2016 Recap & 2017 Outlook
Well, it took 108 years for the Cubs to break through and win a World Series. They finally did it behind a great pitching staff, and numerous young bats. Will we see a hangover in the early months, as we have with other championship teams? Maybe, that is one thing to note for the month, but probably on the unlikely side. The Cubs didn't make too many moves this offseason, other than letting Jason Hammel and Dexter Fowler walk in free agency. They also traded Jorge Soler for Wade Davis, to sure up an already strong backend of the bullpen. Soler was just the odd man out at this point, as the Cubs have an abundance of young hitters. The Cubs are in a really good spot to contend again, and I expect them to do so. They offer up fantasy potential in just about every spot in the order, and have a rotation that can be usable one through five.
Additions: Brett Anderson
Subtractions: Jorge Soler, Jason Hammel, Dexter Fowler
Wrigley Field is a tricky park to figure out. A lot of it depends on which way the wind is blowing. Wrigley winds can shift a run total north of ten, or have it hover around 6.5. Given Chicago pitchers were all tops in ERA, Wrigley ranked in the bottom ten in runs. Home runs were also below average this year. Right-handed hitters did have a slight advantage, while left-handers were slightly below average. The Cubs had a slight drop offensively when playing at home, averaging 4.6 runs per game, compared to 5.2 on the road. Anthony Rizzo hit 20 of his 32 home runs on the road last season. Kris Bryant saw a slight bump as well, hitting 22 of his 39 homers on the road.
|Lineup Order||Player||Position||2016 wOBA vs. RHP||2016 ISO vs. RHP||2016 wOBA vs. LHP||2016 ISO vs. LHP|
2016 Statistics Used
Pitching Outlook & Notes
DFS Rotation Grade: A-
DFS Studs: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks
Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester finished one-two in ERA this season, both below 2.50. Jake Arrieta ranked 13th, with a 3.10 ERA on the season. John Lackey ranked 22nd, with a 3.35 ERA. Four pitchers inside the top 25 in ERA. It is pretty insane when you look back at it. All four of those guys also ranked inside the top 25 in strikeout rate. When looking at a DFS rotation, the Cubs simply had the best one last season, can they come close to last season's consistency?
Hendricks was about as solid as pitcher you could ask for. He wasn't flashy, kept the ball in the yard, and didn't walk guys. He did have a .250 BABIP last season, which is rather low, so regressing to an ERA in the low threes is more likely than low twos this season. The strikeout rate should remain around 20-22%, and his groundball rate has been stable for the last three years. Hendricks was absolutely dominant at home, allowing a .228 wOBA. On the road he allowed a .278 wOBA, which is also superb. Hendricks didn't miss a beat, and even got better as the season went along. He boasted a second half 1.68 ERA. Hendricks will be a reliable option this year, but at the right price tag.
The lefty, Lester, has pitched 200+ innings in eight of the last nine seasons. In 2016, Lester allowed more than three earned runs just five times in 32 starts. In 20 of those starts, he had six or more strikeouts. Lester is 33 years old, and I don't expect any sort of drop off this year. Much like Hendricks, Lester was dominant at home, allowing a .237 wOBA, compared to .291 on the road. Lester is insanely tough on left-handed hitters, allowing a .237 wOBA last season.
I mean, did we really expect Arrieta to follow up 2015 with similar numbers? After a 22-6 season, with a 1.77 ERA in 2015 -- Arrieta came back with an 18-8 season, boasting a 3.10 ERA. His groundball rate continued to be above normal, but he did trend back into old ways walking more hitters than 2015. We saw his K% dip in the second half by 6%, and the HR/9 jump as well. Hitters did hit his slider at a much better rate from 2015 to 2016, so that success in 2015 was delivered by an improved slider. Last year is a better indicator of what we are going to get from Arrieta this season again, which is still a damn good pitcher. His blowups were a bit more noticeable through the general public's anger on Twitter, if anything. He will still be a top 15 pitcher in 2017.
Lackey has been serviceable since the chicken and beer season in Boston. His strikeouts were up from his career norm, finishing with his highest strikeout rate since 2005. As pitchers get older, finding new ways to get guys out is crucial to success, especially when velocity is trending downwards. That isn't the case with Lackey. His velocity was in line with his career norm, which is impressive at his age. Lackey was much more beatable on the road, allowing a .300 wOBA, compared to .265 at home. He did give up a fair amount of home runs to right-handed bats (1.37 HR/9), which I do expect to continue this season, given he had just a 37% groundball rate against them.
Lineup Outlook & Notes
DFS Stacking Grade: B
DFS Studs: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Ben Zobrist
With Dexter Fowler gone, Ben Zobrist might be the guy to slide into that leadoff role. Zobrist was shifted around quite a bit in the order, but hit well wherever he was. He is a low strikeout guy, and had a .360 wOBA in 2016. Zobrist didn't hit that well in Wrigley last season, with a pedestrian .327 wOBA, and a .123 ISO. On the road he had a .390 wOBA, and a .219 ISO. Zobrist should come around a little bit more at home this season. Zobrist is a switch hitter, and showed equal ability against both hands. Kyle Schwarber missed 2016, but came back and made an impact in the postseason. There is even a possibility he even hits leadoff this year, which when looking at him, he is not your prototypical leadoff guy. A six feet, 235 pounds, this guy should be a DH somewhere. In 2015, Schwarber hit 16 homers in 69 games. In 2017, we are looking at monster upside with him. If he stays healthy, Schwarber should be north of 25 home runs, and could possibly push into the 30's. He will carry a higher strikeout rate, but expect it to drop a tad from his 2015 season.
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant both were cream of the crop DFS hitters. Bryant established himself as an elite hitting third baseman, which we knew was coming. He hit 39 home runs, and hit .292. His strikeout rate took an 8% drop, and Bryant also established himself as a lefty-masher. He had a .438 wOBA, and a monster .327 ISO. His strikeout rate also dropped 4% compared to facing right-handed pitching. At 25 years old, hard not to see him hitting less than .270 and less than 30 home runs for a long time. Rizzo was one of the few left-handed hitters that could also handle left-handed pitching. He improved against southpaws, with a .362 wOBA and a .205 ISO. You usually can draw lower ownership with Rizzo when he faces left-handers, yet still have upside. Much like Bryant, expect another consistent season out of Rizzo, as he is another one of the elite players at the position.
Willson Contreras made a huge impact offensively, and defensively this past season. He hit .282, with 12 home runs in 176 games. Being touted as one of the better defensive catchers, he will earn more time behind the plate, especially with David Ross gone, and Miguel Montero reaching 34 years old this season. If Contreras finds himself hitting fifth again, he will have a ton of value as an offensive catcher.
You could say Jason Heyward's first season in Chicago did not go as planned. After hitting .293 in 2015 with St. Louis, he hit just .230 in 2016. His strikeout rate didn't change much, neither did his walk rate. Which are good signs for a rebound already. His batted ball stats didn't change much either. So what do we expect this year? Heyward is going to see a bump in average, after a poor .266 BABIP shows some unluckiness. The lineup around him will certainly keep him in good spots, and seeing good pitches. He is certainly not going to be a premier outfielder, but likely one touted in the mid-ranges in plus matchups. Heyward should jump back to being serviceable against right-handed pitching.