Batter Stock Watch - 2013 Preview

Batter Stock Watch - 2013 Preview

David FerrisCSNChicago.com contributor
In our last Batter Stock Watch of the season, we'll focus on player values for the 2013 fantasy year. Consider these angles and comments as you work on keeper-league decisions, or keep them tucked in your mind for draft season next spring. 
Buy
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: Sometimes a short memory is the best thing you can have at the draft table, especially when it comes to someone we all felt good about 10-12 months ago. Hosmer's plate discipline hasn't been a problem in 2012 - he spiked his walk rate up to 9.5 percent and only had a marginal bump in strikeouts - and that .259 BABIP is unlikely to return. And it's not like Hosmer hasn't been squaring up the ball - his line-drive rate didn't move from his rookie level. You'll get a discount on Hosmer next spring, and you should take full advantage of it. There's significant profit potential here. 
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves: Eye and finger problems held Freeman's power back in the middle of the year, but otherwise it's been a solid building season for him (walk rate up, strikeout rate down, line drives 26.2 percent of the time). If Freeman can make a little more progress against left-handed pitching (he's been static there through two seasons), he has a chance to be a star. His BBK rate is almost an even 11 for the second half, which is outstanding for anyone and especially a middle-of-the-order hitter. 
Sell
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers: Although he knocked a couple of homers in Sunday's victory at Cincinnati, it's a case of too little, too late in Los Angeles. Gonzalez hasn't been anything special since the shocking trade from Boston (.255.308.427), even though he insists his shoulder isn't bothering him. Maybe it's time to accept that Gonzalez, now in his 30s, is no longer a needle-mover at first base, no longer someone to target in the first 25 picks or so. Hitting in Chavez Ravine could also be a concern: his career slash in that stadium is a mediocre .227.313.382. Let's move along. 
Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: If Hollywood decides to draw up Trouble With the Slider, Stubbs should apply for a leading role: no batter in the majors struggled with that pitch more than Stubbs this year. Alas, when you're whiffing almost 30 percent of the time overall, there aren't too many offerings that put you in a positive frame. As much as the Reds have been patient with Stubbs (and they love his defense), even they might be ready to admit it's time for a more traditional leadoff man in Cincinnati - someone who can make contact and get on base would be nice. If the Reds move on from Stubbs, they might make a play for B.J. Upton. 
Mike Aviles, Utility, Red Sox: The category juice was fun while it lasted (13 homers, 14 steals), but Aviles also brought a .283 OBP and substandard defense to the equation. The Red Sox finally realize Aviles isn't good enough to start every day, and the rest of the American League probably recognizes this as well. Look for Aviles to settle into a 300-350 at-bat role at the front of someone's bench next year. 
Hold
Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: At first glance his .376 BABIP might seem like a crazy outlier, but consider a few things: Jackson has dynamic speed, he's posted a 23-percent line-drive rate this year, and his career BABIP is a robust .372. Maybe it's unrealistic to expect the baseline to remain in such lofty heights, but Jackson can't be gauged against the league average in this stat. We would like to see progress on the bases - Jackson only has 11 steals as we go to press - but batting in Detroit's loaded lineup has its advantages (97 runs). Jackson turns 26 next February, so there's still room for growth here. 
Chase Headley, 3B, Padres: His road stats almost look too good to be true (.924 OPS, 18 homers, 62 RBIs, even 11 steals), but it's not like Headley didn't produce in roomy Petco Park (.784 OPS, 11 homers, 41 runs, 46 RBIs). The home dates might be more fun in 2013: there's talk of the club moving in the outfield fences. Even if the dimensions don't change in Southern California, Headley looks like a safe play entering his age 28 year. The low profile of the Padres also adds to the screened price. 
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers: He'll never be the pinnacle of patience, but he did trim his strikeout rate by about three percent this year and he remains a plus player in the field and on the bases (35 juicy steals). And the 16 homers really shouldn't come as that big of a surprise: Gomez has been a touted prospect since the middle of the 2000s, and he carries a wide frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. The batting average will never be a secure thing with Gomez, but heading into his age 27 campaign next year, we'll project 18-20 homers and 40 steals - at an affordable roto price. Gomez finally knows he's a regular in the Milwaukee lineup, one of the team's cornerstones - don't overlook that emotional consideration. No young player wants to be jerked in and out of the lineup.

With John Lackey ramping up for return, could Cubs go to six-man rotation?

With John Lackey ramping up for return, could Cubs go to six-man rotation?

LOS ANGELES – John Lackey is ramping up for a return to the rotation and all those “Big Boy Games” the Cubs are supposed to play in October.

The Cubs expect Lackey to test his strained right shoulder and throw two bullpen sessions this week, manager Joe Maddon said Sunday at Dodger Stadium. If everything goes smoothly for the two-time World Series champion, the Cubs will tentatively schedule Lackey’s next start for either the Labor Day weekend showdown against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, or near the beginning of a three-city road trip in early September.     

Lackey (9-7, 3.41 ERA) has accounted for 158-plus innings, making 24 starts and stabilizing the rotation before going on the disabled list on Aug. 15. Jason Hammel should eventually cool off and will be “well-rested” after Maddon’s quick hook on Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. The Cubs also like what they’ve seen from Mike Montgomery, believing the lefty can develop into a solid big-league starter.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Could the Cubs go to a six-man rotation down the stretch?

“We haven’t planned that specifically yet,” Maddon said. “I’m not opposed, let me put it that way. We’ll see how it all plays out with Mikey the next time through. Again, to do anything we possibly can to conserve our arms for the end of the year is important. 

“It’s being proven throughout the industry right now. Moving forward, the biggest trick there is to get the sixth guy that you like. Most teams are clamoring to get (No.) 4 and 5. We got five that we like. Now we’re working on 6.”

It’s not like the Cubs are fighting for a wild-card spot or clinging to a one-game lead in the division. The best record in baseball allows them to look at the big picture and get creative in September. The counterargument to keeping starters fresh for October would be keeping creatures of habit like Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in a rhythm. 

“Starting pitchers have always rallied to say that they need to stay on that particular plan,” Maddon said. “But I think it’s kind of been proven – just give them that extra day or two on occasion and it really benefits them. So I just think you’re fighting this old view of specifically how it needs to be done." 

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

Bears cut 10 players, trim roster to 80

The Bears have until Tuesday to move their roster down to 75, and they began Sunday by cutting 10 players.

The following players were waived: DL Keith Browner, WR Kieran Duncan, WR Derek Keaton, OL John Kling, RB Senorise Perry, WR Darrin Peterson, DB Joel Ross, TE Gannon Sinclair, OL Martin Wallace, FB Darrell Young

The Bears' roster currently sits at 80 players. After getting the roster down to 75 on Tuesday, the team will then cut down to 53 for the start of the regular season.

The Bears open their regular season on Sept. 4 in Houston against the Texans.

Carlos Rodon, White Sox shut down Mariners in series finale

Carlos Rodon, White Sox shut down Mariners in series finale

Carlos Rodon continued his best stretch of the season on Sunday afternoon.

The White Sox pitcher earned his fifth consecutive quality start in the team's 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field.

Rodon had another impressive day, finishing the game with six innings pitched while allowing one run on five hits and one walk. He also struck out six.

In his last five starts, Rodon is 3-0 and has allowed only six runs (five earned) while tacking on 26 strikeouts. He lowered his season ERA to 3.91.

"Carlos is really evolving. As he goes along he just seems to be getting better, there's more confidence there," manager Robin Ventura said. "He's learning a lot about himself as well, going through these. He gets extended somewhat, he's in there for a while, he's seeing these guys the third time around, which is good for him.

"He has the stuff to be able to do that and continue to do that, really. The future's really bright for him."

Though four runs were scored, it was mostly a quiet night for the White Sox offense, which finished the game with five hits. The team had two hits in the first seven innings and the remaining three came in the eighth.

The White Sox opened the scoring in the fourth inning with a single by Justin Morneau, which scored two.

Adam Eaton left the game in the fifth inning with a bruised right forearm after the White Sox outfielder was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. X-rays were negative and he remains day-to-day. J.B. Shuck replaced him in center field.

"He got hit in the forearm and he couldn't hold on to the bat," Ventura said. "As of right now, he's just day to day."

The Mariners got on the board in the sixth thanks to a solo homer by Robinson Cano, his 30th of the year, to cut the lead in half.

On his 100th pitch of the day, Rodon was removed in the seventh after allowing back-to-back singles to lead off the inning.

"As a competitor, I want to be in that situation," Rodon said. "I didn’t want to come out. But when you’ve got a manager who has done it for awhile, he knows the game of baseball, he knows what he’s doing, obviously it worked out there. You put your trust in him and leave it to your teammates, let them do it.

"You’re up 2-1, you want a quick inning, you want another hold in that seventh. Didn’t really want to dip into the pen that early. I’ve been trying to stay in the game longer. Just a little frustrated. I want to be competitive, I still want to be out there. But hats off to my teammates once again for digging me out."

The White Sox bullpen shut down the Mariners the rest of the way in the final three innings. Chris Beck, Dan Jennings and Nate Jones combined for two scoreless innings.

In the eighth, Melky Cabrera legged out an RBI triple for the White Sox to pull ahead, 3-1. An RBI single from Jose Abreu, who was hit by a pitch twice, made it 4-1.

David Robertson closed out the ninth and earned his 33rd save of the season, which ranks third in the American League.

The White Sox are 63-66 on the season and have won six of their last eight. As it stands, the White Sox are 7.5 games out of a wild card spot and 10.5 behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians.

The White Sox picked the perfect time to heat up if there's any shot of them playing October baseball, with 27 of their last 33 games being against division opponents. 

"Anything’s possible," Morneau said. "It’ll take a lot but we do it one day at a time one game at a time. If we kind of prepare the way we need to prepare and go out there and do everything we can to win that day. If you look at the big picture it seems pretty overwhelming, but if you go out there and just try and do what you can everyday I think we’re still alive.

"We kind of control our own destiny."