Fantasy baseball batter stock watch

Fantasy baseball batter stock watch

By David Ferris contributor
Chase Headley, 3B, Padres: He's been fantasy's best hitter over the last month (.336-20-9-34-2), crushing on the road and doing just enough at home. And maybe the Petco Park giveback will be less next year; there's talk of the club moving the fences in. Headley deserves to be a Top 35 pick in redrafts next year, and the cornerstone of many keeper-league clubs. 
Norichika Aoki, OF, Brewers: He's been around .290.350 for the majority of the year - playable in the leadoff spot - and he's become more aggressive as he learns the NL, scooping 12 steals in the second half. Aoki might be partially screened by the summer of Milwaukee drama; he should be owned in roughly 40-50 percent of mixers, but the current tag is far below that. 
Jordan Pacheco, 1B3B, Rockies: He doesn't offer traditional pop for a cornerman, but a .313 average is always usable in a 5x5 league, especially at this time of the year when you're trying to manipulate categories. The Rockies return home next week, where Pacheco has a zippy .874 OPS. Thin air is always your friend.
John Mayberry, 1BOF, Phillies: Most of his damage comes against left-handed pitching, but the overall second-half line (.289.344.503, eight homers in 149 at-bats) is good enough to justify full-time ownership in standard formats. It's a shame more of Mayberry's teammates aren't going along for the ride; the Phils are a mere 23rd in runs scored since the break, even with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back. 
Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: Why give him a strike when he'll gladly hack away at anything (141 whiffs)? That established, Stubbs at least fills three categories well (71 runs, 14 homers, 28 steals), so you can take the batting-average hit in some contexts. And Dusty Baker doesn't seem worried about the low average, so Stubbs will keep his regular spot in the outfield. 
Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves: The 17 homers and reasonable run-production stats weren't enough to keep Uggla installed at second - the Braves got tired of his Mendoza Line flirtation and mediocre defense in the field. While the benching isn't necessarily permanent, it's money time for fantasy baseball - there's no reason to play the waiting game on anyone. Move on. 
Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees: There are a lot of moving parts to his swing, and now he has a hamstring problem to worry about as well. Granderson's 11 homers in the second half are the extent of his fantasy value - he's not hitting for average (.200) or getting on base (.429), and he's only attempted two steals. In some shallow formats with daily transactions, you could conceivably slide Granderson into a platoon role.

Zobrist's hot streak continues as Cubs blast past Scherzer, Nationals


Zobrist's hot streak continues as Cubs blast past Scherzer, Nationals

Don’t touch Ben Zobrist right now. The guy is straight fire.

Zobrist was smoking hot coming into Friday’s game against the Washington Nationals and ace hurler Max Scherzer, but he cranked his personal thermostat up another level with a pair of home runs off the one-time Cy Young winner, leading the Cubs’ four-homer onslaught in an 8-6 win that showed what this lineup can really do now that summer has arrived on the North Side.

“It’s exciting to finally play here with the wind blowing out a little bit here today. It was great,” Zobrist said after the Cubs’ 22nd win in 28 games this season. “Any time you start feeling good at the plate, it makes the game a lot more fun, especially with a nice, warm day, the wind blowing out. I think probably a week ago, both of those balls I hit today would’ve been caught, but fortunately for me today they were blown out a little bit. Just feeling good right now, and I think we’re playing great baseball.”

In just the last three games, Zobrist has hit four home runs and driven in 11 runs. He’s the first Cub to drive in three or more runs in three straight games since Sammy Sosa. His numbers over the last 12 contests: 15-for-42 with five home runs, two doubles, 20 RBIs, 11 runs scored and 10 walks.

So, you know, pretty good.

Cubs skipper Joe Maddon has seen this before, of course. Zobrist played for Maddon in Tampa Bay and made two All-Star teams during his tenure there. His most powerful season came in 2009, when he hit 27 homers and drove in 91 runs for the Rays, both career highs.

After Friday’s outburst, Zobrist has five home runs and 24 RBIs through 28 games this season.

“It’s so nice to see this power resurgence because I’ve seen it,” Maddon said. “He’s getting pitches, he’s not missing them.”

“That’s the great thing about this game is you get to play every day,” Zobrist said. “And when you start getting comfortable you get to try again the next day and see if you can keep it going. Hopefully keep it going the rest of the weekend.”

Zobrist’s multi-blast day and ongoing torrid stretch demanded the game’s biggest headlines, but he wasn’t the only one knocking Scherzer around the yard.

After John Lackey gave up two early runs to put the Cubs in a rare hole, the offense raced to his rescue, Tommy La Stella smacking a two-run, game-tying homer in the second and Anthony Rizzo and Zobrist clubbing back-to-back jacks in the third. Add in Zobrist’s second long ball, a three-run shot in the fifth, and the Cubs roughed up the Nats’ front-of-the-rotation starter for seven runs on seven hits in just five innings.

It was a far cry from the way Scherzer sliced up the Cubs last season, striking out 13 hitters over seven shutout frames.

“I saw some pitches in the middle of the plate. I’m sure he would not have wanted them in the middle of the plate,” Zobrist said. “And I think that was probably the key, getting the ball there and putting good swings on the ball. We took advantage of that. I think Rizz hit a tough pitch down and in for a home run, but outside of that, I think a lot of other ones were just kind of left over the middle. … Not his best day, but I’ve faced him when he’s been lights out, as well, and you don’t take it for granted.”

“The huge story was our guys being able to score runs off a great pitcher in Scherzer,” Lackey said. “They’ve really done well. It’s fun to be on their side.”

The Cubs have the type of offense that can do this any day, and the lack of summer heat didn’t seem to slow the bats down over the season’s first 27 games, when they posted an outrageous plus-96 run differential.

But there was certainly something different about Friday’s warm-up, which came with an outward-blowing wind.

“I know the hitting coaches (felt good to see the wind blowing out). They felt a lot smarter before the game today,” Maddon said. “Really, you feel so different. We’ve hit so many balls well this year that have been outs that today were not. That’s just the way it plays.”

“Being here, it’s the ultimate love-hate relationship with this field,” Rizzo said. “There’s a few us that would have a lot more extra-base hits if it was blowing out, the wind, but today was nice and we took advantage of it.”

This weekend’s four-game set between the teams with the two best records in baseball has been considered an NLCS preview by some, and Scherzer is a guy the Cubs could face in Game 1 should these teams get a chance to play for the pennant come October.

After Friday’s home run derby, the Cubs don’t seem as if they’ll be intimidated by any pitcher this time around.

Well-traveled Khaly Thiam settling in with the Fire


Well-traveled Khaly Thiam settling in with the Fire

Khaly Thiam's still young soccer career had already taken him to multiple countries and continents. When he joined the Chicago Fire earlier this week he added another country and continent to that list.

The Fire officially added the 22-year-old Senegalese midfielder on loan on Wednesday. His first training session with the team was on Thursday. The club hopes he will be available in the May 11 match in Vancouver, pending getting his visa to go through in time.

“I am getting on with everybody," Thiam said. "It is football and everything, but this team they are really great guys. I am friendly with the coaches, the players, everybody is helping me to integrate into the team.”

Thiam learned English through a private teacher in Senegal and speaks with a British accent, but said he wasn't able to practice the language until he moved to Europe. He first joined the Novara Primavera, the Italian Serie B club's youth and reserve team. He then moved to Hungary, where he had been since 2012.

“I first went to Italy for one tournament there," Thiam said. "One month in the Primavera with Novara when I played this tournament. Then I went to Hungary for a first division team. From there I got my first professional contract.”

The Fire acquired Thiam's MLS discovery rights from the Columbus Crew. If Thiam starts 12 matches or the Fire make the move permanent, the Fire will send general allocation money to the Crew. If neither of those happen, the Fire will give the Crew a second round pick in the 2017 draft.

Thiam has not yet been able to check out Chicago or explore and he won't have much of a chance for a while either. The Fire leave for a three-game road trip on Tuesday and will not return until after the May 18 match at the New York Red Bulls.

After growing up in Africa and beginning his professional career in Europe, coming to the U.S. is another new adventure for Thiam. Thiam took the chance to join the Fire after hearing good things about MLS.

“I came here for the soccer because now I see the soccer is building up and the level is coming up," he said. "I came here to see what was going on here.”

Thiam will be a welcome addition to a Fire midfield which has struggled to keep possession, the Fire are currently last in MLS in that category. He also comes at a time when the roster is dealing with a number of nagging injuries in the midfield and attack ahead of a crowded schedule featuring two midweek games in the next two weeks.

David Accam and Alex Morrell worked out separately from the rest of the team on Friday. Gilberto, who has a hamstring injury, did some running on the side. Matt Polster, who missed the 1-1 draw against D.C. United on April 30 with a calf injury, left practice early.

“Gilberto, Morrell, Polster they are in the final phase (of recovery)," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Accam also, but we also have to work on Accam’s fitness because he was out longer. We have to take care of his fitness. We don’t want any new issues with him. We have to be smart and manage the load, minutes and everything once he is ready."

John Goossens was not at practice and could still be out for a few weeks after suffering a sprained LCL just before the D.C. match.

Ex-Pitt running back Chris James announces transfer to Badgers


Ex-Pitt running back Chris James announces transfer to Badgers

Wisconsin landed a Power 5 transfer running back Friday.

Like the Badgers need another running back.

Former Pittsburgh ball carrier Chris James, a Chicago native, announced on Twitter that he's coming to Madison, re-teaming with Paul Chryst and the coaching staff that recruited him to the Panthers a few years back.

James was a four-star recruit coming out of Notre Dame College Prep in 2014, ranked by Rivals as the No. 22 running back in that class. He was recruited to Pitt by Joe Rudolph, currently the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, and picked the Panthers over the Badgers and offers from a host of other Big Ten teams including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue.

James rushed for 437 yards on 87 carries, scoring four touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. Last season, he rushed for 253 yards on 56 carries.

Per NCAA rules, James will have to sit out the upcoming season, but he'll have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2017.

That's good news for the Badgers, who will see two thirds of their three-headed running back monster — Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale are seniors, Taiwan Deal is a sophomore — depart after the 2016 campaign.