It has been a few years since you could actually draft more than a few Cubs players in fantasy baseball in standard leagues. Even in the CCO League last year, only three players were drafted in the first 112 picks in a league of 20 Cubs fans. The fact that a league full of 20 Cubs fans waited that long to get past Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija, tells me that we are pretty realistic about our players here at the CCO.
Of course, I was the first homer and drafted Rizzo with the 75th pick in the fourth round last year. Rizzo ended up justifying that pick all the way until he didn’t finish the season. But he still ended up seventh for first basemen in points and only Victor Martinez (3.8) and Jose Abreu (3.9) had higher points per game than Rizzo’s 3.7 of the six guys with more total points. But now we are in 2015, with higher expectations as a team. The question is where should our Cubs players go in drafts this year?
I am going to show projections in three different leagues (ESPN CCO, Yahoo saber metric style, and CBS standard). The format will be league, points-positional rank. The talk will be about fantasy starters and I will address the bench options at the end. The other thing to keep in mind on projections is the at bats (AB) that are projected. If a player wins a starting job, you need to account for that in the projections. Most systems adjust their numbers once their job is more defined.
- Miguel Montero (ESPN 301-19th, Yahoo 94.7-11th, CBS 347.5-7th)
This is pretty common in fantasy baseball, different scoring systems and projection systems produce different results. Miguel Montero in 10 or 12 team leagues is likely to get drafted to start. But the projections don’t know what to do with the Cubs catcher situation (they are not alone) as Yahoo doesn’t even project David Ross to get an AB. Until Welington Castillo is traded, the Cubs catching situation is one to avoid, but once he is traded, Montero is worthy of a starter role in most leagues.
Anthony Rizzo is now a top first baseman (1B) in MLB. The question isn’t where he ranks among 1B (Top 5 in all leagues), but how high of a pick is he? Eric Karabell ranks him the 16th pick in all of baseball. That’s a first or second rounder depending on the size of your league.
- Anthony Rizzo (ESPN 562-4th, Yahoo 209.2-3rd, CBS 536-3rd)
Rizzo is it at 1B for the Cubs and he will be drafted even earlier this year than last year. Simply put if you don’t draft him, he may not be there for your second pick. Now, I wouldn’t reach for him at the top of the first round, but as you get closer to the 10-15 range he makes sense, and if he is still there after 15, he is the type of player you want to draft and say thank-you to the rest of your league.
Who will be the Cubs 2B this year? Javier Baez? Arismendy Alcantara? Tommy La Stella? This will determine whether any of these guys are worth drafting as starters.
- Javier Baez (ESPN 374-19, Yahoo 74.5-32, CBS 331.5-23)
- Arismendy Alcantara (ESPN 295-31, Yahoo 62.9-39, CBS 286.5-30)
- Tommy La Stella (ESPN 155-39, Yahoo 68.6-37, CBS 199.5-40)
If one of them wins the job, they will be options to start in larger leagues, but if no one is the clear cut winner or looks like they will get regular AB’s none of these guys will be worth drafting as a starter without significant risk. In a large league, if Baez wins the job, his power potential and upside makes him worth taking a chance on over a steady but not great 2B at the end of the 2B run.
Most players when they are about to start their age 25 season are hoping to make a MLB team or finally have a good season. Our soon to be 25-year old starting shortstop is a three-time All-Star and is coming off his highest OPS season of .777.
- Starlin Castro (ESPN 443-6th, Yahoo 116.8-12th, 385.5-9th)
Starlin Castro is a Top 10 shortstop (SS) this year and should be a starter in every league of 12 or more. Depending on your format will determine when you draft him, but if he is still there after eight or nine SS’s are off the board he will provide very good value. Definitely worth waiting on the position and then still getting Castro.
Not sure you can use any picks here, except a flyer on when Bryant will be called up. Kris Bryant is worth having this year but not at the beginning of the season unless something surprising happens.
- Kris Bryant (ESPN 340-29, Yahoo 97.4-31, CBS 266-35)
- Mike Olt (ESPN 165-42, Yahoo NA, CBS 40-71)
I actually drafted Bryant in my CBS league (10 teams, standard scoring). I will go into it more in when we discuss draft strategies for position players. Bryant is worth stashing if you have bench spots, but Mike Olt is not worth drafting. The other side is the 2B options and if one of them looks like they will start most every day at 3B to start the year, they could be a very valuable player on your team.
Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler are the only guys you can draft this year.
- Jorge Soler (ESPN 464-11th RF, Yahoo 122.4-25th RF, CBS 421-26th OF)
- Dexter Fowler (ESPN 353-29th CF, Yahoo 121.1-29th CF, CBS 324.5-OF)
Soler is worth drafting in most leagues and his upside will probably make him go much sooner than he should which makes it tough if you want him on your team. Fowler is not well liked by the projections to play enough to be a starter. You will have to watch and see for signs whether Fowler will play every day or not, because if he does, he will move up the rankings quite a bit and make him worth owning in larger leagues.
The most useful bench player will be Arismendy Alcantara as he will have multiple position eligibility and could start most days. If you are in daily lineup leagues and miss out on an OF or specifically a LF, using the platoon of Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia could produce as much as taking a shot at a lower level every day starter. If you have room on your bench and also are in daily leagues, having Ross to platoon with Montero makes sense.
Jon Lester gives us a guy that will go early in the starting pitching (SP) slots, but Jake Arrieta will not be far behind him.
- Jon Lester (ESPN 547-13th, Yahoo 181.7-13th, CBS 604-10th)
- Jake Arrieta (ESPN 471-25th, Yahoo 169.8-19th, CBS 550-17th)
- Jason Hammel (ESPN 384-76th, Yahoo 125.6-70th, CBS 375-103rd)
- Kyle Hendricks (ESPN 324-114th, Yahoo 145.6-46th, CBS 443.5-60th)
Some might say that the projections are not giving Kyle Hendricks enough credit, but I was surprised how high he ranked in my Yahoo and CBS leagues. In 10-12 team leagues where you get down to #80-#90 SP’s we could have all four taken or only two drafted for sure, Lester and Arrieta and they will go quickly. But only in the large leagues will our fifth starter winner get drafted and only then if you draft right before Opening Night.
If you are looking around late in the draft for a closer you do worse than Hector Rondon. I expect him to outperform his ranking and that makes him a value pick as the 18th relief pitcher (RP).
- Hector Rondon (ESPN 368-18th, Yahoo 108.8-22nd, CBS 386-18th)
Most leagues have two RP slots and that means Rondon should be owned in most leagues. I feel he has more upside to be a Top 10 RP than most of the guys sitting around him in the rankings.
If your league uses multiple RP’s and you need set-up guys, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, and Jason Motte are all options to consider.
So which Cubs players should you draft and when? Keep in mind all leagues are different, these ranges are in general.
10-12 team leagues (5 players)
- 12-18 range Anthony Rizzo
- 60-70 range Jon Lester
- 90-100 range Starlin Castro
- 120-130 range Jake Arrieta
- 175-185 range Jorge Soler
In larger leagues you should see many more players come of the board from position players Miguel Montero, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Dexter Fowler being the most often drafted. Jason Hammel, Kyle Hendricks and Hector Rondon will be drafted along with whoever wins the fifth spot. All bets are off in the CCO leagues where I would say all 13 position players will end up on rosters to go along with all five SP’s and Rondon.