Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Chicago Cubs

Potential sleepers and avoidable busts for the Chicago Cubs.

The Chicago Cubs finished 19 games back from their division rival, St Louis Cardinals, but never really contended in the NL Central. Part of that was an underwhelming rotation and slightly worse than the middle-of-the-road offense. The ballclub struggled to score runs and constantly allowed opponents to reach base, which was not a good formula.

However, that was in 2022, and the team has made some improvements. While many weren’t of the blockbuster variety, there is quite a lot of turnover on the roster. Sure, some of the acquisitions might be better “real” baseball moves and not for fantasy, but there are still a few players you can’t sleep on and, indeed, a few to avoid.

Rather than scouting the depth charts and digging through box scores, a few of both are listed below. Let’s dive in!




Seiya Suzuki


2022 stats (446 PA): .262 AVG, 54 R, 14 HR, 46 RBI, 9 SB

One of the Cubs’ notable additions from the 2022 season came from overseas. Japan, in fact. When you glance at the final stat line in Suzuki’s first year roaming the outfield, it’s a bit underwhelming. However, let’s take a moment to consider how difficult a transition like that can be, even for an MLB-caliber talent. Check out the table below depicting Suzuki’s slow start and solid finish.


Suzuki’s Tale of Two Halves

While Suzuki showcased the power/speed skill set many hoped for, the strikeouts mounted up and hindered his production. After a month-long stint on the IL, Suzuki returned and flexed his abilities while cutting back the Ks. Can he keep cutting strikeouts and maintaining the 10.5% barrel rate?

Another notable change in the back end of Suzuki’s season was the better plate discipline. He swung outside the zone 22.3%, five points less than his April through May timeframe. Even better, his contact rate jumped to 81%, and making contact in the zone, or Z-Contact%, spiked to 92.2%.

Point blank, the more acclimated to the MLB Suzuki gets, the better he performs. If he continues his 2022 second-half production, you’ve drafted a terrific outfielder. If he takes a step forward, you could be looking at an exceptional season.


Nico Hoerner


2022 stats (517 PA): .281 AVG, 60 R, 10 HR, 55 RBI, 20 SB

After being on the outside looking in, Hoerner finally seized his opportunity by locking down 517 PA as the Cubs shortstop. Before last season, Nico had only amassed a mere 378 trips to the dish since 2019. So, what stuck this time?

His elite (!!!) plate discipline played a significant role. His 85.8% contact rate and zone contact rate was a staggering 93.2%. In the end, it helped suppress the strikeouts, and he finished with an 11% K-rate (10th best in the MLB). Furthermore, all this fueled a .281 batting average, vastly better than the league average (.244).

Once on base, Hoerner became a problem on the base paths as he successfully swiped 20 bags in 22 attempts. Given the landscape for stolen bases, Hoerner will provide a solid base for batting average and offer up a bounty of stolen bases. Now, you might see even more counting stats if he gets penciled in as the leadoff hitter on Chicago Cubs‘ lineup cards.

Lastly, given that 2B is relatively thin and the recent addition of Dansby Swanson. Hoerner should become eligible at 2B reasonably early in the season.


Justin Steele


2022 stats (119 IP): 3.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 126 K, and 4 W

The southpaw was a rotational standout in his 24 games started. Not only did he strike out over a batter per inning, but a 3.58 xFIP and 3.81 SIERA backed up his 3.18 ERA. Furthermore, he benefitted from only giving up a 21.4% HC% (Hard Contact%) and 52.9% ground ball rate. The question is, what makes him perform this well?

The slider! Steele chucks it at a 31% clip, carrying a 16.1% SwStr%. Furthermore, his breaker does a spectacular job of getting batters to chase, as seen by the 37.3% O-Swing%. Essentially, this is a crucial pitch in his arsenal. There’s a fastball that he spots well (65% Str%) and generates a 20% whiff rate, but his slider could get more usage. There is room for a little more out of Steele, even though the arsenal is slightly limited.

He could draw the Brewers and Reds for his first two starts. Those are not juggernaut offenses, and simply adding him to the roster would be a smart move in case he shoves.




Cody Bellinger


2022 stats (550 PA): .210 AVG, 70 R, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 14 SB

The Cubs brought in Bellinger on a one-year $17.5MM flyer, hoping he can regain his 2019 from. And why shouldn’t they? In 2019, Bellinger smashed 47 HRs and looked like a promising player on his way to Cooperstown. However, As the rolling graph shows, things quickly went amiss for Bellinger.



Bellinger’s OPS has cratered, and the K-rate is not going away. Additionally, in the wake of his poor performance, his former ballclub, the Los Angeles Dodgers, pushed him into a platoon role. This could be expected as he carried a 63 wRC+ vs. LHP and struck out (27.5%) more than putting balls in play (24%).

While I’m not here to say it can’t work out for Bellinger since we’ve seen players with a change of scenery work out. The fact of the matter is, Bellinger is in a much worse offense and needs to improve significantly, specifically at making contact. In the previous two seasons, his contact% is 70.3% and 72.8%, below the league average.


Christopher Morel


2022 stats (425 PA): .235 AVG, 55 R, 16 HR, 47 RBI, 10 SB

Morel was one of the more surprising players from the Cubs’ lackluster offense. Bursting onto the scene, Morel put up a 133 wRC+ over his first 185 plate appearances. Additionally, he racked up seven HRs and seven stolen bases. So, he was a darling to snag off the waiver wire. And then… reality set in.

During Morel’s final 240 plate appearances, he brought a little power (nine HRs) and some inefficient speed (three SBs on seven attempts). However, the wRC+ fell to 89, and his .197/.282/.385 slash line rendered him far less viable in your fantasy roster.

The biggest issue was Morel’s poor plate discipline. His 61.5% contact rate was 13 points below league average, and a 19.3% SwStr% should only be saved for the most elite starting pitchers, not a utility bat looking to stick on an MLB roster. While he does flex a robust 12.6% barrel rate, don’t let that fool you into drafting him. This is a player that’ll be on the waiver wire many times.


Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Dave Swan

Dave Swan is an avid Chicago Cubs fan that enjoys all aspects of fantasy baseball-especially DFS. He would trade his right arm for a GIF library of Greg Maddux pitches. Swan's baseball thoughts are available at @davithius.

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