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)

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

When Jose Abreu went to the All-Star Game — voted in as the starting first baseman for the American League squad — he was of course deserving as an incredibly consistent performer through his first four seasons in the big leagues and his role as the face of the White Sox.

But the numbers weren't looking so good in mid July. An extended slump had Abreu looking very un-Abreu-like, perhaps heading toward his worst statistical season since arriving in the majors from Cuba ahead of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign.

At the close of the first half, he was slashing .253/.311/.441 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, a far cry from the .301/.359/.524 slash line he put up through his first four seasons, when he also joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to start their careers with a quartet of 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns.

But Abreu, who's been a very good second-half hitter during his career, is on a hot streak that's powering his way back to his version of normal. And it's looking like he could again reach the numbers we're so used to seeing from him by season's end.

After a one-homer, three-hit, three-RBI day in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers, Abreu is up to .268/.327/.484 on the campaign with 21 homers and 73 RBIs. That puts him nine homers and 27 RBIs away from the mark he's hit in each of his first four seasons with 42 games left in the season. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be able to do that, as he's hit eight homers and driven in 21 runs in his last 22 games.

He'd have to be some kind of dialed-in for the remainder of 2018 to bump the averages back to where they've been in recent seasons. But here's the kind of hot streak he's on now: Since the start of the second half, Abreu is slashing .323/.385/.646. And that's not too crazy when you realize how good he's been in the second half in his career. Coming into Wednesday's game, his career second-half stat line looked like this: a .314/.381/.540 slash line with 61 homers and 199 RBIs in 303 games.

For the White Sox, the confidence was always there that Abreu was going to snap out of the extended slump that saw him slash .180/.230/.308 from May 27 to the end of the first half, and he's done exactly that. Now, he's hot enough that he's inspiring confidence he could return to some of his regular numbers by season's end. It's that kind of consistency, coupled with his off-the-field value, that makes the team think so highly of him and could keep him around long enough for the rebuilding process to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

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USA TODAY

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

The White Sox seem to be a couple years away from shifting from rebuilding mode to contention mode. There's plenty of development that still needs to occur at both the major league and minor league levels before the roster of the future comes fully into focus.

But with some excellent performances happening right now, is the White Sox rotation of the future falling into place? At least a little?

Look at this:

— Carlos Rodon, last seven starts: 1.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts
— Michael Kopech, last six starts: 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts
— Dylan Cease, last seven starts: 1.08 ERA, 57 strikeouts
— Dane Dunning, last five starts (back in June): 2.08 ERA, 38 strikeouts

Kind of looks like four-fifths of a starting rotation, doesn't it?

As has often been discussed, the White Sox have a good deal of starting pitching depth, and there are plenty of possibilities to fill that starting staff down the line. Heretofore unmentioned are pitching prospects Alec Hansen, Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores, all ranked among the organization's top 25 prospects, as well as current big leaguers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have each had their flashes of brilliance this season on the major league stage.

But the four guys listed above have been very, very good this season, especially recently, making it easy to envision them making up 80 percent of the starting rotation the next time the White Sox are competing for a championship.

Let's start with Rodon, who extended his streak of great starts to seven in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers. He went eight innings for the second outing in a row, and he's now pitched into the eighth inning in five of his last six starts. He's got a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, with 42 strikeouts in that span. Wednesday, he bounced back from a rocky three-run third inning and finished with just three runs allowed on five hits and a walk, adding six strikeouts. Quite simply, he's been ace-like and done well to answer the health-related questions he brought into the season, when shoulder surgery prevented him from debuting until June for the second straight campaign.

Then there are the two guys putting up monster numbers in the minor leagues: Kopech and Cease.

The 22-year-old Kopech has moved past some midseason struggles and has been downright electric of late at Triple-A Charlotte. In his last six starts, Kopech has a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a jaw-droppingly low four walks in 38 innings. It's quite the turnaround for a guy who was having difficulty keeping the walk numbers low earlier this season. But he's come out the other side pitching as well as he has since joining the White Sox organization prior to last season, which is saying a lot considering he struck out 172 hitters in 2017. He's just 11 strikeouts away from matching that total this year. He could make his major league debut before the 2018 season is over.

And then there's Cease, also 22, who wasn't even the most talked-about player in his own trade, coming over from the Cubs along with Eloy Jimenez in last summer's crosstown swap. Cease has been a tremendous surprise for the White Sox this season, not because they didn't think he'd be great but because he's been the organization's best pitcher. And he's continued that trend in his seven most recent starts at Double-A Birmingham, too, with a razor-thin 1.08 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He deservedly represented the White Sox at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Washington, D.C., last month and appears to be well on his way to earning the team's minor league pitcher of the year honors.

And for a fourth, how about a guy who hasn't pitched in a month and a half? Dunning has an elbow injury that's kept him out since late June, but prior to that, he was putting up terrific numbers at Double-A Birmingham. In his last five starts before hitting the DL, he had a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And he might be making some progress, if a recent tweet is any indication.

Now, as mentioned, there's a lot that can and will happen before the starting staff is set on the next White Sox team that will contend for a championship. But this kind of positive production from these four guys stokes the idea of a potentially dominant rotation of the future.

At the very least, this quartet seems to be making life easy for the legion of 2020 lineup projectors out there.