Thursday, March 9

Chicago Cubs: Wait 'til This Year?

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

Well, it finally happened - about two years after I had mentally made the switch, but hey, it did happen. Carlos Zambrano (aka the only one of the Big Three who hasn't been injured the last few years) is finally the ace. Quite frankly, it's about time - he's done quite well these last few years, and with him as the ace, the staff shouldn't totally implode if injuries occur. That is, if he can stay healthy - always debatable under Dusty Baker.

Mark Prior, if healthy, will be the 2-hole starter. He's got better stuff, but the poor kid seems to be cursed somehow; he's gone down with some kind of weird injury for the last few seasons now. Maybe this year Baker will just work him to death - at least that's a rational, normal injury. Not that it's anything to be happy about, but it's a start.

Immortal / really old guy / still decent pitcher Greg Maddux will take the 3 spot. He's not what he used to be, but he's good for 6 innings of quality, keep-you-in-the-game ball whenever he takes the mound, and he'll win 15 for you. Besides, at this point, he's smart. Wise. Whatever you want to call it.

Now, the back end of the rotation is interesting. Jerome Williams has inexplicably been a favorite of mine, although there's no reason to think that he's substantially better than a lot of the other 5th starters out there. Maybe I just like the name. Glendon Rusch, on the other hand, from what I remember about him, sucks. He was above average last year, but ...yeah, far as I'm concerned, he sucks. Of course he's starting above Jerome.

Rough Rotation Guess:
Ace: Carlos Zambrano
2nd: Mark Prior
3rd: Greg Maddux
4th: Glendon Rusch
5th: Jerome Williams

Fantasy Value:

I have this nagging feeling that Zambrano's arm is going to fall off this year. It's just me, though. Maddux will provide good WHIP numbers but have an ERA way higher than the WHIP should indicate. It's odd - or he's just meatball-prone. Prior is anyone's guess at this point in time, but I'd sell. Jerome is a good deep league / NL only pick, and I wouldn't touch Rusch with a 20-foot pole.

More information:
Mark Prior
Jerome Williams

Closer / Bullpen:

Well, as of now, Ryan Dempster's still the closer. However, that elephant in the room over there is Kerry Wood rolling with the bullpen squad this season. Who knows what that means, other than he might make a transition to closer later on - and watch out if Dempster struggles out of the gate. This might not end well.

As for the rest of the bullpen, Michael Wuertz and Scott Williamson are the Guys You've Heard Of. Wuertz is solid, Williamson is not. Someone will snag the situational roles - and at least half these guys are not going to get as much work as you'd think. Just saying.

Rough Bullpen Guess:
Closer: Ryan Dempster
8th: Michael Wuertz
7th: Kerry Wood
Sit. Right: Todd Wellemeyer
Sit. Lefty: Will Ohman
Mop-up: Kerry Wood (why not?)

More information:
Ryan Dempster
Kerry Wood


The corner positions are, to put it mildly, stacked. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez provide probably the best corner positions in the division (debatable depending on how well Rolen does, but if not the best, then the second best), and with the depth of this division, that's saying a lot. Best in the division also means best in the league.

Michael Barrett is pretty consistent - you'll get about what you expect from him, not a whole lot more, not a whole lot less. He won't be behind the plate when Maddux pitches (that's Henry Blanco's job), which also means he'll stay fresh most of the season.

As for the middle infield, Todd Walker is a good average, some random smattering of power, and that's about it right now. Ronny Cedeno didn't exactly get a whole lot of exposure in 2005, so he's a wildcard - and quite a young one at that. For now, i wouldn't expect the world of him.

Projected Infield:
C: Michael Barrett
1B: Derrek Lee
2B: Todd Walker
SS: Ronny Cedeno
3B: Aramis Ramirez

Fantasy Value:

Again, D-Lee's pretty much studly, and A-Ram's not far behind. Beyond that, Barrett is an above league-average catcher, basically meaning he'll be available late when everyone's filling up that spot. Walker is - at least in my eyes - a NL only / deep league pick. I wouldn't touch Cedeno unless I had to.

More information:
Michael Barrett


The outfield is entirely retooled this year... well, with the partial exception of Matt Murton. He's the homegrown guy in the outfield, and he should do better offensively, with a stronger lineup (at least on paper) around him.

Jacque Jones (I swear, his first name looks truncated to me) is the new right fielder. Good, solid power/speed combination that Corey Patterson was supposed to be, but failed miserably at. If you can't get it home-grown, guess you have to pay market value for it, huh?

Juan Pierre is the guy who's actually taking C-Pat's spot in the outfield. He's pretty much the same guy he's always been - plus average, high speed, the usual prototypical non-power center fielder.

Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the possible presence of Felix Pie in the outfield in the near future. Not right now, though.

Projected Outfield:
RF: Jacque Jones
CF: Juan Pierre
LF: Matt Murton

Fantasy Value:

Well, Jones and Pierre are going to be a little more valuable than they were last year (since they'll have an offense around them now - can't underestimate the usefulness of that). Murton shouldn't be a bad option, but the true long-term benefit here lies in Pie.

More information:
Matt Murton

Extra Stuff:

If these guys stay healthy this year, watch out. They have just as much, if not more, pure talent than anyone else in the division, but health has always seemed to be a concern with these guys. I'm not entirely convinced they'll stay healthy (past performance / future results, that sort of thing), but if they do, you heard it here first.

One thing that will help is the offense is much more dynamic this year than in past years. This gives the Cubs a lot more room for pitching error and/or injury. Sounds goofy, but hey, it's Dusty. *cue theme music*

The Cubs' biggest problem (besides pitchers getting killed left and right), ironically enough, isn't their fault at all. They're in the deepest division in baseball, and as always seems to be the case, some team that's way more talented than they'd appear to be will suffer as a result of this. When you think of suffering, what team comes to mind? (No, not the Expos. I'm the only one who thinks that.) That's right, the Cubs. Then again, it's been 2 straight World Series droughts that have ended in the last two years, so anything could happen. Right?