When you’re a true baseball fan, it almost seems like you cannot get enough of the sport. You’ll watch games from all over the league, catch highlights, read articles and books, play video games, etc. Today, one of the most popular ways to enjoy the sport is to play fantasy baseball.
Fantasy baseball players join leagues and draft major league baseball players in hopes that their team will outperform the others that they are competing with in the league. A lot of the fantasy leagues allow you to keep a portion of your roster going into the next season and rebuild the rest of your roster through the draft. Usually, these “keepers” are elite players that you don’t want to lose at any cost.
With the Cubs in dire need of repair going into 2012 and beyond, I thought to myself, “Who are the Cubs keepers?” Below I list my top five:
Starlin Castro, SS – This is an obvious lock. The 21 year-old shortstop comprises the raw, natural talent and multiple tools that a superstar major leaguer should display. Castro’s had success at a young age hitting the ball to all fields and should only get better with experience. As he gets older, he should have no problem adding power to his game since he squares up the ball so often. He’s shown great range in the field and his everyday defense should improve over time as well. Also, he has enough speed to take an extra base at key points in a game. Castro is by far the most important piece to the Cubs future.
Matt Garza, SP – Garza gets the nod over any of the other Cubs starters, in large part due to his age and price. Not only is he a mere 27 years old, but the Cubs have control of him for at least two more seasons after this one before he’ll earn big money. This gives them time to build a roster around him while he continues to develop his craft and hopefully sign him to a long-term deal. He’s an innings eater and a great competitor who could be a 20 game winner some day.
Geovany Soto, C – While Soto is having a down year thus far in 2011, he is still only 28 and has not reached his prime. We’ve seen how much of a solid piece of the puzzle he could be in 2008 when he won Rookie of the Year and with last season’s bounce back performance. He gets on base at a high rate and when he’s healthy he’ll give you over 20 home runs. He’ll never be the star of your team but he’s an everyday performer at a position where it’s not easy to find offense.
Andrew Cashner, SP – If he can get through the injuries he has suffered to this point in the 2011 season, Cashner has great potential as a starting pitcher. The jury is still out on him as a major leaguer, but he showed flashes of dominance while pitching in the Cubs farm system. With the kind of talent that he possesses, along with a 98 mph fastball, Cashner needs a chance to shine at the major league level.
Brett Jackson, OF – Yes, I cheated a little on this one. The 22 year-old is not even on the Cubs 40-man roster, but with a rebuilding franchise and a thin farm system, the Cubs could ill-afford to lose their top prospect at this point. Many of their prospects were dealt in the Matt Garza trade and they need to start accumulating young talent once again. Jackson possesses speed, plate awareness, enough power, and solid defense. He seems to be very well-rounded and hopefully most of those attributes will carry over into the big leagues.
Notable exclusions – Carlos Marmol has electric stuff. His 2010 campaign was one of the best ever for a closer and he is often untouchable. The reality is, Marmol has trade value and closers come and go. Eric Gagne and Brad Lidge each had consecutive save streaks that brought them to elite status, but it only took a season or two for them to fall out of favor and come back down to Earth. If a team came to the Cubs with good prospects, I would not hesitate to trade Marmol.
Darwin Barney fits the bill as a young talent with room to improve, but he is expendable. It’s likely he will be with the Cubs for a few years anyways because it does not seem that teams will come calling for him in the near future. In my opinion, Barney will make a good 7th or 8th hitter in a lineup. If this were the 2008 Cubs, Barney would be Ryan Theriot, the weakest offensive player on a good team. This is not a knock on either Barney or Theriot because their rolls are important. However, they’re the type of player that is easily replaceable.
Let’s face it, the Cubs keeper list is not all that impressive. There’s a lot of question marks for many of them, but this is what the Cubs have to deal with for now. The idea is that each year this list will look better and there will be more contenders to fill those slots. For now, if this were my fantasy baseball team, I’d already be working towards 2013.