Drew Silva

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Team Roundup: Cubs

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Follow @drewsilv and @Rotoworld_BB on Twitter.


Chicago Cubs

2017 Record: 92-70

First Place, NL Central

Team ERA: 3.95 (7th)

Team OPS: .775 (6th)



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What Went Right


A strong second half helped the Cubs put away the Brewers and Cardinals in the National League Central race and the 2016 World Series champs ultimately advanced to their third straight National League Championship Series, where they fell to the Dodgers. Kris Bryant posted a better OPS in 2017 (.946) than he did in 2016 (.939), when he took home National League MVP honors. He upped his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate, though relatively underwhelming numbers with runners in scoring position limited the 25-year-old superstar to 73 RBI. More on that later. Anthony Rizzo, meanwhile, excelled with runners in scoring position and registered exactly 32 home runs and 109 RBI for the second consecutive season. 2016 Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks battled tendinitis in his right hand for the first three months of the 2017 campaign but returned from the disabled list on July 24 and delivered a 2.19 ERA over his final 78 regular-season innings. Rocket-armed catcher Willson Contreras broke out for 21 home runs, 74 RBI, and an .855 OPS despite missing over a month with a right hamstring strain. Ian Happ appeared at five different positions and contributed an .842 OPS with 24 home runs and 68 RBI in 115 games as a 22-year-old rookie. Javier Baez posted a career-best 23 home runs and 75 RBI while predictably playing excellent defense at second base. Wade Davis, stolen from the Royals last winter for depreciating asset Jorge Soler, blew just one save in 33 opportunities and finished the regular season with a 2.30 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 58 2/3 frames. Carl Edwards Jr. emerged as a dominant setup man, turning in a 2.98 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 12.8 K/9 across 73 regular-season appearances. Jose Quintana was acquired from the crosstown White Sox on July 13, along with a team-friendly contract that carries an $8.85 million salary in 2018, a $10.5 million club option for 2019, and an $11.5 million club option for 2020.



What Went Wrong


Cubs manager Joe Maddon tried using thick-framed slugger Kyle Schwarber at leadoff to open the 2017 season and didn’t abandon the experiment quickly enough. Schwarber struggled mightily in the role and eventually got demoted to Triple-A Iowa in June, having batted .171/.295/.378 over his first 261 plate appearances. The 24-year-old returned to the majors in July with renewed confidence and managed to finish the regular season with 30 home runs, but his final batting average was .211 and his final OBP was .315. Jon Lester showed real signs of wear in his age-33 campaign, struggling to a 4.33 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 180 2/3 innings. The veteran left-hander turns 34 years old in January and is still owed $85 million. Aging utilityman Ben Zobrist cratered in the second year of a four-year, $56 million deal, slashing just .232/.318/.375 over 128 games. Addison Russell took a step back offensively as he labored through plantar fasciitis in his right foot and nagging discomfort in his right shoulder. There were also some rather nefarious off-field issues. Jason Heyward continued to hit poorly in the second year of an eight-year, $184 million agreement and his defensive ratings weren’t nearly as glowing. Brett Anderson made the Cubs’ rotation out of spring training but flamed out after just six starts. John Lackey, who is rumored to be retiring, posted a 4.59 ERA in 170 2/3 regular-season innings and was limited to long relief duties in the playoffs.



Fantasy Slants


** Kris Bryant’s splits in high-leverage hitting situations were certainly disappointing for fantasy pursuits and they’ll rank high among the factors preventing him from repeating as National League MVP because they’re reflected in his RBI total, but there’s no long-term concern here. When you’re talking RISP numbers, you’re dabbling in small sample size theatre. With a larger sample, the discrepancies will pretty much always even out. Bryant did everything else well in 2017 and is poised for a huge all-around showing in 2018 -- what will be his age-26 season.


** While we’re talking fantasy bouncebacks, let’s talk Kyle Schwarber. He never had an issue getting on base in the minors -- look to the career .432 minor league OBP -- and we’d expect a much stronger overall batting line from him in 2018. With that should come better marks in the RBI and runs scored departments. The big question hanging over Schwarber is whether the Cubs might trade him this offseason, possibly to an American League team. He is not a good defensive outfielder and that isn’t going to change as he moves further into his 20s. A new team would obviously have some impact on his offensive projections, but we’d lean toward a rebound in almost any case.


** After teasing at some of his tremendous upside as a rookie in 2016, young catcher Willson Contreras put himself squarely on the map as a top fantasy option in 2017. If not for an early-August hamstring strain, the 25-year-old might have made a legitimate run at 30-plus homers and 90-plus RBI. On the day he suffered that hamstring injury, Contreras had tallied five home runs and 11 RBI over his previous seven games. He batted .322/.389/.678 in 131 plate appearances between July 1 and his August 11 placement on the disabled list. You get the idea.


** Jose Quintana’s basic overall numbers from 2017 look rather mediocre (4.15 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 188 2/3 innings), but the 28-year-old southpaw reached 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career and his run prevention improved greatly once he moved from the White Sox to the Cubs -- ignoring Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. Quintana could be a relative bargain in drafts next spring if casual owners don’t care to look too far past the so-so ERA mark.


** Wade Davis was a perfect addition to the Cubs after Aroldis Chapman departed via free agency last winter, but Davis might now be out the door in a similar fashion. The 32-year-old right-hander will be looking to capitalize on a successful, injury-free 2017 season in Chicago and figures to score a major payday as the top closer available. Theo Epstein and Co. could try another trade to address another ninth-inning vacancy, or maybe Carl Edwards Jr. will get a shot.



Key Free Agents: Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis, John Lackey


Team Needs: Starting and relief pitching. The position player talent remains outstanding.




Drew Silva is a baseball editor for Rotoworld and also contributes on NBC Sports' Hardball Talk. He can be found on Twitter.
Email :Drew Silva



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