Cubs

Fantasy Baseball: The impact of emerging rookies in 2015

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Fantasy Baseball: The impact of emerging rookies in 2015

Rookies have become an integral part of the Fantasy Baseball world.

First-year players may not be having quite the impact in Fantasy Baseball as rookie wide receivers had in the fall in Fantasy Football, but they're still changing the landscape of the game.

[ROTOWORLD: Waiver wire targets]

Kris Bryant and Joc Pederson have already become franchise-altering players in the first two-plus months of the Fantasy season and are rewarding their owners who took big risks in the draft (remember when some people scoffed at the idea of Bryant in the first three rounds?).

But it's not just Bryant and Pederson. There are plenty of rookies changing the Fantasy game:

Rusney Castillo, OF, Red Sox

It's only been 26 games, but Boston is still waiting to see its investment in the Cuban outfielder pay off. He hasn't really hit for power or average and isn't a base-stealer. Out of his 12 hits so far this year, 11 have been singles. The good news for Castillo is that the Red Sox have invested a lot of money in him so they're most likely going to keep him in the lineup even when Shane Victorino returns from his injury. I just don't see any value Castillo can add in fantasy right now in any category, so I'd stay away from him for now until he figures out MLB pitching. (John "Professor" Paschall)

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros

The future of the Houston Astros has arrived, and in just three games baseball's top prospect has proven he's here to stay. In a three-game set against the White Sox he went 4-for-12 with a double, home run and three runs batted in; in fact, his three RBI have accounted for all but one of Houston's runs produced since he's been called up. One quick glance at the 20-year-old and it's apparent the type of numbers he's capable of producing; standing 6-foot-4, he hit .313 in four seasons in the minors and while he only slugged .491, the double and homer were a nice surprise of power. He's going to get all the run he can in Houston - he batted 6th in all three games against the White Sox - and deserves to be owned in most leagues. If he struggles over the next month you can cut bait, but I wouldn't bet on that happening from the 2012 first overall pick. Correa looks like the real deal.

Chi Chi Gonzalez, SP, Rangers

In eight starts at AAA this season Gonzalez went 3-5 with a 4.15 ERA. So it was only natural when the Rangers called him up two weeks ago that he'd throw 5.2 scoreless innings against the Red Sox, and then toss a complete game shutout in Kansas City five games later. Thursday he threw seven innings and allowed just one earned run against the A's on the road. Yes, it's time to consider picking Chi Chi up. After all, Gonzalez was a first-round pick in 2013 (so this isn't coming out of nowhere), the Rangers are red-hot and, at the very least, you've got plenty of fantasy team names to consider with him on your squad.

Eduardo Rodriguez, P, Red Sox

Jon who? OK, OK I know that's a bit much already. But Rodriguez has looked awfully good in his first three starts with the Red Sox. Acquired at the trade deadline last year from the Orioles for Andrew Miller, Rodriguez is the first pitcher since 1912 to record three straight games of 6+ IP with one earned run or fewer and at least seven strikeouts. In case you're wondering, his stat line so far is this: 2-0, 0.44 ERA, 21 K, 7 BB. 

Mercy.

The only thing holding back Rodriguez is a streaky Red Sox offense. If you're in a league that only counts quality starts, then stop reading this and make sure Rodriguez isn't on your waiver wire. Because if he is, then you have to get him now. If your league only takes wins for pitchers, it's a slightly riskier move but with the way he's pitching, it should only take the Red Sox a couple of runs to get him a win every night. Get him now and hope he doesn't hit a rookie wall later in the summer. (JPP)

Addison Russell, 2B/SS, Cubs

Perhaps the least touted top-5 prospect in the majors in quite some time, Russell has quietly gone about his business in the shadows of names like Bryant, Rizzo and Soler on the North Side. His numbers haven't been great - he's batting just .242 and is down to .192 in June - but there's a reason the Cubs were so quick to call him up. If he can find his groove and settle into the offense he could become a nice source of runs while batting 9th in the Cubs' lineup. That may mean fewer at-bats, but if he can get on base the lineup flips over for him and it should yield plenty of results. He's probably one of the lower prospects on this list just because he's struggling right now, but once he picks it up he's going to provide a major boost at a weak fantasy position. He's more of a "keep-your-eye-on-him" player right now, but make sure it's a close eye.

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Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs

Soler is currently on the DL with an ankle injury, but should be back later this month or in early July. But his injury isn't even the most pressing question surrounding the Cuban sensation right now.

Every Soler owner has been wondering the same thing this year: Where's the power?

Soler hit only four homers in 49 games before landing on the DL, but a closer look at the advanced stats show there is plenty of reason for optimism. The 23-year-old put up a .281 ISO (isolated power) during his late-season cup of coffee last season, but that mark is at just .138 this year. He is hitting a line drive 29 percent of the time this year, more than double his mark from a year ago (11.8 percent). He's hitting fewer ground balls and fewer fly balls, but the increase in line drives has his hard-hit contact (39.5 percent) right where it was last year (40.3 percent).

Whenever Soler returns, expect the power to come eventually. He's simply hitting the ball way too hard to expect such a low homer total. (Tony Andracki)

Steven Souza, OF, Rays

Scoring differs across each league, but the staples offensively are still homers and steals. It's those two categories that make Souza such an enticing option despite a .211 average.

Souza ranked as Baseball America's No. 37 prospect before the season and he racked up 93 homers and 158 steals across eight minor-league seasons. He went 18 and 28 in the two categories in the Washington Nationals system in 2014.

The 26-year-old rookie is on pace for 30 homers and 19 steals this year and if he ever cuts down on his strikeouts and starts to figure it out more at the plate, that average is going to come up to a more-respectable range. At the moment, however, his power-speed combo is enough to roster and get in your lineups (especially during a hot stretch). (TA)

Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox

Right now, Swihart isn't much of an impact in Fantasy circles. I have him on one team as a filler for Travis d'Arnaud and now that d'Arnaud is back from the DL, I'm kind of at a crossroads of what to do with Swihart. For the time being, I'm keeping him on my bench because there is potential there. Swihart has a career .287/.341/.428 line in the minors and was ranked as a Top 20 prospect coming into the 2015 season by Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus.

It's just going to take some time for the 23-year-old catcher to figure it all out at the plate. He's hitting just .207 with a .533 OPS through 28 games right now, but he's also been working hard at his game behind the plate with the Red Sox pitching staff.

At some point, it will all click for Swihart, but will that happen this year? It's a situation worth keeping an eye on, but the top catching prospect probably isn't worth owning right now. (TA)

Noah Syndergaard, P, NYM

Oh, those first few starts were so promising. And his 400-foot monster home run was quite the feat. But is he really worth owning?

His last two starts have been quite troubling. Back-to-back 10-hit outings against the Padres and Giants are concerning for me because he's got elite stuff yet teams are still hitting him. Can he adjust? That's always the biggest issue with rookies. But the Mets seem to be willing to let Syndergaard ride out some of the bumps in the road. He's 2-4 this year but he does provide strikeouts for your team and doesn't walk many batters.

If you have him on your team, I'd hold on to him for now. He's got two starts against the Braves coming up and that should hopefully get him back on track. But he's on a short leash for me and a couple of poor performances could have me looking elsewhere quickly. (JPP)

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

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USA TODAY

Addison Russell is so over 2017: 'That's last year, don't want to talk about that'

MESA, Ariz. — “That’s last year, don’t want to talk about that.”

In other words, Addison Russell is so over 2017.

The Cubs shortstop went through a lot last year. He dealt with injuries that affected his foot and shoulder. He had a well-documented off-the-field issue involving an accusation of domestic abuse, which sparked an investigation by Major League Baseball. And then came the trade speculation.

The hot stove season rarely leaves any player completely out of online trade discussion. But after Theo Epstein admitted there was a possibility the Cubs could trade away one or more young position players to bolster the starting rotation, well, Russell’s name came up.

And he saw it.

“There was a lot of trade talk,” Russell said Saturday. “My initial thoughts were, I hope it doesn’t happen, but wherever I go, I’m going to try to bring what I bring to the table here. It’s a good thing that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m happy being in a Cubs uniform, I want to be in a Cubs uniform, for sure. But there was some talk out there. If I got traded, then I got traded, but that’s not the case.”

No, it’s not, as the Cubs solved those pitching questions with free-agent spending, bringing in Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood to replace the departed Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. It means Russell, along with oft-discussed names like Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ and Javy Baez, are all still Cubs.

While the outside world might have expected one of those guys to be moved in some sort of blockbuster trade for Chris Archer or some other All-Star arm, the Cubs’ young core remains intact, another reason why they’re as much a favorite to win the World Series as any team out there.

“I’m really not surprised. The core is still here. Who would want to break that up? It’s a beautiful thing,” Russell said. “Javy and I in the middle. Schwarber, sometimes playing catcher but mainly outfield. And then (Kris Bryant) over there in the hot corner, and of course (Anthony) Rizzo at first. You’ve got a Gold Glover in right field (Jason Heyward). It’s really hard to break that up.

“When you do break that down on paper, we’ve got a lineup that could stack up with the best.”

This winter has been about moving on for Russell, who said he’s spent months working to strengthen his foot and shoulder after they limited him to 110 games last season, the fewest he played in his first three big league campaigns.

And so for Russell, the formula for returning to his 2016 levels of offensive aptitude isn’t a difficult one: stay on the field.

“Especially with the injuries, I definitely wanted to showcase some more of my talent last year than I displayed,” Russell said. “So going into this year, it’s mainly just keeping a good mental — just staying level headed. And also staying healthy and producing and being out there on the field.

“Next step for me, really just staying out there on the field. I really want to see what I can do as far as helping the team if I can stay healthy for a full season. I think if I just stay out there on the field, I’m going to produce.”

While the decrease in being on the field meant lower numbers from a “counting” standpoint — the drop from 21 homers in 2016 to 12 last year, the drop from 95 RBIs to 43 can in part be attributed to the lower number of games — certain rate stats looked different, too. His on-base percentage dropped from .321 in 2016 to .304 last year.

Russell also struggled during the postseason, picking up just six hits in 36 plate appearances in series against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out 13 times in 10 postseason games.

Of course, he wasn’t alone. That World Series hangover was team-wide throughout the first half of the season. And even though the Cubs scored 824 runs during the regular season, the second most in the National League and the fourth most in baseball, plenty of guys had their offensive struggles: Schwarber, Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name a few.

“You can’t take anything for granted. So whenever you win a World Series or you do something good, you just have to live in the moment,” Russell said. “It was a tough season last year because we were coming off winning the World Series and the World Series hangover and all that. This year, we had a couple months off, a couple extra weeks off, and I think a lot of guys took advantage of that. I know I did. And now that we’re here in spring training, we’re going to get back at it.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Discussing 5-man unit and where Montgomery fits into Cubs' plans

Jon Lester has arrived at Cubs camp, and he’s pleased with the new-look rotation full of potential aces. Kelly Crull and Vinnie Duber discuss the 5-man unit, and where Mike Montgomery fits into the Cubs’ plans.

Plus, Kelly and Vinnie talk Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, along with the continuing free agent stalemate surrounding Jake Arrieta.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: