Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rumored Kidd 3 Way Trade Will Have Huge Fantasy Implications

The first hot Jason Kidd trade rumor surfaced earlier today and is of the three team variety. Henry Abbot of Truehoop, after reading reports from several sources and conferring with the "ESPN's salary cap people" (probably messing around with the Trade Machine) has outlined the parameters of a deal between the New Jersey Nets, Portland Trailblazers and Dallas Mavericks that works under the cap. This is what Abbot thinks the deal will roughly look like:

Dallas Gets: Jason Kidd from New Jersey and a minimum contract from Portland/New Jersey

Portland Gets: Devin Harris from Dallas and a minimum contract from New Jersey/Dallas

New Jersey Gets: Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye, Jarrett Jack and player/pick from Portland AND Devean George, Jerry Stackhouse, 1-2 low salary players/pick from Dallas.

The motivations of the Nets and Mavs are fairly clear here. Dallas mortages the future, dealing their young, up and coming point guard Devin Harris along with some short-term cap flexibility for a year and a half of J-Kidd.  As soon as this trade goes through, the Mavs step into win-now mode with a 2 year window for a championship.

New Jersey takes the first steps towards getting younger and clearing cap space. Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George both have expiring contracts while Channing Frye and Jarrett Jack are eligible to come off the books after next season clearing ample cap space heading into the summer of 2009. 

In Travis Outlaw the Nets get an affordable 23 year old small forward who has steadily improved as the season has wore on and is currently averaging 15.5 point and 5 rebounds a game in the month of January. In addition, Outlaw's presence will more smoothly facilitate a transition if the Nets follow up a Kidd deal with an offseason trade of RJ or Vince (if there are any takers out there). Throw in a draft pick or 2 and this is nice haul for the Nets.

At first glance, Portland's reasoning for participating in this 3-way trade is not apparent. However, Abbot raised a good point about Portland being on the verge of opening next season with 22 players on the team and only 15 roster spots. Thus, this deal would serve the dual purpose of solidifying the point guard position while shedding some bodies in preparation for 2008. Let's take a look at the players being traded on Portland's end: 

Jarrett Jack: The addition of Devin Harris immediately makes Jarrett Jack expendable with Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez in place as solid back up point guard options. 

Channing Frye: Frye has some potential but is currently averaging about 18 minutes a night and with Greg Oden on the horizon, his playing time could dip further. 

Travis Outlaw: The loss of Outlaw, a key to the Blazers success on both ends this season, will hurt. However, the combination of young sharp shooter Martell Webster and veteran James Jones should adequately offset Outlaw's absence. Essentially, Outlaw's youth, upside and reasonable contract (owed four million per year over the next 3) is the player that makes this deal happen on the Nets end.

Most importantly, in Devin Harris Portland gains a point guard that is an ideal fit for their team going forward. Harris is an excellent defender and provides the Blazers with a true floor general who can prosper in half court sets as well as push the tempo. Harris is also a good complement to Brandon Roy who will be able to play off the ball more and expand his offensive game.

FANTASY IMPACT

This is a deal that features a lot of players moving to new teams. Thus, the fantasy impact of thedeal will reverberate throughout each roster.

New Jersey Nets

The departure of Kidd immediately opens the door for 2006 first round pick Marcus Williams to become the Nets starter. Williams is an excellent passer and has shown that he is more than capable of running the Nets offense when Kidd is not on the floor. Playing starter minutes, Williams will be a double digit assist threat on a nightly basis and can also contribute in points and steals. 

The arrivals of Outlaw and Frye will create a logjam in the frontcourt. The Nets already have several young forwards including FSE favorite sons Sean Williams and Josh Boone vying for minutes at the PF and C slots. With Nenad Kristic set to return in a week or so, it will be interesting to see how the playing time is distributed. 

As for the remaining pieces in the deal, Jarrett Jack will serve as a backup to Williams and will most likely have limited value in New Jersey. Jerry Stackhouse might see some backup minutes while Devean George is most likely looking at a buyout.

Portland Trailblazers

I feel that Devin Harris' value is unchanged by a move to Portland and he remains a solid point guard option. Playing in a bit of a more up tempo style in Dallas, Harris was putting up 15 points a game to go along with 5 assists and 1+ steals. While his scoring numbers may decline a point or 2, the Blazers will rely on him plenty as the primary ball handler and he should increase his assist totals to over 6 a contest. In addition, the departure of Travis Outlaw will open up a starting spot for Martell Webster who has the ability to help a fantasy team in points and three pointers if given adequate playing time.

Dallas Mavericks

Jason Kidd instantly makes Dallas better in the short-term and his arrival should increase the offensive outputs of Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard. Dallas' new big 3 will prosper together and Kidd should enjoy a small boost in his numbers as Avery Johnson's offensive system is a good match for his skill set and he will surrounded by a more talented group of scorers. 

Fantasy Ballers On The Brink - Sean Williams

There's a good chance you only know Sean Williams as the troubled kid out of Boston College that the Nets took a chance on with the 17th pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Soon enough however, more people are going to know Williams for his play on the court, specifically his freakish ability on the defensive end.

Like many rookies, Williams' numbers have been up and down this season due in large part to the inconsistency in the minutes he receives. Williams has actually been starting for over a month (since December 18th to be exact) and has put up serviceable numbers of 8.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and an excellent 2.2 blocks in that time. Unfortunately, in those starts he is only averaging 24 minutes a night due to a combination of foul trouble and the play of Josh Boone.

Looking at Williams' numbers from the 9 games this season where he has played 30+ minutes begins to show the potential this kid possesses as a fantasy contributor. In those 9 games Williams is averaging 12.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and a ridiculous 3.6 blocks per contest. In only 21 minutes a night this season, Williams is still maintaining a 2 blocks/game average, thus 3+ blocks/game is a distinct possibility if he is given 30+ minutes on a more consistent basis.

To put Williams block numbers into perspective, only three players - Marcus Camby, Josh Smith and Chris Kaman - are averaging 3 or more blocks a game this year. Further, stud fantasy centers and renowned shot blockers like Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudamire are putting up 2.6 and 2.4 blocks a night respectively. It is important to remember that all of the aforementioned players are averaging 35-40 minutes a night, nearly twice as much as Williams.

With the return of Nenad Kristic a week or so away, Williams playing time may remain stationary in the short-term. However, As the Nets continue to struggle and the Kidd trade rumors pick up steam, there is a good chance that Williams, who the Nets see as a future building block, will be given more playing time later on in the season. Having already cracked the starting rotation and exhibited discernible talent, the only place for Williams to go is up this season. Keep a close eye on his playing time if Kidd is finally dealt.

In the meantime, Williams' gritty defensive-oriented style is a better complement to Kristic's game than Boone. Thus, he should continue to see over 20 minutes a night, keeping him fantasy-relevant for owners looking to bolster blocks and add rebounding to their roster.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Johan To The Mets Fantasy Fallout

In the biggest trade this off season, and arguably in a while, the Minnesota Twins have agreed to trade Johan Santana to the Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phil Humber, Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey.

FANTASY IMPACT NEW YORK METS

With the New York Mets, expect Johan to win 18-23 games. He will thrive playing in the NL without a DH, playing in a pitcher's ballpark. He will also have the benefit of a rather potent Met offense, which will offer him very good run support. Johan was a round 1 or 2 draft pick before this trade, and going to the Mets only increases his value.

You can also expect a very good rebound season from Pedro Martinez. While he isn't what he used to be, he is still a great 6 inning pitcher, and will now be facing the number 2 starter on most teams. Expect Pedro to possibly miss a start here and there as we are accustomed to seeing, but he is a near shoe in for 15 wins and 190Ks.

FANTASY IMPACT MINNESOTA TWINS

The Twins get 2 pitching prospects in Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey who probably won't see the majors in 2008, so lets move on.

Carlos Gomez should probably play center field for the Twins next season. Expect many growing pains from Gomez, he won't hit for a high average, and his power will be suspect. He can steal a base, and if you can tolerate the weaknesses will be a good source to puck up 30-40sb.

Phil Humber will probably slide into the 5 hole into the rotation, while the rest of the Twins rotation moves up a slot. Humber is not worth drafting or even having on your draft board. In fact if he is on your draft board, throw your draft board away.

Francisco Liriano will move up a slot in the rotation and despite coming back from Tommy John surgery will be counted on to be the ace of a staff. We broke down what to expect from Liriano here.

Boof Bonser will be looked to pick up some slack as well as become the number 2. Bonser in his first full season as a starter had an up and down year for the Twins. He enters this year, with a lot of hype, stirred up by the news that he has lost 20lbs. Bonser has decent stuff, and is worth a late round flier as a sleeper, if he can find consistency and the strike zone.

Scott Baker pitched well for the Twins last season. He took a Perfect game into the 9th inning against the Kansas City Royals last season, giving up a walk to John Buck and then a hit to Mike Sweeney. Baker is a guy who should be a mid-round pick guy, but he will go much later. He is a great sleeper for late in the draft.



Mets Land Johan Santana

Omar Minaya got his ace. MetsBlog is reporting that the Mets have landed Johan Santana for a package of players whose names are being withheld until New York can agree on a contract extension with the left hander.

Buster Olney is reporting that Fernando Martinez was not included in the deal so my guess is the package for Santana contains 4-5 guys among the group of Carlos Gomez, Arron Heilman, Kevin Mulvey, Deolis Guerra, Phil Humber, Mike Pelfrey and Ryan Church.

Once Santana is signed (a formality at this point) the Mets will boast one of the deepest pitching staffs in the National League featuring Santana, Pedro Martinez, John Maine and Oliver Perez. The combination of that staff with a powerful and dynamic lineup make the Mets the team to beat in the National League entering the 2008 season.

UPDATE 4:35 - USA Today reports that the Mets gave up Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra and Phil Humber in the deal. If this report holds up, this is a steal for the Mets in that they keep their top young pitcher (Mike Pelfrey) and hitter (Fernando Martinez).

Mets Have Santana Edge

Get excited New York Mets fans!! Buster Olney is reporting that according to his sources around baseball, the Mets have made the strongest offer for Johan Santana thus far. With Santana already having rejected the Twins 5 year-100 million dollar offer, it looks like the Mets might be in the drivers seat to land the ace.

Something tells me that once a Santana trade to the Mets is finalized, the happiest people outside of Queens will be situated in the Bronx and Boston respectively.

For our full archive of Santana coverage click here.

Santana Rejects Twins Final Contract Offer

WFAN's Mike Francesa is reporting that Santana recently rejected a 5 year-100 million dollar offer from the Twins which has persumably lead to the club stepping up their efforts to facilitate a trade.

If this news is true, (Francesa tends to be a buzz generating blowhard at times) two things are now all but certain - Santana will be in a new uniform come opening day and will accept nothing less than a 6-7 year extension at around 20 million.

Twins Asked for Final Santana Offers on Monday, End Is In Sight

According to ESPN.com's Buster Olney, the Minnestoa Twins asked all the teams involved in the Johan Santana sweepstakes for their "last and best offers" yesterday. This signals that a Santana trade is nearly upon us, ending months of speculation.

According to reports, the same three teams - New York Mets, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees - remain in the running for Santana's services. The Mets presumably having the edge as they have a dire need for an ace and have shown the most willingness to include the pieces necessary to get a deal done.

As was proclaimed on FSE earlier in the month, we are confident that the New York Mets will land Santana in the end based primairily on their aforementioned need and deep pockets. This would be a coup for Omar Minaya and make the Mets the odds on favorite to win the National League.

Stay with the Fantasy Sports Experience for breaking developments and trade analysis.

For more of FSE's Santana coverage click here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kidd Confirms It's Time To Move On

Jason Kidd, the man who single-handedly brought the Nets from a league embarrassment to a perennial contender has stated he believes his tenure with the Nets is coming to an end. ESPN.com's Ric Bucher is reporting that Kidd said, "Sometimes, when you ride a wave, you get to the end and that's all there is. That's where we are." Kidd confirmed that his agent has been speaking to Nets management about a trade before next month's February 21 deadline.

According to a source, the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks have already reached out to see what the Nets would want in return for Kidd. The trade could be tricky because the Nets still have decent talent with Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter, along with the developing Josh Boone, Sean Williams and Marcus Williams so any trade would not just be for draft picks in a salary dump, as the Nets could still contend for a playoff spot. Another problem is the Nets are planning to move to Brooklyn in 2010 and would want to have good talent to attract fans, and maybe even steal a few from the Knicks.

FANTASY IMPACT

If the trade happens, it will hurt the value of Jefferson and Carter some, but promising point guard Marcus Williams would be in line for a starting gig and could quickly emerge as a quality fantasy point guard. We will be able to comment more when it becomes clearer who the potential trade partners will be, and what they will be willing to give up. Expect the Nets to ask for a sizable return in exchange for J-Kidd.

Mavs PG Devin Harris Out 2-3 Weeks

The Dallas Mavericks will be without talented young point guard Devin Harris for the next 2-3 weeks due to a bone bruise in his left ankle. The injury comes at a bad time for the Mavs as Jerry Stackhouse is also out for about a week nursing a strained hamstring.


FANTASY IMPACT

Fantasy owners will miss Harris' steady point guard play as he has been enjoying a solid season averaging 14 points, 5 assists and over one steal a night while putting up good FG and FT percentages. The losses of Harris and Stackhouse in the short-term will leave the Mavericks short-handed in the backcourt and scrambling to make up for the nearly 25 points a game the two put up collectively.

Jason Terry, who has been playing off the ball a majority of the season at the 2 guard, will slide down to the point guard position in Harris' absence and should see an immediate rise in his assist numbers. The scoring burden will be placed more heavily on Dallas' big 3 - Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and the aforementioned Terry - and each should see a rise in points in the short-term.

The Mavs aren't overly deep at guard and will be forced to give more minutes to the artist formerly known as Eddie Jones who is nothing more than a complementary bench piece at this point in his career. One mildly intriguing option on the Mavs bench is third year guard Jose Juan Barea who has shown some flashes of being able to light up the scoreboard with extended minutes.

Barea had a magical night on November 3rd against Sacramento, putting up 25 points and 5 assists while going 4-4 from the 3 point line in a season-high 29 minutes. If Avery Johnson chooses to give the thrice named Puero Rican native some burn, he may be able to provide desperate owners with some contributions in the scoring and three point department.

Of course, my best recommendation for owners attempting to replace Harris is to immediately add Kyle Lowry if he is still available.

Mike Conley Out A Week, Kyle Lowry Will Get His Shot

According to Yahoo!, Memphis Grizzlies rookie point guard Mike Conley is expected to miss a week due to contusions suffered to his chest and rib cage which made him leave Friday's loss to Washington in the third quarter. Conley's injury coupled with the buyout of Damon Stoudamire's contract sometime today leaves scrappy youngster Kyle Lowry as the Grizzlies' starting point guard.

After spelling Conley in the third quarter of Friday's game, Lowry had an excellent all-around game putting up a double-double with 13 points and 10 assists while adding 4 rebounds and 5 steals in 33 minutes of play. Lowry started Saturday night's overtime win against the Clippers proving his Friday numbers weren't a fluke as he scored 21 points with 8 rebounds and 4 assists in 49 minutes of play.

When given the minutes, Lowry has shown he can be a strong fantasy contributor across the board. He is a good fit for Memphis' fast-paced, high scoring style with his speed and ability to quickly get up and down the court. Lowry should have no problem scoring or getting assists with the likes of Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol and Mike Miller surrounding him. In the 13 games where he has played 30+ minutes, Lowry is averaging over 13 points and 5 assists a game.

The true beauty of Lowry's game however, is in his ferocity on the boards and quick hands on defense. In those same 13 games, he is averaging over 5 rebounds and 1 steal a night. Thus, in Kyle Lowry, fantasy owners are getting a point guard who can provide solid contributions across 4 major categories while maintaining a good assist/turnover ratio and shooting a modest 75% from the free throw line.

Personally, I have been waiting a while for Lowry to get his shot as a starter. It disappointed me when the Grizz drafted Mike Conley in the 2007 draft because this meant Lowry would enter the season as a backup or even the third point guard option as Memphis showcased Stoudamire for a trade. Finally, Lowry will get his chance to shine as he is looking at three starts this week -home games against Dallas, Denver and Utah.

Lowry is an excellent add candidate for the coming week and beyond if Conley's return is delayed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bedard to the Mariners (NOT) a Done Deal

Many media sources, (including ourselves) reported Sunday night that the deal sending Erik Bedard to the Mariners was a done. Jon Heyman of SI.com explains here that while a deal is close, there is still a lot of internal debate going on for the Orioles, in deciding if they should pull the trigger or not.

This deal looks to be too close not to happen now. Bedard has already come out and stated that he expects to be traded, and Adam Jones certainly thinks he has already been traded.

FANTASY IMPACT

We outlined the impact of this deal a while ago, and are hoping it actually happens for real, soon.

The Evolution of "The Hold"

A Hold is credited any time a relief pitcher enters a game in a Save Situation, records at least one out, and leaves the game never having relinquished the lead.

This fantasy stat has become ever more popular over the past decade. I think we have Tony Larussa to blame for this. Maybe it was his infection and his vertigo? This stat makes players like Roberto Hernandez and Mike Myers people you would actually draft. I personally love this statistic in my fantasy league because it allows more players to be drafted with a purpose. In many leagues without "The Hold" there would be no reason to draft people such as Mike Timlin or Scot Shields.

There are many reasons why "The Hold" is important.

1) People like Francisco Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera started off as set up men. These dominant set up men fill the role of injured or retired closers.

2) Many Set up men not only provide good holds numbers, but they can vulture wins as well.

3) Relief pitchers are great for that coveted k/9 category and can help lower ERA and WHIP.

4) Personally, I love the hold because it allows me to draft people like Roberto Hernandez and Troy Percival with a straight face.

5) Lefty specialists are whores for the hold. Mike Myers can come in and get one out and leave, thus producing a hold for you.

6) Finally, Holds guys can always be found on the waiver wire and can help your squad immediately.

Let's take a look at the holds leaders from the last two years:

2007 Holds Leaders

1) Brandon Lyon, Arizona - 35 Holds
Lyon will be the premier middle reliever in a very deep Arizona bullpen. He may have an opportunity the be the closer as well. Keep an eye on the situation during spring training.

2) Heath Bell, San Diego - 34 Holds
The New York Met castaway dominated the late innings for San Diego last season. In 93+ Innings pitches he racked up 103 Strikeouts. The K's and Innings Pitched may be a warning for possible fantasy owners. If he is striking a lot of guys out, that means he is throwing a lot of pitches.

3) Jon Rauch - Washington 33 Holds
Considering this team only wins a few games a year and this guy had 33 Holds, I would wait and wait and wait to pick him up. Many owners picked him off the waiver wire last season and were happy with his results.

4) Derrick Turnbow - Milwaukee 33 Holds
Once a closer and now a set up man. You never know with this guy and maybe the Brew crew will make him a closer again if The Gagne experiment fails. Either way he should be a solid pick and its an added bonus that if Gagne fails, your set up man becomes your closer.

5) Jonathon Broxton - Los Angeles 32 Holds
I think he may be overworked by Joe Torre this season. Torre is notorious for overworking his bullpen and even brought his own personal whipping boy, Scott proctor to LA to throw every game for him. Look for Broxton's arm to fall off by the All-Star Break.

6) Rafael Betancourt - Cleveland 31 Holds
May have a chance to close if "Stunning" Joe Borowski hits a speed bump this season. He has dual value as a set up man and possibly a closer/save vulture.

7) Scot Shields - Anaheim 31 Holds
Reliable reliever, I always try to get him as my first set up man. His body of work merits this and his stuff has only gotten better.

8) Tony Pena- Arizona 30 Holds
Pena is a part of one of the best bullpens in baseball and he has the opportunity to compete for the closer job. Watch his progress in spring training before deciding on him. He and Lyon should get plenty of holds and may steal some saves even if they are not officially the closer.

9) Hideki Okajima - Boston 27 Holds
His team should win 100 games this season and his starters should hand him the ball in the 8th with a lead early and often. Last year Okajima faded after the All-Star Break. Look for his stamina to improve after experiencing a real MLB season. I would take him right after Shields.

10) Ryan Franklin - St. Louis 25 Holds
He is setting up Izzy in St. Louis. This gives Franklin double value, he could be a dominant set up man and also be next in line to close when Izzy goes down.

2006 Holds Leaders:
Now, let's see who the leaders were in 2006. See if you can make an inference as to why the stats changed for many and why there was such a turnover among the holds leaders.

1)Scott Linebrink 36 Holds
21 Holds in 2007 and an ERA of 3.71. Not the same dominance he had in 2006, and he could have problems pitching in U.S. Cellular field in 2008.

2) Scot Shields 31 Holds
One of the best set up men in baseball had a solid 2007 season. Shields had 31 holds and is setting up for the premier closer in baseball.

3) Joel Zumaya 30 Holds
Guitar Hero, weak ligaments?

4) Aaron Heilman 27 Holds
Couldn't follow up in 2007 with the same success as he had in 2006.

5)Scott Proctor 26 Holds
I'm surprised his arm is still attached.

6) Juan Rincon 26 Holds
Yuck, 14 holds and an ERA of 5.13.

7) Justin Speier 25 Holds
In 2007, Speier almost duplicated his success from 2006 with 24 Holds and an ERA of 2.80.

8) Luis Vizcaino 25 Holds
In 2007 Luis had an 8-2 record and was a reliable member of the Yankees bullpen. Vizcaino vultured many wins, but only recorded 14 holds.

9) Kiko Calero 24 Holds
In 2007 had a bad shoulder,a bad team, and a bad ERA of 5.75. Calero only recorded one save and was not the same pitcher of the prior year.

10) Dan Wheeler 24 Holds
After his great 2006 season, Wheeler followed up with some save chances because Lidge was awful. Wheeler then gave fantasy owners a 5.30 ERA and a 1-9 record in 2007.

After looking at the data, I believe it is obvious that many of these top relievers have a difficult time having the same success year after year. Many of these pitchers were over used and experienced arm problems. Thus, it's a good idea to look at the trends with these pitchers and the ballparks they call home. Before picking a reliever, check how many innings they threw the year before. Scott Proctor was awesome in 2006, but we all know he threw way too much and that had a negative effect on his stats.

Francisco Liriano Fantasy Update

He blew into the major leagues in 2006. A pitcher putting up numbers that made him looks more like his rotation mate Johan Santana than a young rookie fresh into the majors. Just look these numbers:

Innings Pitched 121.0
Starts 16
Wins 12
Losses 3
Strikeouts 144
Era 2.157
Whip 1.00

Then Francisco Liriano started to break down. He made one start in August, and then one more in September and was done. He would need Jommy John surgery on his left throwing arm, and miss all of the 2007 season rehabbing.


Recently Liriano comeback stories have been popping up, like this one today in the St.Paul Pioneer Press. In the story Liriano says that his endurance, and pitch selection are all fine and back to what they were before surgery. He says he is throwing all of his pitches well, and pain free. Another revelation is Liriano saying, that with in the last 2 weeks he has gotten some good velocity back on his fastball, and it throwing 94,95mph. He also claims that all of his pitches have the dominant movement back that helped made him so solid.

FANTASY IMPACT

WOW! LIRIANO IS BACK 100% GO GET HIM! I'll hold off on this reaction for a bit. I do think that Liriano is recovered and took well over a season to rehab and get healthy. I hate it when players rush back from Tommy John surgery, and they are good, and then bad, and up and down and miss a start. A few things Liriano has going against him, is that he could enter the season as the Minnesota ace. The Johan Santana trade rumors look to be nearing an end and Liriano could be looked upon to fill his spot in the rotation. That is a tall order for anyone, let alone a young pitcher, coming back from massive surgery. I also think Liriano will miss the occasional start, with fatigue, but he does have a few things going for him. The first is that he is young, at 24 he still has a lot of life in that arm. Another is that his stuff is so good, he can win with less than his best stuff.

Personally I would take him in the middle rounds around like Joe Blanton and Brad Penny. I would pencil him in for about 13 wins, and 180 strikeouts, even if he does miss a few starts.

I recently posted a blog about Rich Harden and how he s being viewed in his comeback from a variety of injuries. I really like Liriano coming back from his injury more than I do Harden, because Liriano had one thing wrong and it was fixed. Now it is a matter of him making sure he is all the way back and can withstand the rigors of a full season. With Harden it seems like there is always something going wrong, and its not just one thing. He breaks down all over his body and you never know what will go wrong with him next.

Both are young flamethrowers with dynamite stuff, but Liriano is a much better calculated risk.












Johan Santana Trade To Come Within Ten Days... For Real

After almost four months of posturing Charley Waters, columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is reporting that the trade for Johan Santana might finally be close to getting done. Buster Olney, as usual, does a great job (ESPN.com insiders only, sorry) of breaking down the rumored players in a potential Santana deal and where each teams offers stand. It comes down to the following teams:

New York Yankees


The Yankees need an ace and a lefty, and Santana just happens to be both. That being said, it is unclear if the Yankees still have an offer on the table for Johan. At the Winter Meetings the Yankees had an offer in place built around 21 year old pitching phenom Phil Hughes and centerfielder Melky Cabrera. Recently, however, it has been reported that GM Brian Cashman and co-owner Hal Steinbrenner have talked co-owner Hank Steinbrenner out of investing the young players it would take to get him and the money it would take to sign Santana long term.

If the Yankees want to make a trade with Minnesota they could, they do have the prospects and money. As right now however, it looks like the Yankees are out. Minnesota would have to lower their trade demands for Santana or Santana would have to lower his reported asking price of 7 years and 150 million. As we have reported here before, it looks like the team without any financial constraints has some financial constraints.

Boston Red Sox

Boston had 2 separate deals on the table at one point. One of them built around pitcher Jon Lester, the other was built around speedy centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Olney is reporting today that the Red Sox have pulled Jon Lester off the table, making the Ellsbury one the best deal on the table. Minnesota does need a centerfielder, but this looks like too little for the Twins to take in a trade for Santana.

It looks like what most of Boston has done in these trade talks is just make sure the Yankees would have to give up a ton if they were to trade for Santana. Boston already has a very good 1-3 with Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Curt Schilling. This does not even include Clay Buchholz who threw a no hitter last season, or veteran Tim Wakefield. The Red Sox getting Santana would have added another ace to an already deep pitching rotation, that they really do not need.

New York Mets

The Mets do not have the best player or prospect to offer in an trade. They are probably willing to offer the most depth, and will give up the most to land Santana. The Mets need an ace to help the shoulder the load from Pedro Martinez, who pitched admirably down the stretch for the Mets last season, but is no longer the innings eating, dominant ace he was in his prime.

The Mets would have to include Fernando Martinez for the Twins to even consider making a deal with the Mets. But as I said, the Mets have the need, and the Mets have money to spend for him. The Mets are the most desperate team in need of Santana. The Mets only have another 1-2 good seasons left in Pedro Martinez, and having the Santana and Martinez would give the Mets one of the most dominant top of the rotation tandems in all of baseball. The Mets are also coming off of one of the most historic late season collapses in all of baseball history. The Mets were sitting pretty atop the NL East with a 7 game lead with 17 games left to play. Then, the collapse happened and the Mets wound up missing the playoffs. Some blamed manager Willie Randolph. Yet, many held GM Omar Minaya accountable for not making moves to strengthen the Mets and their needs at the trade deadline. Look for Omar to make the right move this time and land Johan

Seattle Mariners

Have not been named in any published report for Santana, but I think a trade here makes sense. One person did comment to me that th Mariners, are not a team that is willing to make a high profile move like this, but I feel it is fun to speculate anyway. I outline a potential trade and other stuff here.

BOTTOM LINE

The Twins really overplayed their hand here. The Twins were banking on the Yankees and Red Sox to constantly one up each other for Santana. However, both teams have decided to stay with what they have, and not invest the prospects and money long term. It looks like the Mets will be last team standing as we have previously reported here. There are even rumors circulating that Santana has been hurt and is hiding an injury, and that is making teams hesitant to make a deal for him.

FANTASY IMPACT

With the New York Mets, expect Johan to win 18-23 games. He will thrive playing in the NL without a DH, playing in a pitcher's ballpark. He will also have the benefit of a rather potent Met offense, which will offer him very good run support. Johan was a round 1 or 2 draft pick before this potential trade, if he goes to the Mets his value only increases.

Fantasy Basketball Desperation Station - 1/27/08

Welcome to Desperation Station, your weekly destination for stopgap fantasy basketball options to get you through the week. Check out this column every weekend to get you prepared for the fantasy matchup ahead. 


Guard:

Jannero Pargo - PG, New Orleans Hornets

Pargo has had a good week averaging around 15 points and 4 assists a night. An adept scorer, Pargo put up serviceable numbers last season when he started in place of an injured Chris Paul. January marks the first month Pargo has averaged over 20 minutes a night this season as his solid play has made him one of the first guys off of Byron Scott's bench. He has responded to the increased burn putting up nearly 12 points a game along with 4 assists, a steal and a three pointer this month. Pargo is a decent option for fantasy owners looking for help in points and three pointers; some contributions in assists and steals are also possible. 

Forwards & Centers:

Kurt Thomas - PF/C, Seattle Supersonics

Thomas has seen ample playing time for the young Sonics, averaging 27 minutes a game this month. Old crazy eyes is your classic fantasy specialist, having the ability to provide owners with double digit rebounds on any given night; he's averaging 9.4/game on the season. Thomas can also provide minimal contributions in defensive stats and shoot a solid FG%. However, don't expect much in the way of points from the former college basketball scoring king, those days are behind him.

Nazr Mohammed - C, Charlotte Bobcats

Mohammed was actually a fairly hot add earlier in the month after stringing together a few solid outing following a spike in playing time. However, Nazr came back down to Earth mid-month and is now a free agent once again in many leagues. Although he doesn't do anything exceptionally well, Mohammed has 10-12 point 7 rebound potential on his better nights and can help owners in both statistics. In addition, he shoots a high FG% and can offer limited contributions in defensive stats. 

For added insight, keep an eye out for our weekly Market Watch column which highlights players on the rise and decline.

Matt Murton Trade Rumors

The Cubs have Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome both locked up to big money contracts to man their corner outfield spots. This leaves Matt Murton as the odd man out and without a place to play going into 2008. Murton is still a relatively young player (26) who could turn into a solid everyday player if he is traded to the right place.

FANTASY IMPACT

Murton needs to go to a place where he can play everyday. ESPN.com has the Rangers, Orioles and Padres listed as his main suitors. Murton is a guy who I think could hit .285 with 20 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 80-90RBIs if he lands with an A.L. team who plays in a smaller ballpark. These are by no means All-Star stats, but they are solid stats that could certainly help out a fantasy team.


If/when he gets traded, target Murton as a late pick in your draft. He has good potential to help out your squad in the right situation. If he goes to the Padres or Giants (just a hunch) I wouldn't take a flier on him at all.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hot Harden Fantasy


Oakland A's manager, Bob Geren, recently declared that Rich Harden would be his number two starter when the season begins. This is interesting for a few reasons.

First, Geren expects Harden to be healthy enough to start the season. Harden's career began with huge expectations, electric stuff and a full speed ahead attitude. However, he has never taken off the way A's management or their fan base hoped. They were expecting a pitcher who could fill the void left when Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder were traded. Instead, they got a player who is quickly becoming a Mark Prior type pitcher; lots of stuff but never healthy enough to stay on the mound for an extended time. Here are his innings pitched since 2004:

2004- 189.2
2005- 128.0
2006- 46.2
2007- 25.2

Harden bottomed out in 2007, that is clear. During this time period he's had a variety of injuries including an inflamed shoulder, strained muscle in his back, oblique strain, and strained lat. Yet, over this time he still boasts a record of 26-14, with 364 strikeouts in 390 innings pitched. It is these results that have become a tease not only to the A's organization, but to fantasy baseball owners everywhere. I found this article from the San Fransisco Chronicle that does a good job of explaining Harden's injuries while discussing the cause and how the organization might try to prevent further injury. (Note: the article is from early in the 2006 season, so apparently their ideas to prevent further injury didn't work.)

Another reason this announcement is interesting is because Harden as the #2 means Joe Blanton enters the season as the number one starter. Blanton is good at what he does, throw 200 innings, have an era in the mid to high 3s and win about 15 games. However, he is not the true ace of a pitching staff and could wind up having some hard luck outings against the aces of other teams.

This development also indicates that Oakland plans to hold onto Blanton, eliminating the possibility of an offseason trade. They could enter the season with Blanton and see what teams would be willing to give up the most for him at the trade deadline; when he might actually have more value. Teams like the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Reds, Dodgers, Rangers and White Sox could all be looking to add a starter at the deadline to help remain in the wildcard/playoff mix.

FANTASY IMPACT

Harden is a stud, in Mark Prior clothing. The bad thing about Harden is that every time out, you will worry if he'll get hurt and miss 2 months. The good thing is that he might become an afterthought in your draft and be a decent sleeper pick late. His injuries and lack of stats might make people forget about him, turning him into one of those guys taken in the last 5 rounds causing others to say things like "Oh, I totally forgot about him."

Blanton, is a workhorse but be weary of drafting him too early as an "ace." He is a good pitcher, and should make a good selection in the middle rounds with guys like Andy Pettitte and Gil Meche.

Check the Fantasy Sports Experience frequently for more fantasy updates, player news and sports analysis as the stories break.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Market Watch - Fantasy Basketball 1/25/08

FSE is proud to introduce our newest weekly column offering, Market Watch, which will take a look at the past week in each of our fantasy sports - baseball, football and basketball. The column will focus on players whose values we have upgraded and downgraded.


Quite a few upgrades this week due to the numerous injuries to key players around the league. Now, without further ado let's take a look at the fantasy basketball market for the period of 1/17/08 - 1/24/08. 

UPGRADES

1. Kareem Rush - As Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien has fallen deeper and deeper in love with smaller lineups, the better Rush's number have become. After a slow start to the season where he saw limited game action, Rush has worked his way into the Pacers regular starting backcourt. In the month of January, Rush is averaging nearly 14 points a game with over 2 three pointers and 1 steal. With Jermaine O'Neal out and Jamal Tinsley missing time on almost a regular basis with an assortment of injuries, Rush should get at least 30 minutes a night for the foreseeable and could actually build upon his current output.

2. Sebastian Telfair - Quietly, Sebastian Telfair has been having a very productive January for fantasy owners. Telfair has been the starting point guard in Minnesota for over a month now and has been receiving legitimate playing time, averaging around 35 minutes a night. In that time Bassy is averaging around 7 assists a night and of late his scoring has picked up, reaching a clip of about 12 points a night. For those owners looking for help in point guard categories such as assists and assist/turnover ratio, Telfair is your man. Just watch out for the impending return of Randy Foye who has begun practicing again and may starting playing again soon.

3. Mark Blount - With Shaq out for at least two weeks and Alonzo Mourning out for the season, that leaves Blount as the only serviceable option at center on the Heat roster. In prior seasons when receiving around 30 minutes a night, Blount has been able to register numbers around 12 points and 6 rebounds. Expect Blount to log around 35 minutes a night for the depleted Heat with the potential to average around 15 points and 7 rebounds a night. If that's not an indication of how bad the Heat are right now then I don't know what to tell you.

4. Joakim Noah - We fully documented Noah's rising value earlier today in a post regarding the impact of Luol Deng's injury. Give it a look.

5. Linas Kleiza - Kleiza had begun putting up big scoring numbers even before Carmelo Anthony went down with what appears a somewhat severe ankle sprain. Over his last 4 games, all of which he played 34 or more minutes, he is averaging 23.5 points a game including a 41 point outburst against Utah. With regular playing time Kleiza can help fantasy owners in scoring, rebounding (averaging 5 a game in January) and three pointers. Kleiza has become a favorite of George Karl so he should get minutes whether Anthony starts or not. However, if Melo were to miss extended time it will certainly help Kleiza's cause.

DOWNGRADES

1. Darko Milicic - As a very patient Darko owner (I've consistently owned him since the draft) I am here to tell you that it might be time to cut ties with the Yugoslavian prince rather than wait for him to come around. Darko had a good start to the season, showing promise with solid efforts in his first eight games. However, various injuries have forced Milicic to miss eight games since then while leaving several other contests early. In January, Darko has put up one double-double, marking the only time he has reach double digits in either points or rebounds. In addition, the fantasy stat category which has been Darko's strength, blocks, has slipped terribly of late. Until Darko once again establishes a consistent role in Memphis, I would look to the waiver wire for an alternative.

2. Beno Udrih - Beno has been a pleasant surprise this season, putting up solid point guard numbers for Sacramento averaging 13.4 points and 4.5 assists. Unfortunately, the return of Mike Bibby to the starting lineup has relegated Udrih to the bench and cut his playing time in half. To his credit, Udrih has put up some admirable scoring numbers in limited time. However, Udrih's assist totals are down and in the King's last game he failed to score in 17 minutes of play. While Beno's value is down right now, if the Kings were to trade Mike Bibby as has been wildly rumored Udrih would once again be a solid fantasy option. 

3. Yi Jianlian - Yi had a solid December averaging over 12 points and 6 rebounds a game; however, January has been unkind to the Chairman. His scoring and rebounding averages have dipped to 8 points and 5 rebounds while his minutes have become more inconsistent. Yi still has a lot of potential going forward, but if you can find a better option until the Bucks stop playing musical chairs with their frontcourt's playing time, go for it. 

Wang's Mock Arbitation Hearing

According to Yankees.com, the Yankees and Chien-Ming Wang recently laid the groundwork for Wang's arbitration case. Wang, who will turn 28 on Opening Day, tied his career high in victories for the second consecutive season in 2007, going 19-7 with a 3.70 ERA while establishing a career high with 104 strikeouts. He earned $489,500 last season after his contract was renewed in Spring Training and has requested $4.6 million while the Yanks are only offering $4 million.

The thought of the New York Yankees and Chien-Ming Wang going to an arbitrator lead to the following sequence in my mind. I'm pretty sure some of this will actually be said at the hearing.

Mock Arbitration:

Arbitrator- So Mr. Wang it appears you are asking for a pay increase from $489,500 to $4.6 million. Unfortunately, the Yankees are only offering you $4 million dollars. We are gathered here today to hear both sides of the story and come up with a solution that will appease both sides. Let's hear your case first Mr. Wang.

Wang- Hello sir my name is Chien-Ming Wang and I am a right handed starting pitcher. I have lead my team in wins for the past two years and have a devastating sinker that causes batters to hit many ground balls to my stellar infield. I will be 28 years old on opening day and believe that my statistics merit a 3.5 million dollar raise. As you can see I am 6'3" and weigh 235 lbs with very long arms. I'm sure you are familiar with my work and have seen the movement on my ball. I brought a witness here named John Sterling to tell you how great I am. He is my biggest fan and would like to share some of his thoughts if you would allow it?

Arbitrator- Thank you for coming Mr. Wang, may I call you Mr. Wang? I think I have seen some of your movies? Anyways, what else besides 19 wins for the highest paid team in baseball do you think merits a 3.5 million dollar raise? Further, I would hope you have led your team in wins the last two years, do you realize who else is in your rotation? Mr. Wang the Yankees Representative would like to state his case first before you continue.

Yankees Rep- Greetings Wang, Let's get right down to it! First, would you like to tell all of us here about your 2007 post season? Can you tell us more about any of your post seasons? Let me remind everyone in the free world that even Mike Mussina has been able to win double digits for the Yankees and he is awful. 19 wins for this Yankees team really doesn't mean much. What was that ERA? How many wins did you have in the 2007 post season? Thank you for your time Mr. arbitrator, I have nothing more to say.

Arbitrator- So Mr. Wang, it appears you had an 0-2 record last post season with an ERA around 20?! Are you serious Mr. Wang? This team doesn't care what you do in the regular season? It's what you do in the post season that counts son and if you can't get it done then, you don't deserve the money you are asking for. THIS CASE IS CLOSED!


Nick Johnson or Dmitri Young Decisions, Decisions For Jim Bowden


One is an oft injured first baseman, who is coming off multiple leg injuries. The other is a former all star, whose work ethic and dedication could never be questioned, but whose off the field issues, cannot be ignored. The former is 29 year old Nick Johnson. The latter is 43-year-old Dmitri Young. They have little in common, except, come opening day, they both could be listed as the Washington National's first baseman. This possible log jam gives National's General Manager, Jim Bowden the power to do what few others do better than him. Make a trade.

First, Bowden needs to decide which first baseman he wants to trade.

Dmitri Young is a hard nosed player, who leaves whatever he can out on the field. He could be a good veteran for the young players on Washington to look up to, and provide an important leadership role. Specifically for the outfield, which could potentially feature Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge, who have each had varying degrees of maturity and professionalism issues. Young's problem with alcohol and being dumped by the Detroit Tigers is well documented and could serve as a way for him to connect to the younger players and serve as a mentor.

Nick Johnson is a few years younger than Dmitri, and having a good ability to draw walks, might have more value, despite his injury history. He could make a fine DH for an American League team, but would lack the durability to play first on an everyday basis. Seattle might be a good fit, given Richie Sexson's inconsistency and the fact their DH right now is Jose Vidro.

Most of this right now, is still in its early stages, and both players will have to show up to spring training to compete for a job, before it is just handed to them. Stay tuned to fantasysportsexperience.blogspot.com for any updates we find along the way.

Cano- Yanks Nearing an Extention

Foxsports.com's Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the New York Yankees and All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano are closing to inking a 4 year, 30million dollar contract extension. This would be a break in protocol for the Yanks, who normally wait until a player's arbitration years are up and they are eligible for free agency before signing them. With players like Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu eligible for free agency after this season, the Yankees look to be trying to solidify the left side of the batting order before it becomes a pressing issue.

FANTASY IMPACT

Look for Cano to go from one of the top five second baseman in all of baseball to really cementing himself as one of the top two at the position this year. Entering his third year, Cano is primed to put it all together and will no longer be looked at as an afterthought in a potent offense, but rather a vital piece expected to produce. The possible tandem of Cano hitting 3rd and Alex Rodriguez hitting 4th , could give the Yankees one of the best 3-4 combinations in all of baseball for years to come.


Look for Cano to easily top 20 homeruns and 100 RBIs with a batting average over .300.

Luol Deng Out Indefinately - Andres Nocioni and Joakim Noah Will Benefit

Luol Deng is expected to miss around 4 weeks with a sore left Achilles that has hampered him for the last month. Deng has been a disappointment thus far, failing to take the next step towards superstardom coming off a breakout sophomore campaign. His scoring, rebounding, FG% and defensive stats are all down slightly which is a product of the injury he's been playing through and his team's struggles.

Fantasy Impact

The injury to Deng opens the door for new fantasy options such as Joakim Noah while also offering the potential to resurrect the numbers of a few of the Bulls' fantasy underachievers, most notably Andres Nocioni.

Nocioni will be the biggest beneficiary of Deng's absence and should consistently see over 30 minutes a night for here on out. After a slow start to the season which saw him fall out of the Bulls' rotation, Nocioni has come on strong in January averaging around 18 points and 4 rebounds a game. With the added minutes and offensive touches, there is no reason that he can't put up 20-22 points a night with 6 rebounds and 2-3 three pointers. In addition, Kirk Hinrich is now in good position to improve his disappointing first half numbers. He and Nocioni will be most responsible for making up Deng's 18 points a night and should establish themselves as the Bulls' offensive focal points along with Ben Gordon.

In terms of youngsters that will see an instant upgrade in fantasy value, look no further than Joakim Noah. I have been impressed with Noah for a while now and have been tempted to add him to our Fantasy Ballers On The Brink. However, due to the presence of the decaying corpse known as "Big Ben" manning the middle in Chicago, I have been reluctant as Noah simply wasn't getting adequate playing time to make a difference.

That all changes with the Deng injury which opens up a good amount of playing time in the front court. Noah should start seeing 25-30 minutes a night and I believe he will start regularly come the second half of the season. Given consistent minutes, Noah's scrappy on court demeanor makes him a legitimate threat for a double-double with a few steals on any given night. While his biggest contributions will come on the boards, Noah has a knack for scoring and takes quality shots which should produce a solid FG%.

In addition to Noah, Tyrus Thomas could work his way out of the dog house and back into the rotation for the short-handed Bulls. He has shown flashes of being a well-rounded fantasy contributor in the past. Also noteworthy is Thabo Sefolosha who will continue to get minutes if Ben Gordon's wrist injury turns out to be more than a day to day ailment. We'll keep you posted.

Duaner Sanchez Ready For 2008 Season

Duaner Sanchez's is nearly fully recovered from a gruesome shoulder injury suffered in a cab accident in 2006 and will be ready for spring training. All reports from Port St. Lucie, where Sanchez has been rehabbing this winter, have been positive. Sanchez has been throwing comfortably off of a mound and has touched 94 mph on the radar gun. Contrary to prior rumblings that Sanchez was out of shape, two eye witnesses told MetsBlog that Sanchez looks good and is throwing well.


Fantasy Impact

Before his injury, Sanchez was enjoying a dominant 2006 campaign which began with a 21 inning scoreless streak. He posted career highs in ERA (2.61), WHIP (1.21), wins (5) and holds (14) while striking out 44 batters in only 55 innings of work. A healthy Sanchez will be an integral part of a relatively thin Mets bullpen that should get a lot of work. Although he will more than likely start off pitching in the 7th inning, Sanchez should get plenty of work as a setup man as the season goes along.

Sanchez has good fantasy value in leagues that use the hold statistic, although he can contribute a bit in non-hold leagues by lowering a staff's ERA and WHIP. A healthy Sanchez who survives the 2008 season unscathed should register around 70-75 innings and 20+ holds easily. I project his ERA to be in the mid 2's while his WHIP might be higher than 2006 outputs as he returns to form after a layoff of over a year.
Managers in leagues that include holds should take a late round flier on Sanchez who appears to be under the radar as of now. He has the potential to finish 2008 as a top 15 middle reliever if healthy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pittsburgh Looking to Make Things Wright

Jaret Wright has signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. What makes this potentially interesting is that the deal includes incentives for both starting and relieving.

FANTASY IMPACT

Wright has been a fantasy bust since signing on with the New York Yankees following the 2003 season. Wright could always hit the low to mid 90's on the gun, but has trouble locating where the ball is going after he throws it. He has been rehabbing constant shoulder problems for the better part of 2 seasons now, making his health a huge question mark. The Pirates are probably hoping for Wright to fill the role Shawn Chacon held for the team last season; a middle to long reliever, who could also start in a pinch.
While I have admired Wright's moxie when on the mound, there isn't a whole lot more to him. Don't bother to worry about drafting him, as he will be a long shot to even make the major league roster let alone remain healthy for an entire season.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jody Gerut Back Again

Jody Gerut has signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres that includes an invitation to spring training and shot to make the forty man roster.

FANTASY IMPACT

Gerut hasn't done much since his first two seasons in the big leagues in 2003, and 2004. He has bounced around from Cleveland, to the Chicago Cubs and finally to the Pittsburgh Pirates where he has spent the better part of the last 2 seasons rehabbing a knee injury. This could be Gerut's last shot at making a major league ball club. If he is completely healthy, he could hit 13 home runs playing his home games at Petco ballpark and steal 20 bases. That is a big IF.
Personally I wouldn't bother to draft Gerut, let someone else take the risk. He might be worth keeping an eye on as a free agent in your league, if he makes the Padres out of spring training.

Monday, January 21, 2008

From the staff





All of us here at the Fantasy Sports Experience would like to take this moment to wish you all a very happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

YADIER MOLINA LOCKED UP

The owner of the, "Biggest home run in Cardinals history", agreed to a new four-year contract that includes a club option for 2012. Yadier, the youngest of the Molina family of catchers, and arguably the best will remain in St. Louis for four more years. Molina batted .275 last season with 6 HR and 40 RBI. The Cards didn't sign him for his bat, however he will anchor a team in transition with his game calling and his rocket arm. Molina is mostly known around baseball circles because of his older established brothers. Yadier is said the be the best of the three and is most remembered for his two run home run off of Aaron Heilman in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Fantasy Impact

Molina is nothing more than a great defensive catcher, who will bat around 270-280 range and provide little with his bat. If errors is a category in your league then take a look at Molina, he will provide a solid glove, but little at the plate.

Jermaine O'Neal May Miss The Rest Of The Season

Reports indicate that Indiana Pacers' center Jermaine O'Neal might elect to miss the remainder of the season in an effort to properly heal a knee injury that has been lingering for the better part of the last two years.


Fantasy Impact

While the extended absence of O'Neal, an adept scoring big man and strong shot blocker (2.2/game), hurts many fantasy teams, it also brings some closure. O'Neal has missed 8 games already this season and left a contest prematurely on several other occasions. If O'Neal is in fact finished for the season, it is better that fantasy owners know sooner rather than later. Right now, there is still time to make a deal to sure up the roster, had this lingered owners may have been stuck.

With O'Neal out, Jeff Foster and Troy Murphy will split the duties at center. Both guys are very similar and are certainly viable fantasy options given their ability to put up numbers in the 10 points and 10 rebound range given the proper minutes. Murphy can also add some threes as he is currently averaging 1.3 a game. As of now, the two men are evenly splitting the time at center, both averaging around 25-26 a night. Going forward, it will be important to monitor the playing time distribution when making a determination about each players value.

In my opinion, Jeff Foster is the more consistent fantasy option due to his excellent rebounding ability while Troy Murphy has the better upside being a more skilled scorer/3 point shooter. Ultimately, the decision to add either player will come down to the needs of your roster.

Foster is a virtual lock for 10+ rebound anytime he gets 25 or more minutes. Foster doesn't get many FG attempts so he wont hurt you in FG%, and when he does score its usually a high percentage shot close to the basket. Foster can provide 8-10 points a game with adequate minutes.

Murphy is also a good rebounder, averaging 7.1 on the season, however his propensity to shoot 3s and jumpers will hurt you in the FG % department where he is only at 41%, poor for a big man. Murphy has his occasional breakout scoring game, but will normally put up around 10 point a night with a 3 pointer mixed in when averaging 25 minutes a night. If Murphy can rehash some of the magic 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons where he averaged around 15-10 while getting 30+ minutes a night in Golden State, he might be a very intriguing fantasy option down the stretch.

Two other guys to keep an eye on are the Pacers' forwards Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy Jr who are both enjoying solid seasons thus far. The injury to O'Neal eliminates one of the Pacers' top scoring options. Factoring in that he will be replaced in the lineup by guys that are better rebounders than scorers, the forwards will be asked to pick up some of the slack. Granger and Dunleavy Jr. should receive more touches on the offensive end and I think you will see larger scoring outputs from each player.

Manning Vs. Rivers.. Giants Got it Right

Back in the 2004 NFL draft the Giants made a huge draft day trade with the San Diego Chargers. San Diego swapped the first overall selection, Eli Manning, for Phillip Rivers (the Giants selected him fourth overall), a 2004 third round pick as well as first and fifth round picks in the 2005 draft. While the Chargers would use those extra picks to land pro bowlers Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding, the Giants got Eli Manning... and nothing else.


Manning has been criticized for being too lanky, a poor decision-maker, regressing in talent, not being named Peyton and a variety of other things that only the New York media and fan base can think of. In addition, he was even called "skittish" in the pocket by his GM Jerry Reese earlier in the season.  

Fortunately, among the things he has not been criticized for are being hot headed, ill tempered, and trash talking opposing fans. Rivers talked a bunch, but was ultimately unable to back it up. Eli, on the other hand has been able to stay with in himself and the team. His low key demeanor does not take away from what his team does, nor does it make him open to further criticism. He is a throwback to the days when QBs spoke loudest with their play, rather than their mouth.

Rivers would have been a terrible fit for New York. If you think his on-field shenanigans would have gone under the radar as they have in San Diego you are kidding yourself. His tenure in New York had the potential for countless petty fights with fan base and more importantly the caustic New York media. While heavily criticized, Eli has kept the focus on the other teams, deflecting attention away from himself. Rivers is a ticking time bomb and the New York media would have had a field day with him.

Affirmation of the Giants decision to trade for Eli occurred this weekend. Manning went into Green Bay and beat Brett Favre at home in what was the 3rd coldest game ever played; advancing to his first Super Bowl. Manning has lead the Giants through the playoffs playing mistake-free football (4 TDs and 0 INTs in 3 games) making big throws when needed. 

Rivers lost, and looked bad doing so. He gave the ball away multiple times trying to force the issue and took away from what was a spirited performance by the San Diego defense. Eli might not be the main the reason the Giants are going to the Superbowl, that credit has to go to the defense. However, unlike Rivers, he isn't the main reason they are going home.

Brett Tomko To The Royals and the Fantasy Impact

Looks like Brett Tomko is headed to the Royals in a one year 3million dollar deal.

FANTASY IMPACT

Brett Tomko has been around for years and consistently known as a guy with "good stuff" who can't figure it out. Last season Tomko went 4-12 in stints with the LA Dodgers, and San Diego Padres. Of course, some will look at that and say, "Well, he did go 2-1 in his time with San Diego" which is probably why he has hug around as long as he has.


Look for Tomko to pick up a few wins and holds, as he is a versatile pitcher who can start and relieve. There are rumors that he might get a shot at closing which would enable the Royals to move Joakim Soria to the rotation. This doesn't make a ton of sense for a variety of reasons. The first being, that Soria was very good at closing last season, so why would the Royals want to mess with that. The other is that, Tomko just can't be trusted to consistently get outs in a big spot. Tomko's strength is his durability, and his versatility, he should not be entrusted with closing duties any time soon.

If you really want to you can draft Tomko late in your draft. If your league counts holds, he could get 13 holds for the season and maybe 5 wins. Nothing overwhelming, but that's what Tomko is, given his history and past numbers.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Reds Looking For Affeldt to Start

Jeremy Affeldt has signed a one year 3 million dollar contract with the Cincinnati Reds. The move is actually a savvy deal for Wayne Krivsky, as he will look for Affeldt to compete for a spot in the team's starting rotation. At worst the Reds get a solid, left handed middle reliever signed for the going rate. At best, they have a solid number 4 starter who can eat up innings and win a few games, signed at a bargain rate given what some starter are going for. Credit Krivsky with seeing what was available out there in terms of starting pitchers and realizing that Affeldt could be just as good at a much lower cost. Krivsky already drank the Kyle Lohse Kool-Aid, once and it was enough.

FANTASY IMPACT

I have been a big fan of Affeldt for a while now. He has good pop on his fastball, and a lollipop curve that compliment each other nicely. Affeldt's stuff has never been the question, the question has been in his ability to spot the pitches and throw then effectively. At worst he is sent to the bullpen, where he would collect a good amount of holds setting up for Fransisco Cordero. If you want to take a late round flier on him as a sleeper in your draft you can. There are plenty of worse options out there.

Rivers Update...Does it Matter?

Philip Rivers has told ESPN's Bob Holtzman that he sees no reason why he wouldn't be able to play in Sunday's AFC Championshp game against New England. Back up quarterback Bily Volek will start on the the bench ready come in if Rivers' knee acts up.

IMPACT

I think San Diego will be relying mostly on their running game today, so I am not sure it is really going to matter who the starting quarterback is. The last thing San Diego wants to do is get into a high scoring, game with a lot of throws, because they would be feeding into the type of game New England thrives in.

If he is healthy, expect LaDainian Tomlinson to get some of the carries, but also expect to see a lot of Michael Turner and Darren Sproles. LT and Turner will probably be counted on to bruise up the middle and wear down veteran linebackers, Mike Vrabel, Teddy Bruschi and Junior Seau. Then, expect to see Sproles as a change of pace back used to pick up big yards, using his break away speed. Sproles is becoming a Maurice Jones-Drew type, without the hype, or expectations. Look for him to be the x-factor in San Diego's game.

I think whoever starts at quarterback won't really be counted on to make huge play, with the exception of a few 3rd and 4s to keep a drive alive. Last week we saw that both Rivers and Volek were capable of doing that.

Down Goes Marbury, Up Goes The Value Of Several Knicks

Stephon Marbury will be out indefinitely after electing to have knee surgery performed in season. My educated guess is that we won't see Steph in a Knicks jersey again this season and there is a good chance his run in New York may be over altogether. An offseason trade (his contract expires at the end of next season) or the more likely scenario of a buyout are good possibilities.

Interestingly enough, what makes the Knicks stink in real life - a roster consisting of players with individual talent, devoid of any semblance of chemistry - is the same thing that gives them several viable fantasy basketball options.  

Let's take a look at the Knicks roster and gauge the ripple effect Marbury's absence will have on the value of the team's three most fantasy relevant players. While were here, let's look at the two guys most hurt by the arrival of Zach Randolph this season. To add to the fun, the players are ranked in terms of their current and future fantasy value.

Guys Helped By Marbury's Absence

1. Jamal Crawford

Didn't see that coming huh. I have long been considered a Crawford apologist but up until this very moment, I wasn't crazy enough to call him the Knicks' top fantasy option. Crawford has been quietly enjoying a solid fantasy season averaging nearly 20 points and 5 assists a game.  I have long contested that it was Marbury's domineering playing style that has held the more unselfish Crawford back. Sharing a backcourt with Marbury is like sharing a pie with Andy Reid, you know you won't be satisfied. With Steph gone Crawford becomes the Knicks' top scoring option and will handle more responsibilities at the point. I see him further developing his all-around game with second half averages of 23 points and 6 assists not out of the question. Buy low on Crawford now and don't worry about playing time, at 41 minutes a night, he is third in the NBA.

2. Zach Randolph

Randolph is a perennial fantasy stalwart at the power forward position, as he has averaged around 20-10 for the last 4 years now. After a career season in 2006-07 where he more or less dominated the Portland offense, Randolph has regressed a bit in New York. Poor on court chemistry with Eddy Curry and Isiah's insistence on playing them together has forced Zach to shoot more rather than pound on the block. The two bigs both require room to operate on the low block and Thomas' vision of a high-low game with Randolph playing more on the perimeter has failed due to his below average passing skills and vision. Lately, Zeke has come around and splits the bigs up for a majority of the game which has allowed Randolph to reel off a few big games. With Marbury gone, that means more touches for Zach inside and with Isiah seemingly favoring him over Curry, he should see extended playing time. Randolph is still averaging nearly 17-10 on the season and his scoring output should rise going forward.

3. Nate Robinson

Two weeks ago, I urged FSE readers to add Nate to their roster, citing his increasing playing time and stellar play in those minutes. The only caveat I threw in regarding Nate's value was the pending return of Steph, which could take minutes away from Nate at the point guard position. Well, now that Marbury is officially out of the equation, Nate will certainly be seeing around 30 minutes a night and should continue putting up around 16 points, his average over the last two weeks. Beyond scoring, what has surprised even me has been his solid play at the point guard position. Nate is averaging over 5 assists a game with an Assist/Turnover ratio of 4.5, which is really good by any standard. Throw in 2 three pointers along with a few steals and you have a guy that will be a worthy contributor going into fantasy basketball's stretch run.

Guys Hurt By The Arrival Of Randolph.

4. Eddy Curry

Eddy Curry has certainly been a disappointment this season, posting lower numbers across the board from scoring to FG %. However, he has come on a bit in the month of January since Isiah split him up with Randolph, becoming more effective down low with the added spacing. He is averaging 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds this month in roughly 30 minutes of play and his FG% is back up to the 2006-07 range of 58%. Don't expect many defensive stats from Curry, but he is currently a serviceable backup fantasy center.

5. David Lee
 
Outside of maybe Eddy Curry, no one has been hurt more by the acquisition of Zach Randolph than David Lee. Lee flourished in a defined 6th man role last season, posting a double-double (10.7 points & 10.4 rebounds) on the season while putting up solid percentages across the board - 60% from the field and 81.5% from the free throw line. The chemistry problems between Randolph and Curry have made David Lee the buffer power forward, as he has been used to split the bigs up. He has alternated between starting and coming off the bench and the end result has been inconsistent playing time (actually down from 30 minutes last year to 26 minutes) and naturally poorer numbers across the board. Lee is not averaging double digits in either points or rebounds this season and his FG% has dipped down into the low 50s. While I love what David Lee offers in real life, I feel his fantasy stock has been overrated this season given the logjam at the forward position in New York. A deadline trade of either Curry or Randolph would immediately increase Lee's value.