2021 Roster Review: Chicago Cubs

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


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 Content Director for OOTP Perfect Team. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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2 years ago

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.

2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

I think they’ll wait until some of the younger batch is ready before making moves. I think owners are really spooked by the Heyward deal, might wait until that is off the books for a fresh start.

2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

I’d like them to be. With a new GM and the owner saying they will be “active” in free agency. I’m skeptically hopeful. Do I think they’ll go as wild as I would on MLB the Show with their cap space, that’s a flat out no. But I’m hopeful. Would love to see them pursue some rotation pieces. My wish list for that is Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz. I’m also hoping that Jose Ramirez opts out and they go hard for him. I think Chris Taylor would be a nice piece for them too. Such a good class especially if somehow Freddie Freeman and Nick Castellanos also hit the open market.

2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Sporer

Seems highly unlikely to me.