Chicago Blackhawks

Fantasy Baseball Batters Stock Watch

Fantasy Baseball Batters Stock Watch

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Mike Trout, OF, Angels: Normally we don't spend too much time promoting universally-owned players (though we will discuss them while they slump), but we can't ignore what Trout is doing. He's rocking a .345.402.543 slash line, hitting in all venues and against all sorts of pitching. If you project his 54-game clip to a full season, you get this: 144 runs, 24 homers, 96 RBIs, 63 steals. The Angels have bailed out their season, and it's largely due to what Trout has done; right now, he's the frontrunner for AL MVP.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: He's driving the ball again (note the .370.395.716 line in June, with six homers) and the Braves have bought in: Heyward is back to the No. 2 slot in the order, where your best batter should hit and where the roto production flows freely. Heyward's healthy shoulder also shows up on defense, as he's been terrific in right field. Very quietly, Atlanta might have the best outfield in the NL (Martin Prado, Michael Bourn and Heyward).

Alcides Escobar, SS, Royals: He's never going to be the prince of patience, but a .315 average and 12 steals certainly play in our formats, and Escobar's excellent defense will keep him on the field. He should eventually develop a little more power as well; think 8-10 jacks a year. In a down year for middle infielders, you could do a lot worse.

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Bryan LaHair, 1BOF, Cubs: He's struggled to hit left-handed pitching all year, and every opposing pitcher has been a hurdle in June (.207.270.397, just three homers, 24 strikeouts). The lofty average and inflated hit rate from April gave roto players a false sense of security: this is a .250-.260 hitter with pop, nothing past that.

Delmon Young, OFDH, Tigers: Why throw him a strike when he'll swing at a ball? Young has just eight free passes this year, against 54 strikeouts, and while a .264 average might not sound like a problem, a .296 OBP and .375 slugging are not playable at an outfield corner (or in the DH spot). The Tigers need to upgrade this position if they fancy themselves legitimate contenders. (And forget about Victor Martinez, at least for 2012: he won't be able to return until mid-September, if at all.)
Brandon Moss, 1B, Athletics: He clubbed a few homers in Colorado two weeks back and people were excited, but the story has quickly collapsed around sea level: Moss has a .171.261.341 slash line since then, with 16 strikeouts in 41 at-bats. Moss is on his fourth MLB organization for a reason - there are plenty of holes in his swing.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: While Target Field isn't a major hurdle for right-handed hitters, it drives a lot of lefties crazy. Consider Morneau, who is a .604 OPS man at home in 2012, compared to a .876 stick on the road. Eight of his ten homers have come away from the home fans. Morneau also needs to take a break against left-handed pitching: they're holding him to a .096 average through 73 at-bats. Don't get tripped up by the name brand here.

Holding Steady
Quintin Berry, OF, Tigers: Apparently the Austin Jackson return wasn't enough to push Berry out of relevance - Jim Leyland is letting them play together. Maybe it's an odd idea to have a punchless stick like Berry taking up residence in left field, but a .316 average and .400 OBP are making Leyland look good. And Berry is 12-for-12 on steals, enjoying the green light. Have some fun with it while it lasts.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”