2018 Outlook: Edwards was among the most frequently-used relievers in the game last season, tying for 10th in the majors with 73 appearances. He turned in a sub-3.00 ERA despite a walk rate north of 5.0 BB/9, as he used his mid-90s fastball and wicked curve to work his way out of jams. The curveball had a 50 percent whiff rate last season, with opposing batters combining for a .096 average and .253 slugging percentage against the pitch. Heading into the winter, Edwards seemed like a top candidate to replace Wade Davis in the ninth inning, but the team signed Brandon Morrow, and Morrow is considered the early favorite for the job. The 26-year-old Edwards still has appeal as a bench piece in a lot of leagues given his strikeout ability (12.8 K/9 last season), as he can be plugged in for a starter with a bad matchup. His stock would explode if he were to find his way into save chances.
2018 Outlook: Although 2017 was an improvement for Heyward, it still was a disappointing season from a fantasy perspective. He hit just 11 home runs and finished with 59 RBIs, his lowest total in that category since 2013. His speed game largely vanished as well, as he tallied a mere four stolen bases in eight attempts. Heyward is still 28 years old, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could return to his pre-Chicago form. His stellar defense should keep him in the lineup fairly regularly in 2018, even with Albert Almora, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber also competing for playing time, but Heyward's fantasy value is minimal unless he can bring back the hit tool from his prime years with Atlanta.
2018 Outlook: Montgomery has found a niche in the swingman role and was a cheap acquisition in single-league formats at points over the past few seasons. He is willing to take long relief outings and spot starts, and frequently finds himself involved in the decision. He totaled 24 combined wins and losses the last two years, despite making just 21 starts. He reduces his risks by generating a high volume of groundballs and relying on the infield defense behind him to turn those into outs. His strikeout rate did drop last year and was even lower as a reliever than it was as a starter, but he remained tough to hit in either role and was quietly one of the more effective swingmen in the game. The additions of both Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood will push Montgomery into more of a traditional reliever role in 2018, so rostering him would not amount to much more than chasing wins, as his strikeouts and ratios are nothing spectacular.
2018 Outlook: Strop has had four seasons of rather consistent relief work since coming to the Cubs in 2014. He gets his strikeouts, does a terrific job of keeping the ball in the yard with a very high groundball rate and puts up strong ratios year after year. What he does not get are save opportunities, and the fact the club acquired Brandon Morrow to replace Wade Davis instead of using Strop as the replacement speaks to how they view the reliever. Strop at least has a better chance at saves with Morrow's health history than he did backing up Davis. He may be a victim of his own success -- Strop's ability to generate groundballs is more attractive in the high-leverage situations that lead up to the save opportunity, and the Cubs certainly recognize that given his contract. Expect another year of quality pitching with perhaps a handful of saves sprinkled in.
2018 Outlook: Carl Edwards Jr. is a high-upside arm, but Cishek may actually be the player to roster in the Cubs' bullpen behind Brandon Morrow. He has the most closing experience on the team, having collected 121 saves over the course of his eight big-league seasons. Cishek did see a significant drop in strikeouts last season while pitching for the Mariners and A's -- his strikeout percentage fell from 29.5 to 23.6 -- but his walk rate held steady and he limited opponents to a batting average (.166 BAA) below .200 for the second straight season. The right-hander added back to his groundball rate and in turn nearly cut his home-run rate in half, which was no small feat in 2017. Morrow has a history of injuries, so at least keep Cishek on your watch list.
2018 Outlook: Wilson went all out for strikeouts in 2017. The result was a downright Wild Thing-esque campaign in which Wilson struck out 80 batters and walked another 35 in just 58 innings split between the Tigers and Cubs. In the end, though, Wilson was more or less the same pitcher he has been his entire career. His 3.41 ERA and 3.38 FIP were both within 15 points of his career averages. Wilson offers great on-field value as a left-handed reliever capable of shutting down right-handed batters, who hit just .170/.291/.313 against Wilson in 2017. Unfortunately, on the North Side, Wilson will face a steep road to saves, as he sits behind Brandon Morrow, Carl Edwards Jr. and a potential free agent or trade acquisition as the Cubs prepare for a run at their third title in 110 years.