Micah May be Useful Yet
Prowling around the blogosphere, as I tend to do, I've seen a lot of Cub's fans ready to give up on Micah Hoffpauir. However, taking a quick gander at his Fangraph's stats, any sabermatrician can see the potential. Micah's 2009 slash (.239/.300/.427) isn't very pretty. He basically was a replacement level player, seeing only about 250 PA over 100 games -- i.e. a pinch hitter, spot starter.
Most patrons of Cubs message boards and blogs must be looking at Micah's batting average (.239) and OBP (.300), because those are the metrics playing hardest against him. However, Micah's BABIP -- which reached colossal lows in 2009 -- indicates he's got plenty of room to improve.
In Bill James' (already available) 2010 projections, Micah's BABIP lifts back to his career norm (~.300) and his wOBA jumps from exactly league average (.315) to a nice (.350) mark. ZiPS, a projection system which tends to guess low, hasn't released numbers for the Cubs yet, but I expect they will also forecast an above-average year for Micah.
His value, though, is in the ever growing issue of having too much of a good thing. At this point, it looks like we've got three, major-league ready, first basemen: Micah, Jake Fox, and (the obvious choice) Derrek Lee. Of those three, Micah promises to be the best fielder (he can also play the outfield, but he and Jake Fox are really best where they can limit their damage on defense; i.e. 1B), Fox has the greatest potential to break all the windows on Waveland Ave., and Derrek Lee is the overall best (and highest paid) right now.
The issue at hand: if Derrek Lee regresses to his career norm in 2010 (wOBA .374) and Fox plays at his Bill James projected levels (wOBA .375), then there's suddenly much less argument for paying Lee's $13M (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts) when his offensive production can be matched by Fox ($0.4M), with Hoffpauir (also $0.4M) acting as a fail-safe.
Am I suggesting we trade D-Lee, the "heart and soul" of the Cubs, the best player wearing a "C" in 2009*? Maybe I'm saying that. It depends on how angry you are.
Actually, I'm just saying: considering how tight the Cubs payroll is this year, trading Lee -- whose clearly not done, career-wise, but certainly not getting younger -- while we still can turn his current production into some future, equally-valuable production, in the form of prospects, might just be the right thing to do at this point.
Of course, if we don't trade him, he's likely to become a type-A free agent (assuming he doesn't fall of a statistical cliff this year) and we would get prospects in the form of compensatory picks in the draft -- picks which will cost quite a bit and potentially may not even sign.
I don't know the answer, but I think it's not unreasonable to think Fox and Hoffpauir could be ready to take the helm.
*Yeah, he was better than the entire Red's organization too.