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)

James Shields, Joakim Soria and some other potential midseason trade candidates for the White Sox

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USA TODAY

James Shields, Joakim Soria and some other potential midseason trade candidates for the White Sox

Another day, another quality start for James Shields.

The White Sox once more didn’t win a Shields start. Despite an increasingly good-looking season stat line, Shields can’t seem to rack up many wins, with just two to his name on the season. But of course, wins are not exactly the most important barometer in this rebuilding campaign.

Speaking of the rebuild, the White Sox are getting closer to the trade deadline, it’s about a month and a half away. And Shields’ continued success could have Rick Hahn’s phone ringing as July 31 creeps closer. After six innings and three runs in Sunday’s loss to the visiting Detroit Tigers, Shields has seven quality starts in his last 10 outings,

After last season’s struggles that ended in a 5.23 ERA and 27 home runs surrendered, getting anything for Shields might’ve seemed a bit of a fantasy. But Shields has delivered, especially since the end of a rocky April.

“It’s very important to try to eat as many innings as you possibly can,” Shields said of his consistent efforts of late. “Early on in the season, we were ruining our bullpen by not going deep into games. My main focus is to go as deep as I possibly can. … Consistency’s the name of the game.”

Does it make him one of the most attractive names on the market? No, probably not. Is it going to fetch a highly ranked prospect? No, probably not. But it might fetch something, and in a season where guys believed to be afterthoughts like Dylan Covey and Daniel Palka are working their way into the conversation about the White Sox future, who wouldn’t want something added to this rebuilding effort?

And Shields isn’t the only White Sox player who could bring something back.

The bullpen was stocked with potential sign-and-flip guys over the offseason, and a few of those veteran arms have had good runs that could earn them a similar fate to the bulk of last year’s relief corps. Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Dan Jennings and Tyler Clippard were all dealt away last summer. Could Hahn employ a similar strategy this season?

The bullpen hasn’t been quite as good as it was last year, which made all of those players attractive additions for contending teams around the league. But veterans like Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Bruce Rondon, Xavier Cedeno — guys who hoped to rediscover some old magic — could still draw interest.

Soria owns a 3.12 ERA. Avilan’s is at 3.10. Cedeno hasn’t given up a run in his six relief appearances. Rondon has shown blow-em-away stuff at times. It’s been a nice recovery for some of these sign-and-flip veterans.

“They’ve had an opportunity to get their chances to work on different things and become really effective performers,” manager Rick Renteria said of some of his veteran relievers prior to Sunday’s game. “I think Joakim has risen his level of game back what he was pre last couple years, I think he’s reinvented himself a little bit. He has an up-down breaking ball now, he’s continuing to attack the strike zone, he’s throwing 93 miles an hour with his fastball, he’s commanding the zone. He’s doing everything he can to be as good a closer as he was in the past. His history and his experience also allow him some confidence to be put in situations to close out ballgames.”

Soria could perhaps draw the most interest because closers are often in demand in July. But last year’s trade-a-thon showed that teams are willing to trade prospects away for relief help of any kind. Many of the return pieces in those deals might not get rebuild-loving prospect followers thrilled. Casey Gillaspie and Ryan Cordell haven’t exactly put their names at the forefront of the discussion about 2020 and beyond. But remember that Blake Rutherford came over in the deal that sent Robertson and Kahnle out of town (Todd Frazier went to the New York Yankees in that trade, too). So an acquisition that could improve the rebuild can most definitely happen, even with middle relievers.

There’s no guarantee that any of these guys, be it Shields in the rotation or any of the arms out in the bullpen, will get traded or even draw significant interest. But for a team in the White Sox position, you’d have to assume they’d be open to making a deal and getting something to add to this rebuilding process.

Eloy Jimenez reminds Frank Thomas of Vlad Guerrero, and more rebuild thoughts from the Big Hurt

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AP

Eloy Jimenez reminds Frank Thomas of Vlad Guerrero, and more rebuild thoughts from the Big Hurt

Here’s a comp that’ll get White Sox fans really excited. It’s a Hall of Famer saying that the organization’s top-ranked prospect reminds him of another Hall of Famer.

“The kid Eloy (Jimenez), I’ve really watched him a lot. He’s a tremendous (player),” Frank Thomas said. “He reminds me of a young Vlad (Guerrero) that can cover the whole zone and use the whole field. I’m interested in seeing how he progresses.”

Eloy a young Vladdy, eh?

Don’t tell actual young Vladdy that — Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is ranked one spot ahead of Jimenez on MLB Pipeline’s list of the best prospects in baseball — but that’s one heck of a comp for a player that White Sox fans are already immeasurably excited about.

Thomas was back on the South Side on Sunday to join Hawk Harrelson in the broadcast booth for the latter’s sendoff season. He spoke a lot about what Harrelson meant to him and the White Sox, but he also answered questions about the team’s ongoing rebuild. Thomas has kept a close eye both in his roles as an analyst for FOX and someone who will always be invested in this team.

“It’s Chicago, and we’re used to winning,” Thomas said when he was asked if the White Sox needed to undergo such a process. “You normally get away with this in a smaller market, but you’ve got to understand they’ve taken their time with it. They wasted a lot of money for a five-year period trying to continue to be successful the way we were in the past and it wasn’t working.

“The game has changed. The game has totally changed. It’s a different ballgame now. It’s all about the youth. … The hardest part they’re going to have, though, is figuring out who’s going to be here and who’s not going to be here because over the next couple years they’ve got so many young talented players in Double-A and Triple-A that someone could actually force some of these guys out. It’s going to be a hard decision what they’re going to have to do.”

That’s the good problem Rick Hahn and his front office would like to have.

While fan buy-in to the rebuilding effort has been tremendous, there are some who will continue to question the willing suffering through losing seasons at the major league level while the contending team of the future develops in the minor leagues. But if you look at the teams that have won and played in the World Series in recent seasons — and even seasons long past — the process almost seems mandatory if you want to reach that level.

“It is,” Thomas said. “I’ve watched it firsthand. I first saw it with Cleveland when I was playing. Cleveland did it. Then you saw the Royals do it. You saw Houston do it, and they’re tearing it up with that youth. There’s been some other teams that have had a lot of success with it, too. I think Billy Beane has been great with it in Oakland for many, many years. They just haven’t had the luxury of keeping it together and going for the World Series, but he continues to create young superstars and basically trading them off for whatever the organization needs.”

Thomas, the greatest hitter in White Sox history, was also asked about the greatest hitter on the White Sox right now, Jose Abreu. Abreu’s future is the topic of much conversation surrounding this team, what with his contract running out at the end of the 2019 season, just when the White Sox hope to be fielding a perennial contender.

Abreu has been remarkably consistent — and one of just three players ever to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first four seasons — but Thomas thinks there’s a side of Abreu we still have yet to see.

“I just don’t think we’ve seen the best of him,” Thomas said. “That’s because it’s a youth movement and the protection’s been up and down for him in that lineup. I’ve seen him be inconsistent at times, but I think he’s a much better player than that. But I understand when you’re not winning every day and it’s not as motivating because losing’s tough on everybody. But the guy’s an incredible player, an incredible hitter.

“I think the next couple of years we’ll see the best of him if he’s still here. I think this guy has a chance to be one of the great ones.”

With one last question about the modern-day White Sox, Thomas was asked about manager Rick Renteria, who he raved about. But with Renteria’s recent history with the Cubs, when he was replaced with Joe Maddon right before the North Siders started their phase of contention, he has yet to be the manager of a team with expectations. The plan is that he soon will be, and Thomas is interested to see what happens when that becomes the case.

“I think he’s done a hell of a job. I really like Ricky a lot,” Thomas said. “But who knows what they’re going to do in the future. When this team becomes what they think it’s going to be, either you get it done or you don’t. That’s just what it’s going to be. That’s the way Jerry’s handled it for many, many years.

“We’ve had some decisions that weren’t all happiness at times, but it’s about winning once they get their team here. I hope it’s Ricky because he’s done a hell of a rebuild job with the Cubs, he did a hell of a rebuild job here. It’s just time for him to get a good team out on the field and see what he really can do. I’m hoping he gets a chance of having a full team to put out there for 162 games and see what he can do.”