Chicago Cubs: End-of-season grades for key players from the 2021 team

(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
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Willson Contreras / Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Infield offered decent production for much of the year

The Departed Infielders: 

Anthony Rizzo: B/B-

The former face of the franchise had a productive season with the Cubs, hitting .248/.346/.446 with 14 home runs, a 112 wRC+ and an 0.9 fWAR. While not where he was in his prime, and not All-Star worthy, he was still, overall, a solid presence. These might just be the types of numbers he puts up through the rest of his career – solid but not great. Time will tell. Kevin Alcantara, who came over in the trade with the Yankees, is an intriguing talent to keep an eye on.

Javier Baez: C+ 

It’s hard to complain about 22 home runs and 65 RBI in 91 games, but what brings his grade down to the “C level” was the sub-.300 on-base percentage and 131 strikeouts in 361 plate appearances. He also committed 18 errors at short. Baez was never a high-OBP or low-strikeout guy, but it had gradually gotten worse in 2021 compared to where he was in 2017-2019. At least the power and driving in runs remained. We will see if he returns in 2022.

The rest:

Willson Conteras: B-

One could look at the .237 average and want Contreras to be marked lower, but look at what else he brought. He hit 21 home runs in 128 games, put up a .340 OBP, .778 OPS and 109 wRC+. His .298 BABIP was a career-low. We know he is capable of more, but he still produced fairly well considering time missed and some notable slumps.

David Bote: F

Due to a combination of very poor numbers and some fluky injuries, this was a year to forget for Bote. He hit .199/.276/.330 in 97 games. His BABIP was just .235 and he grounded into 13 double plays. Overall he put up a career-worst -0.5 fWAR. He did provide eight homers, but that is about it. While not necessarily an excuse, he did hit into some real tough luck this season. He will want to start fresh in 2022 and put 2021 behind him.

Patrick Wisdom: B

Where the heck did this guy come from? In his first season in the majors playing 100+ games, he broke the Cubs rookie record for homers, going deep 28 times! He also put up an impressive 115 wRC+ on the year. For who this guy was coming into 2021, this could be A-worthy. The reason it is bumped down to B was his 40.8 percent strikeout rate and his signs of coming down to Earth a bit in the final months. Still a heck of a job by the 30-year-old rookie.

Matt Duffy: B+

A very nice find by Jed Hoyer. The former San Francisco Giant and Tampa Bay Ray utilityman started off really slow and then found a groove. In a utility role, Duffy hit .287/.357/.381 with five home runs in 97 games. He did a good job making contact and came up with some big hits. Outside of being a bit streaky, he put together a very nice season.

Frank Schwindel: A

Nobody knew the legend of “Frank the Tank” until after the deadline. After spending years in the minors and little time in the majors, Schwindel came to town and put on a show the final few months of the season. He blasted 13 home runs in 56 games and slashed .342/.389/.613 with a 1.002 OPS and 163 wRC+. Of the players remaining on the team, he had the highest fWAR. He could be the official “bridge” first baseman in 2022.

Nico Hoerner: Incomplete

Numbers wise, Hoerner showed tremendous potential. He hit .302/.382/.369, showing the ability to put the ball in play from foul pole to foul pole. If he had played a full season and put up these numbers, he would get an easy A grade. Problem is he spent much of 2021 injured and only appeared in 44 games. It’s hard to do a full evaluation on a guy who is supposed to be an everyday, long-term building block when he does not even play half the season. At least we can say what we saw in a small sample was very impressive. Hopefully he is healthy in 2022.

Sergio Alcantara: D

He was claimed off waivers from the Tigers to be organizational depth and fill-in after the deadline, not much more. He hit five home runs and six doubles in 89 games.

Eric Sogard: F

The veteran utilityman put together a very impressive spring training, but it did not carry over into the regular season. A mediocre .249 average along with a dreadful .283 OBP and .314 slugging got him DFAd during the season.

Austin Romine: Incomplete/Non-factor

Spent much of the season hurt. The reason he is mentioned is because he was signed in the offseason to be the veteran backup catcher. The many other backup catchers were either minor leaguers called up or veterans signed to MiLB deals. A total of seven different players caught behind the dish in 2021. Cannot really grade any of the others because they did not rack up much playing time and were there just to fill in.