SCOTTSDALE, Arizona -- Many, or probably most, of you have made your fantasy-league drafts already. Did any of you load up on Cubs players? Probably not, as this year's squad doesn't seem likely to have many, or any, players with notable fantasy impacts.
But now that the Cubs' 25-man roster is (presumably) set, let's look at it and see if any of this year's Cubs could have a positive impact on your fantasy team(s).
PITCHERS (12): Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva, Carlos Marmol, Kyuji Fujikawa, Michael Bowden, James Russell, Shawn Camp, Hector Rondon, Hisanori Takahashi CATCHERS (3): Welington Castillo, Dioner Navarro, Steve Clevenger INFIELDERS (5): Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Luis Valbuena, Brent Lillibridge OUTFIELDERS (5): Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, Nate Schierholtz, Dave Sappelt, Scott Hairston
Probably the biggest potential help to your fantasy team among Cubs is Rizzo. His numbers from 87 games played in 2012 project to 28 home runs and 89 RBI. One presumes that Rizzo, who turned 23 in August, can improve on those numbers as an everyday player, possibly crossing the 30-homer, 100-RBI barriers, and perhaps improving on his .285/.342/.463 line as well. A key to that is hitting better against lefties (he hit just .208/.243/.356 against them in 2012). If he can do that, he can be up there with the other elite first basemen in baseball.
Will Starlin Castro increase his power output in 2013? Castro is younger than Rizzo -- he just turned 23 last week -- and has been pretty consistent in slugging percentage in his three major-league seasons (.408 in 2010, .432 in 2011, .430 in 2012). I think Castro could bump this up into the .460 or .470 range and possibly hit 20 home runs. He wants to play in all 162 games again, which could help him pile up counting stats like runs, although he scored just 78 times in 2012 due to the lack of RBI producers behind him hitting fifth. This year, hitting second ahead of Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano, he could score more runs.
That's really it among Cubs hitters. It's possible that Welington Castillo could turn into a decent hitter if he can make it as the everyday catcher; in 2011 he hit .287/.359/.516 at three minor-league levels (mostly at Triple-A Iowa) with 16 home runs in just 75 games. Can that power translate to the big-league level? Maybe, but that's by no means certain.
The pitching staff has a couple of players who could be fantasy sleepers, notably Jeff Samardzija, who had a solid first full season as a starting pitcher in 2012. The team is counting on him to deliver a 200-inning season, which means he could pile up decent strikeout totals. He struck out 180 in 174⅔ innings in 2012; that was good for 16th in the NL even though he was shut down for the last month.
Saves? You want saves? So do the Cubs, and if Carlos Marmol suffers more of his memorable meltdowns, Kyuji Fujikawa will likely be installed at closer. Fujikawa is an unknown quantity in MLB, of course, but Japanese closers have had success in the past (Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Shingo Takatsu, Takashi Saito), and Fujikawa was a lockdown closer in Japan, posting 220 saves since 2005 with 207 walks and 914 strikeouts in 692⅓ total innings.
Other than those guys, Edwin Jackson reliably piles up innings, though wins should be hard to come by for this year's Cubs. I've always liked Travis Wood, and maybe this is the year he breaks out and has a solid year as a starter. But since this year's Cubs aren't likely to win many more than 70 or so games, that shouldn't be a category you should look for from any Cubs starter. Unless he's traded to a contender later in the year, of course.
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