StrategyFebruary 15, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

By R.J. White

This decade has meant lean times for Cubs fans, as the moribund franchise has finished next to last in each of the last three years, cratering in 2012 by losing 101 games. Another piece of bad news: the team that kept them out of the cellar the last two years has fled to the American League. On the other hand, recent disappointing teams like the Orioles and A’s have risen up to playoff heights in the span of one season (both in 2012). Why not the Cubs? Time to start printing those playoff tickets, right? Right? Anyone?

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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Welington Castillo.265.337.418165220190 
1B Anthony Rizzo.285.342.4634415483368 
2B Darwin Barney.254.299.354737446588 
SS Starlin Castro.283.323.43078147825691 
3B Ian Stewart.201.292.335165170202 
LF Alfonso Soriano.262.322.49968321086615 
CF David DeJesus.263.350.403769507582 
RF Scott Hairston.263.299.5045220578398w/NYM

Unsettled: Third base. Ian Stewart will likely be given one final shot to show he can be a productive major-leaguer. Despite an atrocious .182/.272/.289 line in 338 plate appearances over the last two seasons, Stewart could have a tiny bit of fantasy upside in that he hit 43 home runs in 2009 and 2010 while playing with the Rockies, and more than half of them came on the road (so don’t blame the home park). If he just can’t hack it, Josh Vitters or Luis Valbuena will likely take over. Free-agent addition Scott Hairston will likely play sparingly against righties, but he should still have more fantasy value than expected platoon partner Nate Schierholtz.
Target: Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo is primed for a breakout after destroying Triple-A pitching as a 23-year-old and then holding his own in the majors, as you can see above. He destroyed righties to the tune of a .318/.383/.508 line but struggled against southpaws, as young left-handed sluggers are wont to do. A flyball rate that’s only 30 percent leaves plenty of room to up his homer rate even if he can’t muscle them out at a 18.1 percent HR/FB rate every year. The only trouble with Rizzo in fantasy leagues is that the other owners are thinking the exact same thing, so make sure you’re cautious not to pay for an expected breakout like it’s a sure thing.
The Rotation
Matt Garza (R)5-73.911189632103.2 
Jeff Samardzija (R)9-133.811.2218056174.2 
Edwin Jackson (R)10-114.031.2216858189.2w/WAS
Scott Feldman (R)6-115.091.389632123.2w/TEX
Carlos Villanueva (R)7-74.161.2712246125.1w/TOR

Unsettled: The Cubs overhauled a rotation that posted a 4.52 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in starts last season by bringing on Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Carlos Villanueva and Scott Baker. The first three should begin the season in the Cubs rotation, while Baker is talented enough to push any of them (probably Villanueva) out once he has fully recovered from the reconstructive elbow surgery he underwent last April. Travis Wood is also hanging around as a 2012 retread capable of eating up some innings if the team falls short of a starter at some point.
Target: Edwin Jackson. Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija are fine fantasy pitchers, but I contend Jackson should be ranked right up there with them. Our era’s Kenny Lofton based on his travel plans — the Cubs will be his seventh different team since 2008 — Jackson can finally unpack his bags after receiving a four-year, $52-million deal from the Cubs. His walk rate has stayed relatively low since his tour with the White Sox in 2009 and 2010 and he maintained the highest K rate of his career over a full season in 2012. Available for pennies in most fantasy drafts, Jackson should manage an ERA in the threes, a solid WHIP and a strong amount of strikeouts, making him a quality starting pitcher for your rotation, if not a total ace.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Carlos Marmol (R)203.421.54724555.1 
Kyuji Fujikawa (R)241.321.03581547.2in JPN

Chasing Saves: To say that Carlos Marmol has had a problem with walks over the course of his career is to say that the overall offensive numbers in baseball in the 1990s may have been elevated by performance-enhancing drugs. Really? The issue is finally catching up with him, as the Cubs brought in a proven stopper, albeit one who hasn’t proven anything in the major leagues, to eventually take over as the team’s closer after a brisk April night that finds the bases loaded in the ninth inning with the Cubs up one despite no one making contact with the ball … again. Fujikawa is the fantasy reliever to own in this bullpen, and he has a chance at being successful this season. Marmol should be forgotten in all non-walks-have-a-positive-value-for-pitchers leagues.
Final Thoughts
Cubs fans can expect to see a few exciting young players at the plate that have considerable fantasy value this year in Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. The rest of the offense should be passed over in mixed leagues, although guys like Alfonso Soriano, Ian Stewart and Scott Hairston could be worth waiver adds at some point. Edwin Jackson should join Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija to make a competitive top-three in the rotation for as long as Garza, a trade candidate, remains on the team. And bullpen speculators should already be projecting when late in their drafts to take Kyuji Fujikawa.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Cincinnati Reds.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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