If you had Luis Valbuena in the office pool, raise your hand

It’s June 19th and the Cubs are 69 games into their season. You and I probably picked Anthony Rizzo as the most productive position player on the team through this many games, assuming he remained healthy. I think most everybody would have taken Rizzo and almost no one would have taken Luis Valbuena.

Well, Valbuena has had a surprisingly good start to his 2013 season and has been the most productive offensive player on the team. Valbuena’s 1.6 fWAR is 0.1 ahead of Nate Schierholtz. Raise your hand if you thought Schierholtz would be in the top 2.

The Cubs have received very good production from three players that had no business providing it. Along with Valbuena and Schierholtz, Cody Ransom has 1.2 fWAR and is 3rd among position players. If you would have told me before Opening Day that the Cubs would have 4.3 wins from these three, I’d have said the Cubs would be in contention for a playoff spot.

That’s quite a bit of production from out of nowhere and it’s the kind of thing you see on teams that contend. The Cubs problem hasn’t been the guys who were only expected to stand at their position and be noticed while they bat. It’s been the guys the Cubs are relying on the most to help turn around the franchise.

Anthony Rizzo got off to a fast start, but has since cooled off so much he’s basically been a replacement level player the last couple of months. Those months represent the kind of production that Starlin Castro can only dream about. Darwin Barney has been a replacement level player.

Like most of you here, I have never considered Barney a significant part of the future, but the Cubs have seemed to think he is. They most certainly have considered both Castro and Rizzo a significant part of any future success. It’s unfair to lump these two together at the moment. One has actually been above average while the other has been one of the 4 worst position players in all of baseball this year.

Starlin Castro’s -0.9 fWAR is 4th worst in baseball. It’s only 0.1 less than Scott Hairston who has had 200 fewer plate appearances so if you’re looking for a positive it’s this: At least Castro has been better than Scott fucking Hairston. Carlos Marmol has caught all kinds of shit from people this year and he’s been worth a pathetic -0.7 fWAR. Castro has started to catch a lot of shit at Wrigley and it will only get worse as the season goes on unless Castro improves significantly. Even then, his numbers are likely to be so poor for some time that any out will be seen as a failure.

There’s been a lot of talk about how great the Cubs positional prospects are and there’s some truth to it. However, if Castro and Rizzo don’t improve, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot. The Cubs are hoping to get a little lucky and get a prospect they have or two to work out and add them to a core that includes significant production from Castro and Rizzo. That’s the plan, but so far in 2013 it doesn’t look too good. It’s still early, but Castro especially, he’s been awful.

Castro has already matched his worst UZR and we’re 69 games into the season. He’s been worse on the bases (UBR) than any other season. His offense is so bad it’s probably time to give him a day off and start criticizing Dale Sveum for batting him 2nd.

Rizzo has been significantly better than Castro. He’s posted a .333 wOBA and a 109 wRC+. That’s not much for a first baseman and definitely not what the Cubs were hoping to see from him. However, he has increased his walk rate and has been somewhat unlucky this year. HIs BABIP is only .268 so we should see some regression.

More than any prospect the Cubs have, they need these two to get better. They need Castro to get way better than he has been.