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. 

Cubs see Kyle Schwarber looming as potential World Series hero

Cubs see Kyle Schwarber looming as potential World Series hero

CLEVELAND — Even as the Cubs went through their World Series workout and media-day responsibilities here, team officials kept their eyes on Kyle Schwarber in the Arizona Fall League, watching his at-bats on a live video feed from their spring-training complex.

The Cubs clearly didn’t use Schwarber as a distraction for their anxious fan base or a misdirection play against the Cleveland Indians. This is all about maximizing the chance to win the franchise’s first world championship since 1908 — and the Cubs believe Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed swing could be the X-factor.

Schwarber planned to fly to Cleveland on Monday after going 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored for the Mesa Solar Sox, another giant step in his recovery from what was supposed to be season-ending surgery on his left knee.

“He looked really good,” said team president Theo Epstein, mentioning that Schwarber did the necessary running/sliding/diving drills pregame — and then hit a ball with 110-mph exit velocity.

The rotating images on the big video board at Progressive Field even showed a dummy Game 1 lineup with Schwarber batting ninth as the designated hitter against Corey Kluber. It’s a long way from the Arizona Fall League to facing a Cy Young Award winner, especially after going more than six months without seeing live pitching. But if anyone can do it, well, the Cubs would never bet against Schwarber.

“He’s a pretty special person and a special hitter,” Epstein said.

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One week ago, Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed Schwarber’s ACL and repaired his LCL, surprisingly green-lighted a return to baseball activities. The Cubs had been focused on getting Schwarber ready for winter ball and Opening Day 2017, a more realistic timeline after that brutal outfield collision with Dexter Fowler on April 7.

The Cubs still won 103 games — even with Schwarber making only five plate appearances during the regular season and spending his time working on scouting reports, analyzing video and observing in the draft room.

“We’ve seen first-hand the work that he’s putting in and how hard he’s been going,” MVP candidate Kris Bryant said. “Honestly, I saw him out — maybe a couple weeks after his surgery — and he’s moving around, walking. And I’m like: ‘Dang, this guy’s not human. How? I saw your leg bend in half, and you’re walking around. This is unbelievable.’

“(It’s) watching him dripping with sweat every single day. Every single day, this guy is drenched. I feel like he’s in the best shape of his life (now). There was no doubt in my mind that he could do it. It was just a matter of if they let him.”

Schwarber is such a presence that Cubs executives left their seats and moved to the back of their Wrigley Field suite on Saturday night to watch his at-bats on the Sloan Park SpyCam — even as the best team in baseball eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers from the National League Championship Series and won the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years.

Everyone around the Cubs remembers how Schwarber starred during that wild-card showdown against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the ball he smashed off the St. Louis Cardinals onto the top of a Wrigley Field video board, putting up five homers and a 1.308 OPS during last year’s playoffs, which happened to be the end of his first full season in professional baseball.

“You see when he gets introduced how much everybody loves him,” Game 2 starter Jake Arrieta said. “He’s a legend already at such a young age. That’s awesome. It just speaks to the importance of what he was able to do last year for us.

“I think he’s going to be here. He wouldn’t have been playing in the Fall League if they weren’t seriously considering him being here. And not having to put him in the field is huge. If he hits a ball over the fence, he can trot around the bases. If he happens to line out or ground out, then he can just kind of jog to first.

“That just speaks to how special of a bat he is — and how hard he worked these past six months to put himself in the position to be ready to play in the World Series.”

At the age of 23, Schwarber is positioned to become yet another young Cub who wants to own this October. Jason McLeod — the senior vice president of scouting and player development heavily involved in the decision to draft Schwarber with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft — joked about how Fowler’s one-year, $13 million deal came together during this unreal year.

“We have to one-up Dexter’s entrance into spring training,” McLeod said.

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

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

CLEVELAND - The Cubs are undefeated in the 2016 postseason when Jon Lester takes the mound, including two Game 1 appearances.

So the Cubs are going to stick with what works.

The team announced Lester as the starter for Game 1 of the World Series at Progressive Field in downtown Cleveland Tuesday night.

"We win when he pitches," Anthony Rizzo said. "It's our mentality with all our pitchers but with him, it feels different."

Lester - the co-MVP of the National League Championship Series - is 2-0 this postseason with a 0.86 ERA and 0.76 WHIP in three starts spanning 21 innings. He has thrown at least six innings in each outing, including a gritty Game 5 performance against the Dodgers in the NLCS, allowing only one run in seven innings to send the series back to Chicago on a high note.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon believes Lester is cementing his name in franchise history with his playoff dominance.

"There is an incredible amount of calm that I'm seeing from the dugout when I'm watching him out there right now," Maddon said. "He's really, really in the moment. He's calm. Gosh, he's just eager to get out and pitch."

With his success this October, Lester now has a 2.50 ERA in 19 career postseason games (17 starts) and 119 innings. 

This is exactly what the Cubs signed up for when they handed the veteran southpaw a megadeal before the 2015 season - one of the best postseason pitchers of this generation.

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Lester has been asked several times over the last couple weeks what he can attribute his playoff dominance to and he always shrugs it off and deflects credit to the team.

"I had good fastball command. It wasn't erratic," he said. "It was missing to the side of the plate that I wanted to be on. I think when I'm able to do that, it makes the other pitches better.

"I guess that's kind of like your cooke-cutter answer, but I mean, for me, that's what it comes down to. ... The well-executed fastball in October is just the same as it is in June."

After Lester, Jake Arrieta said Monday he would be set to go in Game 2 in Cleveland.

That lines up Kyle Hendricks for Game 3 and another opportunity at Wrigley Field, where he has a 1.38 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 111.2 innings (including three postseason starts).

During the regular season, the Cubs had the best starting rotation in the big leagues, in part because they kept feeding off each other and competed within the pitching staff.

"I can specifically remember several times when Kyle would have a nice outing and go six or seven and give up one or two and I'd be like, 'You can't be giving up two runs, man,'" Arrieta joked. "It'd be after I went out and pitched eight scoreless or something like that.

"We'd just mess with each other like that. It's a friendly competition that most rotations have. ... To have that, to feed off each other, to fire each other up, it's one of the reasons we've pitched so well and why we're here."

The Indians are starting ace Corey Kluber - the 2014 American League Cy Young winner - in Game 1 and will slot in some combination of Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games 2 and 3.

The Indians also aren't ruling out utilizng Kluber on short rest in Game 4 Saturday in Chicago and possibly even Game 7 if the series gets that far.