Do the Cubs Project to Have a Lot More Home Run Power in 2023?

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Do the Cubs Project to Have a Lot More Home Run Power in 2023?

Chicago Cubs

While we wait for the Chicago Cubs to add at least one more bat, Michael was tweetin’ about the Cubs’ projected home run totals for 2023. We talked, generally, about the recently-released ZiPS projections for the Cubs, but Michael got me interested in looking at the home run projections, specifically.

Jed Hoyer said at the end of the season that the Cubs needed to keep the ball off the ground a little more, and to add some more quick-strike offense. That isn’t STRICTLY saying he wanted to see the Cubs add more home runs, but more dingers certainly checks those two boxes. In 2022, the Cubs hit 159 home runs total, which was about 15 homers below average, and well below the 190 or so homers for the teams at the back of the top ten.

So how do the Cubs project on that front? Do they figure to hit more homers with the group they have now?

Well, it’s a little tricky to answer that question, since you can’t assume full health across the board, and a projection system like ZiPS often looks at a player as if he were to have a shot at playing a full season at the big league level. For example, we *KNOW* that Alexander Canario will not be available to play a full, or even partial, season at the big league level this year as he recovers from ankle and shoulder surgeries (and then, presumably, works to re-establish himself at Triple-A). But ZiPS answers the question, if Canario were available all year and stayed at the big league level, about how would he do? (.220/.281/.419/88 OPS+, 23 home runs)

So if you just added up all the projected homers for all the players, well, the Cubs would hit like 500 homers next season. But there’s not playing time for all those guys to actually see all that time. So there’s a little bit of art and eyeball work to look at the projections, and then think about whether we could actually see more power from the Cubs.

OK, first, some of the projected home run totals for the guys who figure to get regular playing time (via ZiPS at FanGraphs):

Patrick Wisdom: 26
Dansby Swanson: 23
Ian Happ: 21
Seiya Suzuki: 21
Matt Mervis: 21
Christopher Morel: 19
Cody Bellinger: 18
Zach McKinstry: 10
Yan Gomes: 9
Miles Mastrobuoni: 8
Nico Hoerner: 7

Quite a bit of power projected for someone like Matt Mervis, with steps forward from Ian Happ, Seiya Suzuki, and Christopher Morel. I’m actually pleasantly surprised to see a decent amount of projected power. Plus the additions of Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger.

If all of those guys got enough playing time and stayed healthy enough to reach those projections, that’s 183 homers right there. See? Huge upgrade in power this offseason!

Ah, but, again, you can’t just assume full playing time and full health for all those guys. And even if you add a handful of homers around the margins for fringe contributors (Nelson Velazquez is going to hit some homers, even in part-time duty – he’s projected for 16 over a full season), I don’t know that you could reasonably project quite that many homers from this group.

That said, consider this: the Cubs had just six players TOTAL go into double-digit homers last year. They were Patrick Wisdom (25), Willson Contreras (22), Ian Happ (17), Christopher Morel (16), Seiya Suzuki (14), and Nico Hoerner (10). And even with such a light home run output among the leaders, the Cubs still wound up with 159 homers and just a bit below league average. I don’t think it’s that hard to look at this year’s group and see upwards of seven or eight guys in double-digit homers this year, and that would be before the Cubs add another bat like, say, Trey Mancini.

Eyeballing the group then, it does feel like there’s an increase in projected home run power this year, even after accounting for the loss of Willson Contreras’s homers. (Obligatory note: I cannot be held responsible for any additional MLB shenanigans with the baseball that, once again, fundamentally alter the league home run rate.)

And, since it was Michael’s original question in his tweet, how about some over/unders on the projected totals?

Patrick Wisdom: 26 (under)
Dansby Swanson: 23 (over)
Ian Happ: 21 (over)
Seiya Suzuki: 21 (over)
Matt Mervis: 21 (under)
Christopher Morel: 19 (under)
Cody Bellinger: 18 (over)
Zach McKinstry: 10 (under)
Yan Gomes: 9 (under)
Miles Mastrobuoni: 8 (under)
Nico Hoerner: 7 (over)


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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.