The Epstein/Hoyer era has started not with a bang or a whimper, but with a reasonable conversational speaking volume. While there were no big moves made in the offseason, the new management has begun the cleanup effort. Instead of a big FA signing (for which there were definitely the resources), the theme has been addition by subtraction. Trading distraction and occasional pitcher Carlos Zambrano to Miami was a little move to let the world know that the Jim Hendry era is officially over. The farm still isn’t much to speak of so the moves may not be over yet.
This year … ugh. The slogan for the 2012 season might as well be, “Hey, at least we’re not the Lastros, right?” The division has been weakened significantly compared to this time last year, and even despite that the Cubs will probably struggle to reach .500.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Geovany Soto||.228||.310||.411||46||17||54||0||421|
|1B Brian LaHair||.331||.405||.664||91||38||109||2||456||in AAA|
|2B Darwin Barney||.276||.313||.353||66||9||43||9||529|
|SS Starlin Castro||.307||.341||.432||91||10||66||22||674|
|3B Ian Stewart||.156||.243||.221||14||0||6||3||122||w/COL|
|LF Alfonso Soriano||.244||.289||.469||50||26||88||2||475|
|CF Marlon Byrd||.276||.324||.395||51||9||35||3||446|
|RF David DeJesus||.240||.323||.376||60||10||46||4||442||w/OAK|
Unsettled: First base. At the moment, Bryan LaHair (side note: I want him to face Ubaldo Jimenez) is penciled in to start at 1B at the beginning of the season. The new guy, Anthony Rizzo, could threaten him. In 2011, Rizzo mashed in the PCL to the tune of 26 HRs, 101 RBIs, and a 1.056 OPS in only 93 games. When he was called up, he hit .141/.281/.242 … in Petco. Wrigley favors lefty power hitters, and it could be the perfect place for Rizzo to develop. While the hitter-friendly PCL probably isn’t the best measure for his potential, the Cashner for Rizzo deal could prove to be a real fleecing. Meanwhile, LaHair is a 29-year-old Quadruple-A player who mashed 38 HRs in 129 games last year in the PCL. He’s never gotten significant PT in the majors, so there’s the chance the hitting ability could be real. At this point, the Cubs seem committed to LaHair at first, but spring training and the first few weeks of the season could be enough to put Rizzo in the role.
Target: Bryan LaHair. No, really. I’m saying his starting job is in flux and I’m recommending him a few sentences later? I’m ignoring rising star Starlin Castro? Short answer: yes. Long answer: let me start by saying why I’m not recommending Castro. Sure, he’s a top six shortstop, and you can’t go wrong with .290/10/15 with 160 R+RBIs … in like, the sixth or seventh round. He’s been going in the third or fourth rounds in many early mocks, and that’s just ridiculous given the production you’re expected to get. We have no reason to expect a big jump in HRs or SBs. I can’t figure out for the life of me why the fantasy community is salivating over his respectable but low-ceiling production. Now, onward to LaHair. Like I said before, he’s shown very respectable hitting ability in Triple-A for the last few years; he’s just continually blocked at the MLB level. At the end of the draft, LaHair will almost certainly be available. He OPSed .875 in 20 MLB games last season, he has a long track record of above average hitting, and he’s going to play in a park that favors lefty power hitters. For your last pick, why not? Take a gamble. The cost/potential benefit ratio is better than any other Cub (all three OF are rosterable as bench players, but they have limited upside), and who knows? You could have another Bautista or Morse on your hands.
|Matt Garza (R)||10-10||3.32||1.26||197||63||198|
|Ryan Dempster (R)||10-14||4.80||1.45||191||82||202.1|
|Paul Maholm (L)||6-14||3.66||1.29||97||50||162.1||w/PIT|
|Travis Wood (R)||6-6||4.84||1.49||76||40||106.0|
|Chris Volstad (R)||5-13||4.89||1.42||117||49||165.2||w/FLA|
Unsettled: The fifth starter spot, between two boring pitchers (Chris Volstad and Randy Wells) and no prospects. Volstad has the inside track because the organization will want to show something out of paying Zambrano $18 million dollars a year to not pitch for the Cubs, but spring training will determine the outcome. Stay tuned, but only if you’re in a league deep enough for either pitcher to be draftable. If you are, I’m sincerely very, very sorry you have to pay attention to a garbage-fest like this.
Target: Matt Garza. He quietly had the 8th best FIP and 11th best xFIP of all pitchers in 2011. He suffered a 10-10 record so obviously ESPN would never talk about him, and his 3.32 ERA put him on the other side of luck. However, if you compare his peripherals to AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, you’d find a lot of similarities. High strikeout rate, pretty good walk rate, good ground ball rates; it all adds up to a very solid all-around pitcher. If BABIP favors him this year, you could end up with Sabathia-like production, and keep in mind, the NL Central really, really sucks at hitting now. At the points he’s being taken at, the risk/reward is excellent.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Carlos Marmol (R)||34||4.01||1.38||99||48||74|
|Kerry Wood (R)||1||3.35||1.29||57||21||51|
Chasing Saves: Carlos Marmol has a stranglehold on the position because of his Kimbrel-esque good days, despite his Ankiel-esque bad days. If he implodes, Wood will likely fill in for a short amount of time, but there’s no reason to doubt Marmol’s job security more than any other closer. Marmol’s ridiculous 2010 (15.99 K/9, 6.03 BB/9) was followed by a disappointing 2011, where his walks stayed the same but his K rate decreased by four per nine. If you feel the need to shore up Ks from a closer spot, draft Marmol and net yourself about 100 of them. When you see 12 K/9 as a disappointment, you know you have a really insane pitcher on your hands. I know I’ll own him in at least one league this year, because he’s the best pitcher in the league, hands down, when he’s on his game. If he ever harnesses what may be a mental block, he could really put up some jaw-dropping numbers.
Ugh. There’s only a few interesting players on this team. Castro, LaHair, Rizzo, Marmol, Garza, Dempster. The rest are just low-upside, boring filler. While Epstein and Hoyer have moved the Cubs to a better future this offseason, for rapidly expatriating Cubs fans, change can’t come too soon. Expect a 70-win season, but keep in mind that’s a NL Central 70 wins, also known as 60 wins anywhere else. For Cubs fans, it will be another one of those “please cryogenically freeze me for 12 months” years.
André Walker is Ubaldo's Smirking Revenge. His alter ego Neato Torpedo is Hawpe's Well Below Average Glove.
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