Why Strict Platoons Are Hard to Come By, Versatile Value, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Why Strict Platoons Are Hard to Come By, Versatile Value, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Back on the road today, and may the snow stay south of my driving lane.

•   The IFA period opened up yesterday, with the Cubs immediately inking nine new prospects. Baseball America has since added three more names to the Cubs’ group, including their first pitcher: Freylin Silverio, RHP, Dominican Republic; Sandy Sanchez, SS, Dominican Republic; Darlin de Leon, SS, Dominican Republic. No word yet on the bonuses beyond the top three prospects, which had left the Cubs with about $1.4 million to spend across the rest of the signings (and potentially reserve $500,000 in case they sign a qualified free agent and have that much removed from their pool).

•   Ben Clemens writes about deploying platoons over at FanGraphs, but from the specific perspective of it’s not as easy as you might think to just set a platoon at a position and go with it. A lot of it is because of the roster math: even if you go with only 13 pitchers, that means you have only four “bench” spots available after the inclusion of the DH. One of those bench spots will be your back-up catcher, and at least one of the others will have to provide infield defense (and if he were a “bat” guy, he wouldn’t be a back-up infielder). So you might have, at most, two platoon-restricted bats available on your bench to deploy at certain spots, but if you actually did that in a strict manner, it would mean that almost no one else was ever getting any rest. It’s a little too easy to say you should just platoon at a spot when you’re looking at the weak-side deficiencies of a particular hitter. You have to think a little more about the whole of the roster.

•   For example, the Cubs have a perfect on-paper platoon ready for center field: Rafael Ortega crushes righties, and Michael Hermosillo crushes lefties. Done and done. Except if you actually did that as strictly as you might want, your ability to optimize match-ups for other outfielders like Ian Happ and Jason Heyward would go to about zero. I don’t think anyone wants that. Ah, but you say there are also Harold Ramirez and Clint Frazier available for platoon-swapping and rest in the outfield! Well, OK, but now you’ve just used up your entire non-back-up-catcher bench on the outfield. Not only is that infeasible for certain obvious reasons, it also means that no one anywhere else (outside perhaps of DH) can be rested semi-regularly for their own platoon advantages. There’s a reason these super strict platoons pretty much never happen in reality.

•   The best example of platoon usage Clemens could find was the way the Rays were doing it this past year after the Trade Deadline, but it worked only because they were using a whopping 15(!) position players at the time, and churning through their 11 pitching spots like crazy sending guys up and down (which, by the way, underscores the extra value of having a huge cache of optionable relievers at Triple-A).

•   All of that, by the way, reminds me how valuable it would be to have a guy like Nico Hoerner on this Cubs team able to start in almost any match-up AND play at almost any position. We don’t have to belabor the questions about Hoerner’s health and his bat development, because I’m not saying he’s clearly going to be a star super-utility guy for the Cubs. I’m saying only that, when you start thinking about the roster make-up and the deployment of players on a team like the Cubs – one without a lot of obvious “this guy starts every day at this position” players – you realize how valuable Hoerner could be if he is freed up to move around. All the more reason, again, to be sure the Cubs add a stellar defensive shortstop to take most of the starts there.

•   Kindles, books, pillows, and more are your Deals of the Day at Amazon. #ad

•   Big Brad Wieck is getting after it:

•   Marcus Stroman also getting in some specific work:

•   Having some fun:

•   Technology:

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.