Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Adam Dunn, Phil Hughes, Chris Sale
Your fantasy baseball draft isn't far off. KFFL.com'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.
Dunn's home run totals from the past eight seasons: 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38 and ... 11. Yowza. It's one of fantasy baseball's great mysteries, Dunn's 2011 flop. GM Kenny Williams on what Dunn needs to do to re-establish himself: "I don't know. ... It doesn't disappear overnight."
Williams said he believed that Dunn, 33, looked in fine form at the outset of this past campaign, but the slugger needed an emergency appendectomy in the season's first month and didn't get on track afterward. It was obvious that Dunn returned to action too soon (just one week later), so there's some merit to the theory.
That, plus the left-handed batter's payment for his ability to transcend his historic struggles versus southpaws and poor contact rate coming due, as well as a transition to full-time DH, may have doomed Dunn from the get-go. The ChiSox have the option of playing him in the field a bit more often and platooning him.
And, of course, Williams expects Dunn to pick up a bat this winter. What value does that have? Perhaps none, but if Dunn's swing is tuned when he hits ST (at 100 percent), he'll be primed for a rebound. He'll also be heavily discounted at the auction table. If you have faith, a potentially big payoff awaits.
When Hughes came to Bombers camp in 2010, he was fit, thanks to an offseason spent at the Athletes' Performance Institute. He went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA, a 7.45 K/9 and a 2.96 BB/9 in 176 1/3 frames. His numbers could've been better had he not faded in the middle of the summer and at times in the second half, some of that likely attributable to fatigue since he spent most of the previous season in the bullpen.
When Hughes came to camp in 2011, his Pinstripes didn't quite fit. Perhaps he took his rotation spot for granted. The right-hander went 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA, a 5.67 K/9 and a 3.25 BB/9 in 74 2/3 stanzas. In the first half, he spent time on the 60-day DL for arm fatigue, with diminished velocity a noticeable symptom that never really went away.
Will the 26-year-old's rededication result in more fantasy fortune in 2012? There's certainly evidence that it's helped before. Hughes still hasn't proven that he can last in the bigs as a starter, but he's learning what it takes to get there. Monitor his condition in February and March, and be ready to pay on a markdown if the signs are positive.
The ChiSox are unlikely to be able to re-sign Mark Buehrle. They could also trade either John Danks or Gavin Floyd, but regardless, Sale will start. This southpaw has been groovy in his 79 major league games (94 1/3 innings) as a reliever: a 2.58 ERA, a 10.59 K/9, a 3.53 BB/9 and 12 saves.
Strangely, he's receiving little attention from initial offseason punditry for the upside he possesses. When the White Sox drafted him in 2010, their preference in the long term was for him to be in the rotation, which is where he spent most of his final two seasons in college. There's been little doubt that he would succeed in the bigs in that role as well.
The Texas Rangers helped to make C.J. Wilson's transition successful, and he wasn't a prime cut of reliever at the time. Certainly, Chicago will impose some sort of workload restriction on Sale, who'll be 23 next season. Otherwise, there's a lot to like: the promise of plenty strikeouts (not at the rate he acquired them in relief, but plenty nonetheless), a ground-ball rate of about 50 percent (which is crucial at the Cell) and - perhaps most importantly - his cost.
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. Follow @NicholasMinnix
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