The Cubs' Lineup Versatility Is Virtually Limitless, and Fun to Explore

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The Cubs’ Lineup Versatility Is Virtually Limitless, and Fun to Explore

Chicago Cubs

Joe Maddon CubsThe Cubs’ flexibility is undeniable.

Manager Joe Maddon’s team features seven players who are on the current 40-man roster who played at least two defensive positions for the 2015 team — including four who played at three different spots. In the offseason, the front office added Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist to the mix for 2016. Both have played multiple defensive positions prior to their signings and could do so again in the coming months and years of their respective contracts.

Below is a table featuring each of the Cubs’ projected regulars and primary bench players (sorry David Ross, Munenori Kawasaki and Matt Szczur) who have played at least one defensive inning at multiple defensive positions in their career.

PLAYER C 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF
Schwarber 136.0 295.2 14.0
Zobrist 92.0 4825.1 44.1 1764.0 656.0 203.0 2317.1
Russell 746.0 471.1
Bryant 6.0 1209.1 39.0 18.0 41.0
Baez 1.0 269.2 64.0 300.0
La Stella 809.2 52.0
Fowler 7279.0 1.0
Heyward 233.0 6756.1
Noticeably missing are Miguel Montero and Anthony Rizzo, who have spent their entire defensive careers at catcher and first base, respectively.

The team’s versatility in the field appears to be matched only by their projected lineup.

Below is a look at where each of the Cubs’ projected regular contributors has batted in their career (at least 100 plate appearances), with statistics via FanGraphs (including the team’s top two back-ups, Jorge Soler and Javier Baez).

SCHWARBER PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
2nd 228 .239 .368 .505 .874 .378 141
FOWLER PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
1st 2504 .267 .362 .428 .790 .348 109
2nd 769 .254 .348 .386 .734 .328 92
3rd 255 .274 .377 .353 .730 .327 101
HEYWARD PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
1st 570 .280 .354 .427 .782 .346 122
2nd 996 .251 .347 .410 .757 .338 111
3rd 587 .259 .336 .427 .763 .335 110
5th 396 .269 .353 .402 .755 .334 113
6th 383 .310 .391 .591 .982 .418 166
7th 281 .240 .335 .401 .735 .321 100
SOLER PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
4th 133 .207 .263 .347 .610 .263 62
5th 111 .356 .387 .615 1.003 .428 175
6th 115 .348 .313 .352 .665 .289 80
BRYANT PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
2nd 122 .250 .328 .491 .819 .352 123
3rd 300 .254 .343 .462 .805 .348 120
5th 143 .323 .413 .581 .993 .425 173
RUSSELL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
9th 437 .246 .310 .410 .719 .314 97
ZOBRIST PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
1st 609 .241 .329 .372 .702 .311 98
2nd 1437 .272 .369 .429 .797 .352 125
3rd 1093 .267 .347 .412 .759 .334 113
4th 627 .280 .363 .465 .828 .361 128
5th 594 .281 .377 .481 .858 .372 136
6th 243 .262 .374 .535 .909 .388 144
9th 240 .216 .269 .349 .618 .271 61
RIZZO PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
2nd 221 .296 .398 .527 .925 .398 155
3rd 1725 .266 .358 .475 .833 .362 130
4th 352 .269 .358 .502 .860 .367 133
BAEZ PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
2nd 230 .168 .226 .322 .549 .247 52
MONTERO PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
4th 1196 .250 .340 .370 .710 .314 92
5th 2034 .282 .351 .473 .825 .355 118
6th 807 .258 .336 .420 .757 .329 101
7th 390 .276 .356 .477 .832 .362 120
8th 314 .244 .335 .378 .713 .312 81

As you can see by the table, most of the Cubs have dabbled in multiple spots in the order, which should give Maddon ample opportunity to tinker and fine tune things over the course of 162 games.

However, that table only scratches the surface. It’s also worth considering, even if only for fun, how each player has performed in various spots in the order relative to each other (some guys are more comfortable hitting in certain spots).

Below is a look at how each spot in the batting order shakes out with regards to a player’s experience in that particular spot.

In gathering data for this observation, I set a minimum of 200 plate appearances for a player to receive consideration for a particular spot in the order.

But in the cases of Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler, a pair of players who have hit in several spots in the order but have fewer than 1,000 plate appearances under their belts, I dropped the requirements to 100 plate appearances for the sake of this research.

BATTING 1ST PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Fowler 2504 .267 .362 .428 .790 .348 109
Zobrist 609 .241 .329 .372 .702 .311 98
Heyward 570 .280 .354 .427 .782 .346 122
BATTING 2ND PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Zobrist 1437 .272 .369 .429 .797 .352 125
Heyward 996 .251 .347 .410 .757 .338 111
Fowler 769 .254 .348 .386 .734 .328 92
Schwarber 228 .239 .368 .505 .874 .378 141
Baez 230 .168 .226 .322 .549 .247 52
Rizzo 221 .296 .398 .527 .925 .398 155
Bryant 122 .250 .328 .491 .819 .352 123
BATTING 3RD PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Rizzo 1725 .266 .358 .475 .833 .362 130
Zobrist 1093 .267 .347 .412 .759 .334 113
Heyward 587 .259 .336 .427 .763 .335 110
Bryant 300 .254 .343 .462 .805 .348 120
Fowler 255 .274 .377 .353 .730 .327 101
BATTING 4TH PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Montero 1196 .250 .340 .370 .710 .314 92
Zobrist 627 .280 .363 .465 .828 .361 128
Rizzo 352 .269 .358 .502 .860 .367 133
Soler 133 .207 .263 .347 .610 .263 62
BATTING 5TH PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Montero 2034 .282 .351 .473 .825 .355 118
Zobrist 594 .281 .377 .481 .858 .372 136
Heyward 396 .269 .353 .402 .755 .334 113
Bryant 143 .323 .413 .581 .993 .425 173
Soler 111 .356 .387 .615 1.003 .428 175
BATTING 6TH PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Montero 807 .258 .336 .420 .757 .329 101
Heyward 383 .310 .391 .591 .982 .418 166
Zobrist 243 .262 .374 .535 .909 .388 144
Soler 115 .348 .313 .352 .665 .289 80
BATTING 7TH PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Montero 390 .276 .356 .477 .832 .362 120
Heyward 281 .240 .335 .401 .735 .321 100
BATTING 8TH PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Montero 314 .244 .335 .378 .713 .312 81
BATTING 9TH PA AVG OBP SLG OPS wOBA wRC+
Russell 437 .246 .310 .410 .719 .314 97
Zobrist 240 .216 .269 .349 .618 .271 61
There are six spots in the order in which Zobrist’s wRC+ is at least 10 percent better than league average, four different spots where Heyward’s on-base percentage is at .350 or better and seven spots in which they can put a player with a wRC+ that is at least 20 percent better than league average. In other words, it’s nice to know that the Cubs’ two big offensive additions this offseason are likely to be successful wherever they’re plugged into the lineup.

No matter which way you slice it, the Cubs’ lineup projects to be stacked, deep and dangerous based on the histories of the players who can be plugged into the lineup on a daily basis. And when you consider the numerous defensive alignment possibilities in tandem with the numerous lineup possibilities, it’s easy to see how the options for Joe Maddon balloon rapidly.



Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.