Sevilla 2-0 Valencia CF - Sevilla take control of their Europa League semi-final against Valencia through goals from Stephane Mbia and Carlos Bacca. Nova to undergo season-ending elbow surgery (Yahoo Sports) - BOSTON (AP) -- New York Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova has decided to have season-ending Tommy John surgery for a partially torn elbow ligament. Bobcats' McRoberts fined $20,000 for LeBron foul (Yahoo Sports) - NEW YORK (AP) -- Charlotte Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts was fined $20,000 by the NBA on Thursday for making unnecessary and excessive contact with Miami Heat forward LeBron James. Champion O'Sullivan trails Perry - Benfica 2-1 Juventus - Lima's late strike gives Benfica a narrow advantage over Juventus in a high-quality Europa League semi-final first leg. Colorado PG Spencer Dinwiddie heading to NBA (Yahoo Sports) - University of Colorado junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is skipping his senior season and will declare for the NBA draft. Dinwiddie said at a news conference in Boulder on Thursday that he believes he's a ''first-round talent'' and doesn't think there are many players in this year's deep draft that are more talented than he is. Dinwiddie's junior season was cut short when he tore his left ACL Jan. 12 at Washington and needed reconstructive surgery. Dinwiddie was averaging 14.7 points and nearly four assists when he got hurt. Nadal reaches last eight in Barcelona - Rafael Nadal safely books his place in the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open with a 6-3 6-3 win over Croatian Ivan Dodig. Rangers great Jardine dies aged 65 - Former Rangers, Hearts and Scotland defender Sandy Jardine dies aged 65 following a battle with cancer. Bobcats' Josh McRoberts fined $20,000 (Yahoo Sports) - NEW YORK (AP) -- Charlotte Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts was fined $20,000 by the NBA on Thursday for making unnecessary and excessive contact with Miami Heat forward LeBron James. Young, Granderson, Colon lead Mets over Cards 4-1 (Yahoo Sports) - Chris Young homered to start New York's comeback and slumping Curtis Granderson singled in a run as a pinch hitter as Bartolo Colon and the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 Thursday to send Lance Lynn to his first career loss in April. New York took three of four from the defending NL champions and has won four of five overall. St. Louis lost for the sixth time in nine games and has gone 291 at-bats without a home runs since Allen Craig connected at Milwaukee off Wily Peralta on April 16.

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Closing Time: Blown saves abound as Frieri's struggles continue [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 24, 2014, 8:32 am]
When a big league manager gives a vote of confidence to his closer, it's basically the rhetorical version of an executioner polishing an axe. So when Angels manager Mike Scioscia declares that he's sticking with Ernesto Frieri, fantasy owners need to assume the opposite will soon be true. Frieri coughed up four earned runs on three hits and a walk against the Nationals on Wednesday, retiring just one batter. He's allowed multiple hitters to reach base in each of his last five appearances, a streak that includes two blown saves. Jose Lobaton greeted him with a homer on Wednesday; Jayson Werth finished him with a rocket of a double, swinging on a 3-0 count. "It's in him [to close]," Scioscia later said. "We just need to get him a little more consistent." Yeah, OK. If the team is looking for consistency (and effectiveness), they'll look to the eighth, where Joe Smith has been cruising. Smith delivered a quiet frame against the Nats, working around a one-out error, and he's had just one rough outing all year to this point. Smith has K'd 11 batters in 10.0 innings, issuing just three walks and coaxing a thousand grounders. He's the add in this 'pen, with Frieri likely down to his final bullet. • The Cubs celebrated the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field on Wednesday, with balloons and throwback uniforms and former players (but not Sammy) and party hats and cakes of various sizes. It was, for the most part, a delightful afternoon. And then the Cubs' bullpen arrived on the scene. They, apparently, had decided to reenact a Carlos Marmol blown save on its one-year anniversary. Pedro Strop entered with a three-run lead and promptly walked the first hitter he faced. A misplay by Starlin Castro allowed another base-runner, then Strop walked a pinch-hitter. And then this nonsense happened. Strop would eventually strike out a pair of batters (Parra, Goldschmidt), but he was removed after throwing his zillionth pitch (17 of them strikes). James Russell entered, gave up a game-ty

First Down: Should you buy the hype on Patterson, Foles, others? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 24, 2014, 7:56 am]
Place your ear to the grapevine this time of year and chances are you’re bound to hear stories of despair, mediocrity and, of course, excessive hype … This group of draft prospects is RISING. That group is FALLING. Everyone in this class is destined to overachieve/underachieve. The wild speculation, whether positive or negative, is seemingly endless. Sonny Weaver, the fictional general manager of the Cleveland Browns in ‘Draft Day,’ would certainly agree. Just look at the insane rumors regarding former Pitt QB Tom Savage and Drake's brother from another mother Johnny Manziel. Smokescreens or not, fantasy owners, who function similarly as GMs over fledgling virtual franchises, face identical dilemmas. Receive poor intel and you’re likely headed to an early grave filled with constant ridicule and liquid therapy. However, buy into rock solid intel, and jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash aren’t a figment of the imagination, they’re reality. We may be months away from meaningful football, but the buzz surrounding a number of players is rapidly building. To ensure you don’t fall into a Ryan Leaf deathtrap, here’s my take on seven commodities sure to be sensationalized in fantasy drafts come August: Cordarrelle Patterson, Min, WR (Current ADP: 51.5, WR22) The Buzz: Under the direction of vertical-minded Norv Turner, CP is sure to take a major leap forward possibly topping out as a high-end WR2 in 12-team leagues. Believe or make believe? BELIEVE. Slow out of the gates in his rookie season, Patterson turned on the afterburners from Week 13 on as then OC Bill Musgrave finally pulled head out of posterior, calling the youngster's number often. During that stretch he totaled 375 combined yards and six touchdowns. His resulting 14.7 fantasy points per game average in standard formats ranked top-five among wideouts and carried owners to championship glory. Because of his route rawness, much of that production came on the ground, in the return game or

Mostly MLB Notes: Talking slumping sluggers and a look around the league [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 24, 2014, 12:12 am]
As someone who recommended taking starting pitching early this year, Clayton Kershaw getting hurt and Stephen Strasburg currently sporting a 5.33 ERA sure hasn’t helped my case. But after those two, most have been as advertised (give or take). I’m in no way claiming victory with this strategy (and admittedly, I was high on Danny Salazar, Homer Bailey and Zack Wheeler. Chris Sale and Alex Cobb are also currently on the DL), but the biggest disappointments so far have been hitters for the most part. Before I go any further, I want to be clear I expect almost all of these hitters will be fine moving forward. We are still dealing with small samples. But there are some serious star hitters off to pretty horrendous starts. This discussion must begin with Miguel Cabrera, who hit just his second homer of the year Tuesday and is currently batting .235/.297/.412. Cabrera won his second straight MVP last season while hitting .348 with 44 homers. But while dealing with an injury, he managed just one home run after August 26 (not to mention a .262/.311/.405 line over 42 ABs in the playoffs). But he’s Miguel Cabrera and seemingly healthy now. It would be insulting your intelligence if I told you to try to buy him low…I actually predicted Prince Fielder would lead the league in homers this year, brushing off last year’s down numbers to off field problems, and it sure didn’t hurt he was moving from a neutral park when it comes to home runs for left-handed batters to one that has increased them by 22 percent over the past three years. But he’s batting .200 with a .671 OPS right now after posting a .561 OPS and somehow recording zero RBI over 40 postseason at bats last year. In fact, despite hitting predominantly cleanup behind baseball’s best hitter last year and in one of baseball’s best hitter’s parks this season, Fielder has recorded just 11 RBI over his past 48 games. Despite this slump, he has nearly twice as many intentional walks (nine) as any other hitt

Mission Impossible: Ranking Charlie Blackmon [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 23, 2014, 9:59 pm]
The easy part of the Charlie Blackmon game came in early April. The harder part comes now. We first started discussing Blackmon about three weeks ago, after his 6-for-6 explosion in the Coors Field opener. It wasn't a difficult call – we saw plausible upside, we outlined it, we talked about it. If you wanted Blackmon back then, all you probably had to do is find one disposable player on your roster and you were in business. Simple trade-off. Maybe you were discarding someone in the minors, or moving a disabled player. Perhaps you were giving up on a March lottery ticket that didn't pay off. It probably was a painless, all-upside move. (Mind you, some reckless gamblers paid $14 for Blackmon in industry mixed leagues – okay, that was me. But in public leagues, a resource-drop probably wasn't required.) Things are trickier now, 23 games into the season. Blackmon is off to a ridiculous .410/.453/.692 start, with five homers and six steals. He's scored 19 runs, driven in 16, reached the seats four times in his last three starts. Blackmon's the No. 1 or No. 2 hitter in fantasy to this point, depending on how your valuation calculator feels about Giancarlo Stanton. Obviously Blackmon isn't this good – no one's this good. But just how good is he? Where should we rank him going forward? How much would you need before you'd move Blackmon in a trade? These are the real questions. You know the refrain by now: regression is not the end of the conversation, it's the beginning of one. "He'll cool off eventually" is not analysis. Don't let the hacks get away with that. There are pro and con arguments all over the place. Blackmon plays half of his games at Coors Field (heaven), he's tied to a tinkering manager in Walter Weiss (hell), and then there's the road schedule (purgatory). Blackmon doesn't always start against left-handed pitching, no matter that he's handled them well through his brief career (he actually shows a reverse platoon split). Heck, Blackmon homered twice M

Closing Time: Have the Pirates fixed Edinson Volquez? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 23, 2014, 9:26 am]
Evaluating coaching is one of the most difficult things to do for any sports observer, especially when we're looking at the development and improvement side. We're not in the locker room, we're not on the practice field, we're not in the workout room. Players improve all the time and it's not always clear who deserves the credit – and how much of that credit might go to someone (or something) outside of the player himself. All preamble aside, it sure looks like Pittsburgh has a good thing with pitching coach Ray Searage. And by proxy, this might be enough to make a case for reclamation project Edinson Volquez. Searage became Pittsburgh's full-time pitching coach in 2011 and he's had plenty of feel-good stories on his watch. A.J. Burnett repaired his career with the Pirates in 2012 and Francisco Liriano did the same thing last year. No one thought much of Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon when they joined the Bucs; now, they're both considered lockdown relievers. Is Volquez the feel-good story for 2014? Let's have a look around. Volquez's career was just about in the toilet when the Pirates took a chance on the 30-year-old last winter. He toiled for the Padres and Dodgers last year (in a pair of pitcher parks) and turned in a 5.71 ERA and 1.59 WHIP, ratio-torching numbers. It marked the fifth straight year Volquez's ERA was over four. Memories from his dazzling 206-strikeout debut in 2008 keep getting hazier and hazier. All through his career, Volquez has been the classic thrower: big velocity, no idea where it's going. He's piled up strikeouts and walks, uncorked plenty of wild pitches. A carnival ride. With that in mind, consider the foreign version of Volquez we've seen though five starts this season: 28 IP, 21 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 16 K. That's a 1.93 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, by the way. Forget the outlier ratios for now, we'll get to them in a minute. Look how against-type Volquez has been with the strikeouts and walks. His career K/9 is 8.3 - but it's just 5.1 this yea

Closing Time: Julio Teheran’s house of mirrors (but where’s the smoke?) [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 22, 2014, 9:20 am]
Normally when a former top prospect gets off to a tidy 1.80/1.00 start on the mound, everyone sits back, relaxes, enjoys the ride. But we're seeing an interesting divergence of opinion on Julio Teheran. Teheran's latest start was a seven-inning dandy against the Marlins on Monday (7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8). He had to settle a no-decision when Craig Kimbrel struggled in the ninth, but nonetheless this was a fun, useful line for all formats. We could be upon the stardom campaign the scouting hounds have been waiting for – Teheran was a Top 5 prospect on pretty much everyone's clipboard back in 2011-2012. Alas, there are chinks in the armor when you look under the hood. Teheran's fastball velocity is down thus far in 2014 (it's anywhere from a 1.5 mph drop to a 0.8 mph drop, depending on where you get your radar love), and his secondary numbers (.240 BABIP, just 5.4 K/9, 7.1 HR/FB) don't fully support the 1.80 ERA. Most of the ERA estimators say Teheran should have a number in the high 3s or low 4s right now; the projection system Pecota calls for a 4.17 ERA (whoa, Nelly) the rest of the way. While I respect the argument for shopping Teheran now (my buddy Mike Salfino makes an interesting case in his weekly column), I'm going to hold my Teheran shares unless I get an offer that knocks me over. It's not unusual for pitchers to have a little velocity drop in April. Teheran's swinging strike number is the same as it was during last year's breakthrough (3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP). You want to see more strikeouts, sure, but he just whiffed eight against a surprisingly-productive Marlins offense, and he's getting three whiffs for every walk. Last year's out-the-door ratios are where I'd start my Teheran projection right now, and he'll no doubt be a Top 25-30 arm (perhaps higher) when I construct the starting pitcher Shuffle Up later this week. Mind you, this is not the time I'd trade for Teheran – I don't want to trade for any pitcher who's currently carrying an outlier ERA (o

Next big Fish? Andrew Heaney is dominating at Double-A [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 22, 2014, 8:51 am]
One of the really nice things about the Miami Marlins, at least from a fantasy perspective, is that the organization aggressively promotes MLB-ready prospects. Jose Fernandez made his Miami debut at age 20, having never appeared in a regular season game above Single-A. No member of this team's home-grown starting outfield — not Yelich, not Ozuna, not Stanton — was required to make a stop at Triple-A prior to joining the Fish. Often, when this franchise decides that a highly regarded prospect is ready to tread water, they simply toss the kid in the deep waters of the N.L. East. So when we tell you that left-handed starter Andrew Heaney has been embarrassing the hitters of the Double-A Southern League, you should consider it actionable fantasy info. Heaney, 22, entered the season ranked as the consensus No. 1 talent in the Marlins' minor league system, and he's been brilliant through four early starts at Jacksonville. He's struck out 25 batters over 24.1 innings thus far, issuing only three walks, 18 hits and four runs. His last three starts have been particularly terrific, as he's yielded just one run and eight hits over 19.0 frames. If Heaney isn't the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, he's certainly in the discussion. He's been fantastic at every minor league stop. Selected ninth overall in the 2012 draft out of Oklahoma State, Heaney arrived in pro ball with an advanced pitching arsenal. When he was promoted to Jacksonville last season, he was working on a 27-inning scoreless streak (eventually extended to 33). Here's some spring hype on Heaney, via the Miami Herald: “He has excellent velocity with no effort,” said a major-league scout who has watched him pitch. “The ball jumps out of his hand.” [...] “As far as his stuff goes and his demeanor, he’s ready,” Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. [...] “Pitchability-wise, he’s got the plus fastball,” [pitching coordinator Wayne] Rosenthal said. “He’s got an out-pitch s

What's your level of concern, Jean Segura owner? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 21, 2014, 4:54 pm]
Milwaukee shortstop Jean Segura has opened the 2014 season in much the same way that he finished in 2013. That is to say, he's hitting poorly. Segura is just 17-for-73 at the moment (.233) with four extra-base hits (no homers). He's drawn only one walk in 17 games, and he's been caught stealing in four of his seven attempts. Not good, friends. Not good at all. You might recall that Segura was a second-half bust last year, giving us a post-break slash-line of .241/.268/.315 and homering just once. He was a beast in the first two months last season — he hit .367 in April, then .345 in May — but he's been Alcides Escobar-ish ever since. On Monday, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke dropped Segura from second to seventh in the batting order, and it's tough to argue with the move. Segura has pretty much been an out-machine to this point. Perhaps more concerning is the fact that he's also been a grounder machine, leading the majors in groundball percentage (76.7) by a fair margin. He ranks near the bottom of the league in line-drive percentage (13.3), too. So it would be fair to say that Segura isn't making great contact lately, plus he isn't coaxing walks. You never like to see your N.L. hitters batting in the bottom-third of a lineup, but, again, Segura has played his way into this predicament. Long term, I still find it easy to be a Segura supporter. We're talking about a 24-year-old who swiped 44 bags last year while giving us double-digit homers (not that power was ever a big part of the projection). He was a .313 career hitter in the minors, and he excelled in the upper levels. He has his virtues, no question. And it's not meaningless that he strung together a bunch of excellent weeks at the start of 2013 — he gets full credit for that performance. But these past few months have been kinda dreadful. So there's a certain level of near-panic among Segura owners. You drafted him early, thinking you'd get a 3-category shortstop. I get it. You can't dump your shares now,

Do you have the stomach for Kyle Farnsworth? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 20, 2014, 10:16 am]
While everyone remembers Gordon Gekko's speeches and Bud Fox's rise and fall from the seminal film Wall Street, Lou Mannheim is the hidden soul of the picture (in Rounders terms, he's the Knish). Here's one of Lou's watershed tidbits: The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do. Mannheim was talking about, well, money. But for our purposes, let's assume he was referring to saves. Framed another way: how badly do you want (or need) Kyle Farnsworth today? Jose Valverde has been a hot mess over his last three appearances (eight runs, four homers), forcing the Mets to make a change. You're grounded, Papa Grande. Terry Collins made it official on Easter morning: Farnsworth is the closer for now. Farnsworth is the ultimate journeyman, a 38-year-old veteran who's been with eight teams over the years. He's occasionally had success as a closer, most notably a 25-save season with the Rays back in 2011. But the same Tampa Bay organization kicked Farnsworth to the curb last summer, frustrated by a 5.76 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Farnsworth redeemed himself with a brief run of success in Pittsburgh, then became a free agent. Bidding was tempered, but the Mets offered a contract in late March. Tiny samples from April don't tell us a lot, but Farnsworth has been successful with the Mets thus far: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. His once-lethal fastball (mid-90s back in the day) now clocks at 91.5 mph, lowest of his career. If ever there were a closer you didn't want to watch live, this is it. Maybe Gonzalez Germen will be considered for the Mets closing gig down the road, though the 26-year-old is just 37 games into his pro career. And maybe the Mets grasp the downside of anointing a young closer – you're potentially setting up contract liability. For better or for worse, saves move the needle – closers get paid. Vic Black is another name you'll hear with the Mets, though he's currently in Triple-A and walking a batter for every strikeout. We'l

Closing Time: Double dips for Travis Wood, Wily Peralta [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 19, 2014, 10:42 am]
You need a plan for the upcoming week, so let's take a look at the double-dipping pitchers for the period Monday-Sunday. As always, consider everything on this list tentative: sometimes pitchers get scratched, sometimes plans change, sometimes it rains. Additional schedule and player notes will follow after the pitching form. 1. Adam Wainwright (at NYM, PIT): Overdue for a Cy Young. 2. Yu Darvish (at OAK, at SEA): Won't miss the Arlington undertow. 3. Chris Sale (at DET, TB): Hope he goes deep because the bullpen is a joke. 4. Felix Hernandez (HOU, TEX): For what it's worth, April is best career month (2.51/1.10). 5. Cliff Lee (at LAD, at ARI): Clear favorite against Maholm and Arroyo. 6. Jose Fernandez (at ATL, at NYM): Gets two calls if Marlins skip fifth starter. 7. Masahiro Tanaka (at BOS, LAA): Trip to Fenway Park his first major test. 8. Justin Verlander (CWS, at MIN): Sale up front, but then gets Pelfrey cookie. 9. James Shields (at CLE, at BAL): Stuck with Royals offense, but still a no-brainer. 10. Francisco Liriano (CIN, at STL ): Career at PNC (15 starts): 9-2, 1.72, 1.00). 11. Johnny Cueto (at PIT, at ATL): Velocity up, looks 100 percent healthy. 12. Julio Teheran (MIA, CIN): Pitching to contact, but career K/9 much higher in 2H. 13. Anibal Sanchez (CWS, at MIN): Down 1.7 mph on heater but the whiffs are there. 14. Andrew Cashner (at MIL, at WAS): Raw stuff finally turning into strikeouts. 15. Hyun-Jin Ryu (PHI, COL): One terrible start, four outstanding ones. 16. Wily Peralta (SD, CHC): Andy Behrens is a believer. 17. Jon Lester (NYY, at TOR): Velocity down a spec but it hasn't held him back. 18. Travis Wood (ARI, at MIL): Regression starts the conversation, it doesn't end it. 19. Tommy Milone (TEX, at HOU): Avoids Darvish and then it's “Hello, Houston.” 20. Dan Straily (TEX, at HOU): Surprisingly, career ERA is .38 lower on the road. 21. Edinson Volquez (CIN, at STL): Ray Searage has an ultimate set of tools. 22. R.A. Dickey (BAL,

Call to action: Springer promotion causes a stir [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 2:53 pm]
It's arguable that among the players that opened the '14 regular season in the minors, no player's eventual promotion to the majors was more eagerly anticipated in fantasy baseball circles than that of Astros top prospect George Springer. In the numbers-dependent virtual game, Springer's combined 37 home runs and 45 steals in 135 games last season across two minor league levels (Double- and Triple-A) was impossible to ignore. When Springer was promoted this week, the buzz was clear and present. On Wednesday, Springer's MLB debut for the Astros, the Houston man-child was picked up in nearly 50,000 Yahoo leagues. That was 40K more leagues than any other player on that day. Springer picked up a hit in his debut, but went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts. And the swing-and-miss issues are the rub when it comes to Springer's profile. He's been a high-K type throughout his minor league career, though he's managed to walk a healthy amount as well. Now that he's facing the best arms that the world has to offer, the big question surrounding Springer is whether or not he'll be able to put the bat on the ball enough to support his tantalizing power/speed skills with a serviceable batting average. With that in mind, we asked the Yahoo fantasy baseball experts to weigh in with what their expectations are for Springer's inaugural MLB campaign - I'll lead things off: Brandon Funston — I look to Giancarlo Stanton as a comp for George Springer. Both had similar plate discipline profiles, as Stanton drew a nice number of walks in the minors, but also sported hefty whiff rates. And like Springer, Stanton's contact shortcomings were easy to ignore given the the promise of his physical skill-set. Stanton managed to tread water with his batting average (.259) in his rookie campaign, a more than serviceable number when combined with the 22 home runs (in 100 games) that he hit in his first season with the Marlins. Given that Springer has hit over .300 in nearly 300 minor league games, holdin

Call to action: Springer promotion causes stir [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 2:53 pm]
It's arguable that among the players that opened the '14 regular season in the minors, no player's eventual promotion to the majors was more eagerly anticipated in fantasy baseball circles than that of Astros top prospect George Springer. In the numbers-dependent virtual game, Springer's combined 37 home runs and 45 steals in 135 games last season across two minor league levels (Double- and Triple-A) was impossible to ignore. When Springer was promoted this week, the buzz was clear and present. On Wednesday, Springer's MLB debut for the Astros, the Houston man-child was picked up in nearly 50,000 Yahoo leagues. That was 40K more leagues than any other player on that day. Springer picked up a hit in his debut, but went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts. And the swing-and-miss issues are the rub when it comes to Springer's profile. He's been a high-K type throughout his minor league career, though he's managed to walk a healthy amount as well. Now that he's facing the best arms that the world has to offer, the big question surrounding Springer is whether or not he'll be able to put the bat on the ball enough to support his tantalizing power/speed skills with a serviceable batting average. With that in mind, we asked the Yahoo fantasy baseball experts to weigh in with what their expectations are for Springer's inaugural MLB campaign - I'll lead things off: Brandon Funston — I look to Giancarlo Stanton as a comp for George Springer. Both had similar plate discipline profiles, as Stanton drew a nice number of walks in the minors, but also sported hefty whiff rates. And like Springer, Stanton's contact shortcomings were easy to ignore given the the promise of his physical skill-set. Stanton managed to tread water with his batting average (.259) in his rookie campaign, a more than serviceable number when combined with the 22 home runs (in 100 games) that he hit in his first season with the Marlins. Given that Springer has hit over .300 in nearly 300 minor league games, holdin

Tip Drill: Five mistakes even good fantasy owners make [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 1:13 pm]
In many ways, it's the age of enlightenment for fantasy sports. Information is everywhere, advice is everywhere, stats are everywhere. In most of the leagues I play in and observe, there's less of a gap between the proven contenders and the second-division teams. But that doesn't mean fantasy owners don't make mistakes. Even the consistent players aren't immune to a misstep here or there. Let's shine a light on some of those errors, five mistakes even good fantasy owners make. -- Declaring some players untouchable Every so often you hear the call in your fantasy league: a competitor is putting this player or that player on the block. One way to start a conversation, I guess. Often it's a slumping, disappointing player getting pushed into the showroom. It's time to take a different angle to this. Why not put your good players on the trading block? Heck, why not have everyone on your team available at any time? Understand that I'm not saying you should start trading away Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera willy-nilly. They're blue chippers for a reason. But that doesn't mean someone can't meet (or exceed) the hefty price you would put on them. If nothing else, give them the invitation to try. You can always say no. That's the first primary reason to consider anyone tradable: someone might pony up a silly price to land them. No one's likely to overpay you for Torii Hunter or Clay Buchholz, but you show them Paul Goldschmidt, maybe they start loading up the truck (you gotta love the sound of a truck backing up). In deeper leagues, often it can make sense to shop a marquee star if your depth is a mess. Everyone knows that two 5s don't equal a 10 in the fantasy world, but maybe several 7s could be worth that 10 in trade. It's all about margin analysis, a sense of where you're upgrading, what holes you're patching up. Try to keep an open mind to all this. -- Locking in opinions Baseball is the ultimate sport when it comes to snapshot observation, especially when you consider th

MLB Over/Under: How high will Astros pup George Springer fly? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 10:58 am]
Houston's recently promoted top prospect George Springer, combined rest of season homers/steals 36.5 Brandon – UNDER. Hard to know if he's going to spend the rest of the season in Houston — he could suffer a big slump because of his contact issues and perhaps see another stint in Triple-A. I'm bullish on Springer for the long run, but I'd predict something like 14/19 for him in '14. Scott – UNDER, because I tend to be conservative with rookies and the next shiny toy. Mind you, I grabbed Springer where I could, too. But sometimes the best time to flip a rookie is right before he has an extended trial; some fantasy owners will get carried away. Andy – I'll take the OVER, but not by much. It's easy enough to imagine Springer giving us a 20/18-type season, with a .250 average. Basically, I'm saying I think he can be Venable-ish. [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: It's not too late!] Chris Davis, sitting on just one home run after hitting six in his first nine games of '13, rest of season HRs 34.5 Scott – UNDER, but it's going to be close. He should finish in the 28-32 range, and that's a needle mover in the post-juice world. Andy – OVER, with ease. Entering the season I pegged Davis for something like 36-38 homers. Two weeks doesn't change that forecast. Dalton – UNDER. I pegged Davis to hit around 35 homers this season, so with the slow start already banked, I'll say he falls just short of this number. Chase Utley, hitting .462 through 13 games, final end-of-season batting average .299 Andy – UNDER, probably by 15-25 points. Again, we're only two weeks in. Utley hasn't finished above .290 since 2008. Brandon– OVER, slightly. He's hit .299 since the start of '13, and he's a career .289 hitter, not a huge leap from where he'd need to be for this O/U. He's making a lot of hard contact in the early going, and I have a hunch this might be his last hurrah. Dalton – OVER. He hasn't hit .300 since 2007, but Utley's knees are healthier now than they

Closing Time: What’s wrong with Danny Salazar? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 9:19 am]
If you're a fan of young, buzzy pitching prospects, the 2014 draft board had plenty of names to take aim at. Gerrit Cole was on an island somewhat (carrying an industry rank of 21), but opinions were clustered with the next four sophomores of note: Michael Wacha (No. 29), Danny Salazar (No. 32), Sonny Gray (No. 34) and Tony Cingrani (No. 38). Which trendy picks wound up on your club? [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Still time for another league!] Salazar is clearly the lagger of the group as we look through the opening couple of weeks, a slump no one saw coming. He had an uneven 5.2-inning stint against Minnesota to open the year, and he's allowed 10 runs over his last two starts (including Thursday's mess at Detroit). Add it all up and there are crooked numbers everywhere: 14 IP, 19 H, 12 R, 4 HR, 8 BB, 7.71 ERA, 1.93 WHIP. The league is batting .345 against Salazar. Of course, there have been positive flashes – he's struck out 17 men in 14 innings. There aren't any easy answers here. Take your best guess, what's wrong with Danny Salazar? Outlier ratios come with outlier luck stats, you know that up front. No one should be surprised to see a .405 BABIP flashing. Salazar's xFIP checks in at 4.30, significantly lower than his out-the-door ERA. He's not going to allow home runs on 20 percent of fly balls all season; no one can do that. Control and command are part of the story: Salazar's collected six unintentional walks over his 14 innings, and too many of his pitches have been left in unintended spots (Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs did an excellent breakdown of Salazar's second turn). And then there's the matter of his fastball velocity: Salazar's heater averaged 96.2 mph last year but it's down to 93.8 this April. A little lagging velocity is standard for most pitchers in the opening month, and there's also radar gun variance from park to park, but this is enough of a gap to be concerned. Maybe Salazar's pitching through discomfort, or a full-fledged inj

Closing Time: Wily Peralta would like your attention [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 17, 2014, 6:03 am]
OK, so Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta didn't quite dominate the Cardinals lineup on Wednesday — he went 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and one run, recording three Ks — but he did manage to pick up his second win of the year. We're now three starts into Peralta's season, and his ERA sits at 1.96, his WHIP at 1.09. The kid has faced nothin' but playoff-caliber lineups, too: Boston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis. The schedule finally takes a friendly turn for Peralta next week, as he'll double-dip at home against the Pads and Cubs. He's unowned in 91 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment, available to most of you. Without question, Peralta is worth a one-week test drive. He's a hard-throwing sinker/slider/groundball-type (95-96 mph), a 24-year-old righty with top-prospect credentials. This is a talented pitcher with K-potential on a quality team, perhaps making a leap. Make the move as needed, then hit the bullets... • George Springer's first major league hit was a tapper that traveled maybe 25 feet, but he still receives full credit in the box score. Springer went 1-for-5 in his debut, with one walk, two Ks and a caught-stealing. He hit second for the Astros, which is nice to see. There's plenty of swing-and-miss in Springer's game, but also loads of power/speed potential. He's an obvious pick-up in leagues of any size and shape. • Just in case you'd forgotten what a terrifying thrill ride Jose Valverde could be, well ... BWAHAHAHA. Valverde gave up a pair of homers in New York's 5-2 win over Arizona. When he enters a game in a non-save situation, it's basically a fantasy nightmare. • The news on Aroldis Chapman continues to be not-so-disastrous. Reds manager Bryan Price indicated on Wednesday that Chapman could be throwing live BP fairly soon, by the end of the team's upcoming 10-game road trip. We're still looking at a May return here, which should give Aroldis a chance to justify his draft price. • In other closer comeback news, David Robertson is still on tr

Rank Redux: How do you like Tanaka now? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 16, 2014, 4:25 pm]
In our preseason starting pitcher rankings, we — the Yahoo fantasy baseball experts aggregate — ranked Yankees Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka as the No. 29 starter overall. Of course, that was before he mowed down 28 batters and posted two wins and a 2.05 ERA in the first three starts of his MLB career. Since our initial rankings were based mostly on the merits of his impressive seven-year run in the Japanese Leagues, we figured it was prudent to re-assess where we see Tanaka fitting in among the fantasy baseball starting pitcher crowd now that he's actually faced MLB hitters. Here's the experts' take on Tanaka: Brandon Funston (Tanaka preseason SP rank No. 25) — There have been several Japanese starting pitchers over the past couple decades that have enjoyed at least a successful season or two in the majors (Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Hasashi Iwakuma chief among them). But none can claim a more impressive three-start split to open a major league career than Tanaka. The strikeouts are what stand out the most. A big question mark of his transition to the majors was whether his K rate from Japan would hold up and clock in above average among starters. I think we have a pretty good answer to that question now. He currently sits among the leaders in swinging strike rate and outside swinging percentage (the rate at which hitters swing at his offerings that are outside the strike zone). Those are encouraging marks and speaks directly to the deception of his arsenal. Three starts is woefully lacking in terms of a meaningful sample size, but because the results of those starts have been so good, I'd certainly be looking at Tanaka as a top 20 starter now. And if he was in the NL, free of the head wind that the AL (East) creates for pitchers, I'd definitely slot him inside the top 15. Andy Behrens (Preseason SP rank No. 28) — I'm not one to radically re-rank players based on 2-3 weeks of data. I don't do it with guys who start fast,

Closing Time: George Springer arrives in Houston [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 16, 2014, 7:38 am]
It didn't take long for the 2014 Houston Astros to sink to the bottom of the pool, as expected. They're 5-9 through two weeks, tied for the worst record in the American League. The offense has been a joke thus far, with a pathetic .185/.258/.347 slash line. They're still light years from contention. Obviously it's going to take a lot more than one player to fix this mess. That said, it's time to get excited: the team's top prospect, George Springer, is on the way. The Astros made the call late Tuesday night. Springer is a 24-year-old outfielder and a name you probably know already, no matter your level of prospect interest and sophistication. The Astros took him with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft and he's rocketed through the minors. Check what Springer posted last year in 135 games, covering Double-A and Triple-A: .303/.411/.600 slash, 37 homers, 45 steals (in just 53 attempts). Absurd. Those are video game numbers. Springer probably would have started the year in Houston if not for the current rules of baseball; the Astros gained an extra year of team control by making him wait a couple of weeks. Springer was crushing in the Pacific Coast League, off to a .353 start with three homers and four steals through two weeks. It's a good time to bring him up and let him play, see if he's ready to swim. Like any touted rookie, there's a wide range of outcomes here. Mike Trout hit .220 with the Angels in 2011; a year later, he was arguably the best player in baseball. Some kids hit the ground running, some take a while to figure things out, and a bunch never really make it at all. Springer's Triple-A numbers have been cushioned by the offensively-friendly PCL, and he needs to work on making better contact (note the 161 strikeouts last year). The development curve is different for everyone. Nonetheless, plausible upside is here and that's why we have to consider Springer with our resources. The power/speed mix is the golden goose of fake baseball. Springer's alway

Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Andrew Cashner, Homer Bailey and a look around the league [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 15, 2014, 11:27 pm]
Despite averaging 94.5 mph with his fastball while posting a 3.09 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, Andrew Cashner recorded just 128 strikeouts over 175.0 innings last season after finally becoming a full-time starter. The K rate improved after the All-Star break, when he produced a 2.14 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with a 61:19 K:BB ratio over 75.2 innings. The hope was that his impressive stuff would lead to more missed bats, and if Cashner’s first three starts are any indication, it’s going to come to fruition in 2014. He’s allowed just three runs over 21.0 innings, fanning 22 batters over that span. Cashner’s last outing was especially dominant, as he tossed a shutout against the Tigers, striking out 11 and yielding one lone hit (a single). Ironically, his SwStr% (7.1) is easily a career low, while his K% (27.5) is a career high. As any pitcher with a 1.29 ERA, Cashner has experienced some good fortune in the early going, as his .196 BABIP is especially crazy considering he also has a 2.50 GB/FB ratio. But all those groundballs should lead to few home runs allowed, and he also hasn’t given up many line drives (16.0%). PETCO Park has increased strikeouts by nine percent over the past three years, which is the most in baseball, so Cashner has that going for him as well. Part of the reason the Cubs traded him was because they didn’t think Cashner could ever be a 200-inning workhorse, but assuming he can stay healthy, he has all the makings of being a top-15 fantasy starter Here’s a pretty funny prank played on Jeff Francoeur. Jose Abreu literally destroyed a baseball. Here’s David Ortiz setting the record for the slowest home run trot of all time. Homer Bailey is off to a horrible start, sporting an ugly 8.16 ERA and 2.02 WHIP. His last outing was especially odd, as he posted a 9:0 K:BB ratio over 5.0 innings, but that was accompanied by him serving up four homers. Bailey has already given up six home runs this season, and while I’m not of the belief pitchers have no con

Closing Time: Who is Jesse Chavez? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 15, 2014, 9:16 am]
My fantasy baseball experience dates back to the late 1980s, a much different time. The Internet wasn't around. No Extra Innings package, no smart phones. Heck, we hadn't bailed on MTV yet. Newspapers still mattered, and a lot of your fantasy commodities were anonymous collections of names and numbers. Sometimes you had no idea what these guys looked like, how they played, what they threw. Sometimes you didn't even know the first names. Often you'd phone a commissioner (rotary dial) with a pickup request along the lines of "let's grab Thompson of St. Louis." I'm feeling nostalgic today because of a story that's brewing in the Bay Area. Let's talk a little bit about Chavez of Oakland. Jesse Chavez is the full name, and he's seen more of the world than Robin Leach. He was drafted by the Rangers in 2006 and he's been traded four times. He's made major-league appearances for five different clubs, covering both leagues. He pitched 57.1 relief innings with the A's last year, and I doubt we talked about any of them. A 3.92 ERA and 1.221 WHIP were enough to stick in The Show, but that didn't equate to mixed-league relevance. Alas, maybe the journeyman picked up an idea of how to pitch over the years. The 30-year-old turned in a strong spring training with the A's (2.22 ERA, 25 strikeouts against six walks) and landed in the rotation for the start of the season, mostly because of injuries. Chavez had just two career starts before the year, so no one had a right to expect much. So, of course, he's been terrific in three straight turns, all quality starts. He's allowed one earned run in each appearance, and here's the sum of the work: 20 IP, 15 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 22 K. That's a 1.35 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, and I hope you caught the 11 strikeouts for every walk. Here's some scouting video to further the story (isn't 2014 great?), a look at his seven terrific innings at the OC Rockpile. Chavez doesn't have a victory yet (the bullpen let him down twice; Monday night he got bailed out





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