Two of the Ten Biggest Projected Bounce-Backs in 2022 Are Chicago Cubs

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Two of the Ten Biggest Projected Bounce-Backs in 2022 Are Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs

I’ll say right up front the two things you’re already thinking, because I’m thinking them, too: (1) I’m not sure projection systems will capture all the context necessary to comment on whether David Bote and Jason Heyward are good bounce-back bets for 2022, and (2) even a huge statistical bounce-back could leave them well short of being useful players, given how far they’d fallen in 2022.

That’s my precursor to discussing this article, which notes the biggest projected bounce-backs in 2022 using the Steamer projections, and both Bote (4th) and Heyward (10th) project for huge bounce-backs from the depths of 2021:

Neither Bote nor Heyward come in for extended discussion in the article, which is not a huge surprise because they are not as interesting as guys like Alex Bregman or Cody Bellinger. But I thought I might give the Cubs duo a mention.

David Bote (64 wRC+ in 2021, projected for 94 in 2022)

If you don’t know the Bote story by now, you haven’t been around much: the metrics have all said for years that his quality of contact is much, much better than his results … and yet the results just keep not being there. We’ve worked on some theories as to why, but even that stuff kinda misses the bigger question for 2022: is he even going to be healthy?

Bote, who missed chunks of the year with injuries (the shoulder separation being the biggy), wound up having to have shoulder surgery after the season, and isn’t going to be ready for the start of the year. When he does come back, it’ll be an open question just how much of his old game he’ll still have, to say nothing of improvement. Bote isn’t old, but he’ll play most of next season at age 29, so it’s not as if you can necessarily count on continued development from here.

Before his shoulder injury, Bote was hitting just .201/.280/.340 (68 wRC+), albeit with at least some bad luck baked in. After the injury, he hit just .197/.273/.320 (60 wRC+). It was an awful season overall, and even if he does get a good bump from here, that could leave him far short of average.

There’s also going to be the issue of playing time when Bote is ready to go. Absent another injury, he may not get regular starts, which makes it all the more difficult to put up big numbers.

Overall, statistically, you’d bet on a big-ish bounce-back from Bote in 2022 only because of his atrocious numbers in 2021. I’d love to see his huge exit velo metrics translate to big production, but I’m just not sure it’s going to happen.

Jason Heyward (68 wRC+ in 2021, projected for 96 in 2022)

With continued platoon protection and limited starts, it isn’t that hard to see Heyward bouncing back to the projected level of production. After all, from 2018-2020, he actually posted a .261/.347/.419 (104 wRC+) slash line over 1259 plate appearances. Being a slightly below average hitter in 2022 is not completely out of the question.

… but boy was it rough in 2021. Unlike with Bote, you can’t even start to make an argument that Heyward didn’t “earn” his atrocious results, as pretty much everything was ugly. Walk rate cratered, strikeouts climbed, hard contact plummeted, soft contact exploded, groundball rate increased, and so on and so on. You might not expect him to be QUITE that bad in his age 32 season in 2022, but you also wouldn’t look at that total picture and immediately think “bounce-back candidate.”

As with Bote, I have questions on playing time, too. Even if the Cubs don’t add a sure-fire starter in the outfield from here, the Cubs are going to do a lot of mixing and matching that could limit Heyward’s ability to re-establish himself. And if Heyward isn’t surprisingly showing out (at least against righties) by late May, the calls for the Cubs to simply move on are going to become pretty strong. Historically, Heyward is not a hot starter, either.

So, that is all to say, I can see the numbers bouncing back for Heyward, like Bote, but that feels more due to the depths of his starting position, rather than confidence that he’ll be much better at the plate in 2022.

(Obligatory hopeful note: but *IF* the Cubs could get meaningful production from guys like Bote and Heyward in 2022, that’d go a long way toward pushing the team into surprise contention. They don’t need either guy to be a star, or even an everyday regular. Just a solid part-time contributor would be a big deal. Certainly a lot less than was hoped for from these guys once upon a time, but we can be realistic.)

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.