Grading the projected Chicago Cubs roster's defense by position

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The Chicago Cubs, in 2023, were in the top 10 in baseball as a team in Def (Defensive Runs Above Average), OAA (Outs Above Average), and DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). Three of their core members won Gold Gloves, Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, and Ian Happ. All three of them will be key cogs on the 2024 team. How does the 2024 team look defensively? Here are some grades given to each defensive position (non-pitcher). Players are based on options from the current 40-man roster.


Firstbase: C+

Depth : Michael Busch, Cody Bellinger, Patrick Wisdom, Matt Mervis

This position is still being figured out. Bellinger is the best and most proven member of this group. Come Opening Day, Bellinger could very well be in center with the solid possibility of Busch playing first. Busch only has 10 MLB innings at the position so his sample size to judge him there is very small. Wisdom can play an average-ish first, while Mervis' sample size in the Majors is also pretty small. Doubtful all four of these guys make the Opening Day roster for that matter. If Bellinger does become the regular guy at first, this grade gets a bit of a bump.

Secondbase: A

Depth: Nico Hoerner, Nick Madrigal, Miles Mastrobuoni, Christopher Morel

As long as Hoerner is manning the position, then second feels more than safe defensively. Hoerner won the Gold Glove last year and sported an OAA of 14 and 12 DRS (the highest among second basemen in the National League). He boasts a career 22 DRS and 27 OAA in his 1635.1 career innings at second. Madrigal's longtime primary position was second, so he has the experience, and Mastrobuoni played a good second last year when Hoerner wasn't playing.

Shortstop: A+

Depth: Dansby Swanson, Nico Hoerner, Miles Mastrobuoni

Swanson not only won his second consecutive Gold Glove at shortstop last year, but he was one of the best overall defenders in the entire league last year. His OAA of 20 was the highest among any defender in all of baseball, while his 18 DRS was fifth-highest (best among shortstops) and tied for 11th in UZR. Swanson is in his defensive prime now and until things regress it feels safe to say he will be more than reliable at short in 2024. Next up behind him is Hoerner, who's a career 12 DRS and 22 OAA shortstop. Things are looking really good up the middle.

Thirdbase: D

Depth: Christopher Morel, Nick Madrigal, Patrick Wisdom, Miles Mastrobuoni

Craig Counsell and the Cubs are working to make Morel the regular third baseman. So far it's been...up and down. He has made some nice plays in Spring Training but has had several rough throws to first. He is a career -4 DRS and -4 OAA at third in 180.2 regular season innings. Safe to say he has some work to do. Wisdom has plenty of experience at third, but his defense in recent years has really regressed, and he is not projected to be an everyday player if he makes the roster. Madrigal statically was the best fielding third baseman among 40-man roster guys last year with an unexpected 8 DRS and 10 OAA, but he is likely not an everyday player either and has had injury issues. It's a guess on how much time Madrigal will play. This is the most concerning area of defense by far.

Catcher: B-

Depth: Yan Gomes, Miguel Amaya

Gomes in his career has been a good fielding catcher. He is a career 44 DRS, 22 rSB (Stolen Base Runs Saved runs above average), and 8.3 FRM (Catcher Framing). He is 36 now and saw some dip defensively last year with a -2 DRS and 0.8 Def. He should still hopefully be solid enough behind the plate and will be a great team leader for the pitching staff. The big question will be if Amaya can take another step forward. Last year in his rookie year he was a -1 DRS, -2 rSB, 2.1 FRM and 2.6 DEF. Not spectacular stats but not at all horrific either and respectable for a rookie. Nothing says the catcher position defensively will be bad but probably not top tier either.