In an effort to recap players with fantasy interest on each team, along with an eye on their future, Fantasy Alarm will cover each division in the Wraparound with fantasy tidbits on players from each team along with some to track as sleepers as 2020 preparation begins. Starting with this column on the National League Central.
A tough season missing the playoffs forces more questions entering the offseason. Like, what happens if Kris Bryant wins his court appeal about the manipulation of his service time? If he does, Bryant could be declared a free agent putting another ripple in the water for the Cubs. Craig Kimbrel struggled after signing to close in terms of performance and health. Here’s a recap of the Cubs 2019:
Kyle Schwarber - Finished sixth in the National League in home runs (38) and swatted 20 after the All-Star break with a .280/.366/.631 slash line. He also surged in the second half last year, so it’s tough to know if he can do it over a full season. From August second on, Schwarber recorded a .349 isolated power, an unsustainable .352 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), a 28 home run per fly ball percentage and 48.4 hard hit rate.
Javier Báez - In line to repeat his breakout from last year ended abruptly when he suffered a hairline fracture of his thumb on the first day of September. Baez did become the first Cubs middle infielder with consecutive 25-plus home run seasons.
Nicholas Castellanos - Another free agent, Castellanos hit safely in 39 of his first 51 games with Chicago with 21 doubles, 16 home runs, 36 RBI and a 1.002 on-base plus slugging percentage. Ended the year leading the majors in doubles with 58 and according to Stats LLC, Castellanos racked up the third season with at least 55 doubles and 25 home runs as a right handed hitter ever.
Ian Happ - In 99 games at Triple-A, Happ hit .242 with 18 doubles, 16 home runs and 53 RBI. With the Cubs, Happ appeared in 58 games with a .264/.333/.564 slash while hitting 11 home runs. He’s only 26 in August with a potential clear path to playing time. Burn me once…
Willson Contreras - Will only turn 28 in March and missed time with a right hamstring along with a right foot sprain in two separate injuries. Still, Contreras hit 24 home runs in only 105 games with 64 RBI and a .272/.355/.533 slash. He gets a pass for his abysmal 2018 but 2019 seems to be his peak.
Kyle Hendricks - Finished the year with 29 straight starts issuing two or fewer walks in each. In fact, he only yielded 32 walks over his 177 innings in 2019 and pitched well at home with a 2.04 ERA at Wrigley.
Kris Bryant - A fantasy enigma, Bryant owns the most home runs through his first five years with the franchise at 138 and ranks as one of three players in team history with multiple 30 home run campaigns at third base. But, the steals dipped and Bryant does not know how to slide? Personally treading lightly with him in 2020.
Curious moves at the deadline trading pending free agent Yasiel Puig for Trevor Bauer trying to shore up the rotation for 2020. Bauer struggled in his debut but could bounce back? However, 2018 could prove to be the outlier for Bauer if he does not bounce back in the upcoming season. Sonny Gray pitched great once he returned to the rotation and the team could deal Raisel Iglesias . And the third baseman turned in another strong season for fantasy.
Eugenio Suárez - Ranked second in the majors with 49 home runs. He hit 29 in the first half and 27 after the break. His 83 homers the last two years ranks second to only Mike Trout (84). Suarez also led the majors in strikeouts while finishing third in home runs per at-bat (11.7) and sixth in total bases (329).
Luis Castillo - Among the National League leaders in opponents batting average (.202, third), wins (15, fifth), ERA (3.40, 12th), innings (190.2, 10th) and strikeouts (226, ninth). First Reds pitcher with 15 wins since Johnny Cueto in 2014 and owns one of the best changeups in baseball.
Sonny Gray - Will enter 2020 with an active streak of 33 consecutive starts, including all 31 from 2019, without allowing more than six hits. Gray and Justin Verlander ended the year as the only two pitchers to make at least 30 starts and allow no more than four runs in any of them. Over his last 15 starts, Gray went 8-3 with a 1.99 ERA and 13 quality outings while his bullpen suffered five blown saves in them.
Raisel Iglesias - Segue alert. Iglesias looked dominant at times and lost his hold on the closer role in others. For the third straight year, led the Reds in saves with 34 and converted seven in September. Could be on the trade market this offseason and if he is..
Robert Stephenson - Over his last 24 appearances, Stephenson owned a 1.38 ERA in 26 innings with a 28:7 K:BB. His ERA in this span was the best in the National League and third in the majors.
Aristides Aquino - Only player in modern history with 13 home runs in his first 100 plate appearances. Also set the major league record for home runs in his first 12 games (8), first 14 games (9), first 16 games (10) and first 27 games (13). But, a lack of contact with a collapse in plate discipline caused a huge rift in his numbers in September compared to August.
Josh VanMeter - While others may reach for Aquino, savvy owners will target VanMeter late in drafts. He will be versatile appearing in 32 games in left field, nine at first base, nine at second base and twice at third. Among National League rookies, VanMeter finished eighth in walks and tied for ninth at stolen bases.
Once again made the playoffs with a late surge. An injury to Christian Yelich cut his season short but fantasy owners will continue to reap the rewards of his move to Milwaukee. Keston Hiura mashed his way into the lineup and if this team gets some starting pitching, it could be dangerous. However, much will depend on the moves this offseason. Good news, Brandon Woodruff broke through. Here’s the Brew Crew recap:
Christian Yelich - His season ended on September 10th in Miami due to a fractured kneecap. Still, Yelich hit 44 home runs driving in 97 and stole 30 bases in only 130 games with a robust .329/.429/.671 slash line. Yelich set career highs in average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage (1.100) and stolen bases. He tied his career best with 80 walks as well. Also became the 10th player to ever hit 40 home runs and steal 30 bases. If no injury, he was on pace to become the first to reach 50 home runs with at least 30 steals.
Josh Hader - Made Super-2 by one day, so Hader stands to get a raise after tying for third in the majors with 37 saves. Hader recorded 138 strikeouts leading all major league relievers again in only 75.2 innings. He’s filthy and will be a little richer this year.
Drew Pomeranz - Why include Pomeranz? For starters, if he signs with a team to close, get him. Of his last 20 appearances with Milwaukee as a reliever, Pomeranz did not yield a run in 18 of them and his last 26 games resulted in 36 strikeouts against four walks in 26.1 innings. His days as a starter should be over.
Brandon Woodruff - Led the team in wins (11), strikeouts (143) and quality starts (10) despite missing time due to an oblique injury. Turned in three starts with double digit strikeouts and should be a stud in 2020 with health. Buy.
Yasmani Grandal - Started 141 games, 124 at catcher with a career best 28 home runs in 2019. He also ended the year second in walks (109) in the National League. As a catcher, led his peers in walks (91) and on-base percentage (.383), ranked second in extra-base hits (50), total bases (215), tied for second in runs (68), third in home runs (25) along with on-base plus slugging percentage (.864).
Keston Hiura - His 19 home runs as a rookie ranks third in team history. Hiura recorded a 15-game hit streak and added nine stolen bases over 84 games with a .303 average. If he slips in drafts, target him for 20-plus home runs and 15-plus steals in 2020 with upside for more.
Knowing they lost many recent trades, a season of turmoil ended with their closer under arrest, the manager and general manager fired. So, where does Pittsburgh go from here? Odds remain high on a rebuild which could translate into Starling Marte being traded for prospects but time will tell. For now, hope lies with rookies Bryan Reynolds , Kevin Newman and Mitch Keller .
Starling Marte - Reached double digits in steals for the eighth straight year (at least 20 in each of the last seven). With 108 career home runs and 239 stolen bases, joins Barry Bonds as the second player in team history with at least 100 home runs along with 200 steals. Marte set career highs in home runs (23), runs (97), RBI (82), slugging percentage (.503) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.845). Also ended the year as one of nine players with at least 20 home runs and stolen bases.
Bryan Reynolds - Set a team record for rookies with 37 doubles. His 154 hits and .314 average ranked second among all National League rookies. Also led all major league rookies with 45 multiple hit contests.
Kevin Newman - Led all major league players with at least 75 starts hitting leadoff with a .328 average batting first. Also hit 12 home runs with 16 stolen bases in 130 games and a .308/.353/.446 slash line.
Keone Kela - If you read the above about Felipe Vázquez , Kela could be trade bait or the closer entering the 2020 season. Over his last 24 outings, Kela allowed one earned run in 23 innings and racked up 22 strikeouts his last 18 games.
Josh Bell - A tale of two halves. Bell set a record for the most extra-base hits (60) in the first half in the National League and his 84 RBI set a team record prior to the break. He hit 27 home runs in only 338 at-bats in the first half but only 10 in 189 at-bats after with only 17 extra-base hits. Feeling lucky? Only if you dealt him in July.
St. Louis Cardinals
Fueled by second surges by Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright , the Cardinals won the Central division. It felt like Paul Goldschmidt disappointed due to another slow start, biggest worry with him, where did the steals go? Matt Carpenter cratered, Marcell Ozuna hit home runs but his defense remains a question mark entering free agency and Carlos Martínez may not accept being the full-time closer. Just another team with potential turnover entering 2020.
Jack Flaherty - Recorded the third lowest ERA (0.91) in the second half, ever in 15 starts. Since 1885, only three starting pitchers with at least 230 strikeouts, 55 or fewer walks and a 2.75 ERA or better younger than 24 years old. Flaherty, Clayton Kershaw (2011) and Mark Prior (2003). End of year ranks in the National League: fourth in ERA (2.75), tied for third in starts (33), eighth in innings (196.1), third in slugging percentage against (.335), first in hits allowed per nine innings (6.19), fifth in strikeouts per batter faced (29.9 percent) and tied for sixth in quality starts (20). Justified Howard Bender’s love to say the least.
Paul Goldschmidt - Led St. Louis in home runs (34), RBI (97), hits (155), walks (78), slugging percentage (.476), multi-hit games (46) and tied for first in runs (97). Set career bests in home runs (18) and RBI (60) in the second half.
Paul DeJong - Season highs in home runs (30), RBI (78), doubles (31), hits (136), runs (97), stolen bases (9) and extra-base hits (62). Has 19 or more home runs in each of his last three years.
Tommy Edman - Following his promotion on June eighth, Edman led the team in hits (99), triples (7) and steals (15). Also ranked second in runs (59), doubles (17), extra-base hits (35) and total bases (135), fifth in home runs (11) along with RBI (36).
Yadier Molina - Aging like fine wine, has 212 RBI the last three years which leads all catchers and finished 2019 six for six in stolen base attempts. Hit .285 with six home runs and 21 RBI his last 42 games off the disabled list from August 13th forward.
Marcell Ozuna - Missed 28 games with fractured fingers but still recorded at least 80 or more RBI for the third straight season. He’s one of 16 players to accomplish this feat. His 29 home runs and 12 stolen bases will fetch him money on the open market, but can he play capable defense for the next four to five years?
Kolten Wong - Tied for seventh in stolen bases in the National League with 24 this season. Racked up 36 multiple hit games and hit .342 in the second half with a .409 on-base percentage.
Carlos Martínez - Recorded 24 saves with a 58.1 ground ball rate. Led the majors with 21 saves after the All-Star break. Also did not yield a home run his last 25 appearances (22.1 innings).
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MLB.com - Game Notes