Michael Wacha Leaves Shoulder Issues Behind

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.

Josh Gordon – Determined to Throw it All Away

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon is running out of chances to prove that he can stay clean

Josh Gordon has always let his football career take a back seat to partying and he’s proven it again as he stares in the face of another year-long suspension. Even the NFL has its limit on the behavior of its players and the elite talent of Gordon may not be enough stop him from throwing away his career.

After failing yet another drug test, Brown will be subject to another one-year suspension, according to league sources. This is coming after Gordon just served out a 10 game suspension for the 2014 season. He was actually in the process of serving a year-long suspension, when a new set of drug testing and punishment policies reduced his penalty to only ten games.

It’s clear that Gordon needs some type of help because this pattern of behavior dates back well into his high school playing days. During Gordon’s college years at Baylor, he chose to enter the NFL after he was dismissed for a failed marijuana test. So this begs the question, does he still have any shot to play in the NFL?

Gordon’s future is extremely fuzzy at the moment. In the 5 games that Gordon did participate in, he was nothing but mediocre compared to the unbelievable 2013 season he had. After serving a two-game drug suspension, Gordon led the league with 1,646 yards in only 14 games. It doesn’t look good when you compare those numbers to the 2014 season where he caught just 24 passes for 303 yards in five games. There is still much to be said about Gordon and fellow “bad-boy” teammate Johnny Manziel, and whether or not they can ever produce together.

The difficult part for Gordon is that he will have to stay sober for an entire year in order for Roger Goodell to reinstate him. Goodell is mired in a public relations nightmare with the league and he may show no mercy to a repeat offenders like Gordon. The bottom line is that it’s ultimately up to Gordon if he ever wants to get himself straight enough to play in the NFL again.

Can Swaggy P Find his A-Game for the Lakers?

Nick Young has a shot at becoming the man in Los Angeles

Nick Young has a shot at becoming the man in Los Angeles

By Ian Stone –

The season was already pretty much a loss for the Lakers even before Kobe Bryant was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff. With the Lakers closing in on the basement in the Western Conference, the team has no reason to risk aggravating Bryant’s shoulder injury. Bryant is the Lakers leading scorer and Nick Young will have to step up and lead that lackluster offense.

Los Angeles has now lost its second player to a season-ending injury (the first being rookie Julius Randle), and their depth across the board is non-existent. Every member of the rotation will see increased playing time in order to fill the void left by one of the greatest players of all time. The most suitable replacement has to be the brash Nick Young. He’s nicknamed Swaggy P and his ever-present in-your-face personality is always on display.

Young’s season hasn’t gone too well to this point. He’s averaging 14.5 points per game on about 39 percent shooting from the field. Young is known for being a volume scorer, but he’s yet to take more than 20 shots in any game this season. Expect that to change sooner rather than later. This is pure speculation, but Young could have been holding back in the games where Bryant was resting in order to keep the clearly defined roles in tact, but now that mentality has to be left behind. Young now has a chance to make the Lakers his team.

Though his shooting percentage still wasn’t great (44 percent) a year ago, he managed to put up 17.9 points and 2.1 3 pointers per contest, and he should be able to reach that level, if not higher. Last season, Young had Gasol to help him score, but now he has even more weight to carry on his shoulders. He should receive some contribution from role players like Carlos Boozer, Jeremy Lin, Wayne Ellington and Wes Johnson, but Young will be the major benefactor in terms of scoring and 3 pointers.

If he is available on the wire, pick up Young as soon as possible in what could be a very impressive end to the season for the scorer.

10 Things Cooler than DeflateGate

Stay Classy LeGarrette

Stay Classy LeGarrette

By John Adams

LeGarrette Blount could sucker punch another player from a team based in the Pacific Northwest  

Richard Sherman may go Rick Grimes and bite a female reporter instead of screaming at her during a post game interview

Jeremy Lane could require skin grafts after getting torched by Rob Gronkowski

Aaron Hernandez will watch the Super Bowl with the “Sisters Gang” from Shawshank

Richard Sherman will sip a nice juicy Adderall cocktail during warmups

Bill Belichick will finally show off his Gisele Bundchen tattoo

Belichick will implicate Brady regarding the circumstances around his Gisele tattoo

The Patriots could have played with deflated ping pong balls and beaten the Colts by 30

Ravens coach John Harbaugh will sing “Tears on my Pillow” during halftime with Katy Perry

LeGarrette Blunt – Smoking blunts, getting Le’Veon Bell busted and busting out for the Patriots