank each team in terms of their backup and bench players’ projected performance. To do so, he pulled each team’s position players and starting pitchers from Fangraphs Depth Charts and blended their individual Steamer and ZiPS projections.

After stretching their expected performance over the course of a full season, then, Sullivan took a count, using an (admittedly) arbitrary cutoff of 1 WAR. In the end, you have a list of non-starting players from each team capable of obtaining 1 WAR, over the course of a full season. You can see the full results here, and I encourage you to take a look.

When all was said and done, the team with the best depth in 2016 is the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a staggering 25 non-starting players capable of achieving 1 WAR over the course of a full season (though, again, that depth is dealing with injury issues already). Following them is the Mets (24), Cardinals (23) and our own beloved Chicago Cubs (23). Rounding up the rear is a three-way tie between the Braves, Diamondbacks and Phillies (13). And, the rest of the NL Central is spread out with the Pirates (19) finishing in the middle of the pack, while the Brewers (15) and Reds (14) found themselves among the bottom third.

There’s plenty more to discuss and unpack, but at the very least, this is another encouraging sign for the upcoming season. We already knew the Cubs had star power potential in 2016, but now, it seems, they have the depth, as well.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami