Over the last couple weeks, the Rotoworld staff has taken a division-by-division look at some players whose arrows are pointing up for 2013. Fantasy risers, if you will. The American League East, Central and West and National League East have already been covered. Now it’s time to focus on the NL Central.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
The Cubs’ brass waited as long as they could before promoting Rizzo from Triple-A Iowa this past season, but a .345/.408/.702 batting line with 23 home runs over 69 games could only be ignored for so long. Rizzo continued to mash upon arriving in Chicago, hitting .321/.367/.571 with eight homers over his first 29 contests before finally cooling off a bit in August. Rizzo’s struggles against left-handed pitching (.208/.243/.356) are worrisome, but there’s no doubting the 30-homer potential here even if he isn't great against southpaws.
Aroldis Chapman, SP/RP, Reds
Chapman started the 2012 campaign as the Reds’ setup man in front of Sean Marshall, but he took over the ninth-inning gig in mid-May and never looked back, going on to post a 1.51 ERA while striking out an absurd 122 batters over 71 2/3 frames. Despite the fireballing left-hander’s success as a closer, the Reds wisely plan to shift him into the rotation next season, assuming he holds his own in spring training. The chances of Chapman’s 2011 control issues cropping up again are higher in a starting role, and he’ll also be under an innings limit. But, the upside here is limitless, and he’ll have plenty of fantasy value even if the Reds eventually decide to move him back to the bullpen.
Allen Craig, 1B, Cardinals
Despite boasting a career .308/.369/.518 batting line with three 22+ home run seasons in the minors, Craig was never all that highly thought of in the prospect community, mostly because he didn’t have a defined position to cling to. After being used at six different spots on the diamond by the Cardinals in 2010-11, Craig settled in as the regular first baseman in 2012, and he did what he’s always done throughout his professional career – hit. “The Wrench” batted .307 for the Cards while hitting 22 over the boards and driving in 92, and he likely would have reached 30 bombs and 100 RBI if injuries didn’t limit him to 119 games. But while the injury bug has bitten Craig a few times, just one of the ailments was major, and it was a fluky one that occurred when his knee caught the post of a fence in Houston. As long as he stays healthy, Craig should take another step forward in 2013.
Shelby Miller, SP, Cardinals
Ranked by Baseball America before the season as the No. 8 prospect in the game, Miller’s star faded a bit in the first half of 2012, as his ERA and home run total kept rising and his refusal to use his secondary pitches created frustration within the Cardinals’ front office. Miller righted the ship, though, putting up a 2.88 ERA and 70/7 K/BB ratio over his final 59 1/3 innings at Triple-A before receiving a September call-up. He posted a 1.32 ERA while striking out 16 over 13 2/3 innings for the Cards, putting himself in position to possibly compete for a rotation spot next spring, depending on the health of Jaime Garcia’s shoulder. Even if things don’t shake out his way in spring training, Miller is poised to be part of St. Louis’ starting five soon, and he has loads of potential.
Jean Segura, SS, Brewers
Segura spent much of 2012 at Double-A in the Angels’ organization, but after arriving in Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke trade, he played just eight games in the minors for the Brew Crew before receiving a call-up. The 22-year-old didn’t hit for power with the big club, failing to go deep in 163 plate appearances, but he hit a respectable .264 while also swiping seven bases. It was enough to convince the Brewers that he’s ready for primetime, as they’ve slotted him in as the everyday shortstop for next season. Though he’s not the most patient of hitters, Segura boasts a career .313 average in the minors and has pilfered 139 bases over 399 games. He might not help much in other areas, but he could easily steal 30+ bases next season.
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Cubs
When the Cubs announced last March that Samardzija would be part of their rotation, it was met with much skepticism. After all, the right-hander posted a 4.30 ERA and 6.3 K/9 rate in the minors when he was used mainly as a starter, and he’s often had problems with his control. The Cubs’ move paid off big-time, though, as Samardzija turned out to be the team’s best starter, posting a 3.81 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 180/56 K/BB ratio over 174 2/3 frames. He was particularly strong down the stretch, boasting a 2.58 ERA while striking out 80 over 73 1/3 innings. The former Notre Dame wide receiver has plenty of momentum heading into next season.
Starling Marte, OF, Pirates
The Pirates suffered through nearly four months of subpar production from their corner outfield spots before deciding to give Marte a shot in late July. The 24-year-old homered on the first major league pitch he saw and provided offense in spurts for the Bucs down the stretch, ultimately settling for a .257/.300/.437 batting line with five home runs and 12 stolen bases. Marte is an impatient hitter whose K/BB ratio will probably always be ugly to look at, but he’s also a guy with 20/20 upside.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers
Gomez rather quietly belted 19 homers in 2012 while stealing 37 bases. A repeat isn’t terribly likely, but there’s definite fantasy value to be had here.
Michael Fiers, SP, Brewers
Fiers faded down the stretch as he tired and teams got used to his unorthodox delivery, but we can’t ignore 135 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings.
Marco Estrada, SP, Brewers
The overall numbers didn’t match up with the peripherals, which means Estrada, who put up a sick 143/29 K/BB ratio over 138 1/3 frames, could be had at a discount.
Trevor Rosenthal, SP, Cardinals
Rosenthal lit up the radar gun as a reliever down the stretch in the regular and postseason, but his future is probably in the rotation.
James McDonald, SP, Pirates
McDonald was demoted to the bullpen after a rough stretch in the second half, but we haven’t forgotten about that 2.37 first-half ERA.
Todd Frazier, INF/OF, Reds
Frazier was a jack of all trades for the Reds in 2012, but he’ll settle in at third base in 2013 and has 25-homer potential.
Homer Bailey, SP, Reds
The former top prospect thrived in his first full year in the Reds’ rotation, posting a 3.68 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 168 strikeouts while adding a no-hitter to his resume.