Cubs Report Card

The season is 1/7th over. Since we essentially are at the end of April, I thought it’d be a good time to go down the roster and assign grades to everyone. I’ll put a short blurb out as well.

Welington Castillo

Beef Castle has been more-or-less what he’s been his whole career; league-average at the plate and below-average behind it. Castillo is a below-average pitch framer, and that trend has continued this year. In his defense, it’s gotten better as a rate statistic, so he’s merely very bad instead of putrid. His BABIP has fallen to a reasonable .295 this year; no longer will the .347/.348 marks carry him unrealistically. While his patience has ebbed, his power has flowed. Castillo is on pace for 20+ bombs; that would go a long way towards keeping his sub-.300 OBP afloat. C+

John Baker

It’s a pretty easy grade when your line is .091/.167/.091. He’s also a league-average defensive catcher, so it’s not like that’s his saving grace. Tell me again why George Kottaras didn’t make the squad? F

Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo has been a joy to watch this season. He simply stopped deciding to swing at most bad pitches. Predictably, his strikeouts are way down, his walks are slightly up, and his batting average now rests at .284. A .365 wOBA has him 9th in the majors at first base, ahead of such luminaries like Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Davis. I don’t expect Rizzo to get on base at the clip he has so far this season, but as of right now, it’s a lot of fun to watch. A-

Darwin Barney

As a starter, Barney would be having an absolutely disastrous season. If you take him for what he is, a defensive wizard/spot starter, he’s doing ok. Since he’s half-and-half, I’ll split the C/F difference and go with a D.

Starlin Castro

It’s easy to love on Castro right now, because he just went 3-4 with 2 HR, and that’s pretty cool. His line more closely resembles 2012 than 2013. That being said, until yesterday, there was a lot of 2013 in his game. I think the truth of the matter is somewhere in the middle. Can Castro be a productive player? Sure? Do I think he’ll be as good as he was in 2011 and 2012? Definitely not, at least not this year. It’s time to appreciate the Castro we have, who makes 3 plays the average SS doesn’t make for every 2 he gives up, and who doesn’t walk or strike out, putting him at the mercy of the BABIP gods. He’s an average shortstop being paid like one. C

Mike Olt

In the time it takes you to read this sentence, Mike Olt will have already swung at 2 balls outside of the strike zone. Don’t be fooled by his 4 HR; two of those were the cheapest dingers you will EVER see, flyballs in any other park or any other day. He hasn’t been a good hitter or a good fielder, and if the choice is between him and Luis Valbuena, I’ll admit that I was wrong and that Valbuena should be getting those ABs. Olt gets a longer leash than most, given his pedigree, but he’s got to earn it at some point. D-

Emilio Bonifacio

Bonifacio is at the 120th percentile of his preseason forecast. That doesn’t bode well for the future, but who cares? He’s been nothing short of incredible this year, TOOTBLANs aside. There’s been no power in his game, and even considering his magnificent start, he still isn’t walking all that much. Still, .388 OBP for $2.5 million? Yes please. His predicted WARP this year was 0.4. He stands as of this article at 0.9. A+

Junior Lake

It’s not easy to come up with positives for Lake this season. His ineptitude in the field is dwarfed only by his ineptitude at the plate. An 80 arm is meaningless when you can’t put the ball where you want it. Lake is bad, and he should feel bad. D

Ryan Sweeney

Ryan Sweeney is Junior Lake with a worse arm. Is that a good thing? No, it is not a good thing. In Sweeney’s defense, he’s been a lot more patient than Junior has. Sweeney is a 4th/5th OF that has been asked to do slightly more than that. He’s eminently replaceable. D+

Nate Schierholtz

Nasty Nate was really good early on in his Cubs career, but since about the ASB of last year he’s been pretty poor. He has 1 (1!) walk so far this year, against 22 strikeouts. That makes Carlos Marmol look like Pedro Martinez. His power has more-or-less evaporated. He can’t hit lefties generally in his career, but this year he has a .750 OPS against them; .420 OPS against righties, though. Schierholtz is a non-tender candidate on a good team; we gave him $5 million this year and he should clear waivers and be traded later this year. F

Ryan Kalish

Kalish only plays in even years, so expect him to miss 2015 anyways. He has incredibly been pretty decent this season. A .699 OPS looks poor, but that’s a 94 wRC+. In part-time, he’s been able to work counts and get on base. The defense has been uneven, but that’s to be expected. I’m very much in favor of starting Kalish full-time right now. B+

Luis Valbuena

Valbuena has been the blade this year. Don’t mind the 99 OPS+, or the 104 wRC+. He’s walked in 20.9% of his PA, played equally at 2B and 3B, and he’s good at both of them. He’s had almost exclusively great PAs, even in his outs. I’m loving Valbuena this year; he’s actually better now than last year. A+

Justin Ruggiano

What can I say? He’s been a 5th OF, and then he’s been injured. As a 5th OF, he’s fine. What, you say? He’s starting? And batting 3rd? Oh. D

Jeff Samardzija

He’s been the second best pitcher on the team, like expected. We didn’t expect the best one would be Jason Hammel, but whatever. The only problem with his game so far is the lack of strikeouts. He’s been getting into deep counts, but so far he’s been battling through them. That won’t last forever, so hopefully he can get more strikeouts and not get fouled off so much. I also haven’t seen the splitter nearly as much this year (sure enough, Brooks Baseball has his split down from 16% to 11%). A-

Jason Hammel

Take out the solo home runs, and he’s been incredible. There’s a fair bit of luck getting into trouble exclusively when bases are empty, but there’s a measure of skill involved, too. The FIP is ugly (4.01), but the ERA is divine (2.08). Oh, yeah, the WHIP is .692. When Hammel hits his spots (down and outside), he’s unhittable. Just ask the Brewers. A

Travis Wood

Wood has been very good this year, with the exception of his last start. His strikeouts have gone way up this year, but they’ve been accompanied by a much-increased hit rate. Wood has always had freakishly low BABIPs in his career, and this year he’s been swung the other way. Still, the peripherals look good (22.8% K, 5.2% BB, .88 HR/9), so I’m not at all worried about Travis. B+

Edwin Jackson

Jackson has a lower FIP than Jason Hammel and a comparable FIP to Wood, but he’s been nowhere near as effective. Jackson walks too many, and when you consider that Jackson hasn’t given up a longball yet (which seems lucky), it’s possible Jackson has actually been WORSE than his numbers would indicate. I still fall under the “unlucky” camp, but he needs to shape up fast. D+

Carlos Villanueva

Easy here. Hope he does better as a swingman.

Hector Rondon

Rondon has been absolutely disgusting this season. When he’s on, he’s an elite reliever, and he’s on often. He can touch 98, and he has an 81mph 3-to-9 slider that is untouchable. He’s like Marmol with command right now, which is a scary proposition for opposing batters. He’ll need to maintain his impeccable control to continue his elite pace, but even if he’s slightly worse from here on out he’ll still be a revelation. A+

Justin Grimm

The Grimm reaper has been equal parts lucky and good. Sequencing luck has kept him from a dirty ERA, but he has also been pretty formidable. I trust his as a setup man, but not as a fireman or closer. Still, as the 3rd piece for a Garza rental (maybe the 4th piece, in reality), I’ll definitely take it. A-

Pedro Strop

The Feldman trade brought back Strop and Arrieta. For a while, it looked like a potential steal, with Strop finding the strike zone. dmick was right; Strop wouldn’t find it for long. He’s a live arm, but with the huge amount of walks he gives up, it’s impossible to trust Strop with much more than 3-run leads or 2-run deficits. I’ve been fairly disappointed with his lack of control on the (young) season. That said, it’s 10.1 innings. C-

Wesley Wright

I was calling for a Wright DFA earlier in the season. It wasn’t that I hated Wright; I had no opportunity to hate Wright. It was evident, however, that Renteria didn’t trust him. He refused to use Wes under basically any circumstances, even when it was evident that Russell was toast. We were operating under a 24-man roster. Since then, Renteria has loosened the reins, and Wright has been really decent. B

James Russell

Lefty No Out GuY. F

Jose Veras

Broken and bad. F

Brian Schlitter

AAAA reliever. D

Chris Rusin

Rusin did really well in spot-start relief of Carl Newhouse earlier in the season. He’s one of many slightly intriguing starting options in AAA. B

Blake Parker

1.2 innings. INC

Zac Rosscup

1.2 innings. INC

Neil Ramirez

1 innings. INC


On paper, this is a bad team. In reality, this is a really bad team. I’m disappointed in their complete inability to score, squandering what has been a pretty decent rotation. This team is a pitcher and 2 outfielders away from being pretty decent in a suddenly weak division. It’s pretty shameful that our FO has punted on this year when even the half-measure that they provided last offseason would probably have gone a long way to making this team .500. I’m not asking for Robbie Cano (though I was begging for Choo). I’m simply asking not to see Ryan Sweeney and Justin Ruggiano playing a significant role on my team.