March 17, 2009

Project-a-tron, part 2 --- (some of) the infield

Next up is the Cubs infield. Here's what it is looking like right now

(Note: This was originally going to be about the entire IF, but I had so much to write about for 2B/SS that it got chopped up into 2 posts)

Hoffpauir1808.322.480.3400 (1B)
-10 (LF/RF)

Soto is the most underrated player on this team, and is just a shade below my bullish projection for Soriano in terms of total WAR. Defensively, he's not vintage Pudge out there, but it's not like he's Mike Piazza either. His defense is good enough that he can stick at catcher, and even if it wasn't, having his bat at that position is a huge asset for this and future Cubs teams.

I get the feeling that Bako has the backup catcher job sewn up no matter how he performs, due to his 'veteran presence' tag and the fact that he won't make a very big impact on the team, given the number of PAs that Soto is likely going to receive. Hill is better offensively, and it's tough to tell who is better defensively (none of them particularly shine). Given the small spread in their abilities, I would pick Hill over Bako even if he were worse offensively, mainly because he is younger and thus less prone to the random breakdown injuries that old catchers get, which means that we don't have to do any roster shuffling if he goes down.

Derrek Lee is a slightly higher than league-average player at this point in his career. We will never see the 2005 MVP-caliber Lee again, and most criticism of Lee comes from unfair comparisions to that season and the fact that he is still batting third in the lineup when he should probably be moved elsewhere. In fact, while his power has been overrated for the past two seasons by most Cubs fans, his fantastic OBP has been largely ignored. I actually think that Lee's ideal lineup position would be second, since he still has *some* power, but if he moves anywhere it will probably be to 5th or 6th.

Aramis Ramirez is a good baseball player, and is probably slightly underrated by most Cubs fans. Ramirez can hit baseballs. A long way. But it's not just home runs (though he does hit a fair few of those) - he hits a ton of doubles. Add the fact that he can also adequately field his position and you have one of the top third basemen in the National League.

Micah Hoffpauir is a good bat to have on the bench, but let's not pretend that he's anything more. He's a statue in a corner OF spot (the UZR I gave above is probably too generous), and isn't that great defensively at 1B either. He doesn't have very much patience at the plate either. He will be an adequate replacement for Daryle Ward. Lou has said that Hoffpauir is pretty much a lock to make the roster this year.