Every year, Dan Szymborski of Fangraphs uses a system he calls ZiPS to project performances of MLB players for the following season.
His Cubs projections for 2022 were posted Tuesday and they can all be found here.
One thing I find odd about these projections is that there appears to be a projection for almost everyone in the Cubs organization, including guys who could be three or four years away from the major leagues. For example, you can see 2022 MLB projections for guys like Scott Kobos and Cayne Ueckert, pitchers you can read about in detail in BCB’s Tim Huwe’s 2022 Cubs Prospect Perspective series — but those guys aren’t likely to have any MLB time in 2022. Neither will Zach Davies, Pedro Strop or Eric Sogard (among others) likely play a single inning for the 2022 Cubs, but there they are in the list.
Anyway, on to some of the actual projections. Some of them look pretty close, like the one for Willson Contreras, who is projected at .240/.339/.442 with 20 home runs and 2.6 fWAR. Yan Gomes, who will back up Willson, projects at .246/.298/.409 with 12 HR and 1.2 fWAR in 352 plate appearances, which is probably a bit more playing time than he’ll actually get.
I was most interested in where ZiPS puts Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel.
Wisdom: .225/.300/.488, 29 home runs, 2.0 fWAR, 157 strikeouts
Schwindel: .267/.305/.474, 22 home runs, 1.2 fWAR, 82 strikeouts
That would be a perfectly acceptable season for Wisdom, I think, and the Cubs could certainly live with a 2.0 WAR third baseman. I think ZiPS has Schwindel striking out a bit too much; one thing he did exceptionally well in 2021 was put baseballs in play — just 36 strikeouts in 239 PA with the Cubs.
To pitching: As you might guess, I was most interested in where ZiPS would have Kyle Hendricks. 10-9 with a 4.20 ERA, 4.42 FIP and 2.4 fWAR. The ERA and FIP numbers are too high, in my view. Pre-2021, Hendricks had a career 3.12 ERA and 3.53 FIP and averaged 3.5 fWAR per season. It seems more likely to me that Hendricks will return back to closer to his career norms than have his 2021 season repeated.
ZiPS has Marcus Stroman posting a 13-7 W/L record (for whatever that’s worth) with a 3.60 ERA, 3.79 FIP and 3.5 fWAR. That’s just about on his career averages, but I think he’s better than that and his career numbers are skewed a bit by his outlier of a 2019 season when he was injured and posted a 5.54 ERA in 19 starts.
Szymborski does say this about Cubs starters:
Kyle Hendricks is likely to have at least some sort of bounce-back season, even ticking up a couple of notches from his projection in my NL Central Elegy once all the final data was processed and ready to go in ZiPS. I think Stroman was one of the best values so far in our abbreviated Hot Stove League, while Wade Miley was legitimately effective with the Reds and a coup as a one-year, $10 million waiver claim. I’m certainly a lot happier with this top three than I was before last year.
I would concur with that. One more decent starting pitcher signed and the Cubs would have a useful rotation, certainly a lot better than the 2021 rotation Szymorski says was “the worst Cubs rotation of the last half-century.”
You can draw your own conclusions by checking out the charts in Szymborski’s article. Remember that, like the Bill James projections I posted here last month, these are just projections and not predictions, a good jumping-off point for discussion.