MLB Team News & Rumors: Chicago

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Chicago Cubs

Our expert from,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.

Chicago Cubs Team Projection

Will the Cubs end their World Series drought this season?

1. SP Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija fantasy baseball

Samardzija followed up with a strong K rate (9.0) in 2013, but his command (3.3) didn't repeat (led to more walks). He was even easier to hit (.255), but lefties still give him some trouble (.266 with .447 SLG %). Jeff pitched well in his first 12 starts (2.96 ERA with 91 K's in 77 innings). His value was inconsistent over the last 4 months of the year, which led to a 5.11 ERA in 22 starts. His ERA declined in each month (June - 4.20, July - 5.28, August - 5.54, and September - 5.58). Samardzija allowed 5 runs or more in 8 of his 33 starts. His AFB (94.5) was a tick down from 2012 (95.0). His slider continues to be his #2 pitch, followed closely by a split-finger fastball and an improving cutter. His GB rate (48.2%) is rising and was a career high, while his FB rate (31.4%) is declining. Also, HR's were a slight problem in 2013. Batters couldn't hit his split-fastball (.138 with 98 K's in 167 at bats) and they have a tough time with his slider (.227), but they crushed his sinker (.332) and cutter (.319 and .559 SLG %). The biggest difference between 2012 and 2013 was the lack of command with his fastball and cutter. It almost looks like he lost confidence in his ability. Jeff has a huge edge when he can get ahead in the count as his split-finger fastball is deadly. His K total will put him on the radar, but he still has plenty of downside risk if his walk rate doesn't improve. Wins could be a problem again due to a weak offensive team.

2. SP Edwin Jackson

Edwin Jackson fantasy baseball

Jackson was a dream crusher last season. He led the NL in losses (18) as his walk rate (3.0) and K rate (6.9) declined. The bottom line here is that he just didn?t throw strikes. Edwin was ripped up by both RH (.270) and LH (.294) batters. Jackson was a disaster in each of the first 3 months (April - 6.27 ERA, May - 5.85 ERA, and June - 5.19). In July, he sucked in fantasy owners with a trap month (1.83 ERA) before delivering the knockout punch in August (5.97 ERA) and September (5.47). His K rate fell off the charts over the last 3 months (5.8) and it declined during each month from April through August. In addition, his AFB (93.1) has declined over the last 2 years. He really only has one other pitch (slider). Edwin tried to throw a show me cutter, plus a no value curveball and changeup. On a positive note, Jackson did allow a career low FB rate (28.4%) with a rising GB rate (51.3%). Edwin has bounced back in the past from a down season, but he has more downside risk than upside. His command is reasonable, but his K rate is what it is. If he is throwing strikes, he can have success. He should pitch better, but he'll stab you enough times where you can't stop the bleeding. Let some other owner suffer through his pain.

3. SP Travis Wood

Travis Wood fantasy baseball

Wood has improved in each of the last 2 seasons. His command (3.0) isn't great and it has only taken baby steps over the last 2 years. His K rate (6.5) also continues to be short. Travis allowed 2 runs or less in 19 of his 32 starts, and really only had 2 disaster starts. Wood was very good against lefties (.207) and had success against righties (.226). However, Travis did allow 15 of his 18 HR's to RH batters. His AFB (88.9) has lost velocity in each of the last 2 seasons. His #2 pitch is a cutter, followed by an improving slider and a fading changeup. Wood is a FB pitcher (44.5%), but his HR/FB rate (6.9%) has been very low in 3 of his 4 seasons in the majors. His minor league K rate (8.4) suggests more upside if he could throw more strikes. Wood is solid major league lefty, but he really doesn't have a lot more upside. I expect him to give up a few more hits in 2014 and some of those may leave the park. A fantasy player will be buying him at peak value if he is drafted on ERA and WHIP. Steady backend option with downside risk and his win total won't be an asset.

4. SP Jason Hammel

Jason Hammel fantasy baseball

Hammel couldn't repeat his success from 2012. He had knee surgery the previous offseason, which may have led to his weak K rate (5.3) and walk rate (3.3) in April. Jason had success over his first 6 starts (4-1 with 3.79), but he wasn't the same pitcher. Hammel was blasted in May (6.44 ERA), June (5.34), and July (5.52), which led to a DL stint with a right forearm injury. His AFB (92.7) was almost 1 MPH lower than 2012. His # 2 pitch is a slider, followed by a curveball and show me changeup. LH batters hit .300 against him with 15 HR's in 317 at bats (.508 SLG %). The Cubs signed him in late January to a 1-year, $6 million contract, so they have to believe his arm issue is a thing of the past. His command (3.1) was slightly improved, but his K rate (6.2) regressed. Hammel doesn't have a great resume, but he did flash some upside in 2012. Maybe he wasn't all the way back from his knee issue in 2013. 2014 could be his best opportunity to have success with the change back to the NL. His price point should be free, so he may be worth a swing as a bench arm with upside in 15-team leagues.

5. SP Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta fantasy baseball

Arrieta has been a bucking Bronco over the last 2 seasons. He showed upside at times in 2012 with an improved walk rate (2.7) and K rate (8.6), but he had too many disaster starts. Last year, he was kicking and screaming in April (6.63 ERA with 16 walks in 19 innings, which led to a trip to AAA (4.41 ERA - 2.6 walk rate and 7.4 K rate) and then a trade to the Cubs. His K rate (11.6) spiked at AAA with Chicago, but walks were a problem (16 in 30.3 innings). He gave the Cubs 4 solid starts over the last 6 weeks, but Jake struggled in 4 others. Batters only hit .216 against him in the majors as he dominated lefties (.187). Arietta did have more problems with his command to LH batters (25 walks in 139 at bats). His AFB (93.9) was also a career high. He threw a curveball as his #2 pitch, however, his slider and changeup lost value and he added a cutter. Batters had a tough time against every pitch he threw (four seam fastball - .207, sinker - .208, changeup - .118, and slider - .222) except his curveball (.277). It really comes down to him just throwing strikes, but his secondary pitches are an asset due to volume of pitches. Jake isn't a great option, but he has enough talent to surprise with a huge step up in command.

6. SP Justin Grimm

Justin Grimm fantasy baseball

Grimm posted a nice crocked number in ERA and WHIP, but he did flash upside in a couple of starts early in the season. Justin allowed 3 runs or less in 7 of his first 9 starts (3.93 ERA) before blowing up in June (9.00 ERA) and July (11.91 ERA). Theo snapped him up at the trade deadline in the deal for P Matt Garza. Grimm returned to the majors as a reliever in September (2.00 ERA with 8 K's in 9 innings). LH batters lit him up (.323 with .517 SLG %) and he also struggled with righties (.276 with a.476 SLG %). Justin is 21-12 iduring his minor league career with 275 K's in 323.3 innings. His walk rate (3.1) and K rate (7.2) were a step back from his minor league career, and his AFB (91.6) is below major league average. His #2 pitch is a curveball, followed by a changeup. Overall, Grimm underperformed his skill set in his college. He showed improvement in the lower levels of the minors with growing velocity. His curveball is a plus pitch, but he needs his changeup to make a step forward to make an impact in the majors. It would surprise me to see him win the 5th starting job.

7. SP C.J. Edwards

C.J. Edwards fantasy baseball

Edwards may be the ace in the hole of the 2013 trade for P Matt Garza. He is 13-5 in his minor league career with a 1.72 ERA and 240 K's in 183.3 innings. C.J. has only given up 1 HR during his minor league career. He is averaging 11.8 K's per 9 innings, but his command (3.2) still needs work. Edwards is barely visible on the mound if he turn sideways, but he has a fastball that can reach over 95 (plus a solid curveball and a changeup with upside). C.J. has pushed through 4 levels in 2 seasons, but is only averaging 4.8 innings per outing as the Cubs have limited his pitch counts early in his career. He is expected to start the year at AA. His skill set will have more upside when he adds more bulk.

8. CL Pedro Strop

Pedro Strop fantasy baseball

Strop doesn't have a closer worthy resume just based on his lack of command. He pitched well in 2012 (2.44 ERA), but he had a huge walk rate (5.0). His skill set improved slightly in 2013 (4.1 walk rate and 10.4 K rate), but he was disgustingly bad with the Orioles over his first 29 appearances (7.25 ERA, 1.701 WHIP, and 4 HR's allowed in 22.3 innings). His lack of success was due to his poor walk rate (6.0). After getting traded to the Cubs, Strop was a totally different pitcher. He had the best command (2.8) of his career and a career high K rate (10.8). Pedro had success against both RH (.207) and LH (.215). However, his AFB (95.8) was a step down from 2013 (96.8). His #2 pitch is a plus slider, followed by an occasional split-finger fastball. Last year, batters only got 3 hits in 76 at bats against his slider. Strop has the arm to close, but he lacks command and may not have the stones. If his late success repeats in 2014, Pedro will get the first shot at the 9th inning.

9. RP Jose Veras

Jose Veras fantasy baseball

Veras had his best season in the majors in 2013. He threw the highest amount of first pitch strikes (61%) of his career (53.0% - career average), which led to his best command (3.2). However, his K rate (8.6) was weaker than his 3 previous seasons. Jose has a career 3.84 ERA in the majors with only 26 saves, but converted 21 of 25 chances last year. His AFB (93.4) has declined in just about every season since 2007. His curveball is his 2nd best pitch, followed by a split-finger fastball. Veras was dominant against RH batters (.164) and had success against lefties (.233). Overall, he has been tough to hit during his career (.216), but his lack of success has always been a result of poor command. On paper, he doesn't have the resume to close. In 2013, Jose's skill set did improve to where he could be closer worthy. If I have a choice of two pitchers with poor command, I'll lean on the one with the bigger fastball, so Veras is the #2 choice for saves in 2014 for the Cubs.

10. RP Arodys Vizcaino

Arodys Vizcaino fantasy baseball

The Cubs acquired Vizcaino from Atlanta in 2012 for Paul Maholm. He has an upside arm that made it to the majors at age 20. He had Tommy John surgery in March of 2012 and had a set back in 2013, which forced him to miss back to back seasons. His AFB was 95.9 in 2011 with the Braves, while he threw a curveball as his 2nd best pitch. He barely used his changeup when he pitched out of the bullpen, but it started to show improvement in 2011. The development of his changeup will determine his future value in the majors. He had a 2.91 ERA during his minor league career with 279 K's in 268.2 innings. With no innings over the last 2 seasons, it might make the most sense to let him ease him back into the bullpen in 2014. He probably has the best skill set to close if he returns to the field healthy.


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