• As the DeflateGate world turned, Tom Brady's four-game suspension was upheld by the NFL Tuesday, an outcome, based on the lengthy evidence presented and given Warden Goodell's general mindset, that shouldn't surprise a soul. The cell-phone destroyer's ADP (80.5) was already heavily discounted in early drafts. The ruling only cements his current Round 8 standing, though the QB's legal fight is long from over. If a federal court overturns the league's stance, it's possible he could receive a reduction or have the penalty wiped away completely. No matter what, this tired, almost ridiculous story will drag on ad nauseam. Joy to the friggin' world.
Brady is obviously a fantastic target for those who follow a late-QB strategy. The perenniel top-10 performer is coming off a 2014 campaign in which he was the third-most valuable quarterback from Weeks 5-15, amassing 23.2 fantasy points per game during that stretch. The massive chip on his shoulder will only motivate the already highly stimulated QB more. It would be no surprise to see him contribute top-seven numbers, at a minimum, upon activation. Keep in mind the Pats have the ninth-easiest schedule for QBs in fantasy. And, barring a major injury or unfortunate partying mishap, he will have a healthy Rob Gronkowski to throw to.
Again, assuming the status quo is unchanged, Jimmy Garoppolo becomes a player of immediate interest for Daily Fantasy purposes. As shown previously at Eastern Illinois and in the preseason last year, he's a confident, adept passer equipped with a quick release. His increased comfort level with the offense and improvement in reads and progressions this offseason paint an optimistic picture. So does the Pats' initial schedule. A road matchup at Buffalo Week 2 is daunting, but tilts against Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and Dallas are very appealing. With the weapons around him and no LeGarrette Blount Week 1, it's conceivable he averages well north of 250 yards per game with 5-7 TDs to begin the regular season. He'll be a nice low-dollar option against the Steelers, giving gamers the luxury of spending big bucks at other positions. Watch his progress this exhibition season closely.
• In warmer suspension-related news, Le'Veon Bell will be back in action Week 3 after the league reduced his forced hiatus from three to two games. Widely considered a mid-first round pick pre-resolution, the No. 2 RB in per game average from 2014 reenters the No. 1 overall conversation, particularly in PPR settings.
A slimmed down Bell was an indisputable fantasy monster, no matter the scoring type, last year. Exhibiting Barry Sanders-esque patience and vision, he gained nearly 52 percent of his yards after contact and ranked top-seven among RBs in elusive rating and yards per route run. His 2,215 combined yards and 11 touchdowns made him an indispensable pillar on playoff rosters.
Bell's 2015 schedule isn't all puppy dogs and ice cream. The Steelers own the ninth-toughest for fantasy RBs entering the season. Still, the offensive line, which ranked No. 9 in run-blocking according to Pro Football Focus last year, should again be one of the league's stingiest. Defensively, Pittsburgh has serious question marks which means the rusher may not net another 18.1 carries per game. However, because of his superior production in the pass game, he could come close to matching the 83 receptions he totaled last fall even in 14 games. The separation among him, Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch is slim, but Tuesday's development has Bell back at the head table.
• Finally, Todd Gurley is officially a freak. Only 10 months removed from shredding his knee while at Georgia, the Rams' No. 1 pick has avoided the NFI list and will begin training camp on the active roster. Take a bow, modern sports medicine.
As detailed previously, Gurley is a violent, downhill beast cut from a similar cloth as Peterson and Lynch. Pre-setback last year, he gained 61.9 percent of his yards after contact. Also impressive in the pass game as a blocker/receiver, he is a consummate three-down back who is bound to flourish at the next level.
In all likelihood, Jeff Fisher and his staff will bring the dynamic rookie along slowly. With Tre Mason in the mix, Gurley may only tote the rock some 10-12 times initially. However, if he shows no ill-effects in August, it's entirely plausible the organization will rethink his workload. St. Louis' young, reconfigured offensive line, mediocre pass attack and brutal division are worries. Still, from roughly Week 3-5 on, it's probable the former Bulldog earns his Snausages. Melvin Gordon remains the safer of the two, but top-20 or even top-15 numbers are inevitable from Gurley over the regular season's second half. If you're buying, be prepared to reach a round or three. His slashed 47.5 ADP (RB24) will rise steadily.
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise.
So that was a fairly eventful MLB Monday, complete with trades, walk-offs and save-blowing. Let's dive into the Tuesday slate, looking for bargains. Key word: Bargains. You'll find a few well-priced daily plays below; we aren't suggesting that you actually start the entire list. As always, we advise you to check the weather reports and verify the MLB lineups before committing to players. Now let's do this thing...
Hanley Ramirez, OF, vs. CWS (Samardzija), $16: Hanley has been a carnival ride at the plate and hilarious in the field this year — a joy to watch, if you don't care about outcomes. He has a nice-if-limited history against Samardzija (8-for-19), as do other Red Sox hitters, including this guy...
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. CWS (Samardzija), $13: Just a reminder that Panda's worst moments this season have generally involved LHPs. He's slashing a perfectly respectable .286/.339/.436 with seven homers against right-handers. He's also 3-for-7 lifetime against Samardzija with a homer and four RBIs, for what it's worth.
Matt Holliday, OF, vs. Cin (Leake), $15: Holliday is reaching base at a .419 clip since returning from the DL, and he's 15-for-39 in his career against Leake with four extra-base hits and only two Ks. I'm assuming/hoping Monday's DNP was a simple day of rest.
Ben Paulsen, 1B, at CHC (Beeler), $13: Do I need to remind you that we're looking for bargains here? Well, I just did. No one is trying to tell you that Paulsen is your best possible option at first. I do like the price, however, with a sketchy, soft-tossing right-hander on the hill for the Cubs. Paulsen slashed .305/.374/.500 against RHPs while at Albuquerque this season, and he hit .308/.397/.554 against 'em at the same level last year.
Noah Syndergaard, P, vs. SD (Shields), $49: OK, so maybe Syndergaard doesn't seem like a steal at $49. But he's $11 cheaper than David Price and $2 cheaper than both Sonny Gray and Jeff Samadzija. I'll take the value here, particularly since he's facing a lineup with the worst team OBP in the game (.293).
Alcides Escobar, SS, at Cle (Bauer), $14: More fun with meaningless samples: Escobar has reached base in seven of his 14 plate appearances against Bauer, striking out just once. He's also hitting well lately, batting .304 in the month of July with a respectable .355 OBP.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, at Tor (Doubront), $15: Hernandez went 5-for-16 in the weekend series sweep over Chicago, with a pair of steals and three runs-scored. He also has four multi-hit games in his last seven. The kid has hammered left-handed pitching this season (25-for-70, 7 BBs), so Doubront isn't exactly a terrifying matchup.
Brett Anderson, P, vs. Oak (Gray), $39: If you're looking to go cheap at one of the pitcher spots, Anderson seems like a solid play against the fire-sale A's (despite the rough matchup with Gray). Anderson dodged an injury bullet last week, and he looks to continue an encouraging bounce-back season. Generally speaking, we like home starters on first place teams, facing last-place opponents.
Matt Wieters, C, vs. Atl (Teheran), $12: I'm assuming we'll see his name in the Tuesday lineup, following Monday's opposite-field walk-off. The price is certainly friendly, and he's coming off a 3-for-5 night.
Carlos Ruiz ($7) or Cameron Rupp ($10), C, at Tor (Doubront): I tend to shop in the junk catcher market, so I'm looking at whoever starts for Philly on Tuesday. Both of these guys have been solid against LHPs so far this season. Ruiz is 12-for-31 against 'em with six extra-base hits; Rupp is 12-for-39 against southpaws with a homer, four doubles and four walks.
While it’s a seismic move in the real baseball world, the Troy Tulowitzki-Jose Reyes deal isn’t nearly as important to fantasy owners. The two key players are universally owned and their values don’t change much. Nonetheless, we should offer up a few thoughts before we move onto subtler things.
I’ve been out on Tulowitzki for a few years now, worrying about his injury risk and whatnot. You know what you’re signing up for with him. I give his fantasy value a minor boost in Toronto, now that he’s in the hitter’s league and with a better lineup around him (the best lineup in baseball, of course).
The risk of Toronto’s cruel turf is partially mitigated by the fact that Tulo can also DH now and again. I also think it’s possible Tulowitzki will be more encouraged to play through injuries down the stretch, now that he’s back on a contender. Sometimes there’s a bounce after being released from Purgatory.
The Rockies probably screwed up waiting so long to make a Tulowitzki deal; consider what the haul might have been a year or two ago when Tulo had a better public rank and reputation. Here’s one way to frame that: a year ago, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs ranked Tulowitzki No. 6 on his trade value column - that includes the weight of Tulo’s contract. Cameron pondered if Colorado might get a “Herschel Walker trade” someday.
This summer, Tulowitzki didn’t make it into Cameron’s Top 50. And no, Reyes and some prospects is not a Walker payday.
The Rockies figure to shop Reyes aggressively this week, and into August if necessary. He’s carrying a meaty contract, too, which lowers what Colorado can ask for but also means Reyes is a good bet to clear August waivers if needed. While Tulo’s defense has slipped notably (both in the eyes of scouts and on the metric scoreboard), Reyes’s has fallen completely off the table. Surely the contending clubs have noticed.
If I were shuffling bats right now, I’d have Tulo in the $22-24 range, and Reyes around $19-21. If I knew Reyes were in Colorado for good, take the high side of that.
With Reyes gone, the Jays have an opening in their leadoff spot. Fantasy owers would love to see 2B Devon Travis get another look there. If that move comes to fruition, Travis gets a $2-3 bump on my sheets.
LaTroy Hawkins is also headed north, but he's none of your concern. Roberto Osuna has been fine in the closing chair. Hawkins is just a support guy. As you were.
As for the pitching prospects Colorado gets, let’s pray for all of them. I wouldn’t wish Coors Field on my worst pitching nightmare (Mat Latos sighs relief). Jeff Hoffman was the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft, but he’s also coming off Tommy John surgery. Maybe Miguel Castro will be something down the road; the Jays clearly rushed him as a 20-year-old earlier this spring. Jesus Tinoco is the third piece; he has a 4.25 ERA in the minors, nothing above Single-A.
We should also mention Colorado infield prospect Trevor Story, the team's presumed shortstop of the future. Take a look at his minor-league stats. If Reyes gets moved, the 22-year-old Story could have 2015 value.
• From a fantasy perspective, Monday’s trade between the A’s and Mets has a little more relevance. Tyler Clippard heads to New York (where he’ll set up for Jeurys Familia), and that means the A’s have a ninth-inning opening.
Now we have to play the stats-versus-role game. From a numbers view, Fernando Rodriguez has been the best of Oakland’s bullpen (a 3.60 ERA belies a terrific strikeout and K/BB rate). Edward Mujica has a mediocre 4.13 ERA over two stops this year and doesn’t miss bats (6.4 K/9) like Rodriguez does, but he also has previous closing experience. Sometimes that matters to teams, sometimes that does not.
Of course, the 2015 A’s aren’t going anywhere, so the organization doesn’t have to stay up nights worrying about this.
Evan Scribner? He’s too homer prone for me to bet on him. Sean Doolittle? I hope he makes a strong 2016 comeback, but I’m writing him off for this year. Why would the A’s push him when the season is shot?
In some leagues where I had all Oakland options available to me, I took a stab at Rodriguez. If nothing else, I'm most confident he'll give me innings of value. But obviously the handshake is the main thing we want, and maybe a lesser arm like Mujica could do just fine if handed the push-button role. Share your speculation thoughts in the comments.
• Let’s give a Wiggy nod to the job Matt Duffy is doing in San Francisco. If the Giants had any idea Duffy was this good, they wouldn’t have bothered negotiating at all with Pablo Sandoval last winter.
Duffy had a good-field reputation at Long Beach State, but he didn’t hit much: .253/.305/.289, zero homers in 501 at-bats. His bat perked up during three seasons of minor-league seasoning, but he still didn’t show much pop (.304/.387/.413, 13 homers in 248 games). Duffy opened 2015 as a super-utility player for the Giants, while journeyman Casey McGehee was the regular third baseman.
San Francisco gave up on Hits McGehee (.213/.275/.299) a while back, finally releasing him in July. Duffy, meanwhile, has grabbed the third-base job with two hands and turned into a surprising Rookie of the Year candidate. He’s on a .330-22-3-13-2 run since stepping into the No. 3 spot in the order, having a blast with the National League’s second-best offense.
If I were ranking infielders right now, I’d have Duffy around $15. He qualifies at three infield positions (2B, SS, 3B), does a little bit of everything, and is an easy story to root for. Strangely, he's still unowned in about 40 percent of Yahoo leagues.
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What do the 1980 U.S. Men’s Hockey Team, J.K. Rowling, and any character played by Michael Cera have in common? They’re all underdogs. And I’m a sucker for ‘em. That’s probably something you should know about me as I join the gents at Roto Arcade this football season.
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I love going deep on sleepers, finding untapped potential, and exploiting value. That doesn’t mean that I’m forecasting a breakout for Cardinals quarterback Chandler Harnish, but it does mean that I’m willing to take some less than obvious flyers on guys in the double-digit rounds of my fantasy drafts.
Hitting on this year’s Justin Forsett or DeAndre Hopkins is never guaranteed, but I think the following four guys have a shot at taking your team from “Okay” to “Oh Yeah.”
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
In the interest of full disclosure ... I’m a Bears fan. I am not, however, a Cutler fan. But, if I’m being honest, the reasons that I don’t like him have much more to do with his sour mug than his questionable mechanics. He’s just not fun to root for which is a large part of the reason he’s being drafted behind the ultra-vanilla Andy Dalton and the Humpty Dumpty-esque Robert Griffin III.
Stepping back a moment from the brand that is Smokin’ Jay and examining the player and situation, Cutler presents borderline QB1/QB2 value. Marc Trestman’s frenetically paced offense may have been replaced by John Fox’s ultra-conservative approach, but that could actually help Cutler to slow down, take a breath, and reduce his mistakes. The interceptions won’t disappear -- he’ll still throw at least one a week -- but his completion percentage should continue to hover around a respectable 65 percent. Of course, the Pro Bowl level talent surrounding him in Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett will certainly help.
The other side of the ball will also do its part to keep Chicago passing. Let’s not forget that the defense is in full-on rebuilding mode as they transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme.
Assuming the newly assembled offensive line stays healthy, there’s no reason to believe that Cutler can’t put up 4,000 passing yards and 24 TDs.
Roy Helu, RB, Oakland Raiders
Chiefs linebacker Josh Mauga wasn’t the only person left breathless after RB Latavius Murray broke off a 90-yard touchdown run in Week 12 last season. Embraced by the fantasy community in that single play, Murray’s stock has soared in 2015. While I’m also high on the power back, there’s no denying his bust potential. Given his history of ankle issues and noting his upright running style, Murray may be a player worth handcuffing. Enter Roy Helu.
After four seasons with Washington, he’ll serve as the Raiders primary pass-catching back. Last year he put up career numbers, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and totaling 42 receptions for 477 yards. He’s a versatile back who will fit nicely into offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s system, working as an efficient chain mover on third downs. If Murray were to go down and Trent Richardson continues his downward trajectory, Helu is capable of commandeering the workhorse role. Currently going off the board in the 13th round of PPR drafts, Helu’s varied skill set and favorable situation make him an ideal late-round stash.
Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Perhaps best known for his four-touchdown game against the Jets in Week 8 of 2013, Jones is a balletic receiver with big mitts. Unfortunately, he missed all of 2014 due to foot and ankle injuries. In his stead, the catch-averse Mohamed Sanu lined up opposite A.J. Green. Targeted by Andy Dalton a whopping 98 times, Sanu was only able to haul in 56 balls, leading the league in drops with a grand total of 14.
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Much to the relief of Greater Cincinnati, Jones was a full participant in Bengals mini-camp, appearing healthy and ready to resume his No. 2 receiver duties. A victim of what have you done for me lately, the elusive receiver is being drafted behind Sanu, after the 13th round. A legitimate red zone threat with playmaking ability, Jones could easily put up 60 receptions for 850 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming the steal of 2015’s draft season.
Rob Housler, TE, Cleveland Browns
According to Yahoo ADP, Jordan Cameron is currently the seventh tight end being drafted in fantasy leagues. Rob Housler, on the other hand, isn’t being drafted at all. “So what,” you say? The two have more in common than you might think. They were both drafted in 2011 (Housler going in Round 3, while Cameron wasn’t selected until Round 4). Their NFL combine stats were comparable (Housler actually ran a faster 40-yard dash). Plus, they’re both the same age, same height, and are separated by only nine pounds on the scale. So why the discrepancy between the two? I’d argue opportunity.
Four seasons into his professional career, Housler still hasn't broken out. Bruce Arians didn't help Housler’s progression in 2014 as he refused to feature receiving tight ends, believing that those who play the position should block first and catch second. This year, however, Housler will be taking over for Cameron, who left in free agency. Admittedly, the Browns’ options under center are grim, but with lackluster targets like Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe sitting atop the depth chart, Housler should see an elephantine uptick in targets. Under a one-year deal, it's make-or-break time for the 27-year-old.
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Chris Heston, SP, vs. MIL (Lohse), $45: The Regression Police had their fun after Heston’s surprise no-hitter in early June, but guess what? The music keeps playing. Heston has a tidy 2.20 ERA in his last seven starts since the gem at Citi Field, and if you look at all of his non-Colorado starts (thin air ruins everything), we’re looking at a 2.50 ERA. The Giants have been sizzling since the break, and I certainly expect them to have some fun against Kyle Lohse on the other side.
Kyle Hendricks, SP, vs. COL (De La Rosa), $44: The Rockies certainly got their Ya-Yas out in their weeklong Coors homestand, but the breaking pitches have more bite on the road. Is the Coors Hangover a real thing? I’ve always believed in it; intuitively, it makes sense. Even if you don’t buy into that, perhaps this will work for you: Hendricks generally likes the home cooking at Wrigley. He owns a 2.81 ERA at home.
Kevin Gausman, SP, vs. ATL (Wood), $35: He’s been all over the map in his four starts - two good, one mediocre, one a mess. But now he’s a big favorite at home (-213 or so) against an Atlanta lineup that’s crashed hard (and now is without Juan Uribe and Kelly Kelly Kelly Johnson, though Fab Five Freddie Freeman returned on the weekend). Chase the win? Sure, I’ll do it.
Angel Pagan, OF, vs. MIL (Lohse), $14: This is really a “stack the Giants” angle, but I don’t think you need a push to Buster Posey or some of the fun infielders. Pagan doesn’t offer a lot of category juice, but he’s at .315 with 10 runs over his last 12 games, and the club is 11-1 over that period. And Kyle Lohse, in 2015, is one of the most obvious stack opponents you can find.
Mike Napoli, 1B, vs. CHW (Danks), $15: His seasonal stats are ugly, but he’s also on a 9-for-23 binge with five extra-base hits over his last six games. John Danks likes to make every righty hitter feel good - they’re slashing .315/.359/.520 against him this year, with 12 homers. Should be a fun night for Wally the Green Monster.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, vs. CHW (Danks), $16: It would be nice to have multiple bats against Danks in this spot, and the X-Man likes the tilt of a southpaw (.925 OPS). The Boston lineup has been mostly a train reck in the second half of July, but maybe Sunday night’s block party will get this group going.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, at TB (Karns), $14: We’ve talked about the Post Hype case for Castellanos this spring, and the story keeps rolling along. He’s homered four times in his last six games, and if you consider a 26-game sample, you see a .312/.363/.581 slash with 19 RBIs. Nate Karns is a reasonable pitcher, but he’s no one to fear.
Nelson Cruz, OF, vs. ARI (Ray), $18: We know the streakiest hitters tend to be batters who strike out a lot and hit a lot of fly balls. And when those guys get locked in, you certainly want to surf along the streak. Cruz hit four homers last week (along with 12 hits) and he’ll enjoy the platoon advantage against Robbie Ray.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, at BOS (Kelly), $13: He’s been the AL’s version of Ian Desmond this year, a name-brand shortstop who’s been determined to crush your hitting numbers. But if you stayed the course with Ramirez, you’ve been rewarded with a .304 July (two homers, five steals). Joe Kelly is here to help, too.
Adam Jones, OF, vs. ATL (Wood), $17: A messy May pushed some people off the scent, but Jones is a .529 slugger since. He does his best work against lefties (.989 OPS) and in front of the Crabcake folks (61-point OPS boost for his career). Natty Boh, that Mr. Jones.
Fantasy players always fear the unknown.
To the skittish, shelling out even a mid-round pick for an inexperienced player, no matter the situation, is akin to diving into a deep unexplored lagoon knowing there are only two legitimate outcomes – 1) Discovering a hidden treasure, 2) Encountering an amphibious humanoid with an affinity for brunettes and murder.
Over the past few seasons, those who dared to invest in the services of a Robert Griffin III, Eddie Lacy or Odell Beckham found instant riches. Those who didn’t suffered a fate far worse than any "Gill-man" attack, league-wide embarrassment.
Not long ago, drafting a rookie anytime before Round 5 was widely perceived as taboo. Circumvent useful veteran talent for unproven upside was the fantasy equivalent of swallowing a cyanide pill.
However, that viewpoint has changed.
Because nuances from the college game are woven into playbooks throughout the league, the transition for some has been smooth. From level-to-level, system terminology and execution are often not dramatically different. It’s no wonder why NFL coordinators commonly pick the brains of college coaches every offseason or why the implementation of spread formations have increased. Team executives who break the bank on young talent want to reap immediate reward. In many cases the only way to shorten a rookie’s learning curve is to replicate collegiate schemes.
Hey, the NFL is a copycat league after all.
Three years ago the read-option exploded onto the scene, propelling RG3, Alfred Morris and Russell Wilson to great heights. Other first-year standouts, including Doug Martin, Josh Gordon and Andrew Luck also ascended rapidly playing in more traditional offenses. After young power rushers dominated the landscape (e.g. Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell and Zac Stacy) in 2013, last year gamers witnessed premier pass catchers Beckham, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Brandin Cooks, among others, squash notions rookie receivers only break out in Year 3. Each finished inside the top-30 in standard per game average at their position, the most impactful rookie WR class in fantasy and NFL history. Line gasher Jeremy Hill, PPR machine Jarvis Landry, ladder climber Allen Robinson and QB Teddy Bridgewater, who was a fringe QB1 in 12-team leagues Weeks 12-17, were also productive.
Though 2014’s successes will be hard to duplicate, this fall’s crop of greenhorns promises to churn out an equally profitable fantasy yield, particularly at running back. Those willing to take a chance stand to benefit.
What newcomers will be cornerstones on fantasy rosters this season? Here are six players poised to make a significant impact:
Melvin Gordon, SD, RB
ADP (From Fantasy Football Calculator): 27.2, RB13
The popular early-round pick isn't the next Michael Bennett, Ron Dayne, Brian Calhoun or Montee Ball. He's a flashy, gliding rusher who is sure to overcome Wisconsin's RB-bust reputation. Recall he owns the highest career yards per carry average (7.79) of any RB in college football history. However, he isn't without flaws. Ball security, blitz pick-up and pass-catching are areas he needs to improve in. Still, his game-breaking wheels and open-field elusiveness will likely gift him ample opportunities. Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver, though superior pass-down options, aren't exactly world beaters. From the get go, Gordon will be deployed often on first and second downs running behind a retooled Chargers offensive line, one that ranked dead last in run-blocking last year. Todd Gurley may have the more productive career, but given the Ram's possible physical complications, Gordon is the safer 2015 pick. Still, the statistical expectations placed upon him are too lofty. Due to his limitations in the pass game, it seems likely he'll tote the rock roughly 15-17 times per game. At his current top-30 ADP, there is little to no profit margin, particularly in PPR. He should finish comfortably inside the RB2 range in 12-team leagues, but it's doubtful he flirts with RB1 status. A final tally around 1,200 combined yards with 6-8 TDs feels right, a total similar to what RB19 Alfred Morris achieved in '14.
Amari Cooper, Oak, WR
ADP: 49.7, WR20
From his cloud above, Al Davis probably yelled for Oakland management to take speedster Philip Dorsett over Cooper in the draft. The 'Bama product, however, is exactly what the Raiders need. For all intents and purposes, he's the most complete wideout in a promising wide receiver class. Despite only adequate size, he's a gritty, tough and highly productive receiver. He excels on post routes downfield and executes undauntedly over the middle on crosses and slants. His rapid acceleration to top speed (4.42 40-yard dash) is superb. Most importantly, his quick sticks, planting ability and physicality at the line of scrimmage allow him to gain separation from defenders, a coveted skill at the next level. Lapses in concentration have been problematic at times, but he should be the flavor every week for Derek Carr. Without much competition, he should amass some 150-plus targets this fall. Recall, due to Oakland's defensive inadequacies, Silver and Black QBs chucked it 628 times last year, the fourth-most attempts in the league. The volume potential is awfully sexy. He isn't OBJ the sequel, but Cooper is a likely mid-range WR2 in 12-team leagues. Anticipate approximately 70 catches for 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. You won't make the mint at his WR20 cost, but you won't file for bankruptcy either.
Ameer Abdullah, Det, RB
ADP: 64.5, RB29
The Nebraska product is a true mighty mite – small, fearless and tough. At a minimum, Abdullah will have universal FLEX appeal in PPR leagues this fall. Attempting to tackle the RB is trying to wrangle a greased pig. His ankle-breaking cuts, balance, patience, vision and burst make him highly elusive. No surprise, he excelled in agility tests at the combine leading all RBs in the three-cone, 20-yard/60-yard shuttles, broad jump and vertical jump. His quick downhill burst, low pad level and strong finishes are underrated. Also an accomplished receiver, he hauled in 73 passes in four seasons with the 'Huskers. The expectation is for the rookie to work in tandem with pile-driver Joique Bell. However, questions loom about the incumbent's conditioning after undergoing offseason procedures on his Achilles and knee. If Bell rounds into form quickly, Abdullah will be Detroit's new Reggie Bush, a secondary rusher with tacky hands who will be highly employable at times this season. But if Joique resembles junk, the youngster would emerge a 15-17 touch per game back, a completely plausible outcome. Regardless, there's 50-catch potential here, particularly in a Joe Lombardi offense that typically involves RBs in the pass game (93 catches last year). Assuming he's a complementary option for part of the season, anticipate roughly 1,100 combined yards with 5-7 TDs.
Tevin Coleman, Atl, RB
ADP: 69.5, RB31
An oasis filled with endless opulence, runway models and statistical riches. Figuratively, that's exactly what Coleman stumbled upon. Scrawl it in blood, he will flourish in Atlanta. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White provide a vibrant atmosphere. The trio tax defenses downfield creating wide holes for the ground game. Keep in mind Atlanta was the 14th-most valuable backfield in fantasy last year. And that was with a fossilized Steven Jackson setting the pace. The Falcons' offensive line, which ranked No. 28 in run-blocking according to Pro Football Focus, must make strides under new OC Kyle Shanahan. Devonta Freeman enters Falcons camp the starter, but it's a matter of when not if Coleman surpasses him. There's a reason why the new regime invested a third-round pick in his services. Though his upright run style is worrisome, there's no disputing his sprint-car speed and one-cut abilities. He registered 7.54 yards per carry and averaged 169.7 rushing yards per game last season on a bad Indiana team. His experience on passing downs working as a receiver/blocker and zone-blocking familiarity will also benefit him greatly at the next level. Overall, the former Hoosier has three-down potential. It's no stretch to think TC bests Gordon/Gurley this year toting roughly 60 percent of Atlanta's touches. Pencil me in for 1,050-1,150 combined yards with 7-9 TDs.
Todd Gurley, StL, RB
ADP: 46.3 (RB23)
Imagine an enraged bull driving an 18-wheeler downhill. When operating at 100 percent, that's Gurley. The Georgia product is quite possibly the nastiest RB to enter the league since Adrian Peterson or Marshawn Lynch. He's a violent downhill runner with plus wiggle and hands. Prior to shredding his knee last season, he racked 61.9 percent of his yards after contact. That's a number similar to what Lynch achieved with the 'Hawks last year. Obviously, his ACL recovery will be monitored closely. The latest, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, has the rookie opening training camp on the NFI list. In other words, he'll continue to rehab until the Rams feel he's ready to practice fully, which could happen at any time. Jeff Fisher has already stated Gurley will be brought along slowly, meaning the rusher could begin the regular season as a secondary option to Tre Mason. It's possible he logs just 8-12 touches per game over the first few weeks of the regular season. When will Gurley be unleashed? Best guess: He records his first 15-carry game Week 5 at Green Bay. Patience needs to be a virtue. Even behind a rebuilt offensive line (No. 23 in run-blocking in '14), he could be a difference-making rusher for the playoff minded. Over the fantasy season's second half, he's sure to establish residency inside the RB top-20.
Nelson Agholor, Phi, WR
ADP: 76.3, WR32
Gushy feelings over Jordan Matthews are oversaturated. Everyone, almost everywhere are virtually guaranteeing a quantum leap in Year 2, a dangerous prediction. Philadelphia is a stats factory, but there are no assurances a significant fraction of Jeremy Maclin's 144 targets from 2014 will be awarded to Matthews. Why? Agholor. Philly is a place sure to maximize the rookie's fabulous abilities. Route precision is the name of his game. His sharp cuts, expanded tree and plus speed (4.42 40-yard dash) are standout characteristics. He also tracks the ball terrifically, gets good leverage off the line and owns highly reliable hands. Overall, his versatility and polish resemble an established veteran's. Reports suggest he'll start outside Day 1, likely in Maclin's old spot. The Eagles' staff seems resigned keeping Matthews in the slot. Riley Cooper and Josh Huff, meanwhile, are expected to battle for the other wing position. Nail down a starting gig and Agholor will garner much appeal in the fantasy community. Remember last year the Eagles attempted the fifth-most pass attempts in the league. Cooper should set the pace among first-year WRs, but Agholor may not lag far behind. In fact, it's no stretch to think he outperforms Matthews. He's that good. For now, 65-70 receptions for 950-1,050 yards and 6-8 TDs are likely.
OTHER YOUNGSTERS TO GUN FOR
T.J. Yeldon, Jax, RB (53.1 ADP, RB25) – "Three-down back." "Workhorse." High volume." These are common phrases Jaguar coaches have spewed about Yeldon this offseason. Sound familiar? Those who bought into Toby Gerhart hook, line and sinker last year know the flowery illustrations all too well. Yeldon is expected to open the regular season as Jacksonville's primary back. Though unaggressive considering his stout frame (6-foot-1, 226 pounds), he's creative in the open-field, slippery and lethal pushing off the initial cut. He runs a bit upright which leaves him vulnerable to nicks and scrapes, but the Jags are expected to deploy him some 15-plus times per game. The projected workload is tempting, but questions remain. The Jags' transparent offensive line (No. 25 in run-blocking in '14), forgiving defense and Blake Bortles don't inspire confidence. And last year only 8.6 percent of their plays were in the red zone. Some will reach, but taking a selfie with a ticked off wild animal is a better idea. Yeldon will be terribly erratic.
Duke Johnson, Cle, RB (93.2, RB39) – It's crowded in Cleveland. Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West and Duke will each attempt to pull away from the RBBC scrum this summer. Johnson is a nimble, shifty rusher in the Gio Bernard/Shane Vereen vein who's a strong candidate for 40-50 catches this fall. Some anticipate him asserting himself as the three-down RB in short order, but the Browns don't envision the rookie shouldering a heavy load, at least initially. Look for him to net roughly 10-12 touches per game out of the gate.
Jameis Winston, TB, QB (154.4, QB21) – We can agree that the Heisman winner has been a knucklehead off the field. However, on it, he's master and commander, a player with strong leadership skills, a tall pocket presence and steely resolve. Couple that with his high-leverage execution and strong arm, and it's easy to see why the Bucs covet his services. From a fantasy perspective, he won't light the world on fire in Year 1. His intermediate passes, of which he completed only 56.5 percent last year, must improve. But surrounded by Redwood trees Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins and in a Dirk Koetter system schemed similarly to what he ran at Florida St., Winston has more value than you think. Keep in mind Tampa's generous D should force him into many high-volume workloads. Bank on a borderline top-20 campaign.
Kevin White, Chi, WR (82.1, WR33) – When Chicago selected White at No. 7 overall in this year's Draft, Bears fans at the Auditorium Theater rose to their feat and jubilantly applauded the pick. On a team peppered with holes, the West Virginia standout filled a need. White has the size (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), speed (4.35 40-yard) and mean streak needed to be a highly productive receiver at the next level. "Mountain" strong – he set the pace among WRs with 23 bench presses at the combine – he can break press coverage with relative ease and is hard to drag down after the catch. Not to be overlooked, his quick-twitch cuts allow him to gain separation from defenders. However, the edges are rough. His route tree is very green which means it may take him a month or three to make a significant impact. Still, the physical tools and opportunity – he should win the starting job opposite Alshon Jeffery – are there. If only Jay Cutler wasn't his quarterback. White may play unevenly over the regular season's first half, but I suspect he'll be at least WR3 worthy from Week 10 on. However, you're overpaying at his current price point.
Marcus Mariota, Ten, QB (160.5, QB23) – A near desolate wasteland fantasy-wise, Nashville isn't the greatest location for the former Duck. Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker are serviceable weapons, but Justin Hunter, Harry Douglas, Hakeem Nicks and fellow rookie Dorial Green-Beckham, despite his enormous physical makeup, elicit excitement equivalent to any Adam Sandler movie. Mariota is multidimensional. His blazing straight-line speed (4.52 40-yard), ability to break contain, sharp on-the-move throws and quick release make him difficult for defenders to lasso. He can squeeze the pill into tight windows and, at times, has shown adequate touch on loft tosses. Most alluring, he possesses size (6-foot-4, 222-pounds) and athleticism to execute efficiently, particularly as a runner, inside the red zone. Think of him as a poor man's Cam Newton, a passer who could finish in range of 3,800 combined yards (600 rushing) with 20-22 total TDs.
David Cobb, Ten, RB (103.3, RB41) – Minion-like at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, Cobb is a stocky between-the-tackles grinder who is destined to generate touches on early downs and at the goal-line. He's a tortoise on the second level (4.81 40-yard) and isn't especially athletic, but his low center of gravity, patience, excellent pass pro skills and adequate hands should keep him on the field at least 40 percent of the time. As of now, Bishop Sankey is the odds-on favorite to start Week 1. He's a bouncy rusher with plus receiving skills, though, as his 3.74 YPC from last year shows, he's a suspect interior runner. The Titans boast a respectable offensive line and Mariota's rushing ability should only boost the ground game, but the overall situation is far from stellar. Still, Cobb is a roster-worthy, post-100 flier capable of 800 combined yards with 5-7 TDs.
KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON ...
Jay Ajayi, Mia, RB, Breshad Perriman, Bal, WR, DeVante Parker, Mia, WR, David Johnson, Ari, RB, Maxx Williams, Bal, TE, Dorial Green-Beckham, Ten, WR, Philip Dorsett, Ind, WR, Devin Funchess, Car, WR
Jay Bruce has never fully lived up to his hype as one of the best prospects in baseball, highlighted by a career-low .654 OPS during his age-27 season last year. He was seemingly only getting worse in 2015, when he owned a .162/.272/.333 line on May 15. Since then, he’s hit .309 with 11 homers, 29 runs scored, 37 RBI and three steals over 220 at bats, a span in which Bruce has been a top-25 fantasy hitter. He’s actually hit better against southpaws (.855 OPS) than RHP (.790) so far this season, and despite the horrendous start, his BB% (11.6) is a career high while his K% (22.4) is a career low, so there appears to be some real progress here. Bruce’s batting average is always going to be a problem, but he’s still just 28 years old, and plenty of upside remains. The Reds better ask for a big return if they are thinking of selling him, and fantasy owners should be buying.
Sad to hear this will be their final season, but here’s a funny new Key & Peele sketch.
Johnny Cueto has dominated at home this season (1.86 ERA, 0.88 WHIP), and he goes from the NL to the AL with his trade to Kansas City. But he goes from a home park in GAB that’s increased HR by 40 percent over the past three seasons, which is an MLB high, to one in KC that’s decreased homers by eight percent over that span, which is a pretty massive difference (GAB has also increased run scoring more so than any other park this year other than Coors Field). Moreover, he shifts from a Reds team that had a good defense to a Royals one that’s arguably the best (albeit one that will be missing Alex Gordon). Cueto will also see a massive upgrade in bullpens, as the Reds relievers' ERA ranks No. 26, while the Royals’ is first (KC should also provide more run support). Cueto might be the rare pitcher who sees an upgrade in value when moving from the National League to the American League.
Headlines of the Week: Florida Man, 72, Shot In Buttocks By ‘Crazy’ Drunken Man While Protecting Sea Turtle Habitat...Google Street View Busts Husband Smoking After He Told Wife He Quit...Man Who Survived Lightning Strike Wins $1M Jackpot...Man Speaks No French, Wins French Scrabble Title...Alleged Trespasser Found Drunk And Naked With Pigs In Hog Barn...Scientists Discover Mutant Sharks Living In A Volcano Lair At The Bottom Of The Pacific Ocean...‘Adult Preschool’ Charges Hipsters To Take Naps, Play With Glitter Glue...Polish Cow On The Run For Two Years Is Finally Caught...‘Drunk’ Squirrel Causes Hundreds Of Pounds Of Damage...Pregnant Woman Posts Hilarious Sketch On Craiglist To Find Unborn Baby’s Father.
Quick Hits: After hitting two more long balls Sunday, Mike Trout is up to 31 on the year, just five fewer than his career high he set last season in 243 fewer at bats. His defense has bounced back after a hiccup last year, and his base running remains a plus. Trout’s OBP (.405) and SLG (.632) are both career highs. He’s 24 years old. Just absurd...CC Sabathia has allowed 20 homers with a .325 BAA and a 1.64 WHIP over 85.1 innings against right-handers this season...Since May 1, Albert Pujols has been the No. 4 fantasy hitter, when he’s posted a .274-48-26-53 line over 288 at bats...Scott Kazmir is 5-0 with a 0.91 ERA and 0.77 WHIP with a .145 BAA versus the AL West this season...Well this triple play was unorthodox...Since the beginning of July, Robinson Cano has been a top-three fantasy hitter, as he’s batted .337 with five homers, 18 runs scored and 17 RBI over 22 games, so it sure seems like the former elite second baseman is returning to form, yet he’s still not priced as such in most DFS formats...Former top prospect Andrew Heaney has a 1.79 ERA and 0.87 WHIP with a 31:5 K:BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season. He has a 9.5 SwStr% and is quietly living up to his past hype, as one of those six starts even came in Coors Field. Heaney is still owned in just 62% of Yahoo leagues.
Police Blotter: Chinese Man Builds Fake Police Station In Flat And Poses As Cop In Elaborate Con...Knife-Wielding Intruder Allegedly Tells Victim: ‘You’re Going To Smoke Some Weed With Me Right Now!’...Alleged New Jersey Burglar Hides Under Bed For 3 Days...Cops: Man Called 911 To Get Help Fixing His AC...1,200 Guns Found In Home After Discovery Of Man’s Body In Car...Machete-Wielding Man Threatened Teen For Disciplining Chihuahua...Couple’s Stolen SUV Returned, With Upgrades.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Julio Teheran has a 2.37 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP at home compared to a 6.95 ERA and 1.78 WHIP on the road...Meanwhile, Carlos Carrasco has a 5.37 ERA with a 1.41 WHIP at home compared to a 3.10 ERA and 1.00 WHIP on the road. Carrasco had a 2.30 ERA at home last season. I’m not going to cite his FIP since I still think defense will remain a problem in Cleveland, but Carrasco is absolutely a buy-low candidate right now...Park Factors take a very big sample, usually around a few years, but it’s still a bit odd to see U.S. Cellular Field rank as the fourth-worst hitter’s park in MLB so far this season after increasing run scoring by 10 percent over the past three seasons, with only Coors Field being more hitter-friendly over that span...Carlos Martinez’s 2.16 GB/FB ratio ranks No. 10 among all starters, and among the nine ahead of him, only Tyson Ross has a higher K%. Martinez’s control still needs work, but he’s on the path to becoming elite. It’s pretty crazy the Cardinals have by far the best record (and run differential) in baseball while losing Adam Wainwright (and Matt Adams)...Todd Frazier leads the NL both in homers (27) and doubles (29) and has added 10 steals for good measure. The injured Giancarlo Stanton is still tied for the HR lead, and he’s played in 20 fewer games...Carlos Gonzalez has five homers, eight runs scored and 12 RBI over his last four games. He’s raised his OPS from .699 on July 4 to .823.
Song of the Week: CHVRCHES – Leave A Trace.
Longread of the Week: The Proposal.
Quick Hits Part Tres: Matt Harvey has struck out four batters or fewer in four of his last five outings and has issued 14 walks over his past four starts (26.0 innings). But his velocity remains strong, and while there’s some concern about an innings limit coming off TJ surgery (which is the obvious excuse for his shaky control that’s been the worst of his career), I’m still buying him moving forward...Brandon Belt has been just the No. 130 fantasy player this year, and his home park will continue to limit his upside (he has one home run since June 20). But his 40.5 Hard% ranks top-10 in baseball, and Belt has the second-most doubles in the National League...The final out of Cole Hamels’ no-hitter was insane...Alex Rios was a top-20 fantasy player in 2013, when he had 18 homers and 42 steals over 612 at bats. He’s combined for 30 homers/steals over the next 691 at bats since, and he currently ranks as the No. 763 player...Gerrit Cole is on pace to win 23 games this year, which would be the most since Justin Verlander recorded 24 in 2011...Over his last three starts, Clayton Kershaw has tossed 26.0 scoreless innings with a 0.54 WHIP and a 38:0 K:BB ratio, which is beyond silly.
Jason Hammel, SP, vs. Phi (Nola), $35: His 20.3 K-BB% is the No. 11 best in MLB among all starters, and his 11.0 SwStr% is top-20, ahead of Johnny Cueto and Felix Hernandez. Hammel owns a 2.20 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 49.0 innings at home this season, and the Cubs are the second-biggest favorites at a massive -210 on the board Sunday, facing a Phillies offense that has an MLB-low .651 OPS against right-handed pitchers this season.
Odrisamer Despaigne, SP, vs. Mia (Latos), $27: This is going ugly, but he does have a 1.18 WHIP at home on the year, and the Padres are (slightly) favored Sunday in a game with an over/under that’s a low seven. He’s the cheapest starter available, tied with one other who’s starting his game in Coors Field as opposed to Petco Park.
John Jaso, C, at TB (Chen), $7: He’s tied for the cheapest catcher available despite often starting at DH, hitting atop Tampa Bay’s lineup and sporting a .340/.407/.511 line. To be fair, he faces a southpaw here.
Joey Votto, 1B, at Col (Kendrick), $20: He has a .977 OPS against RHP with 16 homers and six steals over 242 at bats and will be hitting in Coors Field in a game that has a whopping over/under of 11 on Sunday.
DJ LeMahieu, 2B, vs. Cin (Lorenzen), $15: He’s hitting .344 at home this season, and second base is slim pickings.
Kris Bryant, 3B, vs. Phi (Nola), $17: There aren’t too many enticing third base options Sunday, and Bryant has nine homers and eight steals over 258 at bats against RHP this season. He’s too good to pass up at this price.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, vs. (Lorenzen), $17: Despite not having a hit since July 20, Tulowitzki still has the highest OPS among all shortstops in baseball and is at home Sunday. Fellow shortstops like Eugenio Suarez, Alcides Escobar and Ian Desmond are just $2 cheaper.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, vs. (Lorenzen), $19: He has multiple hits in three of his last four contests, including three homers his last three games. Even during an extremely disappointing campaign, Gonzalez has a .914 OPS against RHP.
Jay Bruce, OF, at Col (Kendrick), $20: In case you haven’t noticed, the plan here is to stack players in the Reds/Rockies game at Coors Field (although be sure to check the weather). Bruce is facing Kyle Kendrick, who’s allowed 24 homers over 107.1 innings this season to go along with a 1.72 WHIP against lefties.
Charlie Blackmon, OF, vs. Cin (Lorenzen), $21: He’s batting .329 at Coors and has 11 homers with 22 steals versus right-handed pitchers this season. Michael Lorenzen has yielded a 1.99 WHIP against LHB this season, so this sure seems like a favorable matchup for Blackmon.
Todd Frazier, 3B, at Col (Rusin), $19: “The Toddfather” is on pace to finish with a .279-102-45-110-17 line this season and has a 1.012 OPS when facing left-handed pitchers. Frazier will be facing southpaw Chris Rusin who’s allowed a 1.57 WHIP against RHB on the year and will be hitting in baseball’s best hitter’s park in Coors Field, so he’s worth paying up for, even if third base is relatively deep.
Carlos Martinez, SP, vs. Atl (Miller), $54: He struggled a bit during his first start after the break, but Martinez has allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his last 12 starts (he yielded three in the other). He owns a 24.9 K% to go along with a 2.16 GB/FB ratio and a 10.0 SwStr%, which is a pretty excellent combination. The Cardinals are the biggest favorites on the board Saturday in a game with a low over/under, and the Braves sport just a .695 OPS when facing right-handed pitchers this season.
Erasmo Ramirez, SP, vs. Bal (Gonzalez), $25: He’s allowed just one run or fewer in eight of his past nine starts (surrendering only two in the other), as his ERA went from 6.62 to 3.54 over that span. Ramirez has a 2.36 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 45.2 innings this year, and the Rays are favored. Despite this, he’s the cheapest starting pitcher available among Saturday’s slate in a game with an over/under of seven.
John Jaso, C, vs. Bal (Gonzalez), $14: He’s hitting .368/.419/.553 against RHP this year and is usually as safe a bet to be in the lineup among catchers since he plays so much DH. Jaso also hits atop Tampa Bay’s lineup, so he remains a bargain.
Albert Pujols, 1B, vs. Tex (Gallardo), $18: He’s been a top-10 fantasy player since May 1, when he’s posted a .273-47-26-52 line over 278 at bats. Pujols also has a career 1.441 OPS (and .582 wOBA) over 27 ABs against Yovani Gallardo.
Robinson Cano, 2B, vs. Tor (Hutchison), $17: Since the beginning of July, Cano has been a top-five fantasy hitter, as he’s batted .349 with five homers, 16 runs scored and 14 RBI over 20 games, as it sure seems like the former elite second baseman is returning to form.
Wilmer Flores, SS, vs. LAD (Lee), $7: We needed to go cheap somewhere, and Flores plays everyday and hits in the middle of the Mets’ lineup. Zach Lee is the likely candidate to start for the Dodgers on Saturday, and while he’s a nice prospect, it will be his first appearance in the major leagues.
Chris Young, OF, at Min (Milone), $15: He has a .371/.423/.685 line against southpaws this season, and Tommy Milone has ceded a 1.47 WHIP when facing righties in 2015.
Torii Hunter, OF, vs. NYY (Sabathia), $15: He faces a pitcher in CC Sabathia who’s yielded 18 homers with a .330 BAA and 1.64 WHIP over 79.2 innings against RHB this season.
Marlon Byrd, OF, at Col (Rusin), $15: He’s played much better since an awful start and owns a .918 OPS versus LHP this season. Byrd will be facing a southpaw in Coors Field on Saturday.
Yahoo Daily Fantasy is fun, especially when all the teams are in play. Here are some names to consider as you do your Friday shopping. Make sure you check out the weather and lineups before you make final commitments.
Tim Cooney, SP, vs. ATL (Williams), $25: You’re hoping for six innings from Cooney, an ordinary lefty, but also take note he’s the second-biggest favorite on the Friday card. Those win points sure come in handy. Atlanta’s offense isn’t much without Freddie Freeman; the Braves are the NL’s lowest-scoring team for the second half.
Corey Kluber, SP, vs. CHW (Quintana), $60: It’s a pay-up price, though you do save a few ducats over the Max Scherzer layout. Kluber’s been hurt by Cleveland’s messy defense this year, but the Tribe has upgraded the infield in recent weeks. He’s carrying a 2.74 ERA at home and the White Sox are 24th in wOBA against right-handed pitching.
Rougned Odor, 2B, at LAA (Tropeano), $18: A brief spell in the minors seemed to fix Odor’s swing and confidence: he’s on a ballistic .370/.408/.648 tear since. Sure, I’d like some of that. Like most young pitchers, Nick Tropeano will be treated as guilty until proven innocent. He had a 4.43 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, vs. BOS (Porcello), $17: His bat finally woke up in July (1.010 OPS, three homers), and he’s owned Rick Porcello over their brief history (6-for-10). The entire American League has kicked Porcello around this year, especially over the last ten turns (7.20 ERA), so look for runs in Motown for Friday night.
Ian Desmond, SS, at PIT (Locke), $14: Is his nightmare summer finally turning around? Desmond has seven hits and two homers over his last four games, and now he draws the platoon advantage against a soft-tossing lefty. Sounds good to me.
Kole Calhoun, OF, vs. TEX (Lewis), $18: Calhoun moved into the No. 2 slot in the order five weeks ago and it’s coincided with the Angels taking off (22-9 record). He’s had a role in the spike, posting an .824 OPS and seven home runs. He likes the tilt of Colby Lewis, holding a 9-for-19 ledger against him, with four extra-base hits. KC in the OC.
Marlon Byrd, OF, at COL (Butler), $15: The big-name Reds look appealing here, of course, but we should also suggest someone in a more-affordable tier. Byrd doesn’t have a great resume against RHPs this year, but when Eddie Butler is on the other side, I don’t think it much matters. Someone is going to get their licks in here. Some people wrote Byrd off after a horrible April, but he’s a .278/.341/.541 slasher since, with 14 home runs.
Ben Paulsen, 1B, vs. CIN (DeSclafani), $12: Again, you probably don’t need my help to steer you to big-name Rockies, at home no less. Those guys speak for themselves. Paulsen figures to return to action now that Colorado faces another right-handed opponent. Paulsen has an .887 OPS at home, an .816 OPS against RHPs, and a winning mustache.
Colby Rasmus, OF, at KC (Guthrie), $9: Left-handed hitters love to dig in against Jeremy Guthrie: .333/.395/.531. Rasmus certainly is a player with some fleas, but he also has a .500 slugging percentage against the northpaws this year. Come hack with me.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, art DET (Verlander), $13: If you want to walk away from the dumpster fire that is the Boston offense, okay. I won’t beg you to come back, or question your judgment. But I’m intrigued by Panda at a giveaway price, and we know Justin Verlander hasn’t fooled anyone this year. And the last time Panda met JV, a couple of explosions followed (and a third off a reliever). Call it a hunch play, but I’ll take some Sandoval hacks Friday...
Back in the middle of 1990, the wacky Seattle Mariners came up with a fresh promotional idea: Guaranteed No-Hitter Night. If the June 16 game between the Rangers and the Mariners didn’t produce a no-hitter, all fans in attendance received a free ticket to a future game.
The timing seemed right. Nolan Ryan, fresh off his sixth career no-no, was pitching for the Rangers. Seattle had the second-worst offense in the American League that year. Alas, no one threw a no-hitter that evening, and Mariners lefty Matt Young wound up stealing the show with a three-hit gem. (Guaranteed Shutout Night doesn't generate the same buzz.)
This week would have been a logical point for the 2015 Mets to dust off Seattle’s promotion. New York has the worst offense in the National League, and it was in line to face two of the best pitchers around, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. To make matters worse, the current version of the Mets lineup is especially putrid. John Mayberry Jr. is your cleanup hitter? Do the Mets have Internet access?
Kershaw did what everyone expected Thursday night, a dominant and tidy three-hit shutout (no walks, 11 strikeouts, just 104 pitches). He took a perfect game into the seventh inning, allowed a mere three singles. Pity Field is more like it.
It’s easy to forget now, but Kershaw’s surface stats weren’t pretty after nine starts: 2-3 record, 4.32 ERA. There were a few “what’s wrong with Kershaw?” article floating around, silly as that sounds now. What should have been the focus: a .342 BABIP, a 2.82 FIP, a 2.20 xFIP, 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings, a little bad luck with bequeathed runners. This was the rare chance to maybe get Kershaw under market. (I wasn’t able to do that, but I did move Giancarlo Stanton for Kershaw before the lefty’s tenth start. I’m not just playing the hindsight game.)
Where’s the actionable takeaway, you ask? Let’s jump over to Greinke, who may or may not pitch this weekend - the Greinkes are expecting a child this weekend. If he pitches against the Mets, we’ll expect the same bagel parade that Kershaw posted. Heck, Greinke hasn’t allowed a run since June 13, covering 43.2 innings.
Just like Kershaw’s early pushoff, Greinke’s current ERA is not to be trusted. The good players know that, that’s the case with any outlier stat. “Regression!” is never the end of the conversation, it’s the beginning of one. We need to make a logical guess what he regresses to.
But just how good is Greinke pitching? His strikeout rate, 8.02/9, is nothing special - and is a dip from last year’s 9.2. He’s not walking anyone, we come to expect that. A .232 BABIP is a happy fluke. A strand rate just under 90 percent is unreal, and unsustainable. His 6.1 HR/FB clip is also well below his career norm.
Although Greinke’s 1.30 ERA is miles ahead of the world (everyone else is over two), the ERA estimators don’t fully buy in. Greinke currently ranks fifth in FIP, 14th in xFIP, 14th in SIERA; by these metrics, Kershaw is having the much better year. Be clear on what I’m saying here: obviously Greinke is one of the best pitchers around. But it’s entirely possible for this moment in time - with a high-profile scoreless streak and some extra attention with the national media - he’s an eyelash overrated.
If you own Greinke, I’d sit back, hope he’s able to face the Mets this weekend. Have a cigar, toast the family. And then after the New York outing, I’d quietly make it known you want to “move a pitcher.” Timing, of course, is everything.
All of the going-forward ERA estimates from Fangraphs suggest a Greinke ERA around 2.95, and I’ll sign off on that, too. Useful, sure. Star quality, sure. But maybe someone in your league will price him like he’s the pitcher to own, not just one of several good pitchers.
Your move, Greinke owner. Tell me in the comments what you expect going forward. If you’ve made a Greinke trade recently, share that information as well.
• If you’re a frustrated Mets fan, maybe you can take comfort in rookie outfielder Michael Conforto. He’s headed to New York for the weekend, a replacement for DL-bound Michael Cuddyer. Conforto, 22, was the tenth overall pick in the 2014 draft, and shot up the system quickly. Between Single- and Double-A this year, he’s posted a .297/.372/.482 slash, with 12 homers in 91 games.
The usual caveats apply here, of course. Conforto is jumping two levels with his promotion, his supporting cast is horrendous, and Citi Field isn’t a fun place to hit. But there’s plausible upside here, and if nothing else, there might be flip value. If I were Shuffling outfielders right this moment, I’d have Conforto in the $6-8 range.
Baltimore Orioles – Zach Britton (D. O'Day)
Boston Red Sox – Koji Uehara (J. Tazawa, A. Ogando)
Chicago White Sox – David Robertson (J. Petricka)
Cleveland Indians – Cody Allen (B. Shaw)
Detroit Tigers – Joakim Soria (B. Rondon)
Houston Astros – Luke Gregerson (C. Qualls, P. Neshek)
Kansas City Royals – Greg Holland (W. Davis, K. Herrera)
Los Angeles Angels – Huston Street (J. Smith)
Minnesota Twins – Glen Perkins (A. Thompson, B. Boyer)
New York Yankees – Dellin Betances (J. Wilson); Andrew Miller injured (forearm)
Oakland Athletics – Tyler Clippard (E. Scribner); Sean Doolittle injured (shoulder)
Seattle Mariners – Carson Smith (F. Rodney, M. Lowe, C. Furbush)
Tampa Bay Rays – Brad Boxberger (K. Jepsen. J. McGee)
Texas Rangers – Shawn Tolleson (K. Kela)
Toronto Blue Jays – Roberto Osuna (S. Delabar)
[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is back: Sign up for a league today!]
Arizona Diamondbacks – Brad Ziegler (E. Burgos)
Atlanta Braves – Jim Johnson (A. Vizcaino)
Chicago Cubs – Jason Motte, Hector Rondon (P. Strop); R. Soriano (minors)
Cincinnati Reds – Aroldis Chapman (J. Diaz)
Colorado Rockies – John Axford (T. Kahnle, S. Oberg)
Los Angeles Dodgers – Kenley Jansen (Y. Garcia)
Miami Marlins – A.J. Ramos (M. Dunn, C. Capps)
Milwaukee Brewers – Francisco Rodriguez (J. Jeffress)
New York Mets – Jeurys Familia (C. Torres, B. Parnell)
Philadelphia Phillies – Jonathan Papelbon (K. Giles)
Pittsburgh Pirates – Mark Melancon (T. Watson, A. Caminero)
St. Louis Cardinals – Trevor Rosenthal (K. Siegrist)
San Diego Padres – Craig Kimbrel (J. Benoit)
San Francisco Giants – Santiago Casilla (S. Romo)
Washington Nationals – Drew Storen (C. Janssen)
Eric Hosmer, 1B, at StL (Lackey), $14: Hosmer comes $2-$3 cheaper than the top-shelf 1B options for Thursday, so you're getting MLB's leader in hits (20 in his past 11 games) over the past couple weeks at a nice discount. Hosmer owns a .322 batting average against RHP, and will face Cards righty John Lackey, who he went 1-for-3 against with a double and a run scored in an earlier meeting this season.
Tyson Ross, SP, vs Mia (Koehler), $48: Clayton Kershaw sure would be nice to slide into your Thursday lineup, but a $70 tag makes him tough to work with. Among the cheaper options, Ross definitely stands out. He hasn't been great at home this season (4.44), but we can probably dismiss that as mostly small sample size meaninglessness (he's combined for a sub-2 ERA at home the past two seasons). Ross is 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA in his past six starts, and he's managed to avert major disaster all season - he has yet to allow more than four earned runs in an outing. And he'll host a Quad-A Marlins lineup that has scored three runs or less 13 times in the 20 games without injured slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Lance McCullers, SP, vs Bos (Miley), $46: McCullers gets a home date against the reeling Red Sox, losers of seven straight. In the past six games, Boston is averaging a mere 1.5 runs. Vegas likes the odds of an eighth straight loss coming Boston's way against the Houston rookie, who is 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA (30 IP) at home this season. McCullers did get pinned with a loss in his one meeting against Boston this season, but it was on the road, and he allowed just one run over five innings.
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Jonathan Lucroy, C, at Ari (Godley), $11: Up until late June, Lucroy's season had been defined by slump and injury. But he's tunred things around with a .299 batting average over his past 17 games. And Thursday's contest sets up well for continued success. He'll face Arizona's Zack Godley, making his MLB debut despite just 14 innings pitched above Single-A in his career. And Lucroy owns a 1.160 OPS mark in 12 games at Chase Field.
Neil Walker, 2B, vs. Was (Fister), $16: Walker has been a top 10 roto bat in July, hitting .316 with three home runs, 13 RBIs and 13 Runs in 18 games. And he'll face Washington starter Doug Fister, who he's 4-for-11 (.364) against in his career.
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Aramis Ramirez, 3B, at Ari (Godley), $10: The opening line Over/Under for Thursday's Mil/Ari matchup was at 8.5 runs, the highest on the board. It's fair to say that the MLB debut of Arizona starter Zack Godley has a lot to do with that inflated number, as Milwaukee is the favorite to win the game. We've already tabbed Brewers backstop Lucroy to fill our catcher spot here, and Ramirez is another cheap way to buy into this potentially lucrative situation. Ramirez has a long history of waking up in the summer after a spring slumber, and this season has been no exception. Ramirez posted a .674 OPS through the first three months of the season, but has busted out with a .922 July, including multiple hits in three of his past four games.
Carlos Correa SS,vs. Bos (Miley), $18: Here's another Houston rookie worth backing against Boston on Thursday, even at this premium price. Correa is riding a seven-game hitting streak and owns a .992 OPS against southpaws this season.
Andre Ethier, OF, at NYM (Colon), $13: There's a lot to like for the low $13 price tag on Ethier. He has hit all 10 of his home runs this season against right-handed pitchers, and he'll face Mets veteran righty Bartolo Colon, who Ethier is 3-for-6 against for his career, including a double and a home run.
Alex Rios, OF, at StL (Lackey), $13: Rios has it rolling in July, hitting .339 this month, including 15 hits in his past 11 games. He's also putting in some work on the base paths, as his four July steals is one more than his total for the previous three months combined. And Rios has a long history card against Cardinals starter John Lackey (10-for-30) that should inspire confidence.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, at SD (Ross), $10: Old man Ichiro is a worthwhile gamble from the discount rack, as he's hitting .333 (11-for-33) in his past nine games with two steals. Facing San Diego starter Tyson Ross, Ichiro has a good chance to further pad his stolen base tally as Ross has allowed an MLB-high 25 steals this season.
Unless you’re a freakish wide receiver (e.g. Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin) who transitioned seamlessly to the professional level, Year 2 can be a seminal moment for a player’s career. Playbooks that seemed complicated the season before become second nature. Game speed slows. Potential unlocks ... From the mouths of the Yahoo fanalysts, here are their top sophomore sensations poised to take a step forward in 2015. Jinxes be damned.
Brandin Cooks, NO, WR
ADP: 39.7, WR16
The Saints completed the most passes (456) in the NFL last season, by a wide margin. And in offseason moves (losses of Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet), 231 of those receptions were swept out the door. Because we know the Saints will continue to air it out - they've finished top 4 in pass attempts in each of the past five seasons - we have to assume there's a huge opportunity now for second-year wideout Cooks to step up and fill a big chunk of the void left by the departed - WR Marques Colston, at age 32 and with declining fantasy numbers in each season since '11, doesn't seem like a great candidate to reverse course in a major way at this point. Cooks, with his ability to get his speed to redline in very short amount of space, is the kind of weapon a creative offensive mind like Sean Payton can have some fun with. Expect Payton to utilize Cooks with quick hitters (tons of screens) that give him the opportunity to show off his amazing quick burst skills. The set-up should make him a PPR dynamo, one that could push 100 catches if he can stay healthy. (Brandon Funston)
Martavis Bryant, Pit, WR
ADP: 48.9, WR20
As detailed previously, I adore the Steelers wide receiver as much as elderly people do Golden Corral. Once unleashed against Houston Week 7 last year, Bryant blazed a fiery fantasy trail. Over the next four weeks he conquered the meek totaling 77.5 yards per game and six touchdowns. Though he slowed down the homestretch, his 0.45 PPR points per snap was the highest among eligible receivers, besting even Odell Beckham. When Steelers camp opens in Latrobe July 25, Bryant will duke it out with Markus Wheaton for starting duties opposite Antonio Brown. In what should amount to an early-round knockout, he's destined to emerge the winner. His length (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), athleticism, speed (4.42 40-yard) and strength are far superior. Tacking on 10 pounds of muscle this off-season, the Clemson product is hopeful the increased bulk will help him become a more polished weapon underneath. His already stellar downfield execution may improve too. Keep in mind he broke press coverage 70.6 percent of the time as a rookie. Unreal. Ben Roethlisberger, who ranked No. 7 in deep-ball percentage last year, is sure to connect often with Bryant on explosive pass plays. Toss in the defensive attention Brown typically draws, Le'Veon Bell's three-game suspension and Pittsburgh's young, inexperienced D, and the ingredients are in place for Martavis to make investors rich at his current price point. A final tally around 70-1050-12 isn't out of the question. (Brad Evans)
Carlos Hyde, SF, RB
ADP: 34.5, RB14
Hyde should lose passing-down work to Reggie Bush, is unproven and plays in a division that’s tough defensively. The 49ers also had arguably the worst offseason in recent memory. But if you want to look at it a different way, Hyde should now be the workhorse for a team that reached the NFC Championship game in three of the past four years, and his 2.8 YPC after contact last season tied for the third-highest among all running backs who had at least 80 rushing attempts. He forced 25 missed tackles on 83 carries, just six fewer than teammate Frank Gore who had 255 carries. Gore is gone now, so Hyde will be unleashed in 2015, and if Colin Kaepernick’s reported accuracy improvements are proven true (and the new coaching regime allows him to run the read-option much more as planned), Hyde will be in a situation to produce in a big way. There’s easily top-10 fantasy RB upside here. (Dalton Del Don)
Teddy Bridgewater, Min, QB
ADP: 124.4, QB19
Drafted 32nd overall by the Vikings in 2014, Bridgewater started his pro career looking more like a double dutch champion and less like a poised signal caller. By Week 12, however, the game appeared to slow down for the Louisville alum, as evidenced by his completion percentages from Weeks 13 through 17. Rated by Pro Football Focus as the league’s third most accurate QB of 2014, Teddy’s touch is almost as tender as his vision is sharp. With generational talent Adrian Peterson returning to Minnesota’s backfield, the 22 year old QB will have a breathtaking vista of open receivers to target. Included in this arsenal are the formidably sized Charles Johnson (WR), the finally healthy Kyle Rudolph (TE), and the legitimate deep threat Mike Wallace (WR). Given a second year in Norv Turner’s offense and a massive upgrade in weapons, Bridgewater’s fantasy stock is on the rise. Currently being drafted in the 11th round, Bridgewater is a stealthy stash for Tony Romo or Carson Palmer owners. Prediction: 3,650 passing yards and 24 passing TDs. (Liz Loza)
John Brown, Ari, WR
ADP: 126.2, WR56
You can trip yourself up playing the comparison game, but when I hear Bruce Arians comparing Brown to Marvin Harrison, my ears perk up. To be fair, Brown reminds me more of a different Indy wideout, T.Y. Hilton - similar size, similar deep explosiveness, similar rookie numbers (Brown: 48-696-5, Hilton: 50-861-7). Brown didn't score a touchdown in his final seven games last year, but the Carson Palmer injury had a lot to do with that. This year you can be sure Brown and Palmer will be on the same page - they've been living together (they also did it last year), working out, going over plays. What is not to like here? I can't believe the Stopa $100K crew let me have Brown for $2; I hope you do as well in your endgame. Hilton went bonkers in his sophomore campaign, and I think there's a chance Brown will do the same. (Please, fantasy gods, look over Palmer this season. Give that guy a break.) (Scott Pianowski)
Follow the Yahoo fantasy crew on Twitter -- Brad Evans (@YahooNoise), Brandon Funston (@1befun), Dalton Del Don (@DaltonDelDon), Scott Pianowski (@Scott_Pianowski), Andy Behrens (@Andy_Behrens) and Liz Loza (@LizLoza_FF)
Disclaimer: The article below first published July 9. With training camps opening next week, the piece has been updated and repurposed per editorial's request. Please continue spewing your vitriol in the comments below.
In a little over a week, gridiron warriors from across the country will trade in leisure attire for spikes, pads and helmets. Eye black will adorn faces. A motivation for greatness will consume minds.
Battles are about to begin.
Gamers are itching to watch it all unfold.
Though toe-to-toe clashes will occur at all positions, none are more titillating to the fantasy community than what transpires at running back. In such 'exotic' locales as Berea, Oxnard and Flowery Branch, rushing hopefuls will lay it all on the line in an attempt to secure a spot atop the depth chart. Succeed, and chances of achieving statistical acclamation increase significantly. Fail, and they will be relegated to an irrelevant initial role, handcuff-only duty.
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This year, several backfields are up for grabs making August performances vitally important. Who will fizzle? Who will sizzle? Here are my top-five RB tilts, victors predicted, slated to hit the small screen later this summer:
1. Atlanta Falcons – Tevin Coleman (88.8 Yahoo ADP) vs. Devonta Freeman (126.5) vs. Antone Smith (NA)
Of all the camp scrabbles at running back, most would say Dallas houses the most intrigue. However, whoever emerges from the fray in Atlanta will likely be the true fantasy Jewel of the South. Much of last year's eighth-best pass-blocking unit is back, consistency in the trenches vital to build a strong ground attack. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who called '"run" 47.2 percent of the time last year in Cleveland, is sure to lean on the bacon up front, a balanced approach Roddy White confirmed in mid-June. The ineptitude exhibited by Steven Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers last year will not be repeated. Rookie Coleman, an explosive three-down back who prospered in a similarly styled zone-blocking system at Indiana, enters camp nipping at the heels of 'starter' Freeman. Smith, a bottle rocket out of the backfield, is also in the mix, but appears slated for another light load. The incumbent plays bigger than his pint-sized frame (5-foot-8, 206 pounds) and is an adept receiver, but it's only a matter of time before the primary challenger overtakes him. Given the Falcons' potentially stout offensive line, prolific passing attack and friendly division, whichever rusher takes the cake is sure to make a statement.
Fearless Forecast: Coleman forces a 60-40 split by Week 5 and finishes with fringe top-20 numbers in 12-team leagues.
2. Dallas Cowboys – Joseph Randle (86.9) vs. Darren McFadden (105.8) vs. Lance Dunbar (NA) vs. Ryan Williams vs. ‘Rowdy’ the Mascot
Similar to what nearby starlets wear to fancy premieres, what unfolds at Cowobys camp in SoCal will be immensely scrutinized. Though it finished second to Philadelphia in run-blocking last year, Dallas' offensive line is sure to move mountains. Its depth, versatility, talent and overall execution could elevate it to legendary levels come year's end. It's that good. Throw in arguably the game's best receiver (Dez Bryant) along with a highly productive and now healthy QB (Tony Romo), and the situation is ripe for lush numbers between the hashmarks. After the 'Boys lost DeMarco Murray to the rival Eagles, many are still perplexed as to why Jerry Jones didn't invest in a young running back in May's Draft. Deflecting criticism, the owner/GM has maintained his 'satisfied' stance. Most believe Randle, who's ADP has soared over five rounds the past month according to Fantasy Football Calculator, is in the driver's seat. His 61.3 yards-after-contact percentage in '14 was outstanding, but the small sample size (53 carries) and his off-the-field transgressions leave many questions. McFadden, however, may conjure more. The ex-Raider has shown flashes of dominance when healthy, but would likely suffer a catastrophic injury wading peacefully on a pool inner tube (10 games missed since '08). Dunbar, meanwhile, is limited to pass-down duty. As for Williams, he recently experienced knee swelling (AGAIN!), which places him firmly on the roster bubble. Unless Jones adds a back post-cuts (Christine Michael anyone?), Randle, DMC and Dunbar should enter the season involved in a frustrating timeshare.
Fearless Forecast: Randle registers 14-16 touches per game out of the gate with McFadden adding 8-12 and Dunbar 6-8. The projected starter finishes in the RB21-RB24 range come January.
3. Detroit Lions – Joique Bell (89.5) vs. Ameer Abdullah (107.5) vs. Theo Riddick (NA)
Entering camp, the separation between Jim Caldwell's RBs is razor-blade slim. Yes, Joique, presumably under the influence of reality-altering hallucinogens, recently proclaimed he will rush for 1,200-plus yards, but he could soon take a back seat to Abdullah. Bell, though useful in spurts, averaged an unexciting 3.88 yards per carry the past two seasons. After undergoing knee and Achilles surgeries this offseason and reportedly dealing with conditioning issues in June, he's not exactly a cover model for Men's Health. Abdullah, whose worth ethic, quick feet and sure hands impressed the coaching staff in minicamp, is a strong contender to unseat Bell. In his storied career at Nebraska, he racked 5.64 yards per carry and over 4,500 career yards. He could play a hybrid role seeing occasional action on early and third downs, possibly earning the lion's share by midseason. Elsewhere, Riddick will likely be used in a similar capacity as Reggie Bush, enticing targets out of the slot. In a screen-heavy offense, he and Abdullah present considerable PPR upside. Recall in Joe Lombardi's Saints-styled offense, Lions RBs totaled 93 receptions in '14. All will be rotated in to start, but smart money says the former Husker asserts himself in short order.
Fearless Forecast: Abdullah crushes in preseason play, earns the starting gig Week 1 and nets 14-17 touches per game over the rest of the season. He teeters on the top-20 line in PPR. Bell and Riddick, meanwhile, split the leftover 10-12 grips per game.
4. Cleveland Browns – Isaiah Crowell (108.3) vs. Terrance West (127.3) vs. Duke Johnson (126.2)
When Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel are your quarterbacks and Dwayne Bowe is your presumed top receiving option, only one plausible conclusion can be drawn: run, run and run some more. Kyle Shanahan is no longer calling the shots on offense, but a nearly identical script under new OC John DeFilipo will be followed. The Browns' strength is unquestionably their offensive line, a group, despite numerous injuries, that ranked just outside the top-10 last season in run-blocking per Pro Football Focus. Though stacked boxes will be commonplace, McCown is sure to hand the ball off some 30 times per game. Crowell was sporadically spectacular last year, as evidenced against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Atlanta. He ranked No. 5 in breakaway percentage but dead last in elusive rating among eligible backs. Equally concerning, he gained just 45.6 percent of his yards after contact. For all the love he's received, he's a fleet-footed runner with only marginal creativity and break-tackle ability. West owns more wiggle and power (56.3 YAC%), but looked overly timid at times, struggling to to find creases at the point of attack. Enter Duke. The 5-foot-9, 207-pound rookie has the speed, shiftiness and versatility needed to be a three-down workhorse. He shined in OTAs and minicamp outplaying both Crowell and West. Originally tabbed for a Gio Bernard-type role, he could dominate snaps with a noteworthy preseason. His 126.5 Yahoo ADP is sure to climb.
Fearless Forecast: Duke delivers on the hype and enters Week 1 as the committee head tallying 13-15 touches per game. The rookie lands inside the RB top-24 in PPR leagues when the dust settles. Crowell serves as his primary complement on early downs toting the rock 8-12 times per game. West backs up both totaling just a handful of touches per week.
5. Tennessee Titans – Bishop Sankey (127.1) vs. David Cobb (126.9)
A face-to-face encounter with a ticked off grizzly may be more attractive than owning a Titans RB, but there's hope someone, anyone will provide serviceability in 12-team and deeper leagues. Indisputably, Tennessee was a fantasy wasteland last year. Though the offensive line ranked middle-of-the-pack, vertical inadequacies combined with a substandard ground game created a sense of resentment for those invested. Ken Whisenhunt will feature more spread and read-option elements for rookie Marcus Mariota. If the former Duck performs, even adequately, he should spark the rushing attack. Sankey was indeed stanky in his first year. He averaged a dismal 3.74 yards per carry and ranked second-to-last in breakaway percentage. However, other underlying stats lend promise. He was No. 10 in elusive rating and gained 66.4 percent of his yards after contact. If the lessons learned in '14 soak in, he could surprise in a hybrid role. According to The Tennessean he's the "odds-on favorite" to start Week 1. Cobb is a burly, powerful runner who is a better-than-advertised screen receiver and pass protector. He's sure to establish himself on early downs and at the goal-line, especially with Shonn Greene no longer on roster. The rookie has 7 TD appeal, provided the offense under Mariota registers a pulse.
Fearless Forecast: Sankey and Cobb begin the season locked in a full-blown 50-50 timeshare. The former earns irregular work on early downs, but logs ample touches in passing situations. The latter is deployed in the red zone and occasionally on third down. Initially, each totals roughly 10-13 touches per game with Cobb tilting the scale in his favor by midseason.
OTHER RB TUSSLES TO WATCH
New York Giants (Rashad Jennings vs. Shane Vereen vs. Andre Williams), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Doug Martin vs. Charles Sims), New York Jets (Chris Ivory vs. Stevan Ridley), New England Patriots (Pass-down clash: James White vs. Travaris Cadet), St. Louis Rams (Todd Gurley vs. Knee), Arizona Cardinals (Andre Ellington vs. David Johnson)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, vs. Tex (Perez), $19: Since May 29, he’s hit .366 with 10 homers and 34 RBI over 40 games, when he’s been a top-10 fantasy player. Tulowitzki has hit .397 with a 1.026 OPS against southpaws this season and will be playing in Coors Field on Wednesday. If you’re going to spend money on a position player, it makes a lot of sense to do so on the top player at such a thin popsition at shortstop, especially given that six outfielders are more expensive.
Jake Odorizzi, SP, at PHI (Morgan), $45: He’s coming off a poor start but owns a 2.80 ERA and 1.08 WHIP on the season and will be up against a Phillies offense that has the lowest OPS (.649) in all of baseball. Odorizzi is moderately priced yet the Rays are the second-most favored team on the board Wednesday.
Mike Bolsinger, SP, at ATL (Teheran), $36: He has a 71:27 K:BB ratio over 77.0 innings with a 3.04 ERA this season while pitching for a team with a 133 wRC+ that leads major league baseball. Bolsinger will be facing an Atlanta offense that ranks in the bottom-10 in runs scored, as the Dodgers are one of the bigger favorites Wednesday, yet he’s one of the cheaper starting pitchers on the board.
Buster Posey, C, at SD (Shields), $17: He doesn’t have a strong track record against James Shields, but it’s in a small sample, and Posey should be in Wednesday’s lineup after getting a rest Tuesday. His price here doesn’t reflect how clearly he’s the best hitting catcher in baseball (J.T. Realmuto is $16, for instance).
Joey Votto, 1B, vs. CHC (Hendricks), $11: He’s batting .294/.401/.537 against righties this season with 14 homers and five steals over 231 at bats. Votto also has a .925 OPS at home.
Robinson Cano, 2B, at Det (Sanchez), $16: He’s 8-for-15 with three home runs and a 2:2 K:BB ratio over the past four games, so maybe he’s starting to feel healthier. Cano’s price remains depressed despite him batting cleanup and sporting a .328/.366/.612 line in July.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, vs. Tex (Perez), $20: When going relatively cheap at starting pitching, using Arenado in Coors Field against a lefty seems like a nice way to spend money.
Chris Coghlan, OF, at Cin (Leake), $8: He’s cheap and has a .793 OPS against RHP this year, including eight homers and seven steals over 237 at bats. He homered Tuesday and will be playing in a park that’s increased HR by 52 percent over the past three seasons for LHB, which is the most in MLB.
Steven Souza, OF, at Phi (Morgan), $8: His BA is low but he has 15 homers and 10 steals in just 80 games as a rookie. Souza owns an .866 OPS against LHP this season, and Adam Morgan has surrendered nine runs over 16.0 innings against RHB.
Jay Bruce, OF, vs. CHC (Hendricks), $19: Since June 16, he’s hit .346 with six homers over 28 games, when he’s been a top-15 fantasy hitter. Bruce has 12 homers against righties so far this year and possesses a .915 OPS at home, where the aforementioned GAB boosts power for LHB more than any other park in baseball.
Jacob deGrom, SP, at Was (Ross), $54: The cheap options among Tuesday's SPs are pretty dismal, so you might as well buck up for deGrom, who holds a 1.38 ERA over his past 10 starts. The most impressive thing about this mighty streak is that deGrom has allowed just 50 hits-plus-walks in the 72 innings pitched in this span, equaling a 0.69 WHIP that is the best among MLB starters for these past two months. deGrom willl face Washington rookie Joe Ross, who has been excellent in three starts for the Nats, but you'd rather he face the rookie than any of the other starters in the Nats' rotation.
Brett Anderson, SP, at Atl (Wood), $41: Considering that he owns a 2.65 ERA over his past 14 starts and is facing a Braves offense that has produced the second-lowest Slugging% in the league versus southpaws, Anderson looks like a pretty nice bargain for Tuesday. And he'll face-off against Atlanta's Alex Wood, who has allowed the third-highest Batting Average Against (.299) among qualified starters this season.
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A.J. Pierzynski, C, vs. LAD (Anderson), $7: Of course, you'll have to make sure Pierzynski is in the lineup on Tuesday, as he's played four straight games since the break. Assuming he plays, you have to like the savings opportunity of being able to plug in a $7 catcher that owns a solid .748 OPS on the year and has a nice little history against Dodgers starter Brett Anderson (3-for-8).
Justin Bour, 1B, at Ari (Hellickson), $14: Bour has gone 12 straight games without a home run, but the potential to end that streak on Tuesday is ripe. Bour will face Arizona's Jeremy Hellickson, who ranks among the top 20 starters in most home runs allowed per nine innings (1.24). And the D'backs righty has allowed a batting average north of .300 versus LHB - Bour has hit all 10 of his home runs against RHP.
Robinson Cano, 2B, at Det (Greene), $16: Apparently Cano's stomach bug has gone into hibernation, as the M's second sacker has come alive in July with a .978 OPS and five home runs. And while he's been downright awful against most all southpaws this season, he won't have to worry about that on Tuesday. Righty Shane Greene will toe the mound for the Tigers, and his .993 OPS allowed to LHB is third-worst in MLB.
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Adrian Beltre, 3B, at Col (Kendrick), $15: Just like on Monday, the Tex/Col matchup is on the board as the highest Over/Under in Vegas (11), which means you'll want to get in on the expected fireworks show. Beltre's not a bad way to go here, coming off a 3-for-5 effort on Monday (two doubles). Despite complaining that his thumb still doesn't feel great, he's collected a hit in seven of his past eight games with five doubles and a home run. Facing Colorado's Kyle Kendrick, the only starter in the league allowing more than 2.0 HR/9, Beltre looks like a bargain at $15.
Francisco Lindor, SS, at Mil (Garza), $13: It has taken a while for Lindor to gain traction since his promotion to Cleveland but it looks like things are finally starting to take hold for the Tribe's rookie shortstop. Lindor is hitting .343 (12-for-35) in his past eight games with a home run and three doubles. On Tuesday, he'll face one of MLB's most accommodating starters in Milwaukee's Matt Garza, who has allowed an opponent's batting average of .296.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, vs. Bal (Chen), $17: Ellsbury is just 1-for-12 since the All-Star break, but he's got the right matchup to break out of his mini-slump. The Yankees speedster owns a career .368 BA mark (7-for-19) against Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen, who has allowed six home runs in his past 29 innings pitched.
Brandon Barnes, OF, vs. Tex (Harrison), $13: Barnes is riding a nice six-game hitting streak in which he's hit .500 (9-for-18) with three doubles. Right-handed hitters have beat up Texas starter Matt Harrison pretty good during his career, and he'll be making his first start at Coors Field, where Barnes owns a .337 BA this season. If Barnes ends up on the pine on Tuesday, conisder his likely replacement, Drew Stubbs, who is dirt cheap ($7) and is 5-for-11 in his past six games - he's also 1-for-2 career against Harrison. You could use the extra savings to go bigger at some of the other positions, like first base (Prince Fielder) or outfield (Mike Trout).
Michael Bourn, OF, at Mil (Garza), $10: If you pay up for an ace like DeGrom, you are going to have to dig deep for a few bargain bin deals. Bourn's history card against Milwaukee starter Matt Garza makes him one of those tempting low-priced options. The Indians outfielder is 10-for-19 (.526) in his career against Garza, who owns an abysmal 5.55 ERA and 1.55 WHIP this season. And while Bourn has endured plenty of his own struggles this season, at least he's coming off a 3-for-6 performance in his last outing on Sunday.
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a fundamental theory in human developmental psychology. On a pyramid scale, it represents the necessary motivations (basic physiological needs, esteem, love and belongingness, etc.) we must address in order to reach self-actualization, self-transcendence and live a fulfilled life.
Deep stuff, bro.
Of all its steps, none is more applicable to fantasy owners than safety.
From stepping on a plane to staking little Timmy’s college money in blackjack, we all take chances daily. Some risks result in reward. Others destitution. Hey, it’s the game we play.
Fantasy football is no exception.
Every draft, every pick is a dice roll. No matter how good a situation or how long a player’s track-record may be unpredictable catastrophes – injuries, under-performance, failed drug tests, Ryan Lindley – happen. In a violent sport loaded with variables, disappointment lurks around every corner, though more palpable at some positions compared to others. The record substantiates that viewpoint. Since 2009, the bust rate (Defined as players selected inside a position’s top-12, but failed to finish top-15), of RB1s is 43.1 percent. Meanwhile, WRs during that stretch broke hearts at a 33.3 percent clip, QBs only 23.6 percent of the time.
For the sake of your well-being and personal/financial security, here are six players typically going in the first three rounds of 12-team drafts who likely won’t let you down:
Andrew Luck, Ind, QB
Yahoo ADP: 13.7, QB1
History is already in the making for fantasy’s favorite Civil War general. The table is set. This offseason the Colts upgraded an already solid arsenal adding multi-time All-Pros Andre Johnson and Frank Gore via free agency and D-stretching Philip Dorsett in the Draft. Coupled with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, Indy boasts one of the best receiving corps in the league. Statistically, Luck was a man amongst boys last year. As the pacesetter at QB, he chucked it 41.3 times per game completing a league-leading 78 passes for 20 or more yards and 15 passes for 40-plus. His 9.2 average depth of target ranked No. 6 among quarterbacks with at least 400 dropbacks. A king of consistency for fantasy purposes, he registered at least 21 fantasy points every game Weeks 1-13, eclipsing 32 big ones seven times. Though Gore makes the offense more balanced, his presence should help Luck achieve maximum efficiency, particularly on play-action. Overall, the three-to-four-wide sets Pep Hamilton plans to introduce, in the coach’s words, will exploit mismatches and create “chaos,” opening up clean pass lanes for the former No. 1 pick. Based on the nourishing environment, Indy's presumed weak D and given his scoring duality, it’s conceivable he combines for 50 TDs and 5,000 yards. Confidently spend a late first-round pick on his services.
Antonio Brown, Pit, WR
ADP: 7.1, WR1
The secret to Brown’s remarkable success the past two years: He secretes pine tar naturally from his hands. That’s the only logical explanation for his supernatural production. During that stretch Ben Roethlisberger’s go-to guy totaled 239 receptions (on 346 targets), 3,197 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns. Last year, his peripheral numbers were equally impressive. The target ranked top-seven in drop rate, (Caught 129 of 134 catchable passes), yards per route run (2.66) and deep-ball catch percentage (48.0). Unequivocally, Brown is one of the league’s best route runners. His sharp cuts, quick sticks and rapid acceleration allow him to gain separation with ease, even when double-teamed. With the opposition having to account for Martavis Bryant and, once activated, Le’Veon Bell, he may not receive as much attention compared to previous seasons. Yes, the Steelers own the toughest fantasy schedule for wide receivers, but due to the club’s likely looseness on D, Brown should see another 170 plus targets. Bank on 100 receptions for 1,500 yards and a dozen scores.
Aaron Rodgers, GB, QB
ADP: 15.0, QB2
Rodgers might be the game’s finest quarterback, but for virtual gamers he’s 1B to Luck. Olivia Munn surely disagrees. Similar to the Colt, Rodgers is a veritable consistency king. Since overtaking some cat named Brett Favre in 2008, he’s ranked inside the QB top-five every year since. His bazooka arm, heady progressions, offensive command and shiftiness in the pocket are practically unmatched. He’s a mistake-free, first-ballot Hall of Famer in the prime of his career. Though he finished a full two fantasy points per game behind Luck, the Packer was at or near the top in QB rating, deep-ball accuracy and play-action success. His ground contributions (269-2) and insanely low interceptions thrown (5) were also appealing. Equipped with a bevy of nuclear weapons (Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Eddie Lacy) and operating behind the league’s stiffest offensive line in pass-blocking, per Pro Football Focus, from a season ago, he will again torment defenses en route to 4,500-plus combined yards and 39-42 total touchdowns. ‘Experts’ who continue to bypass Rodgers and Luck in the first and second rounds aren’t playing with a full deck, especially given the tremendous values (e.g. Latavius Murray, Andre Ellington and Tevin Coleman) available at RB later on.
Dez Bryant, Dal, WR
ADP: 9.4, WR2
Signed, sealed and delivered, Dez’s holdout threats proved hollow, as expected. With that worry dead and buried it’s time again for the Cowboy to focus on football and attempt to match, or possibly top, his stupendous production from 2014. If you think about it, what he achieved last year was nothing short of remarkable. On an ultra conservative Cowboys team (50:50 run:pass split) he brutalized defenses despite constant attention whether in the short-field or over-the-top on long passes. A prototype targets hog, he enticed 50.6 percent of WR looks from Tony Romo. Whispers from Cowboys HQ suggest Terrance Williams and slot man Cole Beasley could take a step forward in their development which could reduce Dez’s workload. Even if the complements advance, it won’t reduce the primary option’s overall value. Another 16 touchdowns are a stretch, but a final line in range close to what he tallied in 2013 (93-1233-13) feels right. Throw in Dallas’ ridiculous offensive line and the fact Bryant hasn’t missed a game over the past three years, and it’s hard to argue against the wideout’s high floor. Invest in a LeSean McCoy or DeMarco Murray over him and you might as well donate your league entry fee.
Demaryius Thomas, Den, WR
ADP: 13.5, WR4
Thomas, another wide receiver who helped agent Todd France secure his luxury yacht down payment, is sticking around the Mile High City for another five years after recently inking a $70 million extension. 'Steady as she goes' is DT's theme song. Over the past three years he’s averaged 99 receptions, 1,493.3 receiving yards and 11.7 touchdowns per season. His sensational skill set, favorable workload and prime age certainly play into his fantasy favor, though drops (9 in ’14) have occasionally vexed him. With Adam Gase no longer calling the shots, some are concerned a value decline may occur in Gary Kubiak’s more conservative system. A duplication of last year’s 181 targets is highly improbable, but recall he was a model of efficiency on reduced looks in 2012 (141 tgts) and 2013 (142). And we can’t forget how effective Andre Johnson was under Kubiak with inferior quarterbacks tossing the WR the rock. Also, skeptics need to relax about Peyton Manning’s abrupt drop-off last year. The quad injury he suffered down the stretch clearly played a factor. Recall from Weeks 1-12 he was the second-best signal caller in per game average. The Broncos will run more, but another 90-1400-10 campaign is on deck for Demaryius.
Marshawn Lynch, Sea, RB
ADP: 4.1, RB4
Smashing would-be tacklers as though they were Skittles, Lynch has piled up reliable RB1 numbers for four-straight seasons. Despite a rigorous workload (326.3 touches per year) and violent running style (63.3 yards after contact percentage in ’14), he missed only one game over that span. At a position where failures are commonplace (43.1 percent bust rate since ’09), Beast Mode is the object of dependability, a player who should command an exorbitant draft day premium. The blueprint in Seattle largely won’t change in 2015. Yes, Jimmy Graham could wrest away a touchdown or three from Lynch, but the ‘Hawks will continue to pound the competition with defense and ball control, leading to numerous red-zone opportunities for their rushers. Seattle’s schedule, as usual, is brutal (third-toughest among RBs), however, Lynch is practically matchup proof. Just look at what he accomplished at San Francisco (20-104-0, 1-7) and at Arizona (10-113-2) last year. Another 1,500 combined yards with 12-14 touchdowns are on the docket.
For our crew, after Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, there's a strong debate regarding which QB should come next in 2015 fantasy drafts. Brad Evans leans toward 'Forehead Frankenstein,' Peyton Manning (34.5 Yahoo ADP, QB4), who's looking to recover from a slow finish last fall in Denver. Meanwhile, Brandon Funston loves him some Ben Roethlisberger (51.7, QB7), who's looking to match last year's top-five production. Read their cases below and declare a winner in the comments section.
Evans comes out firing: At the end of 2014, doomsayers believed Peyton was cooked. His limp to the finish line, largely due to a nagging quad injury, greatly hindered his overall performance. The wounded ducks he threw were practically innumerable. Because Manning is a passer who needs every muscle to execute fully, he was unable to generate enough mustard to deliver crisp, accurate passes. As a result, his near bottom-dwelling output from Weeks 13-17 (QB29) left a bitter taste and prompted 'needs to retire' outcries. In a short-term memory society, it was no surprise how quickly most forgot he was the second-best QB in Fantasyland netting 24.4 points per game Weeks 1-12. It was the injury, not Father Time, that derailed his season.
Though last year's finish was unnerving, Peyton isn't exactly ready for bridge games and knitting sessions. Admittedly, the Broncos offensive line sans LT Ryan Clady is a work in progress. The patchwork unit must mesh rapidly to properly protect its sloth-footed quarterback. Its execution in training camp is paramount, but give Gary Kubiak time and its sure to work like a well-oiled machine. According to Pro Football Focus, the coach's O-lines in Houston and Baltimore ranked inside the run-blocking top-10 six times in the past nine seasons. And let's take a chill pill about Kubiak's ultra-conservative ways. Matt Schaub, Sage Rosenfels, David Carr, T.J. Yates, and Case Keenum, all passers the former Texans shot-caller coached, aren't exactly the caliber of No. 18. Undoubtedly, Peyton will hand the ball off more, but recall Schaub was a top-10 fantasy producer from 2007-2009. With a stockpiled arsenal around him (Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer, Owen Daniels, Virgil Green and C.J. Anderson), something in range of 4,500 passing yards with 35 TDs are certainly attainable.
Roethlisberger is a fine consolation prize, but his shiny outward 2014 numbers were skewed considerably. Just over 24 percent of his production came from two otherworldly performances, back-to-back 6-TD explosions against the Colts and Ravens. In his other 14 contests, he contributed below-average production eight times. He's the Berger King of inconsistency. Due to Pittsburgh's expected defensive inadequacies and with Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant as targets, he should total another strong QB1 effort, but it's difficult to rely upon him for profitable weekly outputs, especially when defenses key the pass with Le'Veon Bell sidelined the regular season's first three games. Also, Pittsburgh owns the toughest fantasy schedule for QBs entering the year. A final tally closer to 2013 (4261-28) seems appropriate.
It's undeniable, Denver's elder statesman deserves your vote.
Funston throws a counterpunch: Anybody who owned Peyton last season already knows that the Broncos veteran signal-caller was gawd-awful during a time (Weeks 13-17) when his fantasy owners needed him most. And let's be clear, with a fantasy points per game average during that span that ranked 29th among all QBs that had at least three starts, "gawd-awful" is a fair assessment of his play. Excuse-makers will likely point to the quad injury he suffered during that time (in Week 15) as a way to pretend that his late-season slide was a fluke. But, you know, at 39 years old, there's no such thing as a fluke injury, and the next one likely is just around the corner - especially when you consider Denver is replacing three offensive line starters from '14, including blind-side protector LT Clady.
Manning is also getting a new head coach this season in Kubiak, a renowned ground-game guru. Of course, Kubiak is saying all the right things about the offense being tailored to suit Manning, but that probably doesn't mean more of the same aerial assaults we've seen from the Broncos the past couple seasons. Leaning more on that ground game and fireplug backfield dynamo Anderson makes a lot of sense when it comes to Manning's preservation. And receiver Sanders seems to have tipped the Broncos' hand in late May, saying the offense is very much different.
I still have Peyton in my top 10 quarterbacks (well, he's 10th), because he is a freaking legend and you can't discount him too much, even if he's playing in a wheel chair. But given age, offensive change, losses on the offensive line as well as red zone security blanket Julius Thomas and third-down security blanket Wes Welker, it's beyond risky to just mindlessly slot Manning in your top 5 like it's just another typical year at the office.
In a pass-happy Todd Haley offense, Roethlisberger threw the fourth-most passes in the league last season, and finished as a top 5 fantasy QB. And when rookie red zone tower of power WR Bryant finally stepped on the field in Week 7, only Aaron Rodgers was better than Big Ben in the span of the season's final 10 weeks. Loaded up with what he calls the best supporting cast of his career (Bryant, Bell, Brown), Roethlisberger is an easy choice over Old Man Peyton, and even better is the fact that you can wait a couple rounds later than where Manning is typically drafted to snag him.
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Jose Fernandez has a 2.37 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP with a 21:1 K:BB ratio over 19.0 innings during his first three starts since returning from Tommy John surgery. He was possibly on his way to becoming the best pitcher in baseball before blowing out his elbow, and this is a 23-year-old whose current 27.4 K-BB% and 15.4 SwStr% would rank third in all of baseball after returning from major surgery if he qualified, behind only Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw. Fernandez’s average fastball velocity (95.4 mph) is a career high, as is his 2.55 GB/FB ratio (that would rank top-seven in MLB, ahead of Felix Hernandez). This has obviously been a tiny sample (and his last start came against a terrible Phillies offense), but Fernandez should only get better the further he’s removed from surgery. He’ll be limited over the rest of this season, as he was only allowed to throw 70 pitches during his last start, and he plays for a Marlins team that’s scored the fifth-fewest runs in MLB (they recently hit Casey McGehee cleanup), and Miami’s bullpen likely won’t do him any favors either. Still, Fernandez should be viewed as one of the five best pitchers in baseball moving forward. He owns a 1.17 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over 145.2 innings at home during his career. I plan on taking Fernandez in the first round of fantasy drafts in 2016.
I competed in the “Stopa Law Firm” $10K auction in Las Vegas last weekend, and here are the results, if you’re about ready to get into fantasy football mode.
Quick Hits: Albert Pujols had 105 RBI while hitting 28 homers last season. He has 56 RBI while clubbing 26 home runs so far this year...Garrett Richards has a 1.89 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 57.0 innings at home this season, where hitters have a .178 BAA. Of course, he pitched better on the road last year, so it likely means nothing moving forward...The new Home Run Derby format turned out to be kind of awesome, right? Of course I imagine few cared about it like I did, but when in Las Vegas during that time, there’s absolutely nothing else to bet on in sports (I thought I had it locked up with Joc Pederson but to no avail)...Ken Giles is somehow still owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo leagues, so pick him up if available. There isn’t a player more likely to be traded in the next two weeks than Jonathan Papelbon, and Giles will become the clear closer in Philly once it happens. Then again, Roberto Osuna and Carson Smith (not to mention Rafael Soriano) are both also available in more than 50% of leagues, so maybe saves aren’t as hard to come by as they are in the leagues in which I play...Kendall Graveman has a 2.17 ERA over his last 10 starts, a span in which he's been a top-32 fantasy starter (which actually seems low given that ERA)...The Royals have won 120 straight games when leading after eight innings.
Headlines of the Week: Man Drugs Girlfriend To Keep Playing Videogames...Parents Force 14-Year-Old To Live In Woods After Eating Pop Tart...A Man Named Bear Killed An Alligator To Avenge The Death Of His Friend...Mom Crashes Into DMV After Teen Finishes Road Test...Female Driver Crashes While Pleasuring Herself With Sex Toy...Man Fights Cougar To Save His Miniature Dachshund Bailey, Punches Animal In The Face...Hundreds Of Sex Toys Dangling From Power Lines In Portland, Oregon...Mum Refuses To Break Into Expensive BMW To Save Toddler Son From Heat...Miami Man Allegedly Rides Sea Turtle, Spears Shark...Man Wakes Up Every Day Thinking It’s March 14, 2005 And He Has To Go To A Dental Appointment.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Buster Posey’s 63 RBI would be tied for the lead in the American League despite playing catcher and hitting in an extreme pitcher’s park...The Giants have arguably the best infield in baseball but Angel Pagan hasn’t homered over his last 622 at bats, and his defense has been abysmal. He’s clearly playing hurt...Jeurys Familia went undrafted in the majority of leagues, yet he’s on pace to finish with 48 saves with a 1.42 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. He’s easily been one of the best free agent pick ups of the year...Speaking of the Mets, their home record (32-14) compared to on the road (16-30) is extreme...Moreover, Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit three homers in a single game recently, which are his only three of the season...That’s enough Mets talk, although I will say Jacob deGrom vs. Matt Harvey will be a fascinating debate entering 2016...There have been 10 no-hitters broken up through seven innings so far this season, the most since 2011, which is pretty crazy considering we just had the All-Star break.
Police Blotter: Michigan Police Hope Squirrel Mug Shot Helps Nab Nut Thief...Australian Fugitive Asks Police On Facebook To Change His ‘Horrible Mugshot’...Man Distracts Beer-Pong Opponent With Gun But Accidentally Shoots 2 People...Man Breaks Into Restaurant, Drinks Tabasco...Woman Calls 911 To Report Bad Chinese Food...Police Charge A Man For Holding Two Deer Captive In His House For A Year...Florida Man Battered Ex-Wife After Accusing Her Of Cheating On Him With A Sex Toy...Man Calls 911, Pepper-Sprays Police Who Responded...Man Arrested For Repeatedly Trying To Tickle Police Officers...Road Rage Incident Caught On Tape Ends In Knockout Punch.
Song of the Week: AWOLNATION – Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)
Longread of the Week: The Mixed-Up Brothers Of Bogota (Seriously, read this amazing story)
Quick Hits Part Tres: Clayton Kershaw recently became the first pitcher since Cy Young in 1905 to have 10+ strikeouts and zero walks while allowing no runs in back-to-back starts (which seems absurd)...Glenn Perkins’ blown save Saturday night was his first of the season. He leads the AL with 28 saves...Since an ugly April, Marlon Byrd has had the same amount of fantasy value as Joc Pederson in 23 fewer games, but the former is owned in fewer than 50% of Yahoo leagues, while the latter is owned in 92%...Here’s Billy Hamilton with a sneaky stolen base...Here’s Mike Trout with an impressive walk-off blast...Here’s Nolan Arenado making yet another incredible defensive play...After finishing with a career low .692 OPS last year, Brian McCann is on pace to hit 27 homers with 103 RBI, which would both be career highs...Roughned Odor was sent to the minors with a .144/.252/.233 line but since returning June 15, he’s hit .362 with four homers and four steals over 26 games, when he’s been the No. 31 ranked fantasy player. His true talent is obviously somewhere in between, but as a second baseman, it’s odd he’s still owned in just 41% of Yahoo leagues...Paul Goldschmidt is batting .295 with two strikes this year (league average is .174)...My NFBC team really hopes I’m wrong, but it’s becoming increasingly more likely Freddie Freeman doesn’t return this season...Over his last 100 at bats, Justin Upton has hit .160 with two homers, seven runs scored and 10 RBI, a span in which he’s been the No. 620 fantasy player.
Mike Trout, OF, vs. Bos (Rodriguez), $23: You don’t need me to tell you Trout is the best player in baseball, but he’s posting a .325/.400/.675 line against left-handed pitchers this season, and he’s affordable here if you decide to go with bargains with starting pitching (see below). There are also a lot of aces on the hill Sunday, so taking advantage of an elite hitter like Trout against a southpaw making just his 10th start of his career (although he’s been solid through his first nine) makes sense.
Tim Cooney, SP, vs. Mets (Niese), $25: He has a 3.31 ERA over his last three starts and has 17 strikeouts over 18.2 innings. Of course, that’s a tiny sample, but the Cardinals are -135 favorites Sunday while facing a Mets team that’s scored the second-fewest runs in MLB. Cooney is literally the cheapest starting pitcher during Sunday’s slate (weather is a concern here, as rain is possible).
Marco Estrada, SP, vs. TB (Archer), $42: He hasn’t pitched as well of late and is going against Chris Archer, but Estrada owns a 3.52 ERA and 1.18 WHIP on the year and will be facing a Tampa Bay offense that has the fourth-worst OPS against RHP (.665). Going this cheap on starting pitchers will allow us to be far more aggressive on the hitters.
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Buster Posey, C, at Ari (Corbin), $19: He had to come in to play catcher Saturday after starting at first base when Andrew Susac left injured, but hopefully Posey will still be in Sunday’s lineup hitting cleanup as usual. He’s batting .318, and his 63 RBI would actually lead the American League, so to call him the best catcher in the game would be an understatement. Posey also faces a lefty Sunday, whom he owns a career .949 OPS against.
Ryan Howard, 1B, vs. Mia (Haren), $14: He has 12 homers over 238 at bats versus RHP this season and faces Dan Haren, who’s served up 10 long balls over 48.2 innings against left-handed batters.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, at LAA (Santiago), $11: He has an .845 OPS with an 11:12 K:BB ratio versus southpaws and owns a career 1.278 OPS against Hector Santiago, albeit in a small sample. Pedroia’s price seems cheap here relative to the rest of the second basemen and batting toward the top of Boston’s lineup.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, at SD (Cashner), $16: He’s typically better against lefties and obviously preferable hitting in Coors Field, but shortstop is so thin, and even in a down year, his .836 OPS leads every player at the position.
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Kris Bryant, 3B, at ATL (Miller), $17: This isn’t the greatest matchup but more of a reflection upon the rest of the third base options Sunday and Bryant’s price.
Justin Upton, OF, vs. Col (Butler), $15: He hits cleanup and owns a .919 OPS at home this season. Upton is on pace to finish with 83 runs scored, 26 homers, 86 RBI and 30 steals yet there are 33 outfielders priced higher than him Sunday.
Nelson Cruz, OF, at NYY (Sabathia), $17: He’s slowed down in a big way after such a hot start, but Cruz is still batting a ridiculous .388/.474/.791 against lefties this year, and CC Sabathia has allowed a whopping 18 homers over 75.1 innings to go along with a .331 BAA and a 1.66 WHIP against RHB this season.
OK, let's roll those Lance Lynn profits into Saturday's slate of games. Per the usual protocol, we're looking for the days smartest buys and filthiest bargains. As always, we advise you to check the weather reports before committing to players. Let's invest...
Charlie Blackmon, OF, at SD (Ross), $20: No, Blackmon isn't available in the price range that we usually explore here in the Daily Dime. But it's worth mentioning the fact that Padres starter Tyson Ross has allowed the highest stolen base total in MLB to this point in the season (25), and Blackmon happens to have swiped 24 bags (third in the N.L.). Charlie is also ludicrously hot at the plate right now, with eight multi-hit games in his last nine (17-for-41). He's basically treating the majors like 12-inch beer league softball. Play him and profit.
And while we're looking at pricier brand-name players...
Clayton Kershaw, P, at Was (Fister), $48: I suppose I can understand why Kershaw isn't the highest-priced starter on the board, facing the first-place Nats on the road. But let's simply note that he's striking out a career-high 11.7 batters per nine innings, with an inhuman swinging-strike percentage of 15.6. His stuff is perfectly fine, you guys.
Kolten Wong, 2B, vs. NYM (Colon), $11: Wong went 2-for-4 with a steal on Friday in a narrow win over Thor & friends, leaving him on pace for a 16/20 power/speed season. It probably won't surprise you to hear that he's been terrific against RHPs this season (8 HR, .823 OPS) and very good in his limited opportunities against Colon (4-for-9, 0 Ks).
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, at Was (Fister), $13: A curiously low price for an excellent left-handed slugger (19 HR, .285/.359/.531) facing a not-so-dominant right-handed starter. Gonzalez homered in his last game before the break and his first game back — and Friday's bomb was a no-doubter.
Manny Banuelos, P, vs. CHC (Lester), $25: So far so good for the 24-year-old left-hander. He's now pitched 12.0 big league innings, allowing just seven hits and one earned run, striking out nine. Banuelos was very good at Triple-A earlier this season, tossing 82.2 innings over 15 starts, posting a 2.29 ERA with 69 Ks and just two homers allowed. The Cubs are not exactly a run-scoring juggernaut lately, in case you hadn't noticed.
Colby Rasmus, OF, vs. Tex (Lewis), $8: I am in no way attempting to convince you that Rasmus is some sort of underrated fantasy asset. If you want nothing to do with him, I get it. Not an ideal selection under most circumstances. But he has a nice history against Lewis (5-for-12, triple, HR), a right-handed starter with a declining K-rate and underwhelming velocity (88.1 mph). If you roll out Rasmus at a near-minimum price, so many other luxury buys are available to you.
Matt Holliday, OF, vs. NYM (Colon), $11: Holliday has returned to the lineup for the Cards and he's temporarily available at a deep discount, relative to his true talent level. He's 6-for-13 lifetime against Bartolo, so it's not like this is a bad spot.
Melky Cabrera, OF, vs. KC (Guthrie), $15: It seems safe to assume you aren't afraid to start batters facing Guthrie, a veteran righty with brutal ratios (5.36 ERA, 1.49 WHIP). Cabrera has had a forgettable season to this point, but July has been tolerable (.304/.346/.522). He also has a nice history against Guthrie, for what it's worth (.341/.341/.585, 6 XBHs).
Evan Longoria, 3B, at Tor (Dickey), $15: Longoria has a .904 lifetime OPS against Dickey in 42 plate appearances with two homers, four doubles and five walks. Dickey isn't having having his finest year, either (3-10, 5.13 FIP). Longo should earn his $15 here.
Francisco Cervelli, C, at Mil (Nelson), $13: We're beyond the halfway point and Cervelli is still hitting .290, reaching base at a .362 clip. At such a modest price, I'm happy to roster him. He's gone 2-for-4 against Nelson (not even close to a meaningful sample); no reason to veer away from the matchup.
And we're back. Everyone refreshed? Great. Yahoo's daily game has a full slate of contests, so let's sweep lineups, looking for bargain buys.
Jose Fernandez, P, at Phi (Morgan), $32: After two starts, Fernandez appears to be the same dominant right-hander we'd grown to trust, pre-TJ surgery. He's given us 13.0 innings, allowing just three runs and no walks while striking out 15 batters. Fernandez's fastball is averaging 95.4 mph, so velocity isn't a worry. I can see no reason not to trust him in this spot, against MLB's only sub-.400 team.
Neil Walker, 2B, at Mil (Fiers), $15: Walker has hammered Fiers in prior meetings (8-for-16, HR) and he was surging in the weeks before the break, batting .370/.393/.574 in the month of July. Of his 84 career home runs, 78 have been hit against RHPs. Fiers allowed two homers and four walks in his last start and his full-season ratios are nothin' special (3.96 ERA, 1.41 WHIP).
Also worth noting, while we're talking Pirates: Andrew McCutchen has absolutely owned Fiers, going 6-for-16 with four homers, one walk and nine RBIs. At $19, he's a little too pricey to list among Friday's bargains, but that doesn't mean he can't help.
Derek Norris, C, vs. Col (De La Rosa), $11: The break was well-timed for Norris, as he'd been mired in a multi-week slump. He's dirt-cheap on Friday, plus he gets a favorable match-up. Norris is slashing .286/.364/.472 in his career against left-handed pitching (.215/.293/.347 vs. RHPs), and he's 4-for-5 against De La Rosa with a pair of doubles.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, vs. Pit (Morton), $13: In case you hadn't noticed (and it's understandable if you didn't), Ramirez finally started producing when the calendar flipped to July, stringing together a few multi-hit games. He's had no trouble historically against Morton, going 7-for-20 with a pair of walks. You aren't getting the vintage version of Ramirez, clearly, but he's an acceptable play if you intend to blow your budget on pitching or high-end outfielders.
Lance Lynn, P, vs. NYM (Syndergaard), $27: The Mets rank next-to-last in the N.L. in run-scoring and dead-last in both team batting average and slugging percentage. So yeah, this is really a pretty decent spot for Lynn, a guy with a 2.90 ERA and 102 Ks in 96.1 innings. He's also pitching at home, where he's 4-1 this season with a 1.90 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Syndergaard is nasty, sure, but Lynn is no bum.
Matt Holliday, OF, vs. NYM (Syndergaard), $13: Holliday is back from injury...
Matt Holliday enjoying the All-Star experience, even though he can't play. He says he still intends to be back Friday: "That's the plan."— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) July 13, 2015
...so I'm happy to roster him at this price, even in a challenging matchup. The man was reaching base at a .417 clip before the quad issues. I'm not sure how long he'll be available this cheap, but I'll take it.
Justin Upton, OF, vs. Col (De La Rosa), $14: J-Up is available at the same price as Adam Eaton, which is kind of appalling. The price also reflects Upton's recent slide, of course (4-for-34 this month). He's been a monster against De La Rosa over the years, with nine hits and five walks over 29 plate appearances
Billy Burns, OF, vs. Min (Santana), $10: Burns is one of today's most heavily dropped players in seasonal leagues, which bothers me to no end. If you're done with him, GIVE BURNS TO ME. He's a top-of-the-order hitter with silly speed and a .303 average, facing a starter who was recently crushed. I can only assume the droppers are judging Burns entirely off those two quiet games before the All-Star break. That's not how it's done, guys.
Billy Butler, 1B, vs. Min (Santana), $14: Yup, I'm going to the rarely used two-Billy formation in a few games. Butler has homered five times against Santana in only 31 career at-bats, plus he's drawn six walks. At this price, he allows you to fit a collection of brand-name stars into your daily lineups.
Sonny Gray, P, vs. Min (Santana), $27: Gray at a below-max price? Um...yes, please. He's coming off a dominant two-hit, one-walk shutout win, a performance that lowered his WHIP to 0.96. I can't fully explain this give-away price, but I'll gladly take it.
Stock volatility is ever-present this time of the year. Any player blurb – arrest, suspension, potential holdout, hamstring tweak – can greatly swing fantasy perception in the eyes of potential investors.
Those already knee-deep in mock drafting are fully aware of the ADP alterations currently taking place. Though training camp is still a couple weeks away, a number of previously treasured commodities are now considered trash, victims of untimely, damaging news.
Sifting through the cesspool, here are six players tumbling down the mountainside according to Fantasy Football Calculator:
Antonio Gates, SD, TE
Current ADP: 147.8 (TE15)
ADP Change: -3.97 rounds
The savvy veteran, slapped with a surprising four-game suspension in early July due to PED use, has undergone a complete ADP makeover. Consistently picked in Round 9 pre-infraction, he's now going nearly four rounds later and in many exercises not at all. Missed time combined with his advanced age (35) will undoubtedly keep the future Hall of Famer on the discount rack. For his early-season replacement, Ladarius Green, it's now or never. Hyped annually, he's failed to deliver numerous times. Philip Rivers and OC Frank Reich have spoken highly of the target this offseason noting his faster play. But nagging injuries and general rawness have stunted Green's growth. Unless the elevated backup sprints off the blocks, Gates will slide back into his customary role, a gig he's posted TE top-12 numbers every year since the days Uncle Rico threw footballs over them mountains (2004). Though a liability as a run-blocker, Gates, once activated, should see his usual 45-55 snaps and 5-7 targets per game. Given his still precise routes, box-out skills and red-zone effectiveness, he's worth stashing in 12-team and deeper leagues. Another 12 TDs are a long shot, but a final tally around 50-575-6 is possible.
Kelvin Benjamin, Car, WR
Current ADP: 36.4 (WR15)
ADP Change: -0.91 rounds
The Florida St. product was one of many reasons why 2014 was dubbed "The Year of the Rookie Wide Receiver." Though not the fleetest of foot, his size, strength and leaping ability wreaked havoc on defenses, particularly inside the red zone. His 73-1008-9 line tucked inside the top-15 among WRs in PPR and standard leagues. Despite his banner efforts last fall, a dreaded sophomore slump looms. Carolina's offense under Mike Shula, which ran the ball roughly 45 percent of the time in 2014, should again be largely conservative, at least by modern NFL standards. More troubling, he will become a focal point in defensive game plans, drawing more double teams in downfield coverage. Another 145 targets could be a stretch. Additionally, he missed substantial time during OTAs due to hamstring problems. And we can't forget he dropped 11 passes last year, the second-most among WRs. Put it together and Benjamin could be 2015's version of Keenan Allen, the biggest bust of last year's ballyhooed WR class. Even with a healthy productive season, it's unlikely he will build on his initial numbers.
Joique Bell, Det, RB
Current ADP: 58.3 (RB27)
ADP Change: -0.52 rounds
Those who selected Bell in the middle rounds last year were certainly #JoiqueInIt. His second consecutive year lumbering for 3.9 yards per carry wasn't ideal, but a strong presence in the pass game (34-322-1) combined with a nose for the end zone (8 total TDs) vaulted the Wayne State product into the RB top-15. Most rushers off a standout season would carry momentum into the follow-up, however, that description doesn't apply to Bell. Rookie Ameer Abdullah is a significant threat. Incredibly productive at Nebraska, he boasts a strong work ethic and versatile skill set. No doubt, he will challenge the incumbent for PT immediately. Joique, who underwent knee and Achilles procedures this offseason which resulted in conditioning issues, must shape up quickly if he wants to stake his claim atop the depth chart. Sans Bell, Abdullah greatly impressed the Lions coaching staff working with the first team in minicamp. His low pad level, soft hands and open-field shiftiness earned him wide acclaim, though he must keep his suspect pass protection and ball handling – he struggled with fumbles in college – at bay in preseason action to maintain good standing. If Bell rounds into form in training camp, he's sure to net at least 11-14 touches Week 1, carrying the mail on early downs and at the goal line. Recall he gained 67.9 percent of his yards after contact in '14. But if he proves ineffective, the youngster could relegate him to mop up duty. Theo Riddick, who will likely function as a slot receiver and occasional backfield safety valve, also doesn't help Joique's cause. Bell's 1,200-yard prediction for 2015 is beyond cra-cra.
Brandon Marshall, NYJ, WR
Current ADP: 54.8 (WR23)
ADP Change: -0.50 rounds
You would think trading in one bad quarterback for another would sustain a receiver's previous value, but off a somewhat disappointing campaign and disconnected from Marc Trestman's air-aggressive offense, Marshall isn't high on investor lists. Largely a $25-$30 receiver in auction drafts a season ago, he garnered a $13 winning bid in a recent "experts" exercise. Yes, the stigmas attached to the Jets are influential, but the environment is more nourishing than most believe. Previously shown in Kansas City and Buffalo, Chan Gailey, the Jets' offensive coordinator, is a competent play-caller. He spreads the love peppering defenses with a barrage of short-to-intermediate passes. Marshall is a big, physical target with a wide catch radius and sizable route tree who isn't intimidated by traffic. Provided he can stay healthy – he fought through rib and ankle setbacks last fall – a bounce back year is in order. At 31, he could easily log his seventh 80-1000-6 effort of his career. I know what you're thinking. Geno Smith couldn't throw a baseball through monster-truck tire from five yards out. His career 57.5 accuracy percentage and 34 INTs are proof. But Gailey's efficient system will give him every chance to succeed. If he falters, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is very familiar with the scheme from his Buffalo days, will pick up the pieces. Add in Eric Decker to reduce heat and Marshall has a reasonable chance to turn a tidy profit.
Carlos Hyde, SF, RB
Current ADP: 40.0 (RB20)
ADP Change: -0.39 rounds
The rancid odor emanating along the Bay isn't the smell of dead and bloated fish, it's the Niners. Changeover stemming from free agency and early retirements has red-and-gold clad fans very concerned. Dark clouds are gathering. Working as Frank Gore's tag-team partner last year, Hyde showed flashes in his rookie campaign. On 83 attempts he gained a drool-worthy 70.3 percent of his yards after contact. He also ranked behind only Marshawn Lynch and Ahmad Bradshaw in elusive rating and drew a positive grade in pass protection according to PFF. The kid owns the tools, it's the situation that should make owners apprehensive. If the Niners defense is as generous as anticipated, it's entirely possible Reggie Bush will wrest away touches in catch-up scenarios. Toss in doubts about Colin Kaepernick and the offensive line and he may only log some 13-15 touches per game. From that viewpoint it's hard to justify the top-40 overall pick gamers are required to spend for his services. His ceiling is what Gore achieved last year – 9.5 fantasy points per game in a standard setting, the 24th-best output at RB. Blah.
LeSean McCoy, Buf, RB
Current ADP: 10.0 (RB8)
ADP Change: -0.34 rounds
The once prized rusher has transformed into a human avalanche. Though expected to tote a massive workload, possibly reaching DeMarco Murray heights from a season ago, many are purposely circumventing the three-time Pro Bowl selection. Their justifications are clear. Most glaring, the quarterback situation is a complete disaster. Matt Cassel, E.J. Manuel and Tyrod Taylor, with NERF swords in hand, are set for battle for the starting job. Joy. No matter who takes the cake, it's a forgone conclusion "Shady" will see innumerable stacked boxes behind an offensive line that was dead last in run-blocking last year per Pro Football Focus, slightly worse than Philly's No. 1 ranked unit. Richie Incognito and rookie John Miller will help, but the unit has a LONG road to respectability. Equally troubling, McCoy ranked at or near the bottom in several advanced metrics last fall including overall performance (-9.3, RB55), elusive rating (28.9, RB31), yards after contact percentage (48.9, RB41) and yards per route run (0.43, RB42). His timidity and absent vision on stretch runs were noticeable. Throw in a high odometer reading (1,808 career touches), declining role as a receiver and goal-line marginality (Career 36.5 TD success percentage inside the five) and it's plain to see why many are skittish. Sticking to my guns, give me alternatives Arian Foster (16.7 Yahoo ADP), Jeremy Hill (17.1) or C.J. Anderson (21.7), despite their own downsides, over him.
More fantasy football advice from Yahoo Sports
Normally we shuffle the hitters by segments - outfielders, corners, middles, that sort of thing. But with a break in the action, it's a good time to take a look at the entire landscape. Enjoy.
The usual rules apply. We're trying to figure how the players will perform from here on out. What's happened to this point is an audition, nothing past that.
When I do these lists, they're composed completely from scratch. I don't look back at old ranks.
You're going to have some disagreements, and that's good. That's why we have a game and why it's fun.
The injury ranks are for courtesy. I will not debate them. If you're a better doctor than I am, that's fine. I'm generally very cautious with hurt players and it's served me well over the years, but you are welcome to play differently. If you know when Stanton and Cabrera will come back and what they'll do, good for you.
I didn't rank players in the minors. I never do. They're worth whatever you want.
I'm starting a rare little break in my own action for the next week - I'll be reading novels, taking naps, hitting some golf balls, maybe have a whiskey now and again. My amigos will take good care of you.
Assume a 5x5 scoring system, as always. Players at the same prices are considered even. I reserve the right to tweak the list over the next day or two.
$33 Paul Goldschmidt
$31 Mike Trout
$30 Bryce Harper
$27 Manny Machado
$27 Josh Donaldson
$27 Anthony Rizzo
$26 Nolan Arenado
$26 Todd Frazier
$26 A.J. Pollock
$26 Andrew McCutchen
$25 Albert Pujols
$24 Jose Abreu
$24 Buster Posey
$24 J.D. Martinez
$23 Brian Dozier
$23 Brett Gardner
$22 Mookie Betts
$22 Troy Tulowitzki
$22 Jose Altuve
$21 Lorenzo Cain
$21 Hanley Ramirez
$21 Ryan Braun
$21 Jose Reyes
$21 Starling Marte
$21 Kris Bryant
$21 Prince Fielder
$21 Edwin Encarnacion
$21 Charlie Blackmon
$21 Jose Bautista
$21 Carlos Gomez
$20 Adam Jones
$20 Alex Rodriguez
$19 Jason Kipnis
$19 Cameron Maybin
$19 Maikel Franco
$19 Joey Votto
$19 Yoenis Cespedes
$18 Jhonny Peralta
$18 Justin Upton
$18 Mark Teixeira
$18 Adrian Gonzalez
$18 Jacoby Ellsbury
$17 Xander Bogaerts
$17 Nelson Cruz
$17 Michael Brantley
$16 Carlos Correa
$16 Jason Heyward
$15 Billy Hamilton
$15 Chris Davis
$15 Carlos Gonzalez
$15 Dustin Pedroia
$15 Ben Zobrist
$15 Stephen Vogt
$15 Kolten Wong
$14 Jay Bruce
$14 Joc Pederson
$14 Matt Kemp
$14 Neil Walker
$14 Matt Carpenter
$14 Yasiel Puig
$13 Evan Longoria
$13 David Ortiz
$13 Adam Lind
$13 Joe Panik
$13 Matt Duffy
$13 Christian Yelich
$13 Justin Turner
$13 Evan Gattis
$13 Robinson Cano
$13 Brandon Belt
$13 Kyle Seager
$13 Adrian Beltre
$12 Josh Reddick
$12 Kevin Pillar
$12 Gerardo Parra
$12 Yasmani Grandal
$12 Kole Calhoun
$12 Yasmany Tomas
$12 Russell Martin
$12 Ian Kinsler
$12 Victor Martinez
$12 Brandon Crawford
$12 Salvador Perez
$12 Jonathan Lucroy
$12 Pablo Sandoval
$12 Hunter Pence
$11 Ben Revere
$11 Billy Burns
$11 Chris Colabello
$11 Brian McCann
$11 Howie Kendrick
$11 Torii Hunter
$11 Joe Mauer
$11 Melky Cabrera
$11 Brandon Moss
$11 Gregory Polanco
$11 Devon Travis
$11 Miguel Sano
$11 Rougned Odor
$11 Carlos Santana
$10 Cesar Hernandez
$10 Curtis Granderson
$10 Brandon Phillips
$10 Kendrys Morales
$9 Dexter Fowler
$9 Mike Moustakas
$9 Matt Wieters
$9 Lucas Duda
$8 Derek Norris
$8 Chase Headley
$8 Marlon Byrd
$7 DJ LeMahieu
$7 Juan Uribe
$7 Brock Holt
$7 Trevor Plouffe
$7 Logan Forsythe
$7 Yunel Escobar
$7 David Murphy
$7 Yadier Molina
$7 Eric Hosmer
$7 Wilson Ramos
$7 Aramis Ramirez
$7 Andre Ethier
$7 Yan Gomes
$7 John Jaso
$6 Carlos Beltran
$6 Brett Lawrie
$6 Joey Butler
$6 Jean Segura
$6 Chris Young
$6 Nick Hundley
$6 Chris Carter
$6 Francisco Cervelli
$6 J.J. Hardy
$6 C.J. Cron
$6 Wilmer Flores
$6 Jimmy Paredes
$6 Ryan Howard
$6 Jung Ho Kang
$6 Nick Castellanos
$6 Avisail Garcia
$6 Daniel Murphy
$6 Shin-Soo Choo
$6 Delino DeShields
$6 Rajai Davis
$6 Adam LaRoche
$6 Ian Desmond
$6 Josh Hamilton
$5 David Peralta
$5 Erick Aybar
$5 Michael Taylor
$5 Nick Ahmed
$5 Adam Eaton
$5 Luis Valbuena
$5 Danny Espinosa
$5 Kevin Kiermaier
$5 Welington Castillo
$5 Will Venable
$5 Billy Butler
$5 Leonys Martin
$5 Elvis Andrus
$5 Jorge Soler
$4 Alcides Escobar
$4 Randal Grichuk
$4 Eddie Rosario
$4 Jace Peterson
$4 Brad Miller
$4 Justin Bour
$4 A.J. Pierzynski
$4 Eugenio Suarez
$4 Ben Paulsen
$4 Adeiny Hechavarria
$4 Jarrod Dyson
$4 Jimmy Rollins
$4 Josh Phegley
$4 David Freese
$4 Aaron Hicks
$4 Pedro Alvarez
$4 Jake Lamb
$4 Starlin Castro
$4 Rusney Castillo
$3 Alex Guerrero
$3 Alejandro de Aza
$3 Clint Robinson
$3 Johnny Giavotella
$3 Odubel Herrera
$3 J.T. Realmuto
$3 Austin Jackson
$3 Seth Smith
$3 Nick Markakis
$3 Scooter Gennett
$3 Wilin Rosario
$3 Kelly Johnson
$3 Anthony Gose
$3 Andrelton Simmons
$3 Alex Rios
$3 Mark Trumbo
$3 Jason Castro
$3 Alexei Ramirez
$3 Michael Cuddyer
$3 Marcus Semien
$3 James Loney
$3 Khris Davis
$2 Juan Lagares
$2 Logan Morrison
$2 Danny Valencia
$2 Jordy Mercer
$2 Gregor Blanco
$2 Chris Coghlan
$2 Justin Smoak
$2 Colby Rasmus
$2 Cody Asche
$2 Preston Tucker
$2 Yonder Alonso
$2 Jose Iglesias
$2 Chris Parmelee
$2 Ryan Raburn
$2 Steve Pearce
$2 Giovanny Urshela
$2 Angel Pagan
$2 Drew Stubbs
$2 Addison Russell
$2 Michael Morse
$1 Marwin Gonzalez
$1 Mark Canha
$1 Ryan Flaherty
$1 Didi Gregorius
$1 Dustin Ackley
$1 Tyler Flowers
$1 Robinson Chirinos
$1 Travis Snider
$1 Rene Rivera
$1 Derek Dietrich
$1 Jeff Francoeur
$1 Hank Conger
$1 Garrett Jones
$1 Ivan De Jesus
$1 Andrew Susac
$1 Kurt Suzuki
$1 Nolan Reimold
$1 Francisco Lindor
$1 Chris Iannetta
$1 Jedd Gyorko
$0 Chris Owings
$0 Eric Sogard
$0 Mark Reynolds
$0 Omar Infante
$0 Ruben Tejada
$0 Freddy Galvis
$0 Melvin Upton
$0 Clint Barmes
$0 David DeJesus
$0 Carlos Ruiz
$0 Mike Napoli
$0 Will Middlebrooks
$0 Ichiro Suzuki
$0 Jacob Marisnick
-$1 Stephen Drew
-$2 Mike Zunino
Courtesy Injury Ranks - Not For Debate
$18 Dee Gordon
$15 Giancarlo Stanton
$15 Miguel Cabrera
$15 Matt Holliday
$15 George Springer
$11 Anthony Rendon
$10 Freddie Freeman
$5 Steven Souza
$5 Ryan Zimmerman
$4 Denard Span
$4 Josh Harrison
$4 Travis d'Arnaud
$4 Corey Dickerson
$3 Alex Gordon
$3 Norichika Aoki
$3 Martin Prado
$3 Byron Buxton
$3 Wil Myers
$2 Asdrubal Cabrera
$2 Ender Inciarte
$2 Chase Utley
“Trusting a blindfolded Tim Couch as your darts partner is more fruitful.”
This is how many in the fantasy community describe July drafts.
Though exercises well before battles are determined seem frivolous, to the serious gamer they provide invaluable insight into market trends, developments which help owners map appropriate strategies. As they say, the early bird gets the worm. And in a game where one mid-round pick could make all the difference come playoff time it never hurts to get a leg up.
Combing over ADP charting data provided by Fantasy Football Calculator, here’s a six-pack of players leaping rounds in recent drafts:
Allen Robinson, Jax, WR
Current ADP: 67.2 (WR28)
ADP Change (last month, 12-team leagues): +3.01 rounds
The last time a Jaguars wide receiver was considered a must-get Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith were reeling in passes from Mark Brunell. But the hype attached to the sophomore target is parallel to yesteryear’s, understandably so. Before breaking his foot in Week 11, Robinson’s stock was on an upward path. From Weeks 2-10 he ranked No. 32 among PPR WRs, snatching 48-of-49 catchable balls from Blake Bortles. With Marqise Lee best-suited for underneath work, Justin Blackmon no longer in the picture and Allen Hurns projected for No. 3 duties, the former Penn St. standout should entice plentiful targets. Yes, even with Julius Thomas on roster. Robinson made several jaw-dropping plays in minicamp, reportedly dominating challengers in red-zone drills. His excellent size (6-foot-3, 210-pounds), soft hands and precise routes comprise a No. 1 makeup. Bortles and the Jags’ offensive line must improve, but because Jacksonville will likely often play from behind, Robinson is a good bet for a 70-1100-7 effort.
Joseph Randle, Dal, RB
Current ADP: 39.8 (RB20)
ADP Change: +2.03 rounds
Everyone’s favorite underwear thief is stealing the heart of many an early drafter. No player has seen a bigger value spike over the past month. Dallas’ immovable offensive line and effective pass game are undoubtedly attractive qualities. Randle’s meek competition (Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Ryan Williams) also boosts confidence he’ll head up the Boys’ RBBC, if not establish himself as a 15-plus touch-per-game back come Week 1. Though the sample size was infinitesimal (53 carries), his 61.3 yards after contact percentage in ’14 was impressive. Still, reservations are completely warranted. He’s a largely unproven rusher who has a tendency for saying and doing dumb things. There’s little to no profitability if selected inside the top-50 overall. With a strong camp he could begin the season lugging 12-14 touches per game. However, that’s FAR from a guarantee. Once an ardent supporter of Randle, I’m passing at his expensive price point. In a recent 12-man 'experts' auction, he went for $19 (DMC $11), the same price as Mark Ingram and two bucks more than Todd Gurley. Great situation, sure, but the risks are palpable.
C.J. Spiller, NO, RB
Current ADP: 34.4
ADP Change: +1.01 rounds
PPR zealots are willing to sacrifice first-borns for the former Bill. Expectations in his new digs are extraordinarily high. It’s easy to construct a career-year argument for Spiller. Pierre Thomas is no longer strutting his stuff on Bourbon Street, which should lead the newcomer to receive bountiful targets on screens, swings and check-downs. Sean Payton has also made it no secret he wants to feed his new gadget in space. Additionally, New Orleans is scheduled to play 12 games on artificial turf, a surface Spiller’s logged 5.2 yards per carry on in his career. Throw in the fact Saints RBs averaged 142.6 receptions and 1,052 receiving yards per year the past five seasons, tops in the league, and the unabashed love is justifiable. Despite a spike in value, Spiller remains undervalued. Ingram will do the dirty work between the hashmarks and at the goal-line, but given the complement's explosiveness and versatility he should amass 65-plus receptions, 1100 total yards and a handful of TDs. He’s Kardashian-era Reggie Bush revisited. Achieve those totals and he’ll slide comfortably inside the RB top-15 in PPR.
Carson Palmer, Ari, QB
Current ADP: 130.2 (QB16)
ADP Change: +0.98 rounds
If not for a blown knee, Palmer would’ve been a borderline QB1 in 2014. Pre-injury, he averaged 21.3 fantasy points per game over six contests, a mark that placed him just behind Tom Brady for No. 15 among signal callers. Extrapolate his accomplishments over 16 games and he would’ve finished with 4,336 passing yards and 29 touchdowns. Not too shabby for a thirty-something QB who chilled on his couch for a large chunk of the 2011 season. Overall, the arrow is pointing north in the desert. The Cardinals offensive line, which brought in premier blocker Mike Iupati this offseason, is the best it’s been in years. Palmer’s 36.7 under-pressure percentage from last fall is sure to decrease. The passer’s stable of receivers – Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, John Brown and Andre Ellington – are also a plus. Equally promising, Bruce Arians wants to push pedal-to-metal, a hurry-up wrinkle that is sure to keep defenses vulnerable and winded. If you plan to implement a wait-on-a-QB strategy, Palmer needs to be your target. Roughly 4,300 yards with 30-35 TDs are within reach.
Zach Ertz, Phi, TE
Current ADP: 79.7 (TE7)
ADP Change: +0.94 rounds
Craziness for Ertz is quickly becoming a July pastime. This time last year, the fantasy community was abuzz over the tight end's minicamp productivity and anticipated major role within Chip Kelly's high-powered offense. No surprise, he was selected as the No. 6 or No. 7 TE, placing unattainable expectations on his shoulders. Then the regular season began. Ertz started off with a bang generating 77 yards and a TD against the Jags Week 1, but from that point on he performed unevenly. Only two other times the rest of the season did he eclipse the 10 fantasy-point threshold in standard settings. Overall, he finished No. 15 in per game average, a far cry from the TE1 output most banked on. Undeterred, advocates, evidenced in the TE's ADP climb, never jumped off the bandwagon. To be fair, Ertz was better than his cursory numbers indicated. He ranked top-five at his position in drop rate, deep catch percentage and yards per route run. His dependable hands and field-stretching abilities are certainly noteworthy. Still, this is a spread-the-wealth offense with legit QB issues. Sam Bradford remains on the mend and likely won't be available when training camp opens later this month, which means Mark Sanchez's odds of starting under center to begin the year are substantial. Yes, an uptick in targets is plausible with Jeremy Maclin not scoring TDs in KC, but I fully expect Nelson Agholor to fill the void beautifully. And emerging star Jordan Matthews could earn additional looks. Give me Delanie Walker, Jordan Cameron or Larry Donnell much later on.
Martavis Bryant, Pit, WR
Current ADP: 54.8 (WR25)
ADP Change: +0.94 rounds
Once dropped from a plane in Week 7 last year, Bryant immediately detonated. His lethal size/speed (6-foot-4/4.42 40-yard dash) blend left defensive coordinators mystified as he accumulated 77.5 yards per game and totaled six touchdowns over his first four games. Defenses, however, made adjustments to ground the bomber, as his No. 62 rank from Week 11 on showed. Getting granular, his 0.45 points per snap was the highest among eligible PPR WRs (0.36 in STD). Yes, higher than Odell Beckham. Tossing an entire refinery onto the fire, he tacked on 10 pounds of muscle this offseason in an attempt to improve his separation skills at the point of attack. Since he was already beating press coverage 70.6 percent of the time, the added strength only makes him more monstrous. A full offseason absorbing Todd Haley's complex playbook should assist him in reaching max potential. Throw in Ben Roethlisberger's deep-ball touch (No. 7 in completion percentage beyond 20 yards in '14), the attention Antonio Brown draws, Pittsburgh's projected weak D and Le'Veon Bell's early-season suspension and the table is set for Bryant to crash the WR top-20 party, if not the top-15. He's well worth the reach. As stated previously, a 70-1050-12 campaign is on the horizon.
Be mindful of ballpark weather today, because we have some ugly splotches on the radar. Below you'll find a 10-pack of bargain DFS buys for Sunday's games. Please use responsibly.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. NYY (Eovaldi), $14: Panda's ownership of Eovaldi has been firmly established (12-for-17, HR, 10 RBIs). He hasn't been terrific this season, obviously, but right-handed pitching hasn't been the problem. He's slashing .301/.350/.466 against RHPs, but a disastrous .177/.198/.190 vs. lefties.
A.J. Pollock, OF, at NYM (Niese), $12: Pollock has been a five-category machine all season, he reached base twice on Saturday, and he hasn't had much trouble with Niese in the past (4-for-6, double, RBI). Don't ask me to explain this price. Just point, click and enjoy.
Jose Quintana, P, at CHC (Arrieta), $45: Current Cubs hitters are a combined 3-for-26 against Quintana, so this has the makings of a sweep. Weather in Chicago could be an issue throughout the day, however. It's a small dice-roll, but Quintana should be worth the meteorological complications. Or you could just roll with this guy...
Brett Anderson, P, vs. Mil (Lohse), $42: Anderson hasn't allowed more than four earned runs in any of his 17 starts this season, and he's held opponents to two runs or fewer 11 times. He's also struck out 22 batters over his last 19.0 innings. His team his a heavy favorite here at home, facing a starter who's been mostly miserable (5-10, 1.43 WHIP).
Joc Pederson, OF, vs. Mil (Lohse), $15: Pederson homered off Lohse back in May, one of 20 bombs he's hit this season (and one of 20 already allowed by Lohse). Pederson had been scuffling recently, but he delivered a multi-hit effort on Friday.
Eugenio Suarez, SS, at Mia (Haren), $13: He won't carry this price much longer, I'd guess, so you'd better invest now. Suarez homered again on Saturday, lifting his season slash to .326/.363/.500.
Lance McCullers, P, at TB (Moore), $46: We're now ten starts into McCullers' big league career, and the pitching ratios are still brilliant: 2.16 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.41 K/9. On Sunday, he'll be facing a team that ranks 13th in the A.L. in run scoring and next-to-last in batting average (.240). He's not cheap, necessarily, but he should pile up points.
Chris Heston, P, vs. Phi (Billingsley), $39: Heston's no-hitter back in June began a streak of six games in which he's held opponents to three runs or less, lowering his ERA to 3.51. His team is a serious favorite in this matchup, facing the sub-.400 Phils. Wins are worth eight points in Yahoo's game, and it's tough not to like Heston's setup here.
Nick Hundley, C, vs. Atl (Wood), $14: Hundley has been unreasonably good at home so far this year, hitting .344/.372/.557, with five of his six home runs. He rested on Saturday, after going 7-for-12 in his previous three games. I can see no reason to avoid him in this one, not at such a painless price.
Alcides Escobar, SS, vs. Tor (Doubront), $16: Escobar is on a 9-game hitting streak, slashing .366/.422/.415 in the month of July. He's also reached base in four of his nine plate appearances against Doubront, for what it's worth (not much). I'll be surprised if Escobar doesn't produce a point or three.
Anyone can point you to the stars, the Trouts and Goldschmidts and Sales. You know how to play the Coors Field angle. Our job in this space is to look a level or two past that, fill in the value cracks to help you assemble a Yahoo daily roster you feel good about. Let’s get to it.
C.J. Cron, 1B, at SEA (Iwakuma), $12: I’ve always been a Hisashi Iwakuma fan, but he didn’t look particularly sharp in his return to action, giving up four homers to the Tigers earlier in the week. Cron’s swinging a hot stick since his recall, on a 12-for-26 binge with three home runs. He went deep twice in Friday’s win, and the ball has been flying out of Safeco Field of late. Cron also makes sense as a seasonal pickup; he’s just five percent owned in Yahoo leagues.
Mark Buehrle, SP, at KC (Young), $43: The Yahoo daily game challenges you in a number of distinctive ways - not only do we require you find two pitchers you like, but our non-soft pricing makes it difficult to load up the truck with a bunch of superstars. You have to cut corners somewhere. Buehrle’s low strikeout potential is a buzzkill, of course, especially against the contact-heavy Royals. But he’s also drawing Kansas City at a good time, with Alex Gordon hurt and Lorenzo Cain and Sal Perez both getting an afternoon off. It’s also possible Mike Moustakas’s bat remains cold, off a notable layoff (he didn’t do anything Friday). Buehrle offers innings upside here, and is a reasonable punt play for your second pitcher slot.
Ryan Vogelsong, SP, vs. PHI (Buchanan), $33: Only three starting pitchers are cheaper than Vogelsong for this Saturday card, and you’re getting him at a good time, at least on paper. His home ERA is 2.63 (it’s almost double that on the road), and the Phillies are 29th in overall scoring and dead last in OPS against right-handed pitching. Not surprisingly, he's also the biggest Vegas favorite on the schedule. Get yourself a crab sandwich, enjoy the home cooking.
Delino DeShields, OF, vs. SD (Shields), $8: Teams like to run on the Friars, and it’s not just against Tyson Ross - they’ve allowed 66 free bases, second-most in the majors, and ten of those have come against James Shields. Kid DeShields doesn’t need much of a suggestion to run - he swiped another bag Friday, drew two walks, and scored an obscene run on a short pop-up from Prince Fielder. If DeShields gets on base in this spot, he’s probably taking off.
Joe Panik, 2B, vs. PHI (Buchanan), $14: Say hello to one of the most underrated players in the majors. Although Panik currently stands seventh in 5x5 roto rank among second basemen (and bump him up a slot if you don’t count Mookie Betts, an outfielder), he’s merely the No. 12 keystoner in Saturday DFS cost. Panik’s best foot shows at home (.874 OPS) and versus right-handers (.846 OPS), and he’s on a 7-for-14 tear on the current AT&T stand.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. NYY (Nova), $19: It’s been a mixed bag for Ortiz this season, but he’s still showing teeth at Fenway (.810 OPS) and in the platoon advantage (.913 OPS). The draw looks favorable against the ordinary Ivan Nova. Boston’s overall lineup has woken up nicely, scoring 142 runs over the last month (just three off the MLB leaders, Toronto and Baltimore - that AL East, knocking pitchers around again).
Dee Gordon, 2B, vs. CIN (Iglesias), $18: Perhaps there’s some prospect pedigree to Raisel Iglesias, but through four MLB starts, he’s just another guy with an ERA over five. Gordon loves to get into the head of any pitcher, especially an inexperienced one; this looks like a spot where he might collect multiple steals. Nineteen of his swipes have come on South Beach, and he’s slashing .343/.372/.414 in Miami.
Marlon Byrd, OF, vs. MIA (Conley), $14: While Adam Conley was a having a nice year in Triple-A (2.33 ERA), it’s also come with a suspicious K/BB ratio that’s under two. Todd Frazier is often a fun play when the Reds meet up with a southpaw, but if you’re in the mood to save a few bucks, take the Byrd case (.911 OPS in the platoon edge).
Nick Castellanos, 3B, at MIN (Hughes), $13: The bat has been hot, with two homers this week and two more hits Friday, including a double. Phil Hughes will be around the plate and is prone to gopheritis now and then, which makes me believe the Castellanos story might keep rolling along. Victor Martinez also looks appealing at $16.
Matt Kemp, OF, at TEX (Lewis), $16: I talked myself out of a Kemp play Friday, to my regret. It’s always difficult to know how healthy a player feels, but seeing Kemp grab a homer and bag the last two days, I suspect he might be rounding into form. He also has five hits over his last three games, and Colby Lewis will gladly pitch to contact most evenings. Tap the keg in Arlington.
If you haven't yet taken daily fantasy baseball for a test-drive, we encourage you to visit the Yahoo lobby and get yourself in the game — maybe with a free contest, maybe for $1. One-day games are the perfect complement to your season-long leagues.
Below, you'll find a 10-pack of bargain plays for the Friday slate. None of the position players listed here will cost you more than $15, none of the pitchers are $45. You shouldn't need an expert to tell you that Madison Bumgarner ($57) seems like a strong play against the Phillies, or that Bryce Harper ($23) should have quality at-bats against Chris Tillman. Here, we hunt for the sort of low-cost value plays that allow you to squeeze Bumgarner or Haper or Trout or Pujols or whoever into your lineup. Got it? Great. Let's do this thing...
Joe Mauer, 1B, vs. Det (Verlander), $15: In case you hadn't noticed, the current version of Justin Verlander is not exactly a lights-out ace. Over four starts so far this season, he's struck out just 12 batters and walked 10 in 22.2 innings. He gave up seven hits (including two homers) and seven earned runs in his last turn. Mauer's history against Verlander is excellent — 24-for-65, 3 HR, 12 BB — and the man has been surging in recent weeks (13-for-34, 2 HR in July).
Ervin Santana, P, vs. Det (Verlander), $25: Santana's first start of the season for the Twins was plenty useful (8.0 IP, 2 ER, 8 Ks), and his three-game minor league stint went flawlessly (3-0, 1.02 WHIP). I'll happily take him here at the minimum pitching price, facing the Miggy-less Tigers.
As many of you have no doubt noticed, several of the best values in Yahoo's game are players returning from extended absences, like these next four names...
John Jaso, C, vs. Hou (McHugh), $9: He's finally back from the 60-day DL, he's catcher-eligible and he's raking: 7-for-12, double, HR, 2 RBIs. McHugh has been something less than dominant (1.30 WHIP), so it wouldn't be much of a surprise if Jaso's binge continued.
Hunter Pence, OF, vs. Phi (Hamels), $9: Hunter Pence as a near-minimum hitter? Sure, I'll take it. He's 3-for-8 since returning from the DL, and he's a respectable 7-for-25 in his career against Hamels.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, at Bos (Buchholz), $12: As with Pence, this isn't the greatest possible hitter-vs.-pitcher matchup, but Ellsbury is so much better than the rest of the names in the $10-$13 bin. Take him at this price while he's available.
Michael Morse, 1B, vs. Cin (Leake), $7: OK, no, this guy isn't for everyone (or maybe for anyone). But he's a starter with pop at the lowest possible price, and the man has homered twice against Leake in nine career at-bats. It ain't easy finding an acceptable bat at $7 in Yahoo's game; if you're going to start Bumgarner and/or Gerrit Cole, then you'll need to find a bargain or two somewhere.
Eugenio Suarez, SS, at Mia (Phelps), $13: Suarez is slashing .325/.365/.475 for the season, batting sixth for the Reds, and he's 5-for-15 over his last three games. He gets a low degree of difficulty matchup with Phelps, so no reason to fear the opponent. I can't see a similarly priced shortstop I like nearly as much.
Lucas Duda, 1B, vs. Ari (Anderson), $14: Duda is slumping a bit, going 0-for-13 in his last four games, but he was born to hit right-handers like Anderson. Arizona's starter has allowed seven home runs over his last three starts, and he's striking out just 5.57 batters per nine innings.
Hector Santiago, P, at Sea (Montgomery), $44: Santiago has had a terrific half-season (with a dash of good luck), and he's allowed just eight hits and two runs over his last 20.0 frames. Seattle ranks dead-last in the A.L. in both batting average (.234) and OBP (.295), so the matchup couldn't be better.
Jedd Gyorko, 2B, at Tex (Rodriguez), $13: Gyorko is dirt-cheap and hitting reasonably well since his return (10-for-30 for the month). Here's a useful nugget, via the Matchup Ratings page...
Gyorko is slugging .495 and hitting .308 (28-for-91) against left-handers in the bottom tier like Rodriguez in the last two years.
At this price, with the encouraging note, I'm sold.
I can’t promise you category juice with Melky Cabrera. I can’t promise you a pretty final set of statistics. I certainly can’t promise you quality defense - man, that’s out the window.
But line drives? Sure, we can do that. Cabrera’s back to his professional hitter ways, and maybe you can still get in on it.
The White Sox have been a major 2015 disappointment, and Cabrera’s season deserves a chunk of the blame. Back in early June, he was sitting on a .521 OPS, one of the worst full-time players in the majors. I don’t blame any fantasy owner who cut the cord on Cabrera then, wondering if the season was lost.
For whatever reason, Cabrera’s found his stroke since then. He’s gone on a snappy .343/.391/.529 tear the last month, and he’s homered in three of the last ten games. The White Sox never completely buried Cabrera in the lineup, but of late he’s become the dedicated No. 3 man. Perhaps it will be a fun summer on the South Side after all.
Although Cabrera has a zesty .364 BABIP during this stretch, he’s making a lot of his own luck. His line-drive rate is 23.5 percent over the past month, and he’s hitting the ball hard 33.7 percent of the time. Both of those metrics are comfortably over league average.
In deeper leagues, owners never had a choice with Melky - they held on for the duration. But you can buy into this turnaround story in medium and shallow leagues, where he might have been dropped. The Melk Man is currently owned in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues, a number that feels light. If you're playing the matchups, note he's batting .280 against right-handed pitchers (and yes, it's a right-handed world).
Cabrera’s tattooed Thursday homer helped Jeff Samardzija pick up a 2-0 victory, over Toronto of all teams. Leave it to Samardzija to bring his best work to Shark Week. He’s also in fine form of late, with a tidy 2.40 ERA and 39 strikeouts (against eight walks) over his last six turns. If the Pale Hose want to dangle the righty in the trade market, they’ll find plenty of suitors. Scouts were scattered throughout The Cell for Thursday’s matinee.
If I were Shuffling at this moment, I’d put Cabrera in the $11-12 range, and The Shark around $17. Season to taste.
• Cody Anderson’s run continues to make zero sense, but when someone posts a sub-ERA through four starts, we have to talk about it, I guess.
Anderson’s latest victory came Thursday against the Astros, working into the seventh inning (3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K). His Cleveland stat page looks like a Wikipedia editing prank: 30.1 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 11 K. His ERA is 0.89, his WHIP 0.66, the league batting .165 against him.
Anderson has a plus ground-ball rate (though not elite), which is nifty, though the Indians as a whole have a mediocre defense (granted, the left side has been upgraded). Anderson was never much of a prospect; he had a 5.44 ERA in Double-A last year. He isn't walking anyone, a point in his favor - and critical if you can't get strikeouts.
I could tell you to sell high, but I can only see that working in a neophyte league where you don’t really need advice. If you play in a league where K/9 is a major consideration, I’d just as well leave him alone. Otherwise, I recommend rostering Anderson but with the shortest of leashes. The first sign of problems, I’d go to someone else. Unofficial Shuffle price: $5.
And if you really want a pitch-to-contact guy from the AL Central, look to the Minnesota guys instead.
About Last Night: So much for the lovely Steven Matz story - he has a partial tear in his lat muscle and won’t throw for a few weeks. Given his age and experience level, and New York’s mediocre team, I’d trade him for literally anything I could get right now. Let others believe in injury-returnee optimism; I’ll fade it 99 percent of the time . . . I can see and hear many players getting off the Cesar Hernandez train, but Kershaw and Greinke will do that to a lot of hitters. Okay, Bumgarner is a tricky draw for Friday, too. But I’m definitely holding my shares in the middle infielder . . . Jarrod Dyson took the left field job in KC, going 2-for-4 with a stolen base out of the No. 9 slot. On my clipboard, he’s 70-80 percent of a Billy Burns type . . . Another strikeout for Jon Singleton, who’s off to a 3-for-24 push (13 whiffs) since the recall. I don’t see anything interesting here . . . Another save for Joakim Soria, though his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate (while not a problem) is creeping up. He has no pressure from anyone in the Detroit bullpen, but I don’t trust that 2.34 ERA at all (FIP suggests 4.58). Maybe there’s a sell-high window for you . . . Neftali Feliz passed through league-wide waivers, so he’s free to cut his own deal. It’s more leash for Texas holdover Shawn Tolleson, not that he seemed to be in jeopardy of losing his gig. I’d be surprised if anyone signed Feliz with the intention of using him as a 2015 closer . . . Part of my childhood officially died with the passing of Kenny Stabler, a Hall of Fame blackball if there ever was one. Look at his indexed stats from the 1970s, compare them to the era (and remember the pass interference rules prior to 1978). Pay no mind to how he messed up his stats in Houston and New Orleans, focus on the peak. Rest in peace, Snake. I will now count deadhead stickers on Cadillacs.
Eleven years into a big league career, we have a pretty good idea who Huston Street is. He records a lot of saves, and he needs regular maintenance. One minute he’s Fascination Street, the next minute it’s Shakedown Street.
Street’s Wednesday appearance covered all the bases. He set the Rockies down in the ninth, working around a double and intentional walk, en route to save No. 24. He’s sitting on 299 for his career. He’s having another strong season (2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP).
Alas, Street tweaked his right groin during the final pitch at Coors, putting his weekend status at Seattle in doubt. Street’s had plenty of groin issues during his career, and he hasn’t made it past 60 innings since 2009. It’s a nifty model, but it often needs time in the shop.
Street didn’t sound too concerned about the injury, albeit that’s how most athletes roll. "Your initial reaction when you know something is not perfect is you are frustrated with the happenstance,” he told the Angels official site. “But then you turn the page and see, 'How can I get back as fast as I can?' Hopefully it's in the Seattle series. If it's not then, then I think it should be pretty close after the All-Star break."
The Angels have a defined bullpen structure, which means Joe Smith is probably the stand-in closer if Street needs any rest. Smith is having another solid year (2.72 ERA, 1.07 WHIP), and you’ll recall he recorded 15 saves as a part-time stopper last year. While we wait for more definition on the Street injury, make sure Smith isn’t floating around your waiver wire. He’s ready to go in 81 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• While Street owners will have a viable Plan B ready to go in many cases, Alex Gordon owners can’t do much but curse the injury gods. Gordon suffered a nasty groin injury during Logan Forsythe’s inside-the-park homer Wednesday. Manager Ned Yost is concerned that Gordon could be out “months.”
Then again, it’s not like Gordon was in the midst of his best season - a .279-32-11-39-1 merely ranks him the No. 43 outfielder in Yahoo leagues to this point. He’s a much bigger loss for the OBP players; Gordon gets on base at a .394 clip.
It will be interesting to see if the Royals decide to make a major adjustment in their outfield, assuming Gordon isn’t returning soon. Jarrod Dyson is an adequate reserve outfielder, but he’s the type of player who is exposed quickly if forced into a full-time role. If I ran the club, I’d inquire about Milwaukee OF Gerardo Parra - like Gordon, he’s a strong defender and a left-handed bat. The Brewers, in theory, should be motivated to move their non-essential pieces.
If you’re in the market for an outfielder pickup, here are some names that might fit your roster: Randal Grichuk (15 percent owned), Alejandro De Aza (17 percent), Melky Cabrera (waking up; 47 percent), Michael Taylor (six percent), Adam Eaton (35 percent) and Anthony Gose (11 percent). If you have a question about a different addition, drop a note in the comments.
• Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe in soft rock? Do you believe in Tommy Milone?
Minnesota’s comebacking lefty keeps rolling along merrily. He allowed just one run over seven strong innings against Baltimore on Wednesday (5 H, 2 BB, 5 K), trimming his ERA to 2.84. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in his last seven turns.
The secondary stats, of course, don’t buy into Milone at all. His FIP stands at 4.28, his xFIP at 4.35. When you strike out just six batters per nine innings, and have a K/BB ratio that’s barely over two, the Regression Police will follow you around. Milone doesn’t sizzle on the screen, either, checking in with an average fastball of 87.8 mph.
To be fair, we have to consider that Milone does have one notable skill in the toolbox - he’s posting an extreme fly-ball rate. This sounds like a dangerous thing but it’s really not - pitchers who show a bias in either direction, ground or air, tend to have better results than the pitchers who are in the middle. You’re looking for pitchers to show added control to their batted-ball outcomes, and Milone seems capable of that.
We also might want to consider that Milone was lights out in his five Triple-A starts (0.70 ERA, 3 BB, 47 K); while he’s old for the level at age 28, sometimes that still means something. You’ll recall Mike Fiers showing a similar path last year - Triple-A dominance, a questionable fastball, then a run of success with the Brewers. That said, Fiers continued to strike out batters with Milwaukee, while Milone’s strikeout rate hasn’t carried over.
Bottom line, Milone has been too effective for too long for me to completely discount the story. They don’t hand out seven straight quality starts at the airport. I’m not sure how the Twins will handle the rotation out of the break, but I’ll consider Milone against either Oakland or Anaheim (both on the road; no, I won’t call the Angels “Los Angeles”).
• If you’re not familiar with Arizona shortstop Nick Ahmed, take a second and consider the case. The 25-year-old shortstop didn’t hit a lick in April (.392 OPS), but the Snakes stayed with him and it’s turned into a story.
Okay, mostly it’s been a platoon-advantage story - Ahmed is slashing .377/.457/.508 against lefties, but hitting .206 against righties. But in some formats - deeper mixed, or certainly DFS - this is someone who can help you.
Ahmed is owned in just two percent of Yahoo leagues, he has some category juice (six homers, four steals - although it’s taken nine attempts), and Arizona has the No. 1 scoring offense in the National League. If you rank all the fantasy shortstops from May 1 to present, Ahmed comes in as the No. 7 man (.283-30-6-20-4). Keep an open mind here.
There is a $50K Daily Fantasy contest Thursday on Yahoo, so be sure to play for your chance to win. To help you set your lineup, here are 10 DFS recommendations for Thursday’s slate, but be sure to double-check the weather and lineups before first pitch approaches.
Zack Greinke, SP, vs. Phi (Gonzalez), $58: He’s been pretty terrific of late, sporting a 27.2 consecutive innings scoreless streak while allowing one run or fewer in 10 of his last 12 starts. The Phillies have the second-worst OPS (.650) against right-handed pitchers in baseball this season, and Los Angeles is a whopping -350 favorite Thursday, which is about as big as you’ll see in major league baseball. Greinke is worth paying for.
Cody Anderson, SP, vs. Hou (Oberholtzer), $25: He’s clearly pitched way over his head, although that could be said for anyone who’s posted a 0.76 ERA and 0.63 WHIP over three starts. Anderson has struck out just 10 batters over 23.2 innings, but he’s also walked only one while owning a 1.64 GB/FB ratio. I’m admittedly skeptical of Anderson moving forward, but he’s the cheapest pitcher available in a game with a low over/under (7.5) Thursday on a team that’s favored.
John Jaso, C, at KC (Ventura), $8: He’s reached base in nine of 11 plate appearances since returning this season. Jaso is cheap, hitting leadoff and also one of the safer catcher options since he’s been starting at designated hitter.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, vs. Phi (Gonzalez), $16: He slumped in June, which is really reflected in this price, as he has a .971 OPS in July and owns a .296/.379/.546 line against RHP this year. Meanwhile, he’s facing a pitcher who’s allowed a .489 BAA lefties, albeit in a small sample.
DJ LeMahieu, 2B, vs. Atl (Wood), $15: He’s facing a LHP and has a .340/.394/.456 line at Coors Field this season. Check the forecast in Colorado before setting your lineup, but there’s a nice opportunity to stack the Rockies if the weather cooperates.
Nolan Arenado, 3B, vs. Atl (Wood), $20: He’s actually been better on the road and against righties this year, but it’s probably safer to bet on both of those changing moving forward, and he’s been fantastic either way. Arenado is on pace to finish with 98 runs, 47 homers and 133 RBI.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, vs. Atl (Wood), $19: He’s batting .415/.426/.646 against southpaws this season and will be playing this game at Coors Field. Alex Wood has allowed a .301 BAA and a 1.49 WHIP against RHB.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, vs. Oak (Chavez), $12: Maybe there’s still some more rust to shake off, but Ellsbury’s price here looks like a bargain for someone who was drafted so early in March. He has 14 steals and 29 runs scored over 38 games played.
Ryan Raburn, OF, vs. Hou (Oberholtzer), $7: He has a .937 OPS when facing lefties this season, usually batting cleanup against them. Brett Oberholtzer has walked 15 batters over 25.1 innings against RHB.
Joc Pederson, vs. Phi (Gonzalez), $15: He’s slumped in July, but Pederson still owns an .895 OPS against righties, knocking 17 homers over 226 at bats. He’s typically been leading off (at least against RHP) for a team that leads MLB with a 114 wRC+, so the situation sure looks positive based on this price.
Today, Yahoo Sports is taking the game to the next level and giving you what you’ve always wanted - the chance to be a cash winner every single day with the new Yahoo Sports Daily Fantasy. For a guide to playing Daily Fantasy, Andy Behrens has some great tips.
Here are 10 DFS recommendations for Wednesday but be sure to double-check the weather and lineups before first pitch approaches.
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Bryce Harper, OF, vs. Cin (Lorenzen), $22 at Yahoo: He has a 1.224 OPS at home and a .348/.474/.739 line against right handers, clubbing 20 homers with four steals over 184 at bats. His 219 wRC+ doesn’t just lead MLB, but the next best is well behind at 191 (Paul Goldschmidt). If you don’t spend for an ace at these prices, Harper looks like a must start.
Rick Porcello, SP, vs. Mia (Koehler), $25: He’s coming off an outing in which he gave up seven earned runs over just 2.0 innings, but that was in Toronto, and Porcello owns a 3.4 K:BB ratio on the year (albeit with a 6.08 ERA). Porcello has a 1.18 WHIP at home, and Boston is the second biggest favorite Wednesday (-175) while he’s priced here as the cheapest pitcher of the day.
Gio Gonzalez, SP, vs. Cin (Lorenzen), $45: He’s allowed just 11 base runners and one run over his past two outings, spanning 14.0 innings. Gonzalez sports a 2.44 ERA at home this season, and the Nationals are big favorites (-170) in a game with a low over/under (7.5).
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B, at CWS (Danks), $18: He owns an .877 career OPS against southpaws, and John Danks has surrendered a whopping 12 homers over 66.0 innings when facing right-handed batters this year (as well as a .313 BAA and a 1.56 WHIP).
Jason Kipnis, 2B, vs. Hou (Straily), $19: He’s clearly been the most valuable second baseman this year and especially considering that it’s a thin position, his price here is beyond reasonable. Kipnis has a .371/.461/.552 line versus righties this season.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. Mia (Koehler), $14: He has an .846 OPS when facing RHP and is batting .339 at home this season. Tom Koehler has yielded 10 home runs over 47.2 innings on the year.
Nick Ahmed, SS, at Tex (Harrison), $13: He’s batting .362 with a .948 OPS against southpaws this season and is dirt cheap here for a position that’s not exactly easy to fill.
John Jaso, C, at KC (Guthrie), $7: He’s back in action and should see regular playing time for Tampa Bay with the DH available. Jaso posted a .344 OBP against RHP last year and even homered while batting leadoff during his first start of the season Tuesday. I wanted to use Chris Iannetta here (as well as Johnny Giavotella and possibly David Freese), but the weather in Colorado is just too risky.
Yasiel Puig, OF, vs. Phi (Morgan), $16: He’s no doubt been a disappointment so far, but this was someone frequently drafted in the second round a few months ago, and he’s hit .333/.455/.519 against lefties. He looks like a bargain.
A.J. Pollock, OF, at Tex (Harrison), $18: He’s been a top-15 fantasy player this season but isn’t exactly priced as such here. Pollock has been especially good against left-handed pitchers, posting a .329/.380/.507 line against them. Matt Harrison will be making his first start since May 13 of last year.
You didn't seriously expect Yahoo Sports to ignore the daily fantasy boom, did you?
No, of course you didn't. There's a reason we're the unrivaled leader in fantasy gaming:
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Yahoo may not have invented traditional season-long fantasy gaming, but we got it right. The plan for daily fantasy is exactly the same. Our hope is to become your preferred home for DFS across the four major sports. Beginning today — right now, this minute — you can sign up for daily baseball at Yahoo and use your considerable fantasy skills to profit in a variety of one-day contests.
For those who haven't yet dabbled in daily, Yahoo's game is a fine place to get started. We use a simplified salary structure ($200 total budget), lineup construction is uncomplicated and intuitive, and it's ridiculously easy to create your own contest. If you're a fantasy traditionalist — fiercely loyal to your season-long leagues — please don't think of the daily game as any sort of threat to your way of life. Daily contests are a perfect complement to a standard fantasy portfolio. If you regret not drafting any roto shares of, say, Kris Bryant, Dallas Keuchel or whoever else, then daily fantasy baseball provides an opportunity to invest (and win) mid-season. Daily contests also allow the sort of instant gratification that's absent in traditional leagues — play today, profit today.
With the launch of Yahoo's daily game, this seems like an ideal time to recycle and update some previously published content — our beginner's guide to daily baseball (originally posted here, during the preseason). The tips below are strictly for first-time players, not for seasoned vets. This certainly is not black-belt-level advice. If you've already built your forecasting algorithm, you're dismissed. Go sign up for a contest or five. But if you'd like to be reminded of my guiding principles for daily MLB contests, read on...
1. Know your scoring settings
AGAIN: KNOW YOUR RULES, KNOW YOUR SETTINGS
This is the most basic piece of fantasy advice, applicable to all sports, and yet so many managers brush it off. Really, you shouldn't do much of anything in your life — ever, anywhere — without a careful examination of the rules and terms. All the major daily games assign different values to different events, and roster construction changes from site to site. Yahoo's rules can be found right here. If you're going to put money at risk, then you'd better understand the scoring system, fully.
2. Vegas is your friend
This is most definitely not true in all aspects of life, but it's certainly true with daily gaming. For obvious reasons, you're looking for starting pitchers tied to heavy favorites — wins are worth a whopping eight points at Yahoo — and you want batters involved in potentially high-scoring games. Vegas handles much of the heavy-lifting for you, accounting for park factors, weather conditions, pitcher quality, lineups and other trends and traits. If bookmakers expect a big pile of runs to be scored in a given game, you should seriously consider stacking hitters in those lineups. Simple enough, right?
Yahoo requires you to choose players from at least three different MLB teams, with a max of six from any one squad. So there are limits to your stacking possibilities. It's a solid tactic nonetheless, because predicting any individual hitter's performance in a single game is kind of a ridiculous endeavor.
Which brings us to this...
3. Pitching is priceless
OK, that's not completely accurate, because we actually assign a price to each pitcher. This is fundamental to the whole DFS thing. I just really like alliteration in the subheads.
Anyway, here's the point: You absolutely cannot screw up your pitching choices and still expect to profit. In full-season fantasy leagues, experts will often recommend going cheap on pitchers, sketching in your rotation in the late rounds. But in daily games, I'll usually select my pitchers before scanning the bat rack. Even baseball's most reliable hitters can easily post an 0-fer at any time, regardless of matchup. Forecasting any batter's stats for a single day is incredibly tricky. I always feel more confident in the one-day projection of an elite starting pitcher at home in a friendly park, against a less-than-intimidating opponent.
You don't need to build around a Kershaw or Scherzer-level starter each day (or any day), but you do need to remember that scoring is driven by strikeouts, wins and run-prevention. When chasing Ks, it's easy enough to exploit strikeout-prone lineups and avoid others. You want pitchers who work deep into games, too; every out recorded is worth 0.6 points in Yahoo's game.
4. Don't obsess over batter-vs.-pitcher stats
I won't go so far as to say that player-vs.-player history has zero relevance, but, in most cases, we're dealing with sample sizes that are much too small to be useful or predictive. I'm not going to make a spending decision based on, say, a hitter's 7-for-18 history against a certain pitcher.
Instead, you should always prefer larger sets of data — the sort of stuff you'll find in Yahoo's Matchup Ratings, for example. Most of you already know that handedness of hitters and pitchers is a big deal; typically, you want left-handed bats facing right-handed arms.
I hate to suggest that batter-vs.-pitcher history never matters, however. When two players have seen each other a few times and one of them consistently wins, well ... that's not something you can easily ignore. Chris Coghlan versus Mike Leake has been an unfair fight, just to cite one example (9-for-13, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 0 Ks). If you believe in a specific matchup, play it. It's your money.
And here's the final and most obvious tip...
5. Players can't help us if they don't play
Nope, you didn't need an expert for this one. Nothing mysterious here. We simply need to emphasize the importance of verifying that every player in your daily lineup is also in his real team's lineup. When you mess around with platoon players and other part-timers, this is no small detail. In your hometown roto league, it's not usually a disaster when a player on your active roster gets an off-day. But in daily, you immediately lose money.
It's easy enough to find reliable sources for batting order info, such as this Twitter feed. The difficult part is making a daily habit of daily lineup hawking. Weather-related postponements are a terror, too. Stay on it.
As in traditional fantasy baseball, you won't profit from the daily game unless you're an active, engaged player. The Yahoo fantasy team has been covering daily baseball all season around here, and we're ecstatic to finally have a game of our own to discuss. Sign up, you guys. Game on.
About three weeks ago, it was fair to wonder why the Tigers were playing Nick Castellanos. But in recent games, he’s reminding everyone why he was such a hot commodity in the first place.
If you’re into prospect ratings, you knew all about Castellanos at the front of the decade. He was a first-round pick out of high school in 2010, and spent the next four years getting touted by the various scouting services. MLB.com considered Castellanos the No. 15 prospect in baseball entering the 2014 season.
Castellanos had a respectable but unremarkable rookie year last season, breaking in as a 22-year-old (.259/.306/.394, 11 homers). You certainly want more production from a corner-infield spot, but you need to give young players time to develop.
Fast forward to this year, where Castellanos carried a .217/.267/.328 slash line into the third week of June. The Detroit lineup was getting plenty of juice from the middle of the order, but there were disappointments at the top and bottom. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus ultimately benched Castellanos for three games, as much for the sophomore slugger to clear his mind as anything else.
Since then, the story has shockingly flipped. Castellanos is on a .365/.389/.577 tear over his last 13 games, with home runs the last two days. If you grade all hitters over the last two weeks, Castellanos is the No. 10 third baseman. His Yahoo ownership has chased up to 15 percent.
It would be nice to have a specific angle to point to, but Castellanos has no tangible explanation for his turnaround. “As soon as Brad benched me those three games, it kind of gave me a breather,” Castellanos told The Detroit News. “I just took a step back and remembered the hitter who I was. I never worried about mechanics or video or anything like that . . . I just feel good right now.” (The hanger from Iwakuma on Monday night didn't hurt, of course.)
Okay, it's not a grand explanation, but nonetheless, you might be in the mood to chase some pedigree. If you need some help with a possible Castellanos add, here are some highly-owned corners I’d drop for him: Mark Trumbo (I’d also drop Trumbo without a corresponding add), Alex Guerrero, Mike Napoli, Michael Cuddyer. There may be others. Feel free to inquire about your Castellanos conundrum in the comments.
• We’re not going to flood you with too much Cesar Hernandez talk today. We’ve been blogging and Tweeting about him regularly, and surely most of you read the memo. He’s the No. 5 player in Yahoo fantasy over the last two weeks and the No. 16 player if you go back a month (.380-16-0-10-11). The three positions of infield eligibility are a daisy, too.
Hernandez’s contact and speed skills give him a good chance at full-season success, but the inevitable return of Chase Utley was always looming over the story. Alas, that might not be a problem after all. It sure sounds like Hernandez will still have a gig even when Utley returns. Here’s beat reporter Ryan Lawrence with the lowdown, touching base with team GM Ruben Amaro.
Amaro was asked, point-blank, if he considered Utley the Phillies' primary second baseman upon his return from the DL.
"Not for me, he's not," Amaro said. "Cesar Hernandez is our best second baseman."
So . . . what happens when Utley returns?
"I would assume that Cesar will be our second baseman," Amaro said. "Chase's situation will kind of dictate itself, how he feels. There'll be time for him to play, I think. He could play some first base. He could play some second.
“Cesar Hernandez has been one of our best players on the field right now in a variety of ways - running the bases, playing defense, playing with energy. He can switch-hit. He can run. He's doing a lot of the things that we want to see out of our young players."
Obviously Hernandez doesn’t have an extensive track recored, but I give him an excellent chance to be a Top 10 second baseman, for our number-grabbing purposes of course, the rest of the way. I’m a believer.
• The Rays need all the offensive help they can get, and maybe John Jaso will be part of the solution. Jaso came off the DL on Tuesday and was a menace in the second game at Kansas City, stringing together a homer, double and walk. He also had a pinch-hit single in the first game.
You know the Rays think highly of Jaso because they used him as the leadoff man, and the DH, in his Tuesday start. Look for him to play against most right-handed pitching. In leagues that require two catchers, he’s an excellent speculation play. Jaso is owned in a mere two percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment.
• Honestly, I have no idea what to make of Andrew Heaney. He posted a 4.71 ERA and 1.53 WHIP at Triple-A Salt Lake, and even for the PCL, those are messy numbers. The K/BB ratio (74/25, over 78.1 innings) at least gave us something to hang our hat on.
Then, of course, Heaney comes to the Angels and everything is dreamy. He’s been outstanding in all three of his starts, and they haven't been easy draws: Astros; Yankees; Rockies at Coors. It all adds up to 20.1 innings of deliciousness: 14 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 17 K. We have no choice but to run with this story, see where it takes us.
A weekend start at Seattle sounds nice on paper, and Heaney had prospect buzz a year ago. It's a small sample, but I also like seeing his fastball gaining velocity this year. Heaney is ready to go in 79 percent of Yahoo leagues.
About Last Night: The Castellanos bomb was far from the only explosive highlight at Seattle, as seven homers sailed out of the park. Warm weather, we love you. Robinson Cano hit one of them, then added the walkoff hit in the bottom of the 11th . . . If you had a chance to watch Carson Smith, you had to be impressed (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K). He’s obviously Seattle’s top reliever, and with that, he worked the ninth and tenth in the tie game (getting seven outs if you count an infield error). Fernando Rodney picked up the eighth, allowing a game-tying homer to Yoenis Cespedes . . . Christian Yelich had three hits and two RBIs in a loss at Boston, chasing his average up to .266. I’m expecting a big second half . . . Johnny Cueto gave the scouts something to talk about, throwing a two-hit shutout at Washington (11 strikeouts). The 122 pitches might be a little excessive given Cueto’s elbow problems last month, but the way he was dealing, maybe it’s no big deal. I’ll be surprised if he’s still on Cincinnati’s roster in August . . . Generally it’s stressful to watch your closers work, but Brad Ziegler is proving an exception. He needed just 12 pitches to set the Rangers down in order, en route to handshake No. 13 . . . Yovani Gallardo allowed 13 baserunners and three runs over 5.2 innings, nudging his ERA tho 2.67. A heavy correction seems likely here . . . Alex Gordon went 7-for-9 with a homer and six RBIs as the Royals swept the Rays. It would be nice to see Gordon keep the No. 2 spot in the order, which he definitely deserves (.394 OBP) . . . The Jays gave Roberto Osuna an easy save for once, asking him just to get three outs at Chicago. He did the job, working around one hit. I nonetheless think it's around 50-50 the team trades for relief help . . . Melky Cabrera is finally giving something to the White Sox, on a .349/.389/.523 binge over his last 23 games. He’s been the team’s No. 3 hitter the last seven games. The defense remains a mess, but apparently the White Sox will live with it . . . Kyle Gibson scored his third straight victory, striking out seven. We discussed his case last week. Hop on board.
Brandon – UNDER on the innings pitched, as without Giancarlo Stanton for a month and a half, the Marlins don't appear to have a prayer to make a run back into the wild card hunt. And once the Marlins are officially out of it, no doubt the kid gloves will come out for Fernandez. As for the other O/U numbers here, I'm bullish and will take the UNDER. There's a well-documented history of pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery as strong as ever, especially when you are talking about the recuperative power of a 22-year-old.
Scott – Have to take the UNDER on the workload, as Miami is nowhere near contention and there's absolutely no reason to push things. I'm not worried about the skills out of the box, though, so bank on the ERA being under 3 and the strikeout rate at a zesty level. Enjoy it while it's here.
Andy – I'll take the UNDER on ... well, everything. He's a wonderful pitcher, and TJ surgery clearly doesn't doom a career. I'm only going slightly under on the K/9 because that's just such a high strikeout rate; only 15 qualified starters are doing it now. The innings should be awfully close, but I doubt the Marlins will ride him in September.
Speaking of Cubans, in a March 16th Over/Unders, we tackled expectations for Cuban rookies Jorge Soler, Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas. Our average projection for those three were as follows: Soler (26 HR, 5 SB); Castillo (11/17); Tomas (20/7). A little too bullish? I'd say so. Let's try this again - revised end-of-season HR and SB total for these three?
Brandon – After the immediate success of Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, it was easy to buy into the sudden impact potential of subsequent incoming hyped Cubans. So much for that - you sunk my battleship, Rusney! Alright, here are my revisions - Soler (11/3); Tomas (15/6); Castillo (6/6)
Scott – Tomas is the only guy I can endorse with any confidence; you're otherwise on your own. Tomas 11/3. Soler 8/1, Castillo 5/4.
Dalton – Soler: 14 HR/1 SB. Castillo: 5 HR/7 SB. Tomas: 15 HR/5 SB. Yeah, it's fair to say I was a little too optimistic about this trio.
It's fair to say that Houston rookie Carlos Correa has been even better than advertised in the opening month of his MLB career, posting an OPS above .900. Before he was called up in early June, we asked you to project his line for the '15 campaign (May 27th Over/Unders). Please provide us your revised '15 projections in BA, HR and SB (original projections in parantheses) .
Brandon – (.260/8/15) Yeah, I didn't expect this rush of power right from the get-go, but he was crushing it in the minors too. That said, he's hitting about one out of every four fly balls out of the park, which is obviously going to regress a bit. Let's call his revised line .275/15/15
Andy – (.267/7/17) He's already met my home run projection, which seems crazy. For the season, I'll revise upward to .289/14/18. If he delivers those numbers, we're gonna be selecting this kid very early in 2016 drafts.
Dalton – (.255/8/18) He's not walking and has a high BABIP and HR/FB%, but I'm not going to say this rookie doesn't look like the real deal. I'll say .285/15/18.
Minnesota's Miguel Sano was the headlining call-up of the past week, and he's looked good in his first week on an MLB roster, collecting nine hits in 20 ABs. A big-time power prospect, can Sano reach double-digit home runs for the Twins in his debut campaign - O/U ROS home runs 9.5? Also, rank these rookie 3B-eligibles in terms of expected ROS fantasy production: Sano, Maikel Franco, Yasmany Tomas.
Andy – I'll take the OVER on homers, probably with ease. No one should question his power potential. Huge talent. Still, I'm placing Franco on top of this group; he's been a multi-hit machine lately. After him it's a near-tie, with a small edge to Tomas.
Scott – 1) Franco, 2) Tomas, 3) Sano. Being around the block once or twice has a value to me. I'll go OVER on the Sano homers, but I also think he bats around .225.
Dalton – OVER for Sano's homers, as I think he reaches double digits. 1) Franco 2) Sano 3) Tomas but the latter two are very close.
Coming into the '15 season, Phillies 25-year-old utilityman Cesar Hernandez had a total of 1 SB in 100 career games. In his past 11 games, he's swiped nine bases, giving him 12 SB in 72 games. Can Hernandez continue his "run" and finish the year in the 25-steals club - O/U ROS steals 12.5?
Andy – OVER. Hernandez is raking, plus he was a consistent 20-plus steal guy in the minors, with a career-high 33 in 2013. This isn't some total fluke.
Scott – Easy OVER. There's signature significance to someone running this much in this compact a sample, and Hernandez also gets high marks for his walk rate and contact rate. They'll find a position for him, if need be.
Dalton – OVER. He might double this total. I'm a believer and don't think Chase Utley's eventual return will be an impediment.
Washington shortstop Ian Desmond is the only player to finish with at least 20 steals and 20 homers in each of the past three seasons. But the wheels have come off for him, thus far, as this season he's projected to finish with 14 HR and 6 SB to go with a .213 BA. Give us a second half projection for Desmond in each of those stats.
Brandon – Well, for whatever reason, he's run a lot more in the second half the past few seasons, and two of his three steals this year have come in the past 13 games, so maybe there's a little hope in the speed department, but I'm not expecting much, in general. I'll say he hits at his career average clip (.264) to go with 8 HR and 7 SB - that would give him a tidy (albeit still disappointing) 15/10 line.
Andy – I'm not willing to project a full return to previous levels; this isn't simply a case of a player having a stretch of bad luck. Desmond's K-rate is up, his line-drive rate is down, and, well ... he's been bad, period. Put me down for a .245 average, eight homers and four steals.
Dalton – For the second half, I'll project a .250 BA with eight homers and eight stolen bases.
Texas starter Yovani Gallardo has pitched four consecutive outings without allowing a run, and now owns a scoreless streak of 29.1 IP, dropping his ERA into top 15 territory (2.56) among MLB ERA leaders. Can Gallardo hold up well enough in the second half to finish with what would easily be his best career ERA mark - O/U final '15 ERA of 3.29?
Brandon – UNDER. You look at Gallardo's past four seasons, he's been about three-fourths of a run better ERA-wise after the All-Star break. With a mid-2s first half ERA, he'd have to pitch a bit above a 4.00 ERA the rest of the way to go over here and he's only once finished with an ERA above 3.84 in his career, so I think he's a decent bet to beat this mark.
Scott – OVER. Not missing enough bats. Several Texas pitchers have hit jagged Regression Tours of late; it's coming with Yo Gabba Gabba.
Dalton – OVER. His 9.9 K-BB% is the lowest of his career, and his 6.7 SwStr% ranks No. 86 among all starters in baseball. I'd bet on a big downfall moving forward and would sell if at all possible.
The Mets recently called up their latest pitching prospect sensation, Steven Matz, who has lived up to the hype in his first two MLB starts (1.32 ERA) - O/U Matz's final ERA 2.99? And who would you rather have for ROS, Matz or Noah Syndergaard?
Brandon – UNDER. I say Matz comes just under this O/U. He's in the right league, the right division (Philly, a Stanton-less Miami, Atlanta), and he's never produced an ERA above 2.61 in any of his minor league stops. And I'll also give him the slight nod over Syndergaard for ROS value.
Scott – OVER. Obviously you can't keep a perfect strand rate forever, and the control could be a little better. Matz should be a Top 40 pitcher forward, but now is a good time to shop him, while expectations are sliding out of control. Syndegaard had better strikeout and walk rates in the minors, a good way to break the tie.
Andy – Look, you can't go wrong with either pitcher. I hate to pick a favorite here. Matz delivered a 2.19 ERA at Las Vegas this year, in an exceedingly hitter-friendly environment. He's great. I'll take SYNDERGAARD in this debate, but not by a wide margin. And I'd be thrilled to own either player.
I’m not going to sell you on Max Scherzer or Coors Field (weather permitting), I suspect you can get there on your own. Let’s look for some names under the surface. As always, consider the lineups and the forecasts before you make your final DFS decisions.
Brett Anderson, SP, vs. PHI (Billingsley), $7900 on Fan Duel: Although Anderson is the highest Tuesday favorite by a mile, he’s merely the No. 11 pitcher by price. The Phillies do better against lefties than they do against righties, but it still washes out as the No. 28 offense in scoring. If you like the pitcher, you run to this matchup. Anderson is in fine form, with a 1.61 ERA over his last four starts (three of them victories).
Taijuan Walker, SP, vs. DET (Ryan), $8100: The Detroit offense has finally shown some teeth, but Walker’s been untouchable over his last nine starts (1.68 ERA, 3 BB, 51 K). Advantage, pitcher. He also draws a weak link in the Tigers rotation. Walker looks like the next American League pitching star, and most of Detroit's strong bats are right-handed.
The Usual Dodgers, vs PHI (Billingsley): While Los Angeles is a modest tenth in overall scoring, this lineup really loves to crush against right-handed pitching (No. 1 in weighted on-base average), especially when a journeyman like Chad Billingsley returns to town. Justin Turner is a reverse-split delight to consider, and also look for your usual lefties to plug and play: Pederson, Gonzalez, Ethier, Grandal, Hollandsworth, Snider. Heck, Jimmy Rollins showed signs of life Monday, perhaps inspired by the presence of his former club.
Nelson Cruz, OF, vs. DET (Ryan), $3300: His slash line hasn’t been much since the onset of June, but at least Cruz already has a couple of homers in the fresh month. More appealing: he’s facing an ordinary lefty in Detroit’s Kyle Ryan, and he rocks a .364/.462/.836 line against the southpaws this year. Most of Cruz’s pop has also come on the road, but with this good a draw and price, I’m willing to overlook that.
Stephen Vogt, C, at NYY (Eovaldi), $3100: While the radar gun is nifty, there isn’t much else to like about Nathan Eovaldi (4.52 ERA). Any Oakland lefty you normally consider is in a good spot in front of the Yankee Stadium short porch, with All-Star Vogt (off a price reduction) the first name I prefer. If you want to keep stacking along, Billy Burns (leadoff), Ben Zobrist (third) and Josh Reddick (fourth) could be fun, too.
Jung Ho Kang, SS, vs. SD (Ross), $2400: You have to dodge the raindrops in the Pittsburgh forecast, and Tyson Ross is no easy mark. That said, Kang is set in the cleanup spot and shortstop is a common area to look for a punt option. I realize Kang’s offense has collapsed in recent weeks, but irregular playing time often causes that. Now that Josh Harrison (thumb) is out of the lineup, Kang has to play.
Gregory Polanco, OF, vs. SD (Ross), $2200: Please, weather gods, let this one play out. If Polanco can get to first base, Tyson Ross - the ultimate bag giveaway - will wave him to second. Polanco also has some positive history in the matchup, with a homer and double over a 3-for-6 stretch. Maybe that latter fact doesn’t matter to you, but Polanco’s legs, minimum salary and steal-friendly matchup are lovely things. Polanco hasn’t been in fine form of late (though he had three hits in front of me at Comerica), but that’s why the price sits where it is. There’s plausible upside here.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. MIA (Haren), $3200: He’s still in a reasonable price area, despite the modest comeback, and he has some nice history against Danny Haren (.760 slugging, three homers over 25 at-bats). Although Haren’s ERA has a pretty glow to it, he’s still prone to homer problems, especially in road assignments (4.03 ERA). Lefties also have a .792 OPS against Haren.
Danny Valencia, 3B, at CHW (Quintana), $2900: I won’t blame anyone who prefers Josh Donaldson at $4100 in this spot, but if you’re in a cash-save mode, Valencia offers an .842 OPS against lefties. You’ll need to confirm the lineup, of course, but Valencia figures to get some run Tuesday. Also pay note to Chris Colabello’s .378/.429/.689 slash in the platoon advantage.
Juan Uribe, 3B, at MIL (Cravy), $2700: He’s in a good run at the moment (three homers last week), and you want him all week for standard formats, with four Coors Field games on the way. Tuesday also looks reasonable, up against an inexperienced Tyler Cravy and in a favorable scoring environment. Ah, the friendly Midwest.
You could add Juan Uribe for the clubhouse chemistry, or for the hot bat he’s swinging. The tie breaker should be the schedule.
When we last talked about Uribe, he was the 36-year-old third baseman creating a multi-car pileup in Los Angeles. The Dodgers traded Uribe to Atlanta in late May, essentially to open up time for Justin Turner (and not Alex Guerrero, as I suspected). Uribe had a .596 OPS at the time, so no one thought too much about it.
Uribe’s first 35 games in Atlanta have been fun: .305/.364/.500, six homers. He knocked three out of the park last week and had a couple of hits in Monday’s victory over Milwaukee. He’s the No. 10 third baseman in Yahoo leagues over the last two weeks.
The payoff to the story should be later this week, when Atlanta heads to Coors Field for a four-game junket. Thin air, the cure to all that ails us. The Rockies have a 5.42 ERA at home, the gasoline alley of the majors. No other pitching staff is close.
There’s plenty of time to get in on the story, as Uribe is owned in just four percent of Yahoo leagues. This doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment; let’s just take a stab at some numbers this week and see where it takes us.
• It was interesting to watch Carlos Carrasco struggle with Houston (4 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 5 K), just one start removed from the no-hit bid at Tampa Bay. It also makes you wonder if Carrasco’s workload against the Rays - a season-high 124 pitches - played into the mess from Monday.
You never can sit someone this talented in a seasonal format, but perhaps it’s something to monitor, and fade, the next time you see a similar setup in daily formats. Carrasco was far and away the most common own in the handful of leagues I played in Monday; in one 50-50 room, he was over 70 percent rostered.
• Maybe the Mets can flip Jon Niese for a batter after all. He picked up a win Monday at San Francisco, working eight scoreless (3 H, 2 BB, 4 K). It’s the sixth straight quality turn for Niese, who now has a 3.58 ERA on the year.
Alas, because of the Mets six-man rotation (and the All-Star break), we might not see Niese start another game for a while. You have to assume New York will roll out its big guns after the break, albeit if there’s one backwards team that might use Niese at the expense of its true superstars, it’s this one. I'll leave Niese alone on the waiver wire.
Chris Heston didn’t have his best stuff on the other side Monday, though he still provided a useful line in the end (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 2, K). His 3.51 ERA remains misleading, sullied by two starts at Coors Field. Take those assignments out of the mix (which is perfectly reasonable, a strategy most employ) and we’re looking at a 2.78 number. He’s recommended on the weekend, hosting the Phillies.
• Coors Field also tried to steer some people off the John Lackey case, but hopefully you were too smart for that. Lackey was pounded for 10 runs (eight earned) in a thin-air assignment back on June 8, but he’s been super since. Add up the five subsequent turns (including Monday’s win art Chicago) and this is what you get: 1.75 ERA, 1.11 WHIP. His ERA at normal sea levels this year is a tidy 2.53.
The next time a good pitcher gets obliterated at Coors, you know what to do. Ignore the noise.
About Last Night: Every Detroit hitter who feels like going bonkers at Seattle, step forward. Not so fast, Ian Kinsler (5-0-0-0). The rest of the club went on 12-run, 19-hit bender, with both Martinezes homering (along with Yoenis Cespedes and Nick Castellanos). Jose Iglesias only had one hit, but he’s nonetheless kept that .323 average, somehow . . . It was our last chance to bat-stream against Sean O’Sullivan (6.08 ERA); the Phillies dropped him after the game. The Phillies at least did some nice things on their end of the 10-7 loss, with the usual trio (Hernandez steal, Franco 3-2-1-0, Howard three-run jack) getting in on the fun. If Cesar Hernandez loses his job to Chase Utley anytime soon (Utley is still rehabbing, of course), we’ll all need therapy . . . I realize Jung Ho Kang hasn’t hit for several weeks now, but part-time play will often mess up a player’s timing and confidence. He’s an interesting gambit now that Josh Harrison is going to miss six weeks. Kang slotted cleanup in Monday’s win over San Diego, going 1-for-4. I re-added him in a few spots, mindful of the dual-position eligibility (short, third) . . . What would the Ian Desmond hat-trick be? He had a strikeout, a steal and an error in the loss to Cincinnati, though it’s just his third bag in 2015. He’s at .212/.254/.334 for the year. His owners need one bourbon, one scotch, one beer, repeat . . . Chris Sale only struck out six Toronto batters, but that also kept his pitch count reasonable - and kept Robin Ventura in the dugout. Sale ultimately needed 108 pitches to finish off the Jays (6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K), trimming his ERA to 2.80. He’s at Wrigley on Saturday . . . Gerardo Parra's ridiculous run continued: another homer, two more hits. He's been linked to a handful of contending clubs, with San Francisco an interesting possibility. Parra is finally up to 44-percent owned in the Y; he was under 20 percent on the weekend. Welcome, newcomers, look for seating in the back. He's the No. 13 player in Yahoo over the last month (.360-20-5-10-5).
We have a few small weather concerns on Monday — Kansas City certainly looks like a problem — but nothing we can't manage around. As always, be sure to double-check lineups before it's too late. Now let's get to the usual bargain hunt...
Joc Pederson, OF, vs. Phi (O'Sullivan), $3300 at FanDuel: Left-handed hitters have slashed .369/.424/.730 against O'Sullivan so far this season (41-for-111, 20 XBH), which is, of course, ridiculous. Seems like a good day to stack a few Dodgers LHBs, doesn't it? I'm rolling out 2-3 in pretty much all lineups.
Wei-Yin Chen, P, at Min (Hughes), $7800: Here's a quality low-cost alternative to Monday's priciest pitchers (Sale, Keuchel, Carrasco), for those looking to squeeze a few luxury bats onto a roster. Chen has limited opponents to two runs or less in each of his last five starts, and in 10 of his last 14. He's had some good fortune on balls-in-play, true (.257 BABIP), but it's not as if we're talking about a guy with a poor history. He's facing a lineup that ranks No. 13 in the A.L. in both homers (66) and team OBP (.302), so there's no great reason to fear today's opponent.
Yasmani Grandal, C, vs. Phi (O'Sullivan), $3200: Please see the Pederson blurb for details. Also note that Grandal has three multi-hit games in his last four starts.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, at LAD (Surkamp), $3000: Yup, I'm all over this Phillies-Dodgers matchup. Hernandez gets to face an exceedingly sketchy left-handed starter on Monday; Surkamp's career major league WHIP is 1.73, and he wasn't exactly shredding the PCL (4.50 ERA, 1.53 WHIP). Over the past 16 games, Hernandez has been on an insane tear: 28-for-65, 14 R, 10 RBIs, 6 BB, 8 SB. He's also slashing .400/.481/.467 vs. LHPs for the year.
Andre Ethier, OF, vs. Phi (O'Sullivan), $2400: OK, this will be my last Dodgers position player, I swear. Ethier is having a quality season, as most of you know, hitting .270/.353/.473 with 10 HR. If you need additional convincing, I'll refer you to this Matchup Ratings blurb:
Ethier is slugging .556 and hitting .356 (16-for-45) against soft-throwing righties like O'Sullivan in the last two seasons.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, vs. Tor (Buehrle), $2200: If you dig deep in the shortstop pool, you'll find a few familiar names among the minimum-price players, including Alexei. He's having a disastrous season, obviously, so the price tag fits. Still, he's 5-for-11 with a steal and a pair of walks over his last three games, plus he has a decent history against Buehrle, if that's your thing (4-for-9, 0 Ks).
A.J. Burnett, P, vs. SD (Shields), $9100: Burnett is a high-K starter pitching at home, facing a team that ranks dead-last in the N.L. in on-base percentage. He's held opponents to two earned runs or less in 13 of his 16 starts this season, so it's not as if he hasn't been consistent. The only Pads hitters who've handled him well over the years are Justin Upton (8-for-16, 2 HR) and Will Venable (9-for-22, 2 HR).
Melky Cabrera, OF, vs. Tor (Buehrle), $2600: Cabrera began showing signs of life a couple weeks ago, when he delivered that 5-for-5 line against Texas. He's hit safely in seven of his last eight, with three multi-hit games and four XBHs during that stretch. He also owns Buehrle, just so you know: 17-for-30, 4 doubles, two HR, two Ks.
Maikel Franco, 3B, at LAD (Surkamp), $3300: Yes, that's right, half of today's recommended plays are coming from a single game. That's what you get when the schedule is a little light, and O'Sullivan matches up against Surkamp. Franco has remained scorching-hot, with nine multi-hit games in his last 16. He's hit four homers in 34 at-bats against lefties this year, so the matchup is plenty appealing.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, at CHC (Lester), $3100: I suppose an all-star hangover is possible, but Peralta has been so steady, and the guy has a nice history against Lester: 8-for-31, 3 HR, 5 BB. At this price, I'm in.
Welcome to the research season.
Soon some 50 million fantasy maniacs will thumb through volumes of scouting reports, stats and trends to put themselves in a position to CRUSH the competition. Questions, some rhetorical and some not, will be bandied about in an attempt to separate the loved from the loathed. Can C.J. Anderson thrive in Gary Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme? Is Tevin Coleman, battling Devonta Freeman and Antone Smith for the Falcons’ starting gig, worth the dice roll in the middle rounds? Was Martavis Bryant’s spectacular rookie stretch a mirage? Is it possible for Geno Smith to not royally suck?
However, of all the characteristics weighed, none is more divisive than date-of-birth.
Every August, fantasy ageists seduced by ceilings purposely bypass the reliable services of elder statesman for the potential of pretty young things, this year an occurrence typically seen at wide receiver. In a game where unrealistic expectations are commonly placed on still developing commodities, these veteran misanthropes salivate at the mere mention of “upside,” an intoxicating and, often errant, reaction. Choosing to spend exorbitantly on a Kelvin Benjamin instead of conserving cash by drafting Steve Smith can, and often does, blow up in one’s face. Just ask those who chopped off a leg for Keenan Allen or Michael Floyd last year.
Though a few doddering geriatrics have slipped in recent years, a fair number continue to crank out useful production season after season, much to the dismay of their critics. What undervalued WR septuagenarians (Andre Johnson at his current 42.8 ADP doesn't count) are primed for profitable 2015s? Here are my top-five:
Steve Smith, Bal (Yahoo ADP 102.5, WR37) – Smith may have made a cameo as a grazing triceratops in "Jurassic World," but the 36-year-old is hardly fossilized. He slowed a bit down the stretch last season (WR45 from Week 10 on), but he still possesses the quickness and toughness to wreck havoc. Not to mention his stiff arm remains one of the league's most vicious. In an aerial aggressive Marc Trestman spread offense he could easily best his top-20 WR line from 2014 (79-1065-6). Recall the Bears under Trestman chucked the pill 60.6 percent of the time last year. Some within the "expert" community are gaga over Breshad Perriman. The rookie's muscular frame and fleet feet are certainly attractive. However, he struggled with drops in mini-camp and overall sports a green route tree. With the Torrey Smith roadshow of underachievement now playing in San Francisco and Owen Daniels also out of the picture, Smith Sr. and Justin Forsett are Joe Flacco's only reliable options. The trash-talking target, who ranked No. 13 in yards per route run in a more conservative scheme last year, is primed for another 125-plus looks.
Fearless Forecast: 73 receptions, 1,011 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
Anquan Boldin, SF (120.8, WR50) – The disrespect Boldin has received in early drafts is criminal. In his first two seasons by the Bay, the Niner hauled in 168 receptions, 2,241 yards and 12 touchdowns. As a result, he finished inside the WR top-24 in consecutive seasons. Still, members of the fantasy community continue to voice their concerns. Colin Kaepernick's ongoing inconsistencies, Torrey Smith's arrival and San Fran's presumed return to the read-option have downgraded the receiver, a misguided viewpoint. He was teammates with Emmitt Smith his rookie season, a tie that shows how long he's been around, but the long-toothed target will again crack the WR3 ranks, at a minimum. He remains a gritty, savvy, greaseman who can brutalize defenses underneath and occasionally on the sidelines. Combine that with the "tremendous strides" Kaepernick has made mechanically this offseason and San Fran's issues on D, and he should again turn a tidy profit. Though the scheme has changed, look for the venerable weapon to rack appreciable numbers working mostly out of the slot, a position he posted a 73.2 catch percentage in last year. It's mind-blowing he and rookie project Dorial Green-Beckham share an almost identical ADP.
Fearless Forecast: 80 receptions, 1,006 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
Marques Colston, NO (116.6, WR44) – The number of targets up for grabs in New Orleans this season: 263. That's what Jimmy Graham, Pierre Thomas and Kenny Stills, now establishing roots in new locales, accounted for last fall. Everyone anticipates Brandin Cooks, C.J. Spiller and Josh Hill to earn the majority of those looks, but Grandpa Colston will entice his fair share. Admittedly, he's slowed a bit, struggled with drops (No. 76 in drop rate in '14) and has been wildly undependable on a week-in, week-out basis in recent years, but he's missed only two games since 2012 and has finished inside the WR top-36 in nine-straight seasons. For his flaws, the dude is a rock. The veteran revealed last month his 2014 decline left a bitter taste. That chip combined with more managed practice reps should greatly assist him in rebooting his career. The Saints have expressed a desire to run the ball more, but the increased opportunities matched with Colston's red-zone usefulness imply he's a screaming good deal in the later rounds. Drew Brees is his quarterback for crying out loud.
Fearless Forecast: 69 receptions, 917 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Percy Harvin, Buf (112.3, WR42) – To most, Harvin might as well be invisible. Once a highly productive Viking, his persistent temper tantrums, under-performance and myriad injuries have reduced his value to pennies on the dollar. Despite the sharp decline, the newly signed Bill isn't sans confidence. In early April he boasted "The world has yet to see me really explode like I'm about to." A Brett Favre comeback may seem less far-fetched, but the chances of a Harvin rebound are better than you think. For the first time in his career, he's expected to shift around seeing action not only in the slot, but outside. With defenses focused on Sammy Watkins, he could see upwards of 6-8 targets per game. Yes, Rex Ryan and Greg Roman are Ted Cruz-level conservative and if J.P. Losman were still active he would probably run away with the starting QB gig (Tyrod Taylor?! Really?!), but Harvin's gadgetry can still inflict damage. Touchdowns will be a rare occurrence, however, I could see him cracking the 65-catch mark. His days of 11-plus fantasy points per game are long gone, but a top-30 WR finish in PPR is absolutely achievable. Much younger (27) than he seems (4,000), Harvin is a low-risk, medium-reward plus-100 pick.
Fearless Forecast (14 games): 66 receptions, 702 receiving yards, 189 rushing yards, 4 total touchdowns
Steve Johnson, SD (123.5, WR52) – After an uneventful season in San Fran, Johnson traveled down the coastline this offseason in an attempt to reverse his fortunes. As a Buffalo Bill from 2010-2012, he was a highly employable WR2/WR3 in 12-team formats. During that stretch he suited up all 48 games and amassed 79 receptions, 1,041 yards and 7.7 touchdowns per season. Solid. Unfortunately, various nicks and scrapes combined with the Niners' run-heavy scheme derailed his career shortly thereafter. Now expected to slide into the slot, a role vacated by Eddie Royal, Johnson is in a prime position to rediscover his mojo. Though a circuitous route runner, he possesses excellent separation skills and versatility. Already reportedly on the same page as Philip Rivers, he could entice some 110-120 targets in Mike McCoy's high-efficiency offense. Keep in mind, Malcom Floyd turns 34 in September, Keenan Allen is coming off a sophomore slump and Antonio Gates will miss the first four games of the season due to suspension. In the blurry-eyed portion of drafts, there may not be a more attractive option. Don't be surprised if he occasionally ventures into WR2 territory.
Fearless Forecast: 65 receptions, 698 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
OTHER AGED WRs FAR FROM A LIFE OF RASCAL RACES AND SPONGE BATHS
Pierre Garcon, Was (119.2, WR49) – Do you trust RG3? That's the $64,000 question gamers targeting Garcon are struggling with. His 2014 was largely forgettable (WR54 finish), but Jay Gruden is plotting to revive his wideout's production. In mini-camp Garcon moved from "X" to "Z," a position designed to prominently feature the pass-catcher. DeSean Jackson is still the primary downfield threat, but Garcon, who typically operates underneath, will routinely get his hands dirty. Recall he's only two years removed from a 113-catch campaign. Many believe Griffin will improve measurably in Year 2 under Gruden. If that occurs, Garcon has respectable odds of landing in the 80-85 reception range. Don't forget Joe Barry's newly installed hybrid 3-4 defense is a major work in progress. Invest happily.
Eric Decker, NYJ (88.9, WR30) – In expert exercises the Jet has consistently gone in the 100-120 overall range, which is baffling. Oscar the Grouch smells rosier than Geno Smith, but the arrival of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall should help boost Decker. Remember he was the 29th-best WR in the virtual game last year. In what should be an attacking spread offense under Chan Gailey, he has 7-9 TD potential. Bargain.
Roddy White, Atl (71.7, WR28) – Every year the humble wideout downplays his role and nearly every year he manages to grab 80 passes. This offseason, the veteran disclosed Atlanta's desire to run the ball, a believable outcome with Kyle Shanahan calling the shots. Still, White is destined to carve out a prominent role, especially with defenses keying on Julio Jones. His Yahoo ADP feels right, but in several drafts I've participated in he's fallen into the 100s. Absurd. Bank on another 75-80 catches, 900 yards and 5-7 TDs.
Vincent Jackson, TB (64.7, WR27) – Slated for action "all over the place," including in the slot, Jackson has a reasonable shot to log his seventh 1,000-yard campaign in eight years. Jameis Winston is a giant upgrade at QB (As PFF's Mike Clay points out, only 55 percent of his 138 targets last year were delivered accurately) and Dirk Koetter, who did wonders with Matt Ryan early in his career, is one of the more inventive offensive coordinators in the league. He scored only two TDs last year, but with Mike Evans drawing so much attention, that total was an anomaly. A final tally in the area of 70-1000-7 is likely.
Larry Fitzgerald, Ari (92.4, WR31) – Fitz reminds me of former 90s rock band "The Spin Doctors," a former chart-topper who once filled arenas but now only attracts a couple hundred stragglers at a Tupelo casino. Despite a 98.5 percent on-target catch rate, complications stemming from option routes and horrendous QB play greatly hindered his fantasy contributions last year. However, there's hope for the 31-year-old to regain owner faith. Carson Palmer, who he connected 32 times for 483 yards and two TDs with over six games (109-85-1288-5 16-game extrapolation), is back under center and the projected emergence of John Brown should alleviate pressure. His presence inside the WR top-20 is likely over, but he should deliver sound WR3 totals on roughly 110-120 targets.
Eddie Royal, Chi (123.8, WR54) – Reunited with His Smugness, Jay Cutler, Royal is optimistic he'll rekindle the magic the pair once had in Denver. He raced out of the gates last season notching the 20th-best line among wideouts over the first five weeks (0.30 fpts/snap) but floundered after, limping to a No. 49 finish from Week 6 on (0.21). Still, the slot machine has generated some buzz this offseason. Pro Football Talk and NFL Network's Albert Breer have heard the Bears plan to feature him heavily. Alshon Jeffery is the unrivaled No. 1, but rookie Kevin White may experience some growing pains. That happens and Royal will benefit, particularly early on. And let's not forget, unless Vic Fangio somehow cloned Wilber Marshall, Richard Dent, Steve McMichael and The Fridge, the Bears' overly generous defense will lead to increased opportunities. A similar tally as his 2014 effort in San Diego (62-778-7) is very possible.
I mostly stayed away from Zack Greinke in my drafts before the season, worried about him having to receive a “lubricating injection” in his elbow in February. But that’s clearly been to my detriment, as his consecutive scoreless innings streak is now up to 27.2, a span in which he’s posted a 0.65 WHIP. He’s also allowed one run or fewer in 10 of his last 12 starts, yielding more than three in just one of 17 outings this season. Greinke’s LOB% (88.9) is the highest in MLB, so he’s clearly been lucky with runners on base, but no pitcher with a 1.58 ERA won’t have some statistical category that isn’t fortunate compared to league average. And while that will regress, Greinke has otherwise been unlucky with a modest seven wins while pitching so well for a Dodgers team with a 114 wRC+ that ranks second in all of baseball. He sports an 11.0 SwStr% and has been the No. 11 fantasy player over the past two weeks. Greinke has been one of the biggest fantasy steals so far this season.
Quick Hits: Mitch Moreland finished June with a .323-16-9-25 line in 25 games, when he was a top-15 fantasy player. He owns a .954 OPS against right handers this season and is on pace to smash all of his previous career highs across the board...Angel Pagan’s last homer came May 2, 2014. Over his past 687 at bats, he has three home runs...Alex Wood won a game for the first time at home this year Saturday, as he’s posted a 5.18 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in Atlanta...Marlon Byrd ranks top-20 in MLB with 12 homers since May began despite missing 17 days with a broken wrist. He’s currently owned in fewer than 40% of Yahoo leagues...This slide by Anthony Rizzo was legit...The Dodgers hadn’t stolen a base since June 7 (23 games) before Howie Kendrick swiped one Friday, ending a franchise worse streak dating back to 1900. Through 80 games last season, LAD had an MLB-high 81 steals, but they had an MLB-low 15 this year over that same span. The Dodgers’ team SB percentage (43.24) is not only last but way below the next lowest (54.35). Then again, they are the only team in MLB not to lose four straight games this season...Meanwhile, Billy Hamilton has more stolen bases (41) than 15 MLB teams, which is half the league by the way...Saturday’s start marked just the second time in Matt Harvey’s career in which he walked more batters than he struck out...Kris Bryant didn’t hit a home run in the first 20 games of his major league career and just ended another nine-game homerless drought Saturday, but if you prorated his numbers over 600 at bats, you’d get .279-101-28-112-18. He’ll be a top-15 fantasy pick in 2016.
Headlines of the Week: Woman Gives Birth, Fights Off Bees, Starts Wildfire In Northern California...Is This The World’s Fanciest McDonald’s?...Man Finds $70K Worth Of Uncashed City Of Phoenix Checks In Dumpster...Study Estimates Sugary Drinks More Deadly Than Violent Crime In Mexico...Hank Baskett Says Weed Deal Gone Wrong Turned Into Orgy With Transgender Women...Robot Kills Worker At Volkswagen Plant In Germany...Man Forgets Glasses, Mistakenly Buys Winning Lottery Ticket...Man Mocks Alligators, Jumps In Water And Is Killed In Texas...Optical Illusion Makes Beautiful Brunette Magically Appear On A Blank Screen...‘Cute Black Puppies’ Raised By Villager For Two Years Turn Out Endangered Black Bears.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Taijuan Walker has a 1.68 ERA and 0.79 WHIP with a 51:3 K:BB ratio over his last seven starts. He has a 10.1 SwStr% on the year and should be treated as a top-25 fantasy starter moving forward...Justin Bour recently homered in four straight games and has gone deep 10 times over just 132 at bats against righties this season...Over the last month, J.D. Martinez is batting .351 with 14 homers, 18 runs scored and 34 RBI, when he’s been the No. 1 overall fantasy player. His 43.4 Hard% ranks top-three among all hitters this season...Here’s Trevor Bauer imitating three teammates’ batting stances during what turns out to be a pretty impressive at bat...Here’s Josh Phegley saving a wild, wild pitch...Dee Gordon uses his speed and hits the ball on the ground to get on base, but it’s pretty crazy he owns a .342 batting average with the fifth-lowest Hard% (18.1) in MLB...The Angels have three straight games with 15+ hits...Marcell Ozuna joined elite company when he hit 23 homers as a 23-year-old last season, so it’s crazy to see him get sent to the minors, especially on a team not contending. Even with all his struggles he’s hit .317/.373/.467 against LHP this season...Speaking of disappointments, I wouldn’t let Jorge Soler be a free agent in any league in which he’s currently available, given his return from the DL. There’s still a lot of upside there...Moreover, Soler’s teammate Jason Motte is owned in only 15% of Yahoo leagues, and he very well might be the Cubs’ closer. Go add him.
Police Blotter: Squabbling, Hesitation And Luck Had Roles In Manhunt For New York Prison Escapees...Woman, 88, Charged With Assault On Officer...A Woman Calls The Police After She Was Unhappy With Her New Haircut...Man In Wheelchair Allegedly Robs Bank...Man Who Took 300-Mile Cab Ride To Surprise Fiancée Jailed For Not Paying $749 Fare...Woman Charged With Leaving Son, 4, Tied To A Bush...TV News Crews Robbed In S.F.; Cameraman Pistol-Whipped.
Longread of the Week: The Most Exclusive U.S. College You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
Quick Hits Part Tres: Brian Dozier leads MLB by a wide margin when it comes to Pull% (63.6, with the next closest being Mark Teixeira at 56.3), which is helpful considering it’s tougher to shift against a right-handed batter compared to lefties. Teixeira, by the way, is on pace to finish with 117 RBI...Meanwhile, no player has pulled the ball less than DJ LeMahieu (21.7%), which is interesting considering his 27.5 LD% ranks top-seven...Clay Buchholz’s K-BB% (17.9) is somehow higher than Felix Hernandez (17.0), Greinke (17.7), Cole Hamels (17.7) and Sonny Gray (16.8)...Here’s Avisail Garcia robbing Chris Davis of a game-tying homer in the ninth inning...Stephen Strasburg to the DL again? It’s almost as if I shouldn’t have taken him in the second round in the majority of my leagues...I must admit, I didn’t expect the Astros to have nine more wins than the Red Sox at this point of the season...Since leaving the friendly confines of Chase Field, Mark Trumbo is batting .146/.176/.195 after joining Seattle. It’s a small sample, but he’s droppable...Matt Moore didn’t have a good first start back returning from TJ surgery, but he’s only owned in 31% of Yahoo leagues, which seems low given his potential, although to be fair his velocity is a concern...It’s even crazier Miguel Sano is owned in just 40% of leagues...Cesar Hernandez has eight steals over the last nine games, and while he’s obviously playing over his head, he’s been the No. 1 fantasy player over the past two weeks and is owned in fewer than 40% of leagues. There’s hardly any guarantee Chase Utley retakes this job. Those in need of steals should grab Hernandez.
J.D. Martinez, OF, vs. TOR (Estrada), $4300: He’s had a pretty good 22-game run, wouldn’t you say? It adds up to a .360/.396/.849 slash line, with 13 homers and 32 RBIs. Martinez’s best output this year has come at home (.983 OPS) and against right-handed pitching (.572 slugging percentage). Take some hacks in The D. Marco Estrada generally keeps the ball in the air, too.
Gerardo Parra, OF, at CIN (Leake), $3000: Life is better with a little Rico Suave in your life. Parra carries a zesty .824 OPS against righties this year, and over the last month he’s a .356/.500/.525 man, with four homers and five steals. How is this cat owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo seasonal leagues? Did you lose your password? Start clicking, clickers.
Lance Lynn, SP, vs. SD (Kennedy), $9000: While he’s the third-largest ticket on the mound for Sunday, a 9K check won’t block you from signing anyone else you want. The Padres are 26th in weighted on-base average overall, and 27th against right-handed pitching.
Justin Smoak, 1B, at DET (Verlander), $2900: I don’t blame anyone who eschews a value play at first base, because there are so many fun picks here. Nonetheless, Smoak has shown up in his last two starts (two homers, five times on base) and he has good history with Justin Verlander, if two homers in 12 at-bats matters to you. Runs are expected in this matchup, with the total set at nine. And Smoak is confirmed to start, slotted fifth in the best lineup in the majors.
Brian Dozier, 2B, at KC (Duffy), $3600: Dozier has been one of my favorite players for a while, but you especially love him against a lefty. His career OPS jumps 171 points in the platoon advantage. How can some pundits continue to rank Robinson Cano over this stud? Oh well, makes the game easier for us to beat.
Michael Bolsinger, SP, vs NYM (Matz), $6500: Although Bolsinger is the second-highest favorite on the Sunday card, he checks in as the No. 24 pitcher on Fan Duel. I like that kind of party. There’s short-inning risk for Bolsinger, of course, and he did leave his last turn early due to a touch of food poisoning, but you want to attack this Mets offense (last in wOBA, 29th in wOBA against righties) whenever possible.
Ryan Howard, 1B, at ATL (Miller), $2400: He apparently likes the tilt of Shelby Miller: 5-for-11, three homers. The Philly offense is easy to laugh at in total, but at least Howard is working behind the two best assets here, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco.
Erick Aybar, SS, at TEX (Lewis), $2700: You’ll have to confirm the lineup slot, but I can’t imagine the Halos will sit Aybar after watching him go 8-for-12 (five runs, three doubles) in the first two games at Arlington. Coby Lewis will keep the ball in play, we know that to be true.
Kole Calhoun, OF, at TEX (Lewis), $2500: Here’s another Anaheim batter tearing it up in the Arlington series, and he’s 8-for-16 career against Lewis. It’s a giveaway price, too.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, vs. LAA (Wilson), $2600: Maybe he's not the same player he once was, but it's still a friendly park, a platoon advantage, and a come-hither price. Yo, Adrian.
Carlos Martinez, SP, vs. SD (Despaigne), $10000 at FanDuel: His control could still use some improvement, but Martinez has a 25.9 K% combined with a 2.20 GB/FB ratio this season. He also sports a 10.4 SwStr%, so he’s become an elite pitcher, thanks mostly to his newfound ability to get left handers out. The Cardinals are one of the most favored teams Saturday (-185), while the Padres’ .668 OPS against RHP has been the fifth worst in all of baseball this season.
Joey Votto, 1B, vs. Mil (Nelson), $3400: He has nine homers over 127 at bats with a .406 OBP and a .504 SLG at home this year. In fact, he has more walks (31) than strikeouts (30) at GAB. Jimmy Nelson has allowed a .308 BAA with a 1.76 WHIP when facing LHB.
Robinson Cano, 2B, at Oak (Graveman), $2700: He’s 7-for-14 with two doubles and a homer over his past three games, so I’m going to continue to go with someone with such a strong track record at such a cheap price.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, vs. Tex (Santiago), $2600: Speaking of bargains with strong track records, Beltre hasn’t had an OPS lower than .879 over his previous five seasons before this one, and yet he’s not priced as a top-25 third baseman here. He also owns a career 1.335 OPS over 20 at bats versus Hector Santiago.
Ryan Raburn, OF, at Pit (Locke), $2400: It’s back to the well with Raburn, who’s batting .313/.402/.563 versus southpaws this season. He also usually hits cleanup against them, while Jeff Locke has a 1.57 WHIP when facing righties this year.
Alex Gordon, OF, vs. Min (Pelfrey), $2400: It’s not ideal where Gordon has been hitting in Kansas City’s lineup, but he owns a .392 OBP against RHP this season and a 1.212 OPS against Mike Pelfrey during his career.
Carlos Ruiz, C, at ATL (Wood), $2300: Cameron Rupp might very well be taking over the Phillies’ main catching job, but Ruiz is batting .333/.400/.476 against lefties this season, so he’s a bargain here assuming he’s back in Philadelphia’s lineup. Ruiz is also 6-for-9 with a walk and five RBI with no strikeouts against Travis Wood during his career.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, at Ari (Corbin), $3700: He’s been a disappointment this year and typically is much better at home, but Tulowitzki has hit .424/.435/.661 against lefties this season, and he’ll be facing a southpaw Saturday who will be making his first start since 2013. Chase Field is also a great hitter’s park, and shortstop remains a really thin position, so this seems like a no brainer.
Mike Trout, OF, at Tex (Rodriguez), $5100: Just to let you know, Trout is really good at baseball, but he also owns a 1.036 OPS against LHP this season. To be clear, if you used the lineup listed so far with some big names, there would still be $400 available on FanDuel.
Manny Machado, 3B, at CHW (Samardzija), $4100: He’s 5-for-6 with two homers during his career versus Jeff Samardzija, which is both a small sample size yet pretty impressive nevertheless.
I'm back from vacation, thrown immediately into the DFS fire. We have some wetness in the Friday forecast, so buyers beware. Prepare to tweak lineups as needed.
Michael Wacha, P, vs. SD (Cashner), $8600 at FanDuel: OK, sure, Kershaw is the best available starter on Friday, even if he's facing a pretty fair opposing starter (Syndergaard). But Kershaw is also Friday's priciest option, massively more expensive than Wacha, a guy with a 1.10 WHIP. St. Louis hosts the Pads, and San Diego enters the day ranked next-to-last in the N.L. in on-base percentage (.295).
Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. Hou (Straily), $2400: Straily is obviously a hittable right-hander and Sandoval is slashing .314/.366/.492 against RHPs this year. Panda's performance versus lefties has been atrocious, as most of you know, but he's a quality option in this spot.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, at Cin (Lorenzen), $3000: Weather is a concern in Cincinnati on Friday night, but Lucroy would be a terrific play, assuming no PPD. He's 8-for-15 over his last three games with a double, one walk and five RBIs. Signs of life, at last.
J.J. Hardy, SS, at CWS (Danks), $2600: John Danks is starting for the White Sox, and ... well, that's all you need to know. Please consider stacking a few O's.
Luis Valbuena, 3B, at Bos (Masterson), $3400: Masterson has not retired a left-handed batter since Tony Womack in 2005. Go ahead, look it up.
David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Hou (Straily), $2900: Papi has homered in three of his past five games, and Straily has allowed 37 bombs over 243.2 major league innings (1.37 HR/9). At this price, Ortiz frees up cash for a few luxury buys.
Ubaldo Jimenez, P, at CWS (Danks), $8400: If Ubaldo can simply hold Chicago to single-digit runs, he'll surely beat Danks. Jimenez didn't allow more than three earned runs in any of his six June starts, going 4-0 with 42 Ks in 35.2 innings during the month. He can handle the Sox here.
Rougned Odor, 2B, vs. LAA (Richards), $2700: The kid is simply scorching hot, with 11 hits (including four XBHs) over his last six games. Richards has owned him to this point in their careers (6 Ks, 1-for-9), but Odor seems to have unlocked some new level of performance. At this price, I'm playing the streak.
Kole Calhoun, OF, at Tex (Gonzalez), $2300: Stubborn though it may seem, I still have faith in Calhoun. He's hitting near the top of the order, ahead of Trout and Pujols, and Friday's matchup isn't so scary. Despite the stellar fantasy ratios, Gonzalez has only K'd 14 batters in his 41.2 major league innings.
Eugenio Suarez, SS, vs. Mil (Fiers), $2600: A quality hitter at a near-minimum price, facing a sketchy starter (1.47 WHIP). Let's not make this game any harder than it needs to be. If the rain stays away, Suarez will score.
For all the time a young player spends working out, practicing and honing his craft, there’s no substitute for experience. It still stands as the best teacher, the concept of learning on the job, making mistakes, adjusting the approach, growing into the gig.
With that in mind, we present to you the case of Kyle Gibson, third-year pitcher with the Twins. Maybe things are starting to clear up for him.
Although Gibson was the 22nd pick in his draft class six years ago, his first trip around the majors was a rocky one. He posted a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts two years back, and modestly improved (4.47 ERA) in a full season last year. He wasn’t on anyone’s mixed-league radar entering 2015.
Halfway through Gibson’s third year, the stats are moving in the right direction. He’s posted a 3.04 ERA and 1.24 WHIP through 16 starts, including eight clean innings against the Royals Thursday (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K). Here’s your scouting video, take a look.
Gibson’s best skill is inducing ground balls - he’s at 54.2 percent this year and around that for his career. But skeptics will quickly point out that it’s difficult to be successful with a strikeout rate under six, and a K/BB ratio barely over two. Pitching to contact works for roto purposes sometimes, but it’s the sort of case you talk yourself into.
But maybe Gibson is starting to figure out how to put batters away. The seven strikeouts at Kansas City were impressive - that’s a team that does all it can to avoid swings and misses. And consider Gibson’s monthly strikeout percentage this year, starting with April: 5.9, 15.2, 21.9, 22.6 (one start, of course). That’s a trend moving in the right direction.
If you write off Gibson’s April brief struggles, you’re left with a remarkably consistent pitcher over his last 13 starts (2.53 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). He’s made strides against left-handed batters (to the point that he’s just about platoon-neutral this year) and the strikeouts are on the rise. Maybe this is growing up at age 27.
Gibson is owned in just 13 percent of Yahoo leagues, though I added to that total over the last day or so. Perhaps you’d like to join me; chase some pedigree, nod to the steady improvement. He’s at home against Baltimore (and Chris Tillman) next week, a game he'll be favored to win.
• All things considered, Jose Fernandez’s return start was a success. He picked up a win over six solid innings (7 H, 3 R, 6 K), didn’t walk anyone, sat in the mid 90s without much trouble. When he wanted extra gas, it was there - his best fastballs were in the 99 mph range. The Red Sox aren’t an easy draw next week, at Fenway no less, but Fernandez is the type of pitcher you obviously throw against anyone.
Justin Bour’s home run sparked the Miami offense, and it’s the third straight day he’s gone into the seats. A .263 average doesn’t sound like much, but Bour gets on base (.340 OBP) and has decent power (nine homers, .496 slugging). He’s needed in this lineup while Giancarlo Stanton is out, and Bour’s free to add in 98 percent of Yahoo leagues. I'll take some hacks with that one.
• For the first 10 weeks of the year, Boston’s right-field production was the worst in baseball, no team even close. But things have started to turn around of late, sparked by the addition of journeyman Alejandro De Aza.
Most of the Red Sox lineup had fun in Thursday’s 12-6 laugher at Toronto, with De Aza contributing a 5-2-3-1 line (double, triple). He’s off to a .338/.372/.662 binge since joining the team 23 games ago, with three homers, 10 runs, 16 RBIs. Over the past month, the Red Sox are the third-highest scoring team in baseball (behind Toronto and Baltimore; also note the Yankees are sixth).
De Aza can’t hit lefties and teams shouldn’t even give him a chance at that assignment going forward. But he’s ripping righties to a .293/.338/.531 tune this year, and the Red Sox face seven righties over the next eight games. We’ll have some fun with this one. De Aza is still unowned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues.
About Last Night: Call me crazy, but I still think the A’s will get back into playoff contention. That run differential says something, and I don’t fully trust all the front-runners in the AL. Scott Kazmir’s eight dominant bagels carried Oakland to an easy win over Seattle, while Marcus Semien hit his first homer since the Taft Administration. Franklin Gutierrez had the only two Mariners hits . . . Carlos Gonzalez took a collar at Arizona, dropping to .241/.302/.410 . . . It’s cute that the Padres added outfielders and a closer, but it’s hard to trust their infield and their left-handed bats. Craig Kimbrel’s 20 saves don’t mean much when your team is five games under .500. Matt Kemp walked twice, but he still doesn’t look anywhere close to right. He’s slashing .241/.281/.362 . . . Francisco Cervelli is the most underrated catcher in the NL these days. He homered in a getaway win at Detroit, pushing his OPS up to .788 . . .The Mets took another day off, scoring just one run in a loss to Jake Arrieta and the Cubs. New York’s offense is just 11 runs from the MLB basement. All the pitching in the world isn’t going to get this team anywhere . . . The Yankees are taking their time with Jacoby Ellsbury (knee); he won’t be activate this weekend . . . Cole Hamels apparently doesn’t want to be traded to the Astros. Reality bites . . . I don't know what to say about Matt Cain. I have no expectations, and wasn't surprised the Marlins knocked him around. I didn't stash him anywhere or add him anywhere. See an angle? I'm all ears . . . Cesar Hernandez reached base four times in Philly's extra-inning loss . . . Miguel Sano went 1-for-4 in his first game (infield single, two strikeouts), batting sixth. The Twins pinch ran for him late in the game . . . Matt Moore was chased in the fifth after allowing six hits and four runs. I don't like him at Kansas City next week.
"We didn't mean to auto-draft,” says Justin C. Cliburn. “But the internet in Baghdad wasn't the most reliable."
It was August of 2006. Cliburn was a specialist stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, part of a security force (SECFOR) of Oklahoma Army National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 158th Field Artillery regiment. His squad’s role was to escort civilian training contractors to Iraqi police stations, Cliburn serving as a Humvee gunner.
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He also served, reluctantly and incongruously, as a first-year fantasy commissioner.
“That season the guy who was supposed to run our league was stationed down in Diwaniyah [at Camp Echo],” recalls Cliburn. “He had next-to-no internet access, so I took over.”
And still the league began with technical difficulties.
“Yeah, internet cut out right before our draft began,” says Kevin Pyle, a founding member of the OklahomIraqis League. “Every team was auto-picked. Not Yahoo’s fault. That was Iraq.”
“I really lucked out, though,” says Cliburn. “Got LaDainian Tomlinson at No. 3.”
Despite an inauspicious beginning, the league held together. Eight of ten original members are still involved, and the league has grown substantially. The group expanded to two conferences last season, in fact, each with 14 owners.
“Out of the 28 that were in it last year, 26 were on that original mission,” notes Cliburn. “Twenty-seven were in the 158th Field Artillery, and 27 of the 28 have combat experience.”
Today’s version of the league is significantly deeper and more competitive.
“Understand, in 2006, we had very few trades and very few message board posts,” Cliburn says. “I'd be lying if I told you we took it as seriously then as we do now.
“Heading into that first season, all of us had been in a convoy hit by an IED, been shot at, or both. My squad found out the Iraqi general in charge of the police station we trained was skimming thousands of dollars a month — like $40,000 — from the U.S., and there really wasn't much we could do about it without getting ourselves killed. Every so often, some of the officers we trained there were found tortured and killed. … And other officers we trained were running sectarian death squads at night.
“So the fantasy football league was just a healthy distraction for us at first.”
Under the best possible circumstances, in the most low-maintenance league, it’s no simple thing to serve as a fantasy commissioner. Doing so in combat — facing extreme danger and 120-degree heat — seems almost unimaginably difficult.
But if you’re an obsessed player, you usually find a way.
“I remember Justin raced to an internet café at like 2:30 in the morning to add Tony Romo on Thanksgiving [in ‘06], while Romo was having his breakout game,” says Pyle. “Threw five or six touchdowns. Justin adds him before the game ended.
“Knew he’d be gone if I waited,” says Cliburn, gloating over a 10-year-old transaction.
But the league’s first title was actually claimed by Pyle, thanks largely to in-season pickup Maurice Jones-Drew, then a rookie. Pyle also credits his somewhat favorable patrol schedule.
“We all had such different hours over there,” he says. “The group that I went outside the wire with, it was more of a ... well, I don't want to say it was a 9-to-5, but we would go outside around 8 in the morning. Depending on what we were trying to accomplish that day, we could be back by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. So I had maybe a little more access than other guys.”
Reliable connectivity and a non-disastrous auto-draft went a long way in Baghdad in 2006, no question.
Of course Cliburn’s league wasn’t the only group of active fantasy players in Iraq back in ’06 – nor, in all likelihood, was it the most hardcore. But very few commissioners have ever documented the lifetime of a league as thoroughly and faithfully as Cliburn. In so doing, he’s strengthened the connections between those who served together in the 158. Cliburn’s website is a rich and impressive thing, an ongoing project detailing the full history of the regiment and its deployments, as well as the decade-long story of his league. Generally speaking, no one likes to hear anyone else’s fantasy tales. But Cliburn’s only deal with fantasy at the most surface level. Often, they’re stark and difficult and painfully real.
Consider the complexities involved in managing the league when many members, but not all, returned to Iraq in 2008:
“You had guys who clearly had PTSD, including myself, who had never sought any form of treatment — again, including myself at that point," Cliburn says. "So guys were more anxious and irritable. The slightest thing would set off a series of angry texts and emails. Then you had the added stress of the unit being sent to Iraq again so soon.
“On top of that, there was some resentment that some of us weren't on that 2008 Iraq mission. Accordingly, the ones who weren't there — like we felt we should be — felt a lot of guilt. We played out the season giving more leeway to the guys who were deployed, but we'd get really frustrated when they wouldn't set their lineup or answer a trade offer — and then we'd feel guilty about that, too. What if they'd been hit? What if they were out on a mission? Stuff like that.”
“I'm just gonna go out there and say it,” offers Pyle. “I think Justin is one of the greatest commissioners ever. He connects us in-season, out-of-season. We're always communicating with each other. Justin was having to play peacekeeper in the league those first three or four years — I was dealing with issues that I didn't realize at the time, and wasn’t alone.
“This league means a lot because you don't realize that bond that you had until you're separated again. There's just a void there, a gap. This league helps bridge it. The league is so much more than something to do, something to brag about.”
After a pause:
“We kinda had a wake-up call, a year and a half, two years ago. One of our brothers who was over there with us took his own life. About half of us made it to the services and we all mentioned that we have to get together at times other than this. That's part of why we thought it would be so great to get all of us together – not just the league, the full 152 of us that were over there in 2006.”
And so began the planning a 10-year reunion for the SECFOR mission, spearheaded by a fantasy league and its commissioner. The event will happen over Labor Day weekend, culminating, hopefully, with a draft party at Cowboys Stadium.
As fantasy players, most of us have some vague sense that our leagues serve as social hubs, and many of us travel to drafts each year — maybe you keep in touch with your freshman-year dorm floor through a 12-team, half-PPR. The 158 isn’t so different, except that its league came together while the owners were risking their lives in service to their country. If you can afford to help them reunite, great. Here’s a link. Do what you can do. These guys are something better than a simple fantasy story.
Name brands tend to die hard in fantasy leagues, which is why Ian Kinsler still holds a 95-percent Yahoo tag and a lofty ranking on many industry boards. But I know he’s available in one of my eight Yahoo leagues.
And he’s there because I dropped him. And heck, I was just kicking the tires (sorry, we kick a lot of tires here) after someone else dropped him a few weeks back.
Kinsler turned 33 in the middle of June, and second base sure seems like a position where it gets late early. All the attrition, all those pivots. Kinsler’s 2014 Detroit debut had plenty of category juice and was driven by full-season volume, but let’s also acknowledge he’s just a .270/.314/.397 hitter since joining the Tigers. The bat doesn’t look so special anymore. He's walking more this year, but the average and power are depressed. So are fantasy owners.
Kinsler was the fourth second baseman off Yahoo boards in the spring, with an ADP around 54. It looks rather silly now, but he was drafted before Dee Gordon, Brian Dozier and Mookie Betts in most leagues. Some were worried about Jason Kipnis after a down year. Some overreacted to Kolten Wong’s early batting slot (yeah, that was me; such a shame, because Wong was the coverboy for this blog last summer).
Kinsler’s .258-45-2-31-6 line has him ranked 15th in second-base value through the opening three months. You couldn’t move Kinsler for any of the names in the above paragraph, but maybe you can still cash out here.
Kinsler or Joe Panik? Most of the industry plays the name-brand card there, but I’ll go Panik, who’s eight years younger, carries a first-round pedigree, and is doing much more in 2015. Panic in Detroit? Trade your panic for Joe Panik. Some of you can do this. Some of your opponents line up with conventional wisdom, and will be reluctant to adjust player values.
Kinsler or Justin Turner? I guess it comes down to if you feel Turner can withstand a full season, because I fully believe in the bat. Kinsler or Matt Duffy? Yes, this is a real question. Kinsler or Dustin Pedroia, when he comes off the DL? I guess Pedroia is another 30-something second baseman we worry about. Robinson Cano, too.
I can guarantee you I’m not going old at second base next year. The keystone race is to the swift.
If you want to defend Ian Kinsler's declining years, have your say in the comments.
• Now that you’ve found Miguel Sano, what are you going to do with him? Try to make a trade, I guess.
Sano has been a hot prospect since joining the Twins organization in 2010, and he’s having a strong year at Double-A (.274/.374/.544, 15 homers, five steals). Double jumps are fairly common these days, especially when a pedigree is at play, so Sano might be able to hit the ground running in Minnesota. The Twins want to contend and they need another bat.
Sano’s most sellable point in Yahoo is his surprise shortstop eligibility (he hasn’t been there in several years). Have fun with that. It’s a messy position in 2015, so another option is always welcome.
My bottom line with most prospects is simple and consistent: baseball is hard, and I’m going to fade the hype where I can. If I owned Sano in any prospect-happy league, you better believe I’m working the trade market before he ever plays a game. Sure, he could be another Maikel Franco, monster mashing immediately. Or maybe he could be another Joey Gallo, exposed on the first lap and quickly returned to the minors for more seasoning. You decide.
About Last Night: Carlos Carrasco came one out away from a no-hitter in Tampa Bay, underscoring how right-handed pitchers dominate this matchup. Being under the catwalk helps, too. Joey Butler broke up the no-no (and the shutout) and might be back in the lineup now; he’s also starting Thursday . . . If Johnny Cueto is really in all those trade discussions, he sure gave the scouts something to think about (8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K). Unfortunately, if he is traded, it sounds like it will be to an American League team, and that’s a mild hit to his theoretical value. Still a proven ace, of course . . . For all the talk about Ian Desmond’s defense, Marcus Semien (25 errors) might be even worse. If the A’s climb into the playoff hunt - look at that run differential again - can they afford to play Semien all year? . . . The Pirates took batting practice against Alfredo Simon (save the bullpen) and Joba Chamberlain (duck in the bleachers): nine runs, 21 hits, four homers. Lumber Company. The damage could have been worse if the Bucs didn’t run into a couple of silly outs on the bases. A.J. Burnett cruised to his seventh victory, now has a 2.05 ERA. In Searage We Trust . . . Santiago Casilla blew a messy save at Miami and will get a time out for a few days. If you had to make a pickup, Sergio Romo is the logical play . . . Robinson Cano had a breakout day (5-2-4-3), perhaps because he owns James Shields. Meanwhile, Taijuan Walker has been outstanding over his last seven turns (1.68 ERA, three walks, 51 strikeouts), the lightbulb clearly going on. If I were shuffling the arms today, he's into the teens, easily . . . What’s so special about Kole Calhoun, again? Three strikeouts Wednesday, now down to .258/.314/.375. The poor Angels offense, it has two plus hitters . . . Wei-Yin Chen remains the best-kept secret in the American League (2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, eight creamy-smooth IPs against Texas). I like him at Minnesota next week.
Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view on 10 intriguing rookie over/unders for the upcoming season.
In a recent full-point, 12-team industry draft, Joseph Randle was plucked in Round 3 (No. 32 overall). Equally mind-blowing, according to Fantasy Football Calculator his draft stock has spiked a full five rounds since late May (40.4 ADP, RB20), leaving potential investors wondering if there is enough 'meat on the bone.' With that in mind, Randle finishes among fantasy RBs this fall 24.5.
Brad – UNDER. Darren McFadden and Ryan Williams are made from dissoluble materials and Lance Dunbar is a change-of-pace back. Despite his loud mouth and affinity for stealing underwear, Randle is the best option Jerry Jones currently has. His 51-carry sample size from '14 was small, but he gained over 60 percent of his yards after contact. Impressive. Running behind an elite offensive line, he's a strong candidate to log 13-16 touches per game. There's little room for profit, but a finish in the RB19-RB23 range feels right.
Scott – OVER. I hate covering the cost of helium on this type of player, a low-rep standout who has shown no proof of being able to handle a legitimate starter's workload. The Cowboys have several ways to run this potential backfield, and I suspect they'll keep shuffling and reshuffling the pecking order. There are too many high-floor players to focus on in the early rounds.
Andy – OVER. C'mon. He carried the ball just 51 times last season. You can't reasonably assume that his per-touch production would be the same (or close) at a much larger workload. And anyway, this backfield reeks of RBBC. Picking him in the third round is the sort of "LOOK AT ME!" thing that sometimes happens in industry leagues, but it's silly.
Because of the bottomless depth at QB, the fantasy community is divided on whether or not Andrew Luck should be selected in Round 1 of standard leagues (4 points/pass TD). Total touchdowns in 2015 for the splotchy bearded passer 45.5 .
Andy – UNDER. Like everyone else, I love him. But a million things need to go just right for anyone to reach a historically significant total like this.
Dalton – OVER. He totaled 43 last year during just his third season in the league, and he'll be my pick to win MVP in 2015. He's a monster. Having said that, I still wouldn't take him in the first round.
Scott – UNDER. I've been a huge Luck fan for his entire pro career (often writing the -pro side in a Spin Doctors), but a lot of things fell right en route to 40 passing touchdowns last year. Somehow, Luck got to that number without anyone snagging more than eight; that's just about impossible to repeat.
Can he throw another 19 scores to tight ends and linemen? T.Y. Hilton is a wonderful talent, but he's a deep threat, not a touchdown gobbler. Andre Johnson has never been a dynamic touchdown man, for all of his talent. Ahmad Bradshaw's six touchdown catches were an obvious fluke. And if the Colts show any improvement running the ball or on defense, Luck's volume could take a modest hit.
Travis Kelce, who played on only 66 percent of KC snaps last year, receiving yards in what should be an expanded role 774.5.
Andy – UNDER. There's no profit to be found with Kelce ... none. His quarterback situation is disastrous, and the hype here is absurd. Even if he reaches this good-not-great yardage total, he's not the primary option near the goal line.
Brad – OVER. This offseason Kelce prepped his body for what's expected to be a rigorous workload. His increased bulk, open-field shiftiness, vertical speed and blocking ability should have him on the field 75-80 percent of the time. On some 7-8 targets per game, I expect him to sail past the proposed number, especially with Jeremy Maclin wearing red.
Brandon – OVER. What am I missing here? He had 862 receiving yards last season, and his playing time is expected to sharply increase with Anthony Fasano out of the picture. Yes, he'll have competition for targets from newly acquired wideout Jermey Maclin, but Maclin is a field stretcher, whereas Kelce lives in a more advantageous zip code for the limtations of Alex Smith's arm.
Sophomore standouts Davante Adams, John Brown, Charles Johnson and Allen Robinson have attracted headlines in OTAs and minicamp. Which has the biggest breakout potential? BONUS: Include a Fearless Forecast (Rec-YDS-TD).
Brad – ROBINSON. Green Bay's offense is unrivaled, but Adams' path to targets is complicated with Jordy and Cobb higher in the pecking order. Robinson, even with Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas around, should attract a lion's share of targets this year. Considering how soft the Jags defense is and based on the WR's red-zone upside he has WR2 appeal. Fearless Forecast: 71 receptions, 1075 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns.
Brandon – JOHNSON. But no one should care about OTAs. You're better off ignoring those blurbs entirely. Adams might be the best player from this group, but Johnson is close. Also, I'm a big believer in Teddy Bridgewater. (It's an absolute joke that Bortles went ahead of him. So Jags.)
Dalton – ROBINSON. He's going to be a target monster as the team's clear No. 1 wideout. Quarterback play is a question mark, but Robinson impressed as a rookie and was reportedly a standout at OTAs. I'll predict he becomes the first Jacksonville wide receiver to eclipse 1,000 yards in a decade. Fearless Forecast: 80-1100-7.
[National Draft Day - Get your Fantasy league together at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas]
Rookie RB Re-rank. List the following in order from greatest to least fantasy .5 PPR impact in 2015: Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, T.J. Yeldon, Tevin Coleman, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, David Cobb.
Brandon – 1) Gordon 2) Gurley 3) Abdullah 4) Duke Johnson (love him, but still not sure if he'll have a role that compares to the guys I put in front of him) 5) Yeldon 6) Coleman 7) Cobb
Dalton – 1) Gordon 2) Yeldon 3) Gurley 4) Coleman 5) Abdullah 6) Cobb 7) Johnson - For me it was really close between Coleman and Abdullah, as I have them currently ranked back-to-back on my RB board.
Scott – 1) Gordon 2) Yeldon 3) Gurley 4) Abdullah 5) Johnson 6) Coleman 7) Cobb
Brad – 1) Gordon 2) Gurley 3) Coleman 4) Yeldon 5) Abdullah 6) Cobb 7) Duke. For the record, Coleman/Yeldon/Abdullah are separated by the slimmest of margins.
Dez Bryant, who's drawn a line in the sand about his contract situation, regular season games missed this fall .5.
Dalton – UNDER. Of course there's a chance he gets hurt, but he's been extremely durable, and the bottom line is I wouldn't move him down my rankings whatsoever based on this holdout threat. I'd be shocked if Bryant willingly sits out a single game.
Scott – UNDER. These standoffs so very rarely turn into anything when the real games come, and the game checks are in the balance.
Andy – UNDER. He's played the full 16 in each of the past three seasons. Dez wouldn't gain a thing by sitting in the opener. No leverage there. One of the worst ideas I can recall, in a sport that produces many of 'em.
QB conundrum. What widely drafted QB2 has the best shot to penetrate the QB1 ranks in 12-team leagues: Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler or Teddy Bridgewater.
Scott – PALMER, because he'll have to - the line and the backfield aren't set up to do much in the desert. But don't forget a sleeper not even mentioned in this question, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton. Everything fell wrong for him in 2014, and then the Bengals collapsed in the playoffs, their usual thing. It's gotten to the point that Dalton is so overrated, he's actually underrated again.
Andy – I'd love to say TEDDY, because I think he'll ultimately be recognized as the best from this group. But for a year, it's probably PALMER. The team context is too good, from coach to supporting cast.
Brad – PALMER. Bridgewater is a very close second, but I'm enamored with the Red Baron. He was a top-10 QB when on the field last year ('14 extrapolation over 16 games: 4,336 yards, 29 TDs). Most appetizing, Bruce Arians plans to install a no-huddle offense, a scheme that should maximize Palmer's workload. The personnel around him – Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Michael Floyd, Andre Ellington and David Johnson – are constructed for a prolific pass game. And the Cardinals' enhanced offensive line should provide better protection.
Fanatics' concerns over C.J. Anderson continue to escalate despite encouraging words mouthed recently by Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak. BUST or BARGAIN at his current 21.2 Yahoo ADP?
Andy – It's the right price. I don't think he's a steal at 21, nor do I think he's a silly pick. I actually think a late second round pick feels right for a guy with such a high ceiling and such a low floor. Well done, Yahoo community.
Brad – BARGAIN. The Broncos' patchwork offensive line understandably has people on edge, but Anderson is the best fit for Kubiak's zone-blocking system. He makes guys miss (No. 4 in elusive rating in '14), is a proven receiver and pass blocks enthusiastically, a must-have attribute when playing alongside Peyton Manning. He was a top-three performer over the second half of 2014. If the o-line melds quickly this summer, he should pick up where he left off. Substantiated by my Broncos insiders, Ball and Hillman are minimal threats.
Brandon – BARGAIN. I am so over Montee Ball, and I don't deem him to be a worthy threat to Anderson at all. Just watch the game film - it doesn't lie. It's obvious that Anderson is a much, much better back, and I'd certainly take him inside the top 20 in what should be a nice running system in Denver under Gary Kubiak's guidance.
Megatron was, for all intents and purposes, a mega-bust for those who sank a top-pick in him last season. Nagging injuries explain the decline, but he's no longer a spring chicken entering his Age 30 season. Final WR rank this year 5.5.
Brad – OVER. His persistent knee problems should have potential suitors on edge. When healthy, he's a dominant threat in every capacity. His second year in Joe Lombardi's New Orleans-styled offense also lends confidence. However, as stated above, he's isn't a youngin' anymore and Matthew Stafford hasn't exactly lit the world on fire. He'll be good, not spectacular. I'll gladly minimize the risk and invest in Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffery over him.
Brandon – OVER/UNDER. I put both O/U down because I suspect I will waffle back and forth on this one all summer. Currently I have him slotted as my No. 5 WR, but I have Julio Jones at No. 6 and my mind swaps these two around any time the wind changes direction. Both are supremely talented, but carry a health risk tag.
Dalton – UNDER. It's likely his prime is now behind him, but Johnson remains a star and should still be treated as such. He's one season removed from an 84-1492-12 campaign (over just 14 games). He's no longer the No. 1 fantasy WR, but Johnson is still top five.
Membership in the C.J. Spiller fan club has climbed with the mercury. Many, particularly PPR players, anticipate a rebirth on the Bayou. Receptions this year for the new Saint 62.5.
Brandon – OVER, by a mile. The Saints have led the league in RB receptions in each of the past four seasons, and their lowest RB reception total in that span is 132, which is more than twice this number. With only Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson, two players that have had very little involvement in the passing game in the past, vying for targets with Spiller out of the backfield, I wouldn't be surprised if Spiller catches 80-90 passes.
Dalton – OVER. He's actually never even reached 45 receptions in a season during his career, but he's a capable pass catcher for sure, and clearly the Saints brought him in envisioning Spiller filling the old Darren Sproles role in New Orleans.
Scott – OVER, probably easily. This is what the Saints do, they go bananas throwing to their backs. It should be a blast watching Spiller playing for a team that actually groks his talent and goes out of its way to feature it. The Buffalo experience was a communal migraine for everyone.
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Max Scherzer, SP, at Atl (Banuelos), $12500 at FanDuel: As usual, I’ll recommend paying up for a top pitcher, especially with the softer pricing on FanDuel this year. Scherzer certainly qualifies as one, as he’s top-three among all starters in MLB in ERA (1.79), FIP (2.02), WHIP (0.79), K-BB% (27.4) and SwStr% (14.2). He owns a 1.40 ERA and 0.83 WHIP on the road, and he’ll be facing a Braves team Thursday that’s scored the fifth-fewest runs at home and will be missing its best hitter. The Nationals are easily the most favored team (-200) on the day while tied for the lowest over/under (6.5). Scherzer is expensive, however, so let’s dig for some cheap hitting options to fill out a lineup.
Mike Napoli, 1B, at Tor (Boyd), $2700: He’s at a pretty good price for someone who’s homered five times over 67 at bats against left-handed pitchers this season. Napoli will be facing a hurler who served up three bombs over 6.2 innings during his major league debut in his last start.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, vs. Tor (Miley), $3900: He’s batting .368/.397/.667 against southpaws with a 1.069 OPS at home. He’s $1200 cheaper than the most expensive third baseman and is just $300 more than Matt Duffy.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, vs. Min (Gibson), $2700: If you prefer to go cheaper at third base, here’s one who bats atop a lineup and is hitting .341 against RHP. Kyle Gibson has a 24:15 K:BB ratio over 43.1 innings on the road this season, which is why this won’t be the last Royals batter I’ll recommend for Thursday.
Alcides Escobar, SS, vs. Min (Gibson), $2500: He hits leadoff and owns a career .471/.500/.529 line over 17 at bats against Gibson. Shortstop remains mostly a wasteland as well.
Nelson Cruz, OF, at Oak (Kazmir), $3000: He’s back in action and even homered Wednesday. Scott Kazmir is a good pitcher, but Cruz has hit .392/.492/.902 with seven homers over 51 at bats when facing left handers this season, so this price sure seems right.
Ryan Raburn, OF, at TB (Moore), $2400: He sports a .968 OPS against southpaws while often hitting cleanup against them. And while I have high hopes for Matt Moore moving forward, he’ll be making his first start Thursday since April 7 in 2014 while returning from Tommy John surgery.
Alex Gordon, OF, vs. Min (Gibson), $2500: I’m going to recommend him for the second straight day here at this price, as he has a .389 OBP against RHP and a career 1.113 OPS against Gibson (albeit over just 14 at bats).
Dee Gordon, 2B, vs. SF (Cain), $3200: He’s batting .340 with 20 steals over 235 at bats against RHP this season, and Matt Cain is making his first start in nearly a year.
Yan Gomes, at TB (Moore), $2400: He’s been a massive disappointment since returning from a knee injury, but Gomes was typically drafted as a top-five fantasy catcher before the season started coming off a .278-21-74 season as a 28-year-old. He sat out Wednesday so the backstop should be in the lineup Thursday, and he’ll be facing a pitcher making his season debut (a theme here). Gomes hit .331 versus LHP last year.
In the Tuesday Closing Time, we went with a soft sell of Cesar Hernandez. In the current edition, we’ll amp things up a bit.
He keeps running, so we keep writing.
When it comes to fantasy specialists, there’s a low barrier to relevance. Anyone who is collecting saves for a major-league club is worth rostering in most fantasy leagues, even if the other stats are dodgy (the good old Mesa Mandate). It isn’t quite that simple with offensive players, but if someone is capable of running aggressively when they reach base, we’ll overlook some other stuff.
Hernandez, a 25-year-old infielder with the Phillies, was born to run. He swiped two more bags Tuesday (undeterred by an early pickoff), giving him six steals in his last four games. He batted .324 for June, with a .395 on-base percentage, and he’s taken ownership of the No. 2 slot in the batting order. With Chase Utley out indefinitely (ankle), not to mention carrying that unsightly .179 batting average, this Hernandez story could last for a while.
And heck, maybe Hernandez will settle into a role even when Utley returns. Here’s what interim manager Pete Mackanin had to say about Hernandez on Tuesday - head over to the Phillies team site.
"I would like to think that Cesar has proven that he deserves a chance to be the everyday second baseman," Mackanin said. "That remains to be seen. I don't know. I don't want to get ahead of myself. Let's just wait to see when Chase is healthy and how he feels and we'll go from there."
"When you see part-time players and perhaps at times they're not doing as well as you'd like them to do, you can see now the benefit, obviously, of playing on a daily basis," Mackanin said about Hernandez. "Cesar has been fantastic. We always felt he had it in him. It's been a long process. I think he's making a good statement for himself in the future."
Hernandez never showed much pop over his eight minor-league seasons, but he did steal 155 bags over 645 games. A .294 average and .352 OBP, you can work with that. The Phillies don’t have much of an offense (no NL team has scored fewer runs), but they are 12th in the majors in stolen bases. If you can’t rake, you scamper.
Hernandez is one of the common adds over the past 24 hours, but he’s still unowned in 87 percent of Yahoo leagues. You can plug him in at second base, shortstop or third base. We know he’s outstanding in one area, and passable in a second roto column. Take the case. Rabbit, run.
Need help with a drop? We can do that. Martin Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria are simple cuts. Even if I had unlimited DL space, I’m not bothering with Utley. Jose Iglesias has a pretty average, but he bats low in the order and can’t dominate the steals category. Is Francisco Lindor ready? Is Danny Santana salvageable? I’m not immediately bullish on either.
• Back a few years ago, Mike Montgomery was just another ballyhooed Kansas City prospect, perhaps overrated. These days, he’s a Seattle lefty with a bagel habit.
It’s about time the 2015 Mariners got a break.
Montgomery has made six starts in his rookie season and five have been excellent. He’s turned in a pair of shocking shutouts in his recent work, a five-hit blanking of KC last week (with 10 strikeouts), then Tuesday night’s coconut stroll down in San Diego (1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K). Video killed the radio star. (Should strikeouts against Jedd Gyorko count?)
The strikeout column is the puzzling part of the Montgomery file. He only whiffed 12 men over his first four turns, but he’s rolled up 17 in the last week, with 10 coming against the contact-heavy Royals. His average fastball is a modest 91.1 mph. He’s only getting a swinging strike 8.2 percent of the time, well under the league average of 9.7 and the starter average of 9.0.
Some pundits might write the convenient “sell high” ticket, but where do you find a buyer in a case like this? Your opponents have the Internet, too. They recognize Montgomery’s 3.02 FIP and 4.11 xFIP. Even the worst owners in your league probably understand what regression means.
The Mariners will have a crowded rotation when Hisashi Iwakuma returns. Felix Hernandez is the obvious ace, and Taijuan Walker isn’t going anywhere. J.A. Happ probably has a leg up over Roenis Elias, I suppose. I’m not confident in what Montgomery will do against Oakland this weekend, but he’s done a lovely job of proving me wrong the last month.
Rest-of-season ERA? Put me down for something in the high-3s.
About Last Night: You’re a better man than I if you predicted the 1-0 showdown between Kyle Hendricks and Jon Niese. Dexter Fowler struck out twice in four at-bats, along with a single - an extended slump has him down to .237/.312/.387, and he hasn’t been running . . . Possible thunderstorms made things complicated in DFS, but the Rangers and Orioles played another keg tapper (14 runs), with Mitch Moreland and Chris Davis both going deep twice. Moreland seems to tease us every year with a power run, but he’s never posted a full-season OPS over .800 before. Right now, he’s at .916 . . . Speaking of scuffling NL hitters, why is everyone so in love with Gregory Polanco? He’s down to .233/.299/.335 after a 1-for-5 night. He’s on a pace for 36 steals, six homers and 38 RBIs, along with that messy average . . . Ian Desmond struck out all four trips, dropping his OPS to .618. It’s not much of a trade market, but maybe the Nats should look for a different shortstop. Desmond’s been awful in the field, too . . . Billy Hamilton stayed in the leadoff spot but didn’t try a steal in his 5-1-1-0 evening . . . Although the Giants couldn’t solve Cat Latos, Joe Panik keeps chugging along (.312/.380/.460), looking comfortable in the No. 2 slot . . . Keep an eye on Erasmo Ramirez, who was effective in a tough-luck loss to Cleveland (5.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K). A weekend start at Yankee Stadium makes me nervous, but after that he gets Houston at home . . . Ben Zobrist reached base three times in Oakland’s loss to Colorado (the A’s are comically unlucky in those one-run games). Zobrist has an .837 OPS since returning a month ago.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, vs. LAD (Anderson), $5400 at FanDuel: He has an 11-game hitting streak and is on pace to finish with 116 runs scored, 42 homers, 138 RBI and 32 steals with a .354 batting average. He will be a top-three pick next year and is a beast against anyone, but Goldschmidt is especially tough against southpaws, whom he’s hit .387/.465/.694 against. He’s also 7-for-11 with an 1.848 OPS versus Brett Anderson during his career. If you’re going to spend big on a hitter Wednesday, Goldschmidt is the one in which to do so.
John Lackey, SP, vs. CWS (Quintana), $8700: He’s allowed three runs or fewer in 11 of his past 12 starts and owns a 1.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 56.2 innings at home this season. The White Sox have also scored the second fewest runs in MLB this year, and that’s with them typically using the DH that they won’t have available Wednesday. There’s some chance of rain during the Cardinals game, so if you prefer to spend your money on Johnny Cueto, I certainly wouldn’t blame you.
Dee Gordon, 2B, vs. SF (Heston), $3000: He’s batting .341 against RHP this season and has recorded 2.8 FPPG, which is the same as Jose Altuve, only he’s $1400 cheaper. Chris Heston has allowed a 1.47 WHIP against LHB this season.
Robinson Cano, 2B, at SD (Shields), $2500: If you want to spend even less on a second baseman, look at Cano, who owns a .402/.435/.690 career line over 87 at bats against James Shields.
Stephen Vogt, C, vs. Col (Bettis), $3600: He should be in the lineup after playing first base Tuesday, and the catcher still has an impressive .938 OPS with 12 homers over 179 at bats against right-handed pitchers this season.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, at Bal (Chen), $2800: He’s been a bust so far, but Beltre still hits cleanup in Texas’ lineup and had a .984 OPS against LHP as recently as last season. If you believe in track record, this sure looks like a pretty good bargain.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, at Tor (Buehrle), $2700: He’s been batting third in Boston’s lineup lately and is facing a lefty Wednesday. There are nine more expensive shortstops than Bogaerts for a very thin position.
Josh Reddick, OF, vs. Col (Bettis), $3100: He still owns a .327/.382/.546 line with 10 homers over 205 at bats against RHP on the year, so this price remains a bargain.
Alex Gordon, OF, at Hou (Velasquez), $2500: He’s cheap, owns a .925 OPS on the road as well as a .392 OBP versus RHP this season. Vincent Velasquez has looked impressive, but he has walked nine batters over 13.1 innings when facing left-handers so far.
Yasiel Puig, OF, at Ari (Ray), $3400: Puig may be disliked by his teammates, but he’s hitting .381 against LHP this season and certainly isn’t priced here as a player who was commonly drafted in the top two rounds before the season started.
I’m not going to point you to Chris Sale for Tuesday night. If you can’t build that case on your own, there’s no hope. Let’s see if we can support him with some other plays, and give you alternatives if you need to go contrarian, here and there.
Billy Hamilton, OF, vs. MIN (Hughes), $3000: He’s been on a stealing rampage this month, and he’s set to lead off for the second straight game. Phil Hughes is nothing special when it comes to stopping the running game. There’s some rain in the forecast, but if things look clear around opening pitch, Hamilton is a dynamic play at a modest cost.
Josh Phegley, C, vs. COL (De La Rosa), $3100: Here’s the best-kept secret at the catcher position, someone who’s mashed to a .362/.423/.617 line against lefties. Colorado's De La Soul is a southpaw, so if Phegley is in the Oakland lineup, he’s in my lineup.
Any Dodger You Want (at ARI, De La Rosa): The Boys of Summer have met up with Rubby De La Rosa twice, pounding him for 14 runs and four homers over 10 innings. It’s not really Rubby’s fault - the Dodgers, after all, lead the majors in wOBA and weighed-runs created against right-handed pitching. They crush these guys. Your normal lefty sluggers look good, so long as they’re lineup verified - Pederson, Ethier, Grandal, Gonzalez. And don’t forget that Justin Turner - the ridiculous Justin Turner - is a reverse-platoon guy who actually prefers RHPs.
Rougned Odor, 2B, at BAL (Gonzalez), $2700: It’s a little boring when the plays become forced, but you take what they give you. Odor is the No. 4 fantasy second baseman since his recall, he’s leading off again, and runs should be scored Tuesday at Camden Yards (total is 8.5).
Jose Altuve, 2B, vs. KC (Duffy), $4300: The cost has come down some, and Altuve is back in fine form (.346, two homers, four steals over last seven games). Altuve is a solid play against anyone, but his best form shows against southpaws (career .862 OPS).
Brandon Crawford, SS, at MIA (Latos), $3100: We’ve talked about Crawford’s reverse platoon split in the past, but Mat Latos can’t get anyone out these days - lefties especially. And despite Crawford’s dynamite fantasy season, he’s still priced reasonably. I’ll be shocked if the Giants don’t get to Latos at some point Tuesday.
Dallas Keuchel, SP, vs. KC (Duffy), $10,300: This might have some contrarian roots because Keuchel isn’t a dominant strikeout man (his recent form to the side) and the Royals are known for their contact. Nonetheless, Keuchel works at home, and KC is a modest 13th in wOBA against lefties - that doesn’t make them a matchup to drool over, perhaps, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. And the Royals are unlikely to run at all on Keuchel, who does an outstanding job holding runners and delivering in a tidy fashion. I also expect Houston to do some damage against Danny Duffy.
Ian Kennedy, SP, vs. SEA (Montgomery), $7400: He's righted the ship in June (2.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) and the Mariners are the lowest-scoring team in baseball. Sometimes the plays just write themselves into your lineup. If you want pitching on a budget Tuesday, vote for Kennedy.
Josh Donaldson, 3B, vs. BOS (Rodriguez), $4100: Another big name but the cost isn't prohibitive, and you should know how Donaldson has obliterated lefties this year, especially at home. The wheels have come off E-Rod for the last two starts, and I'm not expecting him to right the ship in the most daunting pitching assignment.
Mitch Moreland, OF, at BAL (Gonzalez), $2600: A hot hand (four homers in five games), a cheap price, a homer park, a platoon edge against an ordinary righty. All the dots connect.
A lot of pundits have picked on the A’s for the Josh Donaldson trade, and you can count me in that group. But any transaction where you acquire Kendall Graveman can’t be so bad.
Graveman’s first go-round in Oakland was rocky - he had an 8.27 ERA at the end of April. But Oakland stuck with the rookie right-hander and rewards have followed: a 4-2 record over eight starts, with a 2.01 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Graveman threw seven bagels at the Rockies on Monday, then watched the bullpen finish off the 7-1 laugher.
Pitching to contact is a major chunk of the Graveman story. He has a modest 37 strikeouts (against 14 walks) over the 53.2 quality innings he’s given us the last two months, something that could be a deal breaker in some leagues that cap your starts or innings. He throws his sinker about half the time and induces a ground ball on 47 percent of his batted balls, obviously a good thing.
Although Graveman’s home record wasn’t very good before Monday, the roomy Oakland park should be a good fit. And Oakland’s often-spotty defense hasn’t held Graveman back yet - he’s only allowed two unearned runs for the year. His OPS-allowed moves a modest 32 points against lefties, so that hasn’t been a problem, either.
To be fair, the ERA estimators call for something over four, and it's hard to trust any pitcher who doesn't even crack six strikeotus per nine innings. But Graveman is throwing the right pitch in the right park in an ordinary division, which means I'll follow the story for a while. You also have to love his giveaway price in most daily formats.
If you feel like kicking some tires, the schedule lines up favorably. Graveman draws the Mariners on the weekend - the lowest-scoring team in the majors - though he also has to deal with Felix Hernandez on the other side. The following week, it’s a date with the Indians, currently 21st in scoring. Good work if you can get it. Graveman’s sinker is ready to go in 86 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Sometimes I get pushback on the scoring themes of the AL East and NL East, but let’s note that those divisions are what we thought they’d be.
The AL East is far and away the highest scoring division in baseball, and has three of the top five offenses (Jays, runaway leaders, along with the Yanks and Orioles). The NL East has three bottom-five offenses (Marlins, Mets, Phillies), and things could get a lot worse with Miami now that Giancarlo Stanton is hurt. The Braves are 19th in runs (and currently without Freddie Freeman), while the Nats are eighth.
Why run uphill when you don’t have to? The Stream Police know where to go.
• Billy Hamilton is one of baseball’s most frustrating players. His speed is a blast to watch (so is his defense), but that .224/.273/.295 slash makes you wonder if he should be playing in the first place. Ah, but he does that one thing so well, we have to take him seriously for fantasy purposes.
Lately, that thing he does has been going a little haywire. Hamilton started his current stolen-base run with a two-bagger on June 8; since then, he’s swiped an absurd 17 bases in 19 attempts. First base is the hardest find, but after that, the going is easy.
Hamilton collected four bags in Monday’s 11-7 win over Minnesota, en route to three runs. It was also his second leadoff assignment of the month. Perhaps the Reds will leave him there for a while, and that certainly gives Hamilton a bump in the scheme of things, crummy average or no crummy average. He’s also a mere 3K for Fan Duel players on Tuesday.
• Cesar Hernandez has a modest minor-league profile, and he didn’t hit much for the Phillies in limited time the last two years (.624 OPS). But he’ll always have June 2015 to remember, apparently.
Hernandez is working on a .328/.394/.406 month, with six steals and 12 runs over 64 at-bats. He’s picked up eight hits and four steals over the last three games. The Phillies have used him as the No. 2 hitter for a week now.
Eventually Chase Utley will come off the DL and the Phillies surely will play him over Hernandez. But in the meantime, rabbit run. Hernandez qualifies at three different infield positions for the Yahooligans, and he’s an instant download in 92 percent of the Y.
The assignment on the docket is outfielders. What's happened to this point is merely an audition. How should we rank the Yahoo-eligible outfielders, 5x5 value, if the season started right now?
A few rules. Catcher-eligibles who also qualify in the outfield are ignored. I don't rank anyone in the minors - you can decide what they're worth to you. And while I do rank injured players, I'm not going to debate those ranks. It's not my back, my wrist, or my surgery, and I've found over the years that almost everyone is far more optimistic about long-term injury returnees than I am.
The dollar values are unscientific, and merely provided as a tool to compare the players at the same position (I wouldn't suggest you use them to compare players at different positions). Groups of players at the same price are considered even.
If you have respectful and detailed disagreement, I'm all ears, below and on Twitter (@scott_pianowski).
$30 Mike Trout
$29 Bryce Harper
$28 Andrew McCutchen
$24 Justin Upton
$22 George Springer
$22 Jose Bautista
$22 Brett Gardner
$21 Ryan Braun
$21 A.J. Pollock
$20 Starling Marte
$20 Charlie Blackmon
$20 Adam Jones
$19 J.D. Martinez
$19 Carlos Gomez
$18 Yoenis Cespedes
$18 Joc Pederson
$17 Hanley Ramirez
The Wait-For-Proofers sure missed the boat on Martinez. His 2014 emergence, fueled by a change in mechanics, has been validated with 74 terrific games this year. It’s another case in favor of appreciating what a player can do well instead of looking for potential problems.
Martinez didn’t command the strike zone particularly well last year, walking about six percent of the time and striking out 26 percent of the time. This year, the numbers are similar - walks up a smidge, strikeouts also up a little bit. But the way the ball reacts when Martinez does make contact, who cares?
The average MLB hitter makes hard contact around 28-29 percent of the time. Martinez was at 43.3 percent last year, and he’s at 40.8 percent for 2015. Over the past calendar year, only Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton have higher hard-hit percentages. And over the same period, only eight batters have more home runs than Martinez’s 34.
The pop is certainly legit. And while it wasn't reasonable to chase last year's .315 average, Martinez should be able to post a solid number there, in addition to three strong numbers in the production categories.
Planet Hanley is one of the most difficult calls for a fantasy owner to make right now. He's dealt with hand, back, knee and shoulder problems over the last two months, and after a tremendous April, not much has gone on the board (from May 1 to current, we're looking at .278/.324/.396, 25 runs, five homers, 16 RBIs, two steals; that makes him the No. 113 5x5 hitter over that period).
The Red Sox are just six games out in the AL East, so perhaps they can get back into the race. But if Boston isn't playing meaningful games in September, will it make sense to push Ramirez to the finish? Hell, will he push himself? I'm always cautious with injury-nagged players, especially when they're tied to a team that might not be in contention. (To a lesser extent, this partially explains my cautious price on Braun - and you know how I usually handle players who are currently on the DL. Let someone else expect the world.)
I’ve received a bunch of unsolicited Gardner trade offers during the year, most of them lowballs. This ignores one rule of thumb: if a player is in the midst of a career year, the one guy surely aware of the story is the fantasy owner, enjoying the ride. You can’t buy low in this pocket, unless the owner in question outsmarts himself and starts to imagine a pumpkin risk that isn’t really there. In the case of a fairly-established player like Gardner, there’s no reason to fear monsters under the bed.
Okay, Gardner’s .364 BABIP is a little higher than expected, though he’s entitled to a better-than-average hit rate given his line-drive profile and plus speed. His career mark is .325 and he posted a .342 hit rate in 2013. The power is in line with what he posted last year, and he’s always been someone capable of stealing 30-40 bases in any season if the interest grabbed him.
I don’t think anyone expects Gardner to continue to product like a Top 12 player, but he should be a Top 20 outfielder barring injury, with a reasonable chance to stick in the Top 8-12 at the position. A versatile player is a beautiful thing, especially when he’s parked atop a loaded lineup like New York’s (the Yanks, somewhat quietly, are second in the majors in runs).
$16 Lorenzo Cain
$16 Yasiel Puig
$16 Billy Hamilton
$16 Nelson Cruz
$16 Mookie Betts
$14 Jay Bruce
$14 Michael Brantley
$14 Jason Heyward
$14 Carlos Gonzalez
$13 Cameron Maybin
$13 Billy Burns
$13 Josh Reddick
$13 Ben Revere
$12 Curtis Granderson
$12 Ben Zobrist
$11 Christian Yelich
$11 Alex Gordon
$11 Kevin Pillar
$11 Matt Kemp
$10 Chris Carter
$10 Denard Span
$10 Kole Calhoun
$10 Brandon Moss
$10 Adam Eaton
$10 Dexter Fowler
$10 Yasmany Tomas
Brantley and Puig are two more players I'm treading carefully on, concerned about how healthy they may or may not be.
Brantley continues to control his at-bats like a boss (look at the dreamy K/BB rate), but there's been no power for a month and a half. You get the idea his back isn't right. I'm already looking forward to the over-correction discount that I suspect we'll have available to us in 2016, but Brantley was a Wallet Player for me entering the year, so I'm looking at a notable loss there.
Puig's had a similar year in LA, posting a strong K/BB ratio and solid average, but it's been without much power (he's also 0-for-2 on the bases). I'm not really concerned about some of the noise surrounding Puig's mercurial personality; he's shown the ability to block out distractions and produce between the lines. I also suspect the Dodgers realize what's at stage with Puig's role on the club, and won't do anything short-sighted or spiteful. But if Puig's hamstring and hand aren't right, how much category juice can we realistically expect?
You think of Granderson getting pull-happy, looking to punish mistakes, but he’s actually gone the other way more often this year, posting his highest opposite-field rate in seven years. He’s also sitting on the highest walk rate of his career. There are countless problems with the Mets offense, but Grandy is someone New York should be able to count on.
Kemp is swinging more often this year (both out of zone and in zone), but it hasn’t been that big a deal - his contact rate has gone up as well, his highest mark in six years. But the connections are rarely going for extra bases - note the .370 slugging percentage. A perfect 7-for-7 on the bases takes out some of the sting, but I have little confidence in Kemp returning to star level or even OF 2/3 level. It’s a good case of the name brand carrying far more value than the actual production.
$9 Gregory Polanco
$9 Chris Colabello
$9 Steven Souza
$9 Josh Harrison
$8 Torii Hunter
$8 Leonys Martin
$8 Brock Holt
$7 Randal Grichuk
$7 Shin-Soo Choo
$7 Andre Ethier
$7 Will Venable
$7 Joey Butler
$6 Avisail Garcia
$6 Melky Cabrera
$6 Gerardo Parra
$6 Rajai Davis
$5 Kevin Kiermaier
$5 David Peralta
$5 Colby Rasmus
$5 Carlos Beltran
$5 Michael Taylor
$5 Chris Young
$5 Marcell Ozuna
$5 Mark Trumbo
$4 Alex Rios
$4 Michael Cuddyer
$4 Austin Jackson
$4 Nick Markakis
$4 Anthony Gose
$4 Preston Tucker
$4 Marlon Byrd
$4 Logan Morrison
$4 Ben Paulsen
$4 Chris Parmelee
$4 Eddie Rosario
$4 Gregor Blanco
I've been having fun with the Butler story, but the K/BB rate has been in the red all along, and the Rays haven't been starting him of late. Pumpkin Risk is currently set to orange . . . Trumbo could be entering the Therapeutic Drop Zone. He’s slashing a scary .151/.184/.205 since joining the Mariners, with three walks against 21 strikeouts. Did Seattle actively chase after this trade, or did it let the Snakes talk the Mariners into it? Trumbo looks like someone who could be out of the league in his early 30s . . . Joey Gallo was given a modest price before his Tuesday demotion. If you're going to strike out 44 percent of the time, a slugging percentage of .448 isn't going to cut it. The Rangers are in the thick of it, they need bats they can rely on right now . . . Steve Pearce, Jimmy Paredes, now Chris Parmelee - the Orioles seem to have some sort of magic pixie dust when it comes to these low-expectation players and journeymen. I realize Parmelee was a first-round pick in his draft class, but that was eight years ago and he was selected out of high school; his ordinary minor-league profile never chased him onto prospect lists as he climbed the ladder. Nonetheless, if the O's give Parmelee a little leash, I'll do the same. Maybe he'll get a chance to take a regular post and run with it. Baltimore could use consistent power at the outfield corners.
$3 Alex Guerrero
$3 Juan Lagares
$3 Travis Snider
$3 Seth Smith
$3 Brandon Barnes
$3 Alejandro de Aza
$3 Chris Coghlan
$2 Angel Pagan
$2 Cody Asche
$2 Kelly Johnson
$2 Brandon Guyer
$2 Odubel Herrera
$2 Mark Canha
$2 Clint Robinson
$2 Ichiro Suzuki
$2 David DeJesus
$1 Dustin Ackley
$1 Ryan Raburn
$1 Michael Bourn
$1 Ezequiel Carrera
$1 David Murphy
$1 Grady Sizemore
$1 John Mayberry
$1 Jeff Francoeur
$0 Melvin Upton
Courtesy Injury Ranks - Not For Debate
$16 Jacoby Ellsbury
$15 Giancarlo Stanton
$13 Hunter Pence
$9 Matt Holliday
$8 Norichika Aoki
$6 Josh Hamilton
$5 Corey Dickerson
$5 Jorge Soler
$3 Wil Myers
$3 Jayson Werth
$3 Delino DeShields
$3 Jacob Marisnick
$2 Byron Buxton
$2 Ender Inciarte
$2 Carl Crawford
$2 Khris Davis
$2 Ryan Zimmerman
$1 Michael Morse
$1 Martin Prado
$1 Desmond Jennings
$1 Coco Crisp
Rougned Odor, 2B, at BAL (Norris), $2600: There have been three distinct portions of Odor’s season: the awful five weeks that forced a demotion (.486 OPS), the ballistic month at Triple-A where he restored his confidence (1.065 OPS), and the snappy 12 games since he returned (.395/.442/.632, two homers, four steals). The Rangers are using Odor at the top of the lineup more often than not these days, and I have to assume he sticks there Monday, off a three-hit game and facing the ordinary Bud Norris. The backdrop of Camden Yards is also a plus. Even if Odor were into the 3K range, I’d strongly consider him. At this bargain cost, it’s an easy punch.
I’d like to see more of the seasonal players jumping in, too. Odor is the No. 6 second baseman in Yahoo over the last two weeks, but he’s still free to add in 71 percent of leagues. Get to work.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, at TOR (Dickey), $2600: The power hasn’t arrived yet, but the X-man is hitting .327 this month and has settled in as Boston’s No. 3 hitter. Rogers Centre is a fun place to take some hacks, and you never know if the R.A. Dickey knuckler is going to be working.
Kendall Graveman, SP, vs. COL (Hale), $5400: It took him a while to get his sea legs, but check the last seven starts: 2.31 ERA, 1.20 WHIP. He’s also the biggest favorite on this watered-down card, at minus-160, and we know the Colorado offense doesn’t always travel well.
Mike Trout, OF, vs. NYY (Sabathia), $5000: There are some cards where a Trout play doesn’t come easy - there are big-name pitchers you want to grab, and it makes the offensive assembly more difficult. But on an ace-free Monday slate, you’re going to have more fun money for your hitters. And what’s more fun than a premier right-handed bat going up against the declining skills of lefty meatballer C.C. Sabathia?
Albert Pujols, 1B, vs. NYY (Sabathia), $4600: Again, we’re not splitting the atom here. But consider the *average* right-handed bat has a .339/.374/.580 slash against Sabathia this year, then consider how silly Pujols has been in June (12 homers, 1.142 OPS). With cheap pitchers, and some cheap middles and outfielders too, you should have no problem paying up at The Big A if you feel like it.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, vs. CLE (Anderson), $2700: Come for the good price and the leadoff slot, stay for the sneaky offense. Special K is hitting .346 this month with six steals.
Nolan Reimold, OF, vs. TEX (Rodriguez), $2300: At this point, I’m ready to follow Buck Showalter into a burning building. He's a magic man with that lineup card. Reimold is off to a snappy start against lefties this year, and I think most of us expect a Wandy Rodriguez Regression Tour to start shortly. Reimold slots second in the Monday lineup and the price is just about the minimum on Fan Duel.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, at TB (Karns), $4500: Leadoff on the road and in the platoon advantage, that’s a nice place to start. And let’s also consider that Nate Karns can’t stop the running game, as 9-of-10 base stealers have been successful against him. If Kipnis doesn’t hit into a big number Monday, perhaps he’ll run into it.
Jimmy Nelson, SP, at PHI (O’Sullivan), $7200: It’s a boom-or-bust play, albeit you could say that about most of the pitchers on the Monday slate. But when Nelson has it, he has it - he’s posted Fan Duel scores of 14, 16, 16 and 17 this year. At least he’s facing the worst offense in the majors, and he’s up against a mediocre starter on the other side.
Adam Lind, 1B, at PHI (O’Sullivan), $3700: I don’t understand how Sean O’Sullivan gets anyone out, especially lefties (1.127 OPS). Watch him pitch, look how straight his fastball is. Lind is the first Milwaukee lefty we think of, but Scooter Gennett and Gerardo Parra also have a case. Grab a bat.
Justin Turner, 3B, at ARI (Webster), $3700: He’s no longer at the cute giveaway price, but look at how he’s owned right-handed pitching: .369/.426/.702. Keep rolling with what’s working. Turner has also claimed the No. 3 spot in the LA lineup on most nights.
Luis Valbuena, 3B, vs. KC (Blanton), $3600: It's getting pricy, but he also has two-homer potential (the matrix says to use him at home, against RHPs). Joe Blanton does not scare anyone, and Valbuena is slotted cleanup for Monday.
Nolan Arenado has been the No. 1 overall fantasy player over the past month, and it’s not even close. He’s scored in 12 consecutive games, totaling 17 runs, eight homers and 17 RBI over those dozen contests. Arenado is on pace to finish with 53 homers, 105 runs scored and 147 RBI while batting .293. The crazy thing about his season is that the third baseman is hitting better on the road (1.028 OPS) than at Coors Field (.890) as well as against right handers (.989) opposed to southpaws (.833). The fact Arenado doesn’t walk (4.4 BB%) or strike out (13.8%) much might actually help his counting stats and therefore his fantasy value. It’s too bad he doesn’t steal bases (although he is terrific defensively), but his .266 BABIP sure looks unlucky, especially considering Coors Field has increased batting average by 17 percent over the past three seasons, which is 11% more than the next best park. Arenado is clearly a star and might very well only get better moving forward. He’s still just 24 years old. Only health can prevent Arenado from being a first round fantasy pick next year.
Quick Hits: Brett Gardner is on pace to finish with 19 homers, 124 runs scored, 83 RBI and 32 steals while batting .300. He’s been a top-10 fantasy player this season...Despite a 0.91 GB/FB rate, Ian Kinsler’s homer Thursday was just his second of the year...Roberto Osuna has a strong fastball (95.1 mph average velocity) and sure looks like he’s Toronto’s new closer. Maybe the team trades for Jonathan Papelbon later on, but it’s crazy Osuna is owned in fewer than 25% of Yahoo leagues right now. Go pick him up...Steven Matz had the most RBI (four) Sunday by a pitcher making his debut in the history of MLB. He looked pretty competent while on the mound as well. The Mets are so loaded with young starters it’s ridiculous...According to Fangraphs, Brandon Crawford has been the best offensive shortstop this season by a wide margin...Dallas Keuchel has a 1.39 ERA and 0.94 WHIP over 64.2 innings at home this season, whereas Drew Hutchison owns an 8.92 ERA and 1.93 WHIP on the road...Since winning the Cy Young in 2012, R.A. Dickey has allowed the most home runs in major league baseball (and seven more than the next closest)...This Josh Donaldson catch is probably the best of the year so far...Clayton Kershaw has lost three straight starts for the first time in his career, matching his total for losses all of last season. He’s 5-6 on the year and hasn’t won since June 6 despite posting a 39:6 K:BB ratio over 26.2 innings over that span.
Headlines of the Week: Naked Man Screams ‘I’m On Fire’; Pours Milk On Himself In Superstore...A New Male Contraceptive Is Finally Here And It Could Change Your Life Forever...42-Year-Old Man With 29 Miley Cyrus Tattoos Wants To Get Them Removed After Singer Called Them Ugly...Humans, Neanderthals Interbred In Europe...Chilean Woman Carried Calcified Fetus For 50 Years...Flying 5 Foot Circular Saw Tears Through Chinese Man’s Car On Motorway...New Jersey Couple Sues Over Dream Home That Came With Creepy, Threatening Letters From ‘The Watcher’...A Porcupine Meal Makes For A Very Bad Python Day...Kim Jong-un Executed Airport Architect Because He Hated The Design...Guy Beats ‘Super Mario World’ In 23 Minutes While Blindfolded.
Quick Hits Part Deux: Curtis Granderson has five homers and a steal over his past eight games, raising his OPS 94 points over that span. After an extremely slow start to his Mets career, Granderson has 23 home runs over the past calendar year, the same amount as Ryan Braun and five more than Freddie Freeman...Zack Greinke has allowed one run or fewer in nine of his last 11 starts (and just two in another), yet his win Sunday was his first since this stretch started back on May 5. Greinke hasn’t allowed a run over his past three starts (20.2 innings) and sports a 1.58 ERA on the season. His strikeout numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he’s a Cy Young candidate nevertheless....Here’s Brandon Phillips starting a really nice double play before he later hit a game-winning homer in the 13th inning of Thursday’s game...Danny Santana has a hideous 49:5 K:BB ratio this year, but he’s back up in Minnesota and hit .319 with seven homers and 20 steals over just 101 games last season. He could be looking at regular playing time while Byron Buxton is out, so he’s an option for those desperate for shortstop help...This play by Devon Travis was pretty sick...Tyson Ross is having a bizarre year, as his 3.53 GB/FB ratio, 25.4 K% and 13.2 SwStr% are all career highs, while his 11.6 BB% is a career worst. He’s seemingly been unlucky in BABIP (.346) yet fortunate in HR/FB% (6.7), especially considering how Petco Park has played this season. The control needs to improve, but with a 1.45 WHIP and a 5-7 record, Ross seems like a possible buy-low candidate.
Police Blotter: Groom, 6 Arrested When Drunken Brawl Breaks Out At Wed...Man Tried To Smuggle Oxycodone Hidden Inside McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger To Jailed Wife...Man Goes Berserk On Plane Over Nuts...Man Poisoned Co-worker’s Water With Roundup Weed Killer To ‘Mess With him’...Bank Robber Busted After He Stops For Biscuits...Man Who Allegedly Licked Toad Arrested For Trespassing...Blind, 75-Year-Old Man Found Decapitated; Suspect Made Off With Still Missing Head...Man Points Gun At Clerk Because Bathroom Was Out Of Order.
Longread(s) of the Week: Two Lanes To Accokeek (I highly recommend this) and here’s a bonus shorter one: USWNT Stars Morgan Brian And Meghan Klingenberg Are Living With Jeff Van Gundy.
Quick Hits Part Tres: Stephen Strasburg has clearly looked better during his two starts since returning from the DL, albeit against weak lineups. He’s utilizing his fastball differently while posting a 15:2 K:BB ratio over 12.0 innings. There are encouraging signs Strasburg pitches like most expected him to all along from here on out...Roughned Odor has a homer and two steals over his past three games and has raised his OPS 128 points since getting recalled two weeks ago. Odor doesn’t look like a future star, but fantasy owners dealing with injuries should add him as middle infield help...This play ended Nick Markakis’ streak of an MLB-record 398 consecutive games without an error....I used to be a Marco Estrada fan, but I have to say I’m shocked he’s had this success as someone previously so homer-prone joining the A.L. East...Here’s the new HR derby format...Over the past month, Kevin Pillar has been the No. 12 fantasy player. He’s owned in just 59% of Yahoo leagues...Matt Duffy has been the No. 21 fantasy player over the past month, is eligible at 2B and SS and is even hitting third in the Giants’ lineup at times, yet he’s owned in just 31% of Yahoo leagues. He has a 2.2 WAR this season, whereas Pablo Sandoval’s is -0.6. The latter is making slightly more money...Tough loss for owners of Giancarlo Stanton, who’s Hard% (49.7) was easily the best in MLB (next best is Brandon Belt at 44.1%)...Over the last 10 games, Jason Heyward is batting .410 with four homers, eight runs scored, nine RBI and two steals, when he’s been the No. 5 fantasy player.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, vs. Col (Kendrick), $11,100 at FanDuel: He has just one win in more than a month, although he’s sported a 0.93 WHIP with a 47:6 K:BB ratio over 37.2 innings over that span, which suggests there may have been some bad luck in the win department to say the least. The Giants are by far the most favored team Sunday (-230), and Colorado has the fourth-worst OPS against LHP (.662) among all teams this season.
Jose Abreu, 1B, at Det (Price), $3600: He was drafted as a top-10 fantasy player entering the year and while a disappointment so far, he hasn’t been quite the bust this price suggests. Abreu has hit .328/.407/.598 versus lefties during his MLB career, and he’s not priced as a top-10 first baseman here.
Nelson Cruz, OF, at LAA (Santiago), $3000: He’s been in a slump of late, but that regression was more than expected. Cruz still owns a ridiculous .396/.500/.917 line against southpaws this season, so he seems like a bargain and a must start at this price (for what it’s worth, 14 of his 19 homers have come on the road as well).
Jason Heyward, OF, vs. CHC (Hammel), $3500: Over his last 10 games, Heyward is batting .410 with four homers and two steals, when he’s been the No. 5 ranked fantasy player. He’s also 8-for-14 during his career versus Jason Hammel.
Brandon Crawford, SS, vs. Col (Kendrick), $3000: I’ll keep going back to the well here with Crawford, who’s arguably been the best offensive shortstop this season by a wide margin yet continues not to be priced nearly as such.
David DeJesus, OF, vs. Bos (Masterson), $2200: He’s cheap and hitting cleanup. Meanwhile, Justin Masterson has allowed a .300 BAA and a 1.73 WHIP when facing LHB this year.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, at Mia (Urena), $2700: He has a top-10 OPS (.741) in MLB among second basemen while continuing to hit atop a strong Dodgers lineup.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, at Oak (Chavez), $3000: He remains undervalued as a third baseman who’s hit .354 against right-handed pitchers this season. Moustakas is also batting .359 on the road in 2015.
Josh Reddick, OF, vs. KC (Guthrie), $3000: He has a .328/.385/.540 line with nine homers over 198 at bats against RHP this season and is facing a pitcher who’s allowed a .341 BAA and 1.88 WHIP to go along with a whopping 10 homers over 39.1 innings against LHB, so this is a nice matchup at a good price.
Stephen Vogt, C, vs. KC (Guthrie), $3700: He’s 5-for-8 with two homers during his career versus Jeremy Guthrie and owns a .936 OPS with 12 home runs over 171 at bats against RHP this season.
Clayton Kershaw, SP, at Mia (Koehler), $12300 at FanDuel: This is obviously going chalk, but the prices lately with hitters have made paying up for the No. 1 SP of the day more palatable. The Marlins have scored the seventh-fewest runs in MLB this year (although to be fair they’ve been better against LHP), and the Dodgers are easily the most favored team Saturday (-200). Kershaw is sitting with just a 5-5 record on the year and a disappointing (for him) 3.33 ERA, but I’d still bet on him being the best pitcher from here on out. He’s struck out 41 batters over his last four starts, spanning 27.2 innings.
Victor Martinez, C, vs. CHW (Danks), $3400: He owns a .452/.514/.645 line against southpaws and hits in the middle of Detroit’s lineup as the DH. His struggles against RHP (.495 OPS) thanks to an injury really brings his price down here.
David Ortiz, 1B, at TB (Andriese), $2900: I’ll continue going back to the well with Big Papi against righties until his price changes. Tropicana Field isn’t exactly an ideal place to hit, but Ortiz remains in the cleanup spot and has a .915 OPS with 11 homers over 169 at bats versus RHP this year. Meanwhile, Matt Andriese has allowed a .343 BAA when facing LHB.
Evan Longoria, 3B, vs. Bos (Miley), $2900: He sports an .887 OPS with a 13:13 K:BB ratio versus LHB this season (while also batting .321 at home) and hits in the middle of Tampa Bay’s lineup yet is moderately priced. Wade Miley has served up seven homers with a 1.51 WHIP over 56.1 innings when facing LHB this year.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, at Mia (Koehler), $2300: He’s been terrible this year, but Rollins hit 17 homers and stole 28 bags as recently as last year, and even during his awful start this season, he’s combined for 12 home runs/steals over 214 at bats against right handers. He’s so cheap too.
Danny Santana, SS, at Mil (Garza), $2200: He’s back up and should see time in the outfield with Byron Buxton on the DL. Santana had an .841 OPS with five homers and 12 steals over 282 ABs against RHP last season, so he’s an interesting cheap option if he’s in Minnesota’s lineup Saturday.
D.J. LeMahieu, 2B, at SF (Lincecum), $3000: He’s quietly on pace to score 83 runs and record 20 steals. LeMahieu has hit .328 against RHP this season, and Tim Lincecum has allowed a 1.78 WHIP versus RHB, so there’s a weird reverse-split going on here.
Gregory Polanco, OF, vs. Atl (Teheran), $2200: Even in an extremely disappointing campaign, Polanco has combined for 19 homers/steals over 210 at bats against RHP this season, and he’s as discounted as it gets.
Andre Ethier, OF, at Mia (Koehler), $2300: He’s slumped of late but still owns an .854 OPS with nine homers over 178 at bats against RHP on the year. Tom Koehler has allowed 10 homers over 39.0 innings against left-handed batters.
Joc Pederson, OF, at Mia (Koehler), $3700: The rookie has a .962 OPS with 16 homers over 194 at bats versus RHP, including a .400 OBP. So I’m stacking the Dodgers on Saturday. Koehler has a 21.7 HR/FB% and a 40.0 Hard% against lefties this season.
We, as a fantasy community, have long ago (last year) come to terms with Dallas Keuchel being a soft-tossing, pitch-to-contact type - well, most of us have come to terms (he's the 22nd-most owned starter despite being currently ranked third among SPs in to-date fantasy production). And we've been willing to overlook his strikeout shortcomings because of the ridiculously good ratios. But after Keuchel punched out a dozen Yankees on Thursday, we may have to recalibrate how we perceive Kid Keuchy.
Keuchel entered the season having never fanned a double-digit number of hitters in a game. He's now done it twice in his past six outings, and he owns a 9.48 K/9 rate in that span - his career mark entering the season was right around 6.30. And if you are looking for some kind of change in Keuchel's pitch profile to explain his sudden sharp rise in Ks, it's not readily apparent - he's getting hitters to go after pitches outside the zone a bit more, but he's really mixing his four-pitch arsenal in a similar manner to what he's done in the past.
Said Alex Rodriguez about Thursday's performance against Houston's mix-master, "He made me look as silly as I've looked all year. He handled me well all night. He struck me out with a slider, a fastball and a changeup."
Rodriguez's teammate Mark Teixeira took issue with the liberal strike zone of umpire Joe West, and if you were watching the game, you'd probably have to agree that Keuchel benefitted from that. But that's the kind of benefit that tends to get bestowed upon those pitchers that develop a reputation for supreme command. Greg Maddux can certainly attest to that.
There's obviously not much of a fantasy play to be made here, as Keuchel is owned in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues. This is simply a heads up to Keuchel owners (and wanna-be owners) that changes are afoot. Keuchel's monthly K/9 rate progression this season looks like this: 5.35 (April), 7.66 (May), 9.09 (June). Obviously, we'll need to see him maintain this strikeout rise over a much larger sample size before we can claim a fundamental shift in Keuchel's profile. But if he can even hold steady at a K/9 rate in the mid-7s, it becomes so much easier to look at Keuchel in the light of a true fantasy ace.
• Mets welcome Matz: One of the biggest fantasy developments on Thursday took place off the field as it was learned that the Mets plan to call-up another potential future ace in Stephen Matz to start Sunday - he ranked second (by Baseball America) among Mets prospects to only Noah Syndergaard entering the season. The lefty comes to New York after posting a 2.19 ERA for Triple-A Las Vegas, an environment that is extremely friendly to hitters because of the elevation. Matz owns a mid-to-upper 90s fastball to pair with a plus change-up - he also mixes in a curveball. But in Las Vegas, he really learned to lean on his fastball because the desert air tends to flatten out breaking stuff. Matz joins Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom (who was once-again masterful on Thursday) in a Mets rotation which will most likely soon be the envy of MLB (if it's not already). The news of his promotion has made him the top fantasy add over the past 24 hours, but he's still available in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. His talent warrants at least a test-drive in leagues of all shapes and sizes.
Alright, here's a few more noteworthy on-field evelopments from Thursday's slimmed-down slate of games:
• Unlike Matz, Chicago White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton is not enjoying a sharp rise up the most added list - it's more of a soft curve. Considering how bad he was in April, the roto community's aversion to him is at least explainable. But after his third consecutive multi-hit game on Thursday (which included a HR), Eaton is hitting right at .300 for the month of June with four steals and 11 runs scored. Among the 50-percent owned OF crowd, he's easily my favorite three-category (BA, R, SB) speed play.
• In addition to making, perhaps, the defensive play of the day, Reds veteran 2B Brandon Phillips went 3-for-7 with a couple runs scored and a couple RBIs in the Reds' 5-4 victory over the Pirates. In his past 45 games, Phillips (48 percent owned) is hitting .302 with 4 HR and 9 SB - he only had seven combined steals over the past two seasons. In this span (starting from April 28 to present), Phillips is fantasy's No. 8 middle infielder.
• Oakland ace Sonny Gray has been one of the best starters this season in terms of limiting hard contact and home runs. Texas' Mitch Moreland apparently didn't get the memo, as he drilled a shot off Gray into the left-center bleachers on Thursday, one of his three hits in the Rangers' 6-3 loss to the A's. Moreland had been in a bit of a drought coming into the contest, but he still owns a .887 OPS this month, and his OPS marks in the previous two months were no worse than .839. Hitting in the heart of the Texas lineup, Moreland is on pace to hit .300 with 20 HR and right at 80 RBI, and he can be had in 75 percent of Yahoo leagues.
• Boston rookie southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez was all the rage after opening his MLB career by allowing just one run over his first three starts (20.2 IP). But he's allowed 16 runs in his past three starts, including six against Baltimore on Thursday. He next faces Toronto, a lineup that smacked him around for nine runs a couple weeks ago. I still like Rodriguez enough that I'd be hanging onto him in my 12-team mixers, but there's no way I'd be rolling him out there for his next start.
• Finally, it's good to see Detroit DH Victor Martinez start to come alive. V-Mart missed a month of the season (mid-May to mid-June) because of inflammation in his surgically-repaired left knee, but he's looked good since his return, going 3-for-4 on Thursday to raise his average in seven June games to .349.
Alright, enjoy the weekend, and the return of Devon Travis - I know I will.
Max Scherzer, SP, at PHI (Harang), $12500: Your Friday lineup construction starts with the Max-or-no-Max question. Scherzer has been untouchable over his last two starts (18 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 26 K), and now draws the lowest scoring team in the majors. Although the Nats are on the road, Scherzer is still the biggest favorite on the card, checking in at -205.
I can't blame anyone who decides this is an unstoppable force that needs to be purchased Friday. But there's a realistic secondary option if you want to save some money.
Francisco Liriano, SP, vs. ATL (Perez), $9900: You recoup a $2600 savings if you step down from the Scherzer penthouse to the Liriano level, and he's in a good spot Friday. Liriano is a whopping -203 favorite as we go to press, almost as large as Scherzer; he's working at home; and he's up against an ordinary Atlanta offense that's missing its best player (by far) in Freddie Freeman.
Liriano is generally a good bet with the home cooking, holder of a 3.19 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, for his career, at PNC Park. And the Braves tend to struggle against left-handers, holding the second-worst wOBA in the majors in that split.
Rajai Davis, OF, vs. CHW (Quintana), $2700: We like to roll with Davis when he's up against an opposing lefty, and he's done well with 35 at-bats against Jose Quintana (.343/.378/.571). Most of the Detroit lineup likes the look of The Q (it adds up to a .909 OPS); note that Yoenis Cespedes is 8-for-12 against Quintana, with four home runs. And J.D. Martinez is the hottest outfielder in baseball at the moment.
Kevin Kiermaier, OF, vs. BOS (Porcello), $2800: He's settled into the leadoff spot more often than not, and he enters the game on a 10-for-22 run. Rick Porcello is a good draw for most batters, especially left-handed hitters (.787 OPS).
Logan Morrison, 1B, vs. LAA (Shoemaker), $2400: Safeco Field takes some of the fun away, but Morrison does have an .808 OPS against right-handed pitching this year. He also seems to like the tilt of Matt Shoemaker, going 4-for-7 against him with a home run.
Derek Norris, C, vs. ARI (Ray), $2800: With the price ducked under 3K again, it's a fun time to revisit Norris. He has an .865 OPS against southpaws, and I don't take Robbie Ray's ERA at face value (it probably should be in the middle-3s).
Chris Colabello, OF, vs. TEX (Martinez), $3200: You drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola. C-O-L-A, cola. The Nick Martinez Regression Tour should be a lot of fun (4.31 FIP), and while Colebello's best game shows in the platoon edge, he's nonetheless hitting .331 against righties (and .379 at home). When in doubt, go YYZ.
Jeff Baker, 2B, vs. LA (Anderson), $2300: Although his average isn't pretty this year, he's a well-known platoon specialist. Baker is slugging .524 against the southpaws this year, with three homers in 42 at-bats. A reasonable punt play if you prefer to spend elsewhere.
Yan Gomes, C, at BAL (Chen), $2300: It's a back-class angle, as Gomes hasn't done much for us this year, save for one glorious two-homer game. But he holds a .300/.335/.497 career line against lefties (15 homers in 330 at-bats) and his opponent Friday also has a platoon deficit against right-handed bats.
Brandon Crawford, SS, vs. COL (Bettis), $2700: Shag Crawford is a reverse-platoon guy, the rare lefty who does his premium work against the other lefties. That said, he's still having a productive year against the rest of the right-handed world. If you rank all fantasy shortstops against right-handed pitching this year, Crawford is second in homers, fourth in runs, and third in RBIs. You're still getting plenty of bang for your buck.