Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 Chicago Cubs Fantasy Team Preview

The Cubs came from behind and won the NL Central last season then were promptly bumped out of the playoffs by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cubs entered the 2007 season with a lot of promise (and pressure) after adding Ted Lilly, Lou Pinella and Alfonso Soriano over the off season and they will enter this season with even higher expectations.

Projected Starters

C- Geovany Soto
1B- Derrek Lee
2B- Mark DeRosa
3B- Aramis Ramirez
SS- Ryan Theriot
LF- Alfonso Soriano
CF- Felix Pie
RF- Kosuke Fukudome

Projected Pitching Staff

Starters

Carlos Zambrano
Ted Lilly
Rich Hill
Jason Marquis
Jon Lieber/Ryan Dempster/Sean Marshall

Bullpen

Closer(s) Bob Howry/ Carlos Marmol,
Set Up Men- Jose Ascanio, Kerry Wood, Scott Eyre, Michael Wuertz, The failed fifth starter(s)

Cubs Hitters to Draft

LF- Alfonso Soriano- A perennial 30/30 threat, had what many would consider a "down year" last season and hit .299 with 33HR, 19SB, 70RBI, and 97R. He might have been feeling the pressure of having just signed an eight-year $136 million dollar contract. Expect Soriano to build on these numbers as he has become more accustomed to playing under Lou Pinella and now has a set place in the line up. Keep in mind Soriano only played in 135 games last season, partially due to a three week stint on the disabled list. Soriano has been a near 30/30 player his entire career; he might go in the first round, but he could slip to the second or third round, where he absolutely must be taken.

1B- Derrek Lee- Coming off of a 2006 season where he broke his wrist, it took Lee a while to regain his power stroke. (Ask anyone who has ever broken a wrist and they can attest to how long it takes for it to feel normal again.) But don't be fooled by his final stats, he hit 22 homeruns over all, yet 16 of those came in the second half of the season. He also managed to hit a stellar .317 over all and knock in 82RBIs. Lee is a good guy to look at once Prince Fielder, Alber Pujols and Ryan Howard are all taken.

3B- Aramis Ramirez- He plays third and is a lock for near 30HR, 100RBI and a .300avg. Name 5 other 3B who can do that. The scary part is that every season it seems like Ramirez has to battle some long term injury that keeps on nipping at him, and prohibits him from taking his game to the elite level. Personally, I hate drafting players who are injury prone, so I would avoid him.

OF- Kosuke Kukudome- Fukudome comes to the Cubs by way of Japan and will put up some good numbers in his first season in America. Look for him to put up numbers similar to Michael Cuddyer, perhaps with more speed. Fukudome did have his last season in Japan shortened because of surgery to remove bone fragments from his elbow. Usually I am very careful when it comes to injuries, but this does not seem like anything major and should not effect him next season.

Cubs Pitchers to Draft

SP- Carlos Zambrano- Workhorse, who has steadily increased his win total by 2 every season since 2005, putting him inline for a 20 win season in 2008. Zambrano is an elite pitcher on a team that is sure to win a bunch of games. People worry about him breaking down a lot, yet he never misses a start, is never on the DL and is ready to go every 5 days. I don't think its wise to downgrade a player's draft position because someone feels that the player is "due" for an injury.

SP- Ted Lilly- Has won 15 games for two straight seasons, and has double digit wins for the last 4 seasons. Lilly is a nice pitcher, who can keep his team in games, and can dominate a line up at times. He also has average stuff, and for every dominating performance, he has a performance where he struggles. Lilly is a solid pitcher who should be drafted in the late-middle rounds. Do not bother to take him earlier, if you look at his body of work, last season was the exception more than it was the norm.

SP- Rich Hill- A young left handed starter who has yet to elevate his game to the next level, has the potential to in the next season. He was a bit prone to the homerun ball last season, and had an ERA in the high threes. On a positivie note his WHIP was 1.19, and he tossed near 200 innings. Look for him to improve on these numbers and win 15 games with close to 200Ks in the 2008 season.

CL/ RP- Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood- I listed the potential closers in this order. They all have positives and negatives, but in this case Bob Howry is the best prepared for this endeavor. Howry has the most experience, and closed a bit for the Cubs last season on a limited basis, while Dempster was out. Marmol has electric stuff, and set himself apart last season as a dominant set up man. It is because he is young and such a good set up man I feel for next season he will be looked at as the closer in waiting, not yet ready for the show. Kerry Wood, was a starter with special stuff, who couldn't stay healthy. This season he moves to the bullpen and could get a shot at closing, or at least be looked at as a solid RP.

Players to Avoid

2B- Mark DeRosa- A valuable utility guy, who has put up solid numbers the last two seasons is going to be featured at 2B this season. The Cubs having been in talks for months with Baltimore for 2B Brian Roberts, making it seem like the Cubs are not exactly thrilled with the idea of going into the season with DeRosa as their starting 2B. If you go into your draft planning to have him as your 2B, keep in mind he could lose his job at any time and become a utility man.

SS- Ryan Theriot- Depending on your team needs, he might not be a terrible pick late in the draft, but I think he is drawing a bit too much hype based on play last season. He came out of no where, to have a fine season with a decent amout of stolen bases. His hustle and ability to play all over the infield helped him eventually cement the SS job on a full time basis (Of course Ronny Cedeno's inability to hit also helped him). But to be honest, when you look at his numbers purely on a fantasy basis, they stack up comparably, to Felipe Lopez. In fact Lopez' numbers are probably even better considering he had a down season, and Theriot had his best season as a professional to date. Theroit has also not done anything in his minor league career to prove that he would, or should be expected to play any better than he did last season. Take him late, if he is still listed as multiple position player in your league, but do not expect a sleeper with the ability to light things up.

Sleepers

C- Geovany Soto- Soto has been in the Cubs minor league system for a few years now, but really turned it up last season hitting .353avg, with 26HR and 109RBI in 110 games! He continued his hot streak in the majors hitting .389avg, with 3HR and 18RBIs in 18 games. He is going to be counted on to be the everyday guy behind the plate, so he should put up some good numbers, especially for a catcher. The drawback might be if Pinella decides to go with more experience behind the plate, a penchant of his from the past.

CF- Felix Pie- Pie is a young speedy center fielder who is considered the jewel of the Cubs minor leagues. He has had a few unsuccessful stints in the majors already, but might finally be ready to take control of the center field gig on an everyday basis. If he hits he could hit .280 with 30SB and 13HR. Of course if he doesn't hit, he could end up back in the minor leagues. At 23 years of age he has plenty of growing to go, keep on eye on him throughout the season, even if he optioned to the minors. He could be a valuable add in September, during the Head-to-Head playoffs.

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