Hornets C Bismack Biyombo has taken over for the injury-plagued star Al Jefferson and has stepped BIG-TIME for Charlotte. As the regular season comes to a close, fantasy NBA owners can not deny his sudden fantasy basketball value when it comes to blocks and boards.
Biyombo has come and seized the opportunity with his extra run at center with Al Jefferson out and is proving to be both consistent and reliable. During his last 6 games, he's had at least 2 blocks in every game, averaging 2.8 blocks over the span. In that same time frame, he's also averaged 8.3 rebounds per contest. Biyombo should continue to see major minutes as he and the Hornets look to secure a spot in the playoffs.
Though his situation seems ideal, the Hornets' tough schedule could limit Bismack Biyombo's immediate upside. Charlotte has to face the Rockets, the Heat, the Hawks, and the Raptors twice, leaving the team's game against the Pistons as the only plus matchup for Biyombo.
At just 22-years-old, Biyombo continues to improve and his ceiling to become one of the better NBA players at his position has to be very high due to his size and athletic ability. He looks to be a decent add for the remainder of the season, as well as a possible sleeper in dynasty leagues. For fantasy relevance for the playoffs, Biyombo should hold mid-round value since Jefferson will likely miss the rest of the regular season to avoid aggravation.
- Greg Pokriki - Fantasy Focus
Justin Verlander- Detroit Tigers
In other fantasy baseball news, the Tigers announced that Justin Verlander will be start the MLB season on the DL. However, the organization seems confident that he will be ready to return quickly. Manager Brad Ausmus said it’s simply a matter of carrying a complete roster into opening day, not a long-term situation. With that in mind, Verlander’s drack stock should not be heavily penalized in your league. He’s a natural competitor and will likely return quickly. He also knows he has something to prove this season after a down 2014. The Tigers are counting on Verlander this season, and you shouldn’t have any reservations doing the same for your fantasy team.
Coco Crisp- Oakland Athletics
Coco Crisp had successful surgery on his elbow on Friday and is out for at least the next 6-8 weeks. The best advice for handling Crisp in the fantasy world would be to avoid him in the draft. If you have a deep enough bench after the draft and feel comfortable using a wasted spot for two months on him, grab him out of free agency. However, at 35-years-old and injured you must understand the risk. Unless you can snag him for a cheap price in an auction format, avoid Crisp in the draft.
Curtis Granderson- New York Mets
Unfortunately, Granderson is very familiar with the injury bug. Even further, Granderson is familiar with being hit by pitches forcing him to miss time. Thursday Granderson’s old friend revisited him, as he was struck on the knee by a Lance Lynn pitch. His fate is now uncertain. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow,” Granderson said. This is one situation to monitor very closely when deciding if and when to draft Granderson. He has put in a phenomenal spring training. He’s parked three homeruns and is hitting .435. If healthy, it seems Granderson is primed for a big year. He’s also somewhat flying under the radar, giving him steal potential for your fantasy team. Keep an eye on his knee, but stay confident on a healthy Granderson.
Bruce Rondon- Detroit Tigers
Rondon is no stranger to the DL. He spendt all of 2014 watching from home after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Now, Rondon returns to the DL with bicep tendinitis. Concern luckily remains low and optimism high around Detroit. Apparently the injury is very common for pitchers, specifically when picking their game back up in spring. The Tigers are not expecting this to be a long-term situation. With their generally weak bullpen and softened starting staff from last season, a good campaign from Rondon would be ideal for the Tigers. His fantasy stock should remain around the same area for now, but be sure to monitor his next throwing session before over committing.
In QB fantasy news, the Dallas Cowboys reached an agreement with QB Tony Romo to restructure his contract and open up nearly $13 Million in cap space.
The Cowboys couldn't reach a deal with their All-Pro running back DeMarco Murray and now the football world is speculating on whether or not they can afford to land All-World running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson has stated that he would love to play for America's Team, but even with fantasy QB Romo's new deal, it doesn't seem very likely. Minnesota insists that they won't part ways with Peterson without getting a great deal in return.
Dallas recently signed Greg Hardy ($11.3 million) and Rolando McClain ($3 million) to one-year deals which means Romo would need to take a pay cut to land Adrian Peterson if the Vikings are even willing to trade him.
The Cowboys would love to have Peterson running behind the offensive line that paved the way for DeMarco Murray to rack up 1,845 yards, but the odds are very long that Dallas can scrape up that kind of money. Some experts still feel that Peterson could end up in Big D because Jerry Jones may do whatever it takes to land A-P. Even without AP, Romo remains a great QB fantasy football option.
Peterson landing in Big D would likely make him a top three fantasy running back next year. The addition of Peterson would make the Cowboys one of, if not the best offensive team in the NFL and a tough team to beat in the playoffs.
For the most up to date QB news, stay tuned with ASL!
Wizards Center Marcin Gortat has been clashing with his teammates during the past two weeks, but he's also had his best fantasy basketball stretch of games all season long. His fantasy NBA value has fluctuated a decent amount on a nightly basis, and he should not be counted on for predictable and consistent production at this point.
Gortat is coming off a great showing against the lowly Sixers, scoring 23 points in addition to 14 points and 2 blocks, but that should not be hyped up too much. Playing against the Sixers allows for breakout performances on a nightly basis, so his success is not all that encouraging.
The reality is that Gortat has scored 8 points or less in 4 of his last 6 games, but has been racking up the rebounds and the block totals. He hasn't posted back-to-back double digit scoring nights since March 14th and 16th, and his inconsistent play is concerning for fantasy owners looking to succeed in the playoffs.
Evaluating the Wizards' strength of schedule, the team is only playing 2 weaker opponents out of the 7 remaining contests, with those opponents being the Knicks and the 76ers. Those games offer major upside for Gortat's fantasy basketball owners as he should be able to score and grab boards with ease, but he might need to be avoided for the other 5 games left this season. Consider Marcin Gortat one of the riskier fantasy NBA players going forward, with potential to put up solid lines against the weaker teams.
- Tim Haberin - Fantasy Focus
Clay Buchholz ended his Spring Training on a positive note, holding the Twins scoreless over four innings of work. The Red Sox righty struck out four in the outing but also appeared to lack some sharpness, giving up six hits and walking one. The performance was representative of Buchholz's spring as a whole, one in which he looked much better than he did in a dismal 2014 though not quite flashing the form he reached earlier in his career.
Last year was one to forget for Buchholz; in 28 starts he put up a 5.34 ERA, managing an 8-11 record on a Boston squad that finished at the bottom of the AL East. The Sox expect to fare better this season after adding Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval over the winter, and Buchholz hopes to reap some benefit backed by that improved lineup. Advanced statistics also suggest that he wasn't quite as bad as his 2014 numbers show. His 4.01 FIP was significantly lower than his ERA, meaning some better luck and supporting defense could make a big difference in this year's results. Buchholz's case would also be helped by last season's .321 BABIP and 62% strand rate returning to league-average levels.
Despite some reasons for optimism, it remains difficult to feel truly bullish about Buchholz's prospects. He's been inconsistent throughout his career, so while you shouldn't count on a repeat of 2014, neither should you bank on the 12-1 record and 1.74 ERA of the season prior. Injuries have been a concern as well: Buchholz's sterling 2013 was shortened by a neck strain, and he underwent knee surgery at the end of last September. It's unclear how much you can reasonably expect him to rebound and whether he can be relied upon to make it though a full season as he turns 31 this year.
If you're inclined to take a gamble on Buchholz, look to pick him in the last round of your draft. However, you would probably be better served by waiting to see how he does in his first few regular season starts before deciding if he can contribute to your 2015 MLB fantasy team.
- Greg Pokriki - Fantasy Focus
The value of spring training differs from player to player. For young players, their performance in spring often heavily determines their fate. However, many veterans use spring training as a time to shed rust. That process isn’t always pretty, but it’s exactly that: A process. More often than not, veteran pitchers can turn their game around in time for Opening Day and are primed for the season.
Fantasy owners are hoping that David Price can do just that as opening day draws ever closer. The Detroit Tigers ace has traditionally struggled during the spring, but somehow always manages to turn it once the games begin to count.
This past Tuesday, Price allowed seven runs in six innings of work. However, he was perfect through the first three innings. This paradox should probably be chalked up to spring rust. A poor back half to a spring start should not heavily influence Price’s draft stock for the 2015 fantasy baseball season.
Overall, Price is an ace and should be treated as such. He has turned in seven consecutive seasons with an ERA+ over 100, topping out at 150 in 2012. He’s also a workhorse, logging back-to-back 34 start seasons. That type of high production coupled with a huge workload is a bounty for any fantasy owner.
For some reason, it appears that Price has slipped under the radar since joining the Tigers. Maybe it’s because he’s no longer the sole standout like his days in Tampa. And maybe the popularity will reignite now that Max Scherzer has fled to Washington. Either way, he certainly deserves your full attention on fantasy draft day when his name hits the board.
- Tim Haberin - Fantasy Focus
1. Aroldis Chapman - Cincinnati Reds
Chapman's flamethrower of an arm has made him one the game's finest closers, and 2015 should once again see him top the list. He notched 38, 38, and 36 saves in the previous three seasons, respectively. Chapman's fantasy value, of course, comes not just in the consistent stream of saves he provides but also in the astounding rate at which he strikes out opposing hitters. Last year's ethereal 17.7 K/9 was best among relievers by a wide margin, and at 27 years of age there's little reason to think his 100-mph fastball will be any less relentless this season. Drafting closers is always tricky business, but you can select Chapman with confidence in the fifth round and onwards.
2. Craig Kimbrel - Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel shares much in common with Chapman: he's young, throws very hard, and has already proven his ability to thrive in the closer's role. He's led the National League in saves in all but his debut season, and the 50 saves he secured in 2013 topped both leagues. With the Braves looking weaker this year the save opportunities might not be as abundant, but Kimbrel will still get plenty of work and rack up strikeouts (95 Ks in 62.1 IP in 2014). He should not be left on the draft board much longer than Chapman.
3. Greg Holland - Kansas City Royals
Since his first full season as the Royals closer in 2013, Holland has rapidly ascended into the upper echelon of relievers. He saved 47 and 46 games in the past two seasons and was a major component of Kansas City's improbable run to the World Series. In his tenure he's maintained a WHIP under 1.00 and at least a 13.0 K/9 rate. The Royals generated 65 save opportunities in 2014, the sixth-most in MLB, and Holland will likely continue to receive steady work in the new campaign. As with the previous two pitchers on this list, you can justify picking Holland in the 5th round or later of a 12-team draft.
4. Mark Melancon - Pittsburgh Pirates
Melancon has been a quiet revelation the last two years working out of the Pirates bullpen, flourishing in multiple roles. He took the closing reins from a struggling Jason Grilli in June of last season and didn't look back, earning 33 saves while posting a .873 WHIP and a strikeout per inning. Pittsburgh's 72 total save opportunities were tied for the most in baseball in 2014, and their closer should remain busy this year finishing games for what hopes to be a very competitive team. Target Melancon in round 7 or later.
Sleeper: Brad Boxberger - Tampa Bay Rays
The closer landscape gets decidedly murkier beneath its top tier. If you're inclined to roll the dice a bit on a talented reliever with upside, look no further than the Rays' Brad Boxberger. Manager Kevin Cash has said the 26-year-old right-hander will fill in for about a month as incumbent closer Jake McGee recovers from elbow surgery. Boxberger put up some great numbers in 64.2 innings last season, striking out 104 batters and surrendering only 17 earned runs. He should offer significant value in April and potentially beyond. Though McGee is no slouch, Boxberger might be given the chance to hold onto the closer's job if he impresses, especially on a young squad in transition like Tampa Bay. Owners could consider taking him as a sleeper candidate with one of their last couple draft selections.
Wolves forward Chase Budinger has turned it up out of nowhere, scoring in double digits in each of his last 10 games. A giant window of opportunity opened up for the sharp-shooting forward due to a variety of NBA players injuries and he's made the most of his extra playing time.
With Minnesota's shocking abundance of injuries to its core assets of Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, Gary Neal, Kevin Garnett, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad, Budinger has been left help fill some voids left in the team's game plan. He's averaging 32.5 minutes per game over his last ten, and his chances to put up solid numbers should not diminish so long as he remains so heavily involved in the rotation.
Chase Budinger can provide a spark to fantasy NBA rosters with his newly consistent scoring production, specifically from the three point line. Over the last 10 games, Budinger is averaging 1.7 threes in addition to 15.1 points per contest. This recent hot streak is uncharacteristic for the 26-year-old swingman, as he has not cracked 10 points per game in any of his 6 NBA seasons thus far.
Minnesota Timberwolves Head Coach Flip Saunders' praise of Budinger's play should keep him heavily involved in the rotation for the last 8 games of the season, as he also won't be rushing anyone back from injury due to them being eliminated from playoff contention. Though he may not be a guarantee to score tons of points on a nightly basis, his 3 point scoring potential should make him valuable enough to be a considered a solid option in standard fantasy basketball formats.
In WR news, Cruz just started running at the Giants facility last week, but it looks like the Giants are going to ease Cruz back into action to ensure that the receiver doesn't have a setback. Coach Tom Coughlin has already hinted at the fact that the organization would make sure Cruz was fully healed before he was thrust back into action.
The Giants followed a slow and precise recovery plan with Odell Beckham Jr. last year when he was dealing with an injured hamstring. That plan obviously worked as ODB went on to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. During the 2014 season, Beckham missed the entire pre-season and the first four weeks of the year with a hamstring injury.
Cruz thinks that he will back at 100% by May or June, but outside sources say he is not even close to a return to the field.
If Cruz can get back to his old ways, the Giants will have one of the better one-two punches at wide out in the league. But that is far from certain given that Cruz's success relies on short routes, quick cuts and is coming off one of the worst possible knee injuries.
It will be interesting to see how Cruz progresses through the off-season and if he can ever regain fantasy relevance.
Stay informed with ASL's WR fantasy news.
- Greg Pokriki - Fantasy Focus
The baseball community is always quick to judge, handing out proverbial MVP awards after just the first week of the season and Hall of Fame plaques after one solid season. In the same sense, baseball fans are just as quick to outcast a player after one down season, pushing him to the back burner to be ultimately forgotten. Brandon Phillips has fallen victim to the latter.
Though Phillips struggled last season, he’s only one season removed from an 18 home run, All Star season. He’s a lifetime .271 hitter and has knocked in over 70 RBI in seven of the last nine seasons. To not even consider him for your team would be a mistake.
Of course, there is some reason for reservation. Phillips is only 8-39 this spring putting him at a .205 average. He’s also coming off a significantly down season, though one that was slightly tainted by injury. He only played in 121 games and logged 499 at bats. His power severely dipped, hitting only eight home runs. However, he hasn’t hit any less than 17 in any other season since 2006. He logged only 51 RBI on the season as well. Phillips’ 1.7 WAR was his worst since 2006 as well.
Obviously last season was a disappointment for Phillips, but that doesn’t exclude him from any future success. He’s a talented and persevering personality who doesn’t take kindly to failure. The Reds as a whole are looking at a bounce back season. The lineup will have to be better than last year, and Phillips is not immune to that. If you can get Phillips at the right time or for the right price there is no reason not to add him to your squad. You may even get him as a sleeper if others in your league aren’t paying him the respect he deserves.