Fantasy baseball hitter stocks

Fantasy baseball hitter stocks

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

Buy

Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers: He's still swinging from his heels like he's the second coming of Jose Canseco, but after a sizzling July (.274, five homers, 11 steals), we'll leave him alone. Gomez can take a bag almost any time he likes (he's 19-for-23 on the year) and the Brewers are letting him bat in the No. 2 slot, even with his lack of patience. Power and speed combos are wonderful rotisserie finds, no matter how much batting-average risk you might be taking on.

Travis Snider, OF, Pirates: Get out the post-hype sleeper file, it's time for another entry. Snider was considered a Top 10 prospect as recently as 2009, but let's not call him a bust today - he's still just 24. We saw Snider mashing Triple-A pitching over the last few years (a .333.412.565 slash gets your attention) and the Bucs are going to use him every day and perhaps slot him leadoff as well. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a young player needs to get over the hump.

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds: He's cracked 13 homers over the last two months and yet he's unowned in over 85 percent of Yahoo! leagues. A home address in hitter-friendly Cincinnati is a good start for Ludwick, and his average actually jumps 57 points on the road. You can buy in and trust him as a regular, Dusty Baker already has. Swing for the fences.

Sell

Marco Scutaro, Utility, Giants: San Francisco should have realized the pitfalls of Scutaro - his home OPS is 245 points higher this season, a clear residual from Coors Field. The Giants will welcome Scutaro's versatility and professionalism, but they shouldn't be using him near the top of the lineup.

Pedro Ciriaco, Utility, Red Sox: The .348 average and six steals sound nice, but Ciriaco is the type of hack-first batter that tends to get figured out quickly by opposing pitching staffs. Ciriaco only had six walks in 289 plate-appearances at Triple-A this year, and he spent eight seasons in the minors for a reason. There's nothing long-term to grab onto here.

Anthony Gose, OF, Blue Jays: The 21-year-old hasn't done much in his first go-round, just 5-for-28 since joining the club (with 12 strikeouts). He's flashed elite speed at every minor-league level, but there's still no way to swipe first base in this game. When Jose Bautista is ready to play again, Gose probably slides to the bench (or to the minors).

Hold

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: Despite a static line-drive rate and KBB ratios, Hosmer has dropped 62 BABIP points this year. His HRFB clip is down three percent as well. This has fluke written all over it, and it's a perfect time to quietly make an inquiry for Hosmer in your keeper league.

Delmon Young, OF, Tigers: His fundamentals are all over the place, but at least he's been more selective of late (a season-high six walks in July). And Young's connections have also been fun: five homers last month, and strong run-production stats in the middle of Detroit's deep lineup. Young can't play the outfield to save his life, but the Tigers DH him about 75 percent of the time. Not a bad support bat for the end of your roster.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Bulls considering re-signing Derrick Rose

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are Bulls considering re-signing Derrick Rose

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Mark Schanowski is joined by Mark Lazerus (Chicago Sun-Times), Jordan Bernfield and Anthony Herron. 

The panel talks Yoan Moncada's debut and which White Sox prospect will be next. 

The Cubs are now just one game behind the Brewers, are they officially back? 

Finally, could the Bulls actually be considering re-signing Derrick Rose? 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

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USA TODAY

This is becoming Willson Contreras' team, whether or not Cubs add Alex Avila or another veteran catcher

This is slowly becoming more like Willson Contreras’ team, whether or not the Cubs add a veteran catcher like Alex Avila before the July 31 trade deadline. Yadier Molina took the in-game, All-Star photo of Nelson Cruz and Joe West, but Contreras is coming for moments like that, too.

In a Cubs clubhouse filled with calm, serious young players who were fast-tracked to Wrigleyville, Contreras is the one who got left exposed in the Rule 5 draft at the 2014 winter meetings and spent parts of eight seasons in the minors before making his big-league debut.

As much as the Cubs needed that ice-cold demeanor from guys like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to end the 108-year hex, they will use Contreras’ fire to try to win the World Series again.

“I feel like I’m in the heart of the team,” Contreras said. “I’m behind the plate. I just want to play with my energy, no matter if I hit or not. We need that energy for the second half. And it’s going to be there.”

The Cubs flipped a switch after the All-Star break, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves and moving to within one game of the Milwaukee Brewers, their play screaming at Theo Epstein’s front office to keep buying. Contreras caught the first 45 innings of that six-game winning streak where the rotation finally clicked and hit .409 (9-for-22) with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs on that road trip.

Contreras is a power source when a 49-45 team talks about going on a run and the defending World Series champs point to all this room to grow in the future. The model will be staring at Contreras this weekend at Wrigley Field when the Cubs try to keep the St. Louis Cardinals down (46-49) and give their front office something to think about (sell?) between now and July 31.

“We look at Yadier Molina,” catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello said. “We know that he’s just an intelligent baseball player. I always try to remind Willson: 'That’s what we’re trying to accomplish, making you not only a threat offensively and defensively, but with your mind.'

“He’s always listening. He wants to learn. He plays with high intensity, high emotion. I always challenge him to be a smart player. That’s the best compliment you can get.”

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

After a disappointing first half where it looked like the vaunted pitching infrastructure might collapse — and veteran catcher Miguel Montero went on an epic rant that could have foretold a divided clubhouse in the second half — Contreras seemed to be in the middle of everything.

With Contreras behind the plate, Jake Arrieta began his salary drive toward a megadeal, Jose Quintana dazzled in his Cubs debut, Jon Lester recovered from the worst start of his career and John Lackey pitched well enough to delay any awkward conversations about going home to Texas instead of going to the bullpen.

“It was never tough,” said Arrieta, who has chopped his ERA from 5.44 to 4.17 since the middle of May. “It was just a matter of him getting to understand what we like to do as starters.

“He’s learned really quickly. He’s a tremendous athlete back there. I’m very confident that I can bury a curveball, or I can throw a changeup in the dirt, and I know that guy’s going to block it, even with a guy on first or second base. There’s not a ton of guys around the league that you can feel that much confidence in.

“Willson’s been great, and he’s only going to get better.”

Quintana, who breezed through seven scoreless innings against the Orioles (12 strikeouts, zero walks) after that blockbuster trade with the White Sox, gave this review of Contreras: “We were on the same page really quick, believe me. We talked before the game about how we want to go, how we want to call our pitches. He called a really good game, and I appreciate that.”

The Cubs will still be looking for a more-PC version of Montero, whether it’s someone like Avila, who works for his dad, Detroit Tigers general manager Al Avila, or circling back to an old target like Texas Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (essentially off-limits to a division rival when the Brewers shopped him last summer). Dropping Montero in late June forced Victor Caratini up from Triple-A Iowa, making Contreras the senior catcher with a World Series ring at the age of 25.

“It’s almost like a quarterback in the NFL — there’s so much for them to absorb,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When you come from the minors to the major leagues as a catcher, most of the time in the minor leagues, you’re just developing physical abilities, physical tools, blocking, footwork, throwing, maybe pitcher/catcher relationship.

“But understanding the calling of a game — it’s hard to really develop that on the minor-league level. You have the manager, then maybe a pitching coach and there’s a lot going on. You don’t have that time to put into the game plan or to sit down and talk to this guy. It’s a little bit more superficial. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way — it’s just the way it is.”

Whatever the Cubs do next, it will be with the idea of preserving Contreras in mind. Of the six big-league catchers qualified for the batting title, only two other catchers — World Series winners Buster Posey (.917) and Salvador Perez (.824) — have a higher OPS than Contreras (.822) so far this season. Among National League catchers, Contreras also has the most errors (13) and runners thrown out (19). Outside of Bryzzo, Contreras has the highest WAR (2.6) on the team.

If you think Contreras is emotional, energetic and entertaining now, just imagine what he will be like when he really knows what he’s doing.

“He asks all the right questions,” said Borzello, who won four World Series rings as a New York Yankees staffer. “We go over every game, and between every inning, we talk. We’re working in the right direction. I think he wants it as much as anyone I’ve ever been around.”