Team preview: Chicago Cubs

BY John Halpin • February 3, 2011

Projected lineup

1. RF: Kosuke Fukudome
2. SS: Starlin Castro
3. CF: Marlon Byrd
4. 3B: Aramis Ramirez
5. 1B: Carlos Pena
6. LF: Alfonso Soriano
7. C: Geovany Soto
8. 2B: Blake DeWitt

Projected rotation

1. SP: Ryan Dempster
2. SP: Matt Garz
3. SP: Carlos Zambrano
4. SP: Randy Wells
5. SP: Carlos Silva/Andrew Cashner
CL: Carlos Marmol

Five tips

• The Cubs haven’t made firm decisions about the outfield, except for a plan to "rotate" Fukudome, Byrd, Soriano and Tyler Colvin among the four spots. Four mediocre outfielders with less-than-full-time jobs? Sign me up!

• Early drafters seem to be high on Castro, but the feeling isn’t mutual here, at least for 2011. Castro is very talented. But his power hasn’t arrived yet; he’s not an elite basestealer; and though he seems to hit for a high batting average, his penchant for swinging at a lot of pitches doesn’t leave much margin for error. Down the road, Castro should be pretty good. For now, he’s No. 15 among fantasy shortstops.

• Ramirez struggled through a thumb injury last season, but he batted .276 with 15 homers after the All-Star break. Third base is a shallow fantasy position, and we’ve got Ramirez ranked ninth. Get one of the top 10 or 11, or you’ll be in trouble.

• So, the Big Z is a starter again, huh? He didn’t pitch badly in that role last year. This made Lou Piniella’s decision to move him to the bullpen all the more puzzling. The walk-plagued Zambrano isn’t more than a sixth starter in standard leagues at this point. But remember that we’re talking about a guy who has never posted an ERA above 4.00. As long as you don’t expect him to be an ace anymore, he could help you.

• Marmol whiffed nearly 16 batters per nine innings last season, which is unbelievable. He also walked six batters per nine, which is horrible and represented a big improvement from his 2009 walk rate (7.9). If I was a manager, and my closer couldn’t throw strikes, he’d be on a short leash no matter how his stuff is great. Watch this situation closely.

Plus:

Odd man out: One of the outfielders, if manager Mike Quade stays away from a straight rotation. Colvin seems to be the likeliest playing-time victim. Also, if young righty  Cashner doesn’t get a rotation slot, he could push his way into the mix as the season progresses.

Top prospects: Top outfield prospect Brett Jackson could be ready by late this season. Otherwise, the Cubs don’t have any impact prospects at the high levels of the minors.

Backup closer: Kerry Wood is back at Wrigley, and would be the likely candidate to replace Marmol if something goes wrong. Walking nine batters in a row over three appearances, for instance.


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