Fantasy baseball hitter stocks

Fantasy baseball hitter stocks

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

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Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers: He's established himself as a nice fit at the top of the Milwaukee lineup, hitting .313 ore the last month with solid counting stats (14 runs, two homers, 11 RBIs, six steals). Aoki makes contact 87 percent of the time and runs the bases well, so you can live with his mediocre walk rate. In a year where so many things have gone wrong in Milwaukee, Aoki is a breath of fresh air. And his so-so defense won't hurt you in our fake baseball game.

Logan Morrison, 1BOF, Marlins: At some point over the last year Morrison got overrated as a Tweeter and underrated as a solid bat. He's hitting .284 over the last month with six homers and 19 RBIs, and the Marlins will live with his atrocious defense. Morrison's slugging stats don't fall off against lefties, but he hasn't taken to Miami's new park as of yet (.686 OPS home, 859 OPS road). But this still looks like Nick Johnson 2.0 (less patience, a little more power), and we mean that in the nicest possible way.

Sell

Jed Lowrie, SS, Astros: He's fallen into a .211.324.430 funk over the last 34 games and he doesn't have a stolen base during that period, either. The Astros would be wise to consider Lowrie offers all month - he's never proven that he can stay healthy for an extended period of time and he's going to move off shortstop sooner or later (his range is limited). See if someone will overpay for his 14 homers.

Ty Wigginton, Utility, Phillies: Right-handed pitchers are absolutely eating his lunch (.301 OBP, .373 slugging) and the Phillies are no longer short in the lineup with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back. If GM Ruben Amaro can get any kind of token offer for Wigginton this month, he should trade him. This sort of utility player is handy off the bench, but there's not enough juice for mixed rotisserie leaguers.

Allen Craig, Utility, Cardinals: It's hard to look at that .313.377.614 line and think about a trade, but maybe you can get someone to enthusiastically chase after this guy (and overpay). Craig might be sitting once or twice a week with Lance Berkman close to a return, and Craig's injury history also has to be accounted for. Please don't give him away, but keep an open mind here.

Hold

Trevor Plouffe, Utility, Twins: The 19 homers come as a surprise, sure, but it's not completely out of nowhere - Plouffe was the 20th overall pick in the 2004 draft and he showed pop in the minors. And Target Field is actually a solid power park for right-handed sluggers - it's the lefties who can't reach the seats in the Twin Cities. Plouffe's home stats speak to the point: 12 homers, .633 slugging. A modest regression might be on the way, but Plouffe looks like a sure thing to hit 30-plus homers and he's now a fixture in the lineup.
Justin Ruggiano, OF, Marlins: We promoted him last week and we'll briefly drop his name again, since Giancarlo Stanton (knee scope) needs at least a month off. Ruggiano has never been given a chance to play in the majors consistently, so perhaps the Quad-A label isn't fair. He has a shot to be a 10-homer, 10-steal source in the second half.

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”