With the '16 NFL Draft concluded, the Yahoo fantasy crew decided to gauge how the new rookie crop might be able to positively impact fantasy football this season.
Yahoos Scott Pianowski, Liz Loza, Dalton Del Don, Andy Behrens, Brad Evans and myself convened for a quick five-round, rookie-only mock draft, with the only requirement being to draft the players based on expected fantasy production for the upcoming season.
Here's how it played out:
(Note: Comments are provided by the Yahoo who picked the player)
1. Ezekiel Elliott, Dal, RB - No brainer top rookie choice. He checks all the featured back boxes, and he'll get the luxury of handling that role behind, arguably, the NFL's top offensive line. (Brandon Funston)
2. Josh Doctson, Was, WR - This is a vote in favor of Jay Gruden, pass designer. (Scott Pianowski)
3. Derrick Henry, Ten, RB - His landing spot was hardly ideal with the Titans just trading for DeMarco Murray, but they also spent a first round pick on RT Jack Conklin. Henry might have benefitted from playing for Alabama, but he sure looks like a special athlete, and he just got 6.0 YPC over his college career and won the Heisman Trophy. He’ll be a beast right away. (Dalton Del Don)
4. Laquan Treadwell, Min, WR - Treadwell may not be part of a high-flying offense, but he is now Minnesota's No. 1 WR. His 6-foot-2 and 221 frame should bail out Teddy in the red area of the field frequently enough to produce top-50 fantasy stats. (Liz Loza)
5. C.J. Prosise, Sea, RB - The fantasy community is infatuated with Thomas Rawls, but he's coming off a significant ankle/leg injury and sidelined throughout much of the offseason. At a minimum, Prosise will function in a passing-down role this year (he's a converted receiver), and he clearly has the potential to be substantially more. (Andy Behrens)
6. Sterling Shepard, NYG, WR - At 5-foot-10, 194 pounds he's on the small side, but his marvelous footwork, 4.48-40 yard speed and elusiveness in space, reminiscent of Brandin Cooks, makes him extremely difficult to contain. (Brad Evans)
1. Jordan Howard, Chi, RB - Scrawl it in cement, Howard will overtake Jeremy Langford at some point this season- he's a stronger, interior runner. Displaying impressive vision, patience, cutting and pad level, he is a rock solid early-down contributor, and will most certainly compete for the Bears' starting gig immediately. (Evans)
2. Corey Coleman, Was, WR - If he reaches his ceiling, he'll be something very close to Steve Smith. Coleman is a burner with terrific play-making ability and a nose for the end-zone. I wish he'd found a better landing spot, but I'm a big believer in his skills. (Behrens)
3. Michael Thomas, NO, WR - Boasting excellent body control and good size, Thomas figures to fill the void that Marques Coltson left in New Orleans. (Loza)
4. Will Fuller, Hou, WR - His hands are suspect, but he’s an obvious deep threat who should immediately become the No. 2 WR on a Texans team that will demand a bunch of attention be paid to DeAndre Hopkins. (Del Don)
5. Kenyan Drake, Mia, RB - I should have taken Kenneth Dixon, though I'm not a full believer in Jay Ajayi. (Pianowski)
6. Kenneth Dixon, Bal, RB - High motor, excellent burst and stout, beer keg build to excel between the tackles. And as, perhaps, the top receiving back in this class, that should gain him plenty of favor from OC Marc Trestman. (Funston)
1. Paul Perkins, NYG, RB - Might not be a true bell cow, but his vision, ability to cut on a dime and proficiency in the passing game could ultimately lead to him getting the most touches out of the NYG backfield. (Funston)
2. Jared Goff, LA, QB - I don't see an exciting floor, but picked him here merely to reflect the shallowness of the rookie crop. (Pianowski)
3. Carson Wentz, Phi, QB - May not start right away, but the Eagles are a pretty good situation in which to land, and the rookie class is thin this year when it comes to skill position players. (Del Don)
4. Devontae Booker, Den, RB - Likely to surpass Ronnie Hillman on the Broncos depth chart, Booker will run behind C.J. Anderson. Considering Anderson has only started 13 regular season contests over the past two seasons, Booker could find himself in an expanded role sooner rather than later. (Loza)
5. Paxton Lynch, Den, QB - As you can probably tell by now, I'm drafting players with a clear path to serious playing time in their first NFL seasons. Lynch is a scattershot QB, but he's a nice fit for a Gary Kubiak-led team. (Behrens)
6. Wendell Smallwood, Phi, RB - The Big 12's leading rusher last season is an intriguing player. He's explosive, owns great hands and achieved in blitz pickup. Given Ryan Mathews' knack for knee twists, the kid could wind up as Philly's starter over multiple games. (Evans)
1. Tyler Boyd, Cin, WR - Admittedly, the Pitt standout wasn't one of my favorite receivers in this draft. Though an exceptional route runner with ample experience in the slot and outside, he doesn't own the strength needed to beat press coverage. Still, Brandon LaFell is a joke, which means he has a reasonable shot to eventually secure the No. 2 job opposite A.J. Green. (Evans)
2. Hunter Henry, SD, TE - Henry is a sure-handed receiver and capable blocker, pretty clearly the best player at his position in this draft class. If any rookie tight end is ready for serious snaps, it's this guy. (Behrens)
3. Tyler Higbee, LA, TE - At 6-foot-6 and 249 pounds Higbee has oodles of upside and was clearly drafted to give new QB Jared Goff a giant target in the passing game. He won't be fantasy relevant this fall, but could be part of the TE1 conversation in 2017 (if he can stay out of trouble). (Loza)
4. Leonte Caroo, Mia, WR - Got the second-highest yards-per-target among all college wide receivers last year. (Del Don)
5. Austin Hooper, Atl, TE - Rookie tight ends are usually fantasy quicksand, but Falcons might need him right away. (Pianowski)
6. Jordan Payton, Cle, WR - Big body and reliable hands could make UCLA's all-time catch leader somebody that Browns QB (RG3, Kessler, McCown?) comes to lean in short-range passing game. (Funston)
1. Alex Collins, Sea, RB - Has the natural hard-nosed, rugged inclinations that could make him the featured choice if Thomas Rawls' ankle ends up causing him to miss time this season. (Funston)
2. DeAndre Washington, Oak, RB - A lottery ticket who might be able to carve a role on an ordinary Raiders roster. (Pianowski)
3. Tyler Ervin, Hou, RB - Nothing more than a deep sleeper with Lamar Miller joining Houston, but the rookie could quickly work his way into being the team’s RB2. (Del Don)
4. Keith Marshall, Was, RB - Washington wants Matt Jones to be the guy, but if the big man falters, the lightening quick and surprisingly strong Marshall will be waiting in the wings. (Loza)
5. Pharoh Cooper, LA, WR - Not necessarily my favorite prospect, but he'll have a shot to play early in his pro career with L.A., the receiver-neediest team in the league. (Behrens)
6. Braxton Miller, Hou, WR - Undoubtedly, the former Ohio St. QB is an unpolished product as a WR. However, his incredible athleticism, work ethic and sponge-like football brain suggest he could develop quickly. It may take him a year or three, but he has the skills and elusiveness needed to contribute soundly out of the slot. (Evans)
Here's a look at our five-round mock, at a glance:
Fantasy football drafting in May? Heck ya! Are you itching to mock? Deep down you are. And we are too. With the NFL Draft in the books, we recently participated in a 12-team, .5 PPR, with a FLEX, exercise to whet your whistle. Wake up from your pigskin coma, fantasy freaks. The 2016 fantasy football season is officially underway. Let the "expert" derision begin.
Pick 1: Le'Veon Bell, Pit, RB1 – When he's healthy he's a beast, averaging over 4.7 YPC and absorbing more than 83% of his passing targets in 2014 and 2015. (Liz Loza 1)
Pick 2: Odell Beckham, NYG, WR1 – Averaging over 15 YPR, OBJ was a top five fantasy WR in 2015. Another year of experience and the addition of Sterling Shepard should only help his numbers in 2016. (Loza 2)
Pick 3: Antonio Brown, Pit, WR2 – He's coming off a 136-1834-10 season in which he saw 193 targets (with Big Ben missing four games), and Martavis Bryant is suspended for the year. Antonio is the No. 1 player on my board. (Dalton Del Don 1)
Pick 4: Todd Gurley, LA, RB2– Was very close to going with David Johnson here, but Gurley is just so dominant regardless of his surrounding teammates. (DDD 2)
Pick 5: David Johnson, Ari, RB3 – Johnson was the top RB in fantasy over the season's final five games, and it wasn't particularly close. During that stretch, he averaged 131.6 scrimmage yards and one TD per game. (Andy Behrens 1)
Pick 6: Ezekiel Elliott, Dal, RB4 – No way did Dallas use the No. 4 overall pick to acquire a committee back. Elliott is a gifted every-down ball-carrier, running behind an elite O-line. He gets a PPR bump in this league's scoring system. (Behrens 2)
Pick 7: Julio Jones, Atl, WR3 – Volume, physicality, a quarterback who's good enough. Durability strike has always been overplayed. (Scott Pianowski 1)
Pick 8: DeAndre Hopkins, Hou, WR4 – Went ballistic despite lousy quarterback play; this year, he might actually have an adequate QB. (Pianow 2)
Pick 9: Adrian Peterson, Min, RB5 – Bit shocked AP fell this far. Given his advanced age and high mileage he isn't sans worry, but the reigning rush king is a relatively safe bet for another 1,300-plus combined yards and double-digit touchdowns in a ball-control scheme. (Brad Evans 1)
Pick 10: Rob Gronkowski, NE, TE1 – See end zone. Spike end zone. That's what Gronk does on a regular basis. Everyone's favorite party animal is essentially a high-end WR1 eligible at TE, a true consistency king. With or without Tom Brady for four games, he should finish in range of 12-13 fantasy points per contest. (Evans 2)
Pick 11: Lamar Miller, Hou, RB6 – He was a per-touch stud in MIA who should no longer have to worry about being tragically underutilized. (Brandon Funston 1)
Pick 12: Dez Bryant, Dal, WR5 – Dallas offense gets a mulligan after Romo and Bryant suffered injuries. With both healthy and rookie RB Elliott in backfield, this should be a potent offense again, one that should return Bryant to 90/1,200/12 levels. (Funston 2)
Pick 13: Jamaal Charles, KC, RB7 – I contemplated Hyde very seriously here, but reports on JC have been good and, while he may have his role reduced a little, it sure sounds like KC still plans on him being the man. (Funston 2)
Pick 14: Allen Robinson, Jax, WR6 – To own him was to love him last season as he posted 10+ fantasy points in 11 of his final 12 games - should be more of the same in '16 for last season's No. 4 overall fantasy wideout. (Funston 1)
Pick 15: Jordy Nelson, GB, WR7 – Coming off a lost season due to injury, Jordy should bounce back with a vengeance. The Green Bay offense, resembling an inoperable golf cart at times last year, sorely missed his services. An 85-1300-9 campaign is on tap, at a minimum. (Evans 2)
Pick 16: Carlos Hyde, SF, RB8 – Some will chuckle at this selection, but Hyde is a superb zone runner who should thrive in Chip Kelly's offense. Admittedly, the Niners' line and pass games are suspect, but volume talks and Hyde is in line for some 18-22 touches per game. Believe in the opportunity. (Evans 1)
Pick 17: A.J. Green, Cin, WR8 – Not the most consistent sort in-season, but has double-digit TDs in three of four years, and deck has been cleared somewhat. (Pianow 2)
Pick 18: Brandon Marshall, NYJ, WR9 – I'm willing to look at 2014 as the outlier season. Jets have a narrow usage tree, delightful for fantasy. (Pianow 1)
Pick 19: Alshon Jeffery, Chi, WR10 – Everyone understands Jeffery's go-get-it ability. His ceiling is a top-tier/top-five positional finish, and he's entering a year that will mean a lot in terms of future compensation. (Behrens 2)
Pick 20: Doug Martin, TB, RB9– As many of you know, I have never been the biggest Martin backer. But I'm not crazy enough to pass on a featured RB coming off a 1400-yard season. (Behrens 1)
Pick 21: Devonta Freeman, Atl, RB10 – He totaled 1,634 yards with 14 touchdowns and 73 receptions in 15 games as a sophomore last year. Insane he lasted this long. (DDD 2)
Pick 22: C.J. Anderson, Den, RB11 – This is a gamble, but he looked great down the stretch last season, averaging 6.3 YPC over the second half. (DDD 1)
Pick 23: Eddie Lacy, GB, RB12 – Reportedly in shape and poised for a comeback, Lacy has top-12 potential in 2016. (Loza 2)
Pick 24: Mike Evans, TB, WR11 – Fifteen drops contributed to Evans' sophomore slump, but with nearly 150 targets in play and a second year with Jameis Winston I expect his TDs to reach the double digits. (Loza 1)
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise
With an NFL Draft in the books and MLB pushing into May, there's much to discuss.
Is Ezekiel Elliott an instant lottery pick in Dallas? What other rookie running backs do fantasy owners need to know? Will a rookie tight end be an exception to the usual development curve? What receivers improved and hurt their stock at the draft?
The second half of the show is all baseball, where we discuss and break down David Price, Brandon Drury and middle-infielder replacements for those who lost Dee Gordon.
Yu Darvish made his first minor league rehab start of the season on Sunday, and it really could not have gone much better. Darvish threw 32 pitches, allowing no hits, no runs and one walk while striking out two. His fastball routinely hit 94, topping out at 97.
Ninety-seven, you guys. That works.
If you're wondering about his breaking stuff, just look at the finishing pitch in this video. Pure wickedness.
When asked what he was thinking prior to his appearance, Darvish had jokes:
“Seriously, I hoped that I was not going to blow my elbow,” Darvish said. “That’s what I was thinking. That was my first concern. I’m very happy about my outing.”
Darvish missed the 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, but there have been no significant negative reports about his recovery. He was outstanding in his brief appearance on Sunday — vintage Yu, really. He has additional rehab starts ahead, gradually increasing his pitch counts, and he's expected to return to the Texas rotation this month. The Rangers have not indicated that Darvish's workload this season will have a hard limit; he's likely to deliver 20-plus starts and 120-130 innings.
And, based on Sunday's performance, we can assume that Darvish's innings this season will be of the highest quality. He remains un-owned in 12 percent of Yahoo leagues, which is insane. This is a dominant starter, nearing his 2016 MLB debut.
We've been waiting for a Taijuan Walker breakout for some time, and it’s now officially happening. He has a 29:3 K:BB ratio over 30.0 innings this season, with a 1.80 ERA and 1.03 WHIP. Four of his five starts have come at home, but his FIP is 2.05 (that’s fourth best in all of baseball), and his GB/FB ratio is 2.38. Walker throws hard (average fastball velocity is 94.1 mph), and there’s a lot to like about his profile. He produces a low Hard%, is just 23 years old and continues to get better. Meanwhile, teammate Felix Hernandez’s FB velocity (89.6 mph) is easily a career low, yet he currently sports a 1.38 ERA to go along with a 28:18 K:BB ratio. I really liked King Felix as a buy low guy entering the year, but I’d actually prefer Walker moving forward.
Headlines of the Week: Fishermen Use Dead Friend As Bait To Reel In 180 LB Monster Carp...Germany Installs Traffic Lights In Sidewalks So Smartphone Users Don’t Have To Look Up...Guy Punched For Looking Like Shia LaBeouf...‘Teen’ Basketball Player Says He Didn’t Know He Was 29.
Quick Hits: Carlos Correa had three homers and two steals through two days into the season. He has no home runs and one steal since...The Braves have five homers this season. There are 46 players with as many. Atlanta also doesn’t have a single triple, giving them a team slugging percentage of .289. Madison Bumgarner’s SLG over the past three years are .470, .468 and .455 respectively...Bryce Harper struck out four times in a game Sunday for the first time since his rookie season in 2012...Not good news for Rasiel Iglesias owners (like myself). It’s almost as if you should avoid pitchers coming off a season in which they dealt with shoulder problems...Here’s Brandon Phillips getting hit by three baseballs in one at bat.
Police Blotter: Colorado Town’s Entire Police Force Just Quit...NY Mayor Stole 111 Road Signs...Phiippine Presidential Frontrunner Vows To Pardon Himself For Murder...Man Charged Over $13K For Toll Bill...Man Drives Drunk To Interview For Driving Job.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Fun with paces through one month - Jose Altuve is on pace for 45 homers and 58 steals. Chris Sale is on pace to go 37-0. Nolan Arenado is on pace to hit 74 homers and score 155 runs with 169 RBI. Odubel Herrera has 23 walks through 80 at bats, putting him on pace to finish with 149. Joey Votto led all of baseball last season with 143 walks...Trevor Story’s 10 homers tied for the most ever by a rookie during the first month of his career, and to reiterate, he’s been robbed by three others thanks to the new fence in right field in Coors Field...Coco Crisp is just two seasons removed from going 22/21 with 93 runs scored in 131 games played. He’s owned in only 2% of Yahoo leagues. Go add him.
Quick Hits Part Tres: Steven Matz has allowed two runs over his past 19.1 innings since getting rocked during his first start of the year. Only health will prevent him from being a top-25 fantasy starter moving forward...If a draft were held today, Jake Arrieta should clearly be a top-10 pick...Don’t worry about Jose Berrios’ poor start during his debut. He’s worth owning in all leagues...Go grab Kevin Gausman too. Neither should be unowned...Aledmys Diaz currently has the highest wRC+ (212) in all of baseball. Logan Forsythe is second at 200...I own zero shares of David Price, but his 15.9 SwStr% is not only by far a career high (his career mark is a pedestrian 9.6%), it’s also the second highest among all starters in baseball this year, behind only Noah Syndergaard...Shelby Miller and Kolten Wong are two players getting dropped in mass (according to Yahoo percentages) whom I’d pick up as a result.
P Nathan Karns, Sea, $38 (at Oak) – Karns has struck out 24 batters in 22.1 innings so far this season, and he tossed seven scoreless frames in his last appearance. Oakland ranks dead-last in the A.L. in team OBP (.291), so there's no reason to fear the opposing lineup.
P Bartolo Colon, NYM, $35 (vs. Atl) – Colon hasn't given up more than three runs in any start this season, and he's facing the N.L.'s lowest-scoring lineup. At $35, he's a gift.
(Honorable mention at pitcher: Jose Berrios is a rookie with wicked stuff and he's facing the Houston Astros, a team that leads MLB in strikeouts. It's tough to bank on Minnesota getting a win in any matchup, but Berrios has a great shot at a significant K total.)
C Jonathan Lucroy, Mil, $14 (Weaver) – Lucroy has reached base seven times over his last three games, and Jered Weaver isn't the most intimidating opponent.
1B Prince Fielder, Text, $14 (Dickey) – Fielder's bat has shown signs lately that it's beginning to function properly. He's also a cleanup hitter priced well, facing a sketchy starter.
2B Daniel Murphy, Was, $21 (Volquez) – Murphy has been a multi-hit machine, and he has a nice (if limited) history against Royals starter Edinson Volquez (6-for-15). And I've got money to spend, having only dropped $73 on my pitchers.
3B Nolan Arenado, Col, $23 (Shields) – Arenado has been on a tear, as you may have noticed, plus he has a terrific history against James Shields (12-for-23, 4 HR).
SS Andrelton Simmons, LAA, $10 (Nelson) – Basically a position punt, so I can squeeze Arenado into my lineup. But you'll note Simmons has reached base twice in three PAs against Jimmy Nelson (which is almost completely meaningless).
OF Odubel Herrera, Phi, $17 (Wainwright) – Herrera has been scorching hot, living on-base, and he's facing a not-at-all-hot Adam Wainwright (bad surface stats, bad peripherals). This feels like a gimme.
OF Charlie Blackmon, Col, $16 (Shields) – Blackmon is back from the DL, leading off and getting himself on-base. Like Arenado, he has a pretty fair history against Shields (3 HR in 25 AB).
OF Kevin Pillar, Tor, $12 (Griffin) – After a rough start, Pillar has gone 11-for-29 over his last eight games. At this price, I'm interested. Griffin is going well, but his stuff isn't overwhelming (4.80 xFIP, 7.1 swinging-strike percentage).
Jake Arrieta: He had a 0.75 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP after the All-Star break last season, but I worried about his innings increase and loss of FB velocity down the stretch, so I kept Arrieta out of my top-five fantasy starters entering 2016, which was obviously a huge mistake. He’s remained dominant to open the year and would easily be worthy of a first round pick if a draft were held today. There's clearly an argument he's the best pitcher in basbeall.
Kevin Gausman: He’s back in action healthy again, and while the A.L. East is hardly ideal, Gausman owns a 12.1 SwStr% through two starts, with a 23.98 K-BB% that would rank top-10 if he qualified. He’s currently owned in fewer than 40% of Yahoo leagues.
Jordan Zimmermann: He was someone I admit I was down on entering the year, moving from the National League to the A.L., but he’s allowed just one run over 26.0 innings so far in 2016. Zimmermann’s 16:7 K:BB ratio suggests he’s been “lucky,” but he’s still been highly valuable to fantasy owners. His 6.8 SwStr% is a career low, so I’d suggest selling high, but there’s no question Zimmermann has pitched well so far in 2016.
Joe Smith: Huston Street is on the disabled list with an oblique strain that will keep him out for at least the next couple of weeks, so Smith should take over as the Angels’ closer in the meantime. Smith’s K rate is down this season, but he owns a career 2.88 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP and should clearly be owned in all leagues at this point.
Jose Berrios: He’s one of the best prospects in all of baseball so don’t let one bad start prevent you from not treating him as such. The Twins have a poor offense and defense, which won’t help, and Berrios is no guarantee not to get sent back down, but his upside is still huge. I’d grab him in even the shallowest of leagues.
Justin Upton: He homered Saturday for the first time in nearly three weeks, but he still sports a .221/.242/.326 line on the year with a 37:3 K:BB ratio. Upton is just 28 years old, so there’s plenty of reason for optimism, but the move to the American League has been a major problem so far.
Marcell Ozuna: He hit 23 homers as a 23 year old, which is a pretty rare occurrence and suggested future stardom, but Ozuna continues to disappoint. He’s off to a .218/.282/.372 start so far this year with 21 strikeouts over 21 games. This is especially discouraging considering Marlins Park has played as one of the best hitter’s parks in all of baseball so far.
Kolten Wong: He sure seemed like a major asset at second base, but Wong is still searching for his first homer of the season. Over the last seven days, he’s accrued a total of five at bats. Teammate Randal Grichuk has been another fantasy bust so far.
Ken Giles: The presumed Astros closer might not even be the team’s setup man at this point. The trade Houston made during the offseason wasn’t exactly great.
Dallas Keuchel: My guess is he’ll be fine, but his velocity is way down (87.9 mph), and he currently sports barely a 2:1 K:BB ratio. To be fair Keuchel’s SwStr% is a career high 11.7%, and he continues to produce a bunch of groundballs. But we are five starts into last year’s Cy Young winner's campaign, and he has a 4.41 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP.
The joy of newness is interwoven into the consciousness of all Americans. We love that new car smell, fresh pair of Jordans feel and refreshing swig off a just cracked beer.
It’s so good when it hits the lips.
When it comes to fantasy football, this psychology permeates into the typical owner’s mindset.
For many, high-profiled, much-hyped rookies are seducing, the sirens of the virtual game. They posted obscene numbers at the college level, were drafted into favorable "good fit" situations and are destined to produce. That’s what eternal optimists, admittedly me included, often believe.
However, the reality is rookies only sporadically deliver on their beaming promises. Since 2009, 33 total players at QB/RB/WR/TE (4.7 players per year) compiled starter-level stats on a points per game basis in standard 12-team leagues. Interestingly, compared to the previous seven-season stretch (2002-2008), the number of first-year impacts, though down slightly across the board (4.2 per year), is up measurably among QBs ('02-'08: 1, '09-'15: 4) and WRs (12, 17).
With many elements from the college game, whether being terminology or designed plays, now infused at the pro level, the learning curve has shrunk, making it easier for kids to transition. Additionally, the makeup of the game has evolved from run-centric schemes to more pass-happy attacks. Every year from 2010-2015 ranks inside the top-five in pass yards per game per team. In fact, last season's prolific 243.8 ypg bested 2014 by a whopping 7.0 ypg. Also consider the intense pressure NFL coaches and GMs generally face from impatient fan-bases – the fantasy community not excluded – and it's no wonder why green commodities, particularly QBs, have undergone a baptism by fire.
Call it the Veruca Salt Effect. We want it all NOW!
Thanks social media.
Although WRs set the pace, largely because most leagues require three starters, numerous rookie RBs from 2009-2015 also left an indelible mark, 12 to be exact. Last year, Todd Gurley, Karlos Williams, David Johnson and Thomas Rawls earned such a designation. Others, like Jeremy Langford and Matt Jones, were useful in spurts. Not to overlook other positions, Marcus Mariota (QB21), Jameis Winston (QB18), Amari Cooper (WR31), DeVante Parker (WR35), Stefon Diggs (WR45) and Tyler Lockett (WR50) were also often sound contributors.
So, will the 2016 class pay immediate dividends?
The historical record may suggest otherwise, but expectations for anyone not named Ezekiel Elliott should be tempered. This year’s rookie crop, particularly at wide receiver, isn’t the strongest. If a generational wideout eventually emerged, it would be quite the shocker special. Others like QBs Carson Wentz and Paxton Lynch have incredible potential, but it will take time for them to reach peak maturation.
Even though most first-year players won’t consistently light up fantasy scoreboards this fall, a few are still roster worthy. In a game that rewards opportunity, a handful of youngsters are blessed with an advantageous path to snaps, targets and/or touches.
After weeks of poking, prodding and Wonderlicking, destinations are now determined. What newcomers could be cornerstones on fantasy rosters this season? Here are six players poised to make their mark (in order of projected contribution):
Ezekiel Elliott, Dal, RB
When you think of monsters images of fang-bearing vampires, bloodthirsty zombies and ax-wielding psychos are immediately conjured. Soon, Elliott will trigger similar nightmares. The Ohio St. product is about to terrorize the league. He’s a do-it-all, three-down workhorse, a rusher some scouts have called the most complete back to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. Believe it or not, that high praise is appropriate. The 6-foot, 225-pound stallion left Ohio St. after averaging a school-record 6.7 yards per carry in three years. He’s fast (4.47 40-yard dash), brutalizing between the tackles (57.4 YAC% in ’15), deceptively elusive (18.5 missed-tackle rate in ’15), sure-handed as a receiver, durable and an exceptional pass blocker.
Similar to fantasy behemoths before him like Edgerrin James, Marshawn Lynch and Ricky Williams, the youngster is a throwback talent who’s sure to be Dallas' offensive anchor for years to come. There truly are no weaknesses to his game. Though Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will enter the mix for Jason Garrett's club, Elliott’s impressive skill set should quickly vault him to the top of the depth chart in training camp. Assuming that occurs, he’s a near lock to register some 18-22 touches per game out of the gate. Considering the premiums every-down backs attract, he’s easily worth a late-first round pick in 12-team drafts, standard or PPR. Only David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell rank higher on my RB big board.
Fearless Forecast: 266 carries, 1,173 rushing yards, 47 receptions, 463 receiving yards, 12 total touchdowns
Josh Doctson, Was, WR
For the most part, this year’s WR class is rather unexciting. As discussed above, there are no definitive WR1 prospects available. Doctson, however, has the most potential to exceed the generally lukewarm expectations. Far and away my favorite rookie wideout, the TCU standout is a long, lanky target with an expansive catch radius. He isn’t a blazer (4.50 40-yard) by any means, but his Zach LaVine-like hops (41-inch vertical), shielding ability on slants, versatility and tacky hands (85% catch rate on contested throws) make him a likely WR3 contributor, at a minimum.
The kid is going to win a ton battles on 50/50 balls, particularly inside the red zone. Tilting the scale at just 202 pounds, he should always layer the bacon and his route tree is limited due to TCU’s skeleton "air raid" scheme, but he comps similarly to Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson and Jordan Matthews, receivers fantasy owners have hungered for in recent years. Because of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon's downsides, he'll instantly entice some 6-8 targets per game. And with his insane hops, it won't take long for him and Jordan Reed to dominate red-zone looks. Suffice it to say, Kirk Cousins is going to love his new toy. Consider him a viable WR3 this season.
Fearless Forecast: 67 receptions, 1,044 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Sterling Shepard, NYG, WR
The last Sterling to catch footballs for a living was some dude named Sterling Sharpe. Soon, the rookie of the same name may also leave an indelible mark on the position. On film, Shepard has the look of an energetic hamster. At 5-foot-10, 194 pounds he's on the small side, but his marvelous footwork, 4.48-40 yard speed and elusiveness in space, reminiscent of Brandin Cooks, makes him extremely difficult to contain.
Because of his diminutive frame press coverage could initially be a challenge. Still, he was a highly efficient, reliable weapon for Oklahoma logging considerable time in the slot. He dropped only four balls on 89 catchable passes and notched an 82.0 catch percentage on hitch/stick routes last year per Pro Football Focus. With defenses focused on neutralizing Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz a complete wildcard and Rueben Randle playing elsewhere, he should have plenty of opportunities right away possibly enticing some 7-8 targets per game and many of those against favorable coverage. Behind Doctson, there isn't a first-year WR with more fantasy starter potential.
Fearless Forecast: 64 receptions, 864 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Kenneth Dixon, Bal, RB
The second-best RB on my big board, Dixon is an open-field magician who typically makes the first guy miss (No. 3 elusive rating among FBS RBs last year). His exceptional hands, laser vision, patience, quickness around the edge and respectable pass-blocking ability are three-down traits. Some have questioned his toughness between the tackles, but, believe me, the kid has the tenacity of a junkyard dog. His 60.6 yards after contact rate from 2015 offers supportive evidence.
He isn't without warts – he racked 889 total touches in four years at LA Tech and fumbled four times on 197 carries last fall – but his pluses should quickly convince Baltimore coaches he's a top-of-the-totem-pole producer. Given Justin Forsett's advanced age, Buck Allen's mediocrity and Trent Richardson being terrible, Dixon's chances of stealing the show are reasonable. Behind a quality offensive line (No. 14 in run-blocking per Football Outsiders in '15), he could invigorate the fantasy masses if he can ascend up the depth chart in August. If not, he will be an 8-10 touch per game rusher at a minimum.
Fearless Forecast: 181 attempts, 785 rushing yards, 29 receptions, 241 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns
Jordan Howard, Chi, RB
Scorching HOT take alert! Scrawl it in cement, Howard will overtake Jeremy Langford at some point this season. Believe it. Admittedly, I drove the bandwagon for another Indiana RB, Tevin Coleman, last year, but unlike his predecessor, Howard is a stronger, interior runner. He routinely bulled through contact (58.7 YAC% in '15) even against stiff Big Ten competition (e.g. 22-174-2 vs. Iowa).
Additionally, the new Bear evades tacklers well (17.8 MT%), halts on-coming rushers and protects the football. Also displaying impressive vision, patience, cutting and pad level, he is a rock solid early-down contributor. His upright running style raises durability concerns and the jury is still out about his pass-catching, but he will most certainly compete for the Bears' starting gig immediately.
Recall Langford, undeniably the most overvalued RB in early drafts (RB15, 31.1 ADP), scored negatively in several secondary measurements including average yards after contact (No. 77 among RBs) and tackles avoided per attempt (No. 80). Despite his stellar performances against San Diego and St. Louis last year, he simply isn't engineered to be an every-down back. It's not a matter of if, but when, for Howard.
Fearless Forecast: 168 attempts, 712 rushing yards, 13 receptions, 94 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns
Laquon Treadwell, Min, WR
Largely perceived as the top pass-catching option on many draftnik boards, Treadwell is an undeterred, intelligent target with ideal NFL size (6-foot-2, 220-pounds) and route savvy, a player with characteristics some scouts have compared to Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery and DeAndre Hopkins. A prolific producer at Ole Miss, he hauled in 82 passes (on 122 targets) for 1,146 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Rebels last year. His willingness to do dirty work across the middle on slants (71 catch%) and crosses (75 catch%) and effectiveness on go routes exhibit his versatility.
Because of his pedestrian speed (4.63 40-yard) many have questioned whether he’ll gain adequate separation at the next level, particularly on sideline streaks beyond 20 yards. Though that concern is warranted, he should be an impactful possession/red-zone weapon from the get go, provided he wraps his mitts in double-sided tape. According to Pro Football Focus, Treadwell dropped nine of 91 catchable balls last season, good for the 80th-best catch rate among FBS WRs. In order for him to stay out of the doghouse, lapses in concentration must be few and far between. The Vikings, who chucked it a "whopping" 454 times last year, aren't an ideal employer, but OC Norv Turner will almost surely heavily involve the rookie right away. Tab him as a WR4/WR5 on fantasy draft day.
Fearless Forecast: 67 receptions, 774 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
OTHER ROOKIES TO ROSTER
Devontae Booker, Den, RB – It's nearly rubber stamped C.J. Anderson will open the season as the Broncos' No. 1, especially after signing a healthy contract this offseason, but if nagging injuries hamper him again, Booker will get a shot to shine. Yes, over Ronnie Hillman. He's a fall-forward, decisive runner with a legitimate three-down skill set, a perfect fit for Denver's one-cut-and-go scheme. Stash him late.
Paul Perkins, NYG, RB – The former Bruin's arrival should mercifully end Andre Williams' reign of putridity. Woohoo! Rashad Jennings will likely line up Week 1 as the starter, but Perkins is clearly the organization's running back of the future. He's a sudden, shifty RB who leaves defenders hugging air. His 30.9 missed tackle rate last year at UCLA was borderline obscene. Pass-blocking and receiving are areas for improvement, but he should record some 10-12 touches per game, if not more, very, very soon. Sleeper.
Jared Goff, LAR, QB – The Rams sold their soul to acquire Goff at No. 1. He'll need to adjust from working out of the shotgun/pistol to under center, but he has the deep ball touch, pocket poise and smarts to occasionally deliver top-15 lines. He's valuable in two-QB and 14-team-plus leagues, but exceeding roughly 3,700 yards and 21-23 touchdowns this fall would be a pipe dream. Without much firepower at WR, Los Angeles is very much Todd Gurley's team.
Corey Coleman, Cle, WR – Please Josh Gordon, quit hanging out with Johnny Manziel. Coleman desperately needs you. With or without the wacky tobacky enthusiast, the Baylor standout should see plentiful targets. He's explosive, acrobatic and ridiculously competitive, a wideout similar in style and substance as Steve Smith. He'll need to expand the route tree to drum up fantasy interest in shallow formats, but without much competition for looks he's a likely 60-800-4 WR in Year 1.
Derrick Henry, Ten, RB – When the Titans selected Henry in the second round, this rather boisterous analyst stared at the television in stone silence. Why on earth would a team, which recently traded for DeMarco Murray, invest in another hammer-type rusher? Perplexing. The Heisman winner is a giant, bulldozing runner with terrific speed (4.54 40-yard) for a player of his size (6-foot-3, 247 pounds). However, his hands are questionable and he's insufficient in pass-blocking. Still, he should wrest away some early-down and goal-line work from Murray, but not much more. For redraft leagues, he's nothing more than a flier.
Michael Thomas, NO, WR – Six straight years of 627 pass attempts. That's what Drew Brees has done. Though Thomas isn't a burner (4.57 40-yard) and is rather unpolished as a route runner, his fly-trap hands, size, strength and after-catch skills are encouraging attributes. Sean Payton hopes is Thomas becomes Marques Colston the sequel, a dependable red-zone/possession threat. If he can absorb the playbook quickly, a final output around 50-675-7 isn't improbable.
Will Fuller, HOU, WR – Fuller can seriously fly. On go routes, he leaves a trail of flames in his wake. However, that's all this one-trick pony does. He's a field-stretcher who was plagued by the dropsies (10 DPs in 2015) while at Notre Dame. In other words, he's Ted Ginn all over again. Blah. Because of the defensive attention DeAndre Hopkins draws, bank on a splashy catch or three from the youngster this season, but he'll be wildly inconsistent. At best, he's a WR5 in 12-teamers.
C.J. Prosise, Sea, RB – Another Golden Domer, Prosise was the "Soft Cell: of South Bend, a one-hit wonder. In his only season as a full-time RB, the converted DB/WR was nothing short of spectacular tallying 6.6 yards per carry, 1,340 combined yards and 12 total touchdowns. He exhibited an undeterred attitude between the tackles, explosiveness off the edge and deceptive power. His pass pro is a work in progress, but he should be a 10 or so touch per game sidekick to Thomas Rawls this year.
Harass Brad on Twitter @YahooNoise.
In a move that triggered more tears than the ending to “Field of Dreams,” the Tennessee Titans crushed DeMarco Murray supporter hopes by selecting Heisman winner Derrick Henry in Round 2 of the NFL Draft.
Thanks a million, Jon Robinson.
The move adds yet another maddening timeshare to a league overpopulated with them.
Henry is a see hole, smash hole type of rusher, a player who hearkens back to the days of Brandon Jacobs. Frankenstein-like on early downs, he uses his muscular frame to brutalize would-be tacklers. He's terrific in short-yardage, intimidating on the second level and possesses surprising wheels off the edge for a player of his size (six-foot-three, 247 pounds).
Many have salivated at Henry's impressive combine results in the 40-yard dash (4.54), broad jump and vertical (37-inches), but his poor time in the three-cone implies he's a straight-line only, downhill rusher. Unless he learns how to salsa, his stiff hips and absent lateral agility will greatly limit his fantasy contributions. Throw in his suspect hands and below average pass blocking, and he's nothing more than a direct backup to Murray. Thoughts of him flattening NFL linebackers on a routine basis this season are a hallucinogenic dream, unless, of course, the injury imp feasts on Murray.
Both Titans are still very rosterable, though Murray is now more mid-level RB2 than resurrected RB1 in 12-team formats. At this juncture, he's locked into the Jonathan Stewart, C.J. Anderson tier.
As for Henry, he's a double-digit round flier only, a handcuff.
My full lineup:
SP: Corey Kluber $55
SP: Steven Matz $42
C: Matt Wieters $9
1B: Joey Votto $14
2B: Howie Kendrick $9
3B: Nolan Arenado $24
SS: Andrelton Simmons $9
OF: Justin Upton $13
OF: Carlos Beltran $11
OF: Billy Hamilton $13
Kluber has a 4.67 ERA but that’s come with a 29:5 K:BB ratio over 27.0 innings and a 1.07 WHIP. The Indians are the biggest favorites during Friday’s slate...Matz is similar to Kluber in that he has a poor ERA (5.40) to go along with a dominant K:BB ratio (18:4 over 15.0 innings). Let’s bet on the peripherals and skills here.
Wieters is off to a slow start, but the switch-hitter performs better against lefties and is dirt cheap...Votto hit .362/.535/.617 after the All-Star break last season and there are 23 first basemen with a higher price tag Friday...Arenado isn’t at home, but Chase Field is the next best thing, and he gets a lefty.
Upton is off to a horrible start, batting .198/.222/.279 with an ugly 36:3 K:BB ratio, but he averaged 27-85-84 over the past three seasons, so he seems like a bargain at just $13...Kendrick, Simmons, Beltran and Hamilton are all plays who seem undervalued, which was needed after spending heavy on starting pitching.
Good luck with your contests Friday.
Thursday night in Los Angeles, Dee Gordon helped the Marlins beat the Dodgers. He had a hit and a double, scored a run, nudged his OPS up a couple of points.
Before the team could get back to the hotel, Gordon was on the suspended list. He’ll miss 80 games, without pay, for violating the league’s drug policy. According to MLB, Gordon tested positive for exogenous Testosterone and Clostebol, performance-enhancing drugs. Gordon claims he took the substances unknowingly.
I don’t have any Gordon shares, but if I did, I would probably try to shop him immediately. I don’t like tying up bench spots; I like to have liquid assets in that area. Every fantasy question comes down to context and this one largely so. In some other formats, he might be a forced hold.
I realize many of you are now in the market for immediate help at the middle infield, so I assembled a back-of-envelope collection of middle-infield prices. This isn’t an official Shuffle Up — those will start next week — and I’m not going to dot in the usual comments. Just consider this a buyer’s guide if you’re headed to the wire today. (If I missed one of your favorite players with a middle tag, let me know. I did not price anyone in the minors — sorry, Trea Turner Nation. I’m also not going to price Gordon — again, his worth going forward is going to be so heavily slanted by league format and context, I don’t really see the point. He’s worth whatever you want him to be worth.)
$32 Jose Altuve
$32 Manny Machado
$29 Carlos Correa
$20 Xander Bogaerts
$20 Francisco Lindor
$19 Ian Kinsler
$19 Matt Carpenter
$18 Robinson Cano
$18 Neil Walker
$18 Corey Seager
$17 Jean Segura
$17 Trevor Story
$17 Dustin Pedroia
$17 Jason Kipnis
$17 Brian Dozier
$16 Daniel Murphy
$16 Ben Zobrist
$15 Rougned Odor
$15 Logan Forsythe
$15 Troy Tulowitzki
$14 Anthony Rendon
$13 Eugenio Suarez
$13 Josh Harrison
$13 Addison Russell
$12 Joe Panik
$12 DJ LeMahieu
$12 Brett Lawrie
$11 Ian Desmond
$11 Starlin Castro
$10 Marcus Semien
$9 Brandon Phillips
$9 Jung Ho Kang*
$9 Matt Duffy
$8 Elvis Andrus
$7 Zack Cozart
$7 Jonathan Villar
$7 Cesar Hernandez
$7 Brandon Crawford
$6 Brock Holt
$6 Aledmys Diaz
$6 Eduardo Nunez
$6 Kolten Wong
$6 Devon Travis*
$5 Scooter Gennett*
$5 Derek Dietrich
Okay, here's a guy you need a few words on. Dietrich looks like Miami's logical second-base filler, and he has some pop (25 homers in 651 career at-bats). He rarely runs, and his career slash is .238/.321/.429. He has a reasonable .782 OPS against righties for his career; he's struggled against the southpaws.
$5 Jed Lowrie
$5 Chris Owings
$4 Jordy Mercer
$4 Chris Coghlan
$4 J.J. Hardy
$4 Jedd Gyorko
$4 Asdrubal Cabrera
$4 Jonathan Schoop
$3 Chase Utley
$3 Ketel Marte
$3 Javier Baez
$3 Eduardo Escobar
$2 Sean Rodriguez
$2 Alexei Ramirez
$2 Jimmy Rollins
$2 Alcides Escobar
$2 Andres Blanco
$2 Didi Gregorius
$2 Andrelton Simmons
$2 Brad Miller
$1 Freddy Galvis
$1 Jose Iglesias
$1 Cory Spangenberg
$1 Omar Infante
$1 Tommy LaStella
$1 Marwin Gonzalez
$1 Johnny Giavotella
$1 Adeiny Hechavarria
$1 Jace Peterson
$1 Howie Kendrick
$0 Nick Ahmed
$0 Danny Espinosa
$0 Erick Aybar
$0 Wilmer Flores
Ear-to-ear grins. Mom tears of joy. Goodell bear hugs. ... Round 1 of the NFL Draft was filled with the usual enthusiasm.
For fantasy purposes, though, the excitement level climbed to stratospheric heights for only a very select few as a pair of highly though of college stars including Corey Coleman (Cleveland) and Laquon Treadwell (Minnesota) landed in undesirable locales.
But enough about Thursday's biggest losers, here are the clear-cut fantasy winners from Day of the NFL Draft:
Ezekiel Elliott, Dal, RB – A three-down beast in the making, everyone's favorite crop-top hit the jackpot when Dallas selected him at No. 4 overall. Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris will vie for touches, but it's very probable Elliott registers 18-plus touches per game out of the gate. Behind an offensive line that ranked No. 6 in run-blocking according to Football Outsiders last year and with a viable pass attack featuring Tony Romo and Dez Bryant as support, the former Buckeye is a strong candidate for 1,500-plus total yards and double-digit touchdowns. Don't fear the unknown. He's worth every penny in Round 1 of 12-team fantasy drafts.
Josh Doctosn, Was, WR – Undoubtedly my favorite wide receiver in this year's Draft, Doctson enters into a favorable situation in D.C. Yes, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are still kicking and Jordan Reed is potentially slated for a monster year, provided he stays healthy, but the youngster's length, jumping ability and toughness suggest he'll soon be the apple of Kirk Cousins' eye in red-zone situations. It would be no surprise if he finished in range of 65-70 receptions, 1,000 yards and 5-7 TDs this fall. In other words, he could mirror what Oakland target Amari Cooper achieved as a rookie last year.
Paxton Lynch, Den, QB – Due to his lack of polish, time is Lynch's strongest ally. It's unlikely his fantasy impact will be felt immediately, but, unequivocally, Denver is an ideal employer. Learning under John Elway and Gary Kubiak could unlock his potential. On the surface, the Memphis product's towering frame, strong accurate downfield arm and mobility are attractive qualities. However, he'll need plenty of practice reps to advance his reads/progressions along and short-to-intermediate touch. Still, for the dynasty crowd, it's entirely possible Lynch winds up outpacing Jared Goff and Carson Wentz down the road.
A full day of drafting is in the books, and Myles Jack isn't the only massively talented prospect still waiting to hear his name called.
Here are three potential impact skill players still available, likely to be drafted on Day 2:
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama – Henry earned pretty much every trophy available to him last year — the Heisman, Maxwell, Doak Walker, three CMAs, a Grammy, two local Emmys, etc. He was the centerpiece of a punishing Alabama run game, dominant in the biggest moments, and he was a freak at the combine. In the right team context, running behind an O-line that allows a clean first step, he'll be a beast as a pro.
WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma – Smooth, quick and gifted with terrific hands, Shepard has the potential be a high-volume slot receiver in his first NFL season, if he finds the right landing spot. He caught 86 balls for 1288 yards and 11 spikes for the Sooners last season, and rarely missed a catchable throw.
RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech – Dixon doesn't do anything quite as well as Ezekiel Elliott, but he offers a similarly complete skill set. He possesses quick feet, great instincts and elusiveness, plus excellent receiving skills. He can make an impact as a committee member in his first season.
Dalton Del Don and Brandon Funston open with some NFL draft talk, discussing ideal landing spots for Ezekiel Elliot and Derrick Henry. We also talk about who should go first, Carson Wentz or Jared Goff? The duo then transition into baseball, going over stars such as Joey Votto, Justin Upton and Carlos Gomez (among others) who are off to slow starts and what to do with them. Finally, we finish dissecting possible buy low candidates whom fantasy owners should be targeting in trades.
My full lineup:
SP: Jake Arrieta ($57) - He's not cheap, but with 15 consecutive winning decisions and 24 consecutive quality starts, there's the highest of likelihoods that you'll get what you pay for.
SP: Tanner Roak ($39) - Coming off a career-best 15 K effort and hosting a Phillies team that has scored the fewest runs in MLB to this point.
C: Dioner Navarro ($7) - For $7, you can do alot worse than a backstop riding a five-game hitting streak that includes two home runs, a triple and a double.
1B: Ben Paulsen ($16) - At home (Coors - cha-ching!), facing Juan Nicasio, who has an ERA of 5.79 over his past three starts and a career ERA over 5 at Coors Field.
2B: Dustin Pedroia ($16) - Price is more than fair for a player that has multi-hit games in five of his past six contests - matchup concern is low facing the soft-tossing Jhoulys Chacin.
3B: Manny Machado ($24) - Hitless in his past four games - returning home (where's he's hit .455 this season) and going against John Danks feels like the right set-up for a slump-breaking effort.
SS: J.J. Hardy ($13) - Looking to pick on Danks some more, and Hardy is a budget-priced way to do just that - owns a .417 BA (5-for-12) vs. Danks over the past five seasons.
OF: Avisail Garcia ($10) - If forced to go on the cheap in the OF, why not someone coming off a three game stretch in which he hit 5-for-11 with a double and a HR. That he's in hitting-friendly Baltimore and facing the undaunting Tyler Wilson doesn't hurt, either.
OF: Mark Trumbo ($9) - He's currently a top 15 player in the Yahoo game, he's facing John Danks ... what am I missing?
OF: Austin Jackson ($9) - I'm going to the ChW/Bal well one last time - I really like the offensive upside in this contest - Jackson's bat is heating up, as he's had multiple hits in three of his past four games, with three doubles and a triple to show for it.
There’s nothing particularly exciting about Joe Smith, veteran relief pitcher. He has an ordinary name, ordinary stuff, a somewhat forgettable role as a set-up man. But the Angels know he’s the stand-in closer for when Huston Street needs a maintenance break, something we come to expect at least once a season.
And now we’re at that period of the time, the temporary changing of the guard.
Street is dealing with an oblique injury and will go on the disabled list at some point before the weekend. This comes with the territory when you draft Street — he’s averaged 55 innings per season since 2009, and has never gone past 62.1 innings in that period. He’s not the king of durability. This isn’t a six-month cruise.
Enter Smith, a man with just enough tools to get the job done (2.88 career ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.3 strikeouts for every walk). He picked up 15 handshakes in his Anaheim debut two seasons ago, and was needed for five saves last year (when Street was a little bit more durable than expected). Smith finished off the Royals on Wednesday (scoreless inning, one hit, eight pitches, seven strikes) and could be in the ninth-inning chair for 4-6 weeks while Street rehabilitates.
You can acquire Smith for nothing — well, the cost of your weakest perceived player on roster — in three-quarters of Yahoo leagues. Put some saves into your basket, proceed to checkout.
• The Jose Berrios debut was nothing special, but it shouldn’t change anything you were excited about 24 hours ago. For the record, he worked four-plus innings against Cleveland (4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K), laboring during a cold and rainy night in the Twin Cities. Perhaps nerves played into Berrios giving us an underwhelming performance, and the game conditions didn’t do him any favors. You feel good about the strikeouts, and some of the video. (When you strike out Michael Brantley, you've done something special.)
Better days are surely ahead, and the Twins rotation needs Berrios to hang around. He draws starts at Houston and against Baltimore over the next two weeks.
• Catcher has been a mess this season, with a number of name-brand players injured or underperforming. You can add Miguel Montero to the list. The Cubs backstop has a back problem and will need a stint on the 15-day disabled list.
What’s a fantasy owner to do? Some players are looking across town for a replacement. Dioner Navarro has two home runs in his last four games, pushing into a handy 6-for-14 run. He’s still looking at ugly numbers for the full season, but things are desperate, especially in two-catcher formats. Navarro is the most-added Yahoo catcher over the past 12 hours, though his ownership level is below five percent overall.
I’m surprised J.T. Realmuto trades at a mere 36 percent, given all the positive things we saw from him last year. He hasn’t set the world on fire in April, but a .270 average will play, and he’ll give us a little pop and a little speed down the line. In medium pools, he's someone I'd be targeting, even if it required a trade.
David Ross is Montero’s presumed fill-in for the next couple of weeks, not that his career profile is anything exciting. He’s 6-for-23 this year, but just a .229/.314/.422 man for his career. He’s on the roster in part because of his work with Jon Lester. Ross did hit 21 home runs with the Reds many moons ago, back in 2006.
• One thing the 2016 catching landscape has taught me is to appreciate the merits of a quiet contributor like Francisco Cervelli. The Pittsburgh catcher only has seven home runs since joining the team at the beginning of 2015, but he’s also posted a useful .298/.378/.400 line. He’s probably going to be around 130 starts again, and his OBP (.425 this year, .361 for his career) is a dream in hybrid leagues.
Cervelli has become my most common share in two-catcher leagues (a boring value pick, but nonetheless a dedicated starter), and I know he must have a fair amount of universal value because I keep fielding unsolicited trade offers for him. The depth of the Pittsburgh lineup is also a plus.
• Another interesting pitching prospect is on the way, with Oakland planning to add Sean Manaea before Friday’s game against Houston.
Manaea is a big 24-year-old lefty (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) who showed up as a Top 100 prospect on the three primary scouting clipboards this winter (high of 56, low of 85). He was dominant in three Triple-A turns this spring (18 IP, 16 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 21 K), and has the type of strikeout upside (10.8 K/9 for his career) that often translates to instant fantasy success. Oakland’s big park also figures to help, along with the underwhelming schedule of the AL West. Assuming the first turn goes well, Manaea will then face Seattle at home (lovely) and Boston on the road (tricky).
My full lineup:
SP: Scott Kazmir $37
SP: Matt Moore $36
C: Nick Hundley $12
1B: Mark Reynolds $14
2B: Howie Kendrick $9
3B: Nolan Arenado $24
SS: Troy Tulowitzki $16
OF: Mike Trout $20
OF: Jose Bautista $23
OF: Brandon Barnes $9
Kazmir hasn’t pitched well this season, but he’s reasonably priced for a team highly favored to win Wednesday...It’s unclear if Moore can keep it up, but he’s been dominant so far, sporting an 11.6 SwStr% that ranks top-20 among all starters in baseball. Moore’s K-BB% of 20.4 is also top-20 in major league baseball.
I’m stacking Rockies at Coors Field against lefty Jon Niese. Arenado is the no-brainer, while Hundley, Reynolds and Barnes are going the cheap route. There’s hardly a guarantee Barnes is in Colorado’s lineup, so have alternatives ready...Kendrick is off to an ugly start, but he’s a career .291 hitter who’s at home facing a southpaw. There are 24 second basemen more expensive.
Tulowitzki is actually still searching for his first hit against a left-handed pitcher this season, but that seems like a fluke...Teammate Bautista, meanwhile, owns a .333/.412/.600 line against lefties so far in 2016...Trout has raised his OPS from .730 to .918 over the last six games, and it’s unlikely he’s going to be just the No. 9 priced outfielder like he is Wednesday much longer.
Good luck with your contests Wednesday.
Eight days ago, I spent a day on the Alex Wood bandwagon. I was in for a night, ready to dial him up with confidence.
That’s what the Atlanta Braves on the schedule will do to you.
As it turns out, Atlanta kicked Wood around that Tuesday evening — scoring an easy 8-1 victory. That’s the last highlight we’ve seen for the Braves.
How bad is the 2016 club down in Hot 'Lanta? How much time do you have? The 4-16 record is easily the worst in baseball. Atlanta is 1-12 at home, winning only that game I mentioned above. The pitching has been a mess, posting a 4.85 ERA (fifth-worst in the majors).
And then there’s the offense, which goes past bad — this could be a historic disaster. The Braves rank dead last in scoring, slugging percentage and weighted on-base average. They’re near the bottom in several other categories. And they’ve hit just three home runs, an absurd total through 20 games.
Three freaking home runs. Geesh, Andrew McCutchen hit three Tuesday night. The Braves hit two home runs on opening day, another dinger on April 10, and they haven’t hit the seats since — a stunning 15-game drought.
To be fair, no one can be completely surprised by Atlanta’s lousy offense — the Braves were dead last in scoring last year and second-to-last in 2014. The team is in a rebuilding mode, literally and figuratively. A new ballpark, ready for 2017, is on the way. Trading Shelby Miller over the winter was a wise move, landing — among other things — a buzzy shortstop prospect in Dansby Swanson. He could be the cornerstone of the next contending Atlanta ballclub.
But in the here and now, we need to gang up on this Atlanta team, and against this offense. The Stream Police is ready to go. Other than Freddie Freeman (who’s been in a funk, anyway), there’s nothing to fear in this lineup.
Rick Porcello had the bagel parade going in Monday’s victory at Atlanta (6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K), and David Price cruised through Georgia in Tuesday’s win (8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 14 K). It was a welcome rebound game from Price, who was hit hard in two of his four opening starts. His long-term resume inspired confidence, of course, and we should point out that April is far and away Price’s worst historical month. His new ballpark might tax him here and there, but he’s still a reliable brand name.
The Braves now head to Boston for two more games, which might allow for some streaming. Are you willing to gamble on knuckleballer Steven Wright (or decaffeinated coffee tables?). Will you spin the Wheel of Clay Buchholz? They pitch the next two games, in the Fenway backdrop.
After that, Atanta takes three games at Wrigley — Lackey, Hammel and Hendricks come highly recommended, with all the built-in Chicago advantages (second in runs, best in baserunning, tops in defensive WAR). Perhaps you can add Bartolo Colon before he faces Atlanta next week. Will Arizona's Miller turn around his season against the Braves, 10 days from now? Jerad Eickhoff looks good in the series after that, and maybe Jeremy Hellickson will offer streamer juice against the Braves.
We’re not kicking a team while it’s down, gamers. We’re just playing the ball as it lies. Let’s go where the story takes us. Let’s run downhill when we can.
-- Travis Shaw ripped a home run run in Tuesday’s victory, and the fantasy community is finally buying on him. For all the talk of how Pablo Sandoval kicked his job away in Boston, Shaw also took it away. Shaw showed surprising pop in last year’s 65-game trial (13 home runs), and this year he’s off to a snappy .324/.392/.521 start. The two home runs don’t force the issue, but he also has eight doubles, 14 RBIs, even a couple of steals.
To help sell the stock, Shaw carries dual eligibility (first base, third base) in the Yahoo game. It was interesting to see Shaw keep his lineup spot for both games in an NL park.
Shaw’s minor-league resume was so-so, and he wasn’t a hot prospect entering last year, his age-25 campaign. But after watching him get the job done through 85 major-league games, we’re far past the time of believing what’s in front of us. His ownership tag still isn’t close to the number it should settle in at. Heck, I’d put a solid value on Shaw in trade, too. The womb of the Boston lineup should be good to him.
-- Although Dallas Keuchel owners are still waiting to get their expected contributions, I wasn’t thrown by his loss at Seattle (6 H, 6 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 5 K). A couple of cheaper hits did Keuchel in at Safeco Field — that’s another way to say he wasn’t running well — and his overall stats (4.41 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) come from four road starts against just one at home.
Keep in mind how untouchable Keuchel was at home last year; while those numbers are unsustainable (15-0, 1.46/0.89) they also reflect the schedule can help Keuchel forward. He hosts Minnesota (amen) and Seattle in his next two starts. Keuchel's dreamy ground-ball and soft-contact rates have dipped thus far, though the ground-ball clip is still well above league average. I'm going to stay patient here.
-- One struggling Astro I don’t believe in is Carlos Gomez. He’s off to a .200/.221/.253 start (zero homers), frustrating to take after his disappointing 2015 return. And when you open the hood, things look more worrisome.
Gomez has never been a batter who strongly controlled the strike zone, but this year his strikeouts have spiked by six percent while his walks are down to 2.6 percent. You can’t give away at-bats like that. Gomez also has the highest soft-contact rate of his career.
Maybe the Mets knew something when they refused Gomez at the trade deadline last season, finding a flaw in the medicals. I expect Gomez to still give us double-digit home runs and perhaps 15-20 steals, but there will be a gaggle of strikeouts and likely a poor average. The timing isn't right to sell him right this second, but as soon as he puts something sellable on paper, I’d take it to the streets.
While your favorite football team hopes to find the next generation of stars this week during the NFL draft, you can do the same. It’s never too early to start thinking about the upcoming year, so we’ve officially opened the Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football 2016 season ahead of the draft.
And just like in past fantasy football, basketball and hockey seasons, we’ll be crowning a Champion of Champions during the 2016 football postseason. Each winner in season-long fantasy (in leagues of eight teams or more) will be invited to compete in a daily fantasy contest to crown the best overall fantasy football player.
But that’s just the start. Champion of Champions is expanding this season. As long as you don’t finish last in your league, you’ll have a chance to be invited to a variety of postseason contests we’ll be hosting. So even if you miss the playoffs in your league, there will be something to play for aside from pride so keep fighting. *Prizes and official rules to be announced when the contests open.
Other new elements include easier league renewal, weather data for every player for every game, trade market and so much more.
With the start of Fantasy Football season officially here, we’re also taking the experience to a whole new level. We will be rolling out fantasy experts Andy Behrens, Brad Evans and Liz Loza live from Mike Ditka’s restaurant in Chicago to cover the NFL draft from a perspective only Yahoo can provide.
Streaming on Facebook Live, our team of experts will host two live pre-draft shows on Thursday and Friday before the picks start rolling in. Then, throughout the first three rounds, we’ll cut in live for expert instant reactions to the picks, trades and what the fantasy implications will be for players heading into next season.
You can also hang out with Andy, Brad and Liz in-person at Ditka’s to answer pressing fantasy questions. If you can’t make it to Chicago, don’t worry, we’ll also be taking questions on Facebook.
- When: Live pre-draft shows on Thursday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.-8 p.m. ET and Friday, April 29, 6:30 p.m.-7 p.m. ET. Continued live coverage as picks and trades are made in rounds 1-3.
- Where: The Yahoo Fantasy and Yahoo Sports Facebook pages, and in-person from Ditka’s in Chicago.
So don’t forget to sign up now for Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football, round up your buddies for a draft party and watch all the expert analysis on the picks that matter.
SP Kyle Hendricks, $42, vs. Milwaukee: We get the second-highest pitching favorite on the board, and at a reasonable price (it’s 16 bucks cheaper than Kershaw and Scherzer). It’s refreshing to be backed by what looks like the deepest, most formidable offense in the National League (if not the majors).
SP Johnny Cueto, $51, vs. San Diego: Big park, strong defense, unthreatening opponent, pitch-framing ace behind the plate (assuming Buster Posey goes). And with Hendricks at a thrifty price, it makes sense to pay up for the other pitcher.
C Devin Mesoraco, $8, at NYM (Colon): He hasn’t done a thing yet, but the price has bottomed out. Catcher is a logical spot for a price-saving punt. And Old Man Bartolo will give you a chance to put the ball in play. (Edit, 4:28 pm ET: No Mesoraco tonight, so let's dial up Jason Castro, tentatively, at Seattle.)
1B Miguel Cabrera, $16, vs. Oakland (Hill): Until this price corrects, you better believe we’re dialing up Miggy. Both of his Monday homers were opposite field, a good indicator that he’s busting out of his funk (and not trying to do too much). Rich Hill has been surprisingly effective thus far, but Miggy against a journeyman left-hander sounds good to me.
2B Enrique Hernandez, $12, vs. MIA (Koehler)
SS Brad Miller, $9, vs. Baltimore (Jimenez): He’s been disappointing to this point, but at least he’s in the No. 2 slot tonight, and saves us a few bucks. At his best, he offers a little category juice.
3B David Freese, $16, at Colorado (De La Rosa): I don’t see him as a typical No. 3 hitter, but that’s how Clint Hurdle wants to play it. Thin air and a platoon advantage, that works. You’ll want to monitor this forecast closely, but the Coors payoff is worth the waiting game.
OF Chris Coghlan, $13, at Detroit (Pelfrey): Any batter against Mike Pelfrey (2.18 WHIP) is of interest to me, but especially a platoon-advantage stick who’s on a decent run of late. Coghlan also makes a lot of sense as a seasonal add, covering three positions and probably in a full-time gig while Danny Valencia is on the disabled list.
OF Billy Burns, $10, at Detroit (Palfrey): More lefty exposure to Pelfrey, someone likely to be near the top of the lineup.
OF Colby Rasmus, $22, at Seattle (Karns): The price is no giveaway and it’s not an ideal park either, but at least the pitcher matchup is good, and we’re getting a hitter in excellent form (look at that dreamy walk rate, and the decrease in strikeouts).
So this is going to be one of the shortest posts in blog history, because everything you really needed is right up there in the headline. See above ^.
The Minnesota Twins are reportedly calling up right-hander Jose Berrios, one of the game's elite pitching prospects. He should have been stashed on someone's roster already in every league, but of course he wasn't because almost no one has any patience. (Same can be said of Tyler Glasnow, by the way.)
Berrios, 21, is exceptional. In his three starts this season at Rochester, he's pitched 17.0 innings and allowed just two earned runs, striking out 20 batters. His WHIP is 0.94. Last year he K'd 175 hitters over 166.1 innings and issued only 38 walks.
Go get him. I don't really care who you drop, so don't ask. If you're even waffling on a player, then you should drop him for Berrios. Not sure if you should cut Pomeranz or Eovaldi? Drop 'em both. If you miss out on a player with Berrios' ceiling because you were sweating the Pomeranz-Eovaldi decision, good. You weren't worthy of Jose.
Fearless forecast: Berrios is pretty [expletive] awesome.
Leading up to the NFL Draft April 28, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will crouch down, explode off the snap and tackle pressing questions about some of this year's most prominent prospects. Wednesday's topic: Everyone in the pool...
Imagine you're in LA Rams' GM Les Snead's shoes. You've just mortgaged your NFL Draft future for, presumably, a quarterback set to be the face of the franchise for the next decade. No pressure. Who are you casting a vote for: Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. Whoever you pick, what fantasy expectations are realistic in Year 1?
Liz – JARED GOFF. Carson Wentz may look the part, but Goff has had the better audition. A three-year starter at Cal, he's the more polished prospect. From his accuracy to his decision-making skills, Goff is the more pro-ready option. His lack of weapons and the Rams’ run-heavy approach, however, will keep the Cali kid from making an immediate fantasy impact in redraft leagues. He could be worth a look in DFS come mid-season, after the team’s Week 8 bye.
Brad – GOFF. The Goff vs. Wentz debate is a classic example of polish vs. potential. The former is more NFL ready. The latter, a developmental prospect. The Cal product stands tall in the pocket, possesses a strong downfield arm (43.8 deep-ball completion percentage in '15) and owns more touch on intermediate passes. He's also tremendously intelligent, mobile and is a prototype NFL passer in terms of size. Goff, taking most of his snaps from shotgun or pistol formations, didn't come from a pro-styled system like Wentz. His comfort level under center will be paramount for him to start quickly. Still, the Rams, outside Tavon Austin, are woefully untalented at catching the football and the offensive line, which ranked in the bottom third of the league in pass-blocking last year, must improve. With Todd Gurley expected to be the team's offensive centerpiece and given the general learning curve for first-year QBs, final numbers around 3,700 pass yards and 21 TDs are likely for Goff.
Dalton – GOFF but it's not a no-brainer. I don't watch a ton of college football to be fair, but he certainly seems to be the safer bet. There should be very little fantasy expectations as a rookie for either quarterback, although Goff certainly seems readier to contribute right away. Goff will benefit from having the best running back in football on his side, but weapons are few and far between otherwise on the Rams.
Scott – GOFF obviously played against better competition, and I like the linear progression of his statistics. The lack of work under center doesn't bother me; shotgun is a way of life in the NFL, and plenty of college-shotgun quarterbacks have adjusted to the NFL quickly.
Andy – GOFF would be my choice, if forced to pick a quarterback. (Ramsey, Tunsil, Jack, Elliott and others would be higher on my board, but I'm not running the Rams. Which is probably for the best.) I don't actually think this should be a debate. Nothing in Wentz's numbers and very little in his film suggest he's going to be an elite pro anytime soon. To me, it seems realistic for Goff to start in year one; no way should Wentz get meaningful snaps in 2016 for a team that expects to win games. Unfortunately, whoever is behind center for L.A. will be throwing to one of the league's worst receiver groups. I don't think there's much chance any Rams passer can top, say, 20-22 TD passes.
Brandon – CARSON WENTZ - If I'm the Rams, I could care less about Day 1 - they have a great defense, but this isn't going to be a Super Bowl team this season. There's just too much on offense that needs work. Therefore, I'd draft for ceiling, and in that case I favor Wentz. He's got prototypical size and is lauded for his intelligence. And I like that he comes from a pro system, that he's mobile and can be a threat on the move and that he can strong and accurately deliver in the mid-range passing game - he's arguably better than Goff in that aspect, and I value mid-range ability over deep-throw ability because you live in the intermediate range much more than the long range as an NFL QB. But no matter who the Rams pick, I agree with Andy that you are talking about a QB that is unlikely to deliver much more than low 20s in TD passes this season.
Ezekiel Elliott is unquestionably the best RB prospect in a generally weak 2016 class. Most believe he's a three-down hoss who might be the most balanced youngster to enter the league in several years. Assuming he lands with a team willing to make him its bellcow immediately, where would you feel comfortable drafting him in a 12-teamer? Give me your 16-game projection for Elliott this fall.
Liz – END OF ROUND 1. A do-it-all skill set, giant pass-catching mitts, and fresh legs? Yeah, I’m in. With so few bellcow backs in the mix, I have no problem taking Zeke in the back third of the first round. Potentially carrying the rock 15-20 times per game, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him close out 2016 with 1,300 combined yards and 10 total TDs.
Brad – EARLY ROUND 2. Employer is critical for any player, but whichever franchise sinks a top pick into Elliott knows it's investing in its RB of the present. The man is a three-down throwback akin to a Marshawn Lynch, Clinton Portis or Ricky Williams. He's highly effective inside, off-tackle, in the pass game and, most importantly, as a pass-blocker. Last year playing for the Buckeyes, he forced a missed tackle over 15 percent of the time and gained 57.4 percent of his yards after initial contact according to Pro Football Focus. Whether thrust into a power or zone-oriented scheme, he'll churn out top-10 RB numbers. Regardless where he lands – Dallas and Miami are his most likely suitors – bank on at least 1200-1300 yards with 8-10 TDs.
Dalton – LATE ROUND 1. This obviously depends on context and where he lands, but I have no problem taking a rookie running back in the first round, especially one with this kind of talent. Check out the rest of the RB landscape these days - it's not good, so this isn't exactly going out on a limb. Elliott will be a consensus top-15 pick come August I guarantee it.
Scott – He's a perfect target for the back end wheel, a late-first or early-second round pick. The tape is absurd, and Elliott is going to play on all three downs. And whoever takes him in the first round of the actual NFL draft should do so expecting to feature him heavily, right away.
Andy – It has to be the right landing spot, but I wouldn't rule out drafting him in the BACK HALF OF ROUND 1. He's pretty clearly an every-down back with a full skill set. He's not Gurley, in my view, but he's very, very good. Zeke is arguably this draft's most talented player, regardless of position. He's topped 2,000 scrimmage yards in back-to-back years, averaging well over 6.0 yards per tote. If he lands with Dallas (the dream scenario), Baltimore, the Giants, Chicago or Miami, we'll be ranking him as a first round fantasy asset.
Brandon – LATE ROUND 1. This would be in the best-case scenario landing spot - i.e. Dallas, Miami. But all I'm interested in at RB is a combo of talent and opportunity. Give me a physically gifted player in line to get 20-plus touches a week and you'll have my attention. Running back is one of the easiest positions for a player to quickly assimilate to the NFL, and I wouldn't hesitate to use a at-the-turn pick on Elliott if he ends up checking those requirement boxes I listed above.
Many Draftniks are split on who the top wide receiver out of this year's group. Who tops the charts on your big board?
Liz – LAQUON TREADWELL. Josh Doctson has got some hops, making him a close number two. But Megaquon’s physical playing style, ball tracking skills, and advanced technique are impossible to discount. At 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, Treadwell has good size and can win 50/50’s, particularly in the end zone. He’s not fast and his hands could be stickier, but if he lands in New Orleans, he could very well put up a 60-800-6 stat line by the season’s end.
Brad – JOSH DOCTSON. The long, lean TCU standout has the skills to pay the fantasy bills. At 6-foot-2, 202 pounds he should always go for thirds at the Golden Corral, but ignoring his meatless frame, Doctson possesses remarkable, secondary-gashing talents. His ball-adjustment acrobatics, leaping ability, reliable hands, reasonable speed (4.5 40-yard dash) and noteworthy production on slant routes are plus attributes. Likely to land in either Houston or Cincinnati, he could deliver a 65-875-6 line out of the gate working opposite DeAndre Hopkins or A.J. Green. And that's a conservative estimate.
Dalton – LAQUON TREADWELL for me. Not super fast but seems to have the overall skill set that should translate well to the NFL. But where he lands will be crucial to his fantasy value. Will Fuller also has the potential to be a monster.
Scott – I've been on the LAQUON TREADWELL train for a while. Smart, competitive, makes contested catches, wants to be great, already has a deep understanding of the route tree.
Andy – COREY COLEMAN. It isn't hard to find flaws with all the presumptive early-round receivers, and Coleman is no exception. He doesn't have ideal size, he dropped a few catchable balls, and converting Baylor stats to the NFL is no simple exercise. But he's a burner with sub-4.4 speed, terrific leaping ability and body control, plus his production was exceptional at the college level. If he finds the right landing spot (please, not Minnesota, pleasepleaseplease), then he's going to be great in his first pro season.
Bottom line, there's no Julio Jones in this draft. I can easily imagine Coleman, Doctson or Treadwell finishing as this year's top rookie receiver. It all comes down to environment.
Brandon – LAQUON TREADWELL. Size, strength, physicality, hands, route running ... Treadwell does it all, just not at an elite rate of speed. His biggest (only?) knock is that he's not very fast. But, as Yahoo's Eric Edholm pointed out, there have been plenty of WRs with similar speed that have gone on to great things in the NFL (Dez Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, to name a few).
On today's well-groomed episode, Brad Evans and Liz Loza discuss the fantasy fallout from Tom Brady's reinstated four-game suspension. If upheld, where should he be drafted? Who are a few lower-tiered QBs that could thrive in his place Weeks 1-4?
Our fearless forecasters also discussed the QB drama in Philadelphia and detailed the pluses and minuses of NFL Draft prospects Paxton Lynch, Leonte Carroo and Kenyan Drake.
Before Jared Goff's name is called, hang out in the war room with us.
Before setting your Champions League semifinal lineup for Yahoo Daily Fantasy Soccer, see what pundits Joe Lago and Scott Pianowski put together based off a $200 budget.
Study their picks, feel free to agree or disagree, and sign up for a daily contest.
Note: Monitor for updated news before making your final decisions.
F: Sergio Agüero €24
F: Karim Benzema €28
M: Saúl Ñíguez €14
M: Luka Modric €15
M: Arturo Vidal €21
M: Jesús Navas €14
D: Juanfran €14
D: Vincent Kompany €12
D: Marcelo €19
UTIL: Antoine Griezmann €22
GK: Jan Oblak €16
F: Cristiano Ronaldo €34
F: Sergio Aguero €24
M: Toni Kroos €21
M: Lucas Vazquez €15
M: Franck Ribery €18
M: Luka Modric €15
D: Juanfran €14
D: Nicolas Otamendi €14
D: Medhi Benatia €13
U: Pepe €16
GK: Jan Oblak €16
Baltimore's Kevin Gausman entered spring training with plenty of breakout buzz this season — not for the first time in his career — but the right-hander developed shoulder tendinitis in mid-March, ultimately landing on the DL. At that point, he slipped off the radar for most fantasy owners.
Gausman finally made his 2016 debut for the O's on Monday, and, well ... it's time to add him. Here's all you really need to know:
Kevin Gausman strikes out the side in the 3rd on 98, 100 and 97 mph heaters #orioles— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) April 25, 2016
He didn't get the win on Monday night, because he was opposed by a lights-out Chris Archer. But Gausman was dealing, routinely reaching the high-90s on his fastball and mixing in a slider that coaxed plenty of ugly half-swings. It was a thoroughly impressive outing for the 25-year-old, who finished with seven Ks over 5.0 innings, allowing just three hits and one run.
We shouldn't need to tell you that when a major league starter is hitting 97-100 and locating well in a successful appearance, that guy is basically an auto-add (even in the rough waters of the A.L. East. Sit him in the worst match-ups). Gausman's next start will be at home in Baltimore on Saturday, facing the White Sox. He's still unowned in 71 percent of Yahoo leagues. Go make the add, then return for bulleted fantasy content.
• Nathan Eovaldi carried a no-hitter into the seventh against Texas on Monday, before Nomar Mazara singled to lead-off the frame. Eovaldi still finished with an impressive line (7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 6 Ks) and the usual stellar velocity readings. We can't endorse him as more than a matchup-based fantasy option, however, because nothing has happened this year to suggest Eovaldi's well-established flaws are no longer a worry. Over the course of his career, left-handed batters have slashed .297/.355/.421 against him. This season, even with Monday's gem in the books, it's .300/.341/.550. That's Masterson-level performance against LHBs. Eovaldi gets the Red Sox in his next two starts, then the Royals, then he's at Arizona. No thanks.
• Jimmy Rollins filled the box score for Chicago, facing Marcus Stroman and the Jays. He went 3-for-5 with one double, one steal, two runs scored and two RBIs. He could get semi-interesting hitting near the top of the lineup, but he's resting almost every-other-day because he's ancient.
• Rick Porcello delivered yet another solid outing for Boston, in a very low degree-of-difficulty match-up with Atlanta. Good as he's been, I wouldn't mess with him against the Yankees next weekend. We're not talking about a pitcher with overwhelming stuff. He's throwing 89-90 mph, with a swinging-strike rate of 8.9 percent.
• Caleb Cotham's recent usage certainly doesn't suggest that he'll get the next save chance for the Reds. He pitched the eighth inning against the Mets on Monday, trailing 5-3. Cotham also took the seventh inning on Saturday against the Cubs, entering with a 9-3 lead. Cingrani and/or Ohlendorf (yikes) are perhaps the options for speculators.
• Byron Buxton and his .208 OBP were sent to Triple-A on Monday, where he can harm fantasy owners no more. He's still just 22, a prospect with plenty of long-term appeal. But you really need to drop him in mixers, if for some reason you had not already done so. Danny Santana played center for the Twins on Monday, batting ninth. Nothing to see there, either.
• Chris Owings went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBIs for the Diamondbacks, who put up a dozen runs against St. Louis, mauling the Cards' bullpen. Owings is now hitting .283, he's swiped four bags in as many attempts, and he's eligible at 2B, SS and OF.
• Evan Gattis appears to be waking up for Houston. He's gone 4-for-10 over the past two days, with a pair of doubles. The Astros still intend to get him behind the plate this season, hopefully often enough to earn C eligibility in Yahoo leagues. (Five starts or 10 appearances are required.)
Player values are constantly changing. Up and down, ebb and flow, boom and bust. What’s real and what’s imaginary as we hit the end of April? When does a good start become a good season? When does a bad start become a real problem?
The scuffling Adam Wainwright is the lead item for Andy Behrens and Scott Pianowski as we open Week 4. Also discussed: Trevor Story (in a slump); Colby Rasmus (on a tear); Justin Upton (striking out constantly); available two-start pitchers; and brand-name pitchers in a funk (Chris Archer and Dallas Keuchel owners, we’re here to help).
We'll also explain why fly-ball pitchers might be misunderstood, and why fly-ball hitters (with contact issues) are likely to drive you crazy. Run around the diamond with us.
P Noah Syndergaard, NYM, $58 (vs. Cin) – A price that creates almost unmanageable challenges when sketching in the rest of your lineup, but he should overwhelm the Reds. Son of Odin, master of the skies, wielder of Mjölnir, etc. I'm banking on a win and double-digit Ks.
P Jordan Zimmermann, Det, $43 (vs. Oak) – Zimmermann hasn't been quite as dominant as that flawless ERA suggests, but he's undefeated and pitching at home, coming off an 8-K win. Oakland's lineup is nothing to feat.
C Dioner Navarro or Kevan Smith, CWS, $7 (Stroman) – With $101 worth of pitchers in my daily roster, I needed a near-minimum player somewhere. I'll roll with whichever White Sox catcher is handling Miguel Gonzalez on Monday. Navarro has shown signs of life recently (HR on Sunday), and Smith is a career .290/.367/.454 hitter in the minors.
1B Sean Rodriguez, Pit, $12 (Bettis) – Perhaps the only cheap way to get a share of the Coors Field fun. Rodriguez has started three in a row, going 5-for-14 with a pair of homers.
2B Howie Kendrick, LAD, $10 (Chen) – Again, $101 in pitching leads to a few ugly decisions among position players. Kendrick is so much better than his year-to-date numbers, and he gets a LHP here.
3B Nolan Arenado, Col, $26 (Locke) – This choice shouldn't require explanation. Arenado is a monster, and he's at home in Coors, facing a lefty with a 2.63 WHIP.
SS Troy Tulowitzki, Tor, $11 (Gonzalez) – Tulo's price tag reflects his horrid start (.179/.291/.373). Let's hope his two-homer game on Saturday was the beginning of a surge.
OF Kevin Pillar, Tor, $8 (Gonzalez) – Pillar has been mostly terrific since his ouster from the lead-off spot. He's coming off three straight multi-hit games. Any position in Toronto's lineup works for me. You can't argue with the single-digit price tag, either.
OF Jarrod Dyson, KC, $13 (Richards) – Dyson has reached base safely in every game since his return (usually twice), and he's running. He's been a steady 6-8 points in Yahoo DFS.
OF Leonys Martin, Sea, $11 (Fister) – Martin delivered a homer and a walk on Sunday, and we have little to fear from Fister.
GM Les Snead and the LA Rams have a monumental decision to make, one that could define the club's course for the next several years. In this edition of the Docs, Liz Loza and Brad Evans go toe-to-toe on exactly who should be the face of the franchise as it enters a new era.
Loza loves her some Jared Goff: After picking up, moving halfway across the country, and trading away a boatload of picks, the Rams need an immediate starter to open the season. The organization, much like redrafters, are living in the now. Which is why Jared Goff is likely to be the first player selected in the 2016 NFL Draft.
While he doesn’t have Wentz’s idyllic size, charming bravado, or tantalizing upside, he is the more polished prospect. Boasting solid arm strength and the ability to zip the ball into tight windows, Goff displayed poise and reliance in the pocket. His ability to recognize and react quickly is evidence of a high football IQ and an advanced understanding of the game. A smart, accurate, and mobile-enough QB, Goff’s experience has afforded him the savvy to lead the Rams in their Week 1 debut.
That doesn’t mean, however, that fantasy fans should expect prompt production from the 21-year-old. He’ll need time to get sea legs. Plus, his receiving corps is severely lacking. Oh, and lest we forget, Todd Gurley is the star of this offense. In fact, in 2015 the Rams called the third fewest passing plays in the league. Sure, that was due to a lack of talent under center, but make no mistake this will continue to be a run-first operation. Goff could present value mid-season in spot-start situations, but outside of 2QB and super-flex leagues he’s not worth drafting.
Evans is down with the Dakotan, Carson Wentz: The crux of this debate is centered on league format. For those in yearly, re-draft leagues, Goff is clearly the wiser choice. He's a more accurate, heady and stoic pocket passer who needs just a couple tweaks to his game, most notably going from Cal's shotgun/pistol system to working under center. Though his value is stunted significantly in traditional 12-team settings by the lack of weapons around him, he will certainly land on deep league and two-QB rosters sheerly because of opportunity.
Goff is undoubtedly the fantasy contributor of the present, but Wentz is the potential stud of the future.
For dynasty/keeper leaguers, 'Big Red' possesses the higher, more desirable ceiling. Playing against underwhelming competition at the FCS level restricts his initial potential, but, similar to Steve McNair, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco before him, he should thrive in time. His familiarity with a pro-styled system, which he played in at North Dakota St., strong, all-fields arm, mobility, intelligence and blue-collar work ethic are reasons why many scouts and draftniks have compared him to Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. He just needs seasoning. Watching/learning from Sam Bradford could lead to disastrous results, but the Eagles, who also have veteran backup Chase Daniel on roster, have the luxury to exercise patience, assuming neither Bradford or Daniel is traded or falls victim to a catastrophic injury.
Five years from now when owners reflect on the 2016 Draft, Wentz will clearly be the fantasy breadwinner.
Drew Smyly has a history of shoulder problems, but it’s clear he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball. He currently sports a 2.51 ERA and a microscopic 0.73 WHIP with a 33:5 K:BB ratio over 28.2 innings. He’s done this while pitching against tough competition and never throwing more than 105 pitches while going deep into games. Smyly has a .200 BABIP, but his FIP (2.75) suggests he’s the real deal, and he also sports a ridiculous 15.3 SwStr%. It’s not easy to sport such a strong ERA with a relatively normal HR/FB% (9.4) and LOB% (73.0). He had a 1.17 WHIP last year, and this season’s fastball velocity (and cutter) has never been higher since his rookie campaign. Smyly should be considered a top-20 starter moving forward, with the only concern being his health (he won’t show up on the ranks as such since Sunday marked his first win of the year).
He’ll be more susceptible once teams get more film on him, but Kenta Maeda now has Coors Field on his resume, and he’s currently given up one run over 25.1 innings during his stint in major league baseball. He owns a 0.87 WHIP and a .189 BAA, so few if any pitchers have been better in 2016. Obviously telling you he’ll regress would be insulting, but with an 11.9 SwStr% and pitching in the N.L. West for the Dodgers (who currently have the best defense in baseball, strong run support and a dominant closer), there’s plenty of reason to expect Maeda to be a top-20 fantasy starter moving forward.
Quick Hits: Here would be my top-five picks if a fantasy draft were held today: 1) Bryce Harper 2) Clayton Kershaw 3) Mike Trout 4) Manny Machado 5) Noah Syndergaard...The big worry about Freddie Freeman entering the year was his lineup limiting his RBI and runs scored, not him sitting at .177/.311/.258 three weeks into the year. Others off to horrifically slow (and surprising) starts include Miguel Cabrera (.206/.296/.302) and Joey Votto (.206/.295/.309). Alex Rodriguez is also sitting at .145/.242/.273...Mat Latos, on the other hand, sports a 0.74 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP over four starts despite a 13:7 K:BB ratio over 24.1 innings while now pitching for the White Sox. You don’t need me to tell you he’s an obvious sell-high candidate...If there’s someone who’s somehow worried about Jose Fernandez in your league, go make an offer for him now...So what’s up with Juan Nicasio?...What’s up with Melvin Upton Jr.? The latter is suddenly the much more desirable player to own.
Headlines of the Week: Rich Fans Bid Thousands On Bag Of Air From Kobe Bryant’s Final Game...Innocent Man Ends Up Pals With Crooked Cop That Framed Him...Mummified Sailor Found On Ghost Vessel...Man Claiming To Be From The Future Steals Food From Arby’s.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Anthony Rizzo is on pace to bat .203 with 68 homers, 119 runs, 179 RBI and nine steals...Blake Snell sure looked legit. He’ll be a must-add as soon as he’s given the full-time opportunity. If only the Rays could ever produce a pitching prospect or two (please don’t worry about Chris Archer)...Here’s my latest MLB Stock Watch in which I recommend grabbing Jarrod Dyson, Drew Pomeranz and Mike Moustakas and treated Christian Yelich highly despite his inability to hit homers...Here’s Yasiel Puig making one of the best throws you’ll ever see...It also marked the third homer the new wall in right field in Coors Field that’s robbed Trevor Story (who’s right-handed) of a home run this season...Here’s Puig making another great catch...Rich Hill is now up to 65 strikeouts over his past 48 innings. He’s officially an interesting option after how he finished last year.
Police Blotter: McDonald’s Customer Accused Of Putting Soda In Water Cup Charged With Robbery...Workers Got Their Bonuses In Meth At Minnesota Auto Body Shop...Man Throws Steaks From Texas Walmart, Then Throws Them Out Of Car Window As He Leads Authorities On High-Speed Chase...Burglars Stopped By 80-Year-Old With A Gun.
Song of the Week: Elliot Smith – King’s Crossing
Longread of the Week: How An Internet Mapping Glitch Turned A Random Kansas Farm Into A Digital Hell
Quick Hits Part Tres: Michael Pineda has continued his assault on K:BB, producing a 9:1 ratio while allowing seven runs over five innings Sunday...Here’s Clayton Kershaw throwing an eephus pitch...Here's Chicago turning possibly the craziest triple play you’ll ever see...Here’s Jacoby Ellsbury straight stealing home...Coco Crisp remains injury prone but also still has plenty of fantasy upside (he has two homers and four steals over 47 at bats this year). He’s owned in two percent of Yahoo leagues right now. He’s owned in every league in which I play, which makes far more sense...Nathan Eovaldi has somehow posted a 6.11 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP combined with a 22:3 K:BB ratio over 17.2 innings. Of course, he’s also allowed four homers too, so it’s not like it’s all bad luck, and he’s stuck pitching in the A.L. East in Yankee Stadium as a RHP. But Eovaldi currently owns a 25.0 K-BB% that would’ve ranked No. 4 in all of baseball last year. He also has a 10.1 SwStr%. Please go grab him if for some reason he’s available in your league.
Before setting your Sunday lineups, take a look at the decisions made by two of our experts, assembling teams on a $200 budget. As always when playing Yahoo Daily Fantasy Baseball, be sure to check the final lineups and track the weather.
Dalton Del Don
SP: Yordano Ventura $42
SP: Matt Shoemaker $35
C: Dioner Navarro $8
1B: Mark Reynolds $15
2B: Howie Kendrick $13
3B: Nolan Arenado $26
SS: Troy Tulowitzki $14
OF: Mike Trout $20
OF: Jason Heyward $17
OF: Billy Burns $10
SP: Stephen Strasburg $58
SP: Mike Leake $36
C: Russell Martin $12
1B: Mark Canha $10
2B: Rougned Odor $17
3B: Mike Moustakas $18
SS: Troy Tulowitzki $14
OF: Jason Heyward $17
OF: Billy Burns $10
OF: Matt Szczur $7
With an ordinary lefty twirling for Oakland, I'm ready to spend up for a couple of Toronto's disappointing bats. Had no problem paying a big ticket for Strasburg, against a Minnesota offense that comes out of the dugout hacking. This looks like the Moustakas breakout year we've been waiting for. Odor was a simple punch: I expect the Mat Latos luck experiment to end shortly, and I get a platoon-advantage bat, with a juicy lineup spot and helpful park mixed in.
Jarrod Dyson: He’s back from his oblique injury and while he’ll be hitting at the bottom of Kansas City’s lineup, Dyson should be given a chance to be a regular for the first time in his career. He’s certainly not a great hitter, but he’s also no Billy Hamilton, and his strong defense should help keep him in the lineup. Dyson has averaged 31.5 steals over the past four seasons despite seeing just 241.3 at bats per year, so his stolen base potential is huge, making him a must-own in all fantasy leagues. He’s currently available in more than 75 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Drew Pomeranz: He has a 2.04 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP with a whopping 25 strikeouts over 17.2 innings during his first three starts of the year, as Pomeranz has really taken a liking to moving to the National League. One of those starts even came in Coors Field. He doesn’t have the best control, but Pomeranz posted a strong 11.0 SwStr% last season (it’s a ridiculous 17.4% so far this year), so he’s someone who’s looking more and more legit.
Christian Yelich: He’s hitting .400/.530/.600 on the year, so the breakout many expected is off to a good start. And while home runs remain elusive (he has just one on the season) as he’s still primarily a groundball hitter, the batting average is for real (his career BABIP is .368). Yelich is on pace to hit 76 doubles in 2016, and he even hit one Friday off Javier Lopez, who allowed a .112/.177/.135 line against left-handed batters last season. Yelich looks to be in store for a big campaign.
Mike Moustakas: After hitting 12 homers over the final two months last season, Moustakas has already hit six over the first 15 games in 2016. He remains locked in as the team’s No. 2 hitter and hits lefties as well as righties so doesn’t need to be platooned. It’s taken longer than expected, but the former No. 2 overall pick sure looks terrific right now. He’s especially valuable with third base being so thin.
Tyler White: He’s a 25-year-old rookie without much of a pedigree, and the strikeouts are a concern. But White posted a .362/.467/.559 line in Triple-A last season, and he’s swatted five homers with a 1.001 OPS over 57 at bats so far this year in Houston. A.J. Reed will definitely get a chance at some point, but if White keeps hitting, there’s little reason why he won’t just slide to DH (Evan Gattis is doing nothing to stand in his way).
Carlos Gomez: After struggling badly after the All-Star break last season, the hope was a healthier Gomez would bounce back in 2016. Instead, he’s been even worse, posting a .211/.237/.281 line with a 15:2 K:BB ratio over 57 at bats. Gomez has now hit just four homers over 206 at bats since joining Houston, and the team has started tinkering with his swing while dropping him in the order. He’ll surely be better, but there’s definite cause for concern as this slump’s sample continues to grow.
Francisco Liriano: He’s walked 14 batters over 15.1 innings with a 1.83 WHIP so far this season. Liriano is still getting groundballs, but this is a pitcher with a 6.29 FIP, and it’s unclear if his hamstring injury that caused him to skip a start already is fully healed. His velocity is down, so there’s some worry here.
Shelby Miller: There were plenty of reasons to be down on Miller entering 2016, as last year’s 3.02 ERA seemed highly unsustainable since his 6.4 HR/FB% was the second lowest in all of baseball, and he was moving to one of the best hitter’s parks in MLB. Still, few could’ve predicted this much of a disaster, as he sports an 8.59 ERA and a 1.98 WHIP with 11 walks through 14.2 innings. Miller hasn’t lasted more than 2.0 innings in either of his past two starts, as he left the first one with a finger injury and the latter because he walked four straight batters to open the third inning. Miller’s 8.35 FIP is easily the worst in baseball.
Byron Buxton: Last year’s struggles have only gotten worse this season, as Buxton is batting .150 with an ugly 20:2 K:BB ratio. There’s a real chance the top prospect gets demoted if he doesn’t start showing any improvement fast.
Pedro Alvarez: He’s batting a hideous .118/.286/.147 after joining Baltimore this season. Alvarez is still searching for his first homer on the year despite going from one of the toughest hitter’s parks to one that’s boosted home runs for left-handed batters more than any other over the past three seasons (he also no longer has to worry about playing defense). At least he’s walking, and one has to think the homers should start coming in bunches, so he’s a possible buy-low candidate with his owners no doubt fed up at this point.
P Hector Santiago, LAA $40 (vs. Sea)
P J.A. Happ, Tor, $39 (vs. Oak)
C Russell Martin, Tor, $11 (Bassitt)
1B Jose Abreu, CWS, $16 (Lewis)
2B Chase Utley, LAD, $12 (Chatwood)
3B Anthony Rendon, Was, $13 (Hughes)
SS Chris Owings, Ari, $10 (Nicasio)
OF Bryce Harper, Was, $27 (Hughes)
OF Gregory Polanco, Pit, $18 (R. De La Rosa)
OF Jason Heyward, CHC, $14 (Straily)
P Masahiro Tanaka, NYY $44 (vs. TB)
P Hector Santiago, LAA $40 (vs. Sea)
C Alex Avila, CWS $10 (Lewis)
1B Paul Goldschmidt, Ari, $21 (Nicasio)
2B Neil Walker, NYM, $18 (Chacin)
3B Kris Bryant, ChC, $18 (Straily)
SS Chris Owings, Ari, $10 (Nicasio)
OF Mike Trout, LAA, $20 (Hernandez)
OF Nori Aoki, Sea, $11 (Santiago)
OF Adam Duvall, Cin, $8 (Lackey)
Tampa Bay Rays prospect Blake Snell was a breakout star in the minors last year, rising from Single-A to Triple-A over the course of the season, dominating hitters at each stop. He finished with absurd numbers across three levels: 15-4, 1.41 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 163 Ks in 134.0 IP. Just silly.
Entering 2016, Snell ranked among the elite prospects in the game on pretty much everyone's board. The left-hander has opened his season like an ace at Durham this year, striking out 21 batters in 14.1 innings, allowing seven walks and four runs. He's great, is what we're saying — and he'll reportedly be pitching in the big leagues tomorrow.
#Rays Snell apparently on his way to the Bronx to start Saturday against Yankees— Roger Mooney (@RMooneyTBO) April 22, 2016
I've had Snell stashed in a monster dynasty league for the past eight or nine months, plus I drafted him in two other mixers this year. So THIS IS A GOOD DAY. Hooray, Rays.
Of course there's a clear possibility that Snell will be immediately returned to Durham after the matchup with the Yankees, no matter how it goes. Tampa Bay is stacking LHPs against New York, and the team won't need a fifth starter again for a couple weeks. But Snell is the sort of high-upside prospect who deserves a long look from mixed league fantasy owners on the very real chance that his Triple-A excellence transitions to the bigs. Do what needs doing. His start is a must-watch.
My full lineup:
SP: Gio Gonzalez $42
SP: Aaron Sanchez $39
C: Devin Mesoraco $10
1B: Adrian Gonzalez $20
2B: Logan Forsythe $17
3B: Evan Longoria $17
SS: Xander Bogaerts $16
OF: Joc Pederson $18
OF: Jason Heyward $14
OF: Aaron Hicks $7
Gonzalez has been dominant through two starts this season (albeit against weak competition) and is facing an A.L. team (that struggles to score runs) that won’t have the benefit of the designated hitter. The 11-4 Nationals are one of the bigger favorites on the board Friday...Sanchez owns a 1.35 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 20 strikeouts over 20.0 innings this year and looks ready for a breakout.
Mesoraco is one season removed from hitting 25 homers with 85 RBI over just 384 at bats and hits in the middle of the lineup against a lefty...Gonzalez and Pederson (who hit cleanup last game) are at Coors Field facing a RHP coming off an injury making his first start of 2016.
Forsythe had a .972 OPS against southpaws last season and is a sneaky play at second base, while teammate Longoria owns a career .375/.487/.781 line against CC Sabathia over 64 at bats...Bogaerts and Heyward remain undervalued after slow starts to the year. Bogaerts entered as a top-three fantasy SS on most draft boards, yet there are six shortstops listed with higher prices Friday...Hicks gets a lefty at home and is dirt cheap, but he’s no guarantee to be in the lineup, so have an alternative on hand.
Good luck with your contests Friday.
Not that long ago, Colby Rasmus was a big deal in the prospect community. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus both tabbed him a Top 10 prospect for 2008 and 2009, and he forced his way into the St. Louis lineup at the tender age of 22.
It’s been a meandering story since then — a handful of homers, a bunch of strikeouts, a couple of team changes. But the dots might be connecting for a nifty career year at age 29.
Rasmus was a part-time roto factor last year, conking 25 homers in 137 games. A .238 average isn’t easy to digest, however, and he only stole a couple of bases. He was Houston’s star bat in the playoffs, hitting four more homers over six games (for about two weeks, he was the GIF king of Twitter, on and off the field).
Early in 2016, Rasmus is back in the swing of things. He’s already hit five home runs — witness these two beauties from Thursday’s loss at Texas — and he’s seeing the ball awfully well. Rasmus has already drawn 14 walks on the young season — a personal rate increase of 140 percent — and he’s also cut down on his strikeouts. Line drives are up, hard-hit rate is through the Minute Maid roof (far and away his career-best rate there). And heck, he’s even giving it a try on the bases, stealing one bag on two attempts.
If you look at the offensive component of WAR over the last year, Rasmus ranks a solid 19th among outfielders. Consider some of the players he slots ahead of: Lorenzo Cain, Dexter Fowler, Justin Upton, Starling Marte, Brett Gardner. Rasmus is no longer a shiny toy in the fantasy community, and it’s pushed him into the underrated pile. I’m not suggesting Rasmus will be a better fantasy player than this list of players, but at least he’s producing enough to be in the conversation.
Look, I get it — it’s early in the season. We’re not even out of April yet. But we have to keep our eyes peeled for what players values appear to be dynamically changing, and Rasmus could be one of those guys. This is what a breakout career year might look like through a few weeks. His modest Yahoo ownership (57 percent) is far too low. In shallower pools, see if you can get in on this.
• Jake Arrieta isn’t our lede today because there’s nothing actionable, or new, to say about him. He’s been a front-line starter for almost two years now. He’s off a Cy Young campaign and one of the most electric second halves we’ve ever seen. When Arrieta dominates a weak offense like the Reds, it’s not front-page news.
And when he throws his second no-hitter in less than a year, all we can do is nod, appreciate, and wish we had him on all of our teams. Here’s the tape. Enjoy that bounce in your step, Chicago (Patrick Kane’s overtime brilliance didn’t hurt, either.)
The 16-0 box score was good to most of the Cubs, but Addison Russell wasn’t invited to the party (0-for-6, down to .196). Here’s a case where it should pay to be patient. Russell hit the ball sharply in four of his Thursday at-bats, and his seasonal scan is filled with positive indicators. Walks are up, strikeouts are down, and line drives are significantly up. I doubt most Russell owners are panic-stricken — he was the type of buzzy March player who required a reach pick; thus the attachment might be stronger than usual for a middle-round selection — but in some pools, there could be a buy-low opportunity.
The only killjoy to the angle — Russell is likely to bat in the lower third all season. The Cubs lineup is that deep. We’ve already had that discussion.
• Billy Hamilton wasn’t part of Cincinnati’s bagel — he’s dealing with a thumb contusion and needs a few days off. Like Russell, Hamilton is walking more and hitting more line drives this year — for whatever a two-week sample means to you — and isn’t getting much to show for it (.162 average). His strikeouts have risen a little bit. It’s encouraging to see a major rise in Hamilton’s ground-ball rate — he’s the type of player who should never hit the ball in the air if he can avoid it. He’s only attempted two steals, and he’s batted at the bottom of the lineup in about two-thirds of his starts.
My main problem with Hamilton is his lack of power and his low batting-average risk, and the batting slot certainly doesn't help. I always feel you can find steals on a budget, shrewdly.
Jarrod Dyson (two steals in two days) is a similar player to Hamilton and doesn’t have as much batting-average risk. Rajai Davis is a useful rabbit for as long as the Indians need to play him. The moment Trea Turner joins the Nationals — and I have no idea when that logical card will be played — I expect the steals to follow in short order (the Davey Lopes Effect is real). There’s a low bar to hurdle for the new rabbits, and steals will always come into the league, quietly.
• The clock might be ticking on Ian Desmond in Texas — he’s on a one-year deal, and the Rangers have excellent organizational depth in the outfield. But it’s encouraging to see his bat perk up on the current homestand. He’s working a .278/.350/.556 slash since the club returned home five games ago, and Desmond hit his first home run of the year in Thursday’s victory.
I understand all the logical cases against Desmond, but he’s still shortstop eligible in Yahoo’s game, and he wasn’t that bad in the second half of 2015 (.777 OPS, 12 homers, eight steals). In some cases, I think the hate has gone too far with Desmond. For the moment, he’s secure in a good park and deep lineup. Perhaps the time is right to sneak him into a larger trade.
Bench presses counted. Cone drills clocked. And tape reviewed. While NFL scouts have been scribbling in their notebooks for months, fantasy owners are just now examining this year’s incoming class. In order to keep fans of the virtual game fully informed and a step ahead of the competition, the Roto Arcade crew is here to provide you with the necessary goods. Today’s college stud under the microscope is Baylor WR Corey Coleman.
[Other draft profiles: Dak Prescott | Paul McRoberts | Keith Marshall | Paxton Lynch | Daniel Lasco | Leonte Carroo | Carson Wentz | C.J. Prosise | Michael Thomas | Josh Doctson | Devontae Booker | Kenneth Dixon]
College Highlights: A three-sport athlete in high school, Coleman took home top honors in football, basketball, and track. Dedicated to the gridiron, the Dallas-area native committed to Baylor in 2012. His CFB career slowly built momentum until finishing in an incredible crescendo. Winner of the 2015 Biletnikoff Award as the country’s best wideout, Coleman reeled in 74 catches for 1,363 yards and twenty TDs.
Pluses: Two words: Speed. Demon. Coleman possesses immediate quicks that leave defenders (and spectators) dizzy. He exhibits impressive balance and body control as well as the ability to change direction with precision. Playing with more burst than a pack of Mentos in a liter of pop, the award-winning sprinter and jumper has literally hurtled defenders for long gains. His footwork and hands technique are top-notch. Plus, he has experience as a punt returner and was used as a rusher out of the backfield (in both high school and college).
Minuses: At 5-foot-11 and 194 pounds, Coleman lacks the size to excel on the outside. Yet that’s where he does his best work. In fact, the majority of his drops came from routes that led him to the middle of the field. Speaking of drops, Coleman’s lapses in concentration cost his team a total of ten balls in 2015. According to the 2016 PFF Draft Guide, he had the fifth highest drop rate of any wideout in this class. Furthermore, he ran a limited number of rather simplistic routes in college.
Pro-Comp(s): John Brown, Kendall Wright
Team Fits: Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans
Fearless Forecast: I understand why the bulk of analysts and draftniks have Coleman ranked so high. His workout stats could make even the least metric-savvy fan swoon. Clocking a 40-yard-dash time of 4.37 seconds at his Pro Day and nabbing a vert score of 40.5 inches at the combine, his athleticism is tantalizing. But as a speed guy without much size, his production is going to rely heavily on timing and his rapport with his quarterback. Plus, he’s coming off of a hernia surgery. It’s going to take this guy some time to find his sea legs. From a fantasy standpoint, I’d rather have Josh Doctson or Laquon Treadwell, who have the height to bring down six in the end zone. Coleman may end up the best receiver in this class, but his 2016 numbers won’t reflect that.
Leading up to the NFL Draft April 28, Brad Evans and Liz Loza will crouch down, explode off the snap and tackle pressing questions about some of this year's most prominent prospects. Wednesday's topic: Alabama RB Derrick Henry.
Frankenstein in nature, Henry is a physically imposing specimen (6-foot-3, 247-pounds) similar in style and substance as former Giant Brandon Jacobs. A classic downhill runner with excellent speed for his size (4.54 40-yard) and intimidating power (60.2 YAC% in '15), he has game-breaking appeal despite underwhelming lateral agility and questionable hands. Projected to land anywhere from Round 2 to Round 4 in the NFL Draft, the much-debated rusher is essentially an early-70s, metal-fortress Buick in an era dominated by multifunctional vehicles. What team(s) do you see as best fits?
Liz – Dallas is an obvious landing spot. Henry's straight-line speed and bullish power could thrive behind the 'Boys much lauded line. If Carson Wentz falls or the team's front office decides to focus on defensive tackle in the first round, there's a good chance they'll jump on Henry in the second with the 34th overall pick. It might be more prudent to wait and snag Jordan Howard later, but patience doesn't seem to be one of Jerry's best traits. Personally, I like Henry in the Big Apple. The Andre Williams experiment is just about over, and the G-Men could use some thunder. Henry's clock-gobbling skill set could add balance to a team that called the fifth most passing plays in 2015.
Brad – Any power-schemed team in the market for a runaway train – Dallas, Baltimore, Cleveland, NY Giants, Indy – will think long and hard about investing in Henry. He's yoked and can explode off the edge, but his lengthy frame, upright running style and lack of versatility do raise red flags. Despite his brutish musculature, he isn't the most adept pass-blocker. Most worrisome, parked cars possess more elusiveness than the Heisman winner evidenced in his near bottom barrel 3-cone performance. Though he forced 76 missed tackles in 2015, many of those came on second-level runs against undersized DBs unwilling to engage. NFL corners and safeties will not exhibit a similar skittishness. Bottom line: He's a one-dimensional, early-down runner who may be LeGarrette Blount '15 at his peak.
Fill in the blank. Henry will land in the Round __-__ range in 12-team drafts and finish around No. ___ among fantasy running backs this fall.
Liz – If Henry goes to Dallas his ADP is going to skyrocket, potentially vaulting him to the sixth round of fantasy drafts. That’s way too high. A more levelheaded projection would place him between rounds 7 and 9. On the right team – as the lone power back – I think he has RB3 appeal. Let’s say RB32 overall.
Brad – 8-10; RB46 (in points per game average). Name chasers will overpay for his services based on his superb collegiate production. However, don't be that person. He has a legitimate shot at 4-6 scores in a healthy offensive environment, but his value is almost exclusively limited to TD-heavy, non-PPR formats.
Fearless Forecast. Predict a stat line for Henry in his rookie season (ATTS-RSHYDS-REC-RECYDS-TDs).
Liz – 158 attempts, 612 rushing yards, 6 receptions, 33 receiving yards, 6 total touchdowns
Brad – 147 attempts, 599 rush yards, 7 receptions, 38 receiving yards, 4 total touchdowns
My full lineup:
SP: Jake Arrieta ($58) - Pitching pays the bills here, so it's hard to pass on a player that has won 14 consecutive decisions and has run off 23 consecutive quality starts.
SP: Johnny Cueto ($51) - Cueto is 3-0 this season and 6-1 with a 2.54 ERA in eight career starts vs. Arizona. And he'll be opposed by Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller, who has been throwing batting practice this season (8.53 ERA, 5 HRs allowed in 12.2 IP).
C: Wilson Ramos ($12) - So far, the idea that LASIK surgery will propel Ramos to greater things in '16 is gaining traction. He's hitting over .300 with a couple of HRs, and he's whiffed just once in his past 10 games. He'll face Miami's Tom Koehler, who Ramos has collected five hits against in his past 13 ABs.
1B: Prince Fielder ($12) - Fielder opened the Houston series with his second home run of the season. He'll finish the series off against a pitcher (Dallas Kuechel) that he's very familiar with, owning a .280 career BAA (7-for-25).
2B: Brian Dozier ($15) - Dozier got off to a slow start, but he's on a nice little five-game hit streak at the moment. He'll oppose Milwaukee pitcher Taylor Jungmann, who has allowed 13 ER in 13 IP this season.
3B: Aaron Hill ($8) - When you blow your budget on two of the top pitching values, you have to ride with a few low-cost flyers on offense. I like that Hill is coming off a 2-for-4 effort against Minnesota on Wednesday that included a HR and SB. He'll bat sixth on Thursday against Twins starter Ricky Nolasco, who Hill (like so many MLB hitters) has enjoyed plenty of success against in the past.
SS: Jimmy Rollins $14 - After a day off, Rollins is back in the Sox lineup for Thursday, hitting second behind Adam Eaton. Rollins has picked up a hit in six of his past seven games, and has two hits in his past three ABs vs. Angels starter Jered Weaver.
OF: Billy Burns ($10) - You bet I'll take Burns right now for $10. He's seemingly making things happen on a nightly basis, collecting two triples and two doubles in his past four games. He's also going against Yankees starter Luis Severino, who has allowed 18 hits in 10.2 IP, thus far.
OF: Michael A. Taylor ($10) - Taylor will be back in the Nats' lineup on Thursday after opening this four-game series against Miami with two doubles, a home run and three runs scored in the first three games.
OF: Kevin Kiermaier ($10) - The matchup is less than ideal (vs. Boston's David Price), but Kiermaier does have a home run against Price in his four career ABs facing him, and he's stroked two doubles and a HR (his first of the season) over his past three games.
Andy Behrens and Dalton Del Don open with a discussion on whether Chris Archer is a buy low candidate after yet another poor start Wednesday and what to do with the messy Reds bullpen situation. We also talk about how to treat trade vetoes in general and go over the top recent waiver wire adds in a podcast all things baseball.
Here we are, eight years into the Rick Porcello experience, and I’m still not sure what to think
Start with his 2016 stats, they’re all over the place. A 3-0 record and a 0.93 WHIP, that’s excellent. A 4.66 ERA, that’s a problem. Porcello has allowed five homers but less hard contact. Even the ERA estimators can’t agree: FIP suggests 4.70, xFIP offers 2.81. (Do you believe in home-run forgiveness? We could go 15 rounds, lost in that rabbit hole.)
If you’d like to see some video, have a look at what Porcello did against the Rays on Wednesday, his latest victory (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 9 K). The stuff doesn't look overpowering, but the location is pretty.
When in doubt on any pitcher, I tend to simplify, come back to walks and strikeouts. And perhaps that’s why I can’t completely quit Porcello, not just yet. He’s struck out 24 batters in 19.1 innings this year, walked just three. A K/BB trend that strong is difficult to ignore. And we’re talking about a former first-round pick, albeit that was almost nine years ago.
But if Porcello was going to turn into a star — or even a sure-bet mixed-league fantasy pitcher — wouldn’t we have seen it by now? His career ERA is 4.39; only two of his seven previous seasons have landed under 4. He had a lagging strikeout rate in his Detroit days, but he’s pumped that up to 8.9 since joining the Red Sox. The AL East schedule is generally jagged — he’s made two Fenway Park starts and two Toronto starts on the young season (the Jays hit four homers against him, but still lost twice).
Porcello was an extreme ground-ball pitcher in his Detroit days; he’s been closer to neutral with Boston. This is an acceptable trade-off if the strikeouts are along for the ride. You also have to wonder how much being an extreme strike thrower hurts Porcello; maybe being around the plate so often winds up hurting him in the home run column. His HR/FB ratio has been on the “unlucky” side of the sheet — if you believe in such things — in four of the last five seasons.
Porcello is unowned in about 80 percent of Yahoo leagues, which feels a little light. I’m willing to at least give him preferred streamer status, a matchup play when the opponent is right. His next turn comes at Atlanta, a favorable draw against a low-scoring, powerless opponent. Let’s kick the tires for a start, then re-evaluate.
Porcello’s Wednesday win came at Chris Archer’s expense. The Tampa Bay ace is now 0-4 on the year, with a 7.32 ERA and 2.08 WHIP. He’s collecting plenty of strikeouts (29 in 19.2 innings), but everything else is a mess: 27.6 percent line drives, six homers, 11 walks. His velocity is down for the season, though it’s been better in the last two outings.
Archer probably comes in as a forced hold in a lot of leagues — you can’t take him to market while his numbers are this bad, but I don’t see enough to make me believe in him as a trade target. The catwalk starts in Tampa are generally delightful, but the division is always going to take a tax on the road. And as good as his stuff is at times, we’re still talking about someone who’s never had an ERA below 3.23, or a WHIP under 1.14. This is a fantasy No. 2 or No. 3, shoehorned into ace’s clothing back in March.
I take no delight in Archer’s struggles. He’s a fun guy to watch when he’s at his best. But you come for a fantasy bottom line, and here is mine — I do not want what I haven’t got. I’ll watch this one from the sidelines. If you're looking to trade away from him, you need to wait until he presents a sellable window.
Now it might seem funny to step back from this piece and wonder why I’m promoting Porcello and dinging Archer. See the difference, the nuance. I’m merely giving Porcello a shot at being someone who occasionally can be trusted for fantasy purposes, when the matchup is right. And I’m wondering if the fantasy community gave Archer a premature graduation ticket into the class of aces, though he’s someone you probably have to start until further notice. Although they’re both pitchers, their price points and expectations are dramatically different. We’re talking apples and oranges here.
• For Jordan Zimmermann, the pitching was the easy part on Wednesday. He worked into the seventh, didn't allow a run at Kansas City. But his third victory wasn’t secure until a Francisco Rodriguez white-knuckle ride in the ninth (two homers, two walks, 29 pitches). The Tigers couldn’t exhale until Mike Moustakas struck out to end the game.
If you’re brazen enough to roster K-Rod, you know the directive: you can’t watch him live. You’re going to mess up your health. It’s not worth the stress. If you feel like hedging the save chase (or merely looking for ratio-smoothing stats), note lefty Justin Wilson already has six holds, nine strikeouts, and a tidy 0.79 WHIP.
Jarrod Dyson worked a ninth-inning walk off Rodriguez, then swiped second base. Dyson is basically the cheaper version of Billy Hamilton, a one-trick pony all the way. Dyson's average should be better than Hamilton's; perhaps the stolen-base upside is an eyelash less. If you have the categorical need, Dyson, two days off the DL, is available in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• If you want a smoother ride from your fantasy pitcher, the National League is usually the place to go. Let’s check what Drew Pomeranz is doing in San Diego. He shut down the Pirates on Wednesday (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K), taking his ERA down to 2.04 and his WHIP down to 1.13. He’s piled up 25 strikeouts (against nine walks) over 17.2 innings. That curve is delightful, isn't it?
The first thing we have to do with Pomeranz’s six-season resume is delete the Colorado hell from it. If we focus on what we’ve seen the last three years, a pretty picture emerges: 2.97 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, almost a strikeout per inning. Some of that work came in the rotation, some as a reliever in Oakland.
Pomeranz might not be a sixth-month story given his light innings history, but let’s play for today. He’s been good in all three of his turns, and Petco Park will hide some mistakes. Although Pomeranz gets unlucky with ace matchups in his next two turns — Bumgarner, Kershaw — I expect him to do fine at San Francisco and Los Angeles. After that, it’s a recommended home start against the Rockies. You can still add Pomeranz in about 70 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• I’m surprised Chris Carter is merely 23 percent owned in Yahoo leagues, but here we are. All he does, after all, is hit home runs. The career .218 average is a deal breaker to many, perhaps most.
Nonetheless, let’s note Carter’s reasonable .261 start, with four homers in 14 games. His current walk and strikeout rates are both a little better than his career trend. If he can approach the .227-.239 pocket we saw in 2012-14, his 30-plus homers should be worth rostering. I have a few shares; I’ll live with the good and the bad. The Brewers are certainly going to play him, given their thin roster.
With more options available for contests that start at 7:05 ET, I’m going to concentrate on Wednesday’s later batch of games.
My full lineup:
SP: Joe Ross $43
SP: Nathan Eovaldi $34
C: Travis d’Arnaud $11
1B: Miguel Cabrera $18
2B: Neil Walker $15
3B: Adrian Beltre $19
SS: Jed Lowrie $9
OF: Yasiel Puig $19
OF: Curtis Granderson $15
OF: Michael Conforto $17
Ross continues to look like a budding ace yet still isn’t priced as such...Eovaldi has an ugly ERA so far, but that’s come with a 15:2 K:BB ratio over 11.2 innings. The Yankees are the second biggest favorites on the board during Wednesday’s slate, and he’s affordable...Jeremy Hellickson has thrown fairly well so far this season, but I went with a Mets stack, as d’Arnaud, Walker, Conforto and Granderson all have attractive price tags.
Cabrera is hitting just .255/.352/.383 on the year, but there’s zero reason not to treat him like the star he’s always been, and there are eight first basemen who are costlier Wednesday. Cabrera owns a career 1.357 OPS versus Ian Kennedy...Beltre has walked (five) more times than he’s fanned (three) so far this season, so he’s been seeing the ball well. Beltre has hit .348 with zero strikeouts over 23 career at bats against Doug Fister.
Lowrie is simply a cheap option, and he’s hitting in a favorable park. Puig has only one homer on the year, but he’s batting .347/.429/.510 and looks terrific. He’s still not quite being priced like a star among outfielders and has hit Julio Teheran well throughout his career.
Good luck with your contests Wednesday.
The Cincinnati Reds have lost 86 and 98 games the last two seasons, and they’re not expected to contend for the playoffs this year. They’re one of the handful of NL clubs that could easily push 100 losses in 2016.
That said, we want their handshakes just the same. They’ll support a 30-save closer, assuming one man can take the job and run with it.
At the moment, preseason favorite J.J. Hoover doesn’t look like that guy. He’s been scored upon in four of his seven appearances, compiling an ugly pitching line (5.1 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 9 R, 4 BB, 4 K). He’s already given up three homers, and the ERA has swelled to 15.19.
Hoover struggled in a high-leverage (but non-save) situation Tuesday, allowing a two-run homer to Mark Reynolds. Hoover finished the game and the Reds escaped with a one-run victory, but manager Bryan Price openly admitted the team’s closing gig was in question.
Is Hoover still the closer? Price not sure, says he will sleep on it. #reds— John Fay (@johnfayman) April 20, 2016
Hoover is going to rest Wednesday, no matter the game situation. It’s a chance for Tony Cingrani or Caleb Cotham to step forward.
You probably remember Cingrani, now 26, making a splash as a starter in the second half of 2013 (2.92 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10.3 K/9). He struggled the following year (two-pitch pitchers often struggle as starters), and wasn’t an effective reliever last season (5.67 ERA, 1.68 WHIP). He’s allowed two runs in 5.2 innings this year, with a bunch of walks (five) and strikeouts (seven).
Cingrani is also left-handed; some teams will allow that as a closer, some teams try to shy away from it. For his career, he's been terrific against lefties, but still effective against righties.
Maybe Cotham, a 28-year-old righty, can throw his hat into the ring. He’s allowed just one run, unearned, over eight innings of work (3 BB, 5 K). He spent six years in the minors before a cup of coffee (bitter, 6.52 ERA) with the Yankees last year.
Jumbo Diaz? He’s not in the mix right now. The Reds optioned him to Triple-A on Tuesday.
So there you have it, save chaser. Place your bets. Can Hoover get back on the beam? Is Cingrani another failed starter that turns into a relief ace? Is Cotham more your speed? Or are you going to ignore this situation until someone actually converts in the ninth?
The windows are open. Cingrani is free to grab in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues, while Cotham waits for work in 99 percent of our world. I have some deep-league shares of both (in pools where you have to get to the new closers before they're fully minted), but if I could take either guy, I'd try Cingrani first.
• Francisco Liriano was one of the DFS darlings for Tuesday, set up at Petco Park, but the Padres messed up the script. Liriano didn’t make it out of the fifth (6 H, 4 R, 5 BB, 4 K, 2 HR) and the Padres held on for a 5-4 victory.
The Padres were a handy punchline last week when Vince Velasquez mowed them down (16 K, 0 BB), but maybe this offense has a little punch to it. The Padres are in the middle of the pack in runs scored. Everyone respects the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, Matt Kemp, and two other names of note are off to solid starts.
Wil Myers is currently holding down the No. 2 spot, and despite a gaggle of strikeouts, he’s off to a good push (.281/.300/.474). He homered off Liriano on Tuesday, his third of the year. He’s still just 25, only four years removed from his uber-prospect days. If Myers can last a full season — injuries have always been the bugaboo with him — we should see a useful fantasy season. He was a wallet player back in March.
Melvin Upton Jr. drew three walks and stole a base, his fourth, in Tuesday’s victory. He’s currently the team’s cleanup man, off to a .298/.377/.511 push. He ripped a dramatic walk-off homer Saturday night. I’ve been fooled by false Upton positives in the past, so maybe I’m the wrong guy to ask. But Upton might have something left in the tank at age 31. Power-speed combos are forever the sirens, singing.
There's time for many of you to get in, if you so desire. Myers trades at 50 percent in Yahoo leagues, while Upton is owned in just 16 percent of The Y.
We also have to stay open minded about Petco Park; it was actually a homer-friendly yard last year, and the run tax was a modest seven percent (compare that to the 17-percent hit scoring took in 2013-14). In past seasons, we could comfortably look at Petco as an extreme pitcher's park, capable of hiding mistakes and suffocating scoring. The playability of the park might always favor the pitcher, but the extreme nature of the park could be a thing of the past.
• Dr. Behrens gave you a strong Jake Lamb endorsement in this space 24 hours ago, so you don’t need a full rehash. Just know Lamb was effective again in Tuesday’s win at San Francisco, with a triple and a walk. He scored a run, knocked one in. So long as he can hang onto the No. 2 gig in this offense, fun stuff should ensue. Jean Segura looks like a factor as the leadoff man, and you know how dangerous Paul Goldschmidt is.
Maybe Lamb won’t do much against Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday — heck, it wouldn’t be a bad time for a day off. But this is someone who should be owned in far more than 17 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Speaking of post-hype cases, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a big deal not that long ago, off an explosive 2007 debut with the Rangers and Braves. He was a major piece of the Mark Teixeira trade in the middle of that summer. He was all over the prospect lists in 2006 and 2007.
A lot has happened to Salty since then. Contact problems. Defensive problems. A terrible haircut. He’s also been well-traveled, checking in with five teams over the years. When the Tigers added Salty as their backup catcher in December (stop No. 6), no one paid much attention.
Alas, James McCann is hurt in Detroit, forcing Saltalamacchia into the starting lineup. And apparently there are still some thunderbolts in that bat. Uncle Salty blasted his fifth homer of the year in Tuesday’s loss at Kansas City, giving him four dingers in his last 22 at-bats. He’s been chased up to 39-percent ownership in Yahoo leagues.
The under-the-hood stats are rarely going to be kind to Salty. He’s still striking out a ton (36.4 percent of the time). But given the ugly state of catcher these days (and with McCann on the 15-day DL, ankle), why not kick some tires? Saltalamacchia did slug .474 in his brief stop at Arizona last year. He’s part of a plus lineup. Add some spice to your fantasy roster.
SP: Alex Wood at Atlanta, $40
Wood isn’t anywhere close to the ace class, but a matchup against Atlanta is lovely work if you can get it. The Braves had the worst offense in the majors last year, and it’s probably worse this season (.208/.300/.279, three piddly homers). Wood is the highest favorite on the card, and the cost is reasonable. Sure, I’m giving up some strikeout upside, but he’s a -185 choice.
SP: Michael Pineda vs. Oakland, $42
Oakland isn’t a big strikeout team (just 25th in K-percentage), but the A’s are 27th in scoring and 27th in weighted on-base average. No one is afraid of this offense. Pineda is the second-highest favorite on the evening card, and I’m able to double up on heavy favorites without paying a prohibitive cost.
C: Yasmani Grandal at Atlanta, $12
I thought about Devin Mesoraco but I’d like to see him do something first.
1B: Justin Smoak at Baltimore, $7
I wanted to stream against Mike Wright on the weekend, but rain got in the way. Smoak is lower in the lineup than you’d like — sixth — but it’s acceptable as a punt play in a plus lineup, especially when you consider the opposing pitcher and the Camden Yards backdrop. Heads up on Eutaw Street.
2B: Jose Altuve at Texas, $22
He always gets some extra consideration against a left-hander: .353/.397/.598 career slash. Derek Holland has been ordinary for most of his career.
SS: Andres Blanco vs. New York Mets, $7
Punt plays always look more interesting when they’re tied to a premium batting slot — Blanco is batting third Tuesday night, and he’s not facing one of the Mets name-brand pitchers.
3B: Nolan Arenado at Cincinnati, $24
Five homers and a 1.282 slash over his last eight games, and he was a monster all spring, too, if that matters to you. What matters to me is he’s facing Robert Stephenson, in Cincinnati.
OF: George Springer at Texas, $19
His career OPS rises 105 points against lefties, and now I have some Astros juice going along with Altuve. Runs are in the forecast at Texas.
OF: Aaron Hicks vs. Oakland, $11
I hope the Yankees at some point let Hicks take a shot at regular time, see what he can do. In the meantime, here comes Eric Surkamp, a gettable lefty. Hicks was a .307/.375/.495 man against southpaws last year, with six homers in 101 at-bats.
OF: Michael Saunders at Baltimore, $15
Location, location, location — at the top of the best offense in baseball (on paper, anyway), in a cozy park, against a pitcher we expect to exploit.
Good luck in your Tuesday night plays.
On today's steamy program, Brad Evans and Liz Loza get all hot and bothered about various NFL Draftees. Our tandem poked, prodded and pricked marquee names Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry and Corey Coleman discussing their overall pluses and minuses. Additionally, Brad and Liz explained who they would take if in Les Snead's shoes – Jared Goff or Carson Wentz? Finally, our fearless forecasters revealed their top rookie sleeper, answered your pressing Twitter questions and detailed what infectious diseases could be festering in a pool of plastic balls.
With the NFL Draft just around the corner, it's time to scratch that football itch ...
Yup, that's right: Yahoo's fantasy crew is stepping out. We will be LIVE on location at Ditka's Chicago during the first two nights of the NFL Draft, April 28-29. Drop in. Mingle. Make a friend.
Come for the fantasy advice, stay for the pot roast nachos (or vice versa).
Yahoo fantasy experts Brad Evans, Liz Loza and Andy Behrens will answer all of your NFL questions on Thursday and Friday of draft week, in an event that will live stream on Facebook. (Brad is always willing to tackle your non-NFL questions, too, regardless of subject.) We'll bring you a pair of 30-minute pre-draft shows from 7:30 to 8 p.m. ET on Thursday and 6:30 to 7 p.m. ET on Friday, plus news and analysis throughout the opening rounds.
Join us, Chicago-area gamers. All are welcome, but space is limited. First come, first served.
We can't promise dead-on perfect fantasy advice, but we can guarantee a good time during draft week.
Arizona trailed by a run with two outs in the ninth on Monday night, no one on base, Jake Lamb at the plate and down to his final strike against Giants closer Santiago Casilla. A tight spot, to be sure.
And then Casilla served up a cookie, a pitch that Jake didn't miss.
Lamb's game-tying homer set the stage for additional heroics in the eleventh, when he drove in Jean Segura with a crisp double to center. Not a bad night for Lamb, all things considered. He finished 3-for-6 with three extra-base hits and two enormous RBIs, raising his season slash to .292/.364/.521.
It may feel as if Lamb has been around forever, but he's still just 25 years old. He was a career .321/.408/.552 hitter in the minors, so it's not crazy to expect improvement here. Lamb fills a premium roster spot, he was batting second on Monday and he's unattached in over 90 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues at the moment.
Consider the add, if you have a need.
• Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ got the win on Patriots' Day in Boston, spinning seven high-quality innings against a respectable lineup, allowing just four hits, one walk and one run, striking out four. He worked the edges like a master. Highlights here. Happ, you might recall, was outstanding over the final two months last season in Pittsburgh (9.8 K/9, 1.03 WHIP), under the tutelage of pitching whisperer Ray Searage.
For those unfamiliar with Searage's history, here's some background via SI's Albert Chen, with details on Happ:
Last year, for example, when J.A. Happ arrived from Seattle at the trade deadline, Searage spotted an inefficiency in the lefty’s delivery in his first start. Instead of striding directly toward home, Happ rotated too much in his motion. That resulted in a lowered arm slot and inconsistent release point — things Searage dissected on TrackMan, a 3-D Doppler radar system that tracks players’ movement. Searage had Happ slow down his motion to raise his release point. It was a subtle change that produced a not-so-subtle result: In Happ’s next outing he hit 94 mph, his highest velocity of the season, and had his most effective start in two months.
And he's been rolling ever since. Happ is now 2-0 for the Jays with a 1.89 ERA through three starts, owned in just 24 percent of Yahoo leagues. He's given up only 13 runs in his last 13 appearances, dating back to August of 2015.
I can understand if you prefer to avoid A.L. East starting pitchers as a general rule, but at least Happ won't have to face Toronto's ridiculous batting order. Give him a long look. His next start is at home against Oakland, then he gets Tampa Bay on the road. Nothing scary in those match-ups.
• Another night, another gem from a young Phillies starter. Jerad Eickhoff was dealing on Monday, striking out nine Mets over seven innings, allowing five hits and two runs. We're three starts into his season and his ERA is 1.89. His curve? Sickening.
Eickhoff didn't actually get the win on Monday night, because he was facing Thor, son of Odin and Fjorgyn, master of thunder and sky, wielder of Mjölnir. Can't beat that guy. But Eickhoff definitely impressed. He's still un-owned in 42 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Hector Santiago absolutely owned his former employer on Monday, firing seven shutout innings against the White Sox. He gave up just two hits and three walks, piling up 10 Ks. Santiago was a gift from the free agent pool last season, and he's been fantastic this year as well.
• Minnesota's Byung Ho Park homered for the second time in three games, giving him three dingers on the year. He's going to strike out a zillion times, sure, but it's easy to imagine him finishing with 25-30 long balls.
• Arizona dispatched Socrates Brito to the minors on Monday, which of course makes him an auto-cut in mixers. Long-term, Brito remains a player of interest. Chris Owings has an unobstructed path to playing time, for what it's worth. He went 2-for-4 on Monday.
• It hasn't been a completely smooth ride this year for Nats outfielder Michael Taylor, but he just went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored against Jose Fernandez & Co. Strikeouts will be an ongoing issue, but Taylor has a power/speed past in the minors and he still occupies the lead-off spot. Ben Revere is probably a month away.
• Colorado's Ben Paulsen had a big day in a win in Cincinnati, supporting an unexpected gem from Jordan Lyles. Paulsen went 1-for-3 with a homer, walk and three RBIs. He's a not-quite-everyday player, so there's a level of maintenance involved with Ben that doesn't exist with other CIs. But he'll be a nice play when facing RHPs at home.
• Roberto Osuna is dealing with a blister, so Drew Storen closed the door for the Jays on Monday afternoon (barely: 3 H, 2 ER, 26 pitches). No obvious reason to fret, Osuna owners. The situation doesn't sound serious. He should be good to go at Baltimore.
Everybody wants some pod. You want some, too.
(Where'd you get those cleats?)
Slow starts from big names, they're a big part of the Monday whiparound. What can we expect from Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey? And on the flip side, can we trust strong openers Joe Mauer, Nick Castellanos and others? Is there any hope for Freddie Freeman? Would you take Troy Tulowitzki or Trevor Story from this point forward?
(A little more to the right.)
And just for grins, we give you a quick review of Richard Linklater's new film, Everybody Wants Some, and a widely-available two-start streamer to take a chance on. Poor a cold one, hoss, and let's figure this all out.
Bench presses counted. Cone drills clocked. And tape reviewed. While NFL scouts have been scribbling in their notebooks for months, fantasy owners are just now examining this year’s incoming class. In order to keep fans of the virtual game fully informed and a step ahead of the competition, the Roto Arcade crew is here to provide you with the necessary goods. Today’s college stud under the microscope is LA Tech RB Kenneth Dixon.
College Highlights: Overlooked by many while at Louisiana Tech, Dixon was the definition of 'consistency king.' He notched at least 5.1 yards per carry and 1,000 combined yards in each of his four years with the Bulldogs. Last season, he surpassed the century mark in total yardage in eight of 13 games, including a stellar 102 rush yards, 113 receiving yards and four total touchdowns logged against Arkansas State in the New Orleans Bowl. His 87 collegiate touchdowns rank second all-time in FBS history.
Pluses: The 5-foot-10, 215-pound slasher is a magician in space. He owns terrific vision, quickness and shiftiness, finding and jetting through cut-back lanes. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked No. 3 among FBS backs in elusive rating forcing a missed tackle on 27.4 percent of his attempts. His pacesetting 3-cone and 60-yard shuttle times at the Combine rubber stamp his greasiness. Additionally, he stands tall against oncoming blitzers and is a wonderfully reliable and versatile receiver. Not just a swing catcher, he caught 12-of-15 targeted passes out of the slot. Some have questioned his between-the-tackles toughness but he generated 60.6 percent of his yards after initial contact last year. Three-down capabilities.
Minuses: Most scouts conclude Dixon is an ill-fit for a power rush scheme, limiting his overall dimensionality. Lacks top-gear speed evidenced in his 4.58 40-yard time. His high odometer reading raises durability concerns. Various nicks and scrapes ailed him last fall. Fumbled four times on 197 carries in 2015. Can be too patient at times, which leads to East-West shuffling and negative runs.
Pro-Comp(s): Smaller version of Matt Forte
Team Fits: Denver, Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, New England, Minnesota, Indianapolis, Seattle
Fearless Forecast: Dixon was a veritable statistical buffet over his profitable four-year college career. Many will knock him for playing against weaker WAC/CUSA competition, but his steady box score contributions are hard to ignore. With 889 career touches under his belt, the tire tread is rather thin. Still, he has the versatility, open-field shiftiness and grit necessary for three-down work at the pro level. A likely Round 2 or Round 3 selection, he should open the season as a complementary asset. However, given the voracious nature of the injury imp, he'll be one awkward knee bend away from meaningful opportunities. In the double-digit rounds of fantasy drafts, there may be no young rusher with more upside.
P Noah Syndergaard, NYM, $54 – OK, this should not require any explanation. Syndergaard has been obscene in his first two starts (13.0 IP, ER, 2 BB, 21 Ks).
P Tanner Roark, Was, $35 – Just chasing a win here, with Roark facing 3-win Miami. He was effective in his last start, tossing seven shutout innings against the Braves.
C Tony Wolters, Col, $10 – Here's hoping Wolters starts on Monday. He's off to a nice start in limited action this season (5-for-14, 3 SB), and he's a left-handed bat facing Dan Straily. Colorado's usual catcher, Nick Hundley, was just placed on the 7-day concussion DL.
1B Anthony Rizzo, CHC, $18 – Rizzo has enjoyed plenty of success against Cardinals starter Mike Leake (10-for-30, 2 HR, 3 BB), as have most batters who've faced the righty so far this season (1.84 WHIP).
2B Ryan Goins, Tor, $12 – Goins is a dirt-cheap hitter in a terrific batting order, plus he has a strong history against Boston starter Clay Buchholz (9-for-21).
3B Nolan Arenado, Col, $22 – Another pick that should require no explanation. Moving on...
SS Zack Cozart, Cin, $15 – Cozart is scorching hot at the plate, having strung together three straight multi-hit games. He's hitting at the top of the Reds' lineup and he's had nothin' but success against Jordan Lyles, Colorado's starter (6-for-11, 3 XBHs).
OF Jay Bruce, Cin, $17 – Another Cincy hitter who has pleasant memories of batting against Lyles. Bruce has a pair of homers in 14 career at-bats against Lyles, and somehow he's never K'd against the right-hander.
OF Yasmany Tomas, Ari, $12 – Tomas is coming off back-to-back three-hit games, and he cleared the fence twice on Sunday. He's facing Jake Peavy, a guy who's allowed 10 runs over his first nine frames this year.
OF Adam Duvall, Cin, $7 – Here's a decent enough minimum-priced bat to sketch in a lineup. Duvall has hit safely in his last seven starts, and he's slashing .286/.375/.464.
Jose Altuve is 5-6 and hit 13 homers last season. He has four bombs over his last eight games this year and is on pace to finish with 50 home runs, 162 runs scored, 100 RBI and 75 steals, which would be a profit for those who drafted him. All joking aside, Altuve has a career high OBP, is running like crazy and sports a 27.5 LD%. He’s also walking more than ever, and it should help batting in front of Carlos Correa. No player in all of baseball has more combined steals/homers than Altuve’s 10, so owners should sit back and enjoy.
Matt Moore was once a top prospect, and while it’s usually best not to overreact to three starts to begin the year, a 15:1 K:BB ratio over two outings is noteworthy. Moore has benefitted from starting at home during all three of his starts this season, and there’s always the concern of having to deal with pitching in the A.L. East moving forward, but his fastball velocity is back up this year, and he owns a career 10.6 SwStr%. Moore is owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues right now, but he has the upside to be a top-30 type fantasy starter moving forward. He should be added in all leagues in which he’s somehow still available.
Headlines of the Week: Man Breaks Into Five Guys, Fires Up The Grill...Workers Smash Windows At Burger King All Because Of A Prank...Man Goes On Chainsaw Wielding Rampage...Man Wrongly Convicted in 1957 Murder To Be Released.
Quick Hits: Trevor Story got robbed of two homers the other night because of Coors Field’s new fence...The Twins have scored 28 runs this season, which is easily the fewest in MLB, ands they have had few off days with the benefit of the DH. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Byung Ho Park entered Sunday with a K% of 50.0, 40.5 and 38.9, respectively, which is beyond remarkable. That’s a lot of strikeouts...Bryce Harper has homered in four straight games (with 10 RBI over that span), and he’s already recorded half the amount of steals this season as he did all of last year. He’s also walked twice as many times as he’s fanned so far. He’s easily the No. 1 fantasy hitter for the next five years, and while Mike Trout will certainly bounce back from his slow start, the gap between the two is widening.
Quick Hits Part Deux: This Chris Tillman pitch was so awful Adrian Beltre called time in an attempt to grasp it...The closing situations in MLB is as crazy as ever, with so much turmoil already. There have already been changes in Minnesota, Houston and Philadelphia, and who knows what’s going on in Oakland. J.J. Hoover, meanwhile, has allowed seven runs over his past 1.1 innings and has a 2:4 K:BB ratio on the year. Jeurys Familia was recently asked to throw in four games in five nights, tossing 14, 22, 23 and 15 pitches during these outings...What’s going on with Kolten Wong?...The Phillies have a minus 18 run differential, yet they have won six games, more than the Mets and Astros (the teams I predicted to play in the World Series!). Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola have combined for a 48:6 K:BB ratio over 34.0 innings this season with a 0.85 WHIP. That’s pretty dominant.
Song of the Week: Frightened Rabbit – Lump Street
Quick Hits Part Tres: J.J. Hardy has the two shortest home runs this season, thanks to Pesky's Pole. Here’s the first one. And here’s the other...Dexter Fowler leads all of baseball with a 1.0 WAR so far (tied with Vince Velasquez), and it’s not even based on defense...Devin Mesoraco currently sports an ugly .125/.250/.167 line, but he’s healthy, has twice as many walks as strikeouts and is one season removed from hitting 25 homers with 80 RBI in 384 at bats. He’s 27 years old. Go try to buy him low...Many questioned whether Dallas Keuchel could come close to replicating his Cy Young winning season last year as a soft tossing lefty without a big K rate, so naturally, he’s posted a 2.18 ERA over his first three starts despite much worse control (he’s walked 11 through 20.2 innings) while producing fewer groundballs and flashing the lowest velocity (average FB mph has been 87.7 compared to 89.6 last year) during his career. Go figure.
Vince Velasquez: Not only has he yet to allow a run this season, Velasquez has a 25:3 K:BB ratio over 15.0 innings, as he’s been one of the most impressive pitchers in all of baseball. His last outing came against a Padres team that’s been shut out in nearly half of their games, but a 16:0 K:BB ratio is the type of signature performance that suggests future stardom. Velasquez owns a 17.5 SwStr% so far in 2016, and while the Phillies won’t provide much run support and possess a shaky bullpen, his fantasy value is shooting way up.
Jeanmar Gomez: A second Phillies pitcher gets upgraded here, as Gomez looks like Philly’s new closer. He has a career 1.40 WHIP, but he’s recorded a save in each of his past four appearances, which matters most to fantasy owners. David Hernandez has pitched much better after imploding during his first appearance, tossing 4.2 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, but the closer’s role sure looks like Gomez’s for now.
Kevin Jepsen: With Glenn Perkins headed to the disabled list with a shoulder injury, Jepsen is Minnesota’s new closer. The Twins claim Perkins will be back soon, but there’s an equal chance his absence is lengthy. Jepsen is now an obvious must own in all fantasy leagues, but he’s off to a poor start this season and posted just a 34:20 K:BB ratio over 41.2 innings last year. Trevor May, who’s flourished since moving to the bullpen, including sporting a 15.1 SwStr% so far this season, is an intriguing option to stash in deeper formats.
Angel Pagan: He’s clearly healthier than he’s been in years, as Pagan is batting .385/.455/.590 and has transitioned smoothly to left field. He’s no longer hitting atop San Francisco’s lineup, but he already has two steals on the year, and he’s walked more times than he’s fanned so far in 2016. Pagan has been the No. 13 fantasy player this season and is owned in just 53 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Wilson Ramos: It’s usually best not to overreact to small samples, but that’s all we have to deal with this time of year, and all the talk about Ramos getting LASIK surgery during the offseason sure seems to have helped him so far. He’s batting .406 (although to be fair that’s come with a 5:0 K:BB ratio), and while runs scored will never be a strength, it’s fair to expect Ramos to be a top-12 fantasy catcher from here on out.
Troy Tulowitzki: Hitting .239/.317/.380 after leaving Coors Field last season, Tulowitzki has posted a .534 OPS in 2016. After never striking out more than 130 times during his career, he’s fanned 55 times over 52 games since joining Toronto. Steamer is projecting a .251/.325/.429 line (104 wRC+) over the rest of the season. And this isn’t even factoring in Tulowitzki’s extensive injury history. It’s tough to consider him a top-five fantasy shortstop moving forward.
Ian Desmond: Many expected a bounce back after moving to Texas, but it’s worth pointing out just how disastrous Desmond’s season was last year (.233/.290/.384). He’s off to an even worse start this season (.289 OPS), as the move to the American League and the outfield hasn’t exactly been beneficial. Through 46 at bats, Desmond is still searching for his first extra base hit.
Miguel Sano: He’s batting .156 and has yet to homer this season. Sano now owns a career 35.9 K%, so there’s some cause for concern. I’d consider him a buy-low candidate, but this is a discouraging start to say the least. After producing a 43.2 Hard% during his rookie campaign last year, he’s at just 23.5% so far in 2016.
Ketel Marte: He’s off to an extremely slow start, still searching for his first extra base hit of the year. Marte has been moved to the No. 9 spot in the Mariners’ lineup thanks to his current .425 OPS, and he’s now owned in just 30 percent of Yahoo leagues despite the SB upside.
Adam Wainwright: There’s no reason to worry about a pitcher’s ERA after two starts, but Wainwright’s 5:8 K:BB ratio over 11.0 innings is a little eye opening. He was strong after returning from an Achilles injury last year, but he’ll turn 35 this summer, and his velocity in the early going (average fastball has been 89.3 mph) is a career low. It’s something to at least pay attention to moving forward.
Before setting your Saturday lineup for Yahoo Daily Fantasy Soccer, see what pundits Joe Lago and Scott Pianowski put together based off a £200 budget.
[Join a Yahoo Daily Fantasy Soccer contest now]
Study their picks, feel free to agree or disagree, and sign up for a daily contest.
Note: Lineups were picked Friday, so monitor for updated news before making your final decisions.
F: Marcus Rashford £26
F: Anthony Martial £20
M: Jesse Lingard £17
M: Stephane Sessegnon £11
M: Samir Nasri £14
M: Gylfi Sigurdsson £27
D: Timothy Fosu-Mensah £15
D: Daley Blind £20
D: John Stones £12
U: Graziano Pelle £18
GK: David de Gea £20
F: Marcus Rashford £26
F: Ayoze Perez £14
M: Willian £25
M: Kevin De Bryune £30
M: Tom Cleverly £13
M: Jonjo Shelvey £14
D: Timothy Fosu-Mensah £15
D: Gael Clichy £19
D: John Stones £12
U: Leighton Barnes £16
GK: Joe Hart £16
With more options available for contests that start at 7:05 ET, I’m going to concentrate on Friday’s later batch of games.
My full lineup:
SP: Joe Ross $43
SP: Luis Severino $41
C: John Jaso $15
1B: Prince Fielder $17
2B: Brock Holt $12
3B: Miguel Sano $14
SS: J.J. Hardy $15
OF: Carlos Beltran $13
OF: Curtis Granderson $15
OF: Michael Conforto $15
Ross looks like a borderline ace, but he’s not being priced even close to that, even against the Phillies, although to be fair Jeremy Hellickson has been terrific so far. Severino gave up 10 hits over five innings during his first start of the year, but he also posted a 5:0 K:BB ratio. He’s enticing at just $41. Wei-Yin Chen is another intriguing option Friday.
Jaso is my go to option at catcher since he’s almost always in Pittsburgh’s lineup (hitting leadoff) as the team’s first baseman. He’s batting .351/.390/.514 so far this season. Fielder is off to a slow start, but he’s inexpensive, at home and facing a hittable pitcher. Sano doesn’t have the easiest matchup, but third base is thin, and this is someone who was treated as a future star just three weeks ago, so the price seems right now.
Hardy gets a lefty in which he’s had major success against in the past, albeit in a small sample. Beltran continues to be a cheap option, especially for someone who hit .292/.364/.513 after the All-Star break last season. Granderson is off to a painfully slow start, but he scored 98 runs with a combined 37 homers/steals last season and continues to hit leadoff. Teammate Conforto has more walks than strikeouts this year and will break out soon enough.
Good luck with your contests Friday.
Washington's Trea Turner is widely considered one of the game's more intriguing prospects, as most of you know. Turner, 22, made a cameo appearance for the Nationals late last season (9-for-40, HR, 2 SB) following an outstanding year in the high minors (.322/.370/.458, 8 HR, 29 SB). He opened his 2016 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse, where he's basically been a hitting machine: 8-for-19, 6 BB, 4 Ks. He's reached base at least twice in every game this season, with a 4-for-4 performance included.
Meanwhile, the Nats are starting Danny Espinosa at shortstop. His next hit will be his first since April 6. Espinosa is 0-for-16 over his last six games, batting .130/.276/.174 so far this season. Not good. The Nats are winning, of course, so perhaps the organization finds it easier to overlook Espinosa's non-hitting.
It seems pretty clear that Turner will be Washington's everyday shortstop before long — it's not as if Espinosa's history suggests a surge is forthcoming. Turner is owned in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues as of this writing, and he's going to be a popular pickup upon arrival. He doesn't have fence-clearing power necessarily, but he can offer doubles/triples pop and useful speed at a premium position. He's a reasonable stash.
• No one should be at all surprised that Joey Gallo has been roughing up PCL pitching. He's 10-for-30 so far through eight games with four homers, 11 RBIs and nine runs scored. Gallo has twice reached the 40-homer plateau in the minors, plus he went deep six times for the Rangers last season, so his power credentials are well known. He'll surely return to Texas at some point soon-ish. Ian Desmond has been a mess in the early weeks (.116/.174/.116) for Texas, just in case you hadn't noticed.
• Here's a partial list of dominant young starters who delivered excellent stat lines in their first minor league appearances of 2016: Minnesota's Jose Berrios (5.0 IP, 3 H, R, 4 BB, 9 Ks), Pittsburgh's Tyler Glasnow (5.0 IP, 3 H, R, 3 BB, 6 Ks), Washington's Lucas Giolito (4.0 IP, H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 Ks) and Detroit's Michael Fulmer (5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, BB, 7 Ks). Tampa Bay's Blake Snell has been terrific over two starts as well (9.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 14 Ks). Give me Giolito for the long-term, but I'd spend waiver priority on whoever is first to arrive.
• Shortstop J.P. Crawford has hit safely in seven straight games for Reading, so he's pushing for an early promotion to Triple-A, if not to Philly. Crawford figures to be a double-digit power/speed player, and he's demonstrated on-base ability at every stop. His career minor league slash is .292/.383/.411.
• Arizona couldn't find a spot for Peter O'Brien on the opening day roster, so he took the power show to Reno. Look at this bomb. O'Brien, 25, hit 60 homers in the minors over the past two seasons, plus another two in six games this year. If the Diamondbacks ever decide to simply stick him in left-field (or give him to an A.L. team), he'll become a priority fantasy add.
Vincent Velasquez, everyone can see, is something special. The question is, how much of that special pitcher will we see this year?
Velasquez’s turn Thursday afternoon was the pitching gem of the season: a three-hit shutout, with zero walks and 16 strikeouts, against the overmatched Padres. If the video doesn’t do something to you, check with your doctor. Blazing fastball, nasty off-speed pitches. And the tank sure looked full in the ninth inning.
The Phillies are clearly in a rebuilding season, but they’ve assembled a rotation of interesting pieces. For the season, Velasquez has 15 scoreless innings, three walks, 25 strikeouts. The rules of signature significance apply.
The 23-year-old Velasquez has the look of a future horse, at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, but his minor-league resume is filled with physical setbacks. Tommy John surgery cost him the 2011 season. Groin and lat problems have cropped up the last two years, a part of why he threw just 89 innings last year and 77 the previous season. Thursday’s start marked the first time he’d gone past seven innings as a pro.
I’m probably going to hold onto my two Velasquez shares, but I can understand anyone who wants to hit the market, thinking he isn’t likely to go past 150 or 160 innings. The Phillies figure to be a few years from contention, and there’s no reason to overextend a pitcher with Velasquez’s upside. You get the idea the Astros are going to regret that Ken Giles trade for a long time to come.
The next two Velasquez starts should be fun — he’s tentatively scheduled to face Jacob deGrom next week, and Joe Ross the turn after that. Sounds like appointment viewing to me.
• Velasquez earned a 97 game score for his outstanding outing, a number matched later in the afternoon by St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia. The Brewers managed just one hit and one walk off Garcia, and he struck out 13 along the way. Velasquez needed a modest 113 pitches for his shutout, while Garcia finished in 104.
Much like Velasquez, no one doubts the talent with Garcia, now 29. It’s just a matter of how long the Cardinals southpaw can hold up. Garcia has a 3.29 ERA and 1.25 WHIP for his career, and last season he took the numbers down to 2.43 and 1.05. But over the last four years, he’s been held to an average of 14 starts. He hasn’t pushed past 130 innings since 2011.
I have several Garcia shares, and I get the idea it’s going to be another forced hold. I’m not going to find any opponents who are cavalier about Garcia’s durability and track record. That said, I’m always willing to bet on the St. Louis organization (and rotation) as a whole, and the park is favorable as well. And there sure are a lot of soft landing spots in the National League this year.
• Four relief appearances don’t tell you much about anyone, but J.J. Hoover is doing all he can to break from the circle of trust. He blew a save back on April 8, and his get-work appearance Thursday at Wrigley Field was a total disaster: five runs, four earned runs, three walks, just one batter retired. Call him a cab.
The Reds are one of several rebuilding teams in the National League, but they’ll cobble together some save chances like anyone else. Who’s your Hoover hedge here? Right-handed Jumbo Diaz makes sense, and if the Reds wanted to go outside the box, left-hander Tony Cingrani could get a look. Start hedging, hedgers.
• We’ll be without Charlie Blackmon for a while: a turf toe injury pushed him on the disabled list. At least the next week of games aren’t bad to miss — Colorado heads to the road for six.
D.J. LeMahieu gets a step forward in the meantime, promoted to the top spot in the order. Brandon Barnes and Ryan Raburn are the extra outfielders, but Thursday the Rockies decided to use Ben Paulsen in left field. That doesn’t sound like a long-term solution, but Walter Weiss gets funky with his lineup card. Perhaps the Rockies will loosen up their rules with regards to Gerardo Parra facing left-handed pitching.
Speed Round: Drew Pomeranz pitched pretty well opposite Velasquez (6 IP, 2 ER, 8 K), and could be a sneaky streamable guy for the home schedule in San Diego . . . Jeremy Hazelbaker clocked another homer, of course he did. I love that he showed tons of speed all during his minor-league career, and I love how the Cardinals trust him in the No. 2 slot. Make room for him . . . Byron Buxton was hit by a pitch and stole a base, the highlight of his season thus far. But ultimately he was forced out of the game due to the plunking — hand injury. X-rays came back negative . . . Mat Latos picked up his second win, because almost anyone can beat the Angels, and surely anyone can beat the 2016 Twins . . . LA's Ross Stripling showed something in his second start (6 IP, 2 ER, 5 K), enough to kick some tires. He’s at Atlanta next, good work if you can get it.
Bench presses counted. Cone drills clocked. And tape reviewed. While NFL scouts have been scribbling in their notebooks for months, fantasy owners are just now examining this year’s incoming class. In order to keep fans of the virtual game fully informed and a step ahead of the competition, the Roto Arcade crew is here to provide you with the necessary goods. Today’s college stud under the microscope is Utah RB Devontae Booker.
College Highlights: After attending junior college, Booker arrived at Utah in 2014 and made an immediate impact. Emerging as the Utes’ RB1, Booker averaged an incredible 133.3 yards per game over the team’s final ten outings. He closed out the year with 1,512 rushing yards and 10 TDs on 292 carries. Ten games into 2015, the NorCal native tore his meniscus. Before ending his season prematurely, however, Booker racked up 268 totes for 1,261 yards and 11 scores.
Pluses: A decisive player with excellent vision, Booker isn’t afraid to lower his pads and go up the gut. Using his compact build to slither through holes, the 5-foot-11 and 219 pound back displays patience and creativity. A powerful specimen with good forward lean, Booker always finishes. Using impressive balance and leg drive to stay on his feet, he’s a back that exhibits determination and dependability. Hauling in 80 receptions in his two seasons at Utah, Booker also possesses good hands. His willingness to pass protect is another pro that has won favor with scouts.
Minuses: Nearly 24-years-old and coming off of a knee injury, there are legitimate concerns about his age and durability. Plus, he’s not an athletic freak. Yes, he’s strong, but he lacks breakaway speed and head turning explosiveness. His ball security also needs some improvement, as he fumbled the ball six times in 2014.
Pro-Comp(s): Justin Forsett
Team Fits: Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens
Fearless Forecast: Booker doesn’t have the flash or dazzle to be selected by an uber needy team. Instead, he’s likely to go somewhere that’s looking to add depth behind an established starter or aiming to find “pop” within an aging or average cadre of backs. He has three-down potential, but also carries with him some significant red flags. I don’t foresee him putting up numbers in Week 1. However, he could emerge (as he did in college) mid-season after injuries or ineptitude hit those on the depth chart ahead of him. I have him ranked third among this year’s crop of rookie RBs. In deeper PPR formats he’s worth a stash, but in a standard scoring league with a short bench it’ll be hard to roster him out of the gate.
Dalton Del Don and Brandon Funston open with talk about the historic NBA night and big NFL trade and then dig deep into MLB talk, concentrating on buy, hold and sell candidates. What should we make of hot starts by Tyler White, Eugenio Suarez, Jean Segura and Aaron Nola? What about slow starts by Albert Pujols, Xander Bogaerts, Adam Wainwright, Troy Tulowitzki and Miguel Sano? All this and more on Thursday's podcast.
It’s one thing to be an 0-8 team, or heck, to lose eight games in a row at any point in the year. Slumps happen, strange things come about. Baseball is a six-month war of attrition; it’s important to try to stay grounded when outliers are buzzing around your head.
That said, it’s hard to ignore what the Twins are doing right now. They’re not just an 0-8 baseball club, they’re looking downright horrendous in the process.
Minnesota’s scored just 13 runs in their eight games, dead last in the majors (everyone else has 20 runs or more; the Cubs and Giants have 56 each). They’re near the bottom in most of the slash stats (.210/.287/.313), and they only have four homers.
And then there’s this other enormous problem: the Twins simply can’t stop striking out. As a team they’re whiffing an absurd 29 percent of the time, tops in the majors. That’s a crazy-high number for an American League team. The Orioles struck out around 22 percent last year, the worst number in the AL. Houston was around 23 percent in 2014.
You have to ask yourself how patient you intend to be with some of these strikeout kings:
— Byron Buxton, the buzzy sophomore breakout candidate, is off to a 4-for-24 start with 13 strikeouts. He’s yet to draw a walk. He’s hitting .167, slugging .250.
— Byung-Ho Park has left the park once, but otherwise it’s been a lot of swing-and-miss. He’s 3-for-23, with two walks, 12 strikeouts. That’s a .143/.250/.286 slash.
— Miguel Sano, a sophomore with an expectant ADP all spring, is off to a .125/.300/.125 start. Six walks have cushioned some of the blow, but he’s only had three hits in 24 at-bats and he’s yet to register an extra-base hit. He’s struck out 13 times.
To be fair, we could spotlight most of this underachieving offense. Only Joe Mauer and Eduardo Escobar are hitting over .300. Kurt Suzuki, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, and Eddie Rosario are under the Mendoza Line, too.
On Buxton, I think it’s inevitable he’ll be sent down at some point this spring. The Twins don’t want to break his spirit or ruin his confidence entirely. This is a 22-year-old kid who was atop some overall prospect lists. Beating up on some minor-league pitching might be a good thing for him. Work out some kinks, get mechanically straight.
Sano is the easiest hold of the bunch. Although he had contact issues last year as well, he also showed prodigious power. At least he’s walking some, getting on base here and there. It’s likely to straighten out soon.
If you want to drop Park for one of the shiny toys available to a mixed-league owner, I’ll sign off. He’s 29. Contact issues were part of his profile in Korea. He plays a position that’s not overly difficult to fill. Who’s to say he’s completely settled and comfortable in American culture?
We welcome your takes on Buxton, Sano and Park in the comments. And just for kicks, how many games will the Twins win this year? When are they going to break the bagel?
• There have been some scribes eager to discredit the fast start of Jean Segura, but this is a stock I’m willing to believe in. Segura’s bumped his contact rate 10 percent from last year — he’s now around 94 percent, one of the leaders in the majors. Strikeout and walk stats stabilize quicker than most; we’re not far away from being able to actually take those numbers at face value.
Segura is at the top of a good Arizona lineup (any lineup with Paul Goldschmidt in it will interest me), he has some pop (three homers, one of them a fluke inside-the-parker) and documented speed (89 steals the last three years). He’s getting a change of uniform at a good time. He’s been reasonably durable through his career. I expect him to be a fantasy factor for the entire season, pushing 90 runs with a meaty amount of steals.
• Apparently the only thing that can stop Trevor Story is the new, raised fence in Colorado. Story rapped a couple of triples in a 10-6 victory over the Giants, but both of those hits would have been home runs against the previous height of the right-center fence. He’s up to .343 for the year, with a 1.057 slugging percentage.
He’s yet to steal a base, but that’s what you get when nine of your twelve hits have been triples or home runs. I wish I had some shares of this breakout Story. (I do have Nolan Arenado shares, particularly fun on a Wednesday, but he's the last guy we need to discuss in the frame of this column. Sit back and enjoy. We know who he is.)
Angel Pagan scored a couple of runs for the Giants, pushing his slash up to .387/.457/.645. He’s been the most-added offensive player in the Yahoo game over the past 24 hours. I’d be more interested in Pagan if he batted near the top of the lineup — you’ll usually find him in the bottom third of the order. He also turns 35 in July, so the upside is probably modest in this case. As a temporary hot-hand filler, I’ll sign off. But I don’t see a ton of long-term viability here.
• Fastball velocity is a nice thing for a starting pitcher to have, but it’s certainly not everything. Consider Jerad Eickhoff, who’s been a strikeout ace in Philadelphia despite a heater that is normally 91 mph or lower. He’s getting good results from his slider and a dandy curve, the latter a pitch he’s throwing about a quarter of the time now.
Eickhoff took care of the Padres, surely a favorable draw, in Wednesday’s start (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K). Here’s some scouting video; baby's got the bends. For his brief major-league career, Eickhoff's at 8.7 K/9 and a tasty 2.43 ERA. He’s still unowned in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues, if you want to kick the tires before next week’s start against the currently-unthreatening Mets.
My full lineup:
SP: Ervin Santana ($32) - Minnesota's Ervin Santana is one of the cheapest starting pitcher options on Thursday's board. He was one of the best pitchers in MLB during the final five weeks of the '15 season, going 5-1 down the stretch with a quality start in each of his final seven turns in the rotation. And he's picked up where he left off with a 2.25 ERA and 10 Ks through his first eight innings of '16. Facing a White Sox club that has managed just a .608 OPS versus righties in 249 ABs this season, Santana looks like a nice bargain play.
SP: Jaime Garcia ($42)
C: Yan Gomes ($14)
1B: Joe Mauer ($13)
2B: D.J. LeMahieu $17
3B: Matt Carpenter $18 - Adrian Beltre $18 - Take your pick, you can't go wrong here. Both players have a fantastic recent history against the starter they are facing and come into the game swinging a reasonably hot bat - especially Beltre, who has five doubles and two home runs in his past five contests.
SS: Aledmys Diaz $15
OF: Hunter Pence $19
OF: Yasiel Puig $18
OF: Odubel Herrera $12 - Has a hit in six straight games
You may have noticed by my selections that I'm picking on Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta, he of the 10.80 ERA through two starts. He's facing the Cardinals on Thursday, which has pushed me towards St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia (who owned a 1.70 ERA in 10 home starts in '15) as well as Cards' offensive options Matt Carpenter (.455, 3 HR in past 33 ABs vs. Peralta) and Aledmys Diaz (1.363 OPS in '16)
I also can't ignore a game at Coors Field, and I'm represented in that matchup (SF vs COl) with 2B D.J. LeMahieu and OF Hunter Pence. Both players have a nice history against the opposing pitcher - Pence has seven hits, including two home runs, in his past 20 ABs vs. Jorge De La Rosa, and LeMahieu has gone 5-for-15 against Matt Cain in his career, not to mention the fact that he's a .318 lifetime hitter at Coors.
On today's metaphor-rich episode, Liz Loza and Brad Evans delve into Josh Gordon's continuing offseason drama. Plus, Brad hints that Johnny Football may be crashing on his couch. They also discuss LeGarrette Blount's big-bodied presence in the Patriots ever-confusing backfield.
Continuing to break down tape through the 2016 NFL Draft, Brad and Liz spotlight the following rookies: Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Sterling Shepard, Alex Collins, and Kenneth Dixon. In true draftnik style, the duo throws in two additional under the radar RBs that could surprise if given the right opportunity. These are names you'll want to know come draft day!