Chicago Cubs 2019 Fantasy Projections – The Young Cubbies are now Veterans
Once known as the White Stockings, an original member of the National League, the Chicago Cubs are one of America's most beloved sports teams. They have endeared themselves into the hearts of their fans as much for their ineptitude as their success.
After a 108-year drought between World Series Championships, the Cubbies took home the hardware in 2016. Any sense of a World Series hangover didn't hit Joe Madden's Cubs until the 2017 NLDC series against the Dodgers.
The Chicago hitters went south against Dodger's pitching, scoring a single in three games and grand total of eight in the five game series won by LA 4-1. They seemed primed for a third consecutive NL Central Division title until Milwaukee decided otherwise.
Chicago Cubs 2018 Recap
The Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers both had a won/loss record totally one more than the standard 162 games. The problem for Chicago was they had one more loss than Milwaukee. It landed the Cubs in a winner-take-all wildcard battle against the Rockies. Colorado shocked the Windy City, winning a pitcher's duel 2 to 1 to advance to the NLDS.
Chicago hit fairly well, finishing in the top-10 for runs scored, and their pitching staff logged the third best ERA in baseball. Only the Astros and Dodgers were stingier. Cub fans wrestle with which worse, the loss to Milwaukee in the single-game playoff for the division, or the one-run loss to Colorado.
Both were tough to swallow. The first loss, last of an extended regular season, kept Chicago from having the best regular season record in the National League and a third divisional title. The final loss sent a potential World Series favorite home for the winter.
2019 Fantasy Pitchers Projections – The Best of the Cubs Pitchers
Chicago made a late trade to boost what was already a top-three statistical pitching staff. How Cole Hamels fits in from a fantasy perspective is intriguing. Jon Lester will still slot as the Cubs number one starter, followed by Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana. In between Hendricks and Quintana is another interesting Cub hurler, Yu Darvish.
Darvish landed on the DL twice last season, first from parainfluenza virus and then from triceps tendinitis. The second stint finished his 2018 season. It's an odd situation for manager Joe Madden, to have a highly-rated talent slotted to pitch in the number three spot in your rotation. +
Then, you follow someone with the dominating stuff that Darvish has with a pitcher who the Cubs thought all along would be their best starter. Now you have a veteran Hamels slated to pitch at the backend of a very strong rotation. From a fantasy perspective, that makes all five of Chicago's rotation viable as fantasy arms, maybe all top-tier.
Jon Lester SP – Lester won 18 games for the Cubs in 2018 with a 3.32 ERA. The Cubs will win a lot of games again, so Lester on that note alone must be considered a strong fantasy pitcher. Be aware that his strikeout numbers aren't what they were earlier in his career, but he is a master at keeping runners from scoring.
Kyle Hendricks SP – Hendricks won 14 games himself, and had the lowest WHIP out of all the starters who threw a full season for the Cubs. He fell only one inning shy of 200, so he is durable and reliable. He has masterful control, and is resilient in tough game situations.
Yu Darvish SP – Darvish's health will be what every fantasy owner needs to watch. When he is healthy, he is masterful. When he's not, he's unavailable. Darvish is also aging slowly, so expectations of his early career dominance may need to be tempered. He is still a strong source of strikeouts, and as the third starter in Chicago, in line for wins.
Jose Quintana SP – Since he shifted across town, Quintana's innings have dropped and his ERA has increased. There have been reports he has worked through some mechanical issues heading into 2019. If these are corrected, you're looking at a number two caliber starter pitching in the number four spot in a rotation. Interesting option to say the least.
Cole Hamels SP – Hamels is not longer a must-own for fantasy purposes, but as the last starter on a very good pitching staff, any fantasy roster could do worse. Hamels actually turned back the clock in his return to the National League, posting a sub-3.00 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 76 innings.
2019 Fantasy Hitter Projections – The Best Cubbie Bats
As a team in 2018, the Cubs produced the fourth best batting average in baseball. They were top-10 in run production, but their home run totals fell to the bottom third. Stolen bases were also low, but they produced a number of extra base hits to help provide fantasy balance.
Going into 2019, they have the same three must own fantasy hitters. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez are those three, but fantasy owners shouldn't turn their back on Kyle Schwarber and Wilson Contreras. Contreras is a strong candidate for the top-spot at a weak catcher position as well.
The thing that troubles many fantasy owners concerns the Cubs leadoff hitter. They currently are proposing Jayson Heyward at that spot. That is the only question mark in what should be another productive year from the Cub's offense.
Anthony Rizzo 1B – At 29, Rizzo is entering his prime. He has a batting average that has consistently hovered around .290, and is sneaky on the base paths. Last season was the first time after four straight years with 30-plus home runs.
Rizzo continued a streak, however, now at four consecutive campaigns with over 100 RBIs. He's been striking out a little less each season, but his OPS, hit its lowest mark since his rookie season in 2013. Hard to believe someone as good as Rizzo could be considered for a bounce-back year.
Kris Bryant 3B – Bryant is actually behind Baez on most fantasy ranking lists. Part of the reason due to where they are both slotted to hit in the Cub's batting order. At the moment Bryant is pegged in the two-hole, while Baez is listed as the potential cleanup hitter.
Part of the reason could be that Bryant only played 102 games in 2018, and subsequently his numbers were at an all-time career low. It is the first time in his four year career; he hasn't laced up his cleats for at least 150 games.
Once again, it is difficult to fathom the idea that someone as coveted for fantasy baseball purposes could be considered to be a leading candidate for comeback player of the year accolades. Bryant's lackluster 2018 could make him available at a second-tier level, prime for a return to top-tier production.
Javier Baez SS – A steady rise in every fantasy-relevant fantasy category is obviously the primary reason for Baez's rise in value. His triple-eligibility at three infield positions is sort of icing on the cake.
Baez seemed to finally realize what scouts had proposed all along, he is a superstar talent. He smacked 34 home runs, 40 doubles, drove in 111 runs, plus stole 21 bags. Some point to a possible regression in numbers being inevitable, but he is still a prize on any fantasy lineup.
Fantasy Rank for the Chicago Cubs
With all five pitchers potentially fantasy viable starters, the Cubs have one of the most intriguing pitching staffs in baseball. There are three batters who are consistently at the top of their position as well. Chicago isn't quite even with Boston's fantasy prowess, but they're close.
The Bottom Line for the Cubbies
There are three veteran pitchers at the backend of the Cub's rotation; three pitchers who, if they turn back the clock and rekindle their productivity, will mean problems for opponents. The Cub's pitching stands out as the key issue of interest starting the 2019 season, albeit with a suspect bullpen.