Chicago Cubs 2019 Season Preview
2018 Record: 95 – 68
Projected 2019 Record: 89 – 73
2018 Recap & 2019 Team Outlook
While the Cubs lost the 2015 NLCS, that year will forever be an important transitional period in Cubs history. That year, the Cubs added Joe Maddon and turned their team around. The following year, they won the world series for the first time in 108 years and they have continued putting up strong numbers through 2018.
The Cubs unfortunately lost the 2018 wild card game to the Rockies, but the consistently strong numbers are a good sign for Joe Maddon heading into his 5th year as manager. The Cubs ranked towards the top of the majors last year in team average and run production. Their pitching was even better, as they finished 3rd in the majors in team ERA and 3rd in earned runs.
While the Cubs didn’t get any huge offseason acquisitions, they didn’t lose any significant players either. Hence, there is no doubt that Chi Town has the talent to win their 2nd world series in 4 years.
Joe Maddon will have to answer some questions before starting the regular season in late March, the first of which deals with himself. Maddon’s contract will expire at the end of 2019, and critics wonder if this fact dangling over his head will in any way inhibit his ability to succeed as a manager. However, Maddon, at the age of 65, shows no signs of slowing down.
Another big issue for the Cubs in 2018 was Kris Bryant. He started off the season incredibly strong, but soon dropped off due to a shoulder injury. Will he be able to avoid injury and return to his MVP-caliber form in 2019?
Finally, what will Addison Russell make of his 2019? He won’t be able to play until early in May due to a 40-game suspension (violation of MLB joint domestic violence policy).
2019 Starting Pitchers
On paper, the 2018 Chicago Cubs starting pitching was without a doubt one of the best in the league. And despite the fact that throughout the season they were consistently plagued with injury, they finished close to the bar that was initially set for them.
So how will the 2019 starting rotation be different? First of all, both Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels will be active at the same time. Darvish only started 8 games in the 2018 season due to an injury to his pitching elbow. Expect Hamels and Darvish to be the number 2 and 3 guys in the rotation, respectively.
That being said, the team’s ace will still be Jon Lester. The veteran lefty continues to put up good numbers, despite being in his mid-30s. He went 18 – 6 in 2018 with an ERA of 3.32, solid numbers for a starter of his age.
Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana will be rounding off the starting rotation. Hendricks put up good numbers in 2018, posting an ERA of 3.44 over 33 starts. Quintana didn’t pitch quite as well but was still solid and looks to hold down the back end of the staff in 2019.
2019 Relief Pitchers
Despite the strength of the starting pitching, the Cubs bullpen raises a few questions. The Cubs went into the 2019 offseason looking to acquire some bullpen help. And they ended up getting pretty much no one other than Brad Brach from the Braves. And while Brach does have some all-star game experience, he hasn’t been incredibly impressive of late.
Brandon Morrow will still likely be the closer after putting up some good numbers in 2018, but doubts have arisen about whether he would be ready for opening day. Other than Morrow and Brach, the Cubs will look to Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, and Carl Edwards Jr. for strong relief in the late innings.
There is no doubt that the 2019 Cubs lineup will automatically be better than the 2018 one, assuming Kris Bryant can return in full force. The all-star slugger was unfortunately sidelined due to injury for the majority of 2018, but will no doubt make a push to return to his original form this season.
The talent that Javier Baez brings speaks for itself. He has been competing with Addison Russell for the shortstop position for four years now, but with Russell absent for the first month and a half of the season, Baez will likely solidify his role as the team’s core shortstop. With all-star and world series experience, he is an extremely valuable asset that the Cubs are fortunate to have.
Arguably no player on this team has more heart than Anthony Rizzo. The first baseman has provided rock solid offense and defense for Chi Town since joining the team back in 2012. Last year he batted .283, mashing 25 homeruns and knocking in 101 RBIs.
Ben Zobrist, Wilson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber will also play big roles in 2019. All 3 have solid world series experience and will play a big role in pushing the Cubs to another postseason berth.
Projected Starting Lineup
Noteworthy Fantasy Pitchers
Cole Hamels – The Cubs rotation is a lot of name value right now. Yu Darvish has injury concerns, Jon Lester over-performed greatly, and Jose Quintana is teetering most starts. Cole Hamels found himself in a Chicago uniform in the second half, and improved greatly. If you noticed, his Texas splits were strong. He struggled at home, but was solid on the road. Getting out of the AL and into more favorable ballparks, this was a plus move for Hamels. He isn’t the ace of old, but he should be able to eat innings and put up slightly above average strikeout numbers.
Kyle Hendricks – Kyle Hendricks continues to give you a strong ERA, pin point control, and double-digit wins. We should expect more of the same. If you are looking for strikeouts he isn’t your guy, but he is a safe floor guy that is going to continue to eat a ton of innings. Love him as a middle to late rotation guy in your fantasy lineups.
Noteworthy Fantasy Hitters
Kris Bryant – Kris Bryant suffered from a shoulder injury all season long, and it caused him to miss about 60 games. Even when he was in the lineup, he was a bit hindered. His hard-contact has dropped the last two seasons, and the shoulder is once again to blame. He has said that he is 100% coming into the season, and if he truly is, I will be expecting big numbers. If people are going to avoid early on due to durability, we can get him at a bargain compared to others in his projection range.
Anthony Rizzo – Anthony Rizzo is coming off a “down” year where he had over 100 RBI and 25 HR. He had an abysmal start to the season, but turned around his usual self. He is a low strikeout first baseman who is going to give you 600+ PA. He is currently going as one of the third or fourth first basemen off the board right now.