White Sox

Batter Stock Watch - 2013 Preview

Batter Stock Watch - 2013 Preview

David FerrisCSNChicago.com contributor
In our last Batter Stock Watch of the season, we'll focus on player values for the 2013 fantasy year. Consider these angles and comments as you work on keeper-league decisions, or keep them tucked in your mind for draft season next spring. 
Buy
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: Sometimes a short memory is the best thing you can have at the draft table, especially when it comes to someone we all felt good about 10-12 months ago. Hosmer's plate discipline hasn't been a problem in 2012 - he spiked his walk rate up to 9.5 percent and only had a marginal bump in strikeouts - and that .259 BABIP is unlikely to return. And it's not like Hosmer hasn't been squaring up the ball - his line-drive rate didn't move from his rookie level. You'll get a discount on Hosmer next spring, and you should take full advantage of it. There's significant profit potential here. 
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves: Eye and finger problems held Freeman's power back in the middle of the year, but otherwise it's been a solid building season for him (walk rate up, strikeout rate down, line drives 26.2 percent of the time). If Freeman can make a little more progress against left-handed pitching (he's been static there through two seasons), he has a chance to be a star. His BBK rate is almost an even 11 for the second half, which is outstanding for anyone and especially a middle-of-the-order hitter. 
Sell
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers: Although he knocked a couple of homers in Sunday's victory at Cincinnati, it's a case of too little, too late in Los Angeles. Gonzalez hasn't been anything special since the shocking trade from Boston (.255.308.427), even though he insists his shoulder isn't bothering him. Maybe it's time to accept that Gonzalez, now in his 30s, is no longer a needle-mover at first base, no longer someone to target in the first 25 picks or so. Hitting in Chavez Ravine could also be a concern: his career slash in that stadium is a mediocre .227.313.382. Let's move along. 
Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: If Hollywood decides to draw up Trouble With the Slider, Stubbs should apply for a leading role: no batter in the majors struggled with that pitch more than Stubbs this year. Alas, when you're whiffing almost 30 percent of the time overall, there aren't too many offerings that put you in a positive frame. As much as the Reds have been patient with Stubbs (and they love his defense), even they might be ready to admit it's time for a more traditional leadoff man in Cincinnati - someone who can make contact and get on base would be nice. If the Reds move on from Stubbs, they might make a play for B.J. Upton. 
Mike Aviles, Utility, Red Sox: The category juice was fun while it lasted (13 homers, 14 steals), but Aviles also brought a .283 OBP and substandard defense to the equation. The Red Sox finally realize Aviles isn't good enough to start every day, and the rest of the American League probably recognizes this as well. Look for Aviles to settle into a 300-350 at-bat role at the front of someone's bench next year. 
Hold
Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: At first glance his .376 BABIP might seem like a crazy outlier, but consider a few things: Jackson has dynamic speed, he's posted a 23-percent line-drive rate this year, and his career BABIP is a robust .372. Maybe it's unrealistic to expect the baseline to remain in such lofty heights, but Jackson can't be gauged against the league average in this stat. We would like to see progress on the bases - Jackson only has 11 steals as we go to press - but batting in Detroit's loaded lineup has its advantages (97 runs). Jackson turns 26 next February, so there's still room for growth here. 
Chase Headley, 3B, Padres: His road stats almost look too good to be true (.924 OPS, 18 homers, 62 RBIs, even 11 steals), but it's not like Headley didn't produce in roomy Petco Park (.784 OPS, 11 homers, 41 runs, 46 RBIs). The home dates might be more fun in 2013: there's talk of the club moving in the outfield fences. Even if the dimensions don't change in Southern California, Headley looks like a safe play entering his age 28 year. The low profile of the Padres also adds to the screened price. 
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers: He'll never be the pinnacle of patience, but he did trim his strikeout rate by about three percent this year and he remains a plus player in the field and on the bases (35 juicy steals). And the 16 homers really shouldn't come as that big of a surprise: Gomez has been a touted prospect since the middle of the 2000s, and he carries a wide frame at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. The batting average will never be a secure thing with Gomez, but heading into his age 27 campaign next year, we'll project 18-20 homers and 40 steals - at an affordable roto price. Gomez finally knows he's a regular in the Milwaukee lineup, one of the team's cornerstones - don't overlook that emotional consideration. No young player wants to be jerked in and out of the lineup.

MLB Hot Stove: Our food pitch to Bryce Harper

MLB Hot Stove: Our food pitch to Bryce Harper

The latest Bryce Harper news comes from TMZ Sports, who caught up with the outfielder at baggage claim at LAX Airport. Harper was asked which city has his favorite food, and once again, he mentions Chicago. “I like Chicago,” Harper said. “They’ve got great food.” 

He was asked if he liked deep dish pizza, and he said, “Yeah. I like a place called Steak 48, deep dish of course.” He also mentioned New York, but let’s focus on Chicago here. 

In addition to Steak 48 near downtown, Harper has no shortage of steakhouses in Chicago. A quick Yelp search mentions Chicago specialties like Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Gibson’s and RPM Steak all in the top five. 

As far as deep dish is concerned, our David Kaplan’s love, Lou Malnati’s is an easy pitch along with Giordano’s, Gino’s East, Pequod’s, Art of Pizza, and so many more. But what about Tavern Style as well? Aurelio’s is a well-loved Chicago pizza spot and style. Vito & Nick’s, Barnaby’s and Barraco’s are all favored on Eater Chicago as well. 

Why stop at pizza and steak? Let’s not forget places like Al’s for Italian Beef, Carson’s for ribs, and if Harper wants to get creative, that’s where all the foodies can help with the pitch, in a city where Parachute and Smyth & the Loyalist both just made Eater’s “America’s Essential Restaurants 2018” list. 

In Chicago, we have the food. All we need now is the free agent.

LeBron James passes Wilt Chamberlain on all-time scoring list, now eyes Michael Jordan

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USA TODAY

LeBron James passes Wilt Chamberlain on all-time scoring list, now eyes Michael Jordan

This is not a LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate.

This is not a LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate.

This is not a LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate.

Got it? Great. Let's move on with the story.

Late Wednesday night LeBron James passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list as part of his 44-point outing in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers. James was magnificent in the Lakers' fourth straight win, making 13 of 19 shots, draining five triples and adding 10 rebounds, nine assists and three blocks in 36 minutes. He was, erm, pretty good.

In the process James passed Chamberlain with his 31,420th point late in the fourth quarter. James added five more points after that, leaving him with 31,425 career points and alone in fifth place on the all-time scoring list.

Who's No. 4? Yep, His Airness.

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 38,387
2. Karl Malone: 36,928
3. Kobe Bryant: 33,643
4. Michael Jordan: 32,292
5. LeBron James: 31,420

Yes, Jordan took two years off in his prime to play baseball. Yes, Jordan played three years in college. No, we don't care. This won't move the needle on anyone's stance as to who the greatest of all-time is.

But it's worth noting that James, who is 873 points away from passing Jordan, could break the record against the Bulls on Jan. 15. He's averaging 27.6 points per game this year, and if he scores that average he'll surpass Jordan in 33 games. The Lakers play the Bulls in 31 games in Los Angeles.

That'd be something. Now, continue the endless and unnecessary LeBron-Jordan debate.