Chicago Cubs 2013 Statistical Preview: Hitting

The eye is towards the future, but will anyone outside of Castro and Rizzo produce?

While the Cubs pitching preview was brimming with relative optimism, there are fewer positive indicators for the Cubs lineup this year. The good news is that it would be hard for the Cubs offense to be much worse than last year. The 2012 Cubs hit a collective .240/.302/.378, ranked 26th/29th/27th in the league with a 28th-ranked .297 weighted on-base percentage (wOBA). Here is the presumed lineup for the majority of the year with our projections for these players.

Player (Position)AVGOBPSLG%wOBA
David DeJesus (CF).267.349.412.331
Starlin Castro (SS).289.331.424.327
Anthony Rizzo (1B).263.335.489.350
Alfonso Soriano (LF).251.320.492.344
Nate Schierholtz (RF).272.329.416.321
Welington Castillo (C).243.308.386.301
Luis Valbuena (3B).210.293.329.275
Darwin Barney (2B).258.302.355.285

The Future

Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are the two offensive Cubs that have a good chance to be of great value to the Cubs this year and beyond.

Castro’s spectacular bat speed has given him offensive value despite the fact that last year his walk rate of 5.2% was higher than that of only 3 players with at least 500 plate appearances in the national league. He’s already an above average hitter for a shortstop, but if he shows some more patience or starts hitting for more power, he could turn into a star. His walk rate improved drastically over the second half of last year, and he is young enough that an increase in power is possible. Of course, it’s also possible that he improves of neither of these areas and his erratic defense causes him to move off of shortstop, diminishing his value.

Rizzo is an above average defensive player at first both according to scouts and advanced stats alike. If he just repeats his offensive performance from last year, he’ll be an above average first baseman, but entering his first full year with a great record of performance in the minors and no statistical indicators that last year was a fluke, he is a great candidate to break out this year.

The Contract

Alfonso Soriano’s power and walk rate jumped back up after a terrible 2011 season. The Cubs have no expectation of contending this year, so regardless of whether Soriano repeats his bounce back performance from last year, the Cubs have no need of him. The Cubs will probably try to trade him if they can by the deadline.

The Rest

David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz have been mediocre outfielders over the last couple of years and will likely continue to be just that for Chicago. The other members of the lineup are all pretty much in the same situation. While young, none of them are currently looked at as players to build around like Castro and Rizzo. However, given that nothing is expected of the team this year, the Cubs have decided to give each of them an opportunity to prove they are worth keeping around.

Wellington Castillo has hit well in the minors and Darwin Barney is good enough defensively that if he becomes a decent hitter he will be of value. Valbuena is one of a number of young players who could see time at third this year including Ian Stewart and Josh Vitters. Strikeout machine prospect Brett Jackson will be called up for full time duty at some point this season. If any one of these players takes a step forward, this Cubs season will be a success.