The Chicago Cubs broke out a little earlier than many thought they would last season. It was no secret that they had done a great job stocking their farm system over the past couple of years, but it was great for Cubs fans to see the likes of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell all show that they are ready to do serious work at the MLB level. There's even more to be excited about for Cubs fans as Theo Epstein decided to go all in an pick up Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey to boost the team even more. This is truly one of the best young cores in all of baseball and even in the tough NL Central division, This Cubs team is projected to win the division and go deep in the playoffs.
Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, Adam Warren, Jean Machi, Tim Federowicz, Kris Negron, Jesus Guzman, Drew Rucinski, Luis Cruz, Stephen Fife, Spencer Patton, Aundury Acevedo, Edgar Olmos, Brandon Gomes, Scott Barnes, Jack Leathersich, David Freitas, Juan Perez, Kelly Dugan, Mike O'Neill
Starlin Castro, Jacob Turner, Jonathan Herrera, Chris Denorfia, Austin Jackson, Fernando Rodney, Jason Motte, Tommy Hunter, Ryan Cook, Dan Haren, Quintin Berry, Taylor Teagarden, Jacob Turner
Biggest Strength - Stacked Young Offense
This lineup is superb all the way from top to bottom. There are no weaknesses and several stars throughout the offense who are still not even in their prime yet. There is even a possibility of 3 guys being in the top 10 hitters in the league from the Cubs. It will take very good seasons from Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Kris Bryant for this to happen, but it's not outside the realm of possibility. The fact that guys like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler are going to spend the season as bench guys says a lot about this team as well. Completely solid lineup all the way through, this lineup should expect to score the most runs in the NL by far.
Biggest Weakness - Question Marks in the Bullpen
This bullpen actually looks above average, but there are a few question marks because they don't have a whole lot of big names throwing innings at the end of games. What the bullpen is mostly comprised of is actually failed starting pitchers. In recent years, failed starters have proven to be very good, and the same can be said of guys like Justin Grimm, Trevor Cahill, Adam Warren, and Travis Wood as of recently. In the closer role, it looks like it will be Hector Rondon again. While he isn't one of the more dominant closers in the league, it's now going to be his third year as the teams closer and that doesn't happen on accident. Pedro Strop is actually a very good setup guy and backup closer if need be as well. So, as stated before, the bullpen is actually above average, but is probably still the biggest weakness on this stacked team.
Something to keep an eye on - Kyle Schwarber
Schwarber might be spcial enough to one day be compared to the likes of Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols, meaning that he could be one of the best hitters of a generation. Since he has such a small sample size and questionable defensive abilities, perhaps he should shoot more for an Edgar Martinez legacy, but regardless, it must be known that he can hit. It will be interesting to see how he gets his at bats in 2016. The Cubs are too smart to leave this gut out of the lineup, but the natural catcher doesn't seem like he is equipped to catch everyday at the major league level. The Cubs however haven't completely given up on Kyle catching games, as it sounds like he might serve as the personal catcher for Jason Hammel in 2016. If this happens, he could catch somewhere between 30 and 40 games, while playing 100-120 games out in left field, and he will of course be the lead candidate to DH in opposing AL parks. If Schwarber does in fact get 600 at bats, he could definitely establish himself as a top 10 hitter in the league in his age 23 season this year.
Projected Lineup - Lefties* - Switch Hitters^
- Dexter Fowler^ - CF
- Anthony Rizzo* - 1B
- Kris Bryant - 3B
- Kyle Schwarber* - LF
- Ben Zobrist^ - 2B
- Jason Heyward* - RF
- Addison Russell - SS
- Miguel Montero* - C
David Ross, Tommy La Stella*, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur
Projected Rotation - Lefties*
- Jake Arrieta
- Jon Lester*
- John Lackey
- Jason Hammel
- Kyle Hendricks
Hector Rondon - Closer, Pedro Strop, Justin Grimm, Travis Wood*, Trevor Cahill, Neil Ramirez, Adam Warren
Fantasy Bargain - Kyle Schwarber
See above article. Also, understand that catcher is the worst fantasy position there is for multiple reasons. The main reason is that they only play about 2 out of every 3 games. The second reason is that it's the most taxing position in baseball, which translates to more lackluster offensive numbers. If you are ever able to pick up a player with catcher eligibility who is probably going to play somewhere else and get full time at bats, he has a very good chance of outproducing the rest of the catchers in the league. Schwarber fits into this category. Not only does he fit into this category for 2016, but if the Cubs let him catch for Jason Hammel this year, then he will continue to fall in the category of 'catcher eligible hitter who isn't primarily a catcher' for a few more years. He should pass up Buster Posey as the number 1 overall catcher being drafted each year if this happens. As an outfielder he still has a lot of value, but sloting him in as a catcher basically isn't even fair because it's like having an extra 1/2 player in your lineup, and a productive one at that.
Overrated Fantasy Option - Jason Heyward
Every season Jason Heyward gets overvalued in fantasy drafts. Don't people realized he just got signed to his big contract because of he defense? Heyward is one of the most overrated fantsy players in the league, because you can draft guys with similar offensive profies, possibly better offensive profiles, much later in drafts. Don't draft Heyward number 50 overall when you can get Kevin Pillar around 150. It's just stupid, you're paying too much because you've heard his name a lot. Also, don't forget that outfield is the deepest position in fantasy this season and you can find a lot of late value there.
The Cubs are about to be a dynasty for years to come. Not only do they have a very impressive young core of great hitters, they also have one of the best and most interesting managers in the game Joe Madden, plus they actually have a very good starting pitching staff as well. Let's not sleep on the fact that Jake Arrieta won the Cy Young last year after being one of the most dominant starting pitchers ever in the second half of the season. It goes without saying that they are the favorites to win the NL Central, and they should be good for 100 wins or more in 2016.