Last year I said only five players could be drafted in normal 10-12 team leagues. This year I list 12. Compare that to two years ago when there were only a couple that you could consider and you have to just be happy that the Cubs hired Theo Epstein and did the rebuild the right way to make this team great and set-up for the long run of sustained success.
I am going to show projections from our CCO ESPN leagues. The format will be points-positional rank. The talk will be about fantasy starters and I will address the bench options at the end.
- Kyle Schwarber (ESPN 462 – 2nd)
- Miquel Montero (ESPN 277-17th)
What to do with Kyle Schwarber is a topic of conversation in Cubs circles, but in fantasy baseball it is an easy decision, he is a catcher and the second best catching option by the projections, but that is in 75 less at bats than Buster Posey. But the projections are only saying 25 home runs and that seems shy considering he hit 16 home runs in 232 at bats last year. Where to draft him is all about how much risk you are willing to take on versus the potential reward of a Top 20 bat. He is currently being drafted 57th overall which is about right in normal leagues, but I will be shocked if he doesn’t go in the first round of our 20 team CCO leagues.
Montero is being drafted as the 21st catcher partly because of the unknown of how much Schwarber will catch. If Schwarber catches one time through the rotation and David Ross catches Jon Lester that will decrease Montero’s playing time enough to make him a border line fantasy catcher even in a 20 team league. But if Schwarber only catches here and there, then Montero’s value will move up, but not likely enough to be a starter in a 10 or 12 team leagues.
Anthony Rizzo is now a top first baseman in MLB. That is what I wrote last year and one year later, Rizzo has solidified his place in the Top 20 fantasy players and the fourth ranked First Baseman.
- Anthony Rizzo (ESPN 584, 4th)
Rizzo is it at first base for the Cubs and he will be drafted in the first 20 picks in almost every league. I still wouldn’t reach for him at the top of the first round, but is a good mid-teen pick.
Unlike last year when we didn’t know who our second baseman would be, this year we do. Think about it, Addison Russell wasn’t even on our radar for second base last spring and the thought of Starlin Castro at second base was just hope that one of our shortstop prospects would be that good. But now Russell is our shortstop and we traded Castro to be able to sign Ben Zobrist to be our second baseman.
- Ben Zobrist (ESPN 466 – 10th)
No, this isn’t the Five WAR player that the Rays had for many years, but he is by far the best second baseman we have seen for a long time. Zobrist won’t be a high pick anymore and not likely in the Top 100 players. But he is a very good player that is likely to put up solid numbers for you.
I think that the rest of the baseball world is about to find out what all of us here at the CCO already know, Addison Russell is going to hit.
- Addison Russell (ESPN 428 – 9th)
Russell is the type of player most would like to have on your fantasy team. He is eligible at both second base and shortstop and likely to outperform the projections. He is being drafted 153rd right now and I would take him before that for sure.
What a difference a year makes at third base as well. Last year we were hoping for Kris Bryant to come up and were thinking Mike Olt or Tommy La Stella would get at bats until then. Now, Kris Bryant is our third baseman and is the fourth highest drafted third baseman.
- Kris Bryant (ESPN 573 – 4th)
Most everyone who drafted Kris Bryant last year received very good value from that pick. This year you will hope to just get equal value for using a Top 20 pick, maybe even Top 15 pick to add him to your team. Bryant is going to be a hot pick in keeper leagues for sure.
Last year we were thin on fantasy outfield options. This year we have bench guys who could get drafted.
- Kyle Schwarber (ESPN 462 – 9th LF)
- Dexter Fowler (ESPN 431 – 16th CF)
- Jason Heyward (ESPN 497 – 10th RF)
Playing time could be an issue for Fowler and how comfortable people are with drafting him. Schwarber will get drafted at catcher before the draft gets to the ninth left fielder and Jason Heyward even though he is known for being the best defensive right fielder in the game, he still hits more than enough to be the 65th player drafted right now.
This year we will have bench players who will be relevant in deeper leagues with daily lineups. Jorge Soler should start against all left handed starting pitchers and some right handed. The most useful player in daily leagues could be Javier Baez. I will hesitate a little with Baez as there is a chance he could be sent to Iowa to play every day, but if he is on the roster and once he becomes eligible at more positions he will be a very useful bench player for the leagues that have enough bench spots to add someone who won’t be starting every day.
- Jorge Soler (ESPN 244 in 305 AB’s)
- Javier Baez (ESPN 306 in 380 AB’s)
Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester give us two players that will go early in the starting pitcher slots.
- Jake Arrieta (ESPN 643 – 4th)
- Jon Lester (ESPN 550 – 18th)
- John Lackey (ESPN 473 – 33rd)
- Jason Hammel (ESPN 379 – 71st)
- Kyle Hendricks (ESPN 386 – 67th)
All four of our returning starting pitchers have higher rankings this year than last year, plus we added John Lackey as the 33rd ranked starting pitcher. We now have five starting pitchers who are relevant in fantasy this year. The crazy part is we have a few more that could be but they will be in the bullpen and not getting starts.
I am just going to consider closers as the variables for relief pitchers’s make each league unique.
- Hector Rondon (ESPN 378-11th)
Most leagues have two relief pitcher slots and that means Rondon should be owned in most leagues. I feel he has more upside to be a Top 10 relief pitchers than most of the guys sitting around him in the rankings.
So which Cub players should you draft and when? Keep in mind all leagues are different, these ranges are in general.
10-12 Team Leagues (12 players)
- 15-20 range Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant
- 20-25 range Jake Arrieta
- 55-60 range Kyle Schwarber
- 65-75 range Jason Heyward and Jon Lester
- 115-120 range Ben Zobrist
- 121-125 range Hector Rondon
- 145-150 range Addison Russell
- 160-165 range John Lackey
- 195-200 range Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel
Last year there were only five players on this list (Rizzo, Lester, Castro, Arrieta, and Soler) this year there are 12. In larger leagues you should see many more players come of the board from position players Fowler, Montero, Baez and Soler being the most often drafted. All bets are off in the CCO leagues where I would say all position players will end up on rosters and all likely will go much sooner than expected.