Fantasy baseball pitcher stock watch

Fantasy baseball pitcher stock watch

By David Ferris
Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers: He looks like the new closer for the Dodgers (Kenley Jansen is out indefinitely with a heart problem), and while Belisario doesn't have elite control or a silly strikeout rate, he's proven to be a trustworthy bullpen arm (2.84 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). Belisario's ground-ball profile should keep him out of trouble, as he induces a worm-burner 62.5 percent of the time. The dry run went well, as Belisario recorded the final five outs - en route to a save - Wednesday at Colorado. 
Kyle Lohse, SP, Cardinals: Throw strikes, work quickly, keep the ball in the park - it's working wonders for the veteran right-hander. And while Lohse's surprising year has been sparked by an outstanding resume at home, he's no shrinking violet on the road (7-1 record, 3.06 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). Take a bow in retirement, Dave Duncan. You turned Lohse into one of the NL's Top 20 pitchers, getting more sink on his otherwise-ordinary fastball. The cushy environment of a weak division also helps Lohse's roto value. 
Javier Lopez, RP, Giants: While he's supposed to be the lefty specialist in the Giants bullpen, not a heavy-usage guy, Lopez has found a way to record four saves in the last ten days. He hasn't allowed a run in the second half, over 19 appearances, and manager Bruce Bochy is slowly-but-surely starting to trust Lopez in longer relief appearances. Sergio Romo is still around to handle right-on-right chances, but don't worry about Santiago Casilla or Jeremy Affeldt - Bochy doesn't trust either of those guys right now. 
Tim Hudson, SP, Braves: A sore back delayed his start by about three weeks in April, but Hudson has proven to be worth the wait (and he's still fresh as we turn into September). Hudson might be a tricky call in K9 leagues because he doesn't miss that many bats, but what's wrong with six wins over nine starts, along with a 1.24 WHIP and an ERA in the mid-3s? The Braves help the cause plenty, supporting their starters with outstanding outfield defense and the best right-handed closer in all of baseball. Look out for this club in October. 
Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals: The highly-touted prospect isn't up with the club yet, but it's probably just a matter of time with September roster expansion on the way. Miller was a mess during the first half of the PCL season, but he's struck out 61 batters (against just seven walks) since the break. With a ratio like that, the rest of the numbers don't even matter. And don't forget how hitter-friendly the PCL is; in a lot of ways, the NL Central could reflect an easier assignment for Miller (especially with elite catcher Yadier Molina behind the plate). It's not clear how much the Redbirds might want to use Miller in September - the 21-year-old has already passed the 130-inning mark - but with a playoff spot in the balance, he might turn into a useful arm, for real life and for fantasy. 
Alfredo Aceves, RP, Red Sox: He's lost his way during an August nightmare (three blown saves, 13 runs allowed), and there was a dustup with manager Bobby Valentine in the middle of that (leading to a short team suspension). Now that Andrew Bailey is ready to handle the ninth inning again, there's no fantasy value tied to Aceves. Call him a cab. 
Luke Hochevar, SP, Royals: Why does Kansas City keep slotting this failed prospect in the rotation? Although Hochevar does have an acceptable 1.21 WHIP in the second half, it's tied to one win (over nine starts) and a 4.55 ERA. And his first three months were a horror show (5.14 ERA, 1.39 WHIP). If you rank every starting pitcher for what he's accomplished in the second half, per fantasy value, Hochevar isn't even in the Top 100. Move on, Royals. See if Hochevar can reinvent himself as a reliever. Even in AL-only leagues, we can't recommend Hochevar in good conscience. 
Dale Thayer, RP, Padres: A brief stint on the paternity list cost him his spot in the closing line - Luke Gregerson has been closing of late - and it's all going to be a moot point soon enough, with Huston Street returning from the DL. Even in San Diego's big park, you don't want a reliever who's merely the No. 3 option for saves. 

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

Here are some of the biggest stories from the day in Chicago sports:

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 1 coverage on CSN

Blackhawks get a point but Kris Versteeg wins it for Flames in shootout

Cubs see Kyle Schwarber looming as potential World Series hero

Five Things from Blackhawks-Flames: Same old story on the penalty kill

Local product and former fan Jason Kipnis has 'zero conflict' extending Cubs' World Series title drought

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

No-brainer: Cubs rolling with Jon Lester again in World Series Game 1

The making of a superstar: Kris Bryant believes in Cubs — not goats or curses

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?

Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

CLEVELAND — As the New York Yankees marketed Andrew Miller this summer and prepared for their first sell-off in a generation, their demands started at either Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez — and the Cubs still would have been forced to throw in more talent to get the All-Star reliever.

This could be the fascinating what-if for this World Series. The Cleveland Indians paid the price, giving up a four-player package headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier (the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft) and left-hander Justus Sheffield (the No. 31 pick in the 2014 draft) to get what turned out to be the American League Championship Series MVP.

The Cubs didn’t make Schwarber untouchable because they thought he would be ready in time for the World Series, but he’s preparing to be their Game 1 designated hitter on Tuesday night at Progressive Field after a remarkable recovery from major surgery on his left knee.

“It was impossible to avoid some of the names — particularly the Cubs — (with) the year they were having,” Miller said. “Whether I wanted to avoid it or not I heard it. Guys in the clubhouse, our media was certainly bringing it to us.”

Even in other possible deals for pitching, the Cubs never came close to selling low on Baez, who broke out as the National League Championship Series co-MVP for his offensive production and defensive wizardry. 

Instead of getting Miller’s late-game dominance for three pennant races — and giving up five potential 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons with Schwarber — the Cubs closed a different blockbuster deal with the Yankees for a left-handed power arm.

The Cubs wanted Aroldis Chapman’s 100-mph fastball to get the last out of the World Series and would rationalize his 30-game suspension to begin this season under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. Already holding an age-22 All-Star shortstop in Addison Russell, the Cubs surrendered elite prospect Gleyber Torres.

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“Gleyber’s a good baseball player,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That kid’s going to be really good. So you have to give up something to get something. But also our guys felt if we got Aroldis this year, we’d have a chance to be sitting here and answering this question. And they were right.

“It’s an entirely different thing when you get a guy out there throwing 100 miles an hour. You feel pretty good about it, regardless of who is hitting. So he’s really a big part of why we’re doing this right now.”

Chapman has saved five playoff games — and become that reassuring ninth-inning presence at Wrigley Field — but he clearly responds better to a scripted role.

Miller has been untouchable during the postseason, throwing 11 2/3 scoreless innings and striking out 21 of the 41 batters he’s faced, giving Terry Francona even more freedom to manage a lights-out Cleveland bullpen.

“To be utilized like Miller,” Maddon said, “not everybody is cut from the same cloth mentally, either, or the ability to get loose and prepare. Andrew Miller — having done a variety of different things in the big leagues as a pitcher — is probably more suited to be able to be this guy that can get up in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth and warm up in a manner that gets him in the game both mentally and physically.

“Whereas Aroldis — if he wanted to do that — I think that would have had to be done from spring training. He’d have to differentiate his mindset. He’d have to have a different way to get ready. I do notice he throws a heavy baseball before he actually throws a regular baseball. That’s his routine.

“Whether you agree with it or not, that’s just the way it is. So with a guy like Aroldis — to ask him to attempt to dump his routine right now (and) do something else — I think you’re looking for failure right there.

“We stretched him to five outs the other night, which is a good thing, I thought. So now going forward he knows he can do that. But to just haphazardly throw him in the sixth, seventh or ninth, I think would be very difficult to do.”

Even in a World Series featuring historic droughts, Cy Young Award winners, MVP candidates and star managers, this October could come down to the bullpens shaped by deals with the Yankees.

“Both teams made aggressive trades,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Both teams are still standing. There’s something to that.”