2016 Outlook: The 34-year-old super utility player may have finally found a lineup where his production will seem truly utilitarian. He will no longer be asked to carry an offense; rather, he will simply have to get on base so the thumpers behind him can drive him in. Zobrist is on a run of four straight seasons with double-digit homers, 75-plus runs and a batting average of .270 or better. That kind of production is hard to find, especially from someone who qualifies at second base. Hitting either first or second in the Cubs' lineup will allow him to easily clear 75 runs again, and he will also get the benefit of playing in the best hitter's park of his career. The only potential drawback is that Javier Baez may earn some starts at the keystone, but Zobrist's ability to play the outfield may keep him in the lineup even on those days. Of bigger concern may be losing his plum spot in the lineup to Addison Russell should the young shortstop get back on track at the dish this season.
2016 Outlook: Of all the Cubs' rookies, Russell garnered the least attention. Part of that was by design as the club grew more reliant on his defense at shortstop than counting on offensive production. In fact, Russell hit out of the nine-hole, a favorite Joe Maddon ploy. Unfortunately, the attempt to get a second leadoff man didn't come to fruition as Russell's contact rate fell precipitously, fueling a rather anemic .307 on-base percentage. With nearly a full season under his belt, look for the 22-year-old infielder to cut down on the strikeouts, though not enough to work his way much higher in the order. The element of Russell's game that did not manifest during his rookie campaign was speed. As his confidence grows, so will the running opportunities. Still, so long as Russell is buried in the order, his production, despite sneaky power, will be tempered.
2016 Outlook: With Starlin Castro now out of the way, a path has been opened for Baez to join the talent-laden roster of the Cubs, and his positional flexibility will likely come in handy on team that has other defensive question marks with Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist, and Kyle Schwarber. Baez qualifies all over the infield and brings uncommon pop to the board, offering a Joc Pederson-like trade-off of home runs for batting average but at half the price and three times the positional value. Baez has been notoriously slow to get the bat going when introduced to new levels on the minor-league ladder, with a tendency to take off once he has made the necessary adjustments, so it is par for the course that he would take time to figure out how to hit at the highest level. The Cubs were cautious with Baez in 2015 to avoid his developing bad habits against major-league pitchers, keeping him on the farm until rosters expanded in September, and the statistical implications are that the ploy worked to his developmental advantage.
2016 Outlook: Coghlan's 2015 season would have him poised to enter camp as a starter on most teams, and he would be a trendy fantasy sleeper. The Cubs are not most teams, but fortunately for Coghlan's 2016 fantasy outlook, he was dealt to Oakland in late February. It remains to be seen exactly how the playing time in the A's outfield will be divvied up, but Coghlan figures to start in left field against right-handed pitching, forcing Khris Davis to DH and Billy Butler to the bench. Chances are, the platoon-conscience A's will shield Coghlan heavily from lefties as the Cubs did a year ago. Coghlan won't turn 31 until June and offers double-double potential over a full season, but the upside is somewhat capped especially given the platoon considerations and move to cavernous O.co Coliseum.
2016 Outlook: La Stella is a utility man without the positional flexibility ... so like a poor man's Brock Holt. And you're already pretty poor if you've got Holt. La Stella has hit a robust .320 in the minors and never lower than .290 in a single season, but it has yet to translate in a short major league sample of 435 plate appearances spread out over the last two seasons. Perhaps it is the .283 BABIP as a major leaguer, which is a far cry from his .334 mark in the minors. Or maybe he was just a more advanced hitter exploiting younger talent at virtually every stop in the minors. Yeah, probably that one. Now 27 years old, there isn't much left to dream on here.