Cubs

2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings - Catcher

2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings - Catcher

David FerrisCSNChicago.com contributor
We're looking ahead with these rankings - they're a sneak peak at 2013 values. Good luck down the stretch. 
1. Buster Posey, Giants2. Carlos Santana, IndiansNOTE: More aggressive approach might serve him well.3. Joe Mauer, Twins4. Yadier Molina, CardinalsNOTE: Deserves some MVP consideration. 5. Wilin Rosario, RockiesNOTE: He's pushed Hernandez out of the way. 6. Matt Wieters, OriolesNOTE: Hasn't turned into a superstar yet. 7. Brian McCann, BravesNOTE: No longer worthy of Tier 1 prices. 8. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies9. Salvador Perez, Royals10. Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks11. Mike Napoli, RangersNOTE: Hard to rank after lost year. 12. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red SoxNOTE: Some platoon gaps but power must be respected. 13. Jesus Montero, MarinersNOTE: A long way to go, in the field and at the dish. 14. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers15. Yasmani Grandal, PadresNOTE: Hasn't looked lost in The Show. 16. Alex Avila, Tigers17. Ryan Doumit, Twins18. A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox19. J.P. Arencibia, Blue JaysNOTE: Don't look back, prospects are gaining on you. 20. Josh Donaldson, AthleticsNOTE: In reality, a corner - make sure he keeps the catching tag. 21. Chris Iannetta, AngelsNOTE: A solid contributor, but will never be special. 22. A.J. Ellis, DodgersNOTE: A fun story but a modest upside. 23. Kurt Suzuki, Nationals24. Devin Mesoraco, RedsNOTE: Dusty Baker doesn't rush the rookies. 25. Geovany Soto, Rangers26. Ryan Hanigan, Reds27. Russell Martin, YankeesNOTE: All the mileage could be catching up to him. 28. Welington Castillo, Cubs29. Ramon Hernandez, Rockies30. Michael McKenry, PiratesNOTE: Pixie dust wore off down the stretch. 31. John Buck, Marlins32. Jesus Flores, Nationals33. Ryan Lavarnway, Red SoxNOTE: Might be a year away. 34. John Jaso, MarinersNOTE: Professional hitter, deserves a gig somewhere. 35. Taylor Teagarden, Orioles36. Josh Thole, Mets37. George Kottaras, Athletics38. Jose Molina, Rays39. Erik Kratz, Phillies40. Tyler Flowers, White Sox41. Jason Castro, Astros42. Rod Barajas, Pirates

The Confidence Conundrum: How Albert Almora Jr. turned his season around

The Confidence Conundrum: How Albert Almora Jr. turned his season around

What's the secret behind Albert Almora Jr.'s recent offensive resurgence?

It wasn't switching to an axe bat like Kris Bryant. It wasn't even a mechanical adjustment of any kind.

No, Almora has turned things around at the plate just because he has more of a belief in himself right now.

"This game is all about confidence," the Cubs centerfielder said. "It's a game of ups and downs. It's tough mentally, but the quicker you could get back to having that confidence, the better. It's kinda like tricking yourself."

Having 39,246 people demand a curtain call has to do wonders for your confidence.

Almora hit his first career grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning Wednesday night and was none too happy to oblige the packed house at Wrigley Field.

That blast was his fifth homer of the season, which ties the total he reached in all of last season.

Over the first 21 games of 2019, Almora was hitting just .182 with a .432 OPS and 0 extra-base hits in 61 plate appearances.

Then he pinch hit against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen on April 25 and smacked his first homer of the season. Since then, he's hitting .341 with a .966 OPS and 12 extra-base hits in 87 plate appearances. 

So if the difference is confidence, is there a way to manufacture confidence? Like a "fake it until you make it" kind of thing?

"No, it's tough," Almora said. "It really is. Maybe some guys are really good at it. Defensively, it's a different type of confidence, because you can control more, but you can be confident at the plate and not have the results."

When Bryant started turning things around at the end of April, much was made about his switch to an axe bat. There's no doubt that change in weaponry perfectly correlated with Bryant's red-hot production at the plate over the last month, but even he downplayed the whole thing, using the idiom, "it's not the arrow, it's the Indian" on the Cubs' last homestand.

In talking about Bryant Tuesday night, all Joe Maddon discussed was the star player's confidence, saying he is "unconsciously confident" in every aspect of his game right now.

"It's just who I am — I feel like this is me as a baseball player," Bryant said. "I'm working counts, getting on base, baserunning, playing all over. When I'm doing that, I feel pretty confident, so I hope I can continue that."

Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce echoed Almora's sentiment that baseball is all about confidence and while mechanical changes can certainly help breed that confidence, the only real way to build it is with positive results on the field. 

Obviously mechanics come into play all the time in professional baseball and there's no doubt Almora's and Bryant's physical mechanics are locked in at the moment.   

But there's no substitute for confidence and there's no drill to work on something that isn't tangible and can't even be quantified. 

"I don't know [how to build confidence]," Almora said. "I wish I had the answer. That's why this game is so hard. You just gotta battle and try to not ride that huge up-and-down roller coaster. Try to stay the same. I feel like just having a good attitude is a good part of it and I think it's something I'm trying to feed off of my teammates. I think I've been doing a really good job of just being happy no matter what."

This is Almora's fourth year in the big leagues and he's closing in on 1,100 plate appearances at this level. But he still doesn't feel like he's come anywhere close to mastering the Confidence Conundrum.

"No, because you wanna perform every year, so every year's different no matter what," Almora said. "I've had success hitting at the big-league level, but every year's a new challenge and every year you have challenges for yourself and for your team to win, obviously. It never gets easier."

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Eddie Jackson’s pitch for the Bears hits home with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: ‘It’s just like Bama’

Eddie Jackson’s pitch for the Bears hits home with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: ‘It’s just like Bama’

Six years ago, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix recruited a three-star wide receiver recruit named Eddie Jackson to play his college ball at Alabama (Jackson, of course, played for Nick Saban as a safety). In March, it was Jackson who was recruiting Clinton-Dix, this time to play for the Bears. 

He did so with a simple message: “It’s just like ‘Bama.”

And from there, “I was ready to sign,” Clinton-Dix said. 

The friendship between Jackson and Clinton-Dix developed in Tuscaloosa and continued after Clinton-Dix became a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2014. But Clinton-Dix didn’t decide to sign with the Bears — on a cheap one-year prove-it deal — just because of the opportunity to team up with one of his friends. 

Jackson and quarterback Mitch Trubisky chatted with Clinton-Dix on his visit to Halas Hall back in March and offered another critical pitch centered around coach Matt Nagy. 

“I told him coach Nagy is one of those coaches, he lets us be us, go out there and have fun with swag,” Jackson said. “But he knew it. He was like man, I know, I’m a fan of y’all, I’ve been watching. He was on board.”

Jackson and Clinton-Dix combined for 14 interceptions since the beginning of the 2017 season, though Clinton-Dix left the Green Bay Packers via a midseason trade last year with a reputation for missing tackles (for what it’s worth, Clinton-Dix missed one fewer tackle than Adrian Amos did in 2018, per Pro Football Focus). The Bears see Clinton-Dix’s one-year deal as a win-win for all parties: The Bears get a starting safety with proven past production and playoff experience, while Clinton-Dix slides into one of the league’s most talented defenses with an excellent opportunity to rebuild his value on the free agent market in 2020. 

“I always like to focus on the positives guys have,” safeties coach Sean Desai said. “He’s shown that he’s a highly instinctual player, he’s shown that he’s got good ball skills and good range and those are traits that we’re going to develop.” 

Jackson and Amos forged a strong relationship on the back end of the Bears’ defense the last two years, with good communication between the two helping accentuate each player’s strengths. A thought here is replacing Amos with Clinton-Dix will help ease the transition for Jackson, given his friendship with his new safety mate. But there’s more that goes into a good safety pairing than a strong friendship. 

“They gotta build that communication,” Desai said. “It’s different to speak a personal language off the field and then a football language on the field. So that’s what we’re all building.”

Still, a good off-the-field relationship with Jackson got Clinton-Dix in the door at Halas Hall. And the Bears hope it can be an important part of the league’s best defense in 2018 holding on to that title in 2019. 

“I’m just glad to be on the back end with him, man,” Clinton-Dix said. “This is a special defense and I’m glad to be a part of these guys.”