In recent conversations with an unnamed Fantasy Baseball Expert he likened auditing the Cubs for fantasy reasons to vomiting all over your keyboard and then setting the whole computer on fire. I thought it was hyperbole but once I dug into the Cubs offensive lineup the dry retching started and I had the sudden urge to dump gasoline over everything I owned and start again in some other place.
In the lens of a redraft league this was not be a fun exercise. Outside of Rizzo and Castro there is not a lot of high ceiling impact. Samardzija is an interesting name but he's almost certainly going to be available late in most sensible drafts sans homer fans who are hoping the upside pays off. Let's take a look at the 5 guys who you should keep tabs on in standard 5x5 leagues and a few MLB/MiLB guys who bear watching in Dynasty/Deep Keeper leagues.
I'll be around a little bit to answer your questions on anyone left off this list (FWIW I'm very mixed on Samardzija right now Fantasy wise).
1. Anthony Rizzo - Stock Up
I think Rizzo is a top 15 fantasy firstbaseman and by that larger function he's worth owning in most leagues. His real value comes in NL only leagues and OBP leagues (To a lesser extent). Rizzo has the potential to post average production in BA and be above average in the HR category. He'll be a non factor when it comes to Stolen Bases and the run conditions are completely out of his control. I doubt Rizzo hits 90/90 in terms of RS/RBI this year given the team around him. He's a competent backup option in fantasy who kills righties. That's worth a spot.
2. Starlin Castro - Big Question Mark
Castro was perhaps the biggest fantasy dissapointment of 2013. He has a track record of success and now he has an awful 2013 season on the back of his baseball card which complicates where Castro should go in most leagues. If you believe in the bat like I do Castro is a tier 2 shortstop who will flirt with joining the Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki tier as fantasy SS royalty. If you don't he's somewhere in the middle of Tier 3 hanging out with guys like Jimmy Rollins and Alexei Ramirez. I have him ranked as the 10th best SS in standard 5x5 leagues. Castro's value is tied strictly into BA right now as he's does not provide average production in HRs or SBs. The bat needs to play for him to be worth owning in mixed leagues. Draft with caution.
3. Travis Wood - Stock Down
I have Wood as an SP3 candidate which might be too aggressive. Wood relies on contact to get outs. I'm not predicting doom and gloom for Wood but his peripheral numbers do concern me moving forward. Perhaps he's a guy that will always outperform his FIP but it's not something I'm willing to stake a league championship on. Wood does some things well but he doesn't dominate enough categories for me to put him as anything other than an SP3 with a downward trend.
4. Welington Castillo - Stock Up
I have Welington tabbed as a tier 4 catcher with tier 2 upside. I'm higher than most on Beef when it comes to fantasy. There was a power outage last year and he doesn't hit in a good lineup that will help him augment his RBI and RS categories but I think he can hit a solid .280 and creep into double digit territory for HRs. Catcher is notoriously weak fantasy wise and I think he can have a decent enough year with the stick to move up a few tiers.
5. Jose Veras - Stock Up
Once you get beyond the top 10 relievers everyone is a variation on a different theme. Veras is a good pitcher, one who will help you in WHIP, ERA and he might get enough save opportunities to help you out with Saves. That's a big on the saves however. Never draft relievers high and never draft closers on bad teams before round 22. There will be enough flux in bullpens that will allow for interesting pickups later. I might take a flier on Veras but draft conservatively here.
Dynasty/Deep Keeper Guys
1. Junior Lake - Stock Down
I like Lake, this pains me to say it but I don't see him having a future as a Major League regular. He'll have some value in deep keepers as he has power and speed but I don't think he has enough utility in either of those tools to be useful anywhere else.
2. Kris Bryant - Stock Up
Bryant has a high basement and looks to be on the fast track to the Major League Level. There's a lot to like about his skillset and it's probably enough to get irresponsible with his overall dynasty rankings at 3B. There's not a lot of good, young 3B out there and if Bryant can stick at the hot corner he'll be in the top tier of fantasy thirdbasemen very quickly.
3. Javier Baez - Stock Up
I tabbed him #TheUnicorn because tales of his exploits are reaching mythological levels. There's a lot of risk with taking Baez in Dynasty leagues. He has a lot of swing and miss in his game and there's always the danger that his aggressive nature leads to flaming out early in the developmental process. I won't get too aggressive with his ranking but I like him a lot. His future is tied closely to Starlin Castro's and I still think he's a year away so keep that in mind.
4. Albert Almora - Stock Up
I think Almora will be a better real life player than a fantasy guy but there's enough to like in his projections that I think he'll be worth stashing very soon. He's too far away for me to get overly excited but I am very pleased with his progression at the lower levels. He's coming up quick.
5. Jorge Soler - Stock Down
Of the top 4 prospects Soler always seemed like the guy most likely to be traded. He has obvious talents but there are makeup whispers that put me off on his stock. If you have him, I would start entertaining trade offers for him.
6. Arismendy Alcantara - Stock Up
Jason Parks called Arismendy "Jose Reyes light". From a fantasy perspective that's an incredibly valuable commodity. He's blocked right now but he'll be making the case that he belongs very soon. He can play shortstop or second base and is definitely a name to watch.
7. Dan Vogelbach - Stock Down
I know he's absolutely mashing down there but he's on a prove it path with me. He's going to have to hit all through the system for me to start getting excited about a real Major League future.
8. All pitchers - Stock Unknown