The 2013 ZiPS projections have begun to come out at their new home on FanGraphs, and the Cubs projections were posted today. The ZiPS projections are unique in that they not only project the major league roster, but also prospects as they would be in the major leagues if they were called up this year and recently retired players. Most projections account for a full season of play, though it can vary by position, as catcher Welington Castillo gets considerably less time in the projections.
There are many uses for these projections, one of which is to see how the team should do as currently constructed, and even accounting for some call-ups (e.g. the rotation is projected to have only 114 starts before you factor in Scott Baker and Travis Wood).
MLBDepthCharts projects the Cubs opening day roster like this (left-handed pitchers in italics):
Lineup: CF DeJesus, RF Schierholtz/Sappelt, 1B Rizzo, LF Soriano, SS Castro, 3B Stewart, C Castillo, 2B Barney, Pitcher
Bench: C Navarro, C/1B Clevenger, IF/OF Valbuena, OF Campana, OF Sappelt
Rotation: Garza, Samardzija, Jackson, Feldman, Villanueva
Bullpen: CL Marmol, SU Fujikawa, SU Camp, MID Russell, MID Bowden, MID Takahashi, LR Rondon
Disabled List: RHP Baker
Using the 45 wins as a replacement level team that is recommended for ZiPS analysis, this team (with starts for Baker and Wood and others factored in to get to 161, any pitcher could take the final game and not have too much of an effect on the season projection), this team projects to win 82.2 games. Regardless of this very rough projection, it would be very surprising to see the team come near this total, especially since the roster will not remain the same throughout the year. However, the individual player projections ZiPS offered are very intriguing, and include a few pleasant surprises, especially from younger players.
Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo – ZiPS projects the young duo of Castro and Rizzo to be the team’s two most valuable players this season, each with a 4.0 WAR. Castro’s projected season is highlighted by a near-.300 batting average of .294, 31 doubles that are second on the team only to Rizzo’s 32, and 12 triples to go along with 24 steals and 14 homers. These numbers could easily be higher if his BABIP returns to the levels it was at in 2010-2011, though the projections have it at just .321 as opposed to around .345. Meanwhile, Rizzo puts up a great breakout season, with 31 homers, 65 extra-base hits, and 109 RBI’s to go along with a .852 OPS and a .362 wOBA. To put these numbers in perspective, Castro’s OPS+ is projected at 109 while Rizzo puts up a monster 129. Castro’s comparable is very interesting, as the projections associate him most closely with 2-time MVP Robin Yount.
Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo – Barney posts just an 81 OPS+, or 19% below league average, yet he comes up with a very respectable 2.3 WAR, thanks is part to his Defensive rating of 10 (Campana is second with a 5, while Rizzo posted a 4, and Castro a -3). Castillo hits 17 doubles and 12 homers in limited playing time, while posting an OPS+ of just 91 and a Defensive rating of -1, yet still manages a decent 1.6 WAR.
Prospects – Jackson proves to be the most major league-ready prospect on the farm, posting a 2.3 WAR, with 51 extra-base hits and 17 homers, tying Vitters for the rookie lead, while also adding 22 steals, and tying Barney for the 3rd best position player on the team after Castro and Rizzo. Jackson puts these numbers up while still doing what one would expect from him: high walk rate (10.7%), very high strikeout rate (34%), high BABIP (.339 tied for team lead with Campana), and a low batting average (.230). However, his walk rate won’t get much higher, and despite his discipline, his low batting average limits his OBP to just .317. He does put up good enough power numbers to earn a 95 OPS+ to go along with decent defense. Despite the ranking on the team, Jackson will need to prove that his off-season swing change is effective if he wants to be a major league starter long-term. Meanwhile, Watkins is just shy of Soriano’s 1.8 WAR with a 1.7, while Lake and Szczur trail just behind with a 1.5. Vitters manages to equal Valbuena’s projection with a 1.3, though that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be given more time AAA. Arodys Vizcaino and Alberto Cabrera manage 3.83 and 4.20 ERA’s respectively.
You can and should check out the rest of the ZiPS projections here.