It's projection season and though I've not covered them in as much detail as I have in the past, I still enjoy it. We took a look at the Cubs PECOTA pitcher projections last week and they were unimpressive. Particularly unimpressive for Jeff Samardzija, but I don't buy it.
Instead of adding commentary at the end, I'll do it before I post the projections.
Not surprisingly, Anthony Rizzo is projected to provide the most WARP and hit for the highest wOBA (calculated by me). Starlin Castro is just behind him at 2.7 WARP and then Ryan Sweeney and Welington Castillo are next at 1.7.
Baseball Prospectus is higher on Mike Olt than I am and if they're correct, he should be starting at 3rd over Luis Valbuena. Move Valbuena to 2nd base. These aren't the overall projections that you'd expect to see on a contender, but nobody, not even the front office, is trying to contend. You already know the Cubs aren't among the favorites for contention in the National League.
I thought GW made a good point the other day that while it's nice to have guys like Rizzo and their projected values, we're all going to be disappointed if they don't get noticeably better than they have been. This is a really big year for Castro. He needs to bounce back after his awful 2013 season and we'd all like to see Rizzo take a step forward.
The Cubs have been avoiding free agents and counting on young guys from within the system. Two of them are obviouisly Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. I don't know what it will take to make you happy, but I don't thinka .340ish and .320ish wOBA is going to make me too happy with either player. I don't think it helps the Cubs chances of contending in the near future and I don't think the Cubs front office does either.
Guys like Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and maybe others aren't far behind, but they were meant to be added to a core that already included a very good Rizzo and Castro. If the Cubs don't get that, they're chances of contending in the next few years takes a big hit. The Cubs are investing a lot in their success. It's not necessarily in the money owed each player since both signed team-friendly extensions, but that investment lies in the long-term success of this organization. They need both of them to be better than projected. And they also need to get lucky with additional young players.