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Chat: Rob Willer

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday March 19, 2015 2:00 PM ET chat session with Rob Willer.

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BP Intern Rob Willer is also a writer at for CubsInsider and NorthSiders Report. Ask him about anything, like whether he's crazy enough to believe that this is The Cubs' Year.

Rob Willer: Hi everyone! Welcome to my first BP chat I hope to answer as many questions as I can in the next few hours!

OB1 (Tampa): who would you prefer to build your team around Soler or Springer?

Rob Willer: I would say Soler as he is cost controlled with the nine year 30 million contract he signed in 2012. He's still only 23 years old and signed until 2020 while health may be an issue in the past I feel he'll be fine going forward.

Big Testies (Darien): Will the Cubs make a trade for a big name pitcher before this years 2015 trade deadline? (better yet, how many wins will they need to have to seriously consider trading)

Rob Willer: I have been debating this question all off-season as it seems they were in the running for Shields back in February. If the right opportunity presents itself and they can stay away from dealing their core group I see it being an option if they're around the 47-52 win mark at the break. I think that the move has to make sense not only for this year but beyond as this isn't a short term plan but a long term plan.

ChicagoOriole (Chicago): A bunch of my friends are Cubs fans, and they are not believers that the current crop of prospects will change anything. I have to believe it is too soon to tell them to believe, but about when should the team truly turn the corner?

Rob Willer: I feel the year to look at is 2016 this will be a year for adjustment for a lot of the younger hitters as they'll have their first chance at a full big league season. We saw flashes of brilliance from Soler, Baez and Alcantara but we also saw struggles which is quite common when adjustments are being made by MLB pitching. I would say comfortably I'm somewhere in the middle with the PECOTA projections in that 78-84 win window. I would say 2016-2018 becomes their window for success.

justinjabs (Milwaukee): What is the best baseball stadium giveaway planned in the city of Chicago this year and why?

Rob Willer: I would say the giveaway of the Chicago Whales Replica Throwback Jersey against the Royals on May 30th is the best in my opinion. On the historical value and them only being in existence for a few years I think it's an awesome giveaway for the first 10,000 fans.

William (New York): Is there a PECOTA standings projection that you have the hardest time believing?

Rob Willer: The Kansas City Royals after being runners up in the 2014 World Series to see them drop to 73 wins is a bit alarming. In retrospect, losing shields, butler and aoki will definitely hurt them this year but I saw them more as an 78-82 win team for the upcoming year.

Marlo (Baltimore): How many career wins will Chad Billingsley have from this point on?

Rob Willer: After switching teams from the Dodgers to the Phillies I think he has a better shot contributing this year. He is coming off June elbow surgery so that does hesitate me on a projection as we don't know what kind of pitcher he will be now after having surgery. From the reports I have been looking at it seems he'll join the rotation at the end of April which gives him about 20 starts conservatively I would say around 55-60 wins over the rest of his career barring any other major injuries.

Scott Boras (Arizona): Show me the money!!!!!!! But seriously, Cubs would be stupid to bring him up on opening day.

Rob Willer: Hi Scott, I'm an advocate of keeping Bryant down for the 12 days (9 games) as it's gets the Cubs an extra year of control for a total of seven years. Seems like a no brainer to me.

tomshipley75 (Chicago): In your opinion, what are the odds that the Cubs sign Fowler to a long-term deal if he performs to projections or better this season?

Rob Willer: I say it's around 60 to 40. He seems willing to sign a long-term deal although this one year deal gives both the club and Fowler the opportunity to figure out if it's a fit. I'm wondering if they want him on a shorter deal such as a three year deal to not mess with the development of Almora but I would say if he performs at high level they'll definitely try their best to keep him.

Allota (Vermont): Rank these pitchers according to ceiling please: A.J. Cole, Raul Alcantara, Joe Ross

Rob Willer: A.J Cole, Joe Ross, Raul Alcantara in my opinion.

g4baseball (california): He's Wilin, but how many ab's will Rosario get this year? Will they seriously take ab's away from Morneau? Make a bad staff worse by exposing them to Wilin's deficiencies?

Rob Willer: I'm feeling Wilin Rosario will get around 300 at bats for this upcoming year with the Rockies. 60% of those at bats at catcher while around 20% at 1st to spell Morneau once in awhile. I don't think they will take too many at bats away from Morneau but does give them some a backup in case of injury even though he is limited in his defense.

JP (TX): who is your favorite "from the Rangers" prospect?

Rob Willer: Kyle Hendricks. He has become a valuable piece for the Cubs some called him an organizational filler at the point of the trade. Hendricks continues to develop he won't blow hitters away but mixes his four pitches well and really invests time in studying the game. In Chicago last year we saw a sample size of 13 starts but the plan is to get him around 25-30 starts. There will be some adjustments made by hitters as they gather more film on Hendricks but he'll be one of the story-lines to watch in the 2015 season.

Shawn (Cubicle): Does Sam Miller scream at you and make you get him coffee? Be careful, he used to work Starbucks!

Rob Willer: Nope Sam has been an incredible mentor and I'm blessed for the opportunity to intern with BP. It's an amazing community of contributors and writers and I'm thankful to help out in any way I can. I might have to get him some coffee one of these day or get Craig Goldstein a sandwich.

Alex (Anaheim): I happen to really enjoy Wrigley Field, but do you think the team's commitment to the park is hurting the Cubs financially?

Rob Willer: I think the renovations needed to be done and your seeing it with their affiliates as well to increase the fan experience across all levels. After signing deals with Sloan for their spring training facility, Wintrust and a potential TV deal in the future. I don't think the finances will be too troubled over the next year with all the revenue mentioned above.

Shawn (Cubicle): Who are some of your favorite non-Cubs minor leaguers?

Rob Willer: Some of my favorite past Cubs were Ron Santo and Dusty Baker. A funny story actually my Grandfather used to get Dusty Baker his toothpick back for a few seasons about 10 years ago. I then got the opportunity to be the bat-boy for 10 plus games over a few year span. Current Cubs would have to be Anthony Rizzo. I really like his worth ethic as great showing on and off the field within the Chicago community. I'm a big believer in giving back and think he is a great ambassador for the MLB throughout his volunteering and charity work.

Robin (Boston): Say you could sit anywhere for a game. ANYwhere. You could sit on second base. You could sit directly behind the umpire, in a lawnchair. You could sit next to the left fielder and make small talk with him. Or you could sit in a really good seat in the stands. Or anywhere else. Where would you sit?

Rob Willer: I actually would like to sit in the dugout listening to what a manager goes through a nine inning game. The ability to set an everyday lineup, who to take out of the bullpen first, which bench player to pitch hit or run for or even who your closer is. I feel I would get a lot out of the experience. Also, awesome question Robin!

William (New York): Jimmy Nelson or Chase Anderson as a breakout guy this year?

Rob Willer: Jimmy Nelson has a great shot at as well as getting some big league exposure last year. He did lose a veteran starter in Gallardo to learn from but still has veterans Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza.

Q (Chicago): I think you misread this question: "Shawn (Cubicle): Who are some of your favorite NON-Cubs minor leaguers?" Carry on...

Rob Willer: Ah my apologies Sean and Q. One of my favorite non-cubs minor leaguer is Ethan Chapman. He was my first player interview and we regularly stay in contact. Ethan has progressed from Rookie Ball to Double A over the past three seasons. Another minor leaguer I enjoy watching play is Mike Foltynewicz due to him being from the area I grew up in. He threw 97 in high school it was a sight to see and was great to see him get drafted in the 1st round.

Shawn (Cubicle): Think Hector Rondon can run with the Closer gig all year?

Rob Willer: I do believe Rondon can handle the role he's put in a lot of work this spring and has shown he is capable of being the closer. The Cubs do have veteran relievers in Strop and Motte with closing experience in case there is a set back.

Q (Chicago): Am I wrong to like Neil Ramirez the most out of Cubs relievers? I think he has the most upside.

Rob Willer: Neil's a great guy and showcased plus stuff last year. He's still very young and was another great addition from the Matt Garza trade. I asked him some questions and you can see the interview here. http://cubs.scout.com/story/1410708-q-and-a-with-cubs-reliever-neil-ramirez

Rob Willer: I want to thank everyone who submitted questions to my first BP chat. If you still have additional questions feel free to email me at robwiller@baseballprospectus.com or follow me on Twitter at Rob_Willer. Thanks again everyone!


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