Cubs

Fantasy Baseball: Bold predictions for second half of 2015

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Fantasy Baseball: Bold predictions for second half of 2015

It's never fun to state the obvious.

So our CSN Fantasy crew decide to stick their necks out and make some bold predictions heading into the second half of the season. 

Call us crazy (or geniuses if/when these predictions come through), but we have a hunch about a couple players heading into the second half of the season.

[FANTASY SPORTS: Midseason awards for Stud, Dud and more

Check out our predictions here:

1. Carlos Correa will be the top-rated fantasy shortstop by the end of the year.

Maybe I've caught rookie fever again after suffering from it during Fantasy Football season. For all the talk about Kris Bryant's smooth stroke and Joc Pederson's monstrous power, Correa came up after both of those guys and has been off to a solid start start (.276/.312/.507, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 5 SB). How many rookies do you see slotted into the No. 3 spot of a team that's in playoff contention?

His main competition to take the top spot for fantasy shortstops comes from Troy Tulowitzki and Jhonny Peralta. While there's a chance Peralta has some staying power, Tulo seems to always be an injury waiting to happen. Correa has the combination of power, speed and production that will make him a superstar in the years to come and the last half of 2015 will be his time to shine. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

[LISTEN: Previewing White Sox & Cubs second half on new podcast

2. Christian Yelich will finish as a Top 25 outfielder.
 
He's 59th right now, but he was also been hampered by a back injury in the first half and was hitting .178 with a .493 OPS on May 22. Since that date, Yelich has hit .311/.389/.439 in 45 games with seven doubles, one triple, four homers and four stolen bases. Ever since a four-hit day June 27, Yelich has put up a .426/.534/.574 (1.109 OPS) line in 14 games with three stolen bases, five extra-base hits and 11 walks. And if that doesn't get you going enough, Yelich's career second-half numbers are enticing: .291 AVG, .372 OPS and 20 steals. (Tony Andracki)
 
3.  Bryce Harper wins the National League Triple Crown

At the ripe age of 22, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is posting the best season of his young career. Through 81 games, Harper is batting a dazzling .339 with 26 homers, 61 RBI and has an eye-popping 1.168 OPS. Harper is just a tenth of a point behind Paul Goldschmidt (.340) for tops on the NL batting average leaderboard and trails only Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) for the MLB home run lead. With Stanton sidelined until mid-August, Harper has a good chance to gain a little breathing room in the home department. However, Harper has some work cut out for him in the RBI department (4th in the NL and nine RBI behind Goldschmidt), but I'm going out on a limb to predict that he passes the Diamondbacks MVP candidate, and becomes the first NL Triple Crown-winner since Joe Medwick won the award in 1937. (Scott Krinch)

 [SHOP: Buy a Kris Bryant All-Star Game jersey]
 
4. Mike Trout will hit 50 home runs
 
At this point we're talking about the things Mike Trout can't do instead of what he can. After earning a historic second straight All-Star Game MVP last week, Trout enters the second half of the season with 24 home runs and 74 games to play. He's already hit six home runs in July (and another in the Midsummer Classic), and with his eight homers in June he has 14 long balls in his last 37 games. If he keeps that pace (a long shot) it'd give him 28 home runs in the second half, and 52 for the year. He's an Angel in the outfield. Hey, it could happen. (Mark Strotman)
 
Bonus (Chicago style): Starlin Castro will finish as a Top 10 shortstop.
 
Castro is currently the 23rd rated shortstop on ESPN's ranking, but that's with a .247/.283/.321 slash line. We all know he's better than the .603 OPS he's put up in the first half. I'm expecting a much better second half for the Cubs shortstop, utilizing the four days off during the All-Star break to recharge and reset. Watch out for Starlin over the final 75 games. (TA)
 

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

Cubs have new hitting coach in Anthony Iapoce

The Cubs are heading into a new season with a different hitting coach for the second straight winter, but the most recent choice is a familiar face.

Anthony Iapoce is set to join Joe Maddon's coaching staff this week after serving in the same capacity with the Texas Rangers for the last three seasons. The Cubs confirmed the move Monday afternoon shortly after the news broke out of the Rangers camp.

The Cubs fired Chili Davis last week after just one season as the team's hitting coach.

Entering the final week of the season, the Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister, leaving Iapoce and the rest of the Texas coaching staff in limbo.

As such, Iapoce is rejoining the Cubs, where he served as a special assistant to the General Manager from 2013-15 focusing on player development, particularly in the hitting department throughout the minor leagues.

Iapoce has familiarity with a bunch of the current star offensive players on the Cubs, from Willson Contreras to Kris Bryant. 

Both Bryant and Contreras endured tough 2018 seasons at the plate, which was a huge reason for the Cubs' underperforming lineup. Bryant's issue was more related to a left shoulder injured suffered in mid-May while Contreras' offensive woes remain a major question mark after the young catcher looked to be emerging as a legitimate superstar entering the campaign.

Getting Contreras back to the hitter that put up 21 homers and 74 RBI in only 117 games in 2017 will be one of the main goals for Iapoce, so the history between the two could be a key.

With the Rangers, Iapoce oversaw an offense that ranked 7th, 9th and 14th in MLB in runs scored over the last three seasons. The decline in offensive production is obviously not a great sign, but the Rangers as a team have fallen off greatly since notching the top seed in the AL playoffs in 2016 with 95 wins only to lose 95 games in 2018, resulting in the change at manager.

Iapoce has worked with an offense backed by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo the last few seasons.

Under Iapoce's tutelage, former top prospect Jurickson Profar shed any notion of a "bust" label and emerged as a budding star at age 25, collecting 61 extra-base hits with a .793 OPS in 2018.

When the Cubs let Davis go last week, they provided no update on assistant hitting coach Andy Haines, who just finished his first season in that role and is expected to remain with the team for 2019. The same offseason Iapoce left for the Rangers, Haines took over as the Cubs' minor league hitting instructor.

What should Brandon Morrow's role be in Cubs 2019 bullpen?

What should Brandon Morrow's role be in Cubs 2019 bullpen?

Since the Cubs' early exit from the postseason, many have turned their attention to the 2019 roster and wonder if Brandon Morrow will be the team's closer next year.

However, the question isn't WILL Morrow be the closer, but rather — SHOULD he be counted on as the main ninth-inning option?

Morrow didn't throw a single pitch for the Cubs after the All-Star Game, nursing a bone bruise in his forearm that did not heal in time to allow him to make a return down the stretch.

Of course, an injury isn't surprising given Morrow's lengthy history of arm issues. 

Consider: Even with a half-season spent on the DL, Morrow's 35 appearances in 2018 was his second-highest total since 2008 (though he also spent a ton of time as a starting pitcher from 2009-15).

Morrow is 34 now and has managed to throw just 211 innings in 126 games since the start of the 2013 season. 

Because of that, Theo Epstein isn't ready to anoint Morrow the Cubs' 2019 closer despite success in the role in his first year in Chicago (22-for-24 in save chances).

"[We're] very comfortable with Morrow as part of a deep and talented 'pen," Epstein said. "We have to recommit to him in a very structured role and stick with it to do our best to keep him healthy. Set some rules and adhere to them and build a 'pen around that. I'm comfortable."

Epstein is referencing the overuse the Cubs have pointed to for the origin of Morrow's bone bruise when he worked three straight games from May 31-June 2 during a stretch of four appearances in five days.

Joe Maddon and the Cubs were very cautious with Morrow early in the year, unleashing him for only three outings — and 2 innings — in the first two-plus weeks of the season, rarely using him even on back-to-back days.

During that late-May/early-June stretch, Morrow also three just 2 pitches in one outing (May 31) and was only called upon for the 14th inning June 2 when Maddon had already emptied the rest of the Cubs bullpen in a 7-1 extra-inning victory in New York.

The blame or origin of Morrow's bone bruise hardly matters now. All the Cubs can do at this moment is try to learn from it and carry those lessons into 2019. It sounds like they have, heading into Year 2 of a two-year, $21 million deal that also includes a team option for 2020.

"It's the type of injury you can fully recover from with rest," Epstein said. "that said, he has an injury history and we knew that going in. That was part of the calculation when we signed him and that's why it was the length it was and the amount of money it was, given his talent and everything else.

"We were riding pretty high with him for a few months and then we didn't have him for the second half of the season. And again, that's on me. We took an educated gamble on him there and on the 'pen overall, thinking that even if he did get hurt, we had enough talent to cover for it. And look, it was a really good year in the 'pen and he contributed to that greatly in the first half.

"They key is to keep him healthy as much as possible and especially target it for down the stretch and into what we hope will be a full month of October next year."

It's clear the Cubs will be even more cautious with Morrow in 2019, though he also should head into the new campaign with significantly more rest than he received last fall when he appeared in all seven games of the World Series out of the Dodgers bullpen.

Morrow has more than proven his value in this Cubs bullpen as a low-maintenance option when he's on the field who goes right after hitters and permits very few walks or home runs. 

But if the Cubs are going to keep him healthy for the most important time of the season in September and October, they'll need to once again pack the bullpen with at least 7 other arms besides Morrow, affording Maddon plenty of options.

When he is healthy, Morrow will probably get a ton of the closing opportunities, but the world has also seen what Pedro Strop can do in that role and the Cubs will likely add another arm or two this winter for high-leverage situations.