In the span of around a half-decade, the Chicago Cubs have gone from the “loveable losers” to World Series Champions and now into a full rebuild. With their season not going according to plan, the Cubs traded away their core trio of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez, bringing back a plethora of exciting young prospects. Many of these prospects will be discussed below. At the Major League level, the firesale created new opportunities for players that became popular waiver wire targets down the stretch. Now, entering 2022, there are several intriguing storylines with the Cubs that are fun to dive into for fantasy purposes.
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Chicago Cubs 2022/Dynasty Notes & Top Prospects
Ian Happ Bounceback in 2022?
Entering the 2021 season, Ian Happ was a popular breakout pick. Well, so much for that. While Happ did post 25 home runs and nine steals, that came with a .226/.323/.434 slash line and a plethora of headaches throughout the season due to his inconsistent play. We received three pretty good months in May, August, and September, but also had to endure three terrible months in April, June, and July where he hit below .170 each month with five total home runs in 237 combined PA. However, in the three good months, Happ was a top-25 player, hitting .289 with 20 HR in 298 PA. Why couldn’t you do that all season, Ian?
I’m sure the word frustrated accurately depicts any of us that had any shares of Happ last season. And to complicate things even further, Happ dominated to end the season. From 8/1 on, Happ posted a .288/.363/.581 slash line with 15 HR, 40 RBI, 35 R, 8 SB, 9.9 BB%, 29.6 K%, .396 wOBA, and a .293 ISO across 223 PA. That’s a 102/43/116/23 pace over 650 plate appearances. Overall, Happ still posted an above-average exit velocity and hard-hit rate while posting a barrel rate above 10% for the 5th consecutive season. Just when we’re almost out, Happ pulls us back in.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 3, 2021
Looking at early 2022 ADP data, Happ is being selected in the pick 175-200 on average with a range of 145-235 on NFBC. Given how he finished the 2021 season, I’m going to be scooping up a lot of Happ shares in that range. The strikeouts are consistently an issue, even during his good months, which puts a cap on his AVG, but even around .250-.260, Happ’s 30/10 profile makes him incredibly intriguing after pick 150.
Frank Schwindel: Trust or Bust?
Following the Cubs trading away Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez mid-season, several players were thrust into starting roles. One of those was Frank Schwindel, who absolutely dominated with the increased playing time. In 56 games in the 2nd half, Schwindel put up a whopping .342/.389/.613 slash line with 13 home runs, 40 RBI, and 42 runs scored. His .420 wOBA and 163 wRC+ were both good for the 7th best marks in baseball over that span as well. Frank the Tank was one of the best hitters in the league after the trade deadline and is now in line for regular at-bats as the Cubs starting first baseman, likely hitting in the top-third of the order.
Frank Schwindel crushes a 450-footer off the Video Board! pic.twitter.com/VJfCxIuFvf
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 4, 2021
But should we trust Schwindel in 2022 drafts? Can he be a top-10 option at the position? I’m not so sure. On one hand, Schwindel posted an above-average contact, zone contact, and whiff rate with an impressive 15.8% strikeout rate. That falls in line with his 15.6% minor league mark too. Schwindel projects as a potential .270+ bat in 2022, but it’s the power I’m questioning. At least, to the extent he showed in 2021. Schwindel was on pace for around 35 home runs last season, but did so with a pedestrian 39.8% hard-hit rate and 86.9 mph average exit velocity. That AVG EV was 222nd out of 261 hitters with 200+ BBE and his AVG EV on FB/LD wasn’t much better at 205th. He was also the biggest SLG-xSLG overperformer by a sizeable margin.
I’m not saying he’s not a decent power bat. He is. But I’m expecting more in the vicinity of 25 HR than the 35 HR he was on pace for in 2021. Schwindel could be a solid CI option or UT bat in 2022, but I wouldn’t count on him as your starting first baseman. I’m expecting something around .270-.275 and 23-25 home runs in 2022, and he’s slightly less valuable in OBP formats thanks to his lower walk rate.
Rafael Ortega: Nice Story in 2021, Risky Play in 2022
Another player that excelled with an expanded role late in the season was Rafael Ortega. This was the first time that the 30-year-old outfielder got an extended chance to start after playing in short spurts with Colorado (2012), Los Angeles Angels (2016), Miami (2018), and Atlanta (2019). Ortega took advantage, hitting .291 with 11 home runs and 12 steals in 330 plate appearances, most of which came after the trade deadline.
Fast forward to 2022 and Ortega is currently being selected outside the top-300 overall. This might seem like a value based on his performance down the stretch last season, but not so fast. To say Ortega has platoon split issues is the understatement of the century. In 2021, Ortega slashed .321/.374/.526 against RHP compared to a paltry .128/.293/.128 mark against southpaws in 59 PA. That’s right, his SLG against LHP is the same as his AVG, meaning he had zero extra-base hits against them.
Ortega will likely lead off a fair amount against right-handers, but I can’t imagine the Cubs run him out there much at all against LHP. If you have deep benches or are in some D&H leagues, Ortega makes sense as a guy you can plug and play when he’s facing primarily RHP during the scoring period, but this isn’t an ideal situation for fantasy purposes otherwise.
Any Value to Be Had in the Middle Infield (Madrigal & Hoerner)?
As it currently stands, Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner are slated to start at second base and shortstop for the Cubs in 2022. Both are former top-50 prospects that have shown brief glimpses of their potential during their abbreviated MLB careers. And when I say “potential”, that primarily means in the batting average department. In 2021, both Hoerner and Madrigal hit over 300, but with not much else to go with it. Madrigal added two homers and one steal in 215 PA while Hoerner added zero and five in 170 PA. But when it comes to contact and approach, both quickly showed their worth with Madrigal already establishing himself as one of the top contact hitters in all of baseball. Below are their ranks out of 411 hitters with 150+ PA in 2021.
For 2022, both are decent late-round fliers due to their ability to hit for a high AVG and everyday playing time in Chicago. Over a full season, both could add 15-20 steals as well. Madrigal could steal even more than that if he’s given the green light to run. He only picked up one lone steal in 2021 but did have a 75th percentile sprint speed and 43 steals in 163 minor league games. Just don’t expect more than a handful of home runs from him though. As for Hoerner, 8-10 HR and 15 or so steals are possible over a full season. Neither profile is sexy in the slightest, but for late-round middle infield depth, you can do worse.
Is Kyle Hendricks Still A Useable Fantasy Arm?
Mr. Boring and consistent was boring and inconsistent in 2021. After five straight seasons with an ERA below 3.50 and a WHIP below 1.20, Hendricks’ ratios ballooned to 4.77 and 1.35 respectively. Both of those were career-worst marks by a decent margin. On top of that, his usual below-average 20-22% strikeout rate dipped down to 16.7%, good for the 10th worst mark among the 129 pitchers with 100+ innings in 2021. We put up with the mediocre strikeout rate before 2021 since it always came with good ratios and plenty of innings. Hendricks ranks 4th in innings pitched since the start of 2015, trailing only Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, and Gerrit Cole. But now that the ratios aren’t there, is Hendricks even worth drafting? Can he bounce back in 2022 and at least provide some value?
When digging into his 2021 performance, I’m not finding much to give me any level of confidence in drafting Hendricks in 2022. The whiff rates on three of his four pitches decreased and all four offerings registered an xBA of .259 or higher. Hendricks limited hard contact well overall with an 86.3 mph AVG EV allowed, but that didn’t matter much when he served up 31 home runs in 32 starts. Only Jordan Lyles, Patrick Corbin (of course), and Robbie Ray allowed more longballs in 2021. And no one allowed more hits than Hendricks did. I’m still willing to roll the dice on Hendricks as a late-round flier given his track record before 2021, but there’s not a lot to be excited about in this profile right now. His 2021 performance was no fluke either as ERA indicators are all in line.
Top-Notch Farm System
This is a downright sexy farm system, bursting with intriguing talent on the rise. We’ll get into several of my favorite names to target in dynasty leagues below, but I could’ve made that list 2x-3x as long. The Cubs have done a great job restocking their farm system over the last few years. Currently, the Cubs have 22 prospects in my top-400 overall which trails only the Cleveland Guardians. Included in that are eight inside my top-125 overall, headlined by top-10 talent, Brennen Davis. Currently my #7 overall prospect for dynasty, Davis racked up 19 home runs and eight steals in 99 games this past season with a .260/.375/.494 slash line. His combination of an above-average hit tool, plus power, and above-average or better speed gives him one of the highest fantasy ceilings of any prospect and we could see Davis at some point this summer.
Brennen Davis to the Tiki Hut!
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 23, 2021
Right behind him is Reginald Preciado and Christian Hernandez. Both are knocking on the door to my top-50 overall and were easy inclusions in my projected top prospects in 2024 article. The arrow next to each is pointing straight up, so this is likely going to be the last time you can acquire them in dynasty leagues for anything less than an elite price tag. One that you’ll notice has slid down my rankings drastically is LHP Brailyn Marquez. In a not too distant past, Marquez was my #2 dynasty prospect in this organization. But injuries and command/control issues have forced me to adjust my expectations. Marquez remains an electric arm, but one that has a solid chance of ending up in the bullpen long-term. Now, let’s get to my top-15 Cubs dynasty prospects and favorite prospects to target in dynasty leagues this offseason.
Top-15 Dynasty Prospects
Yes, this is actually 16 prospects, but just wanted to show where Brailyn Marquez fell to in the rankings.
Six Prospects To Target In Dynasty
James Triantos, SS
Out of all the players drafted this past July, James Triantos has seen his stock rise the most. The Cubs’ second-round selection slashed .324/.372/.590 with six home runs and three steals in just 26 games following the draft. The Cubs went over slot to sign Triantos in July and it’s easy to see why. Triantos has an advanced feel for hitting with above-average to plus raw power, and at least average speed. There’s still projection for more power down the road as well. Triantos skillset and strong performance following the draft have him skyrocketing up FYPD and overall prospect lists right now. He’s already a borderline top-100 dynasty prospect with the upside to rise much higher.
Nelson Velazquez, OF
The 2021 Arizona Fall League MVP was an easy inclusion here. Velazquez quietly put up a 20 homer, 17-steal season in just 103 games between Hi-A and Double-A before socking a league-leading nine AFL home runs en route to league MVP honors. The power profile here is enticing and Velazquez has around average speed as well, but the strikeouts have been an issue. That remained the case during the Arizona Fall League as well. If you combine the regular season and the AFL, Velazquez struck out 30.3% of the time. That’s going to need to improve in 2022.
Owen Caissie, OF
Owen Caissie was one of my favorite hitters in the 2020 draft class. The 6’4 Canadian outfielder already has shown plus or better power with solid projection left on his frame too. With some good added bulk, Caissie could be a 70-grade power bat in time with 35-homer upside. Outside of the power, he’s shown exceptional patience at the plate, working the count and waiting for a pitch he can drive. Caissie also showed better than advertised contact skills in 2021, hitting .302 in 54 games even with him struggling after the promotion to Lo-A. Caissie is arguably the top power bat in this organization.
Kevin Alcantara, OF
Acquired from the New York Yankees midseason, Kevin Alcantara possesses one of the highest offensive upsides in the entire system. The 6’6/188 outfielder has above-average to plus speed and easy plus raw power as well. And as you can probably guess from his listed height and weight, there’s plenty of projection left on Alcantara’s frame as well. Alcantara was able to give us a glimpse of his massive upside this past season with a .345/.423/.588 slash line, five home runs, and five steals in 138 plate appearances. As long as Alcantara continues to show a solid hit tool, the sky is the limit here for fantasy purposes.
DJ Herz, LHP
For the most part, DJ Herz has flown under the radar. The 6’2 southpaw finished 2021 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 40.4% strikeout rate and would’ve had even better ratios if it wasn’t for the 9 ER outing. Herz attacks hitters with a mid to upper-90’s fastball, hammer curve, and changeup, all of which have flashed plus. Herz’s ability to miss bats with all three is obvious, but his control has been an issue. In 2021, Herz walked 44 in 81.2 innings for a 13.6% walk rate. He’s going to have to trim that to stick as a rotation arm longterm, but if he can, the upside is exciting.
Caleb Kilian, RHP
You wouldn’t know it from his stats, but Kilian was one of the more impressive pitchers out in the AFL this year. Just not in my live look when he got rocked and couldn’t find the strike zone. It was reported that Kilian was working on some new pitch grips and that would explain some of the command and control issues I witnessed in my live looks. Kilian was another player the Cubs picked up midseason and is one of the more exciting arms in the system now. I’m not quite as high on him as some are, but Kilian is definitely a pitcher to target in dynasty leagues right now to see how he looks in 2022 over a full season with updated arsenal. There’s a solid five-pitch mix here so Kilian is one I’m going to be intrigued to watch more of in 2022.
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Media Credit: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire, Fox Sports: MLB, MLB Pipeline,
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