Last Season’s Fantasy Highlights
Anthony Rizzo rebounded from a down 2013 with his first of what should be many 30-plus home run seasons as he swatted 32 despite playing only 140 games. Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Kyle Hendricks all received some valuable experience. The Cubs may have found their long-term closer as Hector Rondon improved his strikeout and walk rates to well better than league average. But the biggest highlight was the emergence of Jake Arrieta as a fantasy force. Arrieta whiffed more than a batter an inning which suggests his leap was more fact than fluke.
What Has Changed?
The opening day starting pitcher will be free agent acquisition Jon Lester. The southpaw will be tasked with mentoring a young staff as well as providing veteran leadership and playoff experience. Miguel Montero was brought in to handle the pitching staff, pushing the defensively-challenged Welington Castillo to back-up (or out of town). Dexter Fowler will be manning center field, pushing Alcantara to a reserve role and another option in case Soler or Baez struggle.
What to Expect:
The Cubs will continue to play their youngsters in the hopes they mature on the job. As some point Kris Bryant, perhaps the prime jewel of their outstanding crop of prospects, will be handed the keys to the hot corner. If it all comes together this season, Theo Epstein still has the prospects and cash to be able to deal for more pitching. That said, Baez, Soler and Bryant all must demonstrate they can make enough contact for their power to manifest. The chances the stars align this season are minimal, but next year – look out.
This Year’s Surprise:
Of all the youngsters, Jorge Soler profiles as the one that can take the leap in terms of improving contact and plate discipline. Add this onto the fact his doubles power is bound to blossom into homers, there’s a couple of 30 home run campaigns in his future. A lot has to go right for that to be this season, but stranger things have happened.
|4||St. Louis Cardinals||9||10|