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Chicago Cubs Fantasy Superlatives: Kyle Schwarber Ready to Make The Breakout Leap

The Chicago Cubs have some great values, sleepers, breakouts and bounce-backs for your consideration. SI Fantasy's Shawn Childs highlights a few players for you to monitor.

Breakout: OF Kyle Schwarber

After struggling to get every day playing time over the past two seasons, Schwarber set career-highs in at-bats (529), runs (82), hits (132), home runs, (38), and RBI (92).

His strikeout rate (25.6) remains high while improving over the past two seasons (30.9 and 27.5). His walk rate (11.5) continues to be an edge.

He made progress in his RBI rate (17). Schwarber repeated his contact batting average (.354), and his average hit rate (2.129) supports his growth in power.

After a slow start in April (.241 with four HRs and eight RBI over 83 at-bats), he picked up his production over the next two months (14 HRs and 32 RBI over 199 at-bats). His bat looked improved after the All-Star break (.280 with 37 runs, 20 HRs, and 49 RBI over 225 at-bats) while lowering his strikeout rate (21.8). Schwarber struggled with his batting average in May (.196) and July (.184). His season ended on the uptick in September (.341 with six HRs and 19 RBI over 91 at-bats).

He needs to improve against lefties (.229 with six HRs and 18 RBI over 109 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (51.2) ranked sixth in baseball while maintaining a high HR/FB rate (24.1) for the third straight year (24.0 and 24.5).

Schwarber has an ADP of 140 in the early draft season. Last year wasn’t a fluke, and a change in manager may lead to higher levels in at-bats.

His runs are helped by his ability to take walks while being the verge of a 40/100 season with a better RBI opportunity. The key stat for him will be batting average.

Sleeper: OF Ian Happ

Behind door number one, a fantasy owner will see Happ’s success over 140 at-bats in the majors (.264 with 25 runs, 11 HRs, 30 RBI, and two SBs). These stats projected over 550 at-bats would come to 98 runs, 43 home runs, 118 RBI, and eight stolen bases.

He did have an improvement in his strikeout rate (25.0) with Chicago (33.8 over his first 875 plate appearances in the majors) with a viable walk rate (9.6).

Behind door number two, Happ hit .255 at AAA with 87 runs, 25 home runs, 78 RBI, and 11 steals over 463 at-bats. His strikeout rate at AAA came in at 25.7 percent (23.9 in his minor league career). His best play last year came in September (.311 with six HRs and 17 RBI) over short at-bats (61). Happ has had a high HR/FB rate (22.6 – 26.2 in 2019) in his limited time in the majors.

An interesting player as he does a lot of good things when in the lineup. His batting average does have plenty of risk if his approach has any regression, and his sample size is small. Right kind of flier based on his ADP (300) for many team structures. Happ should be in the hunt for every-day at-bats with a reasonable chance at batting leadoff when he’s playing well. Think .240 with a floor of 25/15 with 450 at-bats.

Deep Sleeper: SS Nico Hoerner

The Cubs lack the right team structure to offer a productive leadoff bat in 2020. Hoerner doesn’t have the ideal skill-set, and he may not even win a starting job after making the jump from AA to the majors last year.

What he does bring to the table is a high average bat with a low strikeout rate (9.5 in college, 9.6 in the minors, and 13.4 in his limited at-bats with Chicago).

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The Cubs drafted him with the 24th draft pick in the 2018 June Amateur Draft. Over his short at-bats (337) in the minors over two seasons, Hoerner hit .297 with 49 runs, five home runs, 28 RBI, and 14 steals.

With Chicago, he flashed over 20 games (.282 with 13 runs, three HRs, and 17 RBI over 78 at-bats). His hard-hit rate (23.5) needs plenty of work while offering a ground ball swing path.

A good season at any level would be a .300 batting average with a chance at 80-plus runs, ten home runs, 50 RBI, and 15 steals. Only a bench option for now with a waiver wire ADP (499). Hoerner will start the year with a second base qualification.

Comeback: RP Craig Kimbrel

Last year was a lost season for Kimbrel. He sat out the first two months of the season, trying to get a new contract. The Cubs signed him to a $43 million three-year deal on June 5th.

He came to Chicago, not in game shape, which led to three weeks at AAA (one run over 3.2 innings with four Ks). Kimbrel struggled in two of his first three games with the Cubs (five runs and seven baserunners over 2.2 innings) before settling down over his next 17 games (2.30 ERA, 22 Ks, and 12 SVs over 15.2 innings).

He missed about two weeks in August with a right knee injury, followed by a right elbow issue in September. Over his final three games, Kimbrel didn’t look healthy (six runs, seven baserunners, and four home runs over 2.1 innings).

His AFB (96.4) was more than two MPH lower than 2017 with no success (four-seam – .326 with six HRs over 46 at-bats). He still has a plus curveball (.156 BAA).

Over his last three full seasons with Boston, Kimbrel went 12-7 with a 2.44 ERA and 305 strikeouts over 184.1 innings while converting 108 of 119 saves.

With a full offseason to get healthy, he should come back in a big way in 2020. His downside as of late comes from his high walk rate (5.1 in 2016, 1.8 in 2017, 4.5 in 2018, and 5.2 in 2019).

His elbow issue is a slight concern, but favoring his right leg due to an injury may have caused the problem.

My kind of gamble at closer based on his ADP (145). Look for a sub-2.50 ERA and over 40 saves and a chance at 100 strikeouts if he pitched over 65 innings.

Bounce Back: SP Jose Quintana

The excitement of Quintana’s arm left the building after 2016. Generally, a move to the National League helps a pitcher’s value after success in the AL.

Over six years with the White Sox, he had a 3.51 ERA and 890 strikeouts over 1,055.1 innings.

With the Cubs over three seasons, Quintana went 32-23 with a 4.23 ERA and 408 strikeouts over 429.2 innings. He regained his walk rate (2.4) in 2019 with about a career average strikeout rate (8.0).

Over 13 starts from April 11th to June 16th, Quintana posted a 3.29 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, and 61 strikeouts over 76.2 innings. On both sides of this run, he gave 16 runs and 22 baserunners over 7.1 innings. His arm was serviceable over his next 11 starts (3.08 ERA and 63 Ks over 64.1 innings), but Quintana had a sellout feel in September (11.09 ERA and 2.250 WHIP over 18 innings).

His failure came against righties (.290 with 22 HRs over 527 at-bats).

He has a fading fastball (91.7 MPH) with only one pitch of value (curveball – .244 BAA).

Lefties tend to have nine lives. Quintana should be better than a back-end inning eater, but he has a lot to prove in 2020. His ADP (343) is low enough where he is disposable if he fails. Start the bidding at 4.00 ERA and, hopefully, a push back toward a 3.75 ERA. 

READ MORE: 2020 Chicago Cubs Fantasy Team Preview

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