That was Then...
The Cubs began the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer era without former big name players Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano.
During the spring, there was a position battle for first base between Bryan LaHair and top prospect Anthony Rizzo, which LaHair won. The Cubs opened the season with a 3-11 record and were never in contention along the way to a 61-101 season.
The club, which was looking to get younger under the new front office, shed some salary and experience during the season. Kerry Wood retired, while club parted ways with starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm, along with third baseman Jeff Baker and catcher Geovany Soto.
The news wasn't all bad for the Cubs, who called Rizzo up in late June and watched him hit .285 with 15 home runs. On the pitching side, Jeff Samardzija, who spent a few years in the bullpen, thrived as a starter and picked up his pace at the end of the season, when he posted a 2.58 ERA, with 95 strikeouts in his last 13 starts.
Other youngsters like Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson got looks from the club but weren't quite as successful.
...This is Now
Leader of the Pack?
Anthony Rizzo, who thrived in the Majors after being called up last June, will look to become the face of the franchise which will likely to continue their youth movement during the season.
The Cubs spent the off-season looking to add some pitching depth behind Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. They signed starting pitchers Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Scott Feldman and swing man and former Toronto Blue Jay Carolos Villanueva to give their staff some veteran presence and depth.
That depth will be tested right out of the gate as Garza, who missed the second half of the season with a stress fracture in his elbow, won't be ready to start the season in the rotation with a strained lat.
The Cubs also need a more consistent effort from their reliever Carlos Marmol, who - if he's not traded before the start of the season - will likely be taking the ball in the ninth inning.
For the Cubs to really rebound this season however, they will need to score more runs. Last season, they were ranked 28th in the majors in runs scored.
The projected top four hitters in the lineup are decent with David DeJesus, Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano, but the back four hitters before the pitcher all have some question marks.
The Cubs aren't expected to contend with the powerhouses of the division, the Reds and Cardinals this season, but Epstein has a track record of turning around historic franchises. That turnaround looks to slowly continue this year.
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
Past Picks: 2012 - Anthony Rizzo, 2011 - Andrew Cashner, 2010 - Starlin Castro, 2009 - Geovanny Soto, 2008 - Carlos Marmol, 2007 - Matt Murton, 2006 - Ronny Cedeno, 2005 - Jason Dubois, 2004 - Todd Wellemeyer, 2003 - Juan Cruz
Not expecting a winning season from the Cubs. No, really.
Racking up at-bats and hitting for a high average has SS Starlin Castro ranked 24th overall.
SS Starlin Castro is the only high-end fantasy performer for the Cubs. One look at the roster and that shouldn't come as any great surprise, but Castro is one of the top handful of shortstops, a position lacking star power, so Castro's value is enhanced by the number of mediocre offensive performers he's competing against.
Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija had a breakthrough season in 2012, so he's a quality option to look for in the middle rounds. In deeper leagues, Edwin Jackson is viable too, but wins don't figure to come easily for the Cubs and that limits the appeal of their pitchers.
Alfonso Soriano's best days are well behind him, but he still has power, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo has enough potential to land a spot on many teams, even if it's at a corner infield or utility position. Closer Carlos Marmol is relatively productive, but lost his job last season, so it's entirely possible that he could lose it at some point this year.
Looking to grab and stash a player for later? Consider righthanded starter Matt Garza, who is on his way back from elbow trouble, but when Garza is healthy, he's been an effective high-strikeout pitcher.