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.

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

The 3 Bears necessities for win No. 3

Insert title of this "Bowl" game here...

Two teams. Three wins combined. December. So much for holiday cheer. The snow may provide a certain Christmas element on the lakefront Sunday. But something different has to happen for the Bears defensively. In their spirit of giving, the 49ers have allowed a league-high 76 points off their turnovers. Problem is, the Bears have just eight of them in eleven games. If that San Francisco generosity doesn't change – either by Vic Fangio's defense finally making plays despite the core of their defense missing, or by the visitors finding a way to protect the ball in those conditions after practicing in Orlando all week – it's a golden chance for the Bears to gain a smidge of momentum before becoming a factor in the division race (because they face all three other NFC North contenders in their final four games).

1. Read zone read

Colin Kaepernick has grown much more comfortable with time in Chip Kelly's offense. He had the Dolphins hanging on for dear life until the clock struck zero last week. He became just the sixth quarterback in league history to pass for three touchdowns in a game while rushing for over 100 (no, Bobby Douglass isn't one). The challenge becomes greater minus the talented inside linebacker tandem of Danny Trevathan (injury) and Jerrell Freeman (suspension). It becomes even greater if Leonard Floyd's quickness and speed is taken away as a shadowing option as he recovers from being carried off the field on a flat board two weeks ago. He's listed as questionable. So that makes it imperative for inside replacements John Timu and Nick Kwiatkowski to find a way to be instinctive while remaining disciplined enough to contain the league's best rushing quarterback by yards per attempt (8.1).

2. Don't stray from the run

Give this Niners defense without NoVorro Bowman and Eric Reid enough opportunities to be gashed, and they'll let you. Too many times the pregame formula has been for Jordan Howard to get the ball, only to find reasons not to – whether it's looking at the clock while trailing by double digits, too much traffic at the line of scrimmage or panic after injuries up front (to name a few). The 172 rushing yards per game allowed by San Francisco is the worst in eight years (Detroit).  Howard's 5.14 average gain per attempt is fifth in the NFL. Enough said.

3. Catch the ball!!!

Okay, Marquess, Josh and Deonte. Okay, Cam, Jordan and Jeremy. Okay Daniel (and/or Eddie?). We know conditions might be a little slick if it's snowing/sleeting/raining. You're supposed to be among the best in the world at what you do, even if you're down the original depth chart. Can you get your mitts on the football and hang on to it this week? Help your guy Matt out a little bit? After all, if you cut last week's nightmare in half, and maybe you're shooting for (oooh!) a fourth win Sunday, not a third.

Get set for Sunday's noon kickoff at 11 a.m. on CSN as ex-Bears Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Chris on "Bears Preagme Live." Then as soon as the second quarter ends, come back here to CSNChicago.com, where Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments. And finally, when the game goes final on Fox, switch immediately back to CSN as Chris and the three former Bears give you 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live press conferences and locker room interviews on "Bears Postgame Live."

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

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USA TODAY

Sub-.500 Hawkeyes on four-game losing streak after home loss to Omaha

Things are not going too well in Iowa City.

The Hawkeyes saw their losing streak stretch to four games Saturday with an upsetting 98-89 home loss to Omaha.

Iowa has been a high-scoring team this season, entering the weekend with the Big Ten's No. 2 scoring offense at 85.6 points a game, but it's also been the league's worst defensive team, allowing an average of 85 points a game. And that's before the Mavericks nearly hit the century mark on Saturday.

The Hawkeyes were out-rebounded, including a big advantage for the Mavericks on the offensive boards, where they turned 19 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points. Omaha's bench outscored Iowa's bench, 37-9, and the Mavericks had a 40-26 scoring edge in the paint.

Trailing by six after allowing 53 first-half points, the Hawkeyes led for just 18 seconds over the game's final 21-plus minutes.

Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer, poured in 33 points in this one, though efficiency was not his strong suit, going 8-for-21 from the field. He added 10 rebounds for a double-double.

Iowa's losing streak stands at four, the loss to Omaha linking with losses to Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame. In the last three games, the Hawkeyes have surrendered an average of 96.7 points. In four of their five losses on the season — the heretofore unmentioned one coming against Seton Hall — opponents have scored at least 91 points.

The Hawkeyes' only wins this season have come against Kennesaw State, Savannah State and Texas-Rio Grande Valley.

Iowa has five more non-conference games — including a date with ranked in-state rival Iowa State — prior to the start of Big Ten play at the end of the month.