The roller coaster 2023 Chicago Cubs season is over and the dust from the disappointing ending is still settling. Now is the time to start fully analyzing what went well and what didn't. Looking at the key position players throughout the season, we will assign our final letter grades to individual players. Grades will be based on performance on the field for the roles they played throughout the season. As always these grades will be subject to debate.
Infielders and Catchers
Dansby Swanson: B-
The numbers in a vacuum for Swanson are pretty much what we could have hoped for. He slashed .244/.328/.416 with 22 homers, .744 OPS, 104 wRC+ and was a 4.9 fWAR player. Swanson was also the best shortstop in baseball in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Def (defensive value). Having a shortstop who plays exceptional defense, hits 20+ homers, and slugs over .400 is a very good thing.
With all of that being said, his final grade took a hit with his notable struggles in the final two months. The bat really slowed down, hitting just .206 with a .630 OPS in his final 50 games. He also uncharacteristically made some big misplays in the field towards the end. This really hurt the team down the stretch. Could he have been worn out or just not 100% physically? Seems very possible. In the end, Swanson is a good player who had a nice season overall, but the final stretch can't be ignored considering his importance to the team. Now he can regroup and come back strong in 2024.
Nico Hoerner: A-
He was one of the more consistent hitters on the team, slashing .283/.346/.383 in 150 games and posting a 4.7 fWAR. Like Swanson, he played exceptional defense in the middle infield. He might not be a slugger, but he was very effective at making contact and spraying the ball around the field. Hoerner's whiff% was in the 99th percentile in baseball. There wasn't going to be a scenario where Hoerner would be a slugging run producer, but he fully did his job as a contact hitter and above-average fielder, which earned him a good grade.
Yan Gomes: B
It was kind of a funny season for the 36-year-old catcher. He put on a nice offensive showing, delivering clutch hits throughout the entire campaign, but his defense was not always as sharp as we are used to seeing. He hit .267/.315 /.408 on the year, including .359/.400/.500 in high leverage. Defensively he sported a negative DRS (-2), Def (-0.9) and career-low (-8.6) FRM (frame rating). Despite the defensive dips, he was still praised by his peers for his leadership and handling of the pitching staff.
Christopher Morel: B
Morel provides a lot of power and electricity. He went through stretches where we was hitting bombs every game. Nobody can forget the epic walkoff homer against the White Sox. He does have some flaws, whether it be holes in the swing (31% strikeout rate) or some defensive struggles. It was a bit of an adventure finding a place to play him in the field. In the end, he provided 26 homers, slugged .508 and produced a 119 wRC+ in 107 games. We can deal with flaws in exchange for the production he does bring.
Nick Madrigal: C+
In terms of offensive production, nothing was eye-popping. Madrigal has virtually no slug and is all about putting the ball in play. There were stretches when he looked like "Nicky Two Strikes", but he ended up finishing with a .263 average. Not bad, but you probably want higher from a guy who goes up there looking to rack up singles. What gave his grade a bit of a boost was his unforeseen good work at third base defensively. Having not played there previously, Madrigal finished the year playing an 8 DRS and 2.5 UZR third base in 560.1 innings. It did not always look orthodox as he had to use his whole body into throws to first, but he got the job done.
Patrick Wisdom: C-
As always, there was a lot of swing and miss with Wisdom. The strikeout rate ticked slightly up from 34.3% in 2022 to 36.8% in 2023. His defense really struggled too, and his playing time was reduced to certain matchups. However, he still produced 23 homers, 109 wRC, and a .789 OPS in 97 games. It is easy to want to give him an ever lower grade, especially with how bad he looked midseason, but he still delivered in the power department.
Miguel Amaya: C
This one was tricky as Amaya is a rookie who did not always get consistent playing time. We saw some really nice flashes from him at the plate when he first came up. There is definitely some work that has to be done, but he looks to be on the right path. It was great seeing him up this year after everything he had been through.
Jeimer Candelario: C-
Candelario returned to the Cubs organization at the trade deadline and started off hotter than the sun. He went 8/9 at the plate in his first two games back and hit .571 with a 1.545 OPS in his first six. Then, things really dropped off. Between battling an injury and a rough slump, he hit just .172/.258/.362 over his final 34 games. Jed Hoyer traded away D.J. Herz and Kevin Made to make this deal happen and it just did not pay off as well as we hoped.
Miles Mastrobuoni: C-
We can start by giving Mastrobuoni some credit, he did play pretty well down the stretch when he had to fill in for an injured Madrigal. When he was being used as a 26th man on a roster, it was okay. What drove people nuts was him getting regular starts early in the season when the production just was not there. Maybe he is trending in a better direction and can be reliable organizational depth going forward.
Tucker Barnhart: D-
He was brought in to be a defensive catcher, with offense never being a focus. His work behind the plate was actually not bad, sporting a 5.8 Def and 4.2 FRM. He worked a lot with Marcus Stroman, and once he went on the IL and Amaya was getting play time, there just was not a need for a personal third-string catcher who posts a .202 average and 53 wRC+ at the plate. The defense kept his fWAR above 0 at 0.2 which just saves his grade from being an F.
Trey Mancini: F
It was a rough go for the veteran first baseman, which led him to being let go before the final stretch. He posted a team-worst -0.8 fWAR as he hit .234/.299/.336 with a 74 wRC+ and -1.5 Ultimate Zone Rating (Ultimate Zone Rating) at first. It is unfortunate this signing did not work as he has had a very nice career but his best days look like they are behind him.
Eric Hosmer: F
Sounds like Hosmer is a great teammate and guy, but his days as a World Series champion and All-Star are well behind him. He was signed to a league minimum deal after the Red Sox decided not to keep him, but he lasted just 31 games in Chicago as he hit .234/.280/.330 with a 67 wRC+ and a 57% groundball rate.
Matt Mervis: Incomplete
The numbers for the Cubs slugging prospect were not great, hitting just .167/.242/.289 with a 46 wRC+ and -0.6 fWAR. However, he appeared in just 27 games before returning to Iowa, where he once again raked. If we had a bigger sample size there would be a reason to give him a grade but it feels like a brief stint isn't enough. We will see what happens with him next year.