2010 Chicago Cubs Preview

Carlos Zambrano, RHP
Ted Lilly, LHP
Ryan Dempster, RHP
Randy Wells, RHP
Tom Gorzelanny, LHP

Closers and Setup
Carlos Marmol, RHP
John Grabow, LHP

Starting Lineup
Ryan Theriot, SS
Kosuke Fukudome, RF
Derrek Lee, 1B
Aramis Ramirez, 3B
Alfonso Soriano, LF
Marlon Byrd, CF
Geovany Soto, C
Mike Fontenot, 2B

Player in Decline

Carlos Zambrano has seen his innings workload decreased in two consecutive seasons. Going 200+ innings in each of his first five full seasons may be taking a toll on the usual workhorse. He may still throw between 160-190 innings, but banking on 200 seems like a poor idea.

Player on the Rise

Sean Marshall’s role is undecided. For now, he seems to be a potential high-leverage reliever at Sweet Lou’s disposal – something that could lead to save opportunities if Marmol falters. Otherwise he could find himself competing for a starting job and doing quite well.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Derrek Lee: Average
Aramis Ramirez: Average
Carlos Zambrano: Average
Carlos Marmol: Average
Ryan Theriot: Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Andrew Cashner, RHP
2. Starlin Castro, SS
3. Josh Vitters, 3B
4. Hak-Ju Lee, SS 5.
Jay Jackson, RHP
6. Chris Carpenter, RHP
7. Ryan Flaherty, SS
8. Dae-Eun Rhee, RHP
9. Logan Watkins, 2B
10. John Gaub, LHP

Overall team outlook: A disappointing season capped by disobedience and disappointment, the Cubs finished just above .500 and seven-and-a-half behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. With mostly the same team intact, the Cubs will attempt to rally around a rejuvenated clubhouse atmosphere and claim the championship for the first time since 1908.

The Starting Rotation: Carlos Zambrano is always a spontaneous dugout tantrum waiting to occur. Last season marked the first in his career that he recorded more than 25 starts and failed to win double-digit games. Expect his ERA to climb as his home-run rate regresses towards league-average rates. Ted Lilly is coming off the best season of his career and shouldn’t be expected to replicate those numbers in full, especially the ERA. Ryan Dempster continued his new-found success as a starter in 2009 by again reaching 200 innings and double-digit victories. His ERA increased but his xFIP actually remained relatively static. Randy Wells figures to have a job locked in following his strong rookie season, but the fifth spot may come down to a battle between two recent acquisitions: Tom Gorzelanny and the green elephant in the ledger, Carlos Silva. Neither figures to be a particularly great fantasy option, but if you have to root for one, Gorzelanny seems more likely to succeed.

The Bullpen: Carlos Marmol is what some would call “wild” and what others would call “Rick Vaughn.” Barring manager Lou Piniella playing hot potato with the closer’s role, Marmol should be the ninth-inning guy. Marmol is one of the few pitchers in baseball who can claim a nearly 2:1 ratio on BB/9 and blown saves. John Grabow returns on a rather peculiar contract as the left-handed set-up man, and Angel Guzman, as well as Sean Marshall, should see some high-leverage opportunities.

The Startling Lineup: The Cubs organization doesn’t possess what many would call a prototypical leadoff hitter. Alfonso Soriano’s appalling season led to his removal from the spot in late June, which gave way to Kosuke Fukudome, and then Ryan Theriot. Cubs’ leadoff hitters scored nearly 100 runs last season, and whichever of the three gets the job this year should be a decent bet for similar production. The underappreciated Derek Lee figures to drive in most of his runs from the three spot while hitting his usual 20-25 homers and walking 70-75 times. If Aramis Ramirez can stay healthy, similar power production should be expected; just don’t bank on him repeating the .300 batting average, as his BABIP was considerably high. Newcomer Marlon Byrd, second baseman Mike Fontenot, and catcher Geovany Soto figure to fill out the bottom portion of the lineup with whoever remains from the top two spots’ battle. Soto had a rough run at things, with a failed drug test in the World Baseball Classic, and then a career-low BABIP and ISO. He’s worth gambling on for a bounceback with the rewards potentially high.

The Bench: Jeff Baker, Koyie Hill, Sam Fuld, and Micah Hoffpauir aren’t the most spectacular of groups, but at least they carry a better reputation than the Lemons of Dusty Baker’s time. Baker is the most versatile of the group and figures to get the largest amount of playing time, as he can play at either corner infield position, second base, or even the outfield. Hill is a no-hit catcher with relatively no fantasy value while Fuld and Hoffpauir’s jobs are hardly secure.

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