Team Previews in a Fantasy Nutshell: Chicago Cubs
Projected Starting Lineup
C Willson Contreras—Contreras is the poster child for being overvalued right now in Fantasy drafts. He is going in the 5th and 6th rounds of most drafts, and I think that is about 2-3 rounds too early. I love his skills, but he is still learning the nuances of the catching position, and that will take a toll on him as he needs to concentrate more on his defense than his offense. Don’t be shocked to see him play more OF than you think—if only to relax his brain from being behind the plate and to keep Kyle Schwarber ready in case of emergency.
1B Anthony Rizzo—Rizzo is going in the late first round of drafts, and I think it might be a touch too early. It’s not that I don’t like him (I do very much), it’s more that his stats are not significantly better than let’s say, Miguel Cabrera or Freddie Freeman, who are going 6-10 picks later than Rizzo. I think Rizzo could hit .300 with 30/100. I also think he could go .280 with 25/90. Either way, he is extremely consistent, but not sure he is worth taking before pick 11 or 12 of the first round.
2B Ben Zobrist—Zobrist is a player whose best asset is his ability to play multiple positions. I love trading for Zobrist in the second half of my Fantasy season when his multiple positional eligibility helps me when I have injuries down the stretch. Sadly, I think he is slowing down offensively, and Javier Baez is starting to figure out how to hit. If this happens, Baez will get a more regular turn in the lineup and Zobrist will need John Jay or Jason Heyward to implode to keep his starting position. Look at Zobrist’s stats from last year and knock off 10% that is the type of regression. I would expect moving forward.
SS Addison Russell—Some people will look at Russell’s batting average and cringe. I look at Russell as a huge buying opportunity. Russell has the skills set to be a five-tool superstar, yet he is being drafted about 8-9 rounds later than guys like Lindor and Boegarts. I am just fine with that and hope that others continue to overlook him as well.
3B Kris Bryant—If I am drafting three overall, I think I am taking Bryant. He was good last year, but the crazy thing is that I think there is room for even more improvement! 50+ HR is not out of the question and doesn't forget that he can give you 10+ stolen bases as well.
OF Kyle Schwarber—It’s quite possible that Schwarber will hit leadoff for the Cubs this season. He decimates RHP and could easily hit 30+ HR with his smooth stroke. Even better, in some leagues (Yahoo), Schwarber qualifies at catcher which increases his value dramatically. The downside is that he might sit against difficult LHP and he is still a liability on defense. If this happens, expect closer to 450 AB than 600.
OF John Jay—Unless your league gives you points for Golden Glove defensive play, you might want to pass on Jay. I know Dexter Fowler, and Jay is no Dexter Fowler.
OF Jason Heyward—Heyward value is tumbling at drafts like a gymnast during a floor exercise. Admittedly, I have been shocked at his recent decline, but there is good news possibly on the horizon. Heyward is still young enough (and has a skill set good enough) to figure out his plate problems and rectify his career. I would take a shot on Heyward for $1 at the end of my auction, hoping that he can give me 15 HR and 15 SB and resurrect his career.
Util Javier Baez—I think Baez is ready to take the next step up in his ascent to becoming a Fantasy star. His average was very respectable last year, and he showed that he could hit for power and steal a base too. Moreover, he will qualify at multiple positions which is a boon for most Fantasy rosters. As Zobrist ages, watch for Baez to assume more ABs in the coming months. He should be a full-time player by September of this year if not sooner.
SP Jake Arrieta—If you miss out on Kershaw or Scherzer or even Sale, you can probably just wait a round and take Arrieta with your third round pick. There is nothing I don’t like about Arrieta—in fact, I think he can even improve on last year’s numbers. Even better is the fact that he has not pitched too many innings in his career; this might give him a bit more longevity in dynasty formats.
SP Jon Lester—If you want 15+ wins with a solid ERA/WHIP and 200+ Ks, then Lester is your guy. He might be getting a drop old at 33, but he still turns out season after season of good pitching. He’s my ideal SP2 on any Fantasy roster that I construct.
SP Kyle Hendricks—I bought Hendricks for $5 in my dynasty league auction last year, and I did not get one trade offer for him all season. I think I attribute this to the fact that people thought that Hendricks was pitching way over his head and they felt that if they traded for him that he would regress. Au contraire, Mon frère! Hendricks was a Fantasy stud all season and has worked his way to a 6th round ADP in 2017. He walks very few batters and keeps the ball down and doesn’t ever seem to get stuck in a bad inning. I will be very happy to roster him again this year.
SP John Lackey—I know that Lackey pitched well in 2016 and moreover, I know that he is in a contract year in 2017, but that doesn’t mean I will have him on any of my rosters. My general rule of thumb is that I like players with upside. If I draft Lackey this year, I will be hoping for a repeat of last year which is a dangerous way to draft.
SP Mike Montgomery—The team traded their top prospect to get him for a World Series run, and the deal paid off. Montgomery can start or pitch out of the bullpen, whatever is needed at the time. In fact, that might be my biggest worry about drafting Montgomery. I need to know that he is a lock for the rotation for me to spend any more than a buck or two on him in the draft.
RP Hector Rondon—Rondon is one of my favorite setup men in 2017. He gets little credit for the job he does, but he gets the job done effectively. If you believe that Wade Davis is not 100% healthy, feel free to bump Rondon’s projected saves up too.
Closer Wade Davis—Is Davis healthy? The Cubs seem to think so, and they were willing to trade Jorge Soler to the Royals to give the closer’s job to Davis in 2017. I will be watching spring training closely to see how Davis fares. If he looks like he is back in form, I love him as a top five closer once again—but there is added risk, so buyer beware.