Cubs

Fantasy baseball pitchers stock

Fantasy baseball pitchers stock

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

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Greg Holland, RP, Royals: There are plenty of relievers the Royals could use to fill in for the departed Jonathan Broxton, but Holland is getting first chance and he's already converted one save. Holland has the swing-and-miss stuff you want for this gig (56 punchouts in 40.2 innings), though a bloated walk rate (23 free passes) needs to be corrected. At the end of the day we'll bet on him, since it's not hard for any capable major-league reliever to handle a save job if it's just the ninth inning. And we'll also note that his control wasn't as big an issue last season.
Dan Straily, SP, Athletics: It's an embarrassment of riches in the Oakland pitching system right now, with Straily the latest to drop (he'll start Friday against Toronto). The hard-throwing righty has a zesty 11.4 K9 rate at two levels this season, and he's only walking 2.4 batters per clip. Best of all, those ratios were static at both Double-A and Triple-A, a good sign that Straily is ready for The Show. Go ahead and dial up the 22-year-old right out of the box, especially considering the forgiving nature of the Oakland ballpark.

Kris Medlen, SPRP, Braves: Medlen was sharp in his return to the rotation (5 IP, 1 R) after a solid season in the Atlanta bullpen (2.43 ERA, 1.08 WHIP). It's always nice to have a starter on your roto roster who qualifies at both spots - the flexibility comes in handy - and Medlen will be a heavy favorite on the weekend when he faces Houston's stripped lineup. Medlen's ground-ball rate has hit a major spike this year, which is a precursor to future success.

Hold
Jason Vargas, SP, Mariners: If you have the freedom to stream him for the home starts only, there's a decent return coming your way: 2.63 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 53 strikeouts over 72 innings. All offense is knocked dead on contact in Safeco Field, and it's been more extreme than ever in 2012. Just make sure you flick the switch on the road, where Vargas has a 4.67 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP - his mistakes aren't hidden in less-forgiving parks.

Sell

Jonathan Broxton, RP, Reds: Dusty Baker is the type of manager who's very good and consistent with his closers, so Aroldis Chapman will keep the ninth going forward. Broxton might get the save chances on days where Chapman needs a rest, but this isn't expected to be a shared job. In short, Broxton's value just about expired the day he was shipped back to the NL. 

Barry Zito, SP, Giants: He's been ineffective in six of his last 10 turns, including the Thursday mess that's in progress as we go to press. Zito clearly has no faith in his batting-practice fastball, which means batters can sit on his breaking stuff (and pass on it if they like). When Zito has full command of the off-speed pitches, he can still skate by. If he's not letter-perfect in this area, he gets knocked all around the park. Move along.

Derek Lowe, SP, Free Agent: The Indians finally cut the cord on the struggling Lowe (5.52 ERA, 1.69 WHIP), and the veteran can't argue bad luck here. The league is batting .321 against him and he's given up more walks than strikeouts (always a troubling sign). Even if a contender decides to kick the tires on Lowe, you should kick him to the curb in any format, even AL-only pools. There's nothing left in the tank.

Roy Oswalt, RP, Rangers: Arlington is always a good place to hit, but especially when Oswalt is on the mound (6.49 ERA, .358 BAA). The Rangers made a mistake when they came to Oswalt with a lucrative midseason package. Recent acquire Ryan Dempster should put up a better fight, but don't be surprised if his ERA is over four for his duration in the American League. Power hitters thrive deep in the heart of Texas, especially from the left side of the plate.

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

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USA TODAY

Would trading Kyle Schwarber begin to solve pitching issues that run much deeper than Chris Bosio?

The Cubs now apparently believe they are a stronger organization without Chris Bosio, firing a pitching coach known for his strong convictions, brutal honesty and bottom-line results in a move that doesn’t seem like an actual solution.

Hiring Jim Hickey – who has a good reputation from his years with the Tampa Bay Rays, a close friendship with Joe Maddon and what looks like a slam-dunk interview lined up for Monday – might make the manager feel more comfortable and less isolated.

But the new-voice/different-direction spin doesn’t fundamentally address the pitching issues facing a team that needs to replace 40 percent of the rotation and find an established closer and has zero expectations those answers will come from within the farm system.

This is an operation that won a seven-game World Series last year without a homegrown player throwing a single pitch.     

If the Cubs can say thanks for the memories and dump “Boz,” what about “Schwarbs?”

Advancing to the National League Championship Series in three straight seasons doesn’t happen without Bosio or Kyle Schwarber. But the fastest way for the Cubs to dramatically improve their pitching staff isn’t finding someone else who thinks it’s important to throw strikes. It could mean breaking up The Core and severing another emotional attachment.   

Theo Epstein saw Schwarber play for Indiana University and used the Fenway Park frame of reference, envisioning him as a combination of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia with his left-handed power and energizer personality.

Epstein wasn’t the only Cubs official to develop a man-crush on Schwarber, but he’s the only one with ultimate control over baseball operations. Epstein’s style isn’t pounding the table as much as the ability to frame questions in the draft room, gather as many opinions as possible before the trade deadline and at the winter meetings, trying to form a consensus.

“I will say that it’s really an organization-wide evaluation of this player, but I’m not skirting responsibility,” Epstein said. “I’ll happily endorse him as the type of player that we want to win with here at the Cubs, and have won with. I don’t know, the fact that he hit 30 bombs in a bad year is a good start.

“But power is not everything. I think he fell into this year becoming more of a slugger and less of a hitter than he really is. It’s important for him to get his identity back as a dangerous hitter. Honestly, I think we feel he has the potential to be an all-around hitter on the level of an Anthony Rizzo. When he reaches his prime, that’s what he could be.”

Where will that be? As a designated hitter in the American League? That’s obvious speculation, but Schwarber has improved as an outfield defender – his strong throw at Dodger Stadium led to another NLCS Maddon Moment where the manager compared the Buster Posey Rule to the Chicago soda tax.      

A 43-45 record at the All-Star break also exposed some of the weaknesses in the clubhouse and downsides to Maddon’s methods. The Cubs flipped a switch in the second half, got hot in September and had the guts to beat the Washington Nationals in the playoffs. But that doesn’t completely wipe away the concerns about a group that at times seemed too casual and unfocused and didn’t play with enough edge. For better or worse, Schwarber approaches the game like a blitzing linebacker.

“He’s got a certain toughness and certain leadership qualities that are hard to find,” Epstein said, “and that we don’t necessarily have in surplus, in abundance, running around in this clubhouse, in this organization.

“A certain energy and grit and ability to bring people together – that’s important and we rely on it. But the biggest thing is his bat. We think he’s the type of offensive player that you build around, along with a couple other guys like him.”

Maddon would never admit it, but was the Schwarber leadoff experiment a mistake?

“I’ll judge that one based on the results and say yeah,” Epstein said. “I think we can talk about the process that went into it. Or in an alternate universe: Does it pan out? But those are just words. It didn’t work.

“Everything that went into Kyle’s really surprising and difficult first half of the season, we should look to correct, because that shouldn’t happen. He’s a way better hitter than that. What he did after coming back from Iowa proves it.”

In the same way that Maddon should own what happens with the next pitching coach, Epstein will ultimately have to decide Schwarber’s future.

Schwarber didn’t complain or pout when he got sent down to Triple-A Iowa this summer, finishing with 30 homers, a .782 OPS, a .211 batting average and a 30.9 strikeout percentage.    

Trading Schwarber would mean selling lower and take another team having the same gut instincts the Cubs did in the 2014 draft – and offering the talented, controllable starting pitcher that sometimes seems like a unicorn.

Is Schwarber still the legend from last year’s World Series? An all-or-nothing platoon guy? An intriguing trade chip? A franchise player? Eventually, the Cubs are going to find out.

“We have to look to do everything we can,” Epstein said, “and more importantly he has to look to do everything he can to get him to a point where he’s consistently the quality hitter and tough out and dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup that we know he can be.

“He wasn’t for the first half of this year – and he knows it and he feels awful about it. He worked his tail off to get back to having a pretty darn good second half and getting some big hits for us down the stretch.”

And then the offseason was only hours old by the time the Cubs showed they will be keeping an open mind about everything this winter, not afraid to make big changes.

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

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USA TODAY

Jake Arrieta shaved his beard again and he keeps looking younger

It's become a tradition that Jake Arrieta shaves his beard after the season ends.

The 31-year-old did it again days after the Cubs were eliminated from the 2017 postseason, and it's still a sight we'll never be used to seeing.

Check it out:

Weird, right?

Here's how he looked following the Cubs' World Series win in 2016:

And again in 2015:

It's crazy how much younger he looks.