Our 2013 Cubs Projections series continues with a look at 3rd base. The starting job is Ian Stewart's according to Dale Sveum, which leaves Luis Valbuena as a back-up, but even that job may be in question. It's hard to see both Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge making the roster.
I wrote a little bit about Ian Stewart a couple weeks ago when wrote about the four most likely to exceed expectations. Instead of rewriting what I already did, I'll just quote what I wrote then.
In 2003, Ian Stewart was picked in the 1st round by the Rockies (10th overall). After posting a .959 OPS in rookie league at the age of 18, Baseball America ranked him the top Rockies prospect, as well as ranking him 57th best in baseball.
The future only looked brighter for Stewart after the 2004 season in which he hit .319/.398/.594 in A ball at the age of 19. Baseball America rewarded him by ranking him the 4th best prospect in baseball. Only Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Delmon Young were ranked higher in 2005.
Colorado hasn't had a hitter like Stewart in its system since Helton. Stewart punishes good fastballs and has the strength and hand speed to wait back and drive offspeed stuff. He has good plate coverage and learned to use the whole field during the season. He adjusted when SAL pitchers began throwing him junk, and did damage at both Asheville's cozy McCormick Field (.621 slugging percentage) and on the road (.568). Stewart has average speed, and he's a savvy and aggressive baserunner. While he fell short of his goal of a 30-30 season, he did steal 19 bases in 28 attempts. Defensively, he has an above-average arm. Along with his tools, Stewart has strong desire. He wants to be an all-star and a Gold Glove third baseman, and he's willing to do what it takes to get there. The Rockies rave about his work ethic and focus on team goals.
Stewart remained in Baseball America's top 50 propects each each year through 2008. He never fell off the map by performing poorly, but his OPS's the next three years in the low to mid .800s forced us to drop the high expectations earlier in his career.
His first three years a the big league level he had respectable wOBA's. The wRC+ was better than league average in his rookie season, but slightly below the following two years. He then hurt his wrist in 2011 and was horrible in nearly 150 plate appearances. He wasn't too good for the Cubs last season either.
He's now had surgery to fix the wrist and is reportedly healthy. We could easily see Stewart return to the .330-.340ish wOBA we saw before the injury. There's also the possibility of him even being better than that. He's always had tremendous talent and is an example of a highly ranked prospect who simply did not work out. Maybe the Cubs could get lucky.
CAIRO seems to think that he might be somewhat useful while ZiPS has him projected only slightly better than Alfredo Amezaga. He's projected to be average to slightly below average on defense and just slightly below average on the bases.
Here are his percentile forecasts.
I had said that it's fairly easy to see him having a wOBA in the .330 range and that would be hist 65th percentile. I would not expect it. I'm thinking something around .300, but who knows how it ends up?
I don't want to spend too much time on Luis Valbuena's 2013 Cubs projections because he may not even make the team. I did find it interesting that both CAIRO and ZiPS project Valbuena to be the better player.
To be fair, both PECOTA and Steamer project Ian Stewart to be better. I'd guess the average of their pojections if we included as many as possible would be about equal to one another. It would probably favor Stewart a bit, but not by much. Here are Valbuena's percentile forecasts.
It's kind of too bad that both of these guys hit right-handed. They'd probably make a pretty good platoon if one of them hit left-handed