Fantasy Baseball Hot Stove: Paul Maholm, Juan Nicasio

by Tim Heaney on January 10, 2012 @ 10:00:51 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.

Chicago Cubs sign SP Paul Maholm

The two-seamer- and slider-centered grounder maven with tepid velocity had been a safe but boring deep-league, low-end investment when he called pitcher-leaning PNC Park his backdrop. Wrigley Field won't be as kind. He has a 5.48 career ERA in 64 innings within the Friendly Confines.

Colorado Rockies SP Juan Nicasio
Nicasio: from the brink to sleeper

Sure, scream "sample size" all you want, but he didn't give up a run in two starts (15 1/3 innings) there last season, when he refined his approach. Maholm made a point to pitch inside with conviction; this aggressiveness contributed to his 3.66 ERA, the southpaw's best in a full season. That method also better prepares him to move into a hitter's park; it won't hurt that he'll still face the NL Central most of the time.

Though it won't provide a difference-making number of punchouts, his arsenal (five pitches per some stat measurements) will keep bats guessing. A strained left shoulder that cost him all of September - his first career DL stint - may have been lingering during his woeful August; otherwise, 2011 was a fine campaign.

The innings-gobbling Maholm, with a rotation spot, provides stability for NL-only rosters, and he'll, as usual, have occasional stretches of mixed shelf life. His expected boost in run support will aid the latter. His profile isn't worth an aggressive bid, but it isn't worth ignoring.

Chicago's starting pitching is crowded on the surface, but ace Matt Garza looks like he's headed out of town.

Colorado Rockies SP Juan Nicasio progressing in recovery from fractured vertebrae

Working out in his native Dominican Republic, the righty has begun facing hitters in a controlled environment, throwing only fastballs and changeups from behind an L screen. Barring setbacks in his recovery from August surgery, he'll lose the barrier and throw in simulated game sitches before spring training. His four-seamer, which regularly reaches 96 mph, looks close to normal.

Of course, the fact that a line drive to the head and a subsequent fall broke his C1 vertebrae means he'll probably have some mental hurdles to surmount before being 100 percent comfortable on the mound. It will be a process, but if all his facilities are clear, Nicasio could join the rotation sometime in 2012.

The 25-year-old boasts a comforting mix of grounders, dominance and control while also showing he's capable of holding down the fort at Coors Field. How deep is your league? He might not be someone you draft outside of cavernous mixed structures and as an NL-only tuck-away. Depending on his recuperation, however, he deserves a notch on your sleeper list.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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