Power Rankings Countdown: No. 9 Cubs still have potent lineup, but how good will Yu Darvish be in 2020?

If you’re a fan of the Cubs, the 2020 offseason was not particularly exciting. The franchise invested heavily in the launch of a brand new sports network, but, curiously, the Ricketts family declined to allocate additional resources to the on-field product. Chicago’s biggest free-agent signings were one-year deals for guys like Steven Souza, Jason Kipnis, Jeremy Jeffress, and Dan Winkler. Former MVP Kris Bryant lost the grievance in which he was seeking an additional year of service time, yet the Cubs still appear at least open to deal away the 28-year-old three-time all-star.

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So, it’s a weird time to be a Cubs diehard.

And yet, well ... just look at the projected lineup below. That ain’t too bad. The team’s biggest bats are all in their absolute primes, all 30 and under, with huge seasons already on their resumes. New manager David Ross is gonna park Bryant in the leadoff spot, which will negatively impact his RBI potential. He also enters the season with a .385 career OBP, so it’s not crazy to think he can lead the NL in runs scored, assuming good health.

As of this writing, the Cubs have four players ranked inside our consensus overall top-60: Javier Baez (26), Bryant (40), Yu Darvish (50) and Anthony Rizzo (53). All four have, of course, previously delivered seasons that justify their early-round ranks. Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo all finished 2019 in various states of disrepair, but they should be operating at full capacity whenever the season opens.

Chicago Cubs Projected Lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)
Chicago Cubs Projected Lineup (Photo by Paul Rosales/Yahoo Sports)

Darvish stumbled in the early weeks last year, issuing 33 walks over his first eight starts, but he eventually self-corrected and dominated in the final months. From May 15 through the end of the season, he was vintage Darvish: 142.0 IP, 3.61 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 185 Ks, 23 BB. After the all-star break, he was an upper-tier ace: 81.2 IP, 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 118 Ks, 7 BB. There’s a decent chance he’ll return a significant profit on his not-too-intimidating Yahoo ADP (60.3).

Kyle Schwarber is, at this point, guaranteed to be a drag on batting average and a huge boost to your power stats. He’s averaged 31.3 bombs per season over his last three, and he cleared the fence 38 times last year. He’s an exit velocity all-star, for what it’s worth, ranking among the game’s best. Willson Contreras is coming off another standard-issue very solid season (.272 AVG, 24 HR), but, like Bryant, his name found its way into winter trade rumors. He remains a second-tier catcher for fantasy purposes; there’s a pretty fair chance we haven’t yet seen his best season.

[Yahoo Rankings: Overall | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP]

Beyond Darvish, the Cubs’ rotation is something of a minefield. Kyle Hendricks remains a bankable fantasy asset coming off another effective season (1.13 WHIP); he does more with low velocity than anyone in the game, by far. Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood are, at this stage, best used only as streaming options in mixed leagues. Craig Kimbrel has returned to spin unwatchably tense ninth innings, so continue drafting him if constant dread is your thing.

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