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Thursday, February 28, 2013

2013 FANTASY BASEBALL UPDATED SECOND BASEMAN RANKINGS: GETTING TO KNOW JEDD GYORKO

                                                                       

It is time to update the 2013 fantasy baseball second baseman rankings as we all are advised to get to know a certain power hitting San Diego Padres sleeper.

1.  Robinson Cano:  Cleared the 30 home run mark for the first time in his career.  As big a gap between the top guy and the number 2 than maybe any other position on the field.
2.  Ian Kinsler:  Stayed healthy for second year in row but saw decent drop in home runs and steals.
3.  Dustin Pedroia:  Becoming what Kinsler was back when he couldn't get through a whole season healthy.  Decent risk here due to all his health problems.
4.  Ben Zobrist:  Has eligibility everywhere and contributes quietly across the board.
5.  Brandon Phillips:  Past the age of 30 now and the steals have been fading for a few seasons.  However the average has improved which offsets that loss some.
6.  Jason Kipnis:  Was looking like he would be top 3 based on his awesome first half but collapsed in second.  Typical growth issues for young player.
7.  Aaron Hill:  Believe it.  Looked how good his numbers were in first season with Arizona.
8.  Chase Utley:  Time to move on for good.
9.  Jose Alvuve:  Not much in the way of power but terrific in steals and runs.
10. Rickie Weeks:  Can't stand the average issues, he always gets hurt, and he doesn't collect RBI's.  No thanks.
11. Kyle Seager
12. Jedd Gyroko-Placing Gyorko right on the edge of 12-team standard league relevancy.  Will move up even higher if he continues his Babe Ruth impression at second base this spring. 
13. Dan Uggla:  Time to move on II.  Just pathetic last season and the power slipped.  Without the pop he is useless.
14.  Martin Prado
15. Neil Walker
16. Danny Espinosa
17. Everth Cabrera:  Could steal 50 bases.
18. Howie Kendrick:  Time to move on III.
19. Pedro Ciriaco:  Nice debut and has the tools to move up the rankings quick.
20. Dustin Ackley

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: REDS SP AROLDIS CHAPMAN THROWS TWO PERFECT INNINGS IN SPRING DEBUT

                                                                         

Cincinnati Reds fireballing starter Aroldis Chapman threw two perfect innings in his first spring training start.  Chapman is converting to full time starter status after initially pitching out of thre bullpen as the team's closer.  Chapman's fastball reached 94 mph and he struck out one batter. 

Analysis:  The big thing here is that Chapman didn't issue any walks which is his biggest challenge in successfully making it as a starter.  He also needs to develop some secondary stuff to go with his blazing fastball.  If Chapman can continue with the good control, the results could be spectacular.  One of the most sought after sleepers in 2013 fantasy baseball given the immense ceiling he carries.


FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: CARDS OUTFIELDER OSCAR TAVERAS HITS GRAND SLAM THURSDAY

St. Louis Cardinals top hitting prospect, outfielder Oscar Taveras hit a grand slam in Thursday's Grapefruit League game.  Taveras' slammer was his only hit of the day as he played in place of Carlos Beltran who was resting with a sore toe.

Analysis:  Taveras is about as good a hitting prospect in the game as there is.  In fact many personnel gurus think Taveras has the higher ceiling than the much more celebrated Wil Myers.  His power is off the charts and he projects as a strong .300-plus batter.  The big issue though is the fact the Cardinals have a set outfield with Beltran, Matt Holliday, and John Jay.  However any sort of significant injury among those three would open the door wide for Taveras.  At this point the safe play is to forecast Taveras to begin 2013 in the minors barring no injuries to the starting outfielders, with June 1st the logical time to make his debut.  Be that as it may, Taveras' ceiling is so high that he warrants a draft day selection.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS SP ZACK WHEELER WON'T THROW FOR 7-10 DAYS

                                                                      

New York Mets top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler will not be allowed to throw a baseball for the next 7-10 days after suffering some sort of oblique injury before his Wednesday start.  Wheeler claimed it was "no big deal" and that he could have started if it were the regular season but management wanted to be extra cautious with their top prospect.

Analysis:  The fact Wheeler won't be allowed to throw for 7-10 days means he is likely feeling more than a little soreness.  Oblique injuries are historically tough to heal and so the Mets aren't taking any chances with their fireballing pitcher.  This completely eliminates the slim chance of Wheeler beginning the season with the team and instead his first shot could come after June 1.  

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: RED SOX 3B WILL MIDDLEBROOKS (WRIST) CLEARED TO PLAY

                                                                    

Updating an earlier item, Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks has been cleared to play and is likely to be back in the lineup on Friday.  Middlebrooks had a scare with his surgically repaired wrist which forced him out of Wednesday's game but all tests came back with nothing of concern.

Analysis:  Whew!  Keep Middlebrooks as a solid fallback option at third base for 2013 fantasy baseball given his ability to hit for power and steal a few bags.  His average could be shaky given his high K rate but Middlebrooks has the chance to be very solid.


FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSER NEWS: A'S STOPPER GRANT BALFOUR (KNEE) READY TO THROW OFF MOUND

                                                                  

Oakland A's closer Grant Balfour, who is rehabbing from knee surgery, is preparing to throw off a mound for the first time this spring.  After Balfour had the surgery three weeks ago, he was told it was a 4-6 week recovery but he is already ahead of that schedule.  He made 35 throws from flat ground Wednesday.

Analysis:  Balfour did a very good job as the team's closer last season despite a long history of being shaky in the role.  He has solid value for a good A's team but he is anything but a proven commodity.  It is looking more likely he will be ready for the start of the season.




FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CUBS SP MATT GARZA LIKELY TO BEGIN SEASON ON DL WITH LAT INJURY

                                                         

Oft-injured Chicago Cubs SP Matt Garza is likely going to open the 2013 season on the DL due to the lat injury he suffered two weeks ago.  Garza is slated to finally throw again early next week but he is quickly running out of time to be ready which is why both he and the team are preparing for him to miss a turn or two through the rotation.

Analysis:  Nothing major unless Garza is hurt worse than reported which doesn't seem to be the case since he is preparing to throw next week.  His fantasy baseball stock is already dirt cheap and it will only be more discounted now.  That actually makes Garza a very good investment as your SP 5 due to his strikeout ability and history of solid ERA's.


2013 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: IKE DAVIS 1B NEW YORK METS

If there were an award given to the 2012 Fantasy Baseball First Half LVP (Least Valuable Player) than New York Mets 1B Ike Davis surely would have been considered one of the favorites to take home the hardware.  After all even Davis himself would not be able to argue against the "honor" after he hit a ghastly .201 with 12 home runs in the first half of the season.  It got so bad that at one point the New York Mets front office was seriously considering sending Davis down to the minor leagues in order to clear his mind and to work on his hitting.  Well manager Terry Collins spoke up about keeping Davis with the big club to work through his problems and work through them he did as the slugging first baseman the Mets were anticipating from the start finally showed up in the second half.  In fact Davis would go on to be one of the more valuable bats in all of fantasy baseball during that second half as he hit 20 big home runs while batting .255.  Putting it all together, Davis' 2012 season didn't look all that bad with 32 home runs and 90 RBI from a power perspective.  Yes the .227 average was ugly but Davis made inroads there in the second half and looking under the hood, is likely to see more improvement as we go into the 2013 campaign.

Now let's get to the 2013 season and what we could expect out of Davis. First off, Davis is shaping up as one of the best power hitting bats in all of fantasy baseball as his draft price is not matching the home run totals he put up last season and is fully capable of achieving.  Despite Citi Field clearly slanting toward the pitcher, Davis' 32 home runs in 2012 were very impressive to say the least, especially since he had to fight through such an ugly slump early on that wasn't helped by contracting the strength sapping Valley Fever Syndrome.  With full health and a much more confident mindset, Davis is absolutely capable of making a run at 40 home runs and unlike let's say Adam Dunn, he won't crush your batting average.  Now how can I say that after Davis hit a pathetic .227 last season?  Well one has to only take a look at Davis' history to take some comfort in the notion he can do much better there.  After all Davis hit .264 as a rookie in 2012 and than was at .302 before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury early on during the 2011 season.  In fact Davis was one of the hottest hitters in baseball that year before he got hurt as he also had hit 7 home runs with 25 RBI in basically 5 weeks of play.  While Davis won't hit .302 anytime soon given his high strikeout rate, .260 is surely in his reach if he can stay healthy.  His .260 mark with around 40 home runs would be very nice indeed.

Put it all together and what you see is a very nicely priced power bat who can anchor your UTIL or CI slot with nice results.  Take advantage of the discount as 40 home run bats like Davis' should not come this cheap. 

2013 PROJECTION:  .259 35 HR 97 RBI 73 R 1 SB


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RED SOX 3B WILL MIDDLEBROOKS TESTS ON RIGHT WRIST COME BACK CLEAN

                                                                            

Updating an earlier item, Boston Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks came through testing on his right wrist late Wednesday night with no issues found other than some scar tissue breaking up.  Middlebrooks, who had the right wrist surgically repaired after suffering a break there last season, removed himself from Wednesday night's Grapefruit league game with soreness in the joint and initially feared the worst.  Those fears were quickly put to rest as no breaks or structural issues were seen.

Analysis:  Big bullet dodged here and Middlebrooks could be back in the lineup as soon as today.  He remains one of the better sleeper candidates in 2013 fantasy baseball given his 25-home run bat in a great hitting environment in Boston. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RED SOX 3B WILL MIDDLEBROOKS FORCED OUT WED. WITH WRIST SORENESS

                                                                     

Boston Red Sox 3B Will Middlebrooks was forced out of Wednesday's Grapefruit League game with what is initially being called right wrist soreness.  The big red flag is that it it the same wrist that Middlebrooks fractured last season which adds to the potential seriousness of the issue.  He will be reevaluated Thursday.

Analysis:  Uh-oh.  Middlebrooks carries some immense fantasy baseball potential as a power-hitting third baseman but this could be some bad news.  Stay tuned for some bad news here and hope for the best if you are already an owner.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS SP PHIL HUGHES (BACK) COULD START 2013 ON THE DL

                                                                                 

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi admitted to reporters on Wednesday that SP Phil Hughes could begin the 2013 season on the DL due to the bulging disk in his back.  Hughes first suffered the injury last week during a covering first base drill and still is not cleared to throw.  With Hughes possibly being out, David Phelps figures to take his spot in the rotation.

Analysis:  Not good.  Hughes is no stranger to injury and he is about 50/50 to miss the start of the season.  A decent bet to win games, Hughes' ERA and WHIP take a bit of a beating in the AL East.


FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: CUBS SS STARLIN CASTRO DIAGNOSED WITH HAMSTRING TIGHTNESS, DAY-TO-DAY

                                                                         

Chicago Cubs SS Starlin Castro is considered day-to-day after suffering from some left hamstring tightness.  Castro was forced out of Wednesday's Cactus League game with the hamstring and is expected to be out the next few days as a precaution.

Analysis:  Nothing to worry about here based on an initial assessment from both Castro and the front office.  With spring training only a week old, the Cubs are correctly being cautious with their star shortstop with the season still a full month-plus away.  Castro is one of the true rising stars in fantasy baseball and is one the cusp of superstar status.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS TOP PITCHING PROSPECT ZACK WHEELER SCRATCHED WITH OBLIQUE STRAIN

Prized New York Mets pitching prospect Zack Wheeler was scratched from his scheduled Wednesday start due to an apparent oblique problem.  Manager Terry Collins called the strain "minor" and that the team was just taking the cautious route.  No word on when he will be allowed to pitch again.

Analysis:  Ugh.  This is the last thing you want to hear if you were hoping like I was to see Wheeler break camp with the Mets.  The slim chance of that taking place is now moved to the "no chance" category after the oblique issue arose.  Oblique injuries are always tricky and require at least a week or rest.  If Wheeler checks out of this all right, he retains the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in the game this season.


FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKING NEWS: CHIEFS ACQUIRE QB ALEX SMITH FROM 49ERS FOR SECOND ROUND PICK

                                                                            

The San Francisco 49ers traded QB Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2013 second round draft pick and a conditional 2014 selection. 

Analysis:  The Chiefs get to hold onto the top pick of the draft which they figure to use on either OT Luke Joeckel or DT SHariff Floyd and get a very solid QB in Smith who took the 49ers to the NFC title game in 2012.  As far as fantasy football is concerned, Smith remains a middle tier guy.


2013 FANTASY BASEBALL UPDATED OUTFIELDER RANKINGS

1.  Mike Trout-Moves up to number 1 after Braun's name once again surfaced in steroid talk.
2.  Ryan Braun-See above.
3.  Matt Kemp-Want to see him playing in games soon to have no worries at all.
4.  Andrew McCutchen-Wants to steal more bases but he has to do something with his poor success rate.
5.  Carlos Gonzalez-If he ever plays a full season, 30/30 possible.
6.  Jose Bautista-Don't forget how awesome a home run hitter the guy is off an injury-filled 2012.
7.  Giancarlo Stanton-Tough to project 100 RBI in that lineup.
8.  Josh Hamilton-Believe it or not started showing signs of age last season with lowest contact rate of career.
9.  Bryce Harper-Sky is literally the limit.
10. Yoenis Cespedes-This is not too high.  Was even better than I thought he was as he learned on the fly in 2012.
11. Adrian Gonzalez-Playing him at first or the outfield makes no difference.  
12. Justin Upton-Blame the low power output in 2012 to a sapping thumb injury.  Set up for a swell rebound.
13. Jacoby Ellsbury-Among the toughest players to grade out due to penchant for injuries and only one big power season.
14. Jason Heyward-Funny thing that no one is talking about his 27/21 season in 2012.  30/30 here we come.
15. Adam Jones-Just duplicate his stats the last two seasons as he is that consistent.
16. Matt Holliday-Loved him in the past but slowly leaking stats.
17. B.J. Upton-Yeah the average stinks but power/speed game extremely good.
18. Alex Rios-Thank me for recommending him so hard last season.  Just has to avoid on year/off year trend.
19. Shin-Soo Choo-Good bet to go 20/20 in Cincy and price not the cost of what it was when he went 20/20 in 2009 and 2010.
20. Jay Bruce-Personal issue I have with the guy due to his awful K rate and shoddy averages.
21. Desmond Jennings-B.J. Upton 2.0.
22. Curtis Granderson:  Broken forearm send his stock tumbling but could be back in mid-May.
23. Austin Jackson-Wasn't a fan before but power growth has me intrigued if paired with a speed rebound.
24. Mike Morse-If he stays healthy, 30 home runs in the realm of possibility.
25. Alex Gordon-Finally figured out to hit for average but needs more power to be anything higher than where he already is.
26. Corey Hart-Would have been ranked higher but likely to miss April with knee.
27. Michael Bourn-Speed guys are overrated.  Rinse and repeat.
28. Carlos Beltran-Can't argue with the production last season but can clearly argue against repeat and good health.
29. Carlos Gomez-Helped me win a title last season in the Experts League.  Look up his second half.  Wow.
30. Josh Willingham-Some serious power here but average a risk.
31. Jason Kubel:  See above.
32. Starling Marte-Oozing with potential as power developing to go with top notch speed.
33. Andre Ethier-Now squarely a boring pick.
34. Mark Trumbo-Second half struggled ruined big time 2012 first half.
35. Hunter Pence-Going the wrong way with his production when he had every reason to have career year in Philly last season.
36. Nelson Cruz-Another grossly overrated bat.  Increasing struggles against righties and PED linkage adds more issues.
37. Josh Reddick-Love the power but another average liability guy.
38. Angel Pagan-Solid across the board without going nuts in any one stat.
39. Jayson Werth-If he can stay healthy, there is some sneaky value.
40. Alejandro DeAza-Nice full season debut in 2012.
41. Adam Eaton-Promising immediate outlook when it comes to runs, steals, and average.
42. Ben Revere-Lots of steals hitting at top of Phils lineup.
43. Shane Victorino-Vastly overpaid by Red Sox as numbers seeing holes everywhere.
44. Adam Dunn-Power galore but that is grossly offset by scary average.

There you have it.  As always let us know your thoughts.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

FANTASY PROSPECT WATCH: CARDS SP SHELBY MILLER TO MAKE FIRST SPRING START SATURDAY

                                                             

St. Louis Cardinals SP prospect Shelby Miller is slated to make his spring training starting debut Saturday after needing a few days off last week with elbow soreness.  Both Miller and manager Mike Matheney have chalked up the soreness to typical spring training aches with no worries going forward.

Analysis:  Miller has big time sleeper ability as a kid whose penchant for strikeouts makes him one to watch all spring.  With a 98-mph topping his impressive arsenal, Miller is a terrific guy to draft in the middle rounds who could pay off with a sizable return if all breaks right.



FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: PADS 2B JEDD GYORKO HOMERS FOR THIRD TIME TUESDAY

San Diego Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko went deep for the third time in four spring games on Tuesday, bringing his RBI total to 9.  Trying to win the starting second base job from Logan Forsythe, Gyorko is as hot a hitter as there is this spring training.

Analysis:  Wow.  Gyorko is starting to look like the Mike Morse spring MVP candidate with three homers already.  His power has been talked about for awhile now as Gyorko hit 31 home runs on the farm in 2012 and with the Padres needed offense anywhere they can find, stands a good chance of wining the second base job where he would instantly have immense fantasy baseball potential as a Dan Uggla-type with better average potential.


FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES: WELKER AND PATS NOW DISCUSSING CONTRACT TERMS

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--On my way back from the Combine but some last-minute news to share.

-The New England Patriots and free agent WR Wes Welker are now giving each other the chance to discuss contract terms according to a team source.  This on the heels of the Pats letting it leak that they were firmly ready to move on from Welker after some issues between he and the front office bubbled up last season.  With Welker likely realizing his best impact would be with the Pats, the two sides are preparing to give it another chance to make some progress on a new pact.

-St. Louis Rams RB Steven Jackson reported that he will void the $7 million player option for 2013 and become a free agent.  Risky move for Jackson who is not likely to see a bunch of potential suitors given his age and high mileage.

-Still nothing to report on New York Jets CB Darrell Revis and a potential trade.  GM John Idzik admitted at the Combine that he had not spoken to Revis' reps and that nothing is brewing yet as far as a possible trade partner.  The Falcons and 49ers were the two teams most often mentioned as being interested.

-Yet another arm surgery for New England Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski, his third in less than a year.

-The Patriots are also now listening to offers for backup QB Ryan Mallett.

There you have it.  Look for my NFL Draft position rankings in the next few days.

FANTASY BASEBALL PROSPECT WATCH: PADRES 2B JEDD GYORKO GOES DEEP IN FIRST SPRING GAME

San Diego Padres 2B prospect Jedd Gryoko came into 2013 spring training trying to make the team on the heels of a monster 2012 hitting campaign when he slugged 30 home runs while batting .311.  Unfortunately for Gyorko, his natural position of third base was blocked by the incredible bustout season of one Chase Headley so a shirt across the diamond was his only path to the majors.  Arriving at camp early, Gyorko quickly got to work on the nuances of his new position, with his hitting being a secondary issue given his prior excellence there.  Well Gyroko wasted little time in unleashing that power in his Cactus League debut Monday by hitting a grand slam.  The 24-year-old continues to impress with the stick but after the game Gyrorko went back to world fielding grounders.  Ultimately it is what Gyorko does on the defensive side that will determine whether or not he makes the team out of camp.  With the Padres clearly in a rebuilding mode, one would think that Gyorko would really have to butcher things to not make the jump but irregardless this is a story you all need to pay attention to given the ongoing depth issues at the second base spot.  Once the top three guys (Cano, Kinsler, Pedroia) are off the board, there is nothing but question marks which makes Gyorko's outlook crucial for those panning for gold.  Stay on top of this story as it continues to unfold.


Monday, February 25, 2013

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: REDS OUTFIELDER JAY BRUCE OUT A FEW DAYS WITH SORE HEEL

                                                          

Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce is out the next few days due to soreness in his right heel.  Manager Dusty Baker said on Monday that it was nothing to be concerned with and the team is just being cautious in the early days of camp.

Analysis:  Take Bruce for what he is at this point in his career as he now enters his prime years and that is a 30-40 home run slugger whose propensity for strikeouts means an average north of .270 is asking a lot.  Bruce is a personal preference guy in that many like myself find the average a non-starter as it takes away from the positives he brings in his power.


FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: GIANTS' MADISON BUMGARNER THROWS TWO SCORELESS IN DEBUT

                                                           

San Francisco Giants SP Madison Bumgarner threw two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut on Monday, giving up two hits and a walk.  Coming off a terrific 2012 season when he put up a 3.37 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, Bumgarner is poised to continue his ascent into one of the best starters in baseball.  His next outing is slated for the weekend.

Analysis:  I have been saying it for two seasons now and nothing has changed as far as me loving everything and anything about this kid.  And kid he still is as Bumgarner is only 24 and already is pitching like an ace.  Double down on him once again this season.  Right there with Zack Greinke as the cheapest ace-type pitcher in the game.


FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES: MANTI TE'O RUNS THE 40

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.-- Big day at the NFL Scouting Combine.  Let's get right to the latest news.

-Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o ran a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash which was not an explosive number by any means.  With Te'o not being much of a pass rusher while in school, his draft stock continues to be called into question as far as round 1 is concerned.  Throw in the whole Catfish saga and Te'o could very well hear his name now called on Day 2.

-The Philadelphia Eagles released DT Cullen Jenkings, saving themselves $4.1 million in cap space.  The Eagles made the move only two years into a five-year deal they originally gave Jenkins.

-Nothing yet on the Alex Smith is he traded/is he not traded situation. 

-Jacksonville Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell met with the media and confirmed that the team will have an open competition at the QB position in camp.  The team also has heard themselves attached to more than a few QB draft names.

-BYU's DE Ziggy Ansah locked up a top ten selection by running a 4.62 in the 40. 

FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSING TIME: PARNELL LOOKS GOOD IN FIRST OUTING, BALFOUR AND JANSSEN ON WAY BACK

                                                       

Monday is Closing Time so let's check in on the ninth inning news as fantasy baseball leagues get underway.

-Newly minted New York Mets closer Bobby Parnell needed only 9 pitches to throw a scoreless inning in his first spring outing.  The beauty of the outing is that manager Terry Collins put Parnell in for a save chance in the ninth inning instead of easing him in as most other closers do throughout the league.  Parnell's fastball hit 98 as he eased through the inning.  With Frank Francisco coming off a horrible season and now trying to come back from elbow trouble, the job is clearly Parnell's to lose.  So far so good.  Move him up slightly on your cheat sheet.

-Toronto Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen is still not ready to throw off a mound as he tries to make it back from an offseason shoulder procedure.  The red flag in all this is that Janssen still feels some soreness in the shoulder which is giving the Blue Jays hierarchy pause.  We have now entered into the territory where Janssen may not be ready for Opening Day a la Ryan Madson.  If he is forced to miss a week or two of the season, Sergio Santos would close in his place which is ironic since the latter was originally signed before 2012 to fill that very role. 

-Oakland A's closer Grant Balfour is ahead of schedule in his return from knee surgery as manager Bob Geren admitted he is worried that he is going too fast in his recovery.  Balfour was originally supposed to miss 4-6 weeks but now has a clear chance to be ready for Opening Day.  Ryan Cook would close in his place if Balfour were to miss some time which is looking like it may not be an issue.

-Speaking of Madson, we already know he will miss the first week or two of the season and that is barring any more setbacks with his elbow.  Madson has been an injury nightmare the last season-plus which means his fireballing understudy Ernesto Frieri is looking more prominent.  Frieri was tremendous in the role the first half of last season before inconsistency in the second and his massive K rate is perfectly suited for success.  Again I reiterate the possibility of Frieri being able to hold onto the gig when Madson gets back if he is in a nice groove at the start of the season.

There you have it.  As always check back for more closer news as it takes place.


FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES: ALEX SMITH HAS A NEW HOME?

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--The NFL Combine is winding down but not the flow of information coming out of it.

-According to multiple reports, the San Francisco 49ers have completed a trade involving QB Alex Smith, with the Kansas City Chiefs being mentioned as the most likely destination.  Although no official word has come out yet on who it is, the Chiefs and 49ers were seen meeting late Sunday night.  The Chiefs had also discussed Nick Foles with the Philadelphia Eagles but those talks seemed to go nowhere.

-After at first saying he would be back, the Green Bay Packers are now having second thoughts on retaining tight end Jermichael Finley for the 2013 season.

-Utah DL Star Lotulelei was seen as one of the top players in the 2013 NFL draft but now his draft stock is uncertain after he was diagnosed with a heart condition.  Lotulelei didn't participate in the Combine exercises as a result of the diagnosis and he will head for more tests to find out exactly what the issue is and how much it will impact his NFL future.

-Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb's 4.34 40-yard dash time was the big buzz performance from Sunday's workouts.  Once looked at as a middle round pick, visions of the next Chris Johnson have McCalebb's stock on a quick rise.

-The Packers are also weighing whether to franchise tag WR Greg Jennings.  The idea is that if they let Finley walk, they would free up enough money to use the tag.

-Wisconsin RB Montee Ball didn't help his fledgling draft stock by running a 4.62 40.  He remains a middle round pick.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS OUTFIELDER CURTIS GRANDERSON OUT 10 WEEKS WITH FRACTURED FOREARM

                                                        

New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson is out the next ten weeks after suffering a fractured forearm when hit by a pitch Sunday from J.A. Happ.  Granderson was immediate pain and left the field for tests which confirmed the fracture. 

Analysis:  Wow.  Brett Gardner is now the everyday centerfielder and Juan Rivera (remember him?) is the favorite for the leftfield job.  Ten weeks would have Granderson back sometime in June without any setbacks so his fantasy baseball value drops drastically from his current fourth round spot to somewhere in the teens.  Before the injury we discussed how Granderson was a bust candidate and that is now even more true given the injury.

FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES: TAVON AUSTIN SCORCHES 40-YRD. DASH AT 4.25

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis,IN.--West Virginia running back/WR Tavon Austin was the most-talked about prospect on offense this weekend after he recorded a scorching 4.25 time in the 40-yard dash.  The run guarantees Austin a first round grade as he shoots up more than a few draft boards.  The big question facing teams that want to draft Austin is if he can hold up to NFL pounding and where he should be played. 

-The Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos are looking at Shonn Greene as a potential running back to add to their stable now the former Iowa State runner won't be back with the New York Jets. 

-No signs of any progress yet between the Baltimore Ravens and QB Joe Flacco on a new contract.  This could be going on for awhile.

-New York Giants GM Jerry Reese denied a report that the team is more interested in re-signing WR Hakeem Nicks long-term over colleague Victor Cruz.  Also no comment from Reese about whether or not Cruz is angering the team over his demands for a new contract.

-LSU CB Tyrann Mathieu measured in at only 5-9 which calls into question whether or not he can play corner in the NFL.

-LSU DE Sam Montgomery opened some eyes in his interview when he admitted to betting on "games" and also taking action on them.  Montgomery didn't specify which sports he bet on but that got more than a little attention.

-The other big news is that Georgia DE/OLB Jarvis Jones continues to hear negative news about his draft stock, despite a doctor giving a favorable review on his current spinal stenosis issue.



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FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: METS SP PHENOM ZACK WHEELER K'S 2 IN TWO INNINGS

New York Mets top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, pitched two scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut Saturday as he struck out two batters while giving up a hit and a walk.  Wheeler reached 96 on his fastball and was generally in the 92-94 range throughout the outing.  The Mets still plan to have Wheeler begin 2013 in the minors in order to keep his arbitration clock backdated for another season.

Analysis:  Wheeler no doubt is considered the best pitching prospect in the majors and he didn't disappoint in his debut.  The kid has major strikeout potential and is someone to keep in mind toward the late middle rounds of your draft as he figures to be up by June 1 the latest.  With Johan Santana no given to begin the season on time, there remains a slim chance Wheeler could get a rotation spot where he would instantly have major sleeper value.


2013 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT TIERS: OUTFIELDERS

The outfielders are up next in our continuing tour around the diamond when it comes to the 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Tiers.  This is obviously a deep group of tiers given the requirement of at least three outfielders in most leagues so let's get right to it.

Tier 1 (Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez)

These are the cream of the crop and every one of these guys will hear their names called in round 1 except for maybe Cargo who will go quick in round 2.  The thing that separates these five from the rest of the pack is their ability to contribute across the board.  Some things to consider however:  Braun could be facing a 50 game suspension depending on what happens with the Biogenesis probe and he clearly is the biggest risk/reward guy in the draft considering his status as a top three bat.  Kemp is coming back from offseason shoulder surgery so power could be lacking early on.  And McCutchen won't hit nearly as well as he did average-wise this season as he was very lucky with his 2012 BABIP.  Other than that these guys are where it is at as far as star players in the outfield.

Tier 2 (Justin Upton, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward)

-Crazy good value here as Harper is likely to be a first round guy by next season and the same could be said of Upton whose 2012 power outage was blamed on a thumb that was sore the first five months of the season.  He still has 25/25 potential and is a bargain at his current third round slot.  We all know Bautista, Stanton, and Hamilton are the prime power guys here.  Cespedes and Heyward could also join Harper in round 1 by next season as both are just oozing star potential with their power/speed games.  Finally Ellsbury remains a riddle.  We saw how awesome he could be in 2011 with his 30/30 campaign but 2012 reminded us how fragile his body is.  Tough call.  Anything past round 3 is a very good investment though but doubtful he drops that far.

Tier 3 (B.J. Upton, Adam Jones, Matt Holliday, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce, Desmond Jennings, Curtis Granderson)

-Jones could easily be placed in tier 2 but the fact he is now squarely in his prime means there is no more growth expected.  Holliday is fading a bit as his K rate is on the upswing and injuries are showing up more often.  Choo is a guy I told you all to go hard after in a comeback bid last season and he came though nicely.  Going to Cincy should get him back to the 20/20 mark.  Jennings is looking like a clone of B.J. Upton in that he will hit some home runs and steal a bunch of bases while struggling to hit above .260.  Bruce is a 30-plus home run bat you all like more than me.  Don't like the average.

Tier 4 (Alex Gordon, Austin Jackson, Alex Rios, Mike Morse, Michael Bourn, Carl Crawford, Hunter Pence, Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Gomez)

-Some red flags showing up in this tier.  Rios is a tier 2-3 guy who gets placed here due to his long history of alternating good and bad years.  Jackson is a guy I like a lot who is growing into his power.  Unfortunately he is losing steals.  No way Beltran stays as healthy as he did in 2012.  When I look at Beltran I see Lance Berkman 2012 after his comeback 2011.  Bourn is vastly overrated as you all know from reading here.  Reddick has some average issues due to his very high K rate.  Anyone's guess what Crawford provides.  Pence and Cruz come off rough 2012 seasons that fell well short of expectations.  Gomez won me and many others a title with his top five overall numbers in the second half last season.

Tier 5 (Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Nick Markakis, Andre Ethier, Michael Cuddyer, Starling MArte, Josh Willingham, Angel Pagan, Alfonso Soriano, Dexter Fowler, Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Alejandro DeAza. Shane Victorino, Ben Revere, Jason Kubel)

-Some very solid players here but you are losing categories as well in this batch.  Power is the name of the game in this group with Kubel, Soriano, and Willingham who all are underrated but they also bring average issues to the table.  Like Marte a lot and he has the tools to be a big time value.

Tier 6 (Denard Span, John Jay, Melky Cabrera, Cameron Maybin, Dayan Viciedo, David Murphy, Cody Ross, Nick Swisher, Ryan Ludwick, Lorenzo Cain, Justin Ruggiano, Tyler Colvin, Adam Eaton, Emilio Bonifcio, Carlos Quentin, Wil Myers, Coco Crisp, Colby Rasmus, Peter Boujos)

-All bench guys here with the exception of Cain and Swisher who can hold down a regular slot on your team this season.  Myers and Eaton though need to be stashed on the bench as they carry plenty of potential.  Eaton is likely to begin 2013 hitting leadoff for Arizona while Myers is not expected to be up until around June.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES: JARVIS JONES ON WAY DOWN BOARDS

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--Major news items to get to.

-In the biggest news of the day, more than a few teams have removed Georgia OLB/DE Jarvis Jones from their draft lists due to the spinal stenosis in his neck.  Jones was checked out by doctors at the combine who report he will always have to deal with the stenosis and that there is the chance he could suffer a serious injury along the way.  Prior to the news, Jones was considered a sure fire top five pick and also was in the running for number 1 overall.

-The Kansas City Chiefs are not planing to draft QB Geno Smith first overall and all things being equal would like to move down the round. 

-Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert is making noise Saturday after he ran a very impressive 4.60 40-yard dash.  Eifert is the consensus top tight end in the draft and his very good receiving skills are sure to make him as high as a top 15 pick.

-The Jacksonville Jaguars at this point are going to give QB Blaine Gabbert one more chance to be the team's starter for the 2013 season.


FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapo;lis, IN.--Some interesting news beginning to take shape here on Day 3 of the Combine.

-The Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles have now officially opened up talks centering on QB Nick Foles.  With former Eagles head coach Andy Reid setting up shop in Kansas City and in dire need of a passer, it seemed like only a matter of time before the two teams met to discuss Foles.  With new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly choosing Michael Vick to lead them going forward (with Dennis Dixon as the new backup), Foles is clearly expendable in Philly.  Whereas once the Eagles were looking for a first round pick, they reportedly have come off that and would even consider a third.  Needless to say after Foles played well the second half of last season, this would not a be a popular move among the Eagles faithful.

-Rumors are circulating that the Dallas Cowboys will release WR Miles Austin in the next few days.  After being an injury mess the last two seasons, the Cowboys are looking to free up some salary cap space in order to re-sign QB Tony Romo.

-The Carolina Panthers WILL NOT cut RB DeAngelo Williams as many are predicting.  Asking him to take a pay cut though could still be on the table.

-Despite a poor 2012, the Green Bay Packers will hold onto tight end Jermichael Finley despite a $3.5 million cap hit.

-Speaking of the Kansas City Chiefs, they also have discussed QB Alex Smith with the San Francisco 49ers.  The 49ers will hold onto Smith until they get the package they are looking for which centers on draft picks.

That's all for now.  Check back later.


2013 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT DEBATE: JOSE BAUTISTA/JOSH HAMILTON OUTFIELDERS

Jose Bautista - Toronto Blue Jays                                                                                              Josh Hamilton - Los Angeles Angels

Another 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Debate is on tap and today we go right to the top of the power hitting fraternity who resides in the outfield.  That brings us to the Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista and the Los Angeles Angels' Josh Hamilton who are being drafted right in front or behind one another as late first round/second round draft picks in standard leagues.  The question ultimately is:  who should be picked ahead of the other one this season?  Let's compare the two in the standard 5 x 5 categories in order to determine who in fact deserves the nod.

******KEEP IN MIND THAT BAUTISTA NO LONGER CARRIES THIRD BASE ELIGIBILITY THIS SEASON.******

AVERAGE:  Hamilton takes this one easy as he is a career .303 hitter to Bautista's .253.  Last season was a stark contrast as well as Hamilton hit .285 to Bautista's .241.  No need to go on.
ADVANTAGE:  Josh Hamilton

HOME RUNS:  Hamilton hit the 40 home run mark for the first time in 2012 with 43, while Bautista has gone deep 54 and 43 times his last two full seasons.  On a per game basis, Bautista's home run rate outpaces Hamilton's.
ADVANTAGE:  Jose Bautista

RBI:  Both men are going to hit cleanup in explosive lineups and Hamilton's 128 RBI last season nearly match Bautista's 124 in 2010.  Bautista actually outproduced Hamilton 227 to 194 during the 2010 and 2011 seasons but last year it was all the Angels slugger 128 to 65 due to his health advantage.
ADVANTAGE:  EVEN

STOLEN BASES:  This is a non-starter for both guys who will top out between 5-7 if they are lucky.  Nothing to discuss at all.
ADVANTAGE:  EVEN

RUNS:  Again we got to go back to the two healthy seasons both men had in 2010 and 2011 and in that respect Bautista wins with 109 and 105 runs scored to Hamilton's 95 and 80.  Again both guys are going to be in prime position to score a bunch of runs in big time lineups but the fact Bautisa could bat third to Hamilton's cleanup would likely net him more chances to run past home.
ADVANTAGE:  Jose Bautista

WINNER:  Jose Bautista

You might be surprised by this given their stats from last season but Bautista was right on par with his past home run rates before he got hurt.  Also hit .241 average was depressed by one of the most unlucky BABIP's in baseball as he is more of a .270 guy.  Hamilton meanwhile has almost no chance of staying DL-free for two seasons in a row and when looking deeper at his 2012 stats, there was some aging there as his K rate was at an all-time high to go along with his contact rate sinking.  Not good trends.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: DODGERS OUTFIELDER MATT KEMP HAS TAKEN BP ONLY THREE TIMES SINCE SHOULDER SURGERY

                                                               

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp admitted he has taken batting practice only three time since offseason shoulder surgery and on a related note, manager Don Mattingly said his star would not play in any games until at least the beginning of March.  Despite the lack of work, both Kemp and Mattingly expect him to be ready for Opening Day.

Analysis:  A couple of things here:  the first is that shoulder surgery is right there with the wrist as far as worrying a bit about power numbers the following season.  Secondly, Kemp needs to catch up and get his work in order to feel fully prepared for the season.  I am still as big a fan of Kemp as anyone but keep in mind the power could be slow to come about in April and his days of stealing 30 bases are likely a thing of the past after he dealt with so much hamstring issues last season.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NATS SP GIO GONZALEZ CONFIRMS PASSING ALL STEROIDS TESTS

                                                    

Washington Nationals SP Gio Gonzalez confirmed to reporters on Friday that he did in fact pass a series of PED tests two days after being publicly linked to Biogenesis.  Gonzalez had maintained from the beginning that he never got steroids from founder Anthony Bosch and the negative tests back up his story.

Analysis:  Gonzalez is now officially in the clear as far as whether or not he took steroids and should be graded like he was before this whole sordid story broke.  A big fan of his, Gonzalez should be money in the back for 200-plus strikeouts and could once again compete for the NL Cy Young if he continues to work on his control.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: METS ACE JOHAN SANTANA SET BACK TWO WEEKS

                                                           

New York Mets SP Johan Santana has been pushed back a full two weeks by the team due to feeling some weakness in his pitching shoulder.  GM Sandy Alderson said on Friday that he wants Santana to build up more arm strength before he even thinks about pitching against opposing batters.  He also refused to say whether Santana would be ready for Opening Day.

Analysis:  Not good.  It has been one big medical nightmare for Santana the last three seasons and now Opening Day is already in doubt with camps just getting underway.  His past status as the best pitcher in the game is long over and at this point Santana can be considered nothing more than a SP 4 or 5.


Friday, February 22, 2013

FANTASY SPORTS BOSS MUCH ANTICIPATED "DARKHORSE" CY YOUNG WINNER COMING SOON

I have gotten more than a few e-mails lately asking me when I will reveal my 2013 Fantasy Sports Boss Darkhorse Cy Young Winner Candidate."  This has now become an annual tradition for some strange reason as I didn't anticipate this much attention when I started doing it a few seasons ago.  Needless to say I nailed it last year by picking Gio Gonzalez who went out and finished right behind R.A. Dickey for the award. 

As a reminder, to be a darkhorse pick, said pitcher goes into the season not a top tier guy while also not being a complete unknown either.  This will be the fourth season of making such a pick, with Gonzalez earning the honor in 2012, Shaun Marcum the year before, and Brett Anderson in 2010.  Stay tuned!!!!!!!  I have three candidates in mind and will have it figured out next week.

FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE SCOUTING COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--Another day at the combine and some news and notes once again are flying around.  Let's get to it:

-The St. Louis Rams are prepared not to use their franchise tag on either RB Steven Jackson or WR Danny Amendola.  With nothing close as far as a new contract on either front, the team could be looking at losing both in free agency.

-Florida DT Shariff Floyd has been the early talk of the combine as it is now the consensus that he will be a top five pick in the draft.

-New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin revealed that WR Hakeem Nicks recently underwent a "scope" on his knee.  Yet another injury issue for Nicks who has fallen hard in the wide receiver hierarchy due to his various ailments.

-The Tennessee Titans got on the free agent board early, signing safety George Wilson to a two-year deal for $4 million.

-The Atlanta Falcons are "certain" to release RB Michael Turner as told to me directly by a team source.

-Free agent WR Greg Jennings wants $14 million a year in his new contract.  The Miami Dolphins continue to be the hot team that he could be going to.

More later. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: ANGELS SOURCE SAYS CLOSER RYAN MADSON HAS "NO CHANCE" TO START SEASON ON TIME

                                                            

According to a team source, Los Angeles Angels closer Ryan Madson has "no chance" of being ready for the start of the 2013 season due to his recovery from last year's Tommy John surgery and the setback he went through at the start of camp.  Madson had an MRI on his elbow last week after soreness cropped up but there was nothing structurally wrong that was found.  He once again began throwing off flat ground last Monday. 

Analysis:  Nothing shocking here as Madson faced a long climb back to be ready for the opener.  The real key is how much time he will miss and for those who are drafting now, this is more of a perplexing problem.  Ernesto Frieri proved last season, especially in the first half, that he has the goods to close and with Madson missing so much time, the former could run with the gig which means he is the one to look at in drafts. 

2013 FANTASY BASEBALL THIRD BASEMAN DRAFT TIERS

The always health-challenged third baseman are up next as we continue on with the tour around the diamond with regards to the 2013 fantays baseball draft tiers.  Let's see where everyone stacks up.

TIER 1 (Miguel Cabrera)

-Cabrera stands alone as quite possibly the number 1 player in all of fantasy baseball.  His awesome combination of power and batting title average is without peer in the game.  A top two pick is required to land this gem who still has many prime years left in the tank.

Tier 2 (Evan Longoria, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Adrian Beltre, Chase Headley, Aramis Ramirez)

-Very good depth at third base this season as each and every one of these guys is a top level hitter.  Longoria is now priced as he should be after being a mid first round pick the last two seasons.  His penchant for injuries is growing and keep in mind he has lost interest in stealing bases and expecting a .300 average is foolish since he strikes out a bunch.  Beltre is 35 but boy has he been incredible since going to Texas.  Wright is no longer the first round stud he used to be but fully capable of .300/25/15.  Headley is the guy who has decent bust potential for a number of reasons.  His fly ball was beyond out of whack last season as he hit 31 home runs.  Keep in mind Headley hit 4 and 11 home runs the previous two years.  The speed is decent in the 15-20 SB mold but I reckon Headley will be overdrafted a bit.  Finally Ramirez remains one of the truly best values in the game who is grossly underappreciated. 

Tier 3 (Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Will Middlebrooks, Mike Moustakas, David Freese, Pedro Alvarez. Brett Lawrie)

-Some risk here as Sandoval, as good a hitter as he is, can't seem to stay healthy.  LAwrie meanwhile was a prime bust candidate last season whose power hitting in the PCL never carried over to Toronto.  Now he moves down to fifth or sixth in the lineup which removes some stolen base chances also.  Middlebrooks is a guy I like a lot whose value could be very good after he missed most of the seocnd half of last season with injury when it started to look like he was going to post some big time rookie numbers.  While his high K rate won't allow his average to go beyond .275, Middlebrooks has 25 home run power.  Moustakas carries the post-hype sleeper tag who really was very good the first half of 2012 before he faded over the long season.  Alvarez is a non-starter for me due to the ugly average.  Ramirez meanwhile is best left as a shortstop. 

Tier 4 (Martin Prado, Kyle Seager, Todd Frazier, Kevin Youkilis, Manny Machado)

-Some good sleepers here in Frazier and Machado.  Seager supplies some underrated category juice but we can't get too excited about a Seattle hitter.  Prado is a nice player but most of value falls in average and runs.  Youkilis could be decent if he stays healthy.

Tier 5 (Michael Young, Trevor Plouffe, Lonnie Chisenhall, Chris Nelson, Chris Johnson)

-Stay away from this group if possible.  Lots of garbage options in this batch.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

FANTASY FOOTBALL SCOUTING COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--Sore more chatter from around the NFL Scouting Combine.

-The San Diego Chargers continue to plan for RB Ryan Matthews to be their "bellweather" back for the 2013 season.  GM Tom Telesco said as much during a meeting with the media here as he conveniently looked over Matthews' long history of injuries.

-Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno was revealed to have undergone yet another knee surgery, this time having stem cells put into the joint.  This is the second right knee procedure Moreno has had in the last year.

-The Tennessee Titans and TE Jared Cook are haggling over whether he should play at receiver next season.

-Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim reiterated that RB Ryan Williams is going to be a big part of their future if he can finally avoid injury.

-The Eagles have now let it be known that QB Nick Foles could be available for a third round pick . With many teams in need of a QB, look for a deal to get done before or during the draft as the Eagles signed Dennis Dixon to back up Michael Vick.


2013 FANTASY FOOTBALL AT THE COMBINE NEWS AND NOTES

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, IN.--Some news making the rounds here during the first day of the NFL Draft Combine.  Let's get to it.

-Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady is looking to break the bank as the premier blindside blocker on the free agent market.  Clady reportedly wants the same type of deal that Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns and Jason Peters of thge Philadelphia Eagles inked.

-Speaking of the Broncos, QB Peyton Manning has already reached out to free agent DE and former Indianapolis Colts teammate Dwight Freeney to see if he would be interested in joining with the team.  Freeney mentioned publicly on Wednesday that he would love to play in New York with either the Jets or the Giants, with a preference to join a team in contention which would eliminate Gang Green.

-The San Francisco 49ers have no interest in releasing QB Alex Smith and instead will look to trade him.

-The Eagles have plans for former Oregon QB Dennis Dixon to be a big part of the offense behind Michael Vick this season.  That means second-year man Nick Foles will continue to be a hot topic for trade talks along with Matt Flynn and Smith.

-The Minnesota Vikings have repeatedly gone on record saying that WR Percy Harvin won't be traded.  Harvin is already planning to hold out if he doesn't get the max contract he is looking for.

-Nothing doing yet on the potential trade of New York Jets CB Darrell Revis which was a hot topic coming into the combine.

-The Dallas Cowboys have opened up talks with Tony Romo on a new long-term deal.  He is fully in their plans to remain the team's starter despite his postseason woes.

There you have it.  More to come later.

2013 FANTASY BASEBALL SHORTSTOP DRAFT TIERS

                                                               

Let's not waste any time and get right to the business at hand which is the 2013 fantasy baseball shortstop tiers for your upcoming draft.

Tier 1 (Troy Tulowitzki)

-Tulo remains without peer at the shortstop position but the width from his tier to the next one had lessened due to 2012 being one big injury mess.  We all know Tulo can put up ridiculous numbers when he is in the lineup but his annual DL stint is a major concern considering he still carries a late first round draft slot.  Tough call.

Tier 2 (Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez)

-Ramirez retains shortstop eligibility once again as he went back to the position after he was traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers last season.  He will man the spot once again in 2013 but the bigger question is whether he can reclaim some of his lost stats the last two seasons.  Ever since 2008, Ramirez has seen his home runs and batting average take a noticeable dive.  Back-to-back seasons of under .270 averages is a concern and his days of 30 home runs are never coming back, especially in Los Angeles.  Still Ramirez is fully capable of going 25/25 if all breaks right and his eligibility at third base carries some extra value.  I still like him.

Reyes meanwhile could put up monster numbers hitting atop the explosive Blue Jays lineup but like with Tulo, is a major injury risk now that he is playing his home games on artificial turf.  This is a bad omen for someone who has a long history of leg injuries.

Tier 3 (Starlin Castro, Jimmy Rollins, Ian Desmond, Asdrubal Cabrera, Ben Zobrist, Elvis Andrus)

-A little something for everyone in this tier. I absolutely love Castro as he continues on the classic stardom rise by adding homers and steals each season.  Be aggressive going after him in your draft.  Yes Rollins came back strong last season but banking on a mid-30's guy with a long history of DL stints is not a good idea.  Desmond has bust potential as his fly ball rate and BABIP numbers in 2012 were way off his career norms.  You have been warned.  Cabrera and Zobrist are solid but unspectacular.  Andrus is overrated.

Tier 4 (Alicides Escobar, Alexei Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Eric Aybar, Everth Cabrera, Stephen Drew)

-Escobar won't hit .300 again due to his lack of walks but 40 stolen bases is on schedule.  Ramirez is not worth your time anymore as he never made that breakthrough we all thought was imminent.  Jeter is on schedule with his rehab from a busted ankle but at 38 this can't go on much longer.  Drew is interesting now that he is hitting in Boston but he also can't stay upright.

Tier 5 (Jurickson Profar, J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, Andrelton Simmons, Jhonny Peralta, Yunel Escobar, Zack Cozart)

-All waiver guys except for Profar who needs to be watched closely all spring.  If he earns an everyday job than put him up into tier 4.



FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NO CONCUSSION FOR GIANCARLO STANTON AFTER HBP IN HEAD



Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton passed all of his neurological exams after getting hit in the head with a pitch during a simulated game on Wednesday and will proceed in camp as normal. 

Analysis:  Great news as Stanton has had some rough luck in spring training the last few seasons.  He has zero help in the stripped Marlins lineup but has a good shot at 40-plus home runs if he stays in one piece.  He remains worthy of a second round pick in fantasy baseball drafts. 

GREETINGS FROM THE NFL COMBINE

By Eric C. Wright

Indianapolis, Ind.--Just got in last night for the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine where 333 of the best college football players will be poked and prodded in order to determine your true worth for April's draft.  As always with executives from every team here, trade and free agent talk will be heating up which is our prime reason for being out here.  There are already some hot stories floating around which I will get to the bottom of throughout the next few days.  Stay tuned. 

2013 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: MARCO ESTRADA SP MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Lost in the eye-opening second half pitching of Milwaukee Brewers SP Mike Fiers, was the work done by rotation mate one Mr. Marco Estrada who in actuality one could argue outperformed his counterpart.  The former 2005 sixth round draft choice of the Washington Nationals took advantage of major injury problems in the Brewers rotation and ultimately helped keep them in playoff contention the second half of the season with some terrific clutch pitching.  Blessed with a fastball that can tough the upper 90's, Estrada quickly went about solidifying a rotation spot for the 2013 season by pitching to a 3.64 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while striking out 143 batters in only 138.1 IP.  So with Estrada now part of the Brewers' five man rotation going into the 2013 campaign, let's take a look at why I am so high on him as a fantasy baseball sleeper candidate.

The first thing that jumps out at your when it comes to Estrada's stats are the strikeouts as anyone who collects more K's than innings pitched will catch the attention of fantasy baseball players everywhere.  What is even more enticing about Estrada and what speaks to why I think he is a major breakout waiting to happen is that Estrada combines those K's with great control.  His ability to limit walks (only 29 in those 138.1 innings) right off the bat puts Estrada in good position to be an asset in WHIP and ERA.  And with the high strikeout rate traditionally comes a low hit rate which is something Estrada also possessed last season with only 129 hits surrendered.  Put it all together and you have the makings of a top notch sleeper.

What is really interesting in all of this is the fact that despite all the glowing ratios I just discussed, Estrada is still under the radar going into drafting season.  Many probably don't even realize he had 23 starts last season and again he was a bit overshadowed by the sudden emergence of Mike Fiers in his own rotation.  This is tremendous news if you want to try and grab Estrada on the cheap in your draft and I always recommend going for upside plays such as he when the rounds reach the middle portion.  Upside is always the way to go.

Put it all together and Marco Estrada is one starting pitcher candidate who can really do some nice things for a very cheap draft rate this season.  The high K potential alone is intriguing but when combined with his low walk and hit rates, Estrada is a guy we could be talking about at the end of the 2013 season as one of the very best value picks of the draft.

2013 PROJECTION:  14-8 3.52 ERA 1.15 WHIP 188 K 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MARLINS OUTFIELDER GIANCARLO STANTON HIT IN HEAD BY PITCH

                                                               

Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was hit in the head by a pitch during a simulated game Wednesday but he said afterward he was "OK."  Stanton claims he felt no dizziness afterwards but he will head for testing to rule out a concussion.

Analysis:  Big scare for sure here as Stanton is one of the very best power hitters in baseball who surely will hit the 40 home run mark if he stays healthy.  So far so good but check back to see if he did in fact suffer a concussion.

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: RANGERS 1B LANCE BERKMAN SIDELINED WITH ANOTHER CALF STRAIN

                                                               

Texas Rangers first baseman Lance Berkman will be sidelined for a few days after experiencing right calf soreness.  Berkman of course missed a month of the 2012 season with left calf issues so the Rangers will be cautious with his availability in the next few days.

Analysis:  Berkman continues to be dogged with injuries which is no shock given his advanced age.  While I always have interest in power hitters playing their home games in Texas, Berkman won't be of much use if he is spending time on the DL. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: CARDS PITCHING PROSPECT SHELBY MILLER DEALING WITH SHOULDER STIFFNESS

                                                                 

St. Louis Cardinals SP phenom Shelby Miller is dealing with soreness in his pitching shoulder according to manager Mike Matheney in his briefing with reporters Wednesday.  Miller will take a few days off from throwing and Matheney stated it is not a big concern at this moment.  With a good camp, Miller is expected to grab a rotation spot.

Analysis:  Not good news since you never want to hear anything about shoulder issues, especially in a young pitcher.  Miller is generally regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball who has some serious strikeout potential with a 98-mph fastbal.  Take Matheney at his word that it is just regular spring soreness but stay on top of this. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: NATS SP GIO GONZALEZ DIDN'T RECEIVE PED'S FROM BIOGENESIS

In blockbuster news, Washington Nationals SP Gio Gonzalez was found NOT to have received any banned PED's or other substances according to reports from ESPN.  After examining receipts and transaction slips from Biogenesis, it was found that Gonzalez only received weight loss substances and nothing concernening steroids.  Gonzalez had maintained from the start that he never received any banned substances from Biogenesis.

Analysis:  So it looks like Gonzalez was the rare athlete who was telling the truth as far as being linked to steroids.  This information means that Gonzalez can now be elevated to previous fantasy baseball levels which puts him as a low end staff ace with 200-K potential. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: PADRES SS EVERTH CABRERA AMONG FIVE NEW NAMES LINKED TO BIOGENESIS

Add San Diego Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera to the list of players linked to accused steroids dealer Anthony Bosch who ran an anti-aging clinic called Biogenesis in Miami, Florida.  Cabrera is joined by teammate catcher Yasmani Grandal and now reliever Fautino De Los Santos as Padres who have been linked so far.  Other new names revealed are failed New York Mets outfield prospect Fernando Martinez who is now with the Houston Astros, Mets prospect Cesar Puello, and A's RP Jordan Norberto. 

Analysis:  Add Cabrera to the list of risky 2013 fantasy baseball investments based on this information.  If MLB comes down with suspensions for the names on this list, there could be a ton of guys getting pinched as more names continue to leak out. 


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 FANTASY BASEBALL SECOND BASEMAN DRAFT TIERS

The always tough to fill second baseman are on tap in our next installment of the 2013 fantasy baseball draft tiers.  Let's see where all the draft-worthy second baseman stand.

Tier 1 (Robinson Cano)

-Stating the obvious, Cano has no peer at second base now that Chase Utley has collapsed under injuries and age.  He finally cleared the 30 home run total in 2012 and is now fighting for a new contract.  Major first round talent.

Tier 2 (Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia)

-What is ironic here is that Kinsler and Pedroia have swapped the injury-plagued role.  Whereas Kinsler has now stayed healthy for two seasons in a row, Pedroia is the one who has now buckled under with health woes.  Both can fill up all five categories though when healthy. 

Tier 3 (Brandon Phillips, Jason Kipnis, Aaron Hill, Chase Utley)

-Big time fan of Hill and Kipnis from this tier.  Phillips is starting to show some age as he loses his steals and even though Utley came back strong the second half of 2012, he is as big an injury risk as there is despite a depressed draft price.  Kipnis could be on the verge of stardom and his second half struggles last season could actually help keep his draft price down a bit.

Tier 4 (Jose Altuve, Dan Uggla, Rickie Weeks, Neil Walker , Josh Rutledge)

-Some potential here in Altuve who I like and Rutledge to go along with bust candidates Uggla and Weeks.  The latter two's awful averages are non-starters for me and should be for your too.  Altuve has a bit of pop to go along with 30 steal speed so there is a lot to work with there and untapped ceiling.  Don't forget about him.

Tier 5 (Dustin Ackley, Gordon Beckham, Danny Espinosa, Kelly Johnson, Jemile Weeks, Brian Roberts, Omar Infante, Marco Scutaro)

-A bunch of garbage options here who really will suck the life out of your team.  Nothing to speak of here outside of maybe Ackley finally figuring out how to hit like he did on his way up to the majors leagues.  Yuck.


2013 FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYER ANALYZER: BRETT LAWRIE 3B TORONTO BLUE JAYS

                                                                     

We fell for it again.  Big time hitting prospect goes nuts on the farm, hitting home runs left and right.  Comes up to the majors during the second half and proceeds to continue hitting home runs while also throwing in some stolen bases.  Said player than instantly becomes the "IT" guy to own the following drafting season.  Said player puts up numbers drastically lower than the out of whack projections expected going into April.  Said player now sees his value drop noticeably the following season.  Said player is Toronto Blue Jays 3B Brett Lawrie who goes into the 2013 fantasy baseball season as a marked man and not for good reasons.  Let's get into the story a bit deeper and see what the issues are with Lawrie as drafts continue to get underway.

First let's go down memory lane as we always do in these columns.  Lawrie of course was the big time Blue Jays hitting star in the 2011 minor leagues as he combined a high batting average with plus power and the ability to steal bases.  Of course Lawrie was doing this damage in the Pacific Coast League where anyone with a pulse can clear the outfield fence wit ha wiffle bat but we all overlooked that crucial element in our rush to get in on the floor of the next star.  And surely his 150 at-bat cup of coffee with the Jays upon his promotion the second half of 2011 showed that it didn't matter what kind of league or ballpark Lawrie played in.  The kid was a stud as he hit 9 home runs and stole 7 bases while batting .293 in those 150 at-bats.  Hence the nasty fight at drafts everywhere to ensure we all saw the name "B.Lawrie" occupying your third base slot.  Fifth round pick?  Fourth round pick?  Third round pick?  Didn't matter.  We had to have him as he would go 30/30 with nary a sweat.

Well as always these stories usually get bumpy before they get better and Lawrie fell right in line in 2012 as he hit only 11 home runs and stole 13 bases with a batting average of .273.  Instantly curses were linked in with Lawrie's name as we all once again went overboard in projecting a young hitter with promise.  And so as we begin the 2013 drafting season, we find Lawrie's value dropping like thr stock market, ending up in the 7th-10th round as proof of this phenomenon.

So where do we go from here?  Who is the real Brett Lawrie?  Let's take him apart piece by piece.  For starter's, the .273 average Lawrie put up last season is pretty much in line with his current ability due to his high strikeout rate and poor walk rate.  Lawrie wouldn't be the first young hitter to struggle in that department but for now anything more than .280 would be wishful thinking at this point.

Now let's get to the home runs and stolen bases which is where Lawrie will really earn most of his 2013 fantasy baseball value.  Hitting only 13 home runs while playing his home games in Toronto was not good by any means.  Toronto is one of the best home run hitting parks in the major leagues and so Lawrie clearly came up short there.  However we also have to keep in mind the fact Lawrie was probably not as good a home run hitter as he looked to be when he was playing in the PCL.  Remember Paul Goldschmidt hit "only" 20 home runs last season after going crazy in the PCL the year before and earning 30-plus projections for the 2012 season.  It is always recommended to take home run totals from the PCL with a grain of salt and to dial back on the projections when the player makes the jump to the majors.  Lawrie very well could be just a mid-teens to 20 home run hitter, at least for now until he fills his body out.  20 home runs for 2013 would be the top of the heap as far as projections and anything more than that would be a major bonus.

Than we get to the stolen bases.  This is another place where Lawrie let his owners down in 2012 by swiping only 13 bases and getting caught 8 times.  His horrible success rate no doubt raises the possibility of getting the red light for 2013 and another major issue is the fact that he is no longer going to hit leadoff this season like he did for much of 2012 now that Jose Reyes is on board.  Lawrie will be dropped down to as low as fifth or sixth in the lineup which no doubt hurts his chances for stolen bases.  Also his runs potential gets hit as well, with the flip side being some more RBI's.

Putting it all together, Brett Lawrie looks like a guy who can hit around 15-20 home runs, steal around 10-15 bases and hit around .280 if all breaks right.  He also has to stay healthy to reach those numbers which is something he has had a hard time doing in his young career.  Those numbers listed above are a far cry from what we all anticipated going into the 2012 season but his lowered draft price could make him a decent investment since he has ceiling that is untapped.  All in all though, Lawrie is not looking like such a hot commodity as he once was.  Tough call to make here but anything past round 7 makes him a decent pick.

2013 PROJECTION:  .281 16 HR 77 RBI 79 R 14 SB


FANTASY BASEBALL CLOSER NEWS: A'S CLOSER GRANT BALFOUR (KNEE) TO PLAY CATCH TUESDAY

                                                         

Oakland A's closer Grant Balfour will play catch Tuesday which will be his first action since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery last week.  Balfour was given 4-6 weeks to return to action which puts him dangerously close to not being ready to start the season.

Analysis:  Good sign for Balfour whose job is in no jeopardy if he needs to miss the first week or so.  Ryan Cook is likely to handle ninth-inning duties if Balfour can't go but the latter has earned status as a solid mid-tier fantasy baseball closer.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: YANKS SP PHIL HUGHES TO BE SHUT DOWN "FOR A FEW DAYS" WITH BACK PAIN

                                                               

New York Yankees SP Phil Hughes will be shut down for a few days due to stiffness in his upper back.  Manager Joe Girardi admitted to being a "bit concerned" but for now Hughes will be rested and re-evaluated early next week.

Analysis:  No stranger to injury, this is something that bears some watching.  The back pain is located up near his right pitching shoulder which makes it that much more worrisome.  Coming off an all right 2012, Hughes remains nothing more than a SP 4 or 5 in standard mixed formats.


FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKING NEWS: FALCONS TE TONY GONZALEZ NOW LEANING TOWARD RETURNING

                                                           

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is now reportedly leaning towards returning to the team for the 2013 season according to multiple team sources after originally saying the 2012 campaign would be his last in the league.  The Falcons front office and players have made it their off-season mission to convince Gonzalez to come back for one more season, especially since the team feels they are on the cusp of being a Super Bowl team.

Analysis:  I found it almost impossible to believe Gonzalez would go off into retirement after arguably his best season ever in 2012.  The guy is putting himself in talks about being one of the very best players in NFL history irregardless of position and his return for 2013 would ensure him once again being a top fantasy football tight end weapon.  Count on one more season. 

FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: MRI REVEALS ONLY MIDL LAT STRAIN FOR CUBS SP MATT GARZA

                                                    

Chicago Cubs SP Matt Garza's MRI on his injured lat showed only a mild strain which will cost him a week or spring training action.  Garza said right after coming out of his throwing session on Sunday that he was "fine" and that it was "no big deal" which the MRI confirmed.  He will try to throw again next week.

Analysis:  Good news overall and barring any more setbacks, Garza should be ready to go for Opening Day.  What is more worrisome is Garza's increasing penchant for injuries.  His value is very solid in that his current draft price is very affordable for a guy who could strike out 200 batters with a mid-3.00 ERA but any more injuries will ruin that outlook.


Monday, February 18, 2013

2013 FANTASY BASEBALL FIRST BASEMAN TIERS

The always powerful first baseman are up next in our tour around the diamond when it comes to 2013 fantasy baseball draft tiers.  Let's take a look at where each of the prime boppers reside.

TIER 1 (Joey Votto, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder)

-These three stand alone over the rest of the first baseman for obvious reasons.  You need an early first round pick to get one of these three which would be a very good investment since you absolutely need to anchor your roster with a stud first baseman.

Tier 2 (Adrian Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion, Billy Butler, Paul Goldschmidt)

-This is likely where I will get my first baseman if I grab a five tool outfielder in round 1 which is my plan going in.  I love each and every one of these guys and would have no problem having them as my starting first baseman.  Gonzalez actually looks like a nice value as many will downgrade him too much after his power fell off a bit last season.  He still knocked in over 100 runs and hit .300 while also qualifying in the outfield. 

Tier 3 (Mark Texeira, Ike Davis, Allen Craig, Anthony Rizzo, Adam LaRoche, Freddie Freeman)

-Texeira doesn't do it for me anymore now that he is a firm .250 hitter.  Davis is not as bad as he showed in 2012 when it comes to average but expecting anything more than .265 is wishful thinking.  Craig is the real deal when it comes to combining power and average.  Rizzo is a big time target of mine who I am hoping to slide into my UTIL spot.  Could be a nice payoff.

Tier 4 (Lance Berkman, Ryan Howard, Eric Hosmer, Corey Hart, Paul Konerko, Kendrys Morales)

-Some reclamation projects here for various reasons such as Berkman, Howard, and Hosmer.  Hosmer is a very good pick as a post-hype sleeper.  He is much too good a hitter to repeat 2012.  Hart is also a tremendous investment as he was already one of the most underrated hitters in the game before his knee surgery.  Konerko is aging and the dropoff is already underway.  Morales would be a terrific middle round pick since he will now play everyday in Seattle and has 30 home run power for sure.

Tier 5 (Justin Morneau, Adam Lind, Adam Dunn, Brandon Belt, Yonder Alonso, Garrett Jones, Logan Morrison)

-All of these guys are bench options except maybe Dunn who you have to cover his awful average with a string of .300 hitters.  You really don't want to be looking here if you can help it.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING CLOSER NEWS: ANGELS RP RYAN MADSON (ELBOW) BACK TO THROWING MONDAY

                                                                   

Los Angeles Angels closer Ryan Madson threw off flat ground with no problems on Monday as he makes his way back from elbow soreness that resulted in needing an MRI.  Madson still holds out hope of being ready for Opening Day but manager Mike Scoscia has gone on record saying he expects him to miss a week or so of April.

Analysis:  Ernesto Frieri will being 2013 as the Angels' closer and there is always the chance he can keep the job if he pitches as dominant as he did in the first half of last season.  Tough call on either guy with drafts getting underway. 

FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: PADS OUTFIELDER CAMERON MAYBIN OUT MONDAY WITH WRIST SORENESS

                                                       

San Diego Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin missed Monday's workout as he once again is dealing with soreness in his right wrist.  The wrist has reportedly bothered Maybin for more than a week but the player himself says it is "getting better" and that he will be back in action in a "few days." 

Analysis:  Maybin is an incomplete player who can supply 40 steals and solid runs but also a horrible batting average due to a terrible K rate.  Classic late round flier who has some upside.


FANTASY BASEBALL BREAKING NEWS: BREWERS 1B MATT GAMEL (KNEE) OUT FOR ALL OF 2013

                                                                

In yet another major setback for once-hyped prospect Matt Gamel, the Milwaukee Brewers announced on Monday that he will miss the entire 2013 campaign after re-injuring his surgically repaired right knee.  With Corey Hart also missing the first month of the season with his own knee surgery, the team is likely to look outside the organization for some assistance.

Analysis:  Tough blow for Gamel who once was on many sleeper lists when he first started making noise in the minors.  It if likely he is finished in the organization and will have to go elsewhere to get a shot to stick in the majors.

FANTASY FOOTBALL BREAKING NEWS: PATS WON'T FRANCHISE WES WELKER, PREPARED TO LET HIM WALK

                                                      

In potentially blockbuster news coming out of New England, a team source confirmed Monday that the team WILL NOT place the franchise tag on free agent WR Wes Welker and in turn are prepared to let him walk away to another organization.  After serving as the NFL's leading receiver the last five seasons, the Patriots are reportedly leery of committing too many dollars to the aging Welker after dealing with some confrontations with him before the 2012 campaign.

Analysis:  Huge news on many fronts.  For one, Welker is not going to repeat his New England numbers no matter where he goes as he fit seamlessly in the Patriot attack with Tom Brady at QB.  Hence don't ever expect another 120-catch season in his future.  It also means the Pats are likely looking for more of a vertical threat for next season, to go along with having the similarly skilled and younger Julian Edelman serve the Welker role.  Stay tuned.


2013 FANTASY BASEBALL CATCHER TIERS

We are going to start a new feature today now that drafts are starting up.  Today we being a tour around the diamond by looking at all the position fantasy baseball draft tiers which no doubt come in handy when evaluating players against one another.  So with that said here is how one man's humble opinion sees the catchers shaking out.

TIER 1 (Buster Posey)

-This tier is reserved for the reigning NL MVP only as Buster Posey is the only catcher who is worth drafting in the first three rounds.  Of course there is massive risk in doing so as Posey's 2011 broken leg that cost him the majority of the season proves.

Tier 2 (Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer, Carlos Santana, Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters, Wilin Rosario)

-This tier has good to very good catching options that are more affordable than the premium price Posey costs.  The best value is likely to come from Martinez who is a hitting machine and who is well out of the fantasy baseball consciousness after missing all of 2012 with a knee injury.  Molina is a risk in that there is almost no way he can duplicate 2012 so you are buying a declining stock.  Wieters and Santana still has some ceiling to tap into and their minor league averages scream improvement.  I like Rosario a ton but so does everyone else which means you are likely going to have to overpay.

Tier 3 (Mike Napoli, Miguel Montero, Jesus Montero, Brian McCann, Salvador Perez)

-This is a good spot to start looking for your value catching play which is where I always strongly suggest you look.  For me that means Perez is the guy for me but you knew that already.  Miguel Montero is as consistent as they come and a bit underappreciated.  Jesus was a guy I wanted to take advantage of as a post-hype sleeper but his recent link to PED's has me running away.  Napoli and McCann both have health issues but their falling draft prices and history of power hitting could make them a decent investment.  Both guys are on my DO NOT DRAFT list though.

Tier 4 (Jonathan Lucroy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Doumit, A.J. Pierzynski)

-A couple of interesting names here in Lucroy and especially Doumit.  Doumit plays the outfield the majority of the time but also gets enough work behind the dish to retain catcher eligibility.  He is a .280 guy who can approach 20 home runs if all breaks right.  Plus the counting stats will be nice.  Failing to get Perez, Doumit is the pick for me.  Lucroy meanwhile is the rare average asset at catcehr who was in the midst of a possible career year before injuries struck.  A tremendous catcher 2 option.  Pierzynski is about as big a bust candidate as you can get who found some "magical" way to go all Mike Piazza last season.  Salty is all pop and nothing else.

Tier 5 (Travis D'Arnaud, Carlos Ruiz, Alex Avila, J.P. Arencibia, Russell Martin, Chris Iannetta, A.J. Ellis)

-All garbage here EXCEPT D'Arnaud who is likely to begin 2013 in the minors but whose status as the top catching prospect in baseball speaks to how good he can be.  His power is big time and he put up a string of .300-plus averages on the farm which speaks to what type of hitter he is.  Use a late round pick on him and stash him.


FANTASY BASEBALL NEWS: CUBS SP MATT GARZA HAS MINOR LAT STRAIN

                                                        

Updating an earlier item, Chicago Cubs SP Matt Garza suffered a minor left lat strain during his throwing session on Sunday.  He will be checked out again later on Monday but he claims it "is no big deal" and that he fully expects to be ready for Opening Day.  Garza is already making his way back from off-season elbow surgery.

Analysis:  Lat strains can be unpredictable at times but for now take Garza at his word that is is nothing special.  He has nice upside as a very good strikeout pitcher capable of a mid-.3.00 ERA but his health has to go along for the ride.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT DEBATE: DUSTIN PEDROIA/IAN KINSLER 2B SECOND BASEMAN

We will go right to the mailbag to find the subject of our next 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Debate and it comes from Roderick Wright from Sea Bright, New Jersey.  "Fantasy Sports Boss who would you draft over the other between Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler if put in that position?  I have the chance to grab either one in a rolling draft and am not sure which way to go.  It is a standard 5 x 5 league. 

All right Roderick let's get right to it and figure it out by comparing the two in all five relevant fantasy baseball categories.

RUNS:  Kinsler has owned this category the last two seasons, scoring 121 and 105 runs, while Pedroia has reached home plate 102 and 81 times during that span.  The Rangers lineup is much more imposing than Boston's so Kinsler will surely be put in better position to score more runs than Pedroia.
ADVANTAGE:  Ian Kinsler

AVERAGE:  This one is not close as Pedroia is a perennial .300 hitter, while Kinsler has come in at .255 and .256 the last two seasons.  Kinsler's issues against righthanders make him an average liability at times, while Pedroia has proven to be consistent against all types of pitchers.
ADVANTAGE:  Dustin Pedroia 

HOME RUNS:  Kinsler has two 30 home runs reasons on his ledger, while Pedroia's career high has been 21.  The history of the two makes this an easy call.
ADVANTAGE:  Ian Kinsler

RBI:  Both guys generally have been in the same neighborhood when it comes to driving in teammates.  Pedroia could get the slight nod however due to the fact he will likely hit third to Kinsler's leadoff which means he will come up with more runners on base. 
ADVANTAGE:  Dustin Pedroia

Stolen Bases:  Once again Kinsler's history is pretty stark here as he has reached the 30 stolen base mark twice in his career, while Pedroia has topped out at 26.  Both guys are likely to be in the 20-25 range with good health but Kinsler's spot as the leadoff man and his edge in performance over Pedroia there gives him the nod.
ADVANTAGE:  Ian Kinsler

WINNER:  Ian Kinsler

As you can see it is very close but Kinsler gets the advantage when you break down the numbers altogether.  Also Kinsler has been the healthier of the two the last two seasons which also keeps the arrow in his favor.