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Thursday, July 31, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL WRAPUP: WEDNESDAY

Jimmy Rollins:  1/1 with his 15th HR while hitting .241.  It is not the biggest shock in the world Rollins is holding onto his power because often that is the last part of the game to go for a hitter, with the average and speed falling by the wayside first which has been the case here.  Still wouldn't touch him next season.

Lucas Duda:  2/5 with his 19th HR while hitting .262.  Duda would love for July to go on forever, so scorching hot has he been.  Right now Duda is on pace for 29 home runs and is entering close to top ten status at this rate.  If Duda could ever figure out how to hit lefties, we got the newest Anthony Rizzo. 

Daniel Murphy:  3/5 with his 8th HR while hitting .295.  Yeah Murphy will be overpaid next season when he reaches arbitration but the fact he is on pace for 13 home runs to go with his usual stellar counting stats firmly cements his every day second base status as a top 7 or so option. 

Zack Wheeler:  6.2 IP 7 H 2 ER 2 BB 4 K with an ERA of 3.60.  The lightbulb is really going on now for Wheeler and I will go on record right now in saying the move to at worst SP 2 status awaits a season from now. 

Yovani Gallardo:  7 IP 4 H 0 ER 1 BB 5 K with an ERA of 3.38.  Gallardo has been pretty darn good this season when it looked like his career was spiraling out of control due to a loss of velocity.  However Gallardo found a different way to get guys out like Dan Haren this season at the expense of the lost K's. 

Giancarlo Stanton:  1/3 with his 24th HR and 10th SB while hitting .293.  Stanton is slowly losing pace with regards to a 40 home run season which is about the only negative thing you can say about the slugger this season.

Tanner Roark:  7 IP 3 H 1 ER 2 BB 7 K with an ERA of 2.74.  Right now there are a lot of Roark owners who are regretting cutting him anytime during the first half of the season.  Just another starter to add to the extremely deep pool which means maybe we can wait until round 6 to draft our first pitcher next season.

Paul Goldschmidt:  1/4 with his 19th HR while hitting .301.  Goldschmidt has been so good for so long now that he is entering into that hallowed class of player where it is boring to talk about him.

Didi Gregorious:  2/4 with his 4th HR and third SB while hitting .254.  Another Knock and Run Special for Gregorious who was actually known for his average prior.  This is a funny game sometimes.

Devin Mesoraco:  2/4 with his 18th HR while hitting .295.  With Evan Gattis having missed a chunk of the season, Mesoraco is now taking over the mantle of "best breakout catcher story of 2014."

Wade Miley:  6.2 IP 7 H 0 ER 4 BB 1 K with an ERA of 4.14.  This outing is Miley in a nutshell in that he can't strike anyone out but the movement on his pitches induces weak contact to get outs.  Works for those in NL-only leagues.

Dallas Keuchel:  9 IP 4 H 1 ER 3 BB 5 K with an ERA of 2.97.  Teams are calling about Keuchel and rightly so as this breakout story continues on uninterrupted.  Yeah sometimes bad teams can be sneaky sources of value.  Call it the 2014 Houston Astros Effect.

Josh Donaldson:  1/3 with his 24th HR while hitting .247.  Josh Donaldson has 24 home runs.  Repeat that Donaldson 2014 spring training critics?  It was I of course who said what he did a year ago was legit and that he would see just a drop in average.  Right.

Josh Harrison:  1/5 with his 9th HR while hitting .297.  Maybe Harrison is not just a utility guy after all.  It really looks like Harrison was missed by a lot of people, including many in fantasy baseball with his overall talent.  Fits like a glove on this 5-tool Pirates team.

Corey Kluber:  9 IP 3 H 0 ER 0 BB 8 K with an ERA of 2.61.  In case anyone doubted for a second how awesome Kluber's breakout has been this season, this is what you call an exclamation point start.

Adam Jones:  2/4 with his 21st HR while hitting .294.  Consistency in the dictionary has a picture of Adam Jones next to the word.

Kevin Gausman:  7 IP 3 H 3 ER 3 BB 2 K with an ERA of 3.70.  Every time Gausman comes up I am not impressed.  His stuff doesn't seem to totally come along for the ride when he does get promoted. 

Jesse Hahn:  7 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 3 K with an ERA of 2.01.  While we all know Petco Park makes pitchers look better than they really are, Hahn looks like a mixed league every start guy to me,

Jedd Gyorko:  3/5 with his 6th HR while hitting .181.  Maybe Gyroko is a late starter.  Like really late.

Justin Upton:  3/4 with his 19th HR while hitting .287.  With only 7 steals in 9 attempts, it looks like Upton is going the Evan Longoria route of losing interest in running despite still being in prime.

Matt Kemp:  3/4 with his 11th HR while hitting .288.  Kemp has now three homers in the last two games amid his best stretch of the season.  Talent is never the question here but instead it has always been about the health which is cooperating in 2014.  However the steals (5 stolen bases in 10 attempts) look like a victim of all those leg injuries.

Alex Wood:  7 IP 6 H 1 ER 2 BB 8 K with an ERA of 3.30.  Wood is pretty much Atlanta's version of Jesse Hahn.  Right on down to the crazy fact that both were not starting every time out all season for their teams.

Zack Greinke:  8 IP 5 H 1 ER 1 BB 13 K with an ERA of 2.65.  Now has a ridiculous 153 K's in 139.1 innings.  Incredible stuff from the pitching love of my life.

Brett Gardner:  1/4 with his 14th HR while hitting .283.  All of a sudden Gardner turned into Babe Ruth on us.  Remember when he was drafted barely as an outfielder 3 as recently as this past spring?  Yeah lots of regrets all around as I bet you he spent time on your team early on and than you cut him outright when you needed to pick up some guy off waivers who was hot for like two weeks.

Jacoby Ellsbury:  1/4 with his 9th HR while hitting .279.  While Ellsbury won't get to 20 home runs like I thought he could in his first season with the Yankees, he will likely reach 15 which is a nice haul combined with all his other runs and steals.


 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE DEADLINE NEWS: YANKEES LOOKING INTO MARLON BYRD

                                                      

The New York Yankees have kept in touch with the Philadelphia Phillies about outfielder Marlon Byrd, with their latest talks coming early on Wednesday.  The Seattle Mariners pulled out of the talks earlier in the day which left the Yankees and possibly the Kansas City Royals as the only main parties still involved.

Analysis:  The Yankees and Byrd make a ton of sense but New York doesn't want to deal with his option in 2015.  Brian Cashman has been very active this trading season and knows he needs another bat for rightfield where Ichiro looks completely awful.



 

FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE DEADLINE NEWS: RED SOX/ORIOLES CONTINUE TO WORK OUT JON LESTER DETAILS, CARDS STILL NOT OUT OF THE RACE

By Michael Wong

-Contrary to earlier reports, Jon Lester is not a lock to be going to the Baltimore Orioles in a trade.  This was also confirmed by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal as the two sides continue to hammer out details.  I have on good standing that the St. Louis Cardinals, despite having earlier landed Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians, remain in the mix as a fallback if the deal doesn't get done.  Shelby Miller will be a part of the return package and Kevin Siegrist is also being mentioned. 

-The Chicago Cubs getting Felix Doubront is confirmation that the Red Sox are trying to deal away pretty much everybody that is not nailed down.  Doubront was angry at the Red Sox for pulling him from the rotation and the Cubs basically got him for nothing which at this point is almost true since this will be a PTBNL deal.

-The Miami Marlins are NOT going after John Lackey which was told to me directly by a team official.  However they are monitoring the Jon Lester talks as that is one guy they would love to front the rotation a year from now with Jose Fernandez injured if they can work out a quick extension.

-Steve Cishek is getting interest from more than a few teams but the Marlins are not inclined to move him since his contract is affordable and the team thinks that they will be major factors in 2015.

-The Los Angeles Dodgers have called the New York Mets today about Bartolo Colon after saying to anyone who would listen they won't deal Joc Peterson for Cole Hamels, David Price, or Jon Lester.  You can never count the Dodgers out of any deal however but at the very least Peterson is not going anywhere.

-Speaking of the Dodgers, the move Joaquin Benoit and have stepped up their efforts to pry him away from the San Diego Padres since he is on a one-year deal.

 

2014 FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE FALLOUT: JUSTIN MASTERSON MERCIFULLY HEADS TO THE NL

                                                       Justin Masterson

The St. Louis Cardinals made a decent-sized move on Wednesday as they pulled off a trade with the Cleveland Indians for their ace SP Justin Masterson.  Currently on the DL with a knee injury, Masterson has been an ace in name only this season for the Indians as he sits with an ungodly 5.51 ERA and ridiculous 1.65 WHIP which helped collapse extension talks between the two sides.  This just one year after Masterson seemed to finally put it all together in 2013 when he put up an ace-like 3.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while striking out 195 batters in only 193 innings.  As I told you all this past winter however, that season was a gross outlier for Masterson's career and my advice to stay far away from his overrated name in drafts proved to be right on target.  With stuff that was more hittable than ever and shoddy control, Masterson was a complete joke this season.  However like with the Jake Peavy trade from the Boston Red Sox to the San Francisco Giants, Masterson's move from the AL to the NL is instantly a bon to his fantasy baseball value.  Once Masterson is back in action, he figures to up the K rate a bit and lower his hit rate in the much weaker National League which will decrease his WHIP and ERA.  Masterson is worth an add in most formats due to this transaction alone but again keep expectations in check for a guy who has made a career out of defying them, mostly in a bad sense.



 

FANTASY FOOTBALL STOCK UP/STOCK DOWN: MARSHAWN LYNCH CONTINUES HOLDOUT, STEVEN JACKSON'S BODY CONTINUES TO UNDERMINE HIM

                                                     

More of the latest 2014 fantasy football stock changes as training camps continue to get underway in full force.

STOCK UP

Chris Ivory:  New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan confirmed on Tuesday that power back Chris Ivory will be the team's goal-line back this season and not newly arrived Chris Johnson.  This is what was expected going into the season and Ryan also indicated Ivory would get more than just the goal-line carries.  Still Ivory will be a volatile fantasy football stock and is only a RB 3 in standard formats.  In PPR he is even worse as a RB 4.

Rashad Jennings:  Just a few days ago Jennings was on the Stock Down section due to David Wilson being cleared for training camp.  Now not only a week into camp, Wilson has come down with a stinger in his neck and the team will send him for testing.  If Wilson has to go on IR again, Jennings goes right back to firm RB 2 status with only rookie Andre Williams possible taking some touches.

STOCK DOWN

Marshawn Lynch:  No short-term one-day holdout for Lynch like was the case for Jamaal Charles.  Lynch has already racked up over $455,000 in fines for his holdout and no end seems in sight.  Not only for the fact Lynch is missing valuable camp time and reps but he is only hurting himself in that the Seahawks have no problems going into the season with Christian Michael and Robert Turbin splitting time at running back.  This could get real ugly and Lynch's current second round ADP should slide even more as this continues on.

Chris Johnson:  The news that Chris Ivory would be getting the goal-line work is not a total shock and is something CJ2K has always dealt with going back to his early Tennessee Titans days.  Still anytime goal-line scores are formally taken out of the equation, it can't be looked at as anything but a negative.

Steven Jackson:  There was some hope that Steven Jackson would have one last hurrah season in him after his 2013 injury-marred disaster for the Atlanta Falcons but so far no good as the veteran came down with a hamstring problem Tuesday.  The Falcons are saying Jackson is out indefinitely but that he should be back for Week 1.  Rookie Devonta Freeman moves up to somewhat intriguing territory.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DODGERS/CARDS IN LEAD FOR JON LESTER

                                                  

After initially coming in quietly on the Jon Lester talks, the St. Louis Cardinals have stepped up their efforts to acquire the Boston Red Sox lefty by jumping to the lead of the pack with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Red Sox are insisting on two top prospects for Lester of which the Cardinals are very deep in.  Meanwhile the Pittsburgh Pirates and Oakland A's remain in talks but are not close to any sort of deal.

Analysis:  It is now likely 75/25 that Lester gets dealt by the looks of things.  The Red Sox have the hammer as David Price is likely staying put and thus they have the best pitcher on the market up for sale.  With the trade deadline tomorrow at 4:00, expect this to go down to the wire.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE DEADLINE NEWS: JON LESTER SCRATCHED FOR WED. IN ANTICIPATION OF DEAL

By Michael Wong

-The Boston Red Sox are protecting their asset in Jon Lester, having scratched him from his Wednesday start in anticipation of a trade before the 4:00 PM ET deadline on Thursday.  A Red Sox official said that "best offer gets him" in regards to the Oakland A's, Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, and Los Angeles Dodgers who are all involved in the talks.  The St. Louis Cardinals have also checked in during the last 24 hours but are not moving as aggressively.  Meanwhile the Royals continue to scout out John Lackey and Andrew Miller.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, they continue to throw around the idea of trading for Matt Kemp, possibly in a deal for Lester. 

-A New York Mets official says the team will likely "stand pat" at the trade deadline, noting that Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese, and Dillon Gee are all staying put.  In addition the offers for Bartolo Colon apparently have been underwhelming to the point that the Mets have pretty much resigned themselves to the fact he will stay.

-Despite getting back into semi-postseason contention, the Tampa Bay Rays have let it be known that they are still listening to offers for David Price.  However the smart money says Price stays and the Rays move to deal him over the winter.

-A day after saying Cole Hamels was available in trade, the Philadelphia Phillies are not actively pursuing anything on that front.  Cliff Lee has also failed to generate much chatter due to all the money left on his deal and this season's elbow issue.  Meanwhile Jonathan Papelbon remains the most likely to go as the Phillies have a good replacement liked up in the form of Ken Giles.

 

FANTASY BASEBALL STATUS REPORT: THE SLOW DECLINE OF JAMES SHIELDS

                                                       James Shields

Say it ain't so.  One of the recent favorites among the starting pitching fraternity has been Kansas City Royals SP James Shields.  Vastly underrated each and every season, Shields has quietly elevated himself into a low end fantasy baseball ace starter going back to his years with the Tampa Bay Rays.  The strengths that highlight Shields' game was a very high K rate that resulted in 225 and 223 K seasons from 2011-12 and impeccable control that makes his solid stuff look even better to the hitter than it is.  Thus since 2011 Shields seasons ERA's have been 2.82, 3.52, and 3.15 leading into the 2014 season.  Which brings us to the present day as Shields went into his Tuesday start with a good but somewhat elevated 3.52 ERA and a WHIP of 1.27 that is nearing ugly territory.  Overall there are some red flags that are beginning to emerge around Shields which calls into questions his future as a top level fantasy baseball pitcher. 

As far as the concerns that I have for Shields both this season and going forward, let's start with that shoddy 1.27 WHIP.  That number marks the second season in a row Shields' WHIP has been elevated as he put up a 1.24 mark in 2013 during his first stint with the Kansas City Royals.  This after Shields WHIP from 2011 and 2012 read 1.01 and 1.17.  The fact of the matter is that Shields is getting more hittable by the year and that is double shocking since he went from the much tougher AL East to an easier AL Central prior to 2013.  There has been some loss of velocity for Shields which is alarming and he fits into the mold of a high innings starter who is entering the danger zone of all the accumulated frames likely taking its toll on his arm.  We have already seen what this has done in sometimes horrible fashion to similar pitchers such as Justin Verlander, C.C. Sabbathia, Jered Weaver, and Dan Haren and the same is looking like it is starting to happen with Shields as well. 

The second big time concern is the falling K rate of Shields.  As I mentioned earlier, Shields truck out 225 and 223 batters from 2011-12.  In 2013 that number felt to 196 and this season Shields went has only punched out 120 batters in 143.1 innings which is a very sizable drop.  Again it comes back to all of the innings Shields has thrown in his career and the possible erosion that is being seeing in his arm's potency and in his stuff.  The numbers don't lie when you break it all the way down lately.

When you put it all together, James Shields looks like a starter on the cusp of a major drop in numbers and status.  This is coming from a guy who has always preached how good a pitcher Shields was and how I made it a point to always draft him every season.  Sadly it is looking like he is heading the wrong way overall and that a year from now in 2015, I may shy away form him altogether in anticipation of more problems ahead.

 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

FANTASY BASEBALL TRADE DEADLINE INSIDER: RED SOX STEPPING UP EFFORTS TO DEAL JON LESTER

By Michael Wong

-The Boston Red Sox have now firmly committed to trying to trade ace SP Jon Lester after finally deciding the gulf between the two parties on contract talks made that the best avenue to take.  The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to carry on dialogue with the Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners have now also gotten into the discussion.  The Pittsburgh Pirates though have emerged as a real threat to getting Lester as their very potent farm system interests the Red Sox.  In addition the Red Sox are also offering up Andrew Miller. 

-You can forget the A.J. Burnett reunion in Pittsburgh as the Pirates told anyone who would listen that they are finished talking about possibly bringing in the Philadelphia Phillies righthander, especially after getting involved with Lester.  In fact the Pirates never really got past the initial stages in talks about Burnett from all indications.

-There has been a lukewarm market thus far for Kansas City Royals DH Billy Butler but his best hitting stretch of the season has come in the last week with 2 home runs so there is still a chance he could find a new home.

-The Royals and Giants continue to look into what it would take to possibly land New York Mets SP Bartolo Colon.  GM Sandy Alderson is prepared to keep Colon and deal him over the winter if he doesn't get an offer he likes. 

-No word still from the Colorado Rockies over what they will do with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and injured SS Troy Tulowitzki.  The front office is split over who to trade and when to do it.  Right now the odds are that a move won't be done until the winter and that it will be Tulowitzki who will be sent packing.



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2014 FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: TOBY GERHART RB JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

                                                            Toby Gerhart

As we have noted many times in discussing fantasy baseball and fantasy football draft sleepers over the years, one of the biggest factors influencing such a player is opportunity.  Most often that opportunity with a draft sleeper comes in the form of a promotion to a starting role after serving as a backup the season or two prior.  Such is the case in 2014 for new Jacksonville Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart who served for four years as the backup to All Pro Minnesota Vikings star RB Adrian Peterson.  Talk about a thankless job.  The former Heisman Trophy candidate out of Standford dutifully did his job however, picking up the scraps left over from Peterson and making some starts when his counterpart was injured.  Overall though Gerhart remained nothing but a curiosity as he never got an extended look to see if he could be an every week guy.  Well the Jaguars certainly think Gerhart can be that guy as they handed him a rich free agent contract to serve as their bellcow back starting in 2014.  And since Gerhart performed very well the times he was on the field the last five seasons, he carries some interesting sleeper appeal as drafts continue to go on leading up to Week 1.  With all that said let's dig in a bit deeper in order to get a better read on what Gerhart could supply his fantasy football owners this season.

As we noted earlier, Gerhart was a very productive runner while with Stanford which got him an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.  While Gerhart didn't win the award, he picked up a lot of praise for all the terrific numbers he put up in the Cardinal uniform.  It was during that time and through his five seasons with the Vikings where Gerhart showed a power running game that was highlighted by some underrated speed.  In addition Gerhart showed a nice set of hands that made him a weapon out of the backfield in the passing game.  It is these skills that make Gerhart so interesting this drafting season, especially in PPR leagues.  In addition, the Jaguars are a team that has always preferred using a primary ballcarrier to dominate the touches and already we are hearing talk that he will get 20-25 totes this season.  While Gerhart has to prove he can physically hold up under the strain of such an increase in workload, again the opportunity is top notch.  The one negative is that the Jaguars will face a slew of 8-man fronts due to their league-worst passing game but that is offset some by Gerhart's allotment of carries.

Overall Toby Gerhart is absolutely worth drafting as a low end RB 2 with solid upside this season.  While we cant guarantee or even expect a major breakthrough, we do think Gerhart can be a nice asset to your team at an affordable price tag during your draft.

2014 PROJECTION:  1,102 yards 8 TD 41 catches 235 yards