Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Carlos Zambrano, Chris Volstad, Bryan LaHair

by Nicholas Minnix on January 5, 2012 @ 12:39:49 PDT


Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off.'s Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove surveys free agency, trades, salary arbitration and injuries that will affect your rotisserie or head-to-head baseball league. You're cleared for your MLB offseason program: The Arizona Fall League, Baseball Winter Meetings, Rule 5 draft and more will shape your fantasy baseball rankings.

Miami Marlins take SP Carlos Zambrano off Chicago Cubs' hands

And they sent the North Siders a serviceable player - right-hander Chris Volstad - to boot! The Cubbies are covering five-sixths of Big Z's $18 million salary in 2012. The club traded the pitcher most of the salary that he lost from his September suspension for the waiving of his no-trade clause and his 2013 vesting option.

Chicago Cubs 1B Bryan LaHair
Theo has new LaHair 'do

The enigmatic Zambrano will fit right in with the moody Hanley Ramirez and hot-headed Ozzie Guillen. Miami is putting on a clinic in team building. Logan Morrison weighs in on Twitter.

Zambrano has also muddled through the past couple of seasons with decreased fastball velocity and various maladies, notably to his shoulder. He's expanded his repertoire in an effort to stave off ineffectiveness, but his dipping K/9 mixed with a lifetime of control problems and his bout with gopheritis this past season give him away.

There is some reason for optimism. Big Z's arm may be 38, but he's only 30. The right-hander gets a fresh start with a skipper with whom he's tight. He was much more successful at limiting homers in previous seasons than he was in 2011, as Fangraphs' Jack Moore expounds. And, despite the woeful marks in other areas, he posted one of the best rates of walks per nine of his career last season.

Only NL fantasy baseball players should be willing to gamble something beyond an end-game bid for Zambrano's services. There's potential for profit, although the amount of it probably wouldn't be great and he could just as easily falter. Deep-mixed divers should wait and see.

Volstad, 25, has a better track record in limiting walks than Big Z does; in fact, Volstad has improved his BB/9 significantly in each of the past three campaigns. He doesn't fan many, but, as Fangraphs' Chris Cwik suggests, Theo Epstein seems willing to gamble that the righty's peripherals forecast better things to come. Volstad's roto value doesn't differ much from Big Z's.

1B Bryan LaHair expected to start for Chicago Cubs

The Cubbies president of baseball ops also declared, on the air: "Bryan LaHair is our first baseman. I don't believe in the concept of 4A players. The guy can hit."

Hit he can, making baseballs travel great distances. For a fellow who strikes out about one-quarter of the time, he makes contact at a respectable rate, too. LaHair, 29, has received but 219 major league plate appearances in his career, despite his lifetime .295/.362/.503 slash line on the farm, because his superiors had little faith that his ability would play in the bigs.

Epstein may not be as certain as he sounds, but it sounds like the left-handed bopper will get a shot, regardless. The delay stunted LaHair's opportunity to adjust to big-league pitching, but Epstein is right about one thing: This dude can rip.

He's not necessarily worth a large investment, but LaHair could turn out to be an NL-only steal. He's also worth a stab in deep mixed leagues. The rate will depend on how much mo' this story generates prior to draft day.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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