The Cubs are coming. Not yet, but they’re coming. For your current fantasy purposes, they’re the promising Anthony Rizzo, the puzzling Starlin Castro, the somewhat interesting Junior Lake, and not much else.
Key additions: RP Jose Veras, OF Justin Ruggiano
Key losses: SP Scott Feldman, C Dioner Navarro, RP Kevin Gregg
Should a guy bat leadoff if he walks 30 times a year? We’re going to find out. Castro will turn 24 shortly before Opening Day, and it’s too early to give up on him as a top-12 SS. Lots of upside here … Valbuena was a pleasant surprise last season, and could give you some value as a deep-league play. However, if one of the Cubs’ big-time prospects arrives early, he’ll have to play somewhere … Rizzo is being drafted in the 12-15 range among first basemen, and can offer plenty of value there. He wasn’t great last year, but not everyone is a superstar right away … Schierholtz wasn’t bad last season, hitting 21 home runs in 458 at bats. But, a team like this finds ways to take playing time away from guys like him. NL-only, only … Lake could hit a dozen homers and steal 20 bases. Not a bad OF5 in standard mixed leagues … Ruggiano could have value if not in a platoon. Sweeney could have value if he gets 2,000 at bats … Who’s with me on Wellington Castillo as a top-15 fantasy catcher? I see 15 homers with a solid BA … Barney can’t hit at all, and the always-interesting Emilio Bonifacio looms as a part-time replacement. Just remember that in real baseball, Barney’s great glove is valuable … One more backup note: Mike Olt has enough stick to threaten Valbuena, but he’ll have to hold off Baez.
Why am I more pessimistic about Samardzija than everyone else is? Nice K rate, OK control – he needs to be an SP4, right? … E-Jax always teases and rarely delivers. Don’t draft him in a 12-team mixed, but take a flier in deeper formats … Wood’s 3.11 ERA in 2013 was fueled by a crazy-low .248 BABIP. Let someone else overdraft him … Hammel’s bounceback potential should be attractive in deep mixed leagues, but the next time he pitched 200 innings will be his first … Rusin is a lefty who’s trying to be crafty. Nah … McDonald always has control issues, and that’s continuing this spring … Jake Arrieta could be a factor once his shoulder issues go away.
Veras was pretty good as the Astros’ closer before getting traded to Detroit at the deadline. If/when Veras gets traded, the fallback options are plentiful, with Pedro Strop, Blake Parker and Arodys Vizcaino looking to have the requisite stuff to close. Strop is the logical bet, but a healthy Vizcaino – who hasn’t pitched since 2011 – would be an awfully tempting bench stash in deep leagues.
Sleeper: Lake. His skills point to modest fantasy success, and nobody is talking about him.
Javier Baez, SS – As much as I’d like to say, “Watch out, Starlin Castro,” Baez will probably take someone else’s spot (3B, 2B, OF) if he lays waste to Triple-A pitching.
Kris Bryant, 3B – Bryant might start the season at Double A, and reaching the majors this season would be a stretch. Keeper leaguers should kill to get him.
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS – Alcantara has a very nice power/speed package, and could push for an everyday role this summer.
Outfielders Jorge Soler and Albert Almora should also be owned in keeper/dynasty formats, but neither figures to reach the majors this season. If your league has a farm draft, pick a Cubs’ minor leaguer whenever you’re in doubt. This system is loaded.