StrategyFebruary 27, 2009

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

By Jake Ironside

Hello all and welcome to another installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days,” in which we will look at all 30 Major League teams and dissect what to expect from them this season. Keep an eye out for the hidden gems, players that could be the key to winning your fantasy baseball season.

Today we look at the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs come off a 97-win season under skipper Lou Piniella. Although they were swept in the NLDS for the second straight season, 2008 marked the first time the franchise had made back-to-back postseason appearances since Teddy Roosevelt was in office. 2009 finds the Cubs hoping to continue their recent winning ways and perhaps end the 101-year drought since their last World Series title.

For a closer look at the Chicago Cubs and the rest of the NL Central, be sure to check out The Can of Corn NL Central Preview Podcast.

C Geovany Soto.285.364.5046623860494 
1B Derrek Lee.291.361.4629320908623 
2B Aaron Miles.317.355.398494313379w/StL
SS Ryan Theriot.307.387.3598513822580 
3B Aramis Ramirez.289.380.51897271112554 
LF Alfonso Soriano.280.344.53276297519453 
CF Kosuke Fukudome.257.359.37979105812501 
RF Milton Bradley.321.436.5637822775414w/Tex

Unsettled: Second Base. When the Cubs traded away Mark DeRosa this offseason, they not only lost their best utility man but they left a void at second base. Currently at the top of the depth chart is Aaron Miles, who was picked out of the Cardinals’ dumpster this winter. Battling Miles for the job is Mike Fontenot. The pair of diminutive infielders offer little for fantasy managers, even in NL-only leagues. Unless the Cubs can somehow mash the two players together through some bizarre genetically-engineered experiment to create a mutant super second baseman, you can look elsewhere for any hidden gems.

But you can imagine how awesome Mikeron Fonteniles would be….

Target: Aramis Ramirez. So you targeted some other guys early in your draft and missed out on David Wright, Evan Longoria, A-Rod, and Miguel Cabrera at third base. Not to worry. Ramirez has become a reliable old standby who can produce good numbers for you at the hot corner. In the past three seasons, A-Ram has averaged 87 runs, 30 homers, and 110 runs batted in each year with an OPS right around .900. That’s a solid and trusty pick — like going out to eat and ordering the ribeye. Sure, the filet is a little more glamorous, but the ribeye is no slouch and gets the job done.

Did I just compare Aramis Ramirez to a good ribeye? I guess that would make Joey Gathright a Steak-um.

Alfonso Soriano is still a top-10 outfielder and Geovany Soto is the best option at catcher once the three “Ms” are off the board (Joe Mauer, Brian McCann, and Russell Martin). Derrek Lee has nice potential at first base if you can get him a little later in the draft than he’s normally gone in the past.

The Rotation

Carlos Zambrano (R)14-63.911.2913072188.2
Ryan Dempster (R)17-62.961.2118776206.2
Rich Harden (R)10-22.071.0618161148.0
Ted Lilly (L)17-94.091.2318464204.2
Sean Marshall (L)3-53.861.27582365.1

Unsettled: Sean Marshall. With Jason Marquis shipped off to Colorado, the 26-year-old Marshall finally has a chance to be a regular in the starting rotation. The young lefty was used mainly in middle relief last season and showed good control. Pushing him for the fifth starter job are recently-acquired reliever Aaron Heilman and touted prospect Jeff Samardzija. Heilman originally came up through the Mets organization as a starter but was converted to a reliever back in 2005. Samardzija has yet to start a major league game but started six games last season at Triple-A Iowa with pretty good success.

Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden definitely raise injury flags, especially Harden who will likely need an occasional spot-start rest. So even if Marshall solidifies his position as the team’s fifth starting pitcher, Samardzija and Heilman are also worth keeping an eye on for a possible late round selection or waiver pickup. This is especially true since the Cubs should continue to offer good run support for their starting pitchers and any of these three are capable of racking up the Ks.

Target: No one. I hate to say it, but none of the Cubs starters are really on my radar for “must-haves”. That’s not to say Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, or Ted Lilly won’t produce for your team. However, it’s more than likely they’ll be drafted sooner than they really should and they all have a bevy of question marks above their heads. Will Zambrano’s strikeout ratios continue to fall? What effect will pitching 200 innings last season have on Dempster? Can Harden throw a ball without his arm tearing off and landing halfway between the mound and home plate? Will Lilly ever smile?

Certainly Harden has the highest potential reward, but depending on when you draft him or how much you pay for him, he also has the highest risk. If somehow no one in your league will touch him and you can snag him cheaply, he could be a gamble worth taking.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Carlos Marmol (R)72.680.931144187.1 
Kevin Gregg (R)293.411.28583768.2w/Fla

Chasing Saves: Kerry Wood is gone, leaving the closing duties to Carlos Marmol or off-season acquisition Kevin Gregg. The two will reportedly battle it out for the job in Spring Training, but really it’s Marmol’s job to lose. As a setup man for Wood most of last season, Marmol was electrifying. Anyone that watched him pitch knows he has one of the filthiest sliders in the league. Draft Marmol with confidence. Even if for some reason Gregg gets the closer job, Marmol will provide you good stats as a setup guy.

Final Thoughts

The Cubs should once again provide plenty of offense as they battle for another NL Central crown. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Geovany Soto are solid top tier picks, while Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, and Ryan Theriot could help you out in the middle to late rounds. Go ahead and draft the Cubs starting pitchers but exercise caution when doing so (i.e., read the latest scouting reports). Lastly, do not fret about taking Carlos Marmol as one of your closers. He’s a beast.

Yesterday, we previewed the Washington Nationals. Good luck in 2009, and check back tomorrow for the Cincinnati Reds, the next installment of “30 Teams in 30 Days!”

J. Thomas Ironside has proudly been a Cafe regular since 2003. He disapproves of the designated hitter and strongly feels Andre Dawson and Ron Santo should be in the Hall of Fame. He is also a masochist, which explains why he's such a big Cubs fan.
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