Archive for Cubs

Addison Russell and the Perils of Improvement

Getting better at something can open you up to new risks. Or maybe it’s more correct to say that getting better at something can make you realize that you have to get even better at it. Addison Russell has worked hard to become a decent breaking-ball hitter. He’s made strides. Pitchers have responded, though — and used his confidence against him. So he’ll have to take another step forward to keep pace.

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Spring-Training Divisional Outlook: National League Central

Previous editions: AL East / AL Central / NL East.

The World Baseball Classic is in its final stages, meaning that both the end of spring training and the start of the regular season are in sight. We’d better get through the remaining installments in this series quickly.

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The Tools of Baseball’s Fly-Ball Revolution

There’s a revolution happening in the batting cage. We’ve noticed that batted-ball data is changing slightly and that hitters are saying different things about the intentions of their swings. But on the ground, where these hitters are training to improve, a few new tools have appeared that are helping those hitters to realize their intentions with better results. Those tools make a link between hitting and pitching that may open our eyes to the possibility of better development practices in both places.

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The Cubs, Astros, and Paying the Young Superstars

Major League Baseball has an interesting economic system, including a pay scale that is intentionally designed to limit the salaries of young players in order to funnel more money to veterans. All players with less than two full years of experience (and most with less than three) effectively have their salaries dictated to them, with no recourse to move the needle in any real fashion. Until a player becomes arbitration eligible, teams get to decide how much they want to pay a player in a given year, and there is nothing the player can do to change that number.

So, naturally, most pre-arbitration players make something close to the league minimum. With no market forces to force prices upwards, or even an arbitration panel to select between two options, there is just nothing in place to push pre-arb salaries up, and teams generally haven’t seen much value in paying higher wages to pre-arb players than they have to.

That might be slowly changing.

This week, the Cubs agreed to pay Kris Bryant $1.05 million for 2017, the highest salary ever awarded to a player with less than two years of service. Bryant’s salary is $50,000 more than Mike Trout got from the Angels back in 2014, and a $400,000 raise over what he made last year. Clearly, the Cubs wanted to reward the reigning NL MVP for helping bring the Cubs their first championship in over a century, and likely also wanted to avoid the negative publicity that would come from looking cheap right after reaping the financial benefits of a World Series title. In addition to giving Bryant the highest pre-arb contract a team has ever doled out, the Cubs also gave out substantial raises to Kyle Hendricks ($760K), Addison Russell ($644K), and Javier Baez ($609K).

Meanwhile, over in Boston, the Red Sox offered Mookie Bets $950K, but he declined to sign the contract, saying that he had a different price in mind. Because Betts has no actual leverage, the Red Sox simply renewed his contract unilaterally at their $950K offer. Betts will now get the third-highest salary for a pre-arb player ever, but he also took what he felt was a principled stand in not actually signing a contract that pays him less than he feels he’s worth.

So, in a few high profile examples, we’ve seen teams give significant raises to their best young players, perhaps attempting to buy some goodwill or some positive publicity for the kind of money that doesn’t really have any impact on a team’s bottom line. But this is still the exception, as most teams continue to determine pre-arb prices by simply creating an algorithm that looks at a player’s statistics and gives them an extra $10K or $20K above the league minimum depending on how they’ve performed in their first few years in the majors.

By simply citing a calculation that treats everyone the same way, teams can claim some degree of equity in a system designed to be unfair to these players, and the salary-by-algorithm model takes away most of the need for negotiation. The team simply says “this is what our model spits out”, and then, most organizations leave a little wiggle room to move up $5K to $10K from the calculated wage in order to give the agent the chance to tell the player they were able to negotiate his salary up slightly.

But this kind of no-leverage-negotiation doesn’t always go well, and some teams use the renewal ability to create a disincentive to not sign the contract, which often creates a small story for the media and pushes the wage structure back into the public eye, where fans are reminded that their best young players have no real say in their early-career wages. This is likely what happened in Houston last week, when the Astros renewed Carlos Correa for the league minimum, which is $535,000 for 2017.

We don’t know the specifics of the negotiation, but in talking with people who work for other teams, the belief within the game is that a minimum renewal for a player of Correa’s stature was probably threatened in order to try and induce him to sign the contract the team offered, and then the team felt obligated to follow through once Correa wasn’t willing to sign. This is a different approach from the one Boston took, where they didn’t create a punitive secondary offer for not signing, and Betts was able to take a cost-free stance on not signing his contract. Correa’s resistance to signing for what Houston may have originally offered likely did cost him some money.

From a pure publicity standpoint, the Cubs and Red Sox certainly look better in this ordeal than the Astros do, but I don’t think this is all as simple as “Chicago good, Houston evil”.

After all, the extra money the Cubs are giving Bryant in his pre-arb years pales in comparison to the money they cost him by sending him to Triple-A to begin the 2015 season, which delayed his free agency by a year. Not long ago, the Cubs chose to use the rights given them under the CBA to create as much value for their organization as they could, even though it came at the expense of Bryant’s future earnings. The Astros could argue that they are simply doing the same thing, using the rules that everyone agreed to in order to maximize the amount of money they have available to spend on free agents.

But a league-minimum renewal for Correa certainly doesn’t help the Astros reputation, which already could use some work. Even if they don’t believe that paying Correa a bit more than the league minimum is likely to buy them any future discount in arbitration or extension pricing — and there’s not much evidence to suggest that a player is going to leave a large amount of money on the table as a thank you for giving him an extra $50K or $100K a couple of years ago — it would seem that at least a few other organizations are acknowledging that there’s some value in rewarding young superstars with raises substantial enough to show up in a player’s bank account, rather than calibrating the salary algorithm to hand out minuscule increases simply because they can.

In the end, the Astros can probably say this will all be forgotten, and they’re probably right about that. And while it’s easy to make them the bad guys here, they’re participating in the system that the MLBPA has pushed for, and the union has made little effort to escalate the salaries of young players, instead focusing their efforts on trying to get teams to be able to pay as much as possible to veteran free agents. By giving pre-arb players no leverage in negotiations, the reasonable expectation is that teams are going to hold down costs for those players, and the union has continued to agree to that system as the accepted salary scale.

But with the Cubs and Red Sox bucking the trend, at least with a few of their best players, the Astros don’t look great here. And perhaps that negative P.R. will become the thing that puts at least some upwards pressure on salaries for young superstars. With teams rolling in money from their local TV contracts, there doesn’t seem to be much benefit to holding a hard line on wages for franchise players. Even though the Cubs gesture to Bryant is probably not going to get them any kind of discount on a long-term contract, and they can’t really be lauded for player-friendly tactics given how they handled the timing of his debut, at least there appears to be some move towards compensating the game’s best players a bit more than before.

In the end, the wage structure that takes money from guys like Bryant, Betts, and Correa and gives it to less-talented veterans is still one the union has tacitly endorsed, and if the players want this system to change, they’re going to have to impress upon their union to fight for a different pay model in the next CBA negotiations. But perhaps the Cubs and Red Sox paying their stars nearly $1 million each will make it less palatable for future teams to follow the Astros model, and baseball’s equivalent of peer pressure can serve as something of a market force for players who have no other leverage.


Jason Hammel on Learning from a Guru

When I interviewed him in April 2013, Jason Hammel was a 30-year-old pitcher yet to hit his stride. Following his previous path, he went on to have a ho-hum season. In 26 appearances for the Orioles — 23 of them of them as a starter — Hammel had seven wins, a 4.97 ERA, and a 6.2 K/9. His two-seamer and slider showed signs of coming around, but for all intents and purposes, he was a run-of-the-mill, back-of-the-rotation righty.

That has changed. Since originally joining the Chicago Cubs prior to the 2014 season, Hammel has fashioned a 3.68 ERA and fanned 8.3 batters per nine innings. Last year, he won a career-high 15 games for the World Series champions. The cerebral 6-foot-6 hurler is now a 34-year-old Kansas City Royal, having inked a two-year, $16 million deal with the AL Central club over the offseason.

Hammel discussed his mid-career emergence, which was fueled by an improved slider and a subsequent confab with a sexagenarian guru, in the waning days of February.

———

Hammel on what has changed since our 2013 conversation: “A big part of [becoming more successful] was throwing a slider for a strike. It was kind of the idea of pitching backwards. Before, I never had a breaking ball that I could start with. I was throwing a curveball more than a slider, and the curveball is more of a… I get a lot of takes on it, because it’s a bigger break. I had to find something else with spin that I could put in the zone. The two-seamer has been a big, big pitch for me, and the two-seamer and slider complement each other really well, because they’re going two separate directions.

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Max Scherzer and Jon Lester Have Been Free-Agent Bargains

Two years ago, Max Scherzer and Jon Lester signed deals worth a total of $365 million between them, agreements which would keep both players employed into their age-36 seasons. The accepted wisdom, dating back at least as far as Mike Hampton and Barry Zito, is that signing free-agent starting pitchers to massive contracts into their 30s is a poor idea. If early returns are any indication, last season’s deal for Zack Greinke is unlikely to serve as evidence to the contrary. David Price‘s injury scare, meanwhile, provides another reminder of the risks inherent to long-term agreements with pitchers.

Not all such commitments are doomed, however. We’re just entering the third year of the contracts signed by Scherzer and Lester, for example, and so far those deals look quite good.

Two offseasons ago, Lester and Scherzer represented the only two players to receive a contract of $100 million or more. Eight other players signed for at least $50 million, though. All 10 such contracts are listed below. For each player, I’ve also provided an estimate of the value he would have been expected to provide starting with the time he signed. To calculate this estimated value, I began with each player’s WAR forecast from the 2015 FanGraphs Depth chart projections, started with $7.5 million per win, added 5% inflation per year, and applied a standard aging curve. The rightmost column indicates whether the player in question was expected to outperform or underperform the cost of his contract.

2015 Free-Agent Signings
Contract (Years, $M) Contract Value at Time Surplus/Deficit
Max Scherzer 7/210 $198.8 M -$11.2 M
Jon Lester 6/155 $146.1 M -$8.9 M
Pablo Sandoval 5/95 $127.4 M $32.4 M
Hanley Ramirez 4/88 $81.4 M -$6.6 M
Russell Martin 5/82 $109.9 M $27.9 M
James Shields 4/75 $94.4 M $19.4 M
Victor Martinez 4/68 $42.7 M -$25.3 M
Nelson Cruz 4/57 $23.8 M -$33.2 M
Ervin Santana 4/55 $16.7 M -$38.3 M
Chase Headley 4/52 $104.1 M $52.1 M

The surplus and deficit figures for individual players vary by quite a bit. Overall, however, the actual contract and value numbers are within 1% of each other.

It might be hard to believe that, at the time, projection systems were calling for Chase Headley to record $100 million in value. Remember, though, that he had averaged more than five wins over the three previous seasons and had just completed a four-WAR year. From this point, it looked like Scherzer, Lester, and Hanley Ramirez signed contracts pretty close to their expected value. The number for Scherzer is probably even closer than what we see above after accounting for his deferrals, as he makes just $15 million per season over the playing life of the contract.

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Hope, History and the Most Jason Heyward Seasons Ever

Jason Heyward had a pretty disappointing regular season in 2016 after signing a contract worth nearly $200 million the previous offseason. Heyward altered his swing in the spring, as he has frequently throughout his career, then hurt his wrist at the very beginning of the season. How much either or both deserves blame isn’t clear, but what we do know is the results were disastrous. In the last 100 years, there have been 4,578 outfielders to qualify for the batting title. Heyward’s 72 wRC+ ranks 4,511th among that group. In other words, we’re dealing with a pretty rare situation. To find out how rare — and what the implications of it might be — I went out searching for the most Heyward-like seasons in history.

To look for players like Heyward, we don’t have to understand his precise approach to the game, we merely have to run some stats over on our leaderboards. I started by looking at qualified outfielders from the last 100 years who’d recorded a single-season wRC+ below 80. I eliminated strike years and players with less than a full season of experience prior to the poor-hitting year. Because Jason Hyeward is a good defender, I looked only at players who were worth at least 10 runs above average on defense and whose offense wasn’t so bad as to render them worth less than a win overall. To keep things in the same ballpark age-wise, I looked at player seasons between the ages of 25 and 29. (Heyward just finished his age-26 season.)

I found five Heywards.

The Most Jason Heyward-Like Player Seasons
Year BA OBP SLG wRC+ DEF WAR
Darin Erstad 1999 .253 .308 .374 70 22.5 2.0
Willie Davis 1965 .238 .263 .346 77 16.0 2.1
Omar Moreno 1980 .249 .306 .325 70 11.0 1.5
Bill Virdon 1957 .251 .291 .383 79 12.1 1.5
Brian Hunter 1998 .254 .298 .333 64 19.1 1.4
AVERAGE .249 .293 .352 72 16.1 1.7
Jason Heyward 2016 .230 .306 .325 72 15.4 1.6

So these are some of the more bizarre player seasons in history. For a player to be this bad, he needs to be good enough to earn the confidence of the manager and organization. He also needs to be very poor on offense, sufficiently good defense to make up for the terrible offense, and to do it in the outfield, where the positional adjustment is either negative (like in the corners) or just slightly positive (like in center field). It’s easier to do this as a catcher or shortstop, where the positional adjustment gives you a bunch of runs right off the bat, but more difficult in the outfield.

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Cubs Notes: Maddon, Hendricks, Anderson, Zagunis

Brett Anderson knows the numbers. Currently in camp with the Cubs, the 29-year-old southpaw was indoctrinated into the data game when he reached the big leagues with the Oakland A’s, in 2009.

“I came up in an organization that was at the forefront of it,” explained Anderson. “Then Brandon McCarthy came over [in 2011] and he was even more into it than most players. So I’ve been using it, although not to the extent I do now, since my rookie year.”

A player’s enthusiasm for analytics is relative. In Anderson’s case, practicality is the overriding factor. He’s data savvy, but wary of paralysis by analysis. He’s careful not to delve too deep.

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Kyle Schwarber and Hefty Leadoff Hitters

Yesterday, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon made some headlines by claiming he was considering making Kyle Schwarber his leadoff hitter this season. Mostly, that this was a big headline reflects the fact that this is one of the slowest times in the baseball calendar — players have been at camp for awhile now, yet games are just beginning, and in many cases the best players haven’t suited up yet. It’s a slow time. Still, it’s an interesting idea. The first thought that came to my mind was, would Kyle Schwarber be the heaviest leadoff hitter of all-time?
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The Cubs of the Round Clubhouse

When I was researching a piece about the Cubs’ clubhouse culture last month and the similarities it shared with the Clemson football program (i.e. it’s OK to have fun), I stumbled upon an interesting detail about the Cubs’ new clubhouse.

I knew the Cubs had the celebration room, regarded by some as a superfluous addition to the clubhouse. There’s also an impressive new strength-and-conditioning component. The old clubhouse, something of an subterranean alley way, was converted into a batting cage. There are a number of other amenities, as well, as one might expect of a new facility like this. The new clubhouse’s footprint of 30,000 square feet is about a quarter of the size of the Wrigley Field playing surface.

But it’s one of the smaller departments of the new clubhouse that I find interesting – the actual locker room space within the clubhouse. From an Associated Press story:

The Cubs decided to go with a circular shape — 60 feet, 6 inches in diameter, matching the distance on a baseball field between the mound and home plate — rather than the more conventional rectangle to encourage more unity and equality. There are no preferred corner lockers. Everyone can see one another.

Almost every other major-league home clubhouse I have entered is rectangular in shape. Certain locker spaces, like those with no neighboring locker on one side, are reserved for the most senior and/or most talented players. It’s not unlike the corner offices in your work place, which you might be hesitant to enter unannounced. There’s a sort of hierarchy of locker space, with certain players benefiting from a location next to unused locker space, which they use to store their spill-over belongings. The middle relievers, the bench players: they typically have no such luxuries.

While I’m not an expert in clubhouse design — nor the social manners and customs within those spaces — and while I’m only permitted clubhouse access along with other media for specific periods before and after games, I suspect the traditional clubhouse shape and layout does not always foster optimum discussion and collaboration opportunities.

And, to continue a theme from last week here at FanGraphs, one the great inefficiencies in today’s game is communication. Every club has the access to the same information, or similar information, but clubs ask different questions of the information and share information differently. I presume that there are different levels of collaboration in every organization.

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Major League Baseball and Workers’ Comp

Largely overlooked amidst the hoopla surrounding last weekend’s Super Bowl, DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association, weighed in on an obscure bill currently working its way through the Illinois state legislature. If enacted into law, the proposed legislation — presently dubbed Illinois Senate Bill 12 — would amend the state’s workers’ compensation laws to decrease the benefits provided to professional athletes who sustain career-ending injuries on the playing field.

This possibility led Smith to threaten that, if Senate Bill 12 were to be signed into law, the NFLPA would officially encourage players to steer clear of signing with the Chicago Bears. As Smith stated over the weekend, “If you’re a free-agent player and you have an opportunity to go play somewhere else… isn’t a smarter financial decision to go to a team where a bill like this hasn’t passed?”

The fact that the NFLPA would take such a public stance against the proposed Illinois legislation raises the question of what potential impact Senate Bill 12 would have on Major League Baseball players, and, more generally, how workers’ compensation laws affect MLB in the first place.

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Eddie Butler Then, Now, and in the Future

Yesterday, the Colorado Rockies traded right-hander Eddie Butler to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for a modestly promising relief prospect (James Farris) and the 28th international bonus slot.

Even as recently as last year, the notion of such a move would have seemed improbable. Butler appeared twice — as recently as 2015 — on Baseball America’s top-100 prospects list. The Rockies’ rotation, meanwhile, has been quite poor, producing the second-lowest collective WAR in the majors over the last five years. They haven’t been a club, in other words, that had the luxury of giving up on a promising young pitcher.

But Colorado’s rotation has improved rapidly, while Butler’s stock has declined just as quickly. In the end, general manager Jeff Bridich concluded there wasn’t space on the roster for Eddie Butler. He made a deal.

But this isn’t just a late-January transaction that ought to be forgotten. Because Butler has shown promise. Let’s instead follow his story up to this point. He deserves it after toiling in Coors for so long, and it might provide us a glimpse of his future.

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Jason Heyward, Hard at Work

The easiest yes you’ll get in sports is by asking anyone on the field if spring training should be shorter. They agree almost unanimously. The players especially think so, since they’ve been working all offseason, too. The days of coming into town 15 pounds overweight and stepping on the mound or to the plate for the first time in months — those are long gone. Players have been working since after Thanksgiving, and maybe even earlier in some cases.

Players like Jason Heyward, who just came off the worst year of his career with the bat, might have been working even harder. There’s so much to prove. At least in Heyward’s case, the problem might be obvious and the solution seems to be in hand. At least theoretically.

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New Study Finds Link Between Jet Lag, Performance

What happened to Clayton Kershaw in Game 6 of the NLCS? According to a new study by Northwestern University, maybe it was jet lag.

Looking at 20 major-league seasons and 40,000 games’ worth of data, researchers found that jet lag perceptibly “impairs” player and team performance. The study is likely to be passed around many major-league front offices and strength-and-training departments. In a sport where every team is looking for hidden value at the margins, the value of better rest and recovery is just beginning to be explored, understood and focused upon — and is perhaps a considerable inefficiency in the game.

Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian-rhythms expert, led the study:

“The negative effects of jet lag we found are subtle, but they are detectable and significant. And they happen on both offense and defense and for both home and away teams, often in surprising ways….

“For Game 6, the teams had returned to Chicago from LA, and this time the Cubs scored five runs off of Kershaw, including two home runs. While it’s speculation, our research would suggest that jet lag was a contributing factor in Kershaw’s performance.”

One of the homers in question:

Of course, Kershaw did pitch on extra rest that start, and Kyle Hendricks himself did just fine after traveling back east, but perhaps the rest could not save Kershaw from the clutches of jet lag.

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Finding the Next Kyle Hendricks

Over 450 innings into his major-league career, Kyle Hendricks possesses both an ERA under 3.00 and a third-place finish in Cy Young voting. That’s impressive. Even after accounting for the regression he’s likely to experience in the future, he’s nevertheless proven himself to be an apt pitcher at the major-league level, something that we didn’t see coming as he ascended the ranks as a prospect. He’s done enough to wonder why we missed on him, and what he can teach us about other young pitchers out there.

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Cubs Add Brett Anderson, Remain Vulnerable

The Chicago Cubs are almost perfect.

Coming off a World Series title, FanGraphs’ expected wins totals placed the Cubs at 99 victories back in November.

The young, enviable core remains. The top four starters return from the most effective rotation in baseball last season. While Aroldis Chapman departed, Wade Davis entered. Even David Ross is still around, though he’s moving upstairs to the front office. OK, not everything has gone the Cubs’ way in recent times. Quipped Cubs president Theo Epstein in regard to Tyson Ross‘ decision to sign with the Rangers: “We went 1-for-2 in Ross signings.”

Ross’ choice didn’t seem like a big deal, but maybe it will be a big deal.

As dominant as they were a year ago, the Cubs also benefited from a tremendous amount of good fortune in 2016: their starting rotation remained remarkably healthy.

Consider that, en route to a 103 wins in the regular season, five Cubs starting pitchers – Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, and Jon Lester – made at least 29 starts. It’s an extremely rare feat.

The Cubs are unlikely to be as fortunate this season, and the their rotation depth appeared thin entering the fourth week of January. Regression to the injury-fortune mean, combined with a lack of quality rotation depth, appeared to be the one glaring weakness facing the Cubs. (There are perhaps some bullpen issues, too.)

A Jeff Sullivan study in 2014 found teams can expect to cobble together 32 starts by pitchers outside their top-five rotation options in a given season.

A Jeff Zimmerman study found all pitchers have at least a 40% chance of landing on the disabled list in a season, risk that increases with age.

Andrew Simon of MLB.com wrote last spring that, since 1998, teams have averaged 10.3 starting pitchers used per season. Wrote Simon:

“Just 14 teams — or not even one per year — needed six starters or fewer. The last to do so was the 2013 Tigers.”

Lackey is 38. Lester is 33. Hendricks is coming off a career-high workload. There’s also Arrieta’s second half, including only a 10.6-point differential between his strikeout and walk rates (K-BB%), that has some in Cubs Nation uneasy. Beyond those four reside questionable depth and the unknown.

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Pick the Better 2017 Hitter

Imagine how Jason Heyward would feel if the Cubs didn’t win the World Series. On one side of the coin, any non-championship season falls short because of countless different reasons, and on the other side of the coin, Heyward still has to care the most about his own performance. But for as bad as he was, at least the title took the edge off. He remained an outstanding defender. And the team around him literally won everything you could win. Bad, though. Jason Heyward’s hitting was bad. Maybe worse than you thought. Maybe exactly as bad as you thought.

Here are three numbers:

  • BA: .255
  • OBP: .306
  • SLG: .336

Pretty bad performance from Jason Heyward, you’d say. You’d be right! But you’d also be wrong, because those three numbers were posted by Jose Iglesias. Heyward’s hitting was even worse. He wasn’t supposed to become an outfield version of the no-hit shortstoppy whiz.

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Top 23 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Chicago Cubs farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DETKC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATLMIA, NYMPHI)

Cubs Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Eloy Jimenez 20 A OF 2019 60
2 Ian Happ 22 AA 2B 2018 55
3 Oscar De La Cruz 21 A RHP 2019 50
4 Jeimer Candelario 23 MLB 1B 2017 50
5 Jose Albertos 18 R RHP 2020 45
6 Albert Almora 22 MLB CF 2017 45
7 Dylan Cease 21 A- RHP 2019 45
8 Trevor Clifton 21 A+ RHP 2018 45
9 Mark Zagunis 23 AAA OF 2017 45
10 Jose Rosario 26 AAA RHP 2017 45
11 DJ Wilson 20 A- OF 2020 40
12 Eddie Martinez 21 A OF 2019 40
13 Aramis Ademan 18 R SS 2020 40
14 Victor Caratini 23 AA C/1B 2017 40
15 Felix Pena 26 MLB RHP 2017 40
16 Thomas Hatch 22 R RHP 2018 40
17 Isaac Paredes 17 R INF 2022 40
18 Chesny Young 24 AA INF 2018 40
19 Donnie Dewees 23 A+ LF 2018 40
20 Jose Paulino 21 A LHP 2019 40
21 Bryan Hudson 19 A- LHP 2022 40
22 Duane Underwood 22 AA RHP 2018 40
23 Bailey Clark 22 A- RHP 2019 40

60 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic
Age 20 Height 6’4 Weight 235 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/50 70/80 50/70 45/40 45/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded .204 ISO in full-season ball at age 19.

Scouting Report
Jimenez has perhaps the most explosive raw power projection in the minors. When he debuted in the states it was clear his broad-shouldered, 6-foot-4 frame would one day fill out and yield all kinds of crazy power. (He already had at least 55 raw at age 18.) That said, I didn’t expect so much of it to come before Jimenez turned 20. Even when he took batting practice alongside some of the other more prodigious power prospects in the game (Dylan Cozens and Christin Stewart, to name two) at the Futures Game and at Fall Stars, Eloy’s power stood head and shoulders above everyone else’s. Not only does he hit blasts in BP that threaten to enter geocentric orbit but low-lying line drives that, if they don’t clear the wall, seem likely to blast through it.

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Do All the Free-Agent Sluggers Have a Home?

It’s true that, if you look at the free agents who remain unsigned this offseason, you’ll find a lot of power still available. Franklin Gutierrez, Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo: all three produced an isolated-slugging figure greater than .200 last season. All three are projected by Steamer to produce better than a .195 ISO in 2017. All three have yet to find a team for the 2017 season.

Given the general demand for power, you might wonder why so many of these sluggers don’t have jobs yet. A look both at the supply and the demand in the league reveals a possible cause, however: handedness. There might be an obstacle, in other words, to matching those free agents with the right teams.

To illustrate my point, let me utilize the depth charts at RosterResource. What’s nice about RosterResource, for the purposes of this experiment, is that the site presents both a “go-to” starting lineup and also a projected bench. Here’s a link to the Cubs page to give you a sense of what I mean.

In most cases, a team will roster four non-catcher bench players. Looking over the current depth charts, however, I find 15 teams with only three non-catcher bench players on the depth chart (not to mention five additional bench players who are projected to record less than 0 WAR). For the purpose of this piece, let’s refer to these as “open positions.”

Fifteen! That’s a lot. It means we’re likely to see quite a few signings before the season begins. Of course, not all these openings are appropriate for the power bats remaining on the market. Most of those guys are corner types, if they can play the field at all, while some of those 15 clubs have needs at positions that require greater defensive skill.

For example, Anaheim might need an infielder or a third baseman for their open bench spot. The White Sox need a right-handed center fielder to platoon with lefty Charlie Tilson. Detroit needs a center fielder, maybe a right-handed one — and in the process of writing this piece, they got one in the form of the newly acquired Mike Mahtook maybe. If Mel Rojas Jr. can’t play center in Atlanta, they need a (right-handed?) center fielder, too. The Yankees may need a third baseman — and, if not that, definitely someone with some defensive ability on the infield.

So that reduces the number of open positions to 10. That’s 10 slots that could be filled by an offensive piece with little defensive value. Here are the teams that, by my estimation, have an opening for a slugger: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago (NL), Cleveland, Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle, Tampa, Texas, and Toronto.

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Let’s Find the Dodgers a Second Baseman

For the better part of the off-season, the Dodgers and Twins have reportedly been trying to strike a fair deal for Brian Dozier. The Twins second baseman is a highly valuable player, but with only two years left of team control, he’s probably a better fit for a contender than a rebuilder, and right now, the Twins are still in the latter category. But, for whatever reason, the two sides seem to value Dozier differently, and as of last week, it appears that both teams have decided there isn’t a fit, at least not right now.

So, with Dozier potentially off the table, let’s see if we can find the Dodgers another second baseman.

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