White Sox

Fantasy Baseball: Handing out MVP, Cy Young and other awards

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Fantasy Baseball: Handing out MVP, Cy Young and other awards

The Twins, Rays and Astros all above .500? Dallas Keuchel starting the All-Star Game for the American League? The White Sox and Red Sox in last place of their respective divisions?

The first half of the 2015 MLB season has not disappointed with surprises, but we've also seen young stars live up to the hype.

Everyone on the North Side of Chicago worships the ground Kris Bryant walks on, after a fast start to his major-league career. Outfielder Joc Pederson has been providing the power for the Dodgers lineup and his big-time potential was put on display at the Home-Run Derby. Eduardo Rodriguez has been one of the lone bright spots for the Red Sox rotation and Carlos Rodon, while walking too many people, has flashed his ability to breeze through some of the best lineups in baseball. 

Because handing out awards is fun, we decided to dish out our midseason awards for Fantasy Baseball as the Midsummer Classic finishes and teams prepare for the second half. Love or hate our picks, share your thoughts on our selections in the comments below or tweet us your thoughts @CSNFantasy

The Stud Muffins (MOST VALUABLE PLAYER)

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, ARI - The Diamondbacks have been a respectable team this year after coming into 2015 with low expectations and a lot of their success has to do with their budding superstar. Goldschmidt did it all in the first half: Power, RBI machine, Speed. Wait, really? Speed?

Yes, actually. 

Goldschmidt has racked up 16 stolen bases this year, most of any first baseman in baseball, to go along with his .340 BA, 21 HR and 70 RBI. The added speed element really put him over the top for me when I was considering MVP candidates compared to someone like Bryce Harper. 

The Arizona slugger wasn't in a lot of discussion for being the No. 2 overall pick after the obvious selection of Mike Trout in drafts this spring, but he's proven he belongs with the fantasy elites. (John "The Professor" Paschall) 

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Dee Gordon, 2B, MIA - Maybe it was because of his position, or because Giancarlo Stanton wouldn't stop raking, but somehow Gordon seems to have somewhat flown under the radar in what has been a magnificent year for the second baseman. Going from the potent Dodgers lineup to a marginal one in Miami hurt Gordon's stock some in drafts, but he's proved last year's breakout campaign was no fluke. In addition to his .338 average (third in the NL) and 33 stolen bases (second in the MLB), Gordon's OBP and SLG are both up from a year ago, and while he won't be in a Home Run Derby anytime soon it's still a tiny added bonus for a guy who is leading plenty of fantasy teams to the top of the standings this year. And once Stanton returns these numbers will only improve. He's been every bit an MVP for teams, and his draft value (as opposed to the expected guys like Trout and McCutchen) only further his case. (Mark Strotman)

Bryce Harper, OF, WAS - Coming into this season, Harper was heralded as a bust by some even though he was only 21. But this year, Harper has been arguably Fantasy's top performer, contributing in every category but steals - .339 AVG, .464 OBP (thanks to 63 walks), 26 HRs, 61 RBI, 59 Rs, 21 2Bs, culminating in a ridiculous 1.168 OPS. (Tony Andracki)

The Dud Muffins (Least Valuable Player)

Stephen Strasburg, SP, WAS - Look, I hate using injuries as an excuse for why someone is a dud, but even when Strasburg takes the mound for the Nationals, he's just not putting up the numbers he should. He's 5-5 with a 5.16 ERA this year (nauseating how many five's there are in that stat line). 

The Nationals really are a good enough team to support him during his starts but he's got to stay on the field and also avoid getting rocked. 

Fantasy owners that took the right-hander with a live arm are feeling not so thrilled about their decision. Don't hit the drop button just yet but he's got a short leash going forward (after he gets off the DL, of course). (JP)

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Robinson Cano, 2B, SEA - $240 million doesn't buy what it used to, apparently. When the Mariners signed Cano to a massive 10-year deal, it was considered relatively safe. In his final six seasons with the Yankees, Cano had missed EIGHT games, hit at least .300 each year and averaged 26 home runs, 99 RBIs. and 96 runs. So when he went in the second round of most fantasy drafts it was a solid investment. Until the year started. He's hitting a career-worst .251, has hit just six home runs and driven in 30 runs. He's almost matched his strikeout total (64) from a year ago (68) and simply doesn't look like the same player he was in New York. Maybe he turns things around - he's batting .327 in July with a pair of homers in 12 games - but for now he's been arguably the biggest disappointment from the first few rounds of re-draft leagues. (MS)

Yasiel Puig, OF, LAD - Puig was the 18th player drafted in ESPN leagues on average, but has missed 47 games and is hitting just .261/.343/.429 (.771 OPS) with only four homers, one stolen base, 14 RBI and 17 runs. He's barely worth owning in Fantasy, let alone living up to his billing as an early second-round pick. (TA)

Cy Young Award

Gerrit Cole, SP, PIT - I hope you got an invite to Cole's coming out party because if you didn't, you're really missing out.

It was fun watching Max Scherzer dominate for back-to-back starts, flirting so aggressively with no-hitters you'd think he was a college party animal going after the hot girl at the party. But his record is only 10-7 this year. Cole sets himself apart from the rest because of his ability to get wins (13-3) and rack up the strikeouts (116).

Cole's breakthrough is enjoyed by his owners because his ADP was 78 in ESPN leagues. His 2.30 ERA is making those who drafted him look pretty, pretty smart. 

It also helps he's on one of the best teams in the majors and is supported by an offense that can put up runs for him every night. (JP)

Francisco Liriano, SP, PIT - Look at Liriano's 5-6 record and you'll wonder how he could possibly he considered a Cy Young fantasy candidate. But digging just a hair deeper reveals that Liriano, a late-round pick in most drafts, has been stellar. Consider his MLB ranks in the following categories: Seventh in strikeouts (125), 13th in WHIP (1.03), 26th in ERA (2.98) and sixth in quality starts (14). No one will confuse him for Max Scherzer, but considering where he was drafted and how reliable he's been all year you can make the case that he's been the most valuable pitcher to certain fantasy staffs. Maybe not the best, but his value speaks for itself. (MS)

Max Scherzer, SP, WAS - Scherzer has proved his worth as baseball's highest-paid pitcher and has undoubtedly been worth the high Fantasy price tag as well. Scherzer's done it all this year with a no-hitter on his resume as well as a ridiculous 0.78 WHIP plus a 2.11 ERA, 150 strikeouts and 10 wins. He's been Fantasy's highest-rated pitcher since Day 1. (TA)

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

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USA TODAY

With Astros eliminated, let's rank their free agents by possibility of coming to White Sox

The Houston Astros will not win back-to-back world championships this October.

Eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the recently concluded ALCS, the rebuilt Astros still remain the model for rebuilding teams like the White Sox. But with their first post-championship season ending without another ring on the fingers of homegrown stars like Jose Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa, among others, the most pertinent topic involving the Astros when it comes to the White Sox is Astros players now hitting the free-agent market.

There's a number of them, and some are very, very good. The White Sox figure to be more active this winter then they were last offseason, with Rick Hahn already saying the team will be making pitching additions, a no-brainer with Michael Kopech slated to miss the entire 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. And Hahn has said the White Sox will be "opportunistic" when it comes to other types of additions, as well.

So could any of these soon-to-be former Astros land on the South Side? Maybe. Here they are, ranked by such a possibility.

1. Charlie Morton

The White Sox need starting pitchers. Kopech's out until 2020, and James Shields, should the team opt not to bring him back on a new contract, will be a free-agent departure. That's two holes that need filling, and Morton could fill one of them. I know what you're thinking, "Dallas Keuchel is also a free agent, why isn't he No. 1 on this list, you fool?" More on him in a bit. Right now, we're talking about Charlie Morton.

Morton is hardly the most rebuild-friendly pitching option out there at 35 years old. But Morton's been very good for the Astros over the past two seasons, making 55 starts, striking out 364 guys and posting a 3.36 ERA. His fastball velocity is as high as it's been in his 11-year big league career and he's coming off two straight playoff runs, so maybe he could teach these young White Sox a thing or two about playing winning baseball — he did close out Game 7 of the World Series last fall.

The biggest problem might be that he's not too far removed from different results when he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, when his numbers weren't nearly as good as they got when he went to Houston. Would another change of scenery mean a different kind of performance?

What kind of contract Morton will get on the market remains to be seen, obviously, but it's kind of a mystery at this point, as he's coming off a couple great years but is getting up there in age when it comes to multi-year deals. He could be a fit for the White Sox should they want just a one- or two-year option while they wait for Kopech to return to full strength and for Dylan Cease to make his way to the major leagues. But should this recent success continue, he could be a valuable option on a White Sox team making the transition from rebuilding to contending, too.

2. Marwin Gonzalez

The White Sox have a bit of a quandary in that they are still waiting to find out what they've got in a lot of their young players. With so many prospects and even young players at the major league level yet to fully finish their development, it's tough to say where the holes on future White Sox teams will be. And that's made all the more difficult by the rash of injuries sustained by White Sox prospects in 2018.

A good way to plan for future unknowns is to have a guy you can plug in just about anywhere, and that's what Gonzalez is. During the 2018 regular season, Gonzalez played everywhere on the field besides pitcher and catcher: 73 games in left field, 39 games at shortstop, 32 games at second base, 24 games at first base, three games at third base, two games in center field and one game in right field. He played one game at designated hitter, too, in case you were wondering. He appeared at six different positions in 2017, when he finished in the top 20 in AL MVP voting. That versatility should make him a hot commodity this offseason.

The question marks come from Gonzalez's bat, which was excellent in 2017 but not nearly as good in 2018. After slashing .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs for the world-champion Astros in 2017, he got more playing time in 2018 and his numbers dropped to a .247/.324/.409 slash line, 16 homers and 68 RBIs for the AL runners up. So which batch of results would you get if you signed Gonzalez? That's the question facing teams this offseason. (To help assuage fears, however, Gonzalez just wrapped a solid postseason in which he batted .333 with a pair of homers, a pair of doubles and nine RBIs, not to mention a .389 on-base percentage.)

But for a team with as much unwritten future as the White Sox have, wouldn't it be nice to have a plan for every eventuality — and to have it all in the form of one guy? While Manny Machado and Bryce Harper grab all the free-agent headlines this winter, perhaps the White Sox could slip in and convince Gonzalez to help another transition from rebuilding to contending. He was a part of two 100-loss teams in 2012 and 2013 and along for the ride to the top of baseball's mountain. That's some good experience to have.

3. Dallas Keuchel

Now we arrive at Keuchel. Would the soon-to-be 31-year-old former Cy Young winner be a good fit for the rebuilding White Sox? Absolutely he would. Signing him to a long-term deal would not only solve a pitching problem in 2019 but it would provide a safety net should Kopech, Cease or whoever go through the to-be-expected growing pains that young players go through in their first tastes of the major leagues. He would be an anchor of future rotations with plenty of young arms around him.

Signing Keuchel — who has a combined 3.39 ERA and 278 strikeouts over the last two seasons — would be similar to the Cubs' signing of Jon Lester, a proven veteran climbing aboard a team heading toward a bright future, and his experience and talent could help them reach that future faster. Like Gonzalez, he experienced back-to-back 100-loss seasons in 2012 and 2013 and also got a World Series ring as the Astros completed their journey from the bottom to the top.

But being a good fit is only half the battle for the White Sox. A lot of other teams, including good ones capable of pitching a win-now roster, are going to be vying for Keuchel's services this winter. And while he might not be the No. 1 starting pitcher on the free-agent market — that's expected to be Clayton Kershaw, if he opts out of his current contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers — he's going to be no lower than the No. 3 starting pitcher on the free-agent market. Most of the contending clubs in the game are likely to have starting pitching on their shopping list, teams that can pitch present-day success and the ability to win a championship in 2019 against the White Sox promise of planned success down the road. And then there's the financials on top of that. Hahn has said the White Sox will have the financial flexibility to do what they need to do, but will it be enough to outbid baseball's biggest spenders?

Keuchel would obviously be a good fit for the White Sox. But the competition is going to be really stiff.

4. Tony Sipp

Sipp, a 35-year-old reliever who White Sox fans might remember from his days as a Cleveland Indian, was excellent for the Astros this season, posting a 1.86 ERA and striking out 42 guys in 38.2 innings during the regular season.

But while the White Sox could use bullpen help — their 4.49 relief ERA ranked 23rd out of 30 major league teams — that performance kind of elevates Sipp from the level of sign-and-flip guys they've acquired in recent seasons. Sipp might not be under the radar enough for the White Sox to take a flier, get a good few months and trade him away for a prospect.

Spending the kind of money Sipp might command on a 35-year-old reliever in a season where you're not expected to compete might not make for a good match.

5. Brian McCann

Yeah, the White Sox don't need Brian McCann.