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It's far too early to pull the plug on Brandon Phillips


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.

Nuggets guard Randy Foye's recent play makes him a worthy starting option for fantasy basketball owners in the playoffs. His ability to produce solid scoring numbers on a game-by-game basis could make him a solid add for fantasy NBA rosters.

Before his dud of a performance Wednesday night, his last 4 games were much more impressive than his previous season averages. In the 4 game stretch, Foye posted averages of 18.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest. As long as he remains a vital part of the Nuggets game plan, Foye can be a solid asset to fantasy NBA teams in standard formats.

Randy Foye has been a pretty solid scorer, but his value is contingent upon the presence of teammate Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari's knee injury had him out for a long period of December and January, but if he's healthy, he will most likely demand the ball more as he is the better scorer. However, Gallinari is already set to miss the latter half of back-to-back games due to rest, and just also sustained a shoulder injury in Wednesday night's 99-85 loss to the 76ers. Gallinari expects to be fine to play moving forward, but that shoulder injury is definitely something to be looking out for.

All things considered, Foye's value as a scorer could be of optimal importance for the playoffs, especially in the second half of back-to-back sets when Danilo Gallinari's out due to rest. If Gallinari's shoulder and/or knee injury start(s) to flare up, than Randy Foye's value will skyrocket as the major benefactor of his absence.

For the latest in basketball news and news on NBA players, stay tuned to ASL!

If Michael Wacha stays on a 5-day rotation, he could finish the season as a top-25 starter


Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha tossed 5.2 shutout innings and fanned four on Wednesday, March 25, edging Max Scherzer and the Nationals in a 1-0 Spring Training victory. The performance is good news for MLB fantasy owners counting on the young starter to do big things in 2015.

Last season saw him start just 19 games as a shoulder injury sidelined him for two and a half months. Referred to as a "stress reaction" of the shoulder rather than a fracture, the injury was deemed not as severe as similar ones suffered by pitchers such as Brandon McCarthy. Wacha has shown no lingering effects of the ailment, posting a 1.76 ERA and walking only one batter in 15.1 innings this spring.

Though he pitched through discomfort for significant stretches of last year, Wacha still managed some impressive numbers that point toward the front-end rotation piece St. Louis hopes he can be.

At only 23 years old, Wacha appears well-suited to rebound quickly from his shoulder woes and continue improving during the upcoming season. However, his youth may also spell some disadvantages as far as fantasy owners are concerned.  

In two big league seasons, Wacha has logged only 171.2 innings, and the Cardinals may try to take things slow on the heels of his shoulder issue and not push him. It's possible he might be limited to around five innings some nights and miss out on some valuable wins and quality starts.

Regardless, the talent and potential are there, and you shouldn't hesitate to pick Wacha around the 130th selection of your draft. If he takes the ball every five days, he can certainly be a top-25 starting pitcher in 2015. He should prove an asset in terms of ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts even if wins are a bit inconsistent.

The Dodgers have high hopes for Hector Olivera 

Fantasy Baseball Sleepers –

Shortly after the Dodgers struck a 6-year, $62.5 million deal with 30-year-old Cuban superstar Hector Olivera, it was revealed that he has a slight tear in his UCL.

Olivera should be able to play through the injury as the Dodgers opened up the checkbook and beat out all the other potential suitors. Ideally Olivera would make an immediate impact at third base, although the Dodgers already have the reliable Juan Uribe in place for this season at third as well.

Many will criticize the Dodgers for overpaying an undeserving and inexperienced player, but that logic seems unfair. They have the resources and the backup plan. For a lesser organization this may break the bank, but for the Dodgers, it’s low risk high reward.

Olivera has serious potential to be a force in the already forceful Los Angeles lineup. His power must be respected and he should be able to transfer it to the big leagues. Olivera has 96 home runs in 2,800 at bats since 2003 with an OPS of .912 during that time span.

MLB fantasy owners should consider themselves in a similar position as the Dodgers when contemplating Olivera. He’ll likely be a free agent pick up for most teams, and at the very worst eats up a spot on your bench.

You shouldn’t pick him up right away, but monitor him closely to see how he progresses within the organization. But don’t wait too long, moves like these are what win MLB fantasy championships.

Keep reading ASL for the best fantasy baseball news!


Paul Goldschmidt is likely still improving with age


1. Paul Goldschmidt - Arizona Diamondbacks

Although playing for the low-key D'backs may somewhat limit his national exposure, Paul Goldschmidt is without a doubt, the best first base option in this year's fantasy campaign. Even though he missed 53 games last season, he still managed significant offensive production with a .938 OPS. His performance in 2013 provided a far more comprehensive demonstration of Goldschmidt's outstanding talent. He led the National League in a host major offensive categories - 36 HR, 125 RBI, .551 SLG, and .952 OPS - en route to finishing second in MVP voting. And at 27 years old, his star may still be trending upward.

2. Miguel Cabrera - Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera has been eclipsed by the likes of Mike Trout in "best in the game" arguments, but he remains an elite talent and a fantasy cornerstone. Last season was a bit of a down year for him, yet still one virtually every player in baseball would love to have. A slow start contributed to a drop in HR (25) and RBI totals (109), but he still batted over .310 (.313) like he has in 9 of the last 10 seasons. Cabrera has also been remarkably durable, playing fewer than 150 games only once since his debut season. There is some reason for caution, however. He turns 32 next month, meaning some signs of offensive decline last year (his .183 drop in OPS, for example) might continue.

3. Anthony Rizzo - Chicago Cubs

With two full MLB seasons to his name, Rizzo should enjoy his best one yet in 2015 and assert his place among the game's premier first basemen. He has shown considerable power since entering the league and last year improved his on-base ability, posting a .386 OBP to go with his 32 HR. And considering he missed 21 games, 35 HR and 100 RBI seem like a minimum benchmark if he plays a complete season. Like Goldschmidt, the 25-year-old Rizzo's youth only enhances his appeal.

4. Edwin Encarnación - Toronto Blue Jays

In a league where power numbers are increasingly precious, Encarnación has become one of the more reliable sluggers in the game. He's exceeded .900 OPS in each of the previous three seasons, and though limited to 128 games in 2014 he still smacked 34 homers and drove in 98 runs. Injury woes remain a concern and he won't help you much in terms of batting average, but the 40 HR/100 RBI potential is much too enticing to ignore.

Bonus Sleeper: Brandon Belt - San Francisco Giants

If you miss out on some of the bigger names at first base, don't panic. A variety of buy-low candidates like Brandon Belt are primed to defy expectations this season. The 26-year-old Belt seems particularly ready to break out if he stays healthy. Injuries kept him out of 101 games in 2014, but he capped it off with an exclamation point by hitting .295 in the postseason. In 150 games the year prior he hit .289 with 17 HR and 67 RBI. He also appears to be developing a bit of a power stroke: his home run to fly ball ratio jumped to 18% last season. Belt should be available around the 200th selection in the draft, but consider taking him a little earlier.

Danilo Gallinari's only downfall is that Denver is giving him too many days off


Basketball News

Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari's recent spike in production has made him an intriguing option for fantasy NBA owners looking for help in the playoffs. His recent hot streak has him surpassing his season averages significantly, and with consistency, Gallinari could put fantasy basketball owners in contention to win their respective titles.

Gallinari's strong play could be attributed to him inching closer to 100% healthy, as well as the firing of Head Coach Brian Shaw. Whatever the reason may be, fans will have to cross their fingers and hope the onslaught continues.

The 26-year-old Italian sharpshooter has overcome an injury-filled first half to this year and is finally coming around. Disregarding the 2 games he sat out for rest, Gallinari's last 5 games have been tops of NBA players, posting averages of 22.8 points, 2.6 threes, 5.2 boards, 3 assists and 1.2 steals per game (all above his averages for the season). This seems like the perfect opportunity to add a multi-faceted asset, but there's one major issue.

The Nuggets seem to be resting Gallinari during the latter half of back-to-back games. Unfortunately, Denver has 3 more back-to-back sets, so owners will have to search elsewhere for production. 

His daily league fantasy basketball value is greater than his standard format value due to the sporadic DNP-CDs, but he is still worth an add. When active, Gallinari should be started and is a solid bet for points, threes and rebounds.


One sheet of paper makes all the difference during any fantasy draft


There are obviously always going to be players who have been cramming for the upcoming fantasy draft for weeks now. They are reading every fantasy trade publication, listening to sports radio in the car and watching Baseball Tonight podcasts into the wee hours of the morning. However, all is not lost. With a little bit of common sense and a some sensible research, the average sports fan can be ready for the draft in about 90 minutes.

Fantasy Sports championships are rarely won during the initial fantasy draft, but building a decent fantasy squad NEVER hurts. Here are 3 tips to help smooth out the bumps in this year's fantasy draft:

Make, borrow or steal a 1-PAGE cheat sheet - 

Have a notebook, laminated placard or scrap of paper that has at least 3 players listed that you really want at each position. This takes a little more homework, but it gives you a rough strategy on how to run your draft. 

Feel free to stray away if you see a juicy player sitting on the board, but keep the list handy. When those seconds start ticking away, having a cheat sheet could mean the difference between drafting a solid player or another completely wasted pick.

Phones can die, computers can lose signal, magazines are too hard to navigate, one piece of paper is all that you need. Your cheat sheet must limited to ONE-PAGE. There’s nothing more entertaining that watching someone with 2 open magazines and 30 sheets of paper flying around like a sand storm while they are trying to remember the name of that hotshot minor leaguer that’s supposed to set the league on fire.

Don’t be a Charles Barkley!

Sir Charles obviously has no business calling NCAA Men’s college games because he could care less. During the first half of the Kansas vs. Wichita State game, he mentioned that Cliff Alexander was playing pretty good. The only problem is that Cliff Alexander in under investigation by the NCAA and hasn’t stepped foot on basketball court in the nearly a month.

My point is, even if you are a casual player, READ an MLB INJURY REPORT!

It never ceases to amaze me during a fantasy draft when some genius scoops up a player who is injured, suspended or is already done for the year. It takes about 20 minutes for that bit of research and saves you from a wasted pick or being the laughing stock of your fantasy league.

Only draft players you have actually heard of -

This seems like common sense, but many people still feel compelled to roll the dice.

WOW – You found a top-50 ranked pitcher – And he’s still on the board, what a steal!!

Maybe, maybe not? It doesn’t matter how this player slipped under your notice, drafting someone you don’t know is tempting, but not worth the risk. There are 1,200 active players to choose from and it only makes sense to draft someone you have heard of before.

LeSean McCoy anchors what should be a radically improved Bills team


The Buffalo Bills have made some big moves (with fantasy football implications) during the offseason and now arguably have one of the most talented teams in the NFL. It all started with the hiring of Rex Ryan as their head coach and the blockbuster trade that landed NFL fantasy stalwart LeSean McCoy in exchange for Kiko Alonso. The Bills have been busy in free agency as well with the notable signings of Percy Harvin and Charles Clay.

If the season started today, the Bills would have LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Percy Harvin, Robert Woods, and Charles Clay as the focal pieces of their offense. What's missing in that All-Star lineup? Only the most important piece, the quarterback. The Bills will need either EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel or a quarterback they get in the upcoming draft to play some quality football to win the AFC East and dethrone the defending Superbowl champion Patriots. 

The Bills now have one of the best defensive minds in the NFL as their head coach, a defense that led the NFL in sacks last year with 54, and all the offensive weapons a quarterback could ask for. With that said, it's still hard to imagine the Bills winning the AFC East this year because of the uncertainty at the quarterback position. At the same time, it's hard to imagine the Bills not making the playoffs as a Wild Card team and being a team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

It will be a pleasure to see some competitive AFC East match-ups this upcoming season, but as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick reside in New England, the Patriots will be the class of the AFC East.

Stay tuned for the latest NFL player news!

As far as fantasy basketball purposes go, Kevin Durant is done for the season


Basketball News

Reigning MVP and fantasy NBA stud Kevin Durant will be "removed from all basketball activities" and he will be "out indefinitely." Until Durant can return to the court without pain in his injured foot, Thunder GM Sam Presti says he will not risk further injury to one of the best NBA players in the league.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks said earlier in the week that Durant's rehab had gone through "peaks and valleys." That now seems like a terrible understatement as Durant is being shut down with only a month left in the regular season.

As far as fantasy basketball purposes go, Kevin Durant is done for the season. The only silver lining is for Russell Westbrook fantasy owners, because he is the only premier player left on the team who isn't injured. 

Matt Wieters elbow issues are too much of a liability for fantasy purposes


In most MLB fantasy leagues, you only need to start one catcher and carry a max of two on your roster. Taking a chance at the position is a high risk, low reward proposition unless you snag Buster Posey. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is returning from Tommy John surgery, a rare injury for a player at his position. The rarity itself is cause for concern on his return and how completely he will recover.

Catching nearly everyday of a MLB season is arguably one of the most strenuous jobs in the league, leaving Wieters’ risk for re-injury presumably somewhat high. In addition to the Tommy John surgery, Wieters has recently been diagnosed with elbow tendinitis.  

The diagnosis is likely just a bump in the road, causing him only to miss a few days. However, when it comes to your fantasy team, with the amount of more reliable options around him, it makes sense to leave Wieters for someone else to draft.

When it comes to Wieters, why risk it? With fantasy trophies often decided by which team stays the healthiest, you should err on the side of caution. Better options include catchers like Brian McCann or Russell Martin.