Should Fantasy Owners Chase Chase Budinger?

Chase Budinger is getting all the playing time he needs in Minnesota
Chase Budinger is getting all the playing time he needs in Minnesota

Minnesota forward Chase Budinger has evolved into an overnight scorning machine, reaching double digits in each of his last 10 games. A giant window of opportunity opened up for the sharp-shooting forward due to a laundry list of injuries in Minnesota and he’s made the most of his extra playing time.

With Minnesota’s shocking abundance of injuries to its core assets of Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, Gary Neal, Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, Budinger has been left help fill some voids left in the team’s game plan. He’s averaging 32.5 minutes per game over his last ten, and his chances to put up solid numbers should not diminish so long as he remains so heavily involved in the rotation.

Chase Budinger can provide a spark with his newly consistent scoring production, specifically from the three point line. Over the last 10 games, Budinger is averaging 1.7 threes in addition to 15.1 points per contest. This recent hot streak is uncharacteristic for the 26-year-old swingman, as he has not cracked 10 points per game in any of his 6 NBA seasons thus far.

Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Flip Saunders’ praise of Budinger’s play should keep him heavily involved in the rotation for the last 8 games of the season, as he also won’t be rushing anyone back from injury due to them being eliminated from playoff contention. Though he may not be a guarantee to score tons of points on a nightly basis, his 3 point scoring potential should make him valuable enough to be a considered a solid option in standard fantasy formats.

Dancing Days May be Over for Victor Cruz

There are no guarantees that Cruz will be ready for the start of the season
There are no guarantees that Cruz will be ready for the start of the season

Reports are swirling that Victor Cruz may never fully regain the form that made him one of the most explosive players in the NFL before a patellar tendon injury sent him to the sidelines. Cruz is 5 months removed from season-ending surgery and may not be ready for the beginning of the 2015 regular season.

Cruz just started running at the Giants facility last week, but it looks like the Giants are going to ease Cruz back into action to ensure that the receiver doesn’t have a setback. Coach Tom Coughlin has already hinted at the fact that the organization would make sure Cruz was fully healed before he was thrust back into action.

The Giants followed a slow and precise recovery plan with Odell Beckham Jr. last year when he was dealing with an injured hamstring. That plan obviously worked as ODB went on to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. During the 2014 season, Beckham missed the entire pre-season and the first four weeks of the year with a hamstring injury.

Cruz thinks that he will back at 100% by May or June, but outside sources say he is not even close to a return to the field.

If Cruz can get back to his old ways, the Giants will have one of the better one-two punches at wide out in the league. But that is far from certain given that Cruz’s success relies on short routes, quick cuts and is coming off one of the worst possible knee injuries.

It will be interesting to see how Cruz progresses through the off-season and if he can ever regain fantasy relevance.

Don’t Pull the Plug on Brandon Phillips

Brandon Phillips is still looking for his form in Spring Season
Brandon Phillips is still looking for his form in Spring Season

By Greg Pokriki –

Even with his terrible numbers during spring training, it would be a major mistake to dismiss Brandon Phillips. The baseball community is always quick to judge, handing out proverbial MVP awards after just the first week of the season and Hall of Fame plaques after one solid season. In the same sense, baseball fans are just as quick to outcast a player after one down season, pushing him to the back burner to be ultimately forgotten. Brandon Phillips has fallen victim to the latter.

Though Phillips struggled last season, he’s only one season removed from an 18 home run, All Star season. He’s a lifetime .271 hitter and has knocked in over 70 RBI in seven of the last nine seasons. To not even consider him for your team would be a mistake.

Of course, there is some reason for reservation. Phillips is only 8-39 this spring putting him at a .205 average. He’s also coming off a significantly down season, though one that was slightly tainted by injury. He only played in 121 games and logged 499 at bats. His power severely dipped, hitting only eight home runs. However, he hasn’t hit any less than 17 in any other season since 2006. He logged only 51 RBI on the season as well. Phillips’ 1.7 WAR was his worst since 2006 as well.

Obviously last season was a disappointment for Phillips, but that doesn’t exclude him from any future success. He’s a talented and persevering personality who doesn’t take kindly to failure. The Reds as a whole are looking at a bounce back season. The lineup will have to be better than last year, and Phillips is not immune to that. If you can get Phillips at the right time or for the right price there is no reason not to add him to your squad. You may even get him as a sleeper if others in your league aren’t paying him the respect he deserves.

Michael Wacha on Fire Coming into 2015

Michael Wacha is on fire coming into the 2015 season
Michael Wacha is on fire coming into the 2015 season

By Tim Haberin -

It appears that Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha is leaving his shoulder problems in the rearview mirror. Wacha tossed 5.2 shutout innings and fanned four on Wednesday, March 25, edging Max Scherzer and the Nationals in a 1-0 Spring Training victory. The performance is good news for MLB fantasy owners counting on the young starter to do big things in 2015.

Last season saw him start just 19 games as a shoulder injury sidelined him for two and a half months. Referred to as a “stress reaction” of the shoulder rather than a fracture, the injury was deemed not as severe as similar ones suffered by pitchers such as Brandon McCarthy. Wacha has shown no lingering effects of the ailment, posting a 1.76 ERA and walking only one batter in 15.1 innings this spring.

Though he pitched through discomfort for significant stretches of last year, Wacha still managed some impressive numbers that point toward the front-end rotation piece St. Louis hopes he can be.

At only 23 years old, Wacha appears well-suited to rebound quickly from his shoulder woes and continue improving during the upcoming season. However, his youth may also spell some disadvantages as far as fantasy owners are concerned. In two big league seasons, Wacha has logged only 171.2 innings, and the Cardinals may try to take things slow on the heels of his shoulder issue and not push him. It’s possible he might be limited to around five innings some nights and miss out on some valuable wins and quality starts.

Regardless, the talent and potential are there, and you shouldn’t hesitate to pick Wacha around the 130th selection of your draft. If he takes the ball every five days, he can certainly be a top-25 starting pitcher in 2015. He should prove an asset in terms of ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts even if wins are a bit inconsistent.

Dodgers Bet the House on Hector Olivera

Hector Olivera
Fantasy owners should take their time before scooping up Hector Olivera

By Greg Pokriki –

After the Dodgers struck a 6-year, $62.5 million deal with 30-year-old Cuban superstar Hector Olivera, it was revealed that he has a slight tear in his UCL.

Olivera should be able to play through the injury as the Dodgers opened up the checkbook and beat out all the other potential suitors. Ideally Olivera would make an immediate impact at third base, although the Dodgers already have the reliable Juan Uribe in place for this season at third as well.

Many will criticize the Dodgers for overpaying an undeserving and inexperienced player, but that logic seems unfair. They have the resources and the backup plan. For a lesser organization this may break the bank, but for the Dodgers, it’s low risk high reward.

Olivera has serious potential to be a force in the already forceful Los Angeles lineup. His power must be respected and he should be able to transfer it to the big leagues. Olivera has 96 home runs in 2,800 at bats since 2003 with an OPS of .912 during that time span.

Fantasy owners should consider themselves in a similar position as the Dodgers when contemplating Olivera. He’ll likely be a free agent pick up for most teams, and at the very worst eats up a spot on your bench.

You shouldn’t pick him up right away, but monitor him closely to see how he progresses within the organization. But don’t wait too long, moves like these are what win fantasy championships.

Quick Tips for a Better Fantasy Draft

Get organized before you are on the clock!
Get organized before you are on the clock!

You will always encounter players who have been cramming for the upcoming fantasy draft for weeks now. They are reading every fantasy trade publication, listening to sports radio in the car and watching Baseball Tonight podcasts into the wee hours of the morning. However, all is not lost. With a little bit of common sense and a some sensible research, the average sports fan can be ready for the draft in about 90 minutes.

Fantasy Sports championships are rarely won during the initial fantasy draft, but building a decent fantasy squad NEVER hurts. Here are 3 tips to help smooth out the bumps in this year’s fantasy draft:

Make, borrow or steal a 1-PAGE cheat sheet -

Have a notebook, laminated placard or scrap of paper that has at least 3 players listed that you really want at each position. This takes a little more homework, but it gives you a rough strategy on how to run your draft.

Feel free to stray away if you see a juicy player sitting on the board, but keep the list handy. When those seconds start ticking away, having a cheat sheet could mean the difference between drafting a solid player or another completely wasted pick.

Phones can die, computers can lose signal, magazines are too hard to navigate, one piece of paper is all that you need. Your cheat sheet must limited to ONE-PAGE. There’s nothing more entertaining that watching someone with 2 open magazines and 30 sheets of paper flying around like a sand storm while they are trying to remember the name of that hotshot minor leaguer that’s supposed to set the league on fire.

Don’t be a Charles Barkley!

Sir Charles obviously has no business calling NCAA Men’s college games because he could care less. During the first half of the Kansas vs. Wichita State game, he mentioned that Cliff Alexander was playing pretty good. The only problem is that Cliff Alexander in under investigation by the NCAA and hasn’t stepped foot on basketball court in the nearly a month.

My point is, even if you are a casual player, READ an MLB INJURY REPORT!

It never ceases to amaze me during a fantasy draft when some genius scoops up a player who is injured, suspended or is already done for the year. It takes about 20 minutes for that bit of research and saves you from a wasted pick or being the laughing stock of your fantasy league.

Only draft players you have actually heard of -

This seems like common sense, but many people still feel compelled to roll the dice.

WOW – You found a top-50 ranked pitcher – And he’s still on the board, what a steal!!

Maybe, maybe not? It doesn’t matter how this player slipped under your notice, drafting someone you don’t know is tempting, but not worth the risk. There are 1,200 active players to choose from and it only makes sense to draft someone you have heard of before.

Top Tier First Basemen – 2015 Fantasy Baseball Draft

Paul Goldschmidt is one of the early MVP favorites
Goldschmidt is an early season MVP favorite

By Tim Haberin 

1. Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks

Although playing for the low-key D’backs may somewhat limit his national exposure, Paul Goldschmidt is without a doubt, the best first base option in this year’s fantasy campaign. Even though he missed 53 games last season, he still managed significant offensive production with a .938 OPS. His performance in 2013 provided a far more comprehensive demonstration of Goldschmidt’s outstanding talent. He led the National League in a host major offensive categories – 36 HR, 125 RBI, .551 SLG, and .952 OPS – en route to finishing second in MVP voting. And at 27 years old, his star may still be trending upward.

2. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera has been eclipsed by the likes of Mike Trout in “best in the game” arguments, but he remains an elite talent and a fantasy cornerstone. Last season was a bit of a down year for him, yet still one virtually every player in baseball would love to have. A slow start contributed to a drop in HR (25) and RBI totals (109), but he still batted over .310 (.313) like he has in 9 of the last 10 seasons. Cabrera has also been remarkably durable, playing fewer than 150 games only once since his debut season. There is some reason for caution, however. He turns 32 next month, meaning some signs of offensive decline last year (his .183 drop in OPS, for example) might continue.

3. Anthony Rizzo – Chicago Cubs

With two full MLB seasons to his name, Rizzo should enjoy his best one yet in 2015 and assert his place among the game’s premier first basemen. He has shown considerable power since entering the league and last year improved his on-base ability, posting a .386 OBP to go with his 32 HR. And considering he missed 21 games, 35 HR and 100 RBI seem like a minimum benchmark if he plays a complete season. Like Goldschmidt, the 25-year-old Rizzo’s youth only enhances his appeal.

4. Edwin Encarnación – Toronto Blue Jays

In a league where power numbers are increasingly precious, Encarnación has become one of the more reliable sluggers in the game. He’s exceeded .900 OPS in each of the previous three seasons, and though limited to 128 games in 2014 he still smacked 34 homers and drove in 98 runs. Injury woes remain a concern and he won’t help you much in terms of batting average, but the 40 HR/100 RBI potential is much too enticing to ignore.

Bonus Sleeper: Brandon Belt – San Francisco Giants

If you miss out on some of the bigger names at first base, don’t panic. A variety of buy-low candidates like Brandon Belt are primed to defy expectations this season. The 26-year-old Belt seems particularly ready to break out if he stays healthy. Injuries kept him out of 101 games in 2014, but he capped it off with an exclamation point by hitting .295 in the postseason. In 150 games the year prior he hit .289 with 17 HR and 67 RBI. He also appears to be developing a bit of a power stroke: his home run to fly ball ratio jumped to 18% last season. Belt should be available around the 200th selection in the draft, but consider taking him a little earlier.

Making a Case for Danilo Gallinari

The problem is that Denver misses a chance to rest Danilo Gallinari
The problem is that Denver NEVER misses a chance to rest Danilo Gallinari

By Ian Stone:

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari’s recent spike in production has made him an intriguing option for fantasy owners looking for help in the playoffs. His recent hot streak has him surpassing his season averages significantly, and with consistency, Gallinari could put fantasy owners in contention to win their respective titles.

Gallinari’s strong play could be attributed to him inching closer to 100% healthy, as well as the firing of Head Coach Brian Shaw. Whatever the reason may be, fans will have to cross their fingers and hope the onslaught continues.

The 26-year-old Italian sharpshooter has overcome an injury-filled first half to this year and is finally coming around. Disregarding the 2 games he sat out for rest, Gallinari’s last 5 games have been superb, posting averages of 22.8 points, 2.6 threes, 5.2 boards, 3 assists and 1.2 steals per game (all above his averages for the season). This seems like the perfect opportunity to add a multi-faceted asset, but there’s one major issue.

The Nuggets seem to be resting Gallinari during the latter half of back-to-back games. Unfortunately, Denver has 3 more back-to-back sets, so owners will have to search elsewhere for production.

His daily league fantasy value is greater than his standard format value due to the sporadic DNP-CDs, but he is still worth an add. When active, Gallinari should be started and is a solid bet for points, threes and rebounds.

Tom Brady: Ready for Payback, Bro!

Tom Brady has waited a long time for another shot at Sherman
Tom Brady has waited a long time for another shot at Sherman

13 years ago, Tom Brady lifted up his first Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans. Now he’s gunning for his fourth Super Bowl win in six appearances and the defending Super Bowl champs are standing firmly in his way. Seattle’s defense is a well-oiled machine that takes no prisoners on the field.

However, the Legion on Boom exposed some cracks in the armor two weeks ago against a hobbled Aaron Rodgers when they got clobbered in the first half and clawed out a very unlikely overtime win against the Packers.

The Seattle versus New England game should be a very close and entertaining matchup. A fact that has almost been lost in the shuffle with all of the foolish ramblings about “IdiotGate” and Marshawn Lynch’s disdain for the media.

There are many story lines to focus on, but one of the most important is the mountain-sized CHIP on Tom Brady’s shoulder. He’s more motivated for this game than any other during his storied career for several reasons.

  • FOUR SUPER BOWL RINGS – There is no greater motivator for any quarterback in the game than getting on the short list with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.
  • More than any defender in the game, Brady can actually feel father time closing in on him. He’s 37-years-old and his time is definitely running out.
  • You Mad, Bro? Damn right he’s mad. Brady never goes a full day without remembering being called out by the cheery defender named Richey Sherman. I have always wondered if Sherman’s taunt would come back to haunt him, today we will find out.
  • Deflate Gate – Just another motivator for a quarterback who has already played in five Super Bowls and is hell-bent on adding his 4th ring.

Lynch’s Apathy Exposes Cracks in Modern Journalism

Lynch won't play ball with the media and it's driving them over the edge
Lynch won’t play ball with the media and it’s driving them over the edge

I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”

“You know why I’m here.”

Those fairly innocuous quotes from Marshawn Lynch have the national media crying foul over the grave injustices that are being heaped upon them by the diabolical Seattle running back.

This is the same media that has long been guilty of showing disrespect and spitting venom at all those who dare to disagree with them. These “journalists” can really dish it out, but it’s obvious that they can’t take it.

This has produced a journalistic subculture of bullies who are always waiting to spring the next nasty question that triggers a negative or inflammatory response.

The fact that Marshawn Lynch has decided to stand up to them, has understandably set off a media firestorm. How dare someone ignore ignorant or petulant questions because they are finally fed up.

These are the same reporters who droned on about “Deflategate” so often that sports fans had to shut off their televisions and radios for a full week before they could actually hear about the game again.

Yes, Lynch makes millions of dollars and is expected to deal with the simple-minded questions. But the fact that he doesn’t answer them the way the bullies actually want to is actually quite entertaining.

Lynch is a phenomenal player, but is he really that interesting? Even when he did speak this week, it barely got any play at all:

“So y’all can go make up whatever y’all want to make up because I don’t say enough for y’all to go and put anything out on me.”

The fact that Lynch has become the focal point of the Super Bowl because he won’t play ball with the media circus is sheer comedy. I’m not a Seattle fan, but wouldn’t it be great theater if Lynch won the Super Bowl MVP? Imagine the non-answers the poor media would have to endure. You don’t have to like Lynch at all, but it’s refreshing to see someone who can so easily frustrate the minions that make up the revered 4th estate.

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