2014 Chicago Cubs Preview: Fantasy Baseball 30-for-30

2014 Chicago Cubs Preview

Let’s face it — unless you’re talking about the Lovable Losers’ past, you’re talking #CubbiesIn2017. The talk in fake circles last season was Anthony Rizzo leading the Baby Bears with 23 home runs, to the tune of a underwhelming .233 batting average and .323 on-base percentage.

Similarly, Jeff Samardzija fanned 214 batters, but only won eight games and registered a 4.34 earned run average and 1.35 WHIP.

And then there was the ‘Darling’ Starlin Castro, who had the worst season of his four-year career. It got so bad last year on the North Side, the Cubs turned to 35-year-old Kevin Gregg to hammer down the ninth inning — and he actually didn’t fare too poorly.

Can you find a season where a team’s best Fantasy asset was a 35-year-old closer?

With the system full of budding stars, Chicago fans should embrace #CubbiesIn2017.

Projected 2014 Chicago Cubs “Go-To” Lineup

Starlin Castro, 2014 Chicago Cubs

Hanley Ramirez was the only shortstop that had more RBI than Starlin Castro (78) in 2012. It was a much different story in 2013, however. Photo Credit: Paul Cashman Photography

  1. Starlin Castro, SS
  2. Luis Valbuena, 3B
  3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
  4. Nate Schierholtz, RF
  5. Junior Lake, LF
  6. Ryan Sweeney, CF
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Darwin Barney, 2B

Projected Pitchers:

  • SP1 Jeff Samardzija, RHP
  • SP2 Edwin Jackson, RHP
  • SP3 Travis Wood, LHP
  • SP4 Jake Arrieta, RHP
  • SP5 Chris Rushin, LHP
  • P Carlos Villanueva, RHP
  • Setup man: James Russell, LHP
  • Setup man: Pedro Strop, RHP
  • Closer: Jose Veras, RHP

Fantasy (By Default) Stud: Starlin Castro

Relative to his expected draft price tag, it is likely Castro will be a Fantasy stud in 2014. Castro, soon to be 24, is entering his fifth major league season and should get back to being a Fantasy force. Expecting his sophomore season stats from 2011 might be a stretch, but he is also capable of more than he showed in 2012 and much more than last season.

Castro’s average statistics from 2011 and 2012 would land him as high-end Fantasy shortstop. Expect a rebound season from Castro. His run and RBI opportunities will depend on where he lands in the lineup. But, with Castro’s ratios on the rise, his counting stats will follow accordingly. Don’t underestimate an almost certain 20 stolen bases in Rotisserie formats, either.

Breakout Candidate: Anthony Rizzo

It is unlikely Rizzo emerges this season as an efficient hitter and posts better than a .280/.360/.490 slash line, but his home run and gap power is legit. His 40 doubles made him an excellent option in Head-to-Head points formats and 23 HR and 80 RBI are respectable totals for anyone in their first full year in the big leagues.

Rizzo is spinning his .233 batting average the right way this winter, suggesting he put too much pressure on himself. He is optimistic heading into 2014 and is familiar with new bench boss Rick Renteria from his time with the Padres.

If Rizzo can keep his batting average above .250 and improve his counting stats, he’ll be a fixture in 12-team leagues and there is potential for a huge season. Consistency will be the key for Rizzo — he’ll need to avoid the plaguing slumps, which hindered his 2013 season.

Sleeper Candidate: The Outfield Platoon

In only the deepest leagues will any outfielder for the 2014 Chicago Cubs be in play on Draft Day entering the 2014 season. One may emerge and be a waiver-wire addition at some point in the season. Although, given their current clientele, maybe  not.

However, this group could become bargain bin beauties for Daily Fantasy Baseball gamers. Last season, Nate Schierholtz hit righties well. Chris Coghlan has shown potential in the past. Junior Lake streaked in July and August. Utility man Ryan Roberts is in the mix and Justin Ruggiano has some speed and pop in his bat.

Don’t underestimate the Friendly Confines either, especially when the wind is blowing out.

Assuming the outfield duties are split up, salaries should remain in check and daily games are all about finding value. Embrace the Baby Bears’ Bargain Bin Beauties!

Bust Candidate: Travis Wood

A bumpy August was the only hiccup in this 2013 All-Stars’ season, which raises the question of whether or not the fly-ball pitcher can build on last season’s success or not?

First, Wood’s run support isn’t going to win him many games and his 6.5 K/9 rate isn’t a plus in Fantasy leagues. Furthermore, his fly-ball rate of 44.5% is a concern, especially when his home ballpark is Wrigley Field and he frequently faces the strong competition within the Central Division.

Many will attribute Wood’s solid 2013 ERA and WHIP to smoke and mirrors, and he’s being projected to see increases in both. So, pairing the ratio inflation with the strikeout and win limitations, why are people drafting Wood to begin with?

Travis Wood, 2014 Chicago Cubs

Cubs P Travis Wood played well in 2013, but he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts or wins — so good luck in 2014. Photo Credit: Iowa Cubs

Top Rookie: Mike Olt

A concussion and subsequent blurred vision derailed Olt’s 2013 season, as this time last year he was considered a top-25 prospect by both MLB.com and Baseball America. But 2014 is a fresh start with a new organization and better yet, only Luis Valbuena blocking him from taking over third base.

It is unlikely Olt ever hits for a plus average, especially in 2014, but he has a solid glove, which will earn patience for his power to develop if he gets a chance this season. If he can prove that he is healthy and he gets his bat back on track, he’ll have an impact in the second half of the season at least.

The Cubs’ organization is filled with high-end prospects, but their arrivals are more likely in 2015 at the earliest. Fake baseball fans will want to monitor the progress of Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Solar and get ready to snag them in keeper leagues.

What You Should Know

The Cubs scored the third-fewest runs in Major League Baseball last season, had the fourth-worst batting average, but hit the ninth-most home runs. With a roster eerily similar heading into this season, expect little improvement. They’ll live and die by the long ball and likely hit a lot of solo shots.

Expect a last-place team, which is exactly what Theo Epstein is calling the 2014 Chciago Cubs.

The Fantasy cupboard isn’t completely empty here, but the best Fantasy assets are almost certainly Chicago’s opponents. Stream against them, target them in Daily games, succeed in their failure — and blame Steve Bartman for it all!

Finally, if you can get a discount on Starlin Castro, do so.

A loyal Cubs fan since ’87, I’m patiently enjoying baseball through the Fantasy grind. Proudly, contributing to the latest edition of 101 Fantasy Baseball Tips and talking the fake game at Fantasy Sports Locker Room. I also enjoy a nice Fantasy golf talk on Twitter mid-week and Hockey anytime. 

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