Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers 12-7 (Yahoo Sports) - Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good. Neil Walker went 2 for 4 with his 15th homer and three RBIs. Ike Davis finished with three hits, including his sixth home run. Clippers' Sterling targets wife, NBA in new suit (Yahoo Sports) - Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has filed a new lawsuit in his attempt to retain the team and derail a potential $2 billion sale. The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court names estranged wife Shelly Sterling, the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver, saying they committed fraud and violated corporate law in their attempt to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. They include Sterling's assertion that he's the team's sole owner, that his wife deceived him in persuading him to get mental examinations and that the NBA and Ballmer colluded to deprive him of his rights as owner. Yankees acquire 3B Chase Headley from Padres (Yahoo Sports) - Trying to boost one of the weakest lineups in the American League, the New York Yankees acquired third baseman Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres on Tuesday for rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher Rafael De Paula. Headley was on his way to Yankee Stadium, but was not expected to arrive until just after the scheduled start of New York's game against Texas. The Yankees hoped to have him in uniform by about 7:30 p.m. and available off the bench. After that, he'll become the everyday starter at a spot that's been a question mark for New York all year following the season-long suspension of Alex Rodriguez. Selig still waiting on Tommy John report (Yahoo Sports) - PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Baseball commissioner Bud Selig is ''anxious'' to look at the recommendations of a team of top orthopedists who are studying the uptick in elbow injuries among pitchers. Glasgow set for opening ceremony - Athletes from 71 nations will compete in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, which get under way with the opening ceremony on Wednesday. Man City U21s walk off in racism row - Big league batting leader Troy Tulowitzki on DL (Yahoo Sports) - DENVER (AP) -- Major league batting leader Troy Tulowitzki has been placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Colorado Rockies because of a left hip flexor strain. Puig, Ramirez out again for Dodgers (Yahoo Sports) - PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers held injured outfielder Yasiel Puig and shortstop Hanley Ramirez out of the starting lineup for Tuesday night's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but manager Don Mattingly doesn't believe either player needs to go on the disabled list. Former Illini player dies in workout at new school (Yahoo Sports) - Campus officials say a football player at Winona State University who recently transferred from Illinois has died while working out with teammates. Winona State said in a news release that 22-year-old Shawn Afryl died Tuesday during a workout at Maxwell Field on the campus in Winona, Minnesota. Illini coach Tim Beckman said in a statement that his players were saddened to hear of the death of a ''great teammate.'' Winona State coach Tom Sawyer said Afryl had shown maturity and leadership in his short time at the Division II school. CEO: Rivers to quit Clippers if Sterling stays (Yahoo Sports) - LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles Clippers interim CEO Richard Parsons says coach Doc Rivers has told him he'll quit if Donald Sterling remains owner of the team.

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WR Primer: To the point, PPR leagues changing fantasy draft mentality [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 22, 2014, 6:13 pm]
VIEW THE YAHOO STAFF'S ENTIRE UPDATED WR RANKS HERE  By nature, fantasy owners are superstitious creatures of habit. Every league has that one guy/gal who believes some celestial force, if appeased properly, will grant their every fantasy wish. Each year at the draft, these are the people who must sit in a particular spot, sip on the same beverage and arrive draped in a well-worn, partially faded Jimmy Clausen Panthers jersey they, for some bizarre reason, are convinced cultivates good fortune. Apparently, when the phrase “Luck of the Irish” was coined in the latter half of the 19th century it also applied to crappy ex-Notre Dame quarterbacks. Who knew? This group of gypsy-like mystics is also overwhelmingly stubborn. Old dogs and Greg Schiano are more apt to learn new tricks. When rule changes are discussed or scoring tweaks are proposed they remain married to tradition, emphatically voting ‘NO!’ on even the slightest enhancement.  In their minds things are fine just the way they are. Why mess with it?   However, these bullheads of the virtual gridiron are slowly beginning to shed their close-minded ways, dabbling in scoring systems that improve their overall fantasy football experience. IDP leagues have gradually gained traction over the past few years, but they pale in comparison to the acceptance of PPR formats. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Some traditionalists, like Roto Arcade’s own Andy Behrens, vehemently oppose scoring for receptions. They contend it’s not a reflection of reality, a skewed inclusion that artificially inflates sure-handed running backs and wide receivers. After all, Pierre Thomas could catch five passes for -5 yards, which in most PPR settings would garner a positive return. But really it’s no different than a goal-line vulture having an otherwise miserable fantasy performance saved by tripping into the end-zone from one yard out (see most of Rashard Mendenhall’s ga

Closing Time: Stephen Drew wakes up [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 22, 2014, 4:22 pm]
I used to be disgusted with Stephen Drew (and the whole family, really). Now I try to be amused. We just want numbers, we don't care where they come from. While Drew didn't go bananas in his first Boston season, a .253-57-13-67-6 line over 124 games is handy for a middle infielder. If your league required a middle-infield fill, Drew was probably owned in your league last year. Alas, Drew's agent misread the free-agent market, and Drew sat on his couch while the phone didn't ring. No team wanted to sign Drew - especially with a compensatory pick attached - and the stalemate dragged into the season. Eventually the slumping Red Sox bailed out their reluctant infielder, offering a one-year, $10 million deal in May. Drew arrived in The Hub after a week of minor-league prep, and maybe that speedy timetable was a mistake. When the calendar hit July, he was carrying a sorry .143/.169/.190 line, with zero homers. The seasonal stats still don't look like much, but let's note how Drew has rallied in July. He's hit three homers and drawn nine walks this month (that's a Drew thing; they like to watch), and he's on a 7-for-17 binge over his last five games. Drew was at the centre of Monday's 14-1 rout over the Blue Jays, with a homer, single, walk, and four RBIs. He also scored a couple of runs. Drew's owned in just four percent of Yahoo leagues, a surprisingly-low tag. Shortstop isn't that easy of a fill, amigos. This looks like someone finally warmed up and ready to go.  It was a fun night to sit back and watch the Boston lineup do its thing, so long as you weren't expecting anything from Dustin Pedroia (4-0-0-0; doesn't look healthy at all) or Shane Victorino (night off). David Ortiz cranked a couple of homers, while Mike Napoli had a homer and three hits. Brock Holt did his usual thing (two hits, two runs, one nifty outfield catch). Heck, Daniel Nava (5-2-3-0) has been terrific since his recall, hitting .350 (with a .429 OBP) over 103 at-bats. The Victorino activation crowds

Juggernaut Index, No. 22: The St. Louis Rams [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 21, 2014, 7:59 pm]
Life in the NFC West ain't easy, not with three of the NFL's top six defenses lurking. But the Rams' schedule in the year ahead isn't actually as nightmarish as you might expect, at least for fantasy purposes. This team's non-division opponents include a half-dozen squads that ranked in the bottom-third of the league defensively last season, including Dallas (dead-last) and Minnesota (next-to-last). Fantasy owners will also appreciate the fact that St. Louis doesn't travel to Seattle until Week 17, after most league titles are decided. So if you're bullish on this franchise for 2014, it's understandable. The Rams fortified both the offensive and defensive lines with high-end talent in the draft, plus the team has depth at the skill spots. If quarterback Sam Bradford can simply play at the level at which he opened 2013, prior to his ACL injury, then St. Louis should contend for ... well, something. Probably not a division title. But something better than the usual sub-.500 season. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Nobody is the least bit interested in Bradford as a fantasy asset this year, so there's little chance you'll find yourself in a bidding war for his services. He's owned in just 2 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment. Scientists have proven that four out of five people will yawn after seeing the names "Sam" and "Bradford" adjacent to one another. There is no buzz here — and that makes Bradford a decent target if you're assembling a QB platoon. You don't have to love the guy (or his receivers), but hopefully you can appreciate Bradford's steady if unspectacular multi-season improvement. When he checked out last year, late in a Week 7 loss at Carolina, he was on pace for a 3,856-yard, 32-touchdown season. His completion percentage was a career-high 60.7, his passer rating was a career-high 90.9, and he'd thrown just four picks. He'd already delivered four multi-touchdown games. Bradford had been one of the

Monday Mini-Mock: PPR probing [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 21, 2014, 5:34 pm]
So here's how this works. Each Monday, the Yahoo fantasy crew jumps on a conference call to discuss the week that was/will be. As part of this process, we've decided to include a short mock draft - roughly, one-eighth the size of a normal draft, I shall call it mini mock. This week's mini mock draft (10 rounds) is a study in PPR values at the wide receiver and tight end positions (don't worry, we'll address running backs soon). We've asked our Yahoo experts to each draft six WRs, three TEs and one Flex (WR/TE), using  Point Per Reception scoring as the basis for this exercise. Here's how it turned out: [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] Round 1 Pick 1 — Calvin Johnson, WR, DET (Scott Pianowski) Pianowman says – Not a specific fit for the format, but he's a matchup freak who rarely misses games (unlike so many of his TE counterparts). Round 5 Pick 1 — Victor Cruz, WR, NYG (Pianowski) Pianowman says – When it comes to the great NYG Train Wreck of 2013, I blame it on the departed (Gilbride, Nicks) more than Manning or Cruz. Feed the slot machine. Round 5 Pick 2 — Roddy White, WR, ATL (Funston) Funston says – I made my case for a Roddy rebound here, but worth a reminder that he finished '13 season on a healthy note, as in 43 catches in the final five games of the season (only Julian Edelman had more at the WR position). Round 5 Pick 3 — Andre Johnson, WR, HOU (Del Don) 3D says – Torrey is developing into more than a vertical threat. He saw 139 targets last season, catching 65 for 1,128 yards. This year's offense will be better. Round 8 Pick 1 — DeSean Jackson, WR, WAS (Behrens) Behrens says –  

Spin Doctors: Ryan Mathews vs. Doug Martin [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 18, 2014, 1:25 pm]
Ups and downs characterize the short careers of Ryan Mathews and Doug Martin. Both have penetrated the RB1 class. Both have triggered massive migraines. In this cage-match to the death, Brad Evans and Andy Behrens beat one another to a bloddy pulp over who you should draft.  Sound the bell ...  The Noise, naturally, professes his renewed love for Mathews:  Well, well, well … our fearless leader, Brandon Funston, gave yours truly an open, unfiltered forum to discuss the merits of the greatest running back in human history, but only in 250 words? Brevity, obviously, will not be honored. This is Ryan Mathews, my ultimate man-crush/mantasy/baby boo/Tenderoni/honey bunny/love muffin, a man who’s repeatedly broken hearts but regained a fair level of respectability last year. Heavily discounted in drafts a summer ago, Mathews had the look of a FLEX-only rusher early in the season. He worked almost exclusively in an early-down role ceding passing down and, occasionally, goal-line work to plucky Danny Woodhead. Through the first five weeks, he ranked No. 36 among rushers in per game average giving his critics plenty of ammunition. However, starting with a 102-yard spanking of the Colts in Week 6, Mathews started to resemble the back that raked in 2011. From that point on he rolled. Over his final 11 games he averaged 4.68 yards per carry, 104.0 total yards per game and scored six touchdowns. His subsequent 13.7 per game output in standard leagues checked in at No. 9. Overall, his 0.40 fantasy points per snap outpaced the ENTIRE RB field (Among rushers with at least 300 snaps). Despite the bounce-back campaign, many refuse to trust Mathews as a viable RB2. Doubters feel Donald Brown’s arrival combined with the return of Woodhead signals a touch reduction for the incumbent. But San Diego wants to run the ball more this season, with, as OC Frank Reich revealed recently, “the pounder” shouldering much of the load.  He’ll again contribute minimally as a pass-catch

First Down: Disrespecting Rashad Jennings doesn't make sense [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 18, 2014, 2:30 am]
There are many things in this world I truly don’t understand. Dudes in flip-flops who lift weights at the gym, the popularity of Chihuahuas, why people find listening to Rush enjoyable and satellite TV commercials that insinuate humans copulate with marionettes top the list. So does the baseless hatred toward Giants RB Rashad Jennings. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] The running back’s projected value and where he should be drafted has created a great schism in the ‘expert’ community. Just read my Twitter timeline. Supporters believe Jennings’ fourth-to-fifth round ADP in standard or 12-team PPR leagues is a bargain. He’s a legitimate top-15 candidate who could turn a massive profit. Doubters, meanwhile, are convinced he’s an overpriced, generally unproven dinosaur on a mediocre team that has no business being drafted as an RB2 even in the deepest of leagues. In the sharp words of Shawshank’s Andy Dufresne, I ask the latter, “How can you be so obtuse?” Below are popular stereotypes about Jennings that simply don’t hold water: Belief 1: Because he’s far from his peak at 29-years-old and playing at an age-sensitive position, he poses an injury risk and no longer possesses the physicality needed to succeed.   The old adage “Age is nothing but a number” applies to Jennings. Ignore his date of birth folks. Primarily deployed as a backup in his five-year NFL career, he’s amassed a mere 484 touches. In other words, the tread on his tires is thick. Thumbing through the annals of NFL history several running backs could be classified as “late-bloomers.” Charles White, Christian Okoye, Priest Holmes, Thomas Jones, James Stewart and, most recently, Fred Jackson, all contributed appreciable fantasy stats in their Age 28 or Age 29 seasons. And most in the bunch were lightly used prior to their stellar campaigns. It may sound like a broken record, but opportunity outweighs everything. And Jennings is certainly in a prime p

Juggernaut Index, No. 23: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 17, 2014, 5:52 pm]
Everything in Tampa Bay is new this season — new quarterback, new coordinators, new head coach. However, everything new in Tampa this season is also kinda old. Quarterback Josh McCown is 35, joining his eighth NFL team. Coordinators Jeff Tedford (OC) and Leslie Frazier (DC) were plucked from the discard pile, each fired from prominent head coaching positions in recent seasons. And of course head coach Lovie Smith spent nine years in Chicago, compiling a career record of 81-63 yet failing to reach the playoffs in any of his final three seasons. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] So this franchise has hit the reset button once again, in a responsible if less-than-exciting way. Still, Greg Schiano's reign of terror has ended. His departure is a victory for us all. In McCown, the Bucs have added a QB with a long track record of mediocrity, punctuated by a half-season of excellence. He clearly benefited from working with uncoverable receivers in Chicago, but he also played long stretches of virtually mistake-free football. McCown rarely gave the ball away last year, throwing just one pick in 224 pass attempts. He's not the league's toolsiest passer, but he possesses enough mobility and arm strength to run a productive offense, and he obviously thrived in a highly structured system. Although McCown's career is a mixed bag (77.5 rating), it's awfully tough to find fault with last season's work. McCown actually only delivered one huge fantasy performance, in frigid conditions against Dallas' wretched, dead-eyed defense (348 yards, 4 pass TDs, rush TD), but he was solid in each start. He carried thousands of fantasy owners through some bleak Aaron Rodgers-less weeks last year, and for that he has our gratitude. There's no serious position battle ahead for McCown, because Coach Smith backed the vet over Mike Glennon immediately... Bucs' Lovie Smith, asked if Josh McCown is his quarterback: "Yes, he is."— Greg Auman (@gregauman) March 12, 2014 Glennon ce

QB Primer: Following the Peyton Principle is no passing fancy [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 16, 2014, 2:14 pm]
CHECK OUT OUR FULL PRESEASON QB RANKS HERE  Almost universally fantasy ‘experts,' both actual and self-proclaimed, have crammed the same, tired strategy down your throat when approaching quarterbacks this season: WAIT! WAIT! WAIT! A mountain of supportive evidence and the seemingly endless supply of useful QBs, they say, proves the strategy’s validity. By simply streaming the position, an exercise that sounds great in theory but in reality is more difficult to successfully execute especially in leagues where resources are scarce, one can stockpile talent at more volatile positions on draft day such as running back and wide receiver while maximizing passer matchups in-season. Staunch believers say it’s practically a foolproof plan. Hawk the wire, play the odds and, Voila!, a celebratory Drake-kicks-beats-on-stage-while-Johnny Manziel-rolls-twenties-in-the-bathroom victory party ensues. Last season, the emergence of Nick Foles and Josh McCown and even the occasional serviceability of guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel and, during the fantasy playoffs, Geno Smith were testaments. When properly implemented the slow-your-roll approach at QB can work. Several years ago, I improbably won a league riding the lukewarm hand of Jon Kitna. And it wasn’t the employable Detroit, Cincinnati or Dallas incarnations either. A ‘mesmerizing’ 340-yard, 0-TD effort by the then Seattle QB at Tennessee (Week 16, 2001) was enough to push me over the top. Of course, the rest of that championship team was loaded. Some members were drafted, others were plucked off waivers. And therein lies the problem with the late-round or streaming QBs game-plan. Sure you can build depth, but pushing the right buttons, whether at QB or elsewhere, is the only way to ensure sustained winning. Luck plays an equal part to skill. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] For those who prefer safety to risk, this year subscribe to the Peyton Principle. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s t

Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Anthony Rizzo, catchers and a look around the league [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 16, 2014, 5:30 am]
During his rookie season in 2012, Anthony “sizzle chest” Rizzo hit .208/.243/.356 against southpaws. Last year he hit .189/.282/.342. In 2014, he’s hit .300/.396/.533. All are small samples, but this sure looks like it might be a nice payoff for a rebuilding team that chose not to platoon, rather hoping some struggles would later turn beneficial. While keeping SSS in mind, it sure doesn’t seem like this season has been a huge fluke, as Rizzo’s K% vs. lefthanders is actually lower than versus righties, while his LD% is significantly higher as well (27.1 compared to 20.8). His 27.3 HR/FB% against southpaws has probably been lucky, but he’s hit few popups, and it’s hard to argue there hasn’t been major progress here. Moreover, despite hitting four more homers on the road, Rizzo’s OPS is .943 at Wrigley Field compared to .829 away from there, and the good news for fantasy owners is the Cubs have played 10 more games on the road than at home so far this season. Rizzo is just 24 years old, and his 142 wRC+ ranks No. 21 in all of baseball, tied with Miguel Cabrera. Chicago’s lineup sure looks like it will be stacked in the future as well. Rizzo will likely cost a top-three round fantasy pick in 2015. Here’s Billy Hamilton executing the best avoidance of a tag you’ll ever see.  Here’s someone doing the exact opposite of Hamilton’s aforementioned slide.  Even if you’re not a Derek Jeter fan, or even a hater, it’s hard not to appreciate this commercial.  After clubbing six homers and posting a .359/.427/.602 line in June, Jonathan Lucroy has struggled some to start July, but he leads all qualified catchers in batting average (.315), OBP (.385) and slugging percentage (.494) this season. He’s entering his prime at age 28 and is batting third in a Brewers lineup that’s scored the second most runs in the National League (behind only the Rockies, of course). But the bigger story here is just how bad the catcher position has been for fantasy

Juggernaut Index, No. 24: The Buffalo Bills [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 15, 2014, 9:44 pm]
The Buffalo Bills played at a blistering pace in 2013, their first season under head coach Doug Marrone. This team's offense ranked third in the NFL in total plays-per-game, behind just Denver and New England, and it trailed only Philadelphia in time-per-play. Unfortunately, the Bills did not mimic those three squads in any other meaningful way. As a team, Buffalo finished 22nd in the league in scoring (21.2 PPG), 29th in yards-per-play (4.8), 28th in passing (210.8 YPG), 28th in time-of-possession (28:34) and 29th in third-down conversion rate (34.3). Essentially, the Bills ran a hurry-up-and-punt attack — not exactly the traditional recipe for success in the NFL. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] But we can't accuse this team of failing to recognize and address its weaknesses on offense. Back in May, Buffalo traded up from the ninth overall draft pick to the fourth (giving up next year's first-rounder in the process), a deal that that allowed the team to select Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. The Bills obviously believe Watkins to be an upper-tier, franchise-level talent. General manager Doug Whaley has in fact said that Sammy was the top-rated player on his board. In later draft rounds, this team snagged a trio of massive O-line projects. So the setup for quarterback EJ Manuel has clearly improved, as the 24-year-old enters his second pro season. Manuel's continued development is, without question, one of the critical story-lines facing this franchise in the year(s) ahead. There's not much of a safety net behind him on the depth chart (Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel). Perhaps the biggest question attached to Manuel at this stage is durability — he appeared in just 10 games as a rookie due to knee malfunctions, and he was sidelined in the preseason as well. When Manuel played, many of the expected first-year issues arose: skittishness, early check-downs, misreads, etc. He's not the most precise short-range passer you'll ever see, and he completed on

Monday Mini-Mock: A backup QB plan [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 14, 2014, 8:46 pm]
So here's how this works. Each Monday, the Yahoo fantasy crew jumps on a conference call to discuss the week that was/will be. As part of this process, we've decided to include a short mock draft - roughly, one-eighth the size of a normal draft, I shall call it mini mock. This week's mini mock draft (four rounds) is an exploration of the backup fantasy QB class. We've asked our Yahoo experts to each draft four quarterbacks from a player pool that excludes our consensus top 12 signal callers, a group that spans from Peyton Manning to Russell Wilson. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] Round 1 Pick 1 — Tony Romo, DAL (Andy Behrens) Behrens says – The OC change is a concern, but there are playmakers everywhere. Every piece of this offense feels like it's still on the escalator. Round 2 Pick 1 — Josh McCown, TB (Pianowski) Pianowman says – Last year's breakout was out of nowhere, but Tampa's weapons are intriguing (and monstrous), too. Round 2 Pick 2 — Ryan Tannehill, MIA (Funston) Funston says – Thought about Eli here, but I decided to go with Tannehill's upside potential in a Philly-styled offense. For a fantasy backup QB, it's really all about the possible ceiling. Round 2 Pick 3 — Eli Manning, NYG (Del Don) 3D says – He was awful last year, but Manning averaged 4,226 passing yards with 28.3 passing TDs over the previous four seasons. He has three potential dangerous weapons to throw to, and the NFC East should feature a bunch of shootouts. Round 2 Pick 4 — Johnny Manziel, CLE (Evans) Noise says – Fully expect him to nail down the starting gig during the preseason. No stretch to think he leads NFL QBs in rushing, tosses 20-22 TDs, even sans Josh Gordon. Party on. Round 2 Pick 5 — Joe Flacco, BAL (Behrens) Behrens says – He's coming off a terrible season, he has only one legit receiver, and his OC wants to run all day. What I'm saying is, I would never draft Joe Flacco outside this mock. Round 3 Pick 1 — Carson Palmer, A

Good Stuff Cheap: The 2014 Wiggys [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 14, 2014, 3:17 pm]
I realize the first instinct in any competitive endeavor is to destroy everything in your path. And when it comes to fantasy baseball, that means acquiring stars. Load up with Kershaw, Trout, Miggy and Goldschmidt, take everyone down. Nothing wrong with that (if you can hypnotize all your opponents), but I prefer the road less traveled. Oh, sure, I love a star here and there, but it's twice as satisfying to me to connect on a player unheralded and unwanted. As Eddie Felson used to say, money won is twice as sweet as money earned. With this theme in mind, we'll talk Wiggy for 2014. What are The Wiggys? It's a collection of the best pickups of the year, inspired by the patron saint of free pickups, Ty Wigginton. We're looking for black swans and red-headed stepchildren here, the unwanted, the type of player you get laughed at for believing in. Envelopes, please.  Catcher: Steven Vogt, Athletics - Devin Mesoraco wouldn't be a bad choice here - he's the No. 2 catcher at the break and his ADP was outside the Top 200. But Mesoraco was also a first-round draft pick back in 2007 and all over the prospect clipboards at the front of this decade; it was probably just a matter of time (read: Dusty Baker leaving) before he clicked. Instead we'll rock the Vogt, a minor-league journeyman who's been a revelation over the last month (.358/.388/.532, four homers over 109 at-bats) in the Wiggy breeding ground of Oakland. Keep them coming, Pitt. Vogt also qualifies at three positions, and he's usually spared the grunt-work of catching. (Brothers in Wigginess: Every Oakland catcher, Mike Zunino.) First Base: Steve Pearce, Orioles - It's fair to say Pearce wasn't in Baltimore's plans at the end of April, when they released him. But the Chris Davis injury a couple of days later reopened the Baltimore door, and Pearce eventually fell into a regular job at the beginning of May. He's on a .322/.391/.578 tear over the last 54 games, with a 28-11-31-2 fantasy line. How can you not love an out

Closing Time: Last call on Kolten Wong [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 12, 2014, 4:44 pm]
Kolten Wong is the most-added player in Yahoo's game over the last half-day, so many of you already read the memo. But the overall ownership tag is just 22 percent, so there's still work to be done. Wong's minor-league pedigree showed a second basemen who could hit for average, work the count and steal bases. That's enough for mixed-league value on its own, but maybe there's more to the story. Wong has a surprising four homers since returning to the lineup last week (off a shoulder injury), part of a 7-for-19 burst. He's also stolen two bases over that span. Wong was in the lower third of the order for his initial five games back, but he was promoted to the No. 2 spot for Friday's win at Milwaukee (1-for-5, homer). Batting position is something we pay keen attention to, but it's especially notable when the player's fantasy value is tied to his running ability. Wong saw plenty of time in the No. 2 slot back in May and June; now is his chance to take the role and run with it. Do what you need to do. Wong can be a difference maker in the second half. • Is there a Wiggy in Stephen Vogt's future? You'll have to wait a little longer to find out. But in the meantime, let's salute Oakland's out-of-nowhere stud, someone who's slashing .376/.407/.564 over 101 at-bats. Vogt clocked his fourth homer of the year in Friday's loss at Seattle, connecting off Felix Hernandez, of all people. Vogt is one of our favorite roto work-arounds, a catcher-eligible player who isn't saddled with the daily burdens of the job. Oh, he'll still catch occasionally, but he's seeing more time at right field and first base. He's waiting for your call in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues. • Conor Gillaspie's had a strange couple of years, but maybe the opposing returns are starting to mesh a little bit. Last year the story was power (13 homers in 408 at-bats), at the expense of average. This season, it's been all average (over .300 all year) but without any pop. He didn't have a single homer entering J

Fantasy Fallout: LeBron James chooses Cleveland [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 11, 2014, 6:33 pm]
With LeBron James “coming home” and rejoining the Cavaliers, ramifications will be felt throughout the league. While more of the fallout will happen in the coming days, there are a handful of repercussions we can reasonably decipher right now. The first being King James himself, whose fantasy value likely stays mostly the same with the move to Cleveland. He’s played a ton of minutes throughout his career, including four straight deep postseason runs including reaching the Finals, so it’s possible the Cavs rest him a bit more during the regular season, especially with them now being the heavy favorites to win the East. According to Basketball Monster, James finished as the No. 5 ranked fantasy player last season, his lowest mark since 2007/08 (when he finished No. 6), so he’ll safely be drafted second in almost every fantasy league this year. What this move means to Dwyane Wade’s fantasy value remains up in the air and dependent upon where he lands, but one thing is clear: his decision to turn down $41.8 million over the next two years in an effort to bring the band back together in Miami looks like a major error right now, at least financially. Chris Bosh is now heavily favored to join Houston, which should be a wash to his fantasy value. He’s set career highs in True Shooting percentage each of the last two seasons but likely won’t see a huge increase in Usage Rate if he joins a loaded Rockets team. Although one piece of good news is that the Heat ranked 27th in Pace last season, whereas Houston finished top five. Josh McRoberts suddenly looks like the Heat’s top scoring option, and even after the team adds some pieces, he’s going to be a big part of the offense, increasing his fantasy value. Seriously, he’s one of the bigger winners when it comes to James’ decision, at least in fantasy terms. Kyrie Irving will likely take fewer shots, although his selectivity should improve. He’ll immediately become the best point guard James has ever pla

Closing Time: Jimmy Nelson re-arrives, Alcantara hangs around, everyone else is hurt [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 11, 2014, 2:48 pm]
Milwaukee Brewers prospect Jimmy Nelson hasn't allowed a run, earned or unearned, in any of his last three starts for Triple-A Nashville, and his year-to-date minor league numbers are silly: 10-2, 1.46 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.5 K/9. On Saturday, Nelson will bring his scoreless innings streak with him to Miller Park for a degree-of-difficulty start against the Cardinals. Marco Estrada has been exiled to the bullpen. If you can find a use for a National League starter with swing-and-miss stuff and the backing of a quality lineup, give Nelson a look. He's a gigantic right-hander (6-foot-6, 240-ish) who features a tailing, mid-90s fastball and terrific slider. In case you missed his work for Milwaukee earlier in the year, check the tape. It ain't bad. Nelson's re-arrival is well-timed for the fantasy community, because an A.L. ace hit the DL on Thursday... • Masahiro Tanaka had been rolling until very recently, posting a 12-4 record and 1.01 WHIP over the first-half of the season, piling up Ks and generally destroying whatever conservative preseason projections many of us had. He'd been a beast. But we've now learned that Tanaka has a small-but-scary partial tear in his UCL, an issue that will cost him at least six weeks. He'll go the PRP route initially, then attempt a throwing program. There is a limited history of such things working well (details in the excellent piece from Passan), but this story could obviously take another bad turn. If Tanaka eventually undergoes Tommy John surgery, we can't expect a meaningful contribution until 2016. • But wait, there's more horrible injury news: St. Louis will reportedly lose Yadier Molina for 8-12 weeks, as he's dealing with a torn thumb ligament. So that's awful. These are the risks when you spend big on the vanity catchers, friends. Kurt Suzuki's name has popped up as a sensible trade target for the Cards, and there's a decent chance he's one of the better available Cs in your league's free agent pool, too. Other priority tar

First Down: Andre's angst has Hopkins rising on fantasy draft boards [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 11, 2014, 2:30 pm]
When it comes to NFL wide receivers Andre Johnson is a bit of a wallflower. Despite wallowing in mediocrity for the better part of 11years – the Texans have just two playoff berths to speak of during that time – he’s been punctual for mandatory practices and camps, kept to himself and churned out consistent production. Unlike so many egotistical WR divas that throw repeated temper tantrums or insist on conceited requests, he remained selfless, a consummate employee, a consummate professional. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] However, like anyone who grows tired of the same old (expletive) at work, Johnson has reached a breaking point. Road meet fork. For the first time in his career, the inflamed 33-year-old, who is tired of ineffective seasons and rebuilding phases, is speaking out. He made his disgruntled stance well-known by skipping minicamp in June. Now, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapport, Johnson, presumably with bullhorn in hand, has ramped up his embitterment. With the Texans on a path to another uneventful year, he recently told the organization he wants to be traded ... NOW! I guess he isn’t a fan of the Amish or quarterbacks that resemble them (e.g. Ryan Fitzpatrick). If the seven-time Pro Bowler remains in Houston, he’s sure to underwhelm. Yes, Bill O’Brien, a former assistant under Bill Belichick in New England, featured an air-heavy attack in the past, but he also had some dude named Tom Brady running the offense.  All indications suggest, with a noodle-armed QB under center, the head coach wants to install a more conservative scheme predicated on ball control. That means, assuming Houston’s talented defense can rise to the occasion, more Arian Foster and less Andre. Another 181 targets probably aren’t in the cards. Six-plus touchdowns, which he hasn’t tallied in a season since 2008, may not be either, making it hard to justify his top-40 price point (36.7 ADP, WR15) in non-PPR formats. Whether Johnson sti

Juggernaut Index, No. 25: The Carolina Panthers [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 10, 2014, 4:55 pm]
This is one of those Juggernaut entries where it's important to point out, right here at the top, that we're having a fantasy discussion. No one is going to argue that Carolina can't deliver another 12-win season. This team has a stellar defense, plus a record-setting dual-threat quarterback. The Panthers will clearly be a dangerous team in 2014. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] But, again, we're here to have a fantasy conversation. For all of this team's obvious real-life strengths, Carolina doesn't have a receiver or running back on the roster who will be started in standard fantasy leagues in Week 1. When that's the case, you're something less than a fantasy juggernaut. The Panthers ranked near the bottom of the NFL in passing last year, and — with apologies to Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant — it's not as if their receiving corps significantly improved during the offseason. The committee backfield is still in place, too, and it's just as uninspiring as it was in 2013. Here's what DeAngelo Williams had to say in April, after his team lost all of its wideouts: “I joked with people that my fantasy value went up after we got rid of our four receivers, but it’s the truth,” Williams said last week. ... “I went from probably being drafted in the fifth and sixth round to being in the first round — me and Jonathan [Stewart] alike, because we have no receivers.” Funny, but, um ... no. He's not a first-rounder. Or a fifth-rounder. Or a sixth. Williams is a 31-year-old back who's averaged 4.22 yards per carry over the past two seasons. He's not utilized heavily as a receiver, and he's barely a rumor when his team is near the goal-line. Since 2012, Williams and Stewart have combined for just two rushing/receiving TDs from inside the 10-yard-line. Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert have combined for 27 during that stretch. Essentially, the only path to consistent fantasy production for either Williams, Stewart or Tolbert involves injuries to tw

Closing Time: Kolten Wong makes his run [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 10, 2014, 3:51 pm]
Kolten Wong is doing all he can to push his way into the fantasy conversation. Now we hope the Cardinals are paying attention as well. Wong returned from his shoulder injury last weekend and he's been a smash since. He's on a 5-for-12 binge with three homers (one a walk-off job), two walks and a stolen base in that juncture. The frustrating thing for fantasy owners is that Wong's doing all this at the bottom of the lineup - he's batted seventh or eighth in every start this week. He was routinely hitting second for most of his time back in May. Although Wong showed some pop in the minors (a .451 slugging percentage, 27 homers over a couple of seasons), his biggest fantasy appeal comes with batting average and stolen-base potential. He was a .305 hitter in the bush leagues (.367 OBP), and he swiped 20-of-21 bases in his 107 Triple-A games last year. He's 13-for-14 on steal attempts in the majors, over a modest 64 games. He knows what he's doing on the bases.  The Cardinals aren't doing anything special on offense this year - they're a shocking 28th in runs scored. A productive player like Wong can't be ignored. I'm expecting he'll be batting second in short order, and I also expect Wong's 12-percent ownership tag in Yahoo to take a major spike as well. Get in while the price is nothing; let's have some fun with this one.  • I realize it's a scary time to be a Corey Dickerson owner, but I'm begging you to stay the course. I fully believe he'll be fantasy relevant all year. The Dickerson case to this point speaks for itself: a snappy .327/.392/.589 line over 202 at-bats, 11 homers, six steals. He's hit at Coors and he's hit on the road. And when Colorado ran into a bunch of injuries in the outfield, the clueless Rockies finally had the need to play Dickerson every day - something they weren't doing previously. Things are trickier now, with Carlos Gonzalez back from the DL. He's going to play, and Charlie Blackmon has marked his territory in center field. The Rockie

Closing Time: Kolten Wong checks in [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 10, 2014, 3:51 pm]
Kolten Wong is doing all he can to push his way into the fantasy conversation. Now we hope the Cardinals are paying attention as well. Wong returned from his shoulder injury last weekend and he's been a smash since. He's on a 5-for-12 binge with three homers (one a walk-off job), two walks and a stolen base in that juncture. The frustrating thing for fantasy owners is that Wong's doing all this at the bottom of the lineup - he's batted seventh or eighth in every start this week. He was routinely hitting second for most of his time back in May. Although Wong showed some pop in the minors (a .451 slugging percentage, 27 homers over a couple of seasons), his biggest fantasy appeal comes with batting average and stolen-base potential. He was a .305 hitter in the bush leagues (.367 OBP), and he swiped 20-of-21 bases in his 107 Triple-A games last year. He's 13-for-14 on steal attempts in the majors, over a modest 64 games. He knows what he's doing on the bases already, and he's still just 23. The Cardinals aren't doing anything special on offense this year - they're a shocking 28th in runs scored. A productive player like Wong can't be ignored. I'm expecting he'll be batting second in short order, and I also expect Wong's 12-percent ownership tag in Yahoo to take a major spike as well. Get in while the price is nothing; let's have some fun with this one. Obviously a Wong addition requires a drop, and here are some more-popular middle infielders I'd drop for him in a second: Brad Miller, Mookie Betts, Kelly Johnson, Dustin Ackley. Or maybe you can find a better drop elsewhere on your lineup (or put a DL slot into play). Try to find room for this kid.  • I realize it's a scary time to be a Corey Dickerson owner, but I'm begging you to stay the course. I fully believe he'll be fantasy relevant all year. The Dickerson case to this point speaks for itself: a snappy .327/.392/.589 line over 202 at-bats, 11 homers, six steals. He's hit at Coors and he's hit on the road. And

Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Yordano Ventura, Billy Hamilton and a look around the league [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 10, 2014, 3:36 am]
Yordano Ventura just turned 23 years old last month and currently sports a 3.28 ERA, so he’s been highly impressive. But something weird has been going on with his strikeout rate, as he’s fanned more than four batters in just two of his last nine outings (with six being the high). Put differently, Ventura posted a 9.8 K/9 rate over his first 48.2 innings this season compared to a 5.5 K/9 rate over 53.0 innings since. Ventura missed a start with an elbow injury, always a concern for any pitcher, let alone such a young one who throws so hard, but he’s responded with a 3.05 ERA over 44.1 innings since then despite the decreased strikeouts. And it’s not like Ventura’s velocity has been down during this stretch, as if anything, it’s actually been up. It’s an odd combination for which I have no explanation, and his 10.3 SwStr% is encouraging. Despite the recent inability to K batters with such incredible stuff, I think it’s safe to say Ventura’s future looks awfully bright, although it’s tougher to stay healthy when throwing so hard – the average velocity of his fastball (96.7 mph), cutter (94.6) and curveball (82.7) lead all starters this season, which is pretty amazing. Here’s Jackie Bradley Jr. making a pretty incredible catch.  Here’s the most confusing result of a replay so far this season. Here’s Derek Norris making an unconventional out on a foul tip.  This is one of the crazier defensive plays of the 2014 season.  Billy Hamilton sat with a .247/.287/.340 line entering May 30. Since then, he’s posted a .314-23-4-26-19 line, when he’s been the No. 3 ranked fantasy player behind only Andrew McCutchen and Clayton Kershaw (the latter has posted a 0.69 ERA and 0.63 WHIP and seven wins over seven starts during this span, which is pretty tough to beat). Keeping a full-time role at the top of the lineup, Hamilton’s 37 steals (while getting caught an MLB-high 13 times) could actually be considered a bit of a disappointment, but he’s e

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