Every year, Dan Szymborski creates a set of projections for all major-league players, including some who haven’t yet played in the big leagues.
This system is called ZiPS and Monday, the Cubs projections were released:
Dan Szymborski’s computer projects only three Cubs — Kris Bryant (670 PA, 5.8 zWAR), Anthony Rizzo (658, 4.9), and Addison Russell (508, 3.0) — to produce three wins or more in 2018, yet all eight of the positions on the depth-chart image below are forecast to reach that mark (within a rounding error, at least).
The cause of that discrepancy is as obvious as the deep, unabating terror in every mortal heart: the Cubs use platoons often and to good effect. Ben Zobrist (478, 1.9), for example, lacks a set role but is likely to complement Javier Baez (507, 1.7) and Jason Heyward (538, 2.3) at second base and right field, respectively. Ian Happ (545, 2.2), meanwhile, will probably share center and left fields with Albert Almora (437, 1.2) and Kyle Schwarber (511, 1.2).
This, I believe, is an accurate reflection of how Joe Maddon will construct his lineups this year. Of the 12 position players the Cubs are likely going to carry beginning on Opening Day in Miami, nine of them, as noted above, will likely get regular playing time, or at least as much as possible with players moving around to different positions. It should be noted here that Happ might also see some time at second base. Maddon’s good at getting his players rest throughout the season. This sort of depth also protects the team against injury, as almost any one of the “shared” players above could move into a fulltime role if needed.
The ZiPS system gives good marks to the Cubs’ bullpen, and has Jose Quintana the top projected WAR pitcher at 4.9. The article also notes:
Towards the end of January, Craig Edwards contended that the Cubs would need to add Yu Darvish in order to secure their designation as one of the league’s “super teams.” The grounds for his argument: while Chicago’s starting five were strong enough as a group, that wasn’t sufficient. Most playoff teams, Edwards notes, require eight useful starters in a given season.
I post the link to the projections and numbers here mainly as a topic to stimulate discussion; at no time are any of these numbers intended to be the be-all and end-all of 2018 for the Cubs, or any team, as noted in the article:
Both hitters and pitchers are ranked by projected zWAR — which is to say, WAR values as calculated by Dan Szymborski, whose surname is spelled with a z. WAR values might differ slightly from those which appear in full release of ZiPS. Finally, Szymborski will advise anyone against — and might karate chop anyone guilty of — merely adding up WAR totals on depth chart to produce projected team WAR.
You’ll also note projections for quite a number of Cubs who won’t come close to playing in the big leagues in 2018, let alone as much as is stated here. Explanation:’
Performances have not been allocated to predicted playing time in the majors — many of the players listed above are unlikely to play in the majors at all in 2017. ZiPS is projecting equivalent production — a .240 ZiPS projection may end up being .280 in AAA or .300 in AA, for example. Whether or not a player will play is one of many non-statistical factors one has to take into account when predicting the future.
As I said — mostly just fodder for discussion. So, have at it.