- Greg Pokriki - Fantasy Focus
Fantasy Sit Start
Christian Yelich- Miami Marlins
Somehow, someway, Christian Yelich is only owned in about 77% of fantasy baseball leagues. That number should be 100%, but while it’s low, fantasy owners should take advantage and pounce. Yelich is one of the top players in the game and still has plenty of room for growth. He’s been injured, explaining his low ownership percentage (though a player like this should be given roster patience while injured). Yelich is back and even popped a home run to welcome himself back into the majors. He’s in a fantastic lineup, with some of the best players in the league. Yelich may sometimes escape the spotlight, but certainly deserves the shine from your fantasy team.
- K. J. Hammond - Fantasy Focus
At age 34, Buffalo’s Fred Jackson is the oldest running back in the NFL. He vowed to be productive and make the Bills backfield as competitive as possible, but the fact is, he’s a long shot to even make the team. Rumors are swirling that Jackson is the odd man out to make the Buffalo Bills 53-man roster. The team payed a hefty price to acquire 2013 rushing champion, LeSean McCoy is who obviously one of this season's top fantasy football keepers. McCoy will undoubtedly take on the lion’s share of work in Rex Ryan’s ground and pound scheme.
- R.C. Fischer - Fantasy Football Metrics
I stumbled across a Jacksonville-based article discussing how the Jaguars are preparing for Jimmy Garoppolo (Jags play the Pats Week 3). It was real cutting-edge stuff…all about how Bill Belichick ‘made’ Matt Cassel, and a reminder of what happened when Drew Bledsoe went down years ago and wink-wink the Tom Brady era began.
Bears Head Coach John Fox's coaching history insists he'd advocate timeshare in the backfield, but he is not against using RB Matt Forte as the sole feature back. Forte has gotten significant production as a tailback in both the running and passing games and is still one of the game's top fantasy football keepers.
HC John Fox has exhibited his love for the split-carry system while coaching in the past at the Carolina Panthers (DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart), and the Denver Broncos (C.J. Anderson, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman), but the situation in Chicago is much different. Forte has been able to contribute heavily as a versatile asset to both the running and passing games. Don't expect to find any fantasy sleeper picks in the Bears backfield unless Forte goes down with an injury.
Forte is coming off yet another impressive season, as he picked up 1,846 all-purpose yards, and 10 total touchdowns. As a rusher alone, he broke 1,000 yards and 6 TDs in what was a disappointing 5-11 season for the Bears.
Chicago has 3 very mediocre running backs following Forte on the depth chart in second-year back Ka'Deem Carey, rookie Jeremy Langford, and former Falcons tailback Jacquizz Rodgers. None of these backs should receive more than 50 carries next season, leaving Forte with a ton of carries to deal with. More than just as a rusher, Forte could possibly even pick up more touches in the passing game in 2015 with the departure of Brandon Marshall.
Brandon Marshall, along with Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery, was one of 3 major targets for QB Jay Cutler last season, and his targets will need to be picked up by the rest of the offensive unit. Matt Forte should capitalize on Marshall's absence, and put together another successful season. Consider Forte a top-5 RB heading into 2015 in standard fantasy formats.
Keep reading ASL for the latest NFL fantasy sleepers!
- Tim Haberin - Fantasy Focus
Fantasy Waiver Wire Pickups -
Tim Lincecum - SP, San Francisco Giants
Don't look now, but Tim Lincecum is looking a lot closer to the pitcher who won consecutive Cy Young awards, which makes him one of the top fantasy waiver wire pickups. In his last two starts, he tossed 14 scoreless innings, allowing only six hits and fanning 12. Overall he's sporting a 2.00 ERA over six starts, four of which have been quality. Lincecum has done some re-strategizing this season after three straight years with an ERA over 4.00. He's using his ample repertoire to find new ways to get hitters out, throwing his changeup more and fastball less. MLB fantasy owners shouldn't count on these kinds of performances all year, nor should they predict a full-time return to Cy Young level dominance. But if you need a starting pitcher (quite possible if you were among those banking on Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly to return) you could do worse than taking a chance on a former ace working to reinvent himself.
Torii Hunter - OF, Minnesota Twins
During the offseason, Torii Hunter returned to the franchise where he spent the first 12 seasons of his career. The Twins have been surprisingly competitive in the AL Central and so has the 39-year-old outfielder. Hunter enjoyed couple of big games last Friday and Saturday, going 7-for-9 with two home runs, five RBI and five runs scored. This red-hot stretch boosted Hunter's overall numbers on the season to a .287/.331/.478 slash line with five homers and 19 RBI. Hunter has done a fair job fending off age-related decline and could make a decent pickup off of your fantasy waiver wire. He's posted double-digit home run totals for 14 straight seasons and failed to drive in at least 75 runs just once over that span. In what could be his swan song, Hunter seems a sure bet to reach those benchmarks once again along with a .270+ batting average. MLB fantasy owners seeking outfield depth or simply wishing to ride a hot hand should give Hunter a look if still available.
Andrelton Simmons - SS, Atlanta Braves
Fantasy owners are often on the lookout for productive middle infielders, and if Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is available in your league you might consider adding him to your squad. Before going hitless on Sunday, Simmons had strung together an eight-game hitting streak. He's currently hitting .282 with three homers, 16 RBI and a .346 OBP. That is certainly solid production at the position, and at only 25 years of age he only stands to get better. If you're not satisfied with what you're getting out of your current shortstop, Simmons might be your guy.
Jonathon Niese - SP, New York Mets
Niese has been a fairly reliable member of the Mets rotation the past three seasons and he is off to a superb start in 2015. He's thrown four quality starts in six outings and has allowed more than one run just once so far. Overall, he's collected three wins and is working a 1.95 ERA. The ERA will undoubtedly rise (see 3.83 FIP and 1.43 WHIP) but it's a decent bet it will remain below 4.00. With the Mets playing some much improved ball this year, Niese should benefit substantially in the win department as well, enhancing his appeal to the MLB fantasy crowd as one of the better fantasy pickups available.
Broncos RB CJ Anderson's spectacular 2014 season has him sitting atop the depth chart heading into the new year, but according to OC Gary Kubiak, the spot has not yet been solidified. Anderson was certainly one of last season's top fantasy sleeper picks, but there were reports of conditioning issues towards the end of last season. This may have contributed to his decline in production, but it still seems as though he may be the best man for the job.
Anderson started the 2014 season as the #3 RB behind Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball, and was given a chance to prove his worth after both backs went down with injuries. Anderson took over as the lead back in week 10, and put up 767 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns from there on out (8 games). With all 3 backs now healthy heading into training camp, there should be an open competition, but it's hard to see anyone other than Anderson taking the starting spot.
Though his conditioning toward the end of the season may have put a damper on his strong sophomore season campaign, but his performance in the playoffs showcased his resilience. Anderson's numbers were average, but there were two plays against Indianapolis he made where he extended drives by fighting through multiple tackles on fourth down. His ability to break tackles, in addition to his agility and cutting ability should secure CJ Anderson his starting role.
Anderson broke 1,000 all purpose yards as a second-year tailback taking over after multiple injuries at the position. With the opportunity to start for an entire season, he should easily break 1,000 rushing yards and at least 8 touchdowns.
For the best NFL fantasy sleepers, stay updated with ASL!
- Tim Haberin - Fantasy Focus
Bryce Harper set Nationals Park ablaze Wednesday afternoon with a performance to remember. The Washington right fielder went 3-for-5 with 3 home runs and 5 RBI, becoming the youngest player since 1969 to hit three homers in a game. It was the kind of monster display that fans have been anticipating since the highly-touted Harper first made his debut three years ago as a 19 year old.
It's been somewhat of a winding road for the Nationals phenom since ascending to the big leagues, as his MLB fantasy owners can attest. Harper hasn't always put up the pure, eye-popping numbers that some thought he would after arriving on the major league stage to extensive fanfare. He hit .272 from 2012-2014 and set his present career-high marks with 22 HR and 59 RBI in his first season. Not figures to scoff at by any means, but definitely a few cuts below the lofty expectations pinned on Harper from the time he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16 year old.
Often overlooked is the fact that despite this already being his fourth season in Major League Baseball, Harper is still only 22 years old. He is actually younger than several of the game's other bright neophytes, including Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, and Manny Machado. The MVP-level production will come, and if the early returns in 2015 are any indication, they might be on the way quite soon. After Wednesday's powerful display, Harper has 8 homers and 20 RBI at this early stage of the season. He is also putting up a .265/.416/.561 batting line. Fantasy owners should take note of that .416 OBP: he's drawn an MLB-leading 26 walks so far.
Some might claim that Bryce Harper's chief MLB fantasy appeal will come in his home run output. His current .265 average does leave something to be desired, but if he maintains this kind of plate discipline, it's hard not to like his prospects of becoming a much more well-rounded player for fantasy purposes. He collected a career-best 61 walks in 2013 and he is more than poised to shatter that number this year. Harper fantasy owners can rest assured that as long as he stays healthy he will be a major factor this season. He should only improve in the years to come as well.
For the best fantasy baseball news, including fantasy baseball sleepers and starting lineup advice, keep reading ASL!
- Greg Pokriki - Fantasy Focus
Fantasy Sit Start
Jake Marisnick- Houston Astros
The Astros as an entire team are on fire and headline this week's sit or start report. A big reason for Houston's success is their young talent, specifically Jake Marisnick. Over his last 15 games he’s batting .400 with two home runs and six steals. The young 24-year-old can do it all, with the speed and power combination. Surprisingly, he’s playing better than his teammate George Springer. Right now Marisnick is a must start, and deserves a spot on your team.
Brett Cecil- Toronto Blue Jays
Cecil hasn’t exactly excelled in any category this season, but he deserves a start in your fantasy lineup simply for the saves he will tally. Cecil broke Toronto camp as the team’s closer. But, following some poor performances lost the job to Miguel Castro. Now Castro has struggled and was sent down to Triple A Buffalo, opening the door yet again for Cecil. He likely won’t squander the opportunity. Saves are one of the most difficult stats to gather in fantasy baseball, so if you’re looking for someone off the free agent page, search Cecil.
Taijuan Walker- Seattle Mariners
Walker has an ERA over eight currently with a WHIP above two. He’s really only had one solid outing this season, coming on April 27 against the Rangers. Outside of that he has been very hittable and given up large run totals. It’s unfortunate because Walker has a high upside and great stuff. But currently, he isn’t producing on the baseball field or in the fantasy realm.
Kris Davis- Milwaukee Brewers
No not that Chris Davis. Kris Davis with a K and the Brewers jersey on his back. Yes, it’s time to sit Kris Davis. Over his last seven games Davis is batting .063. His only hit in that span was a solo home run, erasing some goose eggs from his bleak stat line. On the whole season his average dropped to .209 and he’s only knocked in five RBI. Kris Davis certainly has some things to figure out (as do the entire Brewers team). Until he does, keep him on your bench.
For the latest in fantasy football start and fantasy baseball start info, stay tuned to ASL!
- Tim Haberin - Fantasy Focus
Fantasy Waiver Wire Pickups -
John Axford - RP, Colorado Rockies
As any MLB fantasy owner knows, saves can be the trickiest category to nail down. When a closer situation changes somewhere in the league, the most prudent owners will be on top of it. Rockies closer Adam Ottavino was placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury and reports on Monday suggested that Tommy John surgery could be imminent. Veteran reliever John Axford is tending to closing duties in the meantime and doing well in the role, going three-for-three in save opportunities without surrendering a run. Of course, Axford is no stranger to closing, having led the National League with 46 saves for the Brewers in 2011. If you need saves, here's your chance to grab a closer with a reasonable handle on the job straight off of your fantasy waiver wire.
Trevor Plouffe - 3B, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota third baseman has enjoyed a bit of a power surge recently is definitely on the list of viable fantasy pickups. Plouffe homered in two consecutive games over the weekend, the second being a grand slam that fueled a five RBI night. After 24 games, Plouffe finds himself sporting a .278 average with five homers and 15 runs batted in. Though his current numbers might be somewhat inflated by his recent hot streak, Plouffe has posted double-digit home run totals the last three seasons, including a career-high 24 in 2012. Still widely available in leagues, owners may consider adding him as 3B depth and to see how long he can swing his bat like this. He is definitely one of the better fantasy pickups around.
Freddy Galvis - SS/3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Galvis took on the unenviable task of replacing 15-year Phillies mainstay Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. So far he's proving more than equal to the task. In 24 games he's batting .341 with a .379 OBP. Toss in a home run and eight runs batted in, and you have a solid start for the 25-year-old. Galvis has not played more than 70 games in a season, so fantasy owners might take a chance that he comes into his own given a full-time opportunity. If you're looking for a batting average boost from a middle infielder, Galvis seems a promising proposition for the time being. Positional flexibility helps his cause, as well as increasing appearances near the top of the lineup.
Scott Feldman - SP, Houston Astros
The Astros are baseball's biggest surprise right now, and more than a few fantasy owners are probably scouring their roster for some hidden gems. One of those might be starting pitcher Scott Feldman. Though the big right-hander has just two wins to date, four of his five starts have been quality. His 4.31 ERA is bloated by a poor outing on April 13 when he allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs in five innings. Otherwise he's been quite reliable, and in his last start he held Seattle to two runs over seven frames. He'll allow hits and won't strike out too many batters, but if you want quality starts and a potential source of wins should the 'Stros keep playing well, Feldman could be a decent option.
The Dallas Cowboys elected not to draft a running back in this year's NFL Draft, failing to find a suitable replacement for DeMarco Murray who crossed divisional lines to play for the Eagles. Unless a late move for Adrian Peterson is made, it looks as though Dallas will stay put with Darren McFadden at the forefront, and with Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar handling backup duties.
McFadden is far from the the list of top fantasy football keepers and can't even be considered in the category of fantasy sleeper picks. His best days are long behind him and even in his prime, he was always terribly fragile. Despite all of this, McFadden sits atop the depth chart in Dallas and his numbers from 2014 prove he has no serious fantasy upside. McFadden rushed for a mediocre 534 yards last season with the Oakland Raiders, adding just 2 touchdowns, and failing to surpass 100 yards in any of his team's 16 games.
Some of these problems might be alleviated with Dallas's killer offensive line, as they heavily contributed to DeMarco Murray's career year comprised of 1,845 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 12 100+ yard games. Murray was very well-protected, which led to 2014 being the first year he was able to participate in all 16 games.
Despite the ability of the Cowboys' offensive line to increase running back production, I'm skeptical that they are done making moves to help improve their backfield situation. Adrian Peterson is currently still a member of the Vikings, and notably wants out of Minnesota, leaving a late offseason transaction a possibility that could help both sides.
Though the Vikings are currently in a state of commitment to their franchise RB, he has expressed his interest in a trade to the Cowboys, and they are making space for him. According to Yahoo! Sports, Dallas' QB Tony Romo has agreed to restructure his contract, clearing up nearly $13 million in cap space. Adrian Peterson's current contract is for 3 years, $46 million, and it would look very strange if Romo's restructuring was not done in order to free up room for a potential acquisition.
Regardless of whether a deal strikes between the Cowboys and Vikings, it looks very promising that Dallas will make another push for Adrian Peterson.
Keep reading ASL for the best NFL fantasy sleepers all season long!