Jason Heyward
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Jason Heyward struggled in his first season with the Chicago Cubs hitting just .230 with 61 runs, seven home runs, 49 RBI and 11 stolen bases. His struggles could be somewhat overlooked for Cubs fans as the team is loaded with talent and they won their first World Series in ages.
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During his first five seasons Heyward averaged 134 hits for a .268 average, 26.3 doubles, 3.5 triples, 16.2 home runs, 58.7 RBI and 14.3 stolen bases.
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Things didn’t get better for Hewyard during the postseason as he hit .104 with 13 strikeouts in 48 at bats.
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Heyward has worked on fixing his swing to return to a prior form. He was plagued with too many softly hit balls.
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The hope is to make better contact, which would improve on his dreadful .266 BABIP that contributed to that paltry batting average. His BABIP was .329 in 2015, .308 in 2014, .281 in 2013 and .319 in 2012. For a player that has stole at least 20 bases in three of the past five seasons, that BABIP should improve.
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Heyward  is currently projected to be outside of the top 70 outfielders in fantasy baseball drafts. That puts him at a sixth outfielder in 12-team leagues. He should be able to hit at least 15 home runs with at least 15 stolen bases. He should come close to 80 runs and 70 RBI. While they aren’t numbers worthy of his loft contract, they should help fantasy owners.

ryan-dempster
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Ryan Dempster was a roller coaster ride last year. Check out his ERA by month:
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April:  2.75
May:  4.54
June:  3.24
July:  5.03
August:  2.89
September/October:  4.59
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This year Dempster started off in the outhouse with a 9.58 ERA in April. He then went 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA in May and 1-2 with a 3.13 ERA in June. I wouldn’t quite call that the penthouse, but he has his numbers at least looking respectable at 5-6 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.
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Since his back-to-back seven run disasters Dempster is 4-3 with a 3.11 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He’s not going to fool anyone for Justin Verlander of Cliff Lee, but at least he’s looking like the pitcher that we’ve come to know over the past couple of seasons. We knew he wasn’t as good as the 17-6, 2.96 season he posted in 2008, but he combined to go 26-21 with a 3.75 ERA and 380 strikeouts in 415-1/3 innings in 2009 and 2010.
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Dempster has turned his season around, but I would be cautious using him on the road. He was blasted for six runs in five innings as recent as June 3rd. With a 6.86 ERA away from Wrigley I would only use him when the match-up is favorable. For instance, he faces the Nationals on the road on the Fourth of July. With Americana in the air I would roll the dice on that road start. It’s early enough in the week that you can make some adjustments if it doesn’t go your way.
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While I don’t think it will be entirely smooth sailing for Dempster the rest of the way, I do feel he will be a solid option for the most part.
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Image courtesy of ESPN Chicago
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Matt Garza is getting rocked this spring. I’m not talking about a guy giving up the occasional long ball. I’m talking about a guy that had an ERA of 8.68 ERA entering Tuesday’s Cactus League action against a split Diamondbacks squad. I’m talking about a guy who got rocked for seven runs on eleven hit in three innings that limped away with a 10.38 ERA. I realize that you want your pitcher to get stretched out during spring training while avoiding injury. That’s what is important. Getting the occasional scoreless inning would be nice though.
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Garza got bombed during spring training in 2009 as well, posting a bloated 6.10 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, and .313 BAA. He didn’t let it ruin his season though. Garza posted a 3.82 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP, and .175 BAA in April that year. That month has been good for Garza through his career. He sports his best winning percentage (.667) of any month along with his lowest BAA (.219). His WHIP of 1.23 is second to only May’s 1.21 WHIP. His April ERA (3.67) is third lowest of any month, and 0.30 lower than his career mark.
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Matt Garza has historically been a fast starter.  His numbers before the All-Star Break (24-17, 3.82 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .242 BAA) are significantly better than his numbers after the break (18-27, 4.10 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .262 BAA). If history repeats, the beginning of the year is the best time to own Garza. If you can get him now while his owners are feeling buyer’s remorse, you should be able to get him at a discount. I wouldn’t blame you if you played the wait and see approach to make sure he gets back on track. Then reap the benefits. If you want to cut ties with him around the end of July when he historically begins to fade, you could again get good value for him.
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Fantasy baseball is a bit like a stock market in that sense. You want to buy low when you see a good value. Once it gets rolling you want to ride it while its hot and get off just in time. To me Matt Garza seems like that kind of stock right now. Get him at a discount while you can.
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Alfonso Soriano turned 35 in January. He managed to play 147 games last year, but he missed 125 games combined the three previous seasons. He was once considered an elite fantasy outfielder, but those days are over.
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While his 24 HRs put him in a tie for 15th among outfielders, the rest of his numbers fall way short of upper echelon outfielders. His 67 runs were tied for 49th. His 79 RBI ranked 24th. He was once a stolen base threat, but his five SBs were worse than 75 outfielders. His .258 batting average was tied for 41st. Those simply aren’t the numbers we’ve come to expect from Alfonso Soriano…or are they?
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Granted he missed 98 games in 2008 and 2009, but his average line from 2008-2010 is .259, 69 runs, 24.3 HRs, 69.7 RBI, and 11 SBs. He’s simply not the same player that averaged 106.2 runs, 36.7 HRs, 92.2 RBI, and 30.7 SBs from 2002-2007. continue reading »

 

The wait is over. If you grabbed Kerry Wood in your fantasy draft, you finally can use his services. No word on whether or not he’ll be eased into the closer’s role or get a baptism by fire. The good news is you have the weekend to see how things shake out before you have to set your lineup for next week. I wouldn’t necessarily drop Chris Perez right away in case Wood struggles or gets hurt again.

 

Image courtesy of Icon SMI

The Cubs, who are off to a slow start at 13-16, and were just swept by Pittsburgh, decided to make a change. They called up their top prospect, shortstop Starlin Castro.

 

Castro was tearing it up for Double-A Tennessee hitting .376 with 20 runs, 1 HR, 20 RBIs, and 4 SBs. He not only should give them a boost offensively, but should improve them defensively as well. Ryan Theriot will likely move over to second to accomodate Castro. Mike Fontenot will move to a utility role, which bolsters their bench.

 

You can try to get ahead of the curve in deep leagues by picking up Castro, but in normal leagues just take a wait-and-see approach with him.


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Geovany Soto was a draft day darling last year. What’s not to love about a player who tore up the Pacific Coast League in 2007 to the tune of .353, 26 HRs, and 109 RBIs in 385 ABs? Especially when he hit .389 with 12 runs, 3 HRs, and 8 RBIs upon being called up. Then in his first full year with the Cubs he takes home Rookie of the Year honors by hitting .285 with 23 HRs and 86 RBIs.

After posting a .218, 11 HR, 47 RBI line in 2009, Soto’s draft stock took a major hit, and that’s just where I want him. He struggled last year, but is an amazing talent. There aren’t many catchers that have the potential for as many HRs and RBIs as Soto. Injuries contributed to his struggles, but his weight became an issue as well.

According to a MLB.com report (click for article)  he lost 40 pounds.In a demanding position, his new frame should keep him spry. Time will tell if the change in body type will impact his power, but he should be more productive at and behind the plate.

He’s not in the conversation with Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, or Brian McCann, but he should be a high-end fantasy catcher in 2010 (click here for catcher rankings).

Prediction: .295, 68 runs, 20 HRs, 85 RBIs

Past profiles:
Arizona Diamondbacks:  Brandon Webb
Atlanta Braves: Yunel Escobar
Baltimore Orioles:  Adam Jones
Boston Red Sox:  Clay Buchholz

While Joe Mauer was supposedly set to sign a ten-year deal with the Twins according to WCCO, it appears the announcement was premature. There were, however, some other moves that were on a much smaller scale.

Melvin Mora inked a deal with the Colorado Rockies. He will serve as a utility player as he can play virtually every position. He will turn 38 on Sunday, and his fantasy value has probably dried up, as evidenced by his .260, 44 R, 8 HR, 48 RBI 2009 numbers. 

Kevin Millar, who’s also 38, will try his luck with the Cubs. Millar managed to hit just .223 with 7 HRs and 29 RBIs for the Blue Jays last year. He too has little to no fantasy value, and little may have skipped town.

The Reds bolstered their infielde by signing free agent SS Orlando Cabrera and trading for Aaron Miles. Cabrera will start for the Reds and likely hit in the two-hole. He had a solid year split between the A’s and the Twins hitting .284 with 83 runs, 9 HRs, and 77 RBIs. He has a good chance of replicating those numbers in Cincinnati. Miles will serve as a backup infielder and has little fantasy value.

Ryan Garko signed with Seattle. He’ll be used primarily as a bat off the bench to face lefties. He could also play some first, DH, and even have spot duty at catcher. He too has little fantasy value.

Now an early look at the NL Central.

1. Can the Cubs’ offense bounce back?
Geovany Soto had a miserable season hitting .218. He was brilliant in Triple-A Iowa in 2007 and had an amazing Rookie season. I fully expect him to bounce back in 2010. Even if he is an average of his past two years, he’d have a decent season. Just don’t reach for him. Assuming Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano can stay healthy, they should have better seasons as well. Marlon Byrd hit 70 percent of his HRs at Rangers Ballpark so I expect him to take a step back in Chicago. At his age (34), I don’t expect Derrek Lee to match the 35 HRs and 111 RBIs. As a whole, though, I do think the Cubs will be much-improved on offense next year thanks to the addition by subtraction of Milton Bradley.

2.  Can Carlos Marmol get it done at Closer?
His BAA was equally nasty as a closer and a setup man, though his ERA and WHIP both improved when he took over at closer. He has both the stuff and demeanor to get the job done. I think he can be a high-end closer next year despite entering the season with just23 career Saves.

3.  Is Joey Votto set to bust out big time?
Joey’s average and OPS  soared dramatically in his second full season. Despite playing in 20 fewer games he had 13 more runs, six more doubles, one more HR, the same amount of RBIs, and 11 more walks. As long as he stays healthy, Votto should emerge as one of the games best hitters.

4. How about Jay Bruce?
I’m not sure he’ll light the world on fire, but he should be improved. Hard not to when you hit .223. I’m encouraged by the way he played in September when he hit .353 with 4 HRs and 16 RBIs in 34 ABs.

5. Is Lance Berkman’s dip a sign of things to come?
I don’t think so. He’s about as steady as they come. Gone are the days of 40 HRs and 120 RBIs, but he should still be good for 30 & 110.

6. Is Tommy Manzelli going to be a viable fantasy option?
I don’t think so. He didn’t exactly put up monster numbers for Triple-A Round Rock last year, hitting .289 with 68 runs, 9 HRs, 56 RBIs, and 12 SBs in 530 ABs.

7.  Is Casey McGehee for real?
He had an impressive Rookie season hitting .301 with 58 runs, 16 HRs, and 66 RBIs in 355 ABs. I like the way he responded in September hitting .337 with 5 HRs and 26 RBIs after struggling in August hitting .241. I wouldn’t want him as a starter, but his 2B/3B eligibility make him a decent bench option.

8.  Can Garrett Jones continue to be a power threat?
He certainly hit his share with 21 in 314 ABs for a 14.9 AB/HR ratio. It is highly unlikely that he can maintain that ratio. His OPS of .939 was also significanly higher than the majority of his minor league stints.

9.  Will Mark McGwire be a distraction?
I don’t think so. He came clean early enough where is shouldn’t be much of an issue for the Cards.

10.  Will Ryan Franklin continue to be an elite closer?
Franklin was one of the surprise closers last year when he recorded 38 saves with a 1.92 ERA. His numbers were significantly worse after the All-Star break.

0.79 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, .165 BAA
3.33 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, .284 BAA

While he was a pleasant surprise last year, I see no reason to believe he can match his 2009 production.

 

Sammy Sosa White Sox Sosa Cubs
Images courtesy of Icon SMI

The New York Times is reporting that Sammy Sosa failed a drug test in 2003.  The New York Times cites “lawyers with knowledge of the drug-testing results from that year” as their source.  This is the latest black eye for baseball as yet another star is linked to performance-enhancing drugs.  Unlike Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, Sosa’s failed test does not come as a shock to most baseball fans.  He has been presumed guilty for years, and this “new” knowledge won’t have the ripple effect among baseball fans.  Instead of outrage, I imagine most people’s reactions will be in the neighborhood of “I thought so”.  Although you may be disgusted when looking at the top ten HR list.

1.  Barry Bonds, 762 – steroids
2.  Hank Aaron, 755
3.  Babe Ruth, 714
4.  Willie Mays, 660
5.  Ken Griffey, Jr., 617 – PLEASE BE CLEAN
6.  Sammy Sosa, 609 – steroids
7.  Frank Robinson, 586
8.  Mark McGwire, 583 – steroids
9.  Harmon Killebrew, 573
10.  Rafael Palmeiro, 569 – steroids

With four of the top ten (A-Rod at 12, ManRam at 17) being steroid users does a lot to damage the history of the game.  Sosa can kiss the HOF goodbye.  He was already on thin ice because of the corked bat and the speculation.  It gives a whole new meaning to his nickmame “Say it Ain’t Sosa”.  I wish I could.  I wish I could.


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