Pitcher Stock Watch -- 2013 preview

Pitcher Stock Watch -- 2013 preview

By David FerrisCSNChicago.com
In our last Pitcher Stock Watch of the season, we'll focus on player values for the 2013 fantasy year. Consider these thoughts along with your keeper-league decisions, or keep them tucked in your mind for draft season next spring. 
Buy
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs: We always knew he could miss bats, so the 180 strikeouts were no great surprise. But a walk rate under three came as a shocker, given that Samardzija could't find the plate consistently as a reliever. Don't be fooled by the 9-13 record - Samardzija received the worst run support in the National League. No matter what you think of the current Cubs roster, that has to be seen as a fluke. And the peripherally-suggested numbers also indicate that Samardzija's 3.81 ERA was unlucky, perhaps by half of a run. The breakout was real, and there's a good chance for another leap in 2013. 
Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals: His KBB rate was solid from the word go, and Wainwright also picked up steam in July and August before a September slump pushed his ERA back over four. All in all, it wasn't a bad season for someone fresh off Tommy John surgery. The secondary numbers suggest Wainwright pitched a lot better than the surface stats tell us: his FIP checks in at 3.15 and his SIERA graded out at 3.32. Throw in the favorable life in the NL Central (and Yadier Molina behind the plate) and we might be looking at a Cy Young sleeper for 2013. 
Sell
Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays: With all due respect to Rodney's dominant season (0.64 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 44 saves in 46 chances), it's important to remain unemotional about the numbers. The Rays don't get attached to any closer, as a foundational strategy: they've had a different save leader in each of the past eight seasons. Rodney's best season in the 2007-2011 pocket was a 4.26 ERA and 1.32 WHIP; let's not forget what a carnival ride he was in Detroit and Anaheim. And we certainly worry about where he might be next spring when the muscle memory of this dream year is out the window. Let's someone else chase this mirage into 2013. 
Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers: You hate to dismiss a young pitcher with a pedigree - Porcello doesn't turn 24 until the end of the year and he was a first-round pick back in 2007 - but the career arc has been a flat one through four seasons. A cushy 53.8 ground-ball rate sounds like a great place to start, though Detroit's infield defense took some of the shine off that number. Porcello also doesn't know how to put away batters: his 5.43 K9 rate makes him a difficult commodity to own in any start-capped or inning-capped league. The Tigers didn't let Porcello throw a lot of sliders as a rookie, but maybe it's time to junk the offering altogether; it's been his worst pitch by far in 2012. At the end of the day, we want to chase someone with more strikeout upside, someone who can miss more bats. Porcello isn't that type of pitcher. 
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians: His mechanics seemed to fluctuate from start to start, inning to inning and batter to batter - no two deliveries were completely alike. And without the dominant mid-90s heater from the Colorado days, Jimenez is no longer a pitcher who can succeed without everything in place. Perhaps there's a pitching wizard in the majors who can take on the Jimenez Project and fix everything, but nothing the Indians tried in 2012 worked. Let go of the brand name. 
Hold 
Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants: His strikeout rate never really fell off, even during the darkest days, and Lincecum finally started recording key outs with runners on base during the stretch run. Perhaps it was a mechanical fix the Giants made with Lincecum from the stretch position, or perhaps it was merely a case of some batted-ball luck evening out. A 3.06 ERA over the second half is worth rostering in any format (even with a 1.32 WHIP), and AT&T Park still hides a fair amount of his mistakes (3.67 ERA at home). If you can land Lincecum as your third starter in a mixer next year, you've done well. 
Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox: His diminished fastball (both in speed and location) didn't play in the AL East any longer, but Beckett made a mild comeback during his first five LA turns (3.45 ERA, nine walks, 26 Ks). Beckett's combative, no-apology personality never seemed to fit in the fishbowl of Boston, but he'll appreciate the laid back nature of Los Angeles - not to mention the different media approach. We're not going to pencil Beckett into the All-Star rotation or anything like that for 2013, but a significant bounce back is likely, especially with those NL parks (and flailing hitters) around to break his fall.

Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell compete for Cubs defensive highlight of the year on back-to-back plays

Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell compete for Cubs defensive highlight of the year on back-to-back plays

Joe Maddon declared Monday as "Albert's game" a couple hours before first pitch.

He didn't even know how right he was at the time.

"Albert" is Albert Almora Jr., the Cubs' rookie centerfielder who hasn't gotten to play as much lately with Ian Happ's emergence over the last week.

But with a left-handed pitcher on the mound for the San Francisco Giants Monday night, Maddon wanted to get the right-handed hitting Almora in the lineup. There was also the added benefit of Almora providing the best defense in center with John Lackey — a flyball pitcher — on the mound for the Cubs.

It took only three batters for Almora's impact to be felt:

He was off on a dead sprint from the very second that ball was hit.

What makes the play even more amazing is two pitches prior, Addison Russell had the crowd buzzing with his own highlight-reel play:

If it weren't for Almora's play, Russell's effort might go down as the Cubs' defensive highlight of the season to date.

Of course, this isn't the only time we've seen Almora turn in a highlight-reel catch:

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

Should Blackhawks' next assistant coach be Joel Quenneville's choice?

On April 22, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman vented his frustrations on the team’s all-too-abrupt exit from the postseason, adding that he and coach Joel Quenneville, “are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.”

There will be plenty of decisions for the two to mull between now and September, when the Blackhawks convene for training camp. When it comes to the assistant head coach vacancy, however, that might need to be decided with a more one-sided approach. That choice ultimately should be made by Quenneville.

In a recent podcast, Pat Boyle and I discussed the Blackhawks’ need to work together on some upcoming decisions. But with the assistant coach, the head coach has to have the loudest voice. The head coach probably should even have the final vote. The relationship between coaches has to be there because they’re around each other constantly. They’ve got to be on the same page. There has to be trust from Day 1.

As for when the Blackhawks name that assistant, there appears to be nothing imminent. A source said Monday that the Blackhawks and Ulf Samuelsson have been in communication about the job — Chris Kuc of the Tribune first reported on Samuelsson on Sunday. On paper it looks like it would be a great fit. Samuelsson and Quenneville played several seasons together with the Hartford Whalers, along with current Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The relationship with Samuelsson has been there for a long time and it would make for a smoother transition. It might also provide somewhat of a panacea for Quenneville after former assistant Mike Kitchen, whose friendship with Quenneville also went back to their playing days, was fired last month.

Earlier this month Bowman told the Sun-Times that Quenneville will have a big role in the Blackhawks’ finding their next assistant coach, with the final choice being a “joint collaboration.” We get that there’s an order to these things and everyone has to be in agreement with the final decision. But in the end the head coach has to be 100-percent happy with his immediate staff. So whoever the next assistant coach is, the decision has to be 100 percent Quenneville’s.