2021 Roster Review: Chicago Cubs

71-91 (4th in Division; 24th in MLB)

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SP Wins: 41 (19th)

RP Wins: 30 (23rd)

Saves: 40 (16th)

1+ Save: 12 (Craig Kimbrel 23, Rowan Wick 5, Codi Heuer, Adam Morgan 2, Adbert Alzolay, Alec Mills, Rex Brothers, Ryan Tepera, Keegan Thompson, Michael Rucker, Manuel Rodriguez, Kyle Ryan 1)

100+ Ks: 3 (Kyle Hendricks 131, Alzolay 128, Zach Davies 114)

.260+ AVG (min. 350 PA): 2 (Rafael Ortega .291, Kris Bryant .267)

65+ Runs: 0

65+ RBI: 2 (Ian Happ 66, Javier Báez 65)

10+ HRs: 9 (Patrick Wisdom 28, Happ 25, Baez 22, Willson Contreras 21, Bryant 18, Anthony Rizzo 14, Frank Schwindel 13, Joc Pederson, Ortega 11)

5+ SBs: 7 (Baez 13, Ortega 12, Happ 9, Matt Duffy 8, Contreras, Jason Heyward, Nico Hoerner 5)

BEST BUY: Willson Contreras

Quietly still finished as the 7th-best catcher and his bankability at such a shallow position alone earns him this slot. Well, that and a lack of other candidates. The 30-year-old backstop might not even make it through the winter as a Cub as he will be a free agent after the 2022 season and could net a substantial return.

ON THE RISE: Adbert Alzolay

Alzolay’s first full season included 21 starts and 8 relief appearances during which he posted an 18% K-BB, 3.81 SIERA, and 1.16 WHIP in 125.7 innings. It was a strong season that might be overlooked given the Cubs’ teardown. He showcased his slider a lot more (+32 pts to 38%) to great effect, but still needs to identify a reliable third pitch. The changeup (7%), cutter (7%), and curve (3%) were all show-me offerings and he will need that elusive third pitch in order to improve his severe platoon split (.568 OPS vR; .902 vL).


I have made it a point not to include too many could-be-closers in these Roster Reviews because of how early we are in the offseason process and how much will change with team bullpens, but Heuer is an exception as I could see the 25-year-old righty getting the job and running with it next year. His split between the two Chicago teams was interesting.

With the White Sox, his quality skills (18% K-BB) were clouded by a gaudy 10.5 H/9 and 1.2 HR/9 en route to a 5.12 ERA. With the Cubs, his K% melted and BB% nearly doubled yielding a 4% K-BB while his hit and home run rates shrank (6.3 and 0.6, respectively) and thus his ERA did, too (3.14). We have seen how great he can be in 15-20 IP stints with incredible swing-and-miss capability (career 14% SwStr) and a solid groundball lean (1.3 GB/FB lean). If he is given the closer’s role and finds a bit of consistency, he could be a strong “bad team closer”.

HOT TAKE: Frank Schwindel is legit and hits .280 with 25 HR.

Maybe this isn’t hot considering he hit 31 HR in 505 PA this year between Triple-A and the majors, but I don’t think anyone is just taking that season at face value for the 30-year-old journeyman. Despite his age, the Cubs should give him a full shot and see if they have hit on a true late bloomer. The best part from the fantasy standpoint is that he just won’t cost much so even if 2021 is a stone-cold fluke, it will be easy to move on and cut him. I like the contact profile (16% MiLB K%) and just holding onto some of the power gains will yield a solid profit at the draft table.

ICYMI: Ian Happ had a brilliant finish to the season hitting 15 HR w/a .944 OPS from August 1st on (223 PA), luring his believers (including yours truly) right back into the fray in the process. I almost put him in the Hot Take section, but I’ll settle for this inclusion being my indication that I’m still bought in on the 27-year-old power/speed bat.

IF THE DH RETURNS: David Bote might finally find a full season’s worth of playing time. He wouldn’t be the exclusive DH, but it would give him another spot to rotate into and collect 500+ PA. He was disastrous in 2021 (64 wRC+) after essentially being league average from 2018-20 (99 wRC+), but it feels like the .235 BABIP is the primary culprit as opposed to a tangible skill fall-off.

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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I don’t see the Cubs keeping Happ at a projected $8 million through arbitration. I’m hoping that the Cubs are willing to crack open the piggy since there’s going to be a solid FA class this offseason.