2017 Fantasy Baseball: Chicago Cubs Team Preview
They say it’s lonely at the top, but the difference between the Cubs and other past champions is that they legitimately were the best team in baseball. Usually, that’s debatable, but the Cubs led the majors in runs scored and runs allowed. They were the only 100+ game winner. They dominated every facet of the game. So, the task of their offseason was vastly different. They needed to maintain and that is exactly what they did.
Top Draft Picks
Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, I think we could conservatively consider three pitchers and at least two position players as top draft picks. That’s a conservative pick. So, I will limit it to their best pitcher and best position player. Even then we are arbitrarily parsing out the praise. Kris Bryant is the reigning NL MVP, so we might as well start there. Perhaps the best thing about him is not the numbers but the fact that he has played enough in the outfield to be eligible there while being at third base.
Some might question the selection of Jake Arrieta as their best pitcher. It says something when a former Cy Young award winner is a potentially controversial choice. Others would choose Jon Lester and that is certainly a defensible pick of its own. He was the best pitcher in baseball down the stretch and neither won the Cy Young award. Arrieta is a would be free agent, so he likely has the mojo on his side.
Again, it’s hard to whittle it down to one on each side, but that the task I’m left with. John Lackey is hardly a sleeper in reality, but he is the Cubs fourth starter on paper. Since his return from major surgery in 2011, he hasn’t had an ERA above 3.82 and that comes with a career mark of 3.88. In other words, he has been better than mediocre, but some people still see a number four starter. He’s definitely better than that.
On the lineup side, it seems like an annual affair, but my love affair with Ben Zobrist continues. He’s getting up there in years, but he continues to be versatile and productive under the radar. Combine the productivity and flexibility and he should be drafted a lot sooner than he is every year. Last season saw him put up better counting numbers because he was on a great team. It’s still a great team.
On the pitching side this is relatively easy. I like Kyle Hendricks and love what he did last season. Unfortunately, there is little chance he will do that again. Some are comparing him to a young Greg Maddux. I suppose anything is possible, but he will probably settle in the same territory as Lackey. I’d love that out my third starter, but I wouldn’t treat him like an ace.
The market on Kyle Schwarber is an interesting one. He disappointed hundreds of fantasy owners last season (me included) when he went down with an ACL tear. Yes, he dominated in the World Series, but I think it is fair to go into wait and see mode on him. If he lasts into the middle rounds I’d definitely take a chance, but I don’t see him lasting that long.
The Cubs and Indians rode their relief aces like a rented mule in the World Series. Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller earned their paychecks and then some. Of course, most executives would have been tempted to reward that performance with a huge contract. However, chances are that Chapman will feel some repercussions from that workload. Instead, the Cubs traded for Wade Davis. He’s arguably been better over the past three seasons even if some of those seasons came in the setup variety. While he likely won’t get to close, the signing of Koji Uehara was very underrated as well. He teams with Hector Rondon to give them the best setup combination in the National League.
Impact Minor Leaguers
The Chicago Cubs have plenty of prospects that are top notch, but most of them are more than a season away. The top prospect in their system (Ian Happ) is destined to take over for Zobrist someday, but that day is not today. He finished the 2016 season in AA, so he will likely start no higher than AAA and wait his chance.
It’s hard to wrap your head around 108 years, but it’s something all Cubs fans know well. They were a regular participant in the Series in the first decade of the 20th century. Maybe their time has returned.