Top Notes From the Chicago Cubs ZiPS Projections for 2024

The Chicago Cubs have the opportunity to swipe the NL Central from the Brewers in 2024. How does ZiPS think the North Siders will fare?

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - APRIL 01: Dansby Swanson #7 of the Chicago Cubs at bat against the Milwaukee Brewers during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field on April 01, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

There is a whole lot of uncertainty surrounding the National League Central as we head into 2024. As of right now, that uncertainty might play well in the Chicago Cubs’ favor.

Last year, the Cubs went 83-79 and somewhat surprisingly took home a second-place finish in the division. The Cardinals, who were projected to win the NL Central rather easily, flopped and finished last.

While it’s far from a guarantee that things go the same way this year, it’s also worth noting that we can expect the Brewers to regress. After trading Corbin Burnes (and potentially moving Willy Adames next), they’re unlikely to remain atop the division.

Enter the Cubs. They outperformed projections last year and can easily do the same in 2024.

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Speaking of projections, let’s check out ZiPS and see what the system thinks the Cubs will pull off in the upcoming season. For those unfamiliar with how ZiPS works, here’s a quick refresher.

ZiPS is a system of player projections developed by FanGraph’s Dan Szymborski… ZiPS uses past performance and aging trends to develop a future projection for players. On FanGraphs, the projections are updated daily and predict each player’s numbers over the course of the remainder of the season… Obviously, no one is claiming that every ZiPS prediction will come true, but it is widely regarded as one of the most accurate predictors in the industry. on “sZymborski Projection System (ZiPS)”

Cubs ZiPS: Position Players

Last year, the Cubs were the sixth-highest-scoring team in baseball. They were only 11th in batting average and 12th in wRC+, but ZiPS may think the best is yet to come.

  • The power hitters are really going to bring it. ZiPS sees a total of six big leaguers hitting 20 or more home runs in the upcoming season. Christopher Morel (28), Dansby Swanson (21), Michael Busch (23), Seiya Suzuki (21), Ian Happ (20) and Patrick Wisdom (20) are projected to lead the way.
  • Just Baseball’s No. 8 Cubs prospect gets no love. Utilityman James Triantos, who possesses the “best hit tool in the Cubs system” per our own Aram Leighton, projects for a dismal 77 wRC+. Thankfully, the youngster won’t be knocking on the big league door anytime soon. At 21 years old, he has only played three games above High-A.
  • The Cubs’ in-house Cody Bellinger replacement fills in nicely. Pete Crow-Armstrong, Just Baseball’s top Cubs prospect, is the team’s center fielder of the future. Roster Resource says Mike Tauchman will be the Opening Day CF, but PCA is the long-term option. ZiPS thinks he’ll hit 16 home runs with 90 runs scored across 124 games. PCA, already one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, is also projected for 7.7 DEF and 2.3 fWAR.
  • Michael Busch finally gets his shot – and pops off. Only just recently acquired from the Dodgers after being a victim of a roster crunch, Busch should be the Cubs’ primary first baseman this year. ZiPS sees him popping off, hitting 23 home runs with 77 driven in across 128 games. His 115 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR are both near the top of the Cubs’ lineup in the projections.

Cubs ZiPS: Pitching Staff

Cubs pitchers did “just okay” last year, and an upgrade was sorely needed. One Shota Imanaga later, and their outlook is looking much, much more promising.

Starting Rotation

  • It’s Shota’s world and we’re just living in it. ZiPS absolutely loves Imanaga and believes he’s going to completely take the rotation over. In 25 starts, he projects to post a 3.55 ERA with a total of 3.0 fWAR, both of which would lead the staff. It remains to be seen how he’ll adjust to playing stateside, but ZiPS thinks he’ll be just fine.
  • Justin Steele is going to look a bit more human this year. Last season, the southpaw was easily the best starter on the staff. ZiPS thinks he’ll still be a solid starter, but maybe not quite at the same level. He projects to experience a drop-off in strikeouts, an increase in walks and HR/9, and see his fWAR slashed from 4.9 in 2023 to 2.6 in 2024.
  • The Cubs’ aging veterans will be serviceable, nothing more. Jameson Taillon projects to post a 4.41 ERA across 26 appearances, which is about all you can expect from him at this point in his career. Kyle Hendricks is almost the exact same story, as his projected ERA is the same as Taillon’s in one fewer start. Drew Smyly projects to be a swingman, but to worse results than his teammates, posting a 4.54 ERA in 32 outings (21 starts) with a 4.63 FIP.
OSAKA, JAPAN – MARCH 09: Pitcher Shota Imanaga #21 of Japan throws in the bottom of 1st inning during the game one between Japan and Mexico at Kyocera Dome Osaka on March 9, 2019 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)


You pretty much know what you’re going to get from the Cubs bullpen at this point: lots of strikeouts and lots of walks. ZiPS doesn’t see them changing that up much in the 2024 season.

  • Hector Neris will be an important piece of the puzzle. Neris, the newest member of the Cubs, has long been a premier reliever in the game. While ZiPS doesn’t think he’ll replicate his 1.71 ERA from last year, he is still good for 62 appearances of 3.90 ERA-ball with over 10 strikeouts per nine innings once again.
  • Adbert Alzolay will keep his hold on the closer’s role for another year. The former starter has taken to the bullpen nicely, as he earned 22 saves in 58 games last year with a 2.67 ERA. ZiPS sees 28 more saves in just 42 games. His 3.73 projected ERA isn’t quite as shiny as it was last year, but it’s a number the Cubs would gladly take from him.
  • The strikeouts are still going to come in bunches. ZiPS projects a whopping six Cubs relievers to post a K/9 over 10.00 in 2024. Three of those arms should be mainstays in the bullpen (Neris, Julian Merryweather, and Yency Almonte), while the other three are rookies with limited big league experience (Luke Little, Riley Martin, and Zac Leigh). Merryweather is a name to watch, as he took an extended opportunity last year and ran with it, making 69 appearances with a 3.38 ERA.

Final Thoughts

With the NL Central up for grabs, the Cubs have a legitimate shot at surprising people once again. Per Dan Szymborski, the creator of ZiPS, the projection system sees the club as an 83-88 win team, but we’ve seen them outperform expectations before.