Bears

Fantasy baseball pitching stocks

Fantasy baseball pitching stocks

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

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Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants: The team had no choice but to demote Santiago Casilla from the closer role (see below), and it looks like Affeldt is going to be the head of the new committee, no matter that he's a left-handed reliever. Affeldt has a solid 2.56 ERA and 1.14 WHIP to start things off; he's capable of retiring righties and lefties; and he's more durable than righty Sergio Romo. Figure on Affeldt getting the majority of San Francisco handshakes going forward, with Romo the second option.

Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles: He wasn't the buzzy overseas signing of the year, but Chen has handled the AL East very well as a rookie (3.46 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 109 strikeouts in 135.1 innings) and he's been especially sharp since the All-Star Break. A 12-strikeout game against Oakland grabs your attention, and he backed that up with seven scoreless frames at Tampa. Congrats, Baltimore, you found a No. 2 starter here.

Jim Henderson, RP, Brewers: He's closed out the last two Milwaukee wins, and he's been crisp in seven big league innings this far (1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K). Possession of the closing baton is 90 percent of the battle in our numbers racket, and it's telling that Henderson received Wednesday's assignment after John Axford worked the eighth inning. Henderson's story is out of nowhere, sure - he's a 29-year-old journeyman who was actually drafted by the Expos back in 2003 - but Axford's story was just as miraculous and crazy.

Hold

Zack Greinke SP, Angels: He's posted a 5.68 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over his first three Anaheim turns, and he's hasn't faced an elite offense yet. It's an extreme set of results but it illustrates the broader point: there aren't many soft landings in the hitter-friendly AL, where the bunt is all but abolished and every team gets an extra piece of daily lumber in the lineup. Greinke's magical 2009 season sticks out like a sore thumb, but otherwise this is someone who's never had an ERA under 3.44 or a WHIP under 1.20. GM's better be careful with the checkbook this winter; Greinke is routinely talked about like he's an ace, but he's really a No. 2 type of arm.

Mike Fiers, SP, Brewers: He's been crazy-lucky with the homers (3.3 HRFB rate), but when you strike out a batter per inning and walk less than two men per nine frames, you're going to be successful. We all know Fiers won't keep this 1.80 ERA for the balance of the year, but he should be in the 3.00-3.50 range for the final third of the season, with a good WHIP, and that will play in any format. It's surprising Fiers didn't get a shot before this year, because his minor-league profile was excellent from 2009-2011.

Bartolo Colon, SP, Athletics: Several of the Oakland starters have a home-park bias, but Colon has actually done his best work on the road (2.81 ERA, five wins in nine starts). To be fair, it might be partially fluke-driven - his WHIP is considerably lower at home. But at the end of the day there's a lot to like about Colon, even at age 39: he plays on a surprising contender, his outfield is terrific defensively, and he's still working quickly, throwing strikes, playing baseball as it should be. Score one for science.

Sell

Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants: He has no one to blame but himself for the closer demotion. He's blown five saves over his last 17 appearances, along with eight walks and a 7.82 ERA. The Giants have designs on the playoffs and they have better relievers in house; they don't need this mischief. Cut Casilla immediately in all mixed-league formats.

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

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USA Today

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

Chicago Bears left tackle Charle Leno, Jr. has outplayed expectations after joining the team as a seventh-round pick in 2014. General manager Ryan Pace rewarded Leno for his play with a four-year, $38 million extension last offseason, committing to the former Boise State product as the Bears' blindside protector for the immediate future.

Leno joined his teammates at the team's annual Bears Care Gala on Saturday and said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is going to make him and his linemates better.

"We love Harry, let's just get that out of the way," Leno told 670 the Score's Mark Grote. "Harry is a great coach. I saw what he did for guys that he coached in college and the guys that were before us here in Chicago. He's getting us better."

Hiestand's efforts at Notre Dame produced four first-round picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. He brings a no-nonsense coaching style back to Chicago, where he last served under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. 

STANKEVITZ: In Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy hits a home run on his first swing at Bears' coaching staff

Leno enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. His 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus was the best of all Bears linemen and his highest overall mark over the last four years. He finished 15th among all tackles graded by PFF last season.

Regardless, Leno still has to impress his new coach just like every other offensive lineman on the roster. The Bears haven't added any competition for Leno, but his fate as the team's long-term answer at left tackle could be decided by Hiestand.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”