week four DFS don'ts

Week four DFS don’ts: Kicker and Defense

Yesterday was a great day for the NFL. Finally, we saw the majority of games be competitive and high scoring. It’s too bad the day culminated in a Sunday night dud, as the Raiders looked to be asleep at the wheel. We can only hope week four will provide us with more incredible finishes. Moving on, let’s look at which kicker and defense is on my week four DFS don’ts.

Blair Walsh: FanDuel Price $4,800

Usually, I like kickers who are huge home favorites, but not this week. In week two, Blair Walsh was a large home favorite against the 49ers. In that game, he only scored six points and missed an extra point. If there is one thing the Indianapolis Colts can do, it’s stop the run. This means that Russell Wilson and company will have to do most of their damage through the air.

As we saw yesterday, that could mean Walsh only get to kick extra points. That’s not good enough for DFS purposes. It doesn’t matter if you play in tournaments or cash games, you need your kicker to get you at least nine points. Walsh hasn’t scored double digit points yet this season and his $4,800 price tag is the last straw that lands him on my week four DFS don’ts list.

Atlanta Falcons: FanDuel Price $4,800

This Falcons defense has proven to be a different unit when playing at home the past two seasons (Courtesy of; Cover32.com)

The Atlanta Falcons defense is highly overrated. They have come within two snaps of losing to the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Now, Lions are no doubt one of the better offensive teams in the NFL. The same cannot be said for the Bears. However, this unit has proved to elevate their play when at home. I’ll be staying away this week.

The Falcons will host the Buffalo Bills this Sunday. Ordinarily, I would be all over this match up, until I saw what the Bills did this past Sunday. They were able to move the ball, and more importantly, moderately control the line of scrimmage.

The Falcons will likely be without Vic Beasley again when they face the Bills. If Buffalo can whether the initial offensive storm of Atlanta, they can keep this game close and get LeSean McCoy involved early. I know the matchup looks good on paper, but so did Tampa Bay’s last week versus Minnesota and I didn’t like that either.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of Emerald City Swagger

The return of Brandon Workman

Brandon Workman Preview:

The Boston Red Sox have a deep pitching staff this season. They have added players through trades and through offseason signings but one of their bullpen arms has been primed through the farm system.

Brandon Workman was once just a right handed specialist for the Boston Red Sox who was promoted and demoted constantly. He has now turned himself into a seventh inning specialist and has a career low ERA out of the bullpen.

Background:

Brandon Workman in 2013, Photo Courtesy of pressherald.com.

Workman has been a lock down pitcher for a while now. He is now finally sinking into his role with the Red Sox.

In his high school career he had a 10-2 record and had a 0.81 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 76 innings. Out of 228 possible outs, Workman struck out 171 which means he struck out three out of every 4 batters he faced.

After being drafted by the Boston Red Sox, he was named Minor League pitcher of the year for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2012.

Season:

In Workman’s last complete season that he pitched in the MLB he went 1-10 and had a 5.17 ERA in just 19 games.

Workman has a career 4.50 ERA but is turning in his best season in 2017 with a 2.41. ERA.

Post Tommy John surgery Brandon Workman has been incredible. In 37 innings pitched he has given up 10 earned runs and has a positive WAR (+.8). He has now done that for the first season of his short MLB career.

He’s also getting hit much less: per nine innings he is giving up just eight hits. Workman averages just over an inning pitched per appearance so minimizing hits against is a major factor.

Brandon Workman has changed his career and he’s done it all post Tommy John surgery. Workman has found a way to be a consistently used arm out of the pen. When he first came into the league he was bounced around from triple A and Major League.

Post Tommy John:

When a major injury happens, it normally takes time for a player to bounce back. Some players end up never being the same.

Workman has found a way to harness his ability and go back to his minor league days.

Early on in his MLB career, Workman struggled, and just watching him post Tommy John surgery you can see that his confidence has changed. Workman has been throwing breaking balls for strikes when he needs to and has the ability to throw any pitch he chooses.

Brandon Workman has a different attitude post Tommy John surgery and it’s improving his pitching.

Experience:

Workman may have few innings pitched under his belt. Workman has pitched in seven postseason games and pitched a total of 8.2 innings in those seven games.

He’s faced 35 batters struck out four and has given up no earned runs. Brandon Workman is an extremely important piece for the Boston Red Sox come playoff time.

If he can continue to be as effective as he has been post Tommy John, the Boston Red Sox will have enough firepower in the bullpen. With Addison Reed, Brandon Workman and Craig Kimbrel slamming the door the Red Sox bullpen looks strong enough to make a deep run.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Chowderandchampions.com.

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Arizona Fall League

Arizona Fall League 2017: Youngest Stars

 

The Arizona Fall League is a rite of passage for the very best of the best MLB prospects. Especially for those “kids” down on the farm.

This veritable “proving ground” for major league talent is one of the true gems of the prospect-to-pro pipeline. Every year, each of the 30 teams that make up Major League Baseball send a handful of their brightest up and comers to the desert for closer inspection versus a higher standard of opponent. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to the youngest stars of the Arizona Fall League. You may not know them now, but you soon will!

 

Glendale Desert Dogs

Feeder Clubs: White Sox, Indians, Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Mitch Keller, Age 21

Parent Club: Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Finishing Level: Altoona Curve (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Mitch Keller has moved three levels in two seasons in the Pirates organization. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The No. 6 RHP prospect in baseball, Mitch Keller, will be turning out for Glendale this fall in Arizona. He boasts above average control as well as three projectable major league pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. Keller spent most his time this season (15 games) taking the hill for the Bradenton Marauders of the Florida State League. Over 15 starts he struck out over three batters for every one that he walked. His numbers only improved after getting called up to (AA) Altoona for his final six starts. Keller uses a blistering fastball that sits low-to-mid-90s with nasty sinking action, and above average 11-5 curve to make hitters look foolish.

Promoted to (AA) Altoona to finish out the season, this 21-year-old is mature beyond his years. Judging by the caliber of his well-advanced arsenal of three plus-pitches, this kid should continue rising through the Pirates system at break neck speed. Thus far, Keller has done all that’s been asked of him at every level and he will be looking to impress again in Arizona. For 2018, Keller should be start the season with (AA) Altoona, but he may not be there long. Should this young man continue to miss an epic number of bats at (AA) level, I would expect Keller to end 2018 in (AAA). He’s getting close Pirates fans!

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Cornelius Randolph, Age 20

Parent Club: Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Finishing Level: Clearwater Thrashers (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Randolph, age 20, will be looking to develop his fielding skills even further this fall in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Phillies left fielding prospect Cornelius Randolph is not the biggest of players. What Randolph lacks in size however, he makes up with a good eye at the plate working a (.338) OBP in 122 games at (Advanced A) Clearwater. Randolph is a converted infielder who worked tirelessly in 2017 to improve his fielding ability in left field. Because his focus was on improving as a defender, his batting metrics may have taken a hit, yet he still posted a respectable (.250/.338/.402) for the season.

The key to Randolph making the majors is his bat, without question. Many scouts believe his average defensive ability will be overshadowed by a bat that wants to hit, and hit a ton. Touted as the best pure high school hitter in the 2015 MLB Draft, Randolph has done little to disappoint. His 2016 was largely a throwaway season while he battled injuries that kept him from really capitalizing on an inspiring 2015. However, in his latest campaign he mashed his way to a tie for fifth most homers in the Florida State League.

Considering the tender age of the  Phillies’ No. 12 prospect, it is not likely that he will be rushed up the ladder. He could possibly open the season at (AA) Reading depending on how the Phillies see him defensively. He already has a bat good enough for the level.

 

 

Peoria Javelinas

Feeder Clubs: Braves, Red Sox, Padres, Mariners, Blue Jays

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Andres Munoz, Age 18

Parent Club: San Diego Padres

2017 Finishing Level: Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Do not be fooled by the baby-faced Andres Munoz, he wants nothing more than to blow you away with the heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Born in 1999, Munoz is easily the youngest player headed to the Arizona Fall League this October. At just 18 years of age, striking out hitters is not the issue for Munoz. No, hitting the strike zone consistently is. Blessed with electric stuff well beyond what is expect from a teenager, he has had a heck of a time reigning in his pitches and throwing consistent strikes. At 18 though, time is smiling on this young hurler.

With a clean easy motion to the plate, Munoz just needs to find his rhythm and learn to repeat his delivery time after time. Munoz has easy gas, with his fastball exploding out of his hand toward the plate with seemingly little effort. If this kid can iron out the kinks in his game, he could become a dominant pitcher in the majors sooner than later. Munoz is the youngest player on any Arizona Fall League roster in 2017 and after watching him throw you can understand why he’s there. Expect Andres to be toeing the rubber for (Low A) Fort Wayne in the Midwest League come spring 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Ronald Acuna, Age 19

Parent Club: Atlanta Braves

2017 Finishing Level: Gwinnett Braves (AAA)

 

Arizona Fall League

If you don’t yet know about Ronald Acuna, you will very soon. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Oh, hot dog! Do I even need to talk about Acuna? I mean, really? Everyone knows this guy by now, right? Look, just the fact he’s on this list should have pitchers everywhere soiling themselves.

Ok, so considering that many of the top ten prospects have mostly graduated to the big leagues (that were ahead of Acuna), this kid should be at the top of the heap come 2018. The No. 5 prospect in all of baseball did everything in his power to make the jump to the majors in 2017. At 19 years of age and with his parent club struggling to win games, the Braves decided to halt his progression at (AAA) Gwinnett. It was a smart move, especially if you regularly attend Gwinnett Braves games. All he did there in 54 games is put up an insane (.344/.393/.548) line, sending baseballs into orbit at a regular pace.

Acuna is just latest Venezuelan to take MLB by storm, well the minors anyway. Acuna’s measurables are out of sight. This is a true 5-tool player by every sense of the word with his blazing speed, howitzer arm, and big bat. Exciting times are afoot in Hot-lanta folks! I mean, this kid did nothing but perform at each level he was at this year. What’s more is that his numbers improved at every stop along the way. Next stop for Acuna in 2018? The Show.

 

 

Scottsdale Scorpions

Feeder Clubs: Reds, Angels, Yankees, Mets, Giants

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Justus Sheffield, Age 21

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Trenton Thunder (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Justus Sheffield is not related to Gary Sheffield. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

The first of two LHP on the list of youngest Arizona Fall League stars, Justus Sheffield is also the No. 6 rated prospect down on the farm. Sheffield is another fireballer on this list that can reach back and grab a 96-mph comet, but will usually sit around the 92-93 mph range. Boasting a curbeball and changeup that are projectable big league pitches, the short in stature Sheffield is certainly long on talent. However, he does have work to do in Arizona. This future Yankee needs to learn to consistently get his above average repertoire over the plate for strikes. If he can master his control, the sky’s the limit for Justus.

Sheffield spent the bulk of 2017 in (AA) with the Trenton Thunder except for two rehab starts in (A) ball. In 17 starts for Trenton, the young hurler went 7-6 with a 3.18 ERA over 93.1 innings of ball. His strike out tally is fantastic at 82, and his walks, while still at 3.1 BB/9, have come down dramatically from seasons past. If Sheffield continues to progress, he should arrive in the majors before the turn of the next decade. For now though, he’ll most likely break camp as a member of the (AAA) rotation in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: CF Estevan Florial, Age 19

Parent Club: New York Yankees

2017 Finishing Level: Tampa Yankees (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Estevan Florial may strike out a ton, but he’ll happily take you yard in return. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Florial is an intriguing 19-year-old signed from the island nation of Haiti in 2015. This kid could be the center fielder of the future for New York, and it might not be much longer before he stakes his claim to a position once held by Mantle and DiMaggio. Now, this isn’t to say Estevan Florial is in the same mold as those two legendary players, but his talent is undeniable.

At the plate Florial seemingly has all the tools to be an excellent major leaguer. He’s fast, he’s got pop, and he’s not afraid to take a walk. In his first season of Class A baseball, Florial posted a (.298/.372/.479) line across both high and lower levels. While his sample size from (Advanced A) is small at only 19 games, he sported an (.855) OPS over 91 games for (Low A) Charleston. He has some holes in his swing and does whiff a lot, but he also walks a lot (once every 8.4 AB) suggesting that, as he develops, the K’s will come down. At any rate, this young slugging center fielder is poised to start 2018 at (AA) Trenton. Only time will tell if he can grasp the strike zone better as he gets a little older.

 

 

Mesa Solar Sox

Feeder Clubs: Cubs, Tigers, Astros, Athletics, Nationals

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Nolan Blackwood, Age 22

Parent Club: Oakland Athletics

2017 Finishing Level: Stockton Ports (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Nolan Blackwood shuts the light off when he leaves. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Nolan Blackwood is a stopper. I mean, this kid can slam a door. Unlike most of the other pitchers on this list, Blackwood is one thing, a harbinger of death to your team’s chances to win. The 2016 14th round draft selection out of Memphis has a scary frame at 6-foot-5 with plenty of room left to fill it out. Oakland always seems to have a top-notch pitcher or two working their way through the farm, and Blackwood is no exception.

Blackwood spent all of 2017 in (Advanced A) ball, shutting down games for the Stockton Ports. Sure, he had a 1-5 record. Sure, he had a 3.00 ERA, but it’s what he did with the game on the line that matters most. In 20 chances to turn out the lights on the opposition, he did so successfully 19 times. As he learns more and puts on more lean muscle, his K/9 should reflect that, although his 7.58 K/9 in 2017 are nothing to sneeze at. Neither is his 1.05 WHIP. Blackwood is slated to begin 2018 at (AA) Midland, in the Texas League.

 

 

 

 

Youngest Position Player: 1B/LF Yordan Alvarez, Age 20

Parent Club: Houston Astros

2017 Finishing Level: Buies Creek Astros (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Yordan Alvarez, monstrous young left-handed hitter with jaw dropping pop. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Yordan Alvarez arrived in the Houston farm system via trade with the Dodgers in 2016. Alvarez is a slugger that translates to either left field or first base. While not exceptional with the leather, Alvarez does possess a very good arm in the field. He has been playing in left for much of 2017, but in the Arizona Fall League, he’s penciled in to man first base. At 6-foot-5 225 lbs. the left-handed slugger seems to be destined to play first in the majors.

Alvarez, Houston’s No. 26 ranked prospect has explosive raw power at the plate as shown by his first 32 games at the (Low A) level. Playing for the Quad Cities River Bandits, he mashed (.360/.468/.658) over 111 AB. With nothing left to prove, Houston promoted him to (Advanced A) Buies Creek where his numbers came back to earth with the step up in pitching. Despite only being 20 years old, Alvarez still managed to hack out a (.277/.329/.393) line. Not bad for a player as young as Yordan. Look for Alvarez to be back in the lineup for the Buies Creek Astros at the start of the 2018 campaign.

 

 

Salt River Rafters

Feeder Clubs: Diamondbacks, Orioles, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers

 

Youngest Pitcher: LHP Keegan Akin, Age 22

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Frederick Keys (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

“If you blink, you will miss it.” Is what the baseball cornfield gods say about Akin’s heater. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Keegan Akin is one half of Baltimore’s contribution to the youngest players in the Arizona Fall League. Ryan Mountcastle is the other, but more on him in just a minute.

Akin is a LHP blessed with a fastball that looks more like a vapor trail than it does a ball. The 22-year-old was a second-round pick by Baltimore in 2016 and is coming off his first full professional season at (Advanced A) Frederick. While his numbers might not jump off the page at you right away, there is still a lot to look at. First and foremost being his beastly 10 K/9 stuff. His electric fastball lit up opposing batters while his slider and changeup are both major league projectable pitches. Known for his ability to get nasty, he peppers the strike zone with ease leaving little doubts that the Orioles see him as a starting pitcher for the future.

Baltimore’s No. 8 ranked prospect is not far off getting the call to the show if he continues to improve his secondary pitches. His inability to fully harness his secondary stuff led to a 4.1 BB/9 rate, but as he learns how to pitch to better hitters his walk totals should begin to come back to earth. Orioles fans should be anxiously awaiting the arrival of this left-handed cannon. What level Akin might start at in 2018 is anyone’s guess, it could depend on how he does in the Arizona Fall League. Frederick or (AA) Bowie are his likely landing spots after camp breaks in March 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 2B Ryan Mountcastle, Age 20

Parent Club: Baltimore Orioles

2017 Finishing Level: Bowie Bay Sox (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League

Baltimore’s 2015 first-round pick, Ryan Mountcastle, has had a meteoric rise through the minors so far. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

Mountcastle is currently the No. 3 prospect in Baltimore’s farm system. At the moment, Baltimore is still holding out hope that this young man can overcome his below average arm strength and stick at short stop. While questions remain about Mountcastle in the field, there are little doubts in the scouting community that he will hit for both power and average at the big-league level. Ryan is a tall prospect with room left on his frame for further growth. And that is scary news for American League pitchers.

In 88 games of (Advanced A) baseball he posted an impressive (.314/.343/.542) line, while smashing 15 round trippers along the way. It was precisely this type of production that ultimately won him promotion to (AA) Bowie, finishing the season against much older competition. Though Mountcastle struggled to come to terms with Double-A pitching in his first 39 games for the Bay Sox (.222/.239/.366), he will almost certainly start 2018 there. This kid is truly one for the future. Get out there to the Arizona Fall League games and take a peek.

 

 

 

Surprise Saguaros

Feeder Clubs: Royals, Twins, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers

 

Youngest Pitcher: RHP Jordan Hicks, Age 21

Parent Club: St. Louis Cardinals

2017 Finishing Level: Springfield Cardinals (AA)

 

Arizona Fall League 2017

Hicks has eye popping velocity, and a heavy sinking action on his fastball. (Photo courtesy of: MiLB.com)

At just 21, Jordan Hicks already has a fastball that would likely leave an exit hole the size of Pluto if it hit you.On top of a fastball that sits in the lower 90’s (but can ramp up to 98 mph), this young fireballer also has an above average curveball that has a chance to be a plus pitch for him in the bigs. Jordan started 2017 with the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League taking the mound in 14 games and posting a healthy 8-2 record while fanning 63 batters along the way.

He has some control issues to sort out, but upon his promotion to (Advanced A) Palm Beach he saw his BB/9 shrink from (4.5) in Peoria to a respectable (2) in his first 27 innings of Florida State League ball. Though the sample is small, this youngster seems to have found another gear with his step up in competition. The Card’s No. 14 prospect posted 32 strike outs and only 21 hits in eight appearances at the (Advanced A) level. On the back of that performance the Cardinals promoted young Jordan to (AA) Springfield in August, though he didn’t log any innings due to late season injury. Expect Hicks to be a key component to Springfield’s rotation in 2018.

 

Youngest Position Player: 3B Kevin Padlo, Age 21

Parent Club: Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Finishing Level: Charlotte Stone Crabs (Advanced A)

 

Arizona Fall League

Kevin Padlo is rated as Tampa Bay’s No. 28 prospect. (photo courtesty of: MiLB.com)

Kevin was originally a fifth-round selection of the Colorado Rockies in 2014, the organization he played for in his first two minor league seasons. By January 2016 however, he found himself part of the deal that sent LF Corey Dickerson to Tampa in exchange for pitchers Jake McGee and German Marquez. Though Padlo struggled some at the plate this year posting (.215/.321/.380) across two levels of minor league ball, there is a lot to like about this young man.

While his batting average might seem low, his (.321) OBP suggests a keen eye, that with more experience should translate to a solid average and 20-homer power. At only 21 years of age, the Rays’ No. 28 prospect already possesses a defensive tool set at the hot corner you would normally expect to find on a player much older. Where he could start 2018 might depend on what he does in Arizona this fall, but as it stands now all signs point to another season in Charlotte.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Colorado Rockies)

 

 

 

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“From our Haus to yours

slashing enforcement

Is this slashing enforcement the right move?

There have been over 200 slashing penalties called this preseason (which isn’t over)! I am all for more time on the power play, which means more hyped up crowds, but the other side of it is brutal.

This sport is a game of battles and stick checking with immense physicality. “You can’t even play hockey anymore,” former pro and current analyst Kelly Chase said last Wednesday.

Special teams is already such an important part of the game. Four of the top ten power plays last year were top 10 teams overall. The third best happened to be the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburgh Penguins. However, I am unsure whether this is a big deal or small deal, I am simply stating the apparent issue.

“Any forceful” or “powerful chop” with the stick on opposing player’s body is slashing. The rule has not changed, but the enforcement of it has in fact. It is an emphasis that is related to player safety. Reducing injury to star players is all good and well, but we still have to play hockey and battle, right?

Exaggerated, but understandable

791 minor penalties for slashing were called last season. Numerous went uncalled. The problem with slashing is that stick checking is such an engrained part of the game. “It’s tough for the refs to make those calls in games: you don’t really know how bad a slash is” said Johnny Gaudreau (who suffered a broken finger from a slash last season). Therefore, you either call everything that remotely reflects the rule or just the blatant slashes that obviously reflect the rule, which risks injury.

slashing enforcement

Johnny Gaudreau leaves the ice last year. Surgery was then needed to fix a fractured finger. Photo Courtesy of NHL.com

The league has decided to enforce any and all remote reflections of the rule. Johnny Gaudreau (“Johnny Hockey”) is one of the most marketable players in the NHL and Marc Methot is a force to be reckoned with on the back end for his team (Dallas Stars). The two of them missed considerable time last year because of hand injuries from slashes. Alexander Steen (a top-6 forward for the St. Louis Blues) has been out the entirety of training camp due to a slash to his hand behind the net. As frustrating as it has been to hear the whistle blow at an excessive rate this preseason, it may be warranted.

I do not want to see special teams take over the entire game with it being so important already. However, there are certain elements that could elevate the excitement level of the game from this change.

High Flying End-to-End Action

The youth movement has already been discussed and understood. Naturally, the game is going to keep getting faster for the audience. The lack of stick checks and more body on body board battles can take the speed of the game to new heights as well.

slashing enforcement

Jack Eichel (young leader of the Buffalo Sabres) looks to take more power plays given to his advantage this year and lead his team to the postseason. Photo Courtesy of HockeyFanLand

Buffalo and Toronto were the top two power plays in the NHL last year. The Leafs took their young high powered offense to the postseason as Buffalo continued their rebuild. This new enforcement of the slashing rule has given more teams extensive time on the power play, which can always swing a hockey game. Winning the special teams battle has a similar effect in hockey as it does in football. Teams could become increasingly more competitive this year, which would allow more playoff pushes to ensue if referees continue this trend all season.

More races to the postseason sounds exciting, but no one knows if it will be good for the game or if they will even happen. No one knows how this will play out if slashing penalties are continued to be called this way. We see the plethora of calls being made and we go crazy. That is all we know right now as well as hockey still being an exhilarating spectator sport. It will all work out just fine.

What do we want?

We want hockey. NHL fans will be getting hockey starting October 4th. There are conversations involving numerous topics every single year about what could make the game better. This is just another one of those conversations.

slashing enforcement

I doubt this kid is thinking about how many slashing calls there have been during this preseason. He’s just ready for the puck to be dropped. Photo Courtesy of Weekend Warriors Hockey

There are risks, rewards and sacrifices to be made in order to sustain products in the entertainment business. Decisions are made and discussed relentlessly in the offseason, during the regular season and the playoffs. The idea to enforce the slashing rule more so this year was clearly seen as an issue important enough by members of the NHL Front Office to act on.

Hockey will still be the same physical, intense sport that is brutally exciting to watch. I do not know how I feel about this slashing enforcement issue. I’ll let you know at the end of the season. I’m just ready for some hockey.

 

 

 

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Winston’s Lab gets a buff as MLB pitcher re-launches analytical Overwatch site

Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Trevor May is part of a company that has redesigned the website winstonslab.com, to offer the most in depth team rankings in the world. May’s company, Esports Lab, has just recently been formed to provide not just the analytical side to Overwatch’s coverage, but also intends to increase its stake in the content sphere with interviews and articles.

The goal of the team rankings on the Winston’s Lab is to take subjective opinions out of the equation of which team is the best, and break it down into it’s objective parts. They have created an algorithm to rate the teams against each other, hoping to get a clearer picture of who is the best of the best. Their algorithm includes: Matches played in the last 120 days, win percentage, strength of schedule, regional strength of schedule, win adjustment for LAN vs. online matches, margin of victory, margin of loss and a common opponents factor.

After the teams are run through the algorithm, they are given a star rating. The higher number of stars a team has, the better they are, with the rating scale stopping at five stars.

Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Unsurprisingly to many fans of the scene, South Korea’s Ex-Lunatic Hai (currently Team Seoul) claim the top spot, with RunAway, Miraculous Youngsters, Cloud9 KongDoo, Team EnVyUs and Afreeca Freecs Blue following in their wake.

The site also includes other features such as: an upcoming and completed match section, a calendar, box scores, video highlights integrated with the box scores, interviews, expert analysis, opinions and much more.

If you are interested in Overwatch the site offers a great place to get your news updates and see who is the best of the best.

 

Trend of Sports and Esports working hand in hand

 

May has become one of many from the sports world to get involved in the business of esports. The list includes Rick Fox, Shaquille O’Neal, Schalke 04, Paris Saint-Germain, the MLBAM and many more. While some people involved in sports still think of esports and their athletes as second-class, or worse, there remains the positive trend of an increase for traditional sports to ‘take seriously’ esports.

While many traditional sports figures have entered the scene in varying degrees, May’s entrance into Overwatch specifically, and the analytical side, is interesting. With the Overwatch League fast approaching, and many of those teams owned by traditional sports people, Overwatch’s relationship with the traditional sports world is continually intertwining. While other esports, albeit having started years before Overwatch, are slowly being entered by the sports world, Overwatch’s scene is almost from the get go heavily stepped by such figures.

The sudden increase of interest in esports may not all be because of their respect for esports though. Some of the people from sports who are getting involved in the esports world are seeing the economic value of doing so. The market for esports is growing and could explode even more in coming years, which helps validate its status in our society. With that and notable athletes from traditional sports getting involved like May, esports are starting to get the respect and recognition they deserve.

 

About Trevor May

Minnesota Twins baseball pitcher Trevor May. Courtesy of MLB.com

Although May is still finding his way as a pitcher, he has pitched in 102 games over three seasons with the Twins. The 27 year old is sitting out this season after tearing his UCL and having Tommy John surgery. His best season as a pro came in 2015, when he had a record of 8-9 and an era of 4.00.

He has experience in both the bullpen and as a starter and was in contention to make the starting rotation for Minnesota, before his injury. His injury likely occurred while pitching in an exhibition game against Team USA, who was preparing for the World Baseball Classic. The Twins are hoping to have him back sooner than the 12 to 18 months usually required to recover from a UCL tear.

Once he recovers from his injury, hopefully his athletic career and business interests in esports can thrive simultaneously. With more athletes like May getting involved with esports, it is showing that both sports and esports can be respected and economically viable.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cam Newton Fantasy Struggles

The fantasy struggles of Cam Newton

Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton struggled again, and this time it was against the New Orleans Saints at home. He played the league’s worst defense at home and still didn’t look like the 2015 MVP. This was the game where he was supposed to rebound after struggling the past two weeks with his offseason shoulder surgery.

To make matters worse, he couldn’t have a better situation. The Saints were without cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Sterling Moore. This has to be a concern not just to the Panthers, but to fantasy owners as Newton was drafted as a QB1 to most teams.

Cam’s performance

In three weeks, this is what Newton’s points were according to Fantasypros: 13.1 against the 49ers, 11.8 against the Bills and 8.3 this week. The first game was expected of Newton as he played only one series all preseason after the surgery. Even though he was rusty, he still completed 14 of his 25 passes for 171 yards, threw two touchdowns and one interception and rushed for three yards with a fumble. Many expected a better performance since they played a 49er defense that gave up 400 yards of offense per game last year.

Cam Newton Fantasy Struggles

Cam Newton (Photo by: wkbw.com)

In week 2, he took a pounding, but improved from his week 1 performance. He went 20-of-32 for 228 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. He was brought down on six occasions and per Craig Reed of the Associated Press, finished the contest with a twisted ankle.

He looked solid connecting with seven pass catchers and gained a strong rapport with both Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, who logged 10 completions for 145 yards on 14 targets.

Even though he improved in his game play in week 2, his fantasy performance was still pedestrian. He still didn’t look comfortable in the pocket and still looked rusty in his mechanics. Newton has barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes and missed some opportunities badly over the first two weeks this year. He had Christian McCaffrey for an easy touchdown last week and overthrew him.

Along with that, he has barely run the ball, which is his strength. Ron Rivera has said they will limit his running and make him more of a passer. If he doesn’t continue to run, he won’t be a top-end QB1.

Week 3

Week 3 continued the woes for Newton. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 167 yards and three interceptions in Sunday’s 34-13 loss to the Saints. He also rushed three times for 16 yards and scored the lone touchdown for the Panthers.
Newton had his hand full the entire time against the Saints. He finished with a 43.8 rating, which was the third-worst passing performance of his career and his worst in three years.
Cam Newton Fantasy Struggles

Newton (Photo by: pantherswire.usatoday.com)

But not all of it was his fault. To start the game, he was out with his favorite target Greg Olsen to a broken foot against the Bills last week. He also lost his second target Kelvin Benjamin in the game to a knee injury during the first half. His next targets Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey were really a non-factor the entire game.

Besides the circumstances, Newton still looked to have trouble with throwing the ball. There were few passes that Newton tried to really fire the ball. It’s tough not to believe that his arm isn’t the same as it was in the last two seasons. His highest velocity attempts have come out inaccurate.
Part of his struggles are due to the lack of practice he has had. He was limited all week. I wrote a piece on not to believe in the criticism Newton has had all preseason, saying Newton would come out better than he did in 2016.
But he looks far from it. Maybe the injuries have a big role, but if this continues, it will be a long road.

What to do now

As Newton said, it’s gut check time. For fantasy owners, the thread is dwindling to rely on him as a starter week in and week out. Newton would agree with some fantasy owners as he’s frustrated with his performance.

The team will play road games in four of the next five weeks. He starts with trips to New England and Detroit. If his struggles continue, it may come time to look for a better option and actually cut Newton. It’s hard to cut him, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Featured image from espn.com

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Todd Gurley hot start

Can Todd Gurley keep up his hot start?

Todd Gurley had an amazing rookie campaign, rushing for 1106 yards and 10 touchdowns in only 13 games. He followed that up with a subpar sophomore year, with 885 yards and six touchdowns.

Now at the start of the 2017 season, Gurley is starting to look like his old self again with 241 yards and six total touchdowns in only three games. The question remains whether or not he can keep up his hot start.

Hot Start

Todd Gurley hot start

Courtesy of, www.univision.com

Gurley is off to the start that every fantasy owner was hoping he would have. He’s never been much of a receiving back so far in the NFL, but now that Jared Goff is improving his play, he looks to be more of a dual threat back than ever.

 

In three games to start the season, Gurley has 13 receptions for 140 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He’s only 48 yards away from matching his total from his rookie campaign. Those two receiving touchdowns are also his first receiving touchdowns that he’s ever had in the NFL. That shows his use in the red zone.

The red zone volume is there for Gurley, which is a positive sign. In three games so far, he has 12 rushes for 21 yards and all four of his touchdowns. The Rams have shown that their game plan revolves around a strong run game, and Gurley is the focal point of that run game.

Another positive sign for fantasy owners is the snap percentage that he has played so far. Gurley has played in 85 percent of the teams offensive snaps, giving him plenty of opportunity to touch the ball and succeed.

Outlook for the rest of the season

The offensive line, which was addressed in the offseason, has played a big role in the success of the No. 1 scoring offense in the NFL. The Rams’ offensive line has allowed Jared Goff to have a clean pocket while opening up running lanes for Gurley. The fact that the Rams can sustain a good passing attack with a lethal run game causes terror in opposing defenses.

Now I know that the defenses that the Rams have played don’t have the greatest defensive front. Gurley and the Rams will face a couple of tough defenses when they play the Seahawks, Jaguars, Cardinals and Giants in four consecutive games. Those games will be a real test for Gurley, and we’ll really see if his season is as legit as we think it is.

Now to answer the question I started the article off with: can Todd Gurley keep up his hot start? I have been on the Jared Goff train since he was drafted by the Rams. I said that if the Rams could get their passing game going, which they are doing now with Goff and Sammy Watkins, the run game would follow.

It’s interesting what a different one year makes. With the additions of Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Watkins and the emerging play of Goff, Gurley can and should maintain his hot start to the season.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of (http://www.cbssports.com)

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week three DFS Dont's

Week three DFS don’ts: Report card

Well, this was my worst week in terms of DFS earnings. I simply could not overcome single digit performances from Ty Montgomery and Jay Ajayi, and a critical injury to Kelvin Benjamin. Not to mention incredibly underwhelming performance from Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree. I could go on, but let’s just get to my week three DFS don’ts report card.

Quarterback: 1/5

I guess I learned that I should never bet against Drew Brees. He dismantled the Panthers and seemingly got every receiver involved while doing so. And, of course, this was the weekend Russell Wilson broke out of his slump. I’m happy he finally started playing well, but, not so happy it was this particular weekend.

I’ll just call this whole position an “L” for week three. I don’t want to even try and justify Stafford as a good play, since he only scored 16.46 points. However, Andy Dalton did manage to more than double his value with 16.28 points. Dalton was my lone victory at this position. I’d rather not talk about Derek Car. He killed me.

Running Back: 3/6

My week three DFS don’ts at the running back position included LeSean McCoy, Christian McCaffrey and Ameer Abdullah. I was right on both McCoy and Abdullah, as both failed to at least double their price in value. McCaffrey finally had a good game; however, I wouldn’t count on him to get 100 yards receiving every game, so good luck if you keep playing him.

I showed Le’Veon Bell and Ty Montgomery a lot of love on the Suck My DFS Podcast, and it backfired. Bell finally had a score, but 18.8 points isn’t good enough for Bell in my opinion. Montgomery was also disappointing. The only saving grace was Chris Carson managed to double his value in terms of production so that’s a win.

Wide Receiver: 4/6

I’m pleasantly surprised my wide receiver predictions. I nailed all of my week three DFS don’ts at this position. Those predictions included Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant. None of those players provided two times their production.

A.J. Green wasn’t a difficult prediction to make. He was in a great match up with a new coordinator that clearly wanted to feature him. Sadly, Keenan Allen and Kelvin Benjamin really came up short. Benjamin’s injury was the first straw that broke my cash game lineups.

Tight End: 2/3

As I stated in my tight end edition of week three DFS don’ts, the matchup for Delanie Walker was too difficult. He was still featured as a receiver, but the production just wasn’t there this week. Coby Fleener has returned to being absolutely useless as a tight end, no surprise there.

It was so frustrating to watch Eric Ebron drop every easy catch in that game. Stafford, to his credit, still wanted to target him, but Ebron insisted on destroying any trust he had in that passing game.

Kicker: 2/2

Kicker, like most weeks, was easy. Matt Prater was a must play. He’s proven to have a leg capable of making 50+ yard field goals, and, was playing at home in a dome. He delivered 19 points. On the other hand, Younghoe Koo was disappointing per usual.

Defense: 2/3

Both Seattle and Tampa Bay failed tremendously. One team surrendered almost 200 yards rushing, and the other allowed Case Keenum to throw for more than 300 yards. Sadly, the Eagles collapsed in the second half and allowed 24 second-half points.

Overall Score: 14/25

I’m not happy with week three. My DFS earnings took a hit, one of my seasonal teams got demolished, and I was only correct on 56% of my picks. Let’s just get to week four already. We’ll be back tomorrow with the kicker and defense edition of week four DFS don’ts.

 

Like what you read? Tune into the Suck My DFS Podcast this Friday and find out who TGH fantasy experts will be playing in their DFS lineups this week. You can find the link to our podcast on the Podcast page.

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Featured Image Courtesy of  Grizzly Bear Blues

The Freeze Shaman dilemma

Sometimes the set designers’ plans don’t come to fruition. Balancing Hearthstone is hard, and often cards that are foreseen as viable mainstays end up disappointing. Worse, sometimes whole planned archetypes fail.

This is the case with Knights of the Frozen Throne’s Freeze Shaman. Shaman lacked the necessary tools to consistently freeze minions in an advantageous way, and the synergy cards had mediocre payoff. This leaves a difficult choice for Blizzard. Continue to support an archetype with little competitive core? Or abandon it completely?

Commitment and payoff

freeze

Evolve took several expansions of support and a set rotation to shine

Sometimes, commitment to an archetype can pay dividends. Evolve Shaman got core cards like Evolve in Whispers of the Old Gods, but only reached competitive viability in later expansions as cards like Fire Fly, Primalfin Totem, Devolve and Doppelgangster were added. Despite taking a long time to flourish, the archetype grew into a deck that was both viable, fun and occupied a vital spot in the meta-game.

Blizzard has continued to add to Evolve, with cards like Deathseer Thrall in Knights of the Frozen Throne becoming mainstays and continuing on the core mechanic. By refusing to abandon an archetype that didn’t immediately pan out, Team 5 ended up giving Shaman perhaps its only recent viable deck, and one with huge popular appeal.

Over-investment

freeze

Discard held Warlock back

However, sometimes over-commitment to an archetype doesn’t work out so well. Warlock’s discard mechanic has technically been in the game since Vanilla, but only really began to be “pushed” in One Night in Karazhan, with cards like Silverware Golem and Malchezaar’s Imp driving a discard deck that was explosive, if inconsistent. Though Discard Zoo saw fringe play, it was suppressed heavily by Midrange Shaman.

Continued support for discard didn’t help the deck in later expansions. While Whispers of the Old God’s Darkshire Librarian improved consistency somewhat, the deck remained underwhelming. Repeated support then continued to fall flat. Throughout Mean Streets of Gadgetzan and Un’goro, discard was ramped up, eventually culminating in the nigh-unplayable Warlock Quest.

The over-commitment to an unsuccessful and arguably boring archetype not only was a poor use of design resources, it also drove Warlock towards the lowest win-rates and play-rates it had ever seen.

Is Freeze worth following up on?

Freeze Shaman is then faced with two prospects. Either continued support in future expansions to hopefully ignite an interesting, potent and niche-filling archetype; or leave it behind for fresher ideas. There are strong arguments either way.

On the one hand, it’s argued that the utter failure of Freeze to make it into any competitive Shaman means that adding additional tools would be throwing good cards after bad. Freeze is a niche mechanic, best suited to stalling combo decks. While some Combo Shamans have existed in the past, without mana manipulation it’s unlikely that Malygos Shaman or something similar would return.

This would suggest that Freeze Synergy cards are not the answer. While Freeze effects may still be valuable, they currently seem far too scarce, at least in Shaman, to be built around. But adding another set filled with both Freeze and Freeze Synergies would threaten Shaman’s viability if the archetype continued to underwhelm.

Soft support

freeze

Cards like Voodoo Hexer enable Freeze synergies, without being dependent on them

On the other hand, there are strong and interesting cards that could easily be viable with just a little more support. Voodoo Hexer has Alley Armorsmith levels of anti-aggro power, limited only by a lack of Controlling Shamans to put it in. Avalanche is situational but powerful. Ice Breaker could be premium removal if more freeze tools were added.

The answer might lie in soft support. Rather than going down the discard route of going all-in on the failing mechanic, Team 5 could instead add cards that synergise more subtly. Like how Un’goro gave Shaman token options to work with Evolve, without huge minions that were utterly dependent on Evolve.

Freeze Shaman could get support in more incidental Freeze effects on otherwise generally strong cards. This would not “force” Freeze, but leave it as an interesting choice and option for deck-builders. Freeze could be added wholly or partly, depending on how strong the cards turned out. What’s more, this could help push a more controlling, board-clear based Shaman as opposed to the more aggressive token lists currently available.


 

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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Justin Bour

Justin Bour’s outlook for the 2018 MLB season

With the 2017 MLB season winding down, it is time to assess different player’s outlooks moving forward.

In this piece, Justin Bour’s 2017 campaign and 2018 outlook will be analyzed and discussed.

Background

Justin Bour

Bour’s professional baseball career began after being drafted in the 25th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft by the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by The Trading Card Data Base)

Bour’s professional baseball career began after being drafted in the 25th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. The first baseman spent three seasons between low, single and high-A from 2009 until 2011, hitting 39 home runs and driving in 212 RBIs in 322 games. Bour continued to find success in two seasons at the double-A level, hitting 35 home runs and driving in 174 RBIs in 221 games.

After failing to be placed on the Cubs 40-man roster, he was subsequently drafted in the 2013 rule-5 draft by the Miami Marlins. Bour then spent one season in triple-A, batting .306 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs in 103 games. His first major league action came with the Marlins in 2014, where he appeared in only 39 games, batting .284 with a home run and 11 RBIs. In his first full season in Miami, Bour batted .262 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs in 129 games.

In 2016, the Marlins signed corner infielder Chris Johnson to be the right-handed side of a platoon with Bour, which lessened expectations for the then 28-year-old Bour. In the first half of the season, Bour batted .268 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs through 68 games. Unfortunately, Bour suffered a high-ankle sprain on July 2, forcing him to miss 57 games.

After returning, Bour logged 79 plate appearances, failing to hit one home run. A healthy Bour’s presence in the lineup was clearly missed, as his platoon mate and replacements Chris Johnson, Xavier Scruggs and Don Kelly failed to hit half as many home runs as Bour did in 2016.

2017 Season

Justin Bour

Bour participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby, hitting 22 home runs in his final round against New York Yankee Aaron Judge, who mashed 23. (Photo by Getty Images)

In 2017, Bour assumed more of an everyday role, ceding the occasional at bat to righty Tyler Moore and switch hitter Tomas Telis. Bour’s season began modestly, hitting only four home runs while batting .222 in April. Once May came around, Bour began to explode, batting .344 while mashing 11 home runs and driving in 21 RBIs over the course of 28 games. He ended the first half of the year with a .289 batting average, 20 home runs and 59 RBIs, putting him on pace to hit 42 bombs and drive in 124 RBIs over the course of a complete 162-game season.

Bour participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby, hitting 22 home runs in his final round against New York Yankee Aaron Judge, who mashed 23. The electric performance began to propel Bour’s popularity.

Unfortunately, he strained his right oblique on July 24, resulting in him missing all of August and early September. He has been magnificent in his 13 games since returning, batting .362 with four home runs and 15 RBIs.

2018 Outlook

Justin Bour

The 29-year-old will head into 2018 as an integral piece of a dangerous Marlins lineup. (Photo by WSBuzz.com)

First base is one of the deepest positions in fantasy baseball with 39 first base eligible players (on ESPN.com) with at least 20 home runs. Also, there are 10 first base eligible players ranked within the top-50 batters in standard ESPN fantasy leagues, making lower profile players like Bour fall by the way side in terms of average draft position and percentage owned.

The 29-year-old will head into 2018 as an integral piece of a dangerous Marlins lineup, spearheaded by Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon. It is clear that Bour can be a serious threat to hit 40 home runs and drive in over 100 RBIs next season. I predict his 2018 campaign to mirror that of Justin Smoak, who has nearly identical isolated power, walk and strikeout rates as Bour.

It is safe to say Bour will be overlooked in 2018 due to so many bigger names, like Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer, Jose Abreu and Cody Bellinger. However, if healthy, there is no reason Bour cannot join this tier of elite first basemen.

 

 

 

Featured Image by ESPN.com

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