Chicago_Cubs5

Welcome to the 2016 Razzball Team Previews! You’ll find everything you need to know about each team to get yourself ready for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. And I mean everything, folks. We’ve got line-ups, charts, Slurpees, lube, a guide for beginner electricians, and even a cactus! Well, that’s a lie. That’s what Jay had last year sitting in front of him. This year? Um…a little less lube? Take that as you will. But hey, we’ve got teams to preview and questions to ask, so let’s hop to it. We a very special guest for this post…Neil Finnell, to provide his take on what the team has in store this season. Now enough rambling, let’s see what 2016 holds for the Chicago Cubs!

2016 Chicago Cubs Depth Chart & Projections

Starting Lineup

Order Pos Player AB R HR RBI SB AVG
1 2B Ben Zobrist 469 70 12 54 6 0.273
2 CF Jason Heyward 579 91 18 72 18 0.284
3 3B Kris Bryant 549 87 31 96 11 0.273
4 1B Anthony Rizzo 551 92 32 99 10 0.279
5 LF Kyle Schwarber 477 73 25 76 5 0.261
6 RF Jorge Soler 441 55 17 63 4 0.260
7 C Miguel Montero 298 34 9 37 2 0.244
8 SS Addison Russell 484 56 14 60 9 0.247

Bench

Pos Player AB R HR RBI SB AVG
2B/SS Javier Baez 306 39 15 46 8 0.252
IF Tommy La Stella 161 18 2 17 2 0.277
OF Chris Coghlan 261 30 6 31 5 0.247
OF Matt Szczur 78 8 1 8 3 0.248
C David Ross 122 12 3 13 1 0.197

Starting Rotation

Role Player W SV IP K ERA WHIP
1 Jake Arrieta 15 0 208 219 2.95 1.12
2 Jon Lester 14 0 204 202 3.16 1.13
3 John Lackey 12 0 193 164 3.68 1.21
4 Kyle Hendricks 11 0 166 139 3.5 1.21
5 Jason Hammel 10 0 157 144 3.76 1.20

Bullpen

Role Player W SV IP K ERA WHIP
CL Hector Rondon 4 34 65 65 3.14 1.18
SU Pedro Strop 4 2 65 73 3.08 1.20
MID Rex Brothers 1 0 25 28 3.96 1.44
MID Justin Grimm 3 1 55 63 3.04 1.18
MID Adam Warren 2 0 40 39 3.08 1.17
LR Trevor Cahill 3 1 55 51 3.54 1.30
LR Clayton Richard 2 0 30 20 3.59 1.29
LR Travis Wood 4 0 63 62 3.37 1.22

Note: Projections provided by Steamer.

 

And now we specifically want to get to the specifics. So, let’s bring in Neil Finnell from Chicago Cubs Online to give us the low down on Chicago in 2016.

Gotta start with the elephant in the room: Is this the year the Cubbies finally win a Series and restore the collective lost hope of Chicago baseball generations past? Haha, I really have no gauge on the hope and confidence level of fans, but I know this storyline won’t be going away anytime soon. These baby Cubs are good. Really good. So while it doesn’t have much to do with fantasy, what’s your outlook on the 2016 season for the Cubs? Final record and chances at a World Series pennant, please.

Neil Finnell: Predicting a World Series winner is impossible to do. Do I think the Cubs have a legitimate shot at winning the division and advancing in the tournament? Yes, but I will not predict them achieving the ultimate goal. Too much has to go right that can often be out of a team’s control to win a World Series.

I think a large portion of the fan base is viewing the upcoming season as World Series or bust for the Cubs. There is a ton of cautious optimism that this is the year. It very well could be, but expecting that as the end result could lead to a frustrating and unenjoyable summer.

The Cubs goal is to win the NL Central and avoid the Wild Card Game. In order to edge out the Cardinals and Pirates, it’s probably going to take 95 wins. So many things went right for the Cubs last season. With the depth that was added, I will go with a 95-67 record. Once in the post-season, anything is possible.

Haha, didn’t exactly take the bait I was looking for, but 95 W would certainly solidify them as a World Series contender. Now to more specifics, that lineup is about as deadly as any in the majors. There’s some volatility throughout it, but it’s packed with more young’ns than a One Direction concert. At 26 years old, both Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo are essentially the savvy vets of the group, with five incredible bats behind them. Which of those five under 25 (Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, Addison Russell, Jorge Soler) takes the biggest step forward in 2016? (And sweet mercy…I can’t believe I just typed out all those names. And under 25? I WANT THEO!)

Neil Finnell: Addison Russell. For as good as Russell was last season, especially after moving to shortstop, he has the most room to grow offensively from the numbers he put up last year. Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber would have to hit 40 homers and drive in 120 in order to top last season in the eyes of most people. Javier Baez performed well at the plate in September and outside of the low home run total and high strikeout total, Jorge Soler had a solid year. Russell hit .242/.307/.389 with 29 doubles, a triple, 13 home runs and a .696 OPS last season. This year his bat starts catching up to projections and the Gold Glove caliber defense.

If he takes that next step it will catapult that infield even further, currently headlines at the corners. You could easily make a case that both Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are top 5 fantasy picks this year, and according to their Steamer projections they’re primed for similar MVP-level seasons. You can only pick one, clearly a win-win situation, but who do you take and why?

Neil Finnell: Well, if Kris Bryant stays on his career path, he will win the NL MVP. Bryant was the College Player of the Year (2013), Minor League Player of the Year (2014) and NL Rookie of the Year (2015), so MVP in The Show is next, right? It will be interesting to see the adjustments he’s made this off-season when Spring Training starts. If I had to pick one, all kidding aside, it would be Anthony Rizzo.

Rizzo has put together back-to-back MVP-caliber seasons and should see more time off this year to keep him fresh in August and September. It’s easy to forget how good Rizzo was before the break last season (.298/.413/.542/.955, 24 doubles, two triples, 16 home runs). He ran out of gas and Maddon should give him more time off this year, and that is the plan from the way I understand it.

Anthony Rizzo should benefit by hitting in the improved lineup and actually give Bryce Harper and Paul Goldschmidt a run for their money for the MVP award this season.

And become the top hitter in the NL. That’d be crazy since arguably the top SP is already in Chicago. Not since Greg Maddux in 1992 has a Cub brought the award home to Chicago. And then last season Jake Arrieta happened. He was unhittable to the tune of a 1.77ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 236 Ks and 22 W. I mean, sweet mercy, it’s the second coming of Greg Maddux! (And as a Braves fan, I’d love to have Arrieta come south, too!) This was the first taste of dominance for Arrieta, though, whereas Maddux is arguably the greatest pitcher of all-time. So, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. However, I expect great things from Jake once again in 2016. Will he fall over or under the Steamer projection, 208IP/15W/219K/2.95ERA in 2016? As always with Steamer, it seems a little conservative.

Neil Finnell: Let me start by saying Jake Arrieta has been pretty darn good since teaming up with Chris Bosio. Because the Cubs finished last in the division in 2014, Arrieta’s breakout season is often overlooked. Was he as dominant as he was from late-June on last year? No, but no one in the history of the game has ever pitched the way Arrieta did after the break.

Arrieta was 10-5 in 25 starts with a 2.53 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 2.26 FIP in 2014. Arrieta allowed 46 runs, 44 earned, on 114 hits with 41 walks and 167 strikeouts in 156 2/3 innings. And he’s 36-13 in 67 starts with a 2.26 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 2.62 WHIP over three seasons with the Cubs.

There will be a regression for Arrieta, it would be naïve to think he can match what he did last year. Equaling the projection would be a good year, but closer to his 2014 performance is what I think he’s capable of for the 2016 season.

Which is still an incredibly elite mark. Alright, we only have time for one more question. I could ask plenty others about my favorite to win the NL, about the underrated bullpen or the chances Jon Lester outperforms Arrieta (35%?), but I want to focus on a player who is slated for the bench, but should receive a healthy number of ABs: Javier Baez. I mentioned him in that group of studs above, the ‘five under 25,’ but really he’s nothing but a prized prospect dripping with power in the minor leagues that hasn’t put it together yet on the big stage. I bought into the hype big time two years ago, but my patience is wearing thin. Can he drop his K% and actually put together a season worthy of his touted perception?

Neil Finnell: Strikeouts, and lots of them, will always be part of Javier Baez’s game. Baez showed an improved approach offensively last season, both in the minors and majors. His career should be full of extremes, both in the power numbers and strikeouts. If you gauge his performance only on cutting down the strikeout rate, he will not meet expectations, but as a player that can play above average defense at three positions (SS, 2B and 3B – and potentially the OF) and a 20-20 season at the plate, Javier Baez will provide great value to the Cubs.

Thanks Neil for the conversation about the Chicago Cubs in 2016! The Cubs will certainly make waves in the fantasy world this season with so many assets. Be on the lookout for them in your rankings, as teams stacked with this version of the Cubbies will likely find high success in 2016.

Keep checking back! More 2016 Team Previews to come!

 
  1. Jbona3 says:
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    A name that jumps out at me that didn’t get much attention is Kyle Hendricks – first, does he keep his spot in the rotation? And secondly, what are your thoughts on him building on his 2015 and possibly breaking out? Looking at his peripherals, he was very unlucky in the ERA department.

    • @Jbona3: Good call on Hendricks. He won’t top the rotation, and, unfortunately, didn’t fit into the 5 pressing questions I wanted to ask. However, he’s someone who helped me last season with his ratios and splits. He’s only 26 and comes into the season as a great sleeper if he can keep his K/9 at the 2015 level rather than 2014. I doubt it remains as high (8.35), given his track record, but he can still remain relevant even if that drops to the mid-7’s. He’s more of a great streamer option than a lockdown member of your fantasy staff. If he comes out strong, there’s no reason to think he can’t hold the job all year and compile close to the 180 IP he had last year. Stumble even a little bit, in a year when the Cubs should seriously contend, and he may get bumped for Travis Wood.

  2. Charles In Charge says:
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    Expected to see a little more love for Soler. With a full healthy season I could easily see 20-25 homers and .280 avg.

    • @Charles In Charge: Who died to make you in charge? Ha! Bringing it back from the 80’s. Nice. You have to remember that Steamer projections are notoriously conservative compared to others, but 17 HR in only 440 AB is nothing to ignore. Up that number to 550, with the health you mentioned, and he could get into the 22-25 range. Solver’s a great post-hype sleeper this year.

  3. mike says:
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    I don’t understand why so many people think Baez is a great or even good defender. The numbers just don’t dhow it. His fielding percentages have been below average to horrible at every stop.

    His K rate went down in his late season call up, but so did his power.

    I like the kid, but IDK if he ever reaches expectations. Then again, those are so high, if he just comes relatively close he’ll be pretty good.

    • @mike: I think his ability to play multiple positions may provide the defensive value for the Cubs, more than his actual glove. Yes, the K rate is still alarming, but he’s young enough to still figure it out. It’s rare that someone mashes in the minors like he did and it not translate at all into the majors.

      Proper expectations is the main thing for him. Coming into 2014 he was a top 5 prospect, period. That’s certainly been tampered, but it’s not so devoid that he’s not worthy of a look in deeper leagues. I believe he could rack up some counting stats with enough ABs (I just don’t think he gets them in CHI…may do better on a different team).

  4. Kendrick Twerkins says:
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    I think adding lackey and zobrist doesn’t get them past the Mets if they replayed the nlcs but I’m biased as a mets fan.

    • Doink says:
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      >(Rizzo) ran out of gas and Maddon should give him more time off this year
      I dunno about running out of gas. His monthly splits reflect a regression even before the break:
      Mar/Apr .324
      May .314
      Jun .269
      Jul .250
      Aug .265
      Sept/Oct .261
      Thoughts?

      • Doink says:
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        please do not approve this errant reply to Kendrick Twerkins (damn Internet Exploder problem). Instead consider subsequent exact same comment inline with questions for [email protected] kTHXbye

    • @Kendrick Twerkins: My projected NL Playoff teams are CHC, NYM, SF and and incredible race between PIT, STL, LAD and WAS for the two wild card spots. That being said, you’re right, the Mets will be very difficult to get through in a playoff series due to their rotation. You move Matz to the pen in the playoffs and they’re gonna be a hard beat, but the Cubs may have the best shot at getting through them with their dangerous lineup and incredible 1-2 punch at the top of their staff.

  5. Doink says:
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    >(Rizzo) ran out of gas and Maddon should give him more time off this year
    I dunno about running out of gas. His monthly splits reflect a regression even before the break:
    Mar/Apr .324
    May .314
    Jun .269
    Jul .250
    Aug .265
    Sept/Oct .261
    Thoughts?

    • @Doink: I don’t think he necessarily ran out of gas, as much as I think the Jun-Oct Rizzo may be closer to his norm than the .315+ avg Mar-May version. His Steamer projection seems on point with his power and avg. He’s as legit as it comes. .280 seems right.

  6. FKA Ralph says:
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    I’m in an AL only league where we each have an MLB franchise from which the majority of our roster must be constructed. My team is the Twins. We have to select 17 players to protect, and then we have to have at least 15 rostered at all times (we can also protect 10 MiLB guys). I’m struggling with how to decide on the fringiest guys — the catchers (Murphy and Suzuki) and Eduardo Escobar at SS. At this point I plan to keep those three, as the only other real options are SPs (Nolasco and Milone) or middle relievers, which seem fungible. Thoughts?

    Major Leaguers
    1. JR Murphy
    2. Joe Mauer
    3. Brian Dozier
    4. Trevor Plouffe
    5. Eduardo Escobar
    6. Miguel Sano
    7. Byron Buxton
    8. Eddie Rosario
    9. Byung-Ho Park
    10. Kurt Suzuki
    11. Phil Hughes
    12. Ervin Santana
    13. Kyle Gibson
    14. Glen Perkins
    15. Trevor May
    16. Jorge Polanco
    17. Max Kepler

    Minor Leaguers
    1. Jose Berrios
    2. Adam Brett Walker II
    3. Tyler Jay
    4. Nick Gordon
    5. Stephen Gonsalves
    6. Kohl Stewart
    7. Nick Burdi
    8. Taylor Rodgers
    9. Lewis Thorpe
    10. Trey Cabbage

    • @FKA Ralph: Not sure how this ended up in the Cubs Team Preview, but I’m honored you’d ask! Sounds a lot like the Razzball Elite League! You’re not trolling me for an answer in that league, are ya?!?

      I think you’re right about the ML SP…not much left to choose from. I don’t know if he would fall in the Majors or Minors, but I’d get Kennys Vargas in there somewhere. He’s on the 40 man roster, and may start in the minors without a position currently, but his bat’s real.

      Casey Fien’s a solid middle reliever, but don’t know if they hold any value in your league. Ha, see what I did there? Hold…

      Other than that you look to be getting just about all the value you can from the Twins roster. Good luck with it!

      • FKA Ralph says:
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        @[email protected]: it is totally the REL! Didn’t realize you’re also in that league, but also not ashamed to seek advice anywhere I can get it!

        • @FKA Ralph: Haha, I knew it! Well, good luck in REL! I’m joining REL2, not the first installment.

  7. Cooper says:
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    Should i keep Lester over Adam Jones or Cargo?

    • @Cooper: Without knowing any other keepers, rules, stipulations or makeup of your roster, in a vacuum I’d choose CarGo. He’s a riskier choice than Jones, but has a higher ceiling. And I’d choose both over keeping a SP just inside the Top 20 at his position.

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