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Tale of the fantasy tape: Cubs vs. Cardinals

Which National League Central rival has superior talent?
MLB.com @FredZinkieMLB

After losing to the Cubs in the 2015 National League Division Series, the Cardinals have missed the postseason in each of the past two years, while Chicago has gone on to win two straight NL Central crowns as well as the '16 World Series championship.

Before these teams write the next chapter in their storied rivalry, we can get a head start on assessing them by comparing the fantasy value of their key players for the upcoming campaign. Find out below if St. Louis can be expected to regain the advantage or if the Cubs are headed for another season atop the division.

After losing to the Cubs in the 2015 National League Division Series, the Cardinals have missed the postseason in each of the past two years, while Chicago has gone on to win two straight NL Central crowns as well as the '16 World Series championship.

Before these teams write the next chapter in their storied rivalry, we can get a head start on assessing them by comparing the fantasy value of their key players for the upcoming campaign. Find out below if St. Louis can be expected to regain the advantage or if the Cubs are headed for another season atop the division.

Catcher: Although he is coming off a late-career power uptick in 2017 (18 homers, 82 RBIs), Yadier Molina is unlikely to post a repeat performance after averaging six homers and 52 RBIs across the three previous seasons. The veteran falls well behind Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, who is already among the game's elite offensive backstops entering his third big league campaign.
Winner: Cubs

Video: Sanchez highlights top fantasy catchers

First base: Having produced 100-plus RBIs and 90-plus runs in each of the past three seasons and at least 31 home runs in four straight, Anthony Rizzo is a safe second-round option in 2018 drafts. Matt Carpenter is a solid mixed-league option after averaging 24 homers and 91 runs scored with an .864 OPS across the past three years, but he'll be drafted much later than his Cubs counterpart.
Winner: Cubs

Second base: Coming off a season in which he hit .273 with 23 homers, 75 RBIs, 75 runs and 10 steals across 508 plate appearances, Javier Baez should populate all shallow-league rosters. The same cannot be said for Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, a lifetime .256 hitter who has totaled just nine long balls and 15 stolen bases across the past two campaigns.
Winner: Cubs

Video: Zinkie provides tips for 2018 fantasy drafts

Shortstop: Although he possesses plenty of potential as a former elite prospect who is still just 24, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he was unable to take a step forward following a promising 2016 campaign (21 homers, 95 RBIs). Russell should be drafted later than Paul DeJong, who lacks plate discipline (0.17 BB/K ratio in '17) but hit 25 long balls across 443 plate appearances in his rookie year.
Winner: Cardinals

Third base: Although he fell short of lofty expectations last season, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant remains a viable Round 1 option entering his age-26 campaign. Bryant holds a wide advantage over Jedd Gyorko, who has 30-homer potential but is unlikely to make a significant impact in other categories.
Winner: Cubs

Video: Arenado, Bryant among top fantasy third basemen

Left field: Although he tallied 30 homers over 486 plate appearances last season, Kyle Schwarber remains a risky mixed-league option due to his penchant for striking out (lifetime 30 percent strikeout rate) -- which will likely lead to continued struggles in the batting-average department (career .222 average). The Cardinals score an easy point at this position, as offseason acquisition Marcell Ozuna should be an early-round pick following a memorable showing in '17 (37 homers, 124 RBIs, .312 average).
Winner: Cardinals

Center field: After emerging as a five-category stud last season (23 homers, 25 steals, .306 average), Cards center fielder Tommy Pham now merits an early-round pick in all '18 drafts. The Cubs' center-field situation pales in comparison, as promising youngster Ian Happ will likely see his fantasy value limited by frequent whiffs (31.2 percent strikeout rate in '17) and an expected timeshare with Albert Almora Jr.
Winner: Cardinals

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Right field: Although he dealt with injuries and played just 118 games as a result, Dexter Fowler posted career-best marks in home runs (18) and RBIs (64) during his initial year with St. Louis. The veteran is a more stable late-round option in mixed leagues than Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward, who has hit just .243 with 18 homers combined in two seasons with Chicago and will likely make his most valuable contributions on the defensive side of the ball.
Winner: Cardinals

No. 1 starter: Carlos Martinez is knocking on the door to be a fantasy ace, but that door will remain closed until he lowers his WHIP (1.22 across 2016-17). This position will be scored a draw, with Martinez and new Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish (career 3.42 ERA, 11.0 K/9 rate) each warranting attention once the top 10 starters are off the board.
Winner: Push

Video: Analyzing Darvish's fantasy value with Cubs

No. 2 starter: Having made 32-plus starts in five straight seasons and tallied a personal-best 207 K's last year, Cubs southpaw Jose Quintana (career 3.53 ERA) is a better fantasy option than Luke Weaver. The Cards youngster flashed exciting potential (1.49 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 12.1 K/9 rate) across a six-start stretch from Aug. 23 to Sept. 20 last year, but he lacks experience.
Winner: Cubs

No. 3 starter: After leading the Majors in ERA two years ago (2.13) and producing a 3.03 mark last season, Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks holds an edge over Michael Wacha, who is a serviceable late-round option with a lifetime 3.84 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.
Winner: Cubs

Video: Kershaw, Scherzer among top fantasy starters

No. 4 starter: Although he took a major step backward last year (4.33 ERA, 1.32 WHIP), Cubs lefty Jon Lester still warrants a significant fantasy investment due to his track record. The veteran is a preferable option to Miles Mikolas, who excelled during three seasons in Japan (2.18 ERA) but has struggled in previous big league opportunities (5.32 ERA).
Winner: Cubs

No. 5 starter: After thriving away from Coors Field (3.18 ERA) but posting a 5.17 ERA at home as a member of the Rockies from 2012-17, Tyler Chatwood should enjoy pitching for the Cubs. The breakout candidate holds an edge over former ace Adam Wainwright, who owns a 4.81 ERA with a 1.44 WHIP since the outset of '16 and is no longer a viable mixed-league option.
Winner: Cubs

Closer: Both clubs are trying new ninth-inning options and might not have a 30-save reliever. The Cubs' Brandon Morrow (2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in 2017) may have more upside, but he comes with significant injury concerns. Both Morrow and the Cards' Luke Gregerson (4.57 ERA, 1.34 in '17) belong in the second half of mixed-league drafts, making this position a draw.
Winner: Push

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Setup Men: Led by Carl Edwards Jr. (2.98 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 12.8 K/9 rate last year), the Cubs have multiple setup men with the potential to help those in deep mixed leagues. But with Tyler Lyons (2.83 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 2017) able to provide immediate help in deep mixed formats and Alex Reyes (1.57 ERA, 10.2 K/9 rate in '16) nearing a return from Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals could have an impressive setup crew of their own.
Winner: Push

Final verdict: Both clubs earned four wins on the offensive side, but the Cubs have a major advantage in the pitching department. They remain NL Central favorites by picking up an 8-4 victory (with three ties) in this Tale of the Fantasy Tape.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB.