Category Archive: Fantasy Sports

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2017 Fantasy baseball rankings top 250 overall

The top 250 players reveal loads of talent available in fantasy baseball.

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5 Potential MLB September Call-ups

by Jessica Kleinschmidt
Fan Duel

September call-ups are the time of the season where a ball player gets his chance to help teams in playoff contention. Sometimes when a team can’t see their future in postseason play, a guy can get his moment to shine in the bigs, even for a little bit.

There are a lot of players who have made the trip from their minor league teams to the big show multiple times this season. Let’s take a look at some of the minor league ball players that could make one final trip to the 25-man roster in September.

Yoan Moncada, Boston Red Sox

It’s a no-brainer to call up a guy who is already sitting on the 40-man roster. Yoan Moncada may not hold that status, but the Red Sox proved that didn’t matter when they called up Andrew Benintendi from Double-A.

When it comes to Moncada, he could help the Red Sox a great deal even if he just comes off the bench with just his speed.

He’s currently on the Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A Affiliate) hitting with a .299/.405/.520 slash line.

Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets

Brandon Nimmo has made his way back and forth from the Mets to the Las Vegas 51’s this season, and he’s been relatively successful wearing both hats. With Triple-A Las Vegas, Nimmo has accumulated a .340/.413/.533 slash line with nine home runs. One of those home runs recently came from a walk-off bomb he hit in the 12th inning against Round Rock.

Jessica Quiroli of Baseball Prospectus has covered Nimmo throughout his career and says his makeup is probably the best of any prospect she’s reported on.

“He’s a solid contact hitter and has been working on his fielding a lot,” explains Quiroli. “He wanted to get to the ball quicker.”

His .237 average with the Mets doesn’t show the type of hitter the outfielder really is, and with New York sitting in third place in their division, it could be a scenario of giving Nimmo a chance to help the team.

Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres won’t make the playoffs. This isn’t news. But that doesn’t mean some moves won’t be made.

One of the power hitters in their organization is outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Even though he’s hitting in the Pacific Coast League, there’s no question Renfroe has power. His 6’1″ frame is held up by 220 pounds of pure muscle. Renfroe is currently hitting .315 in the minors this season with the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas. At one point he was leading just about every hitting category in the PCL.

He’s my biggest question mark in regards to getting his time in the bigs, but there’s still a chance to see him sporting a Padres jersey in September.

Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals

Pitcher Lucas Giolito has just 11 innings this season pitching for the Nationals. In his 28.1 innings pitched with the Syracuse Chiefs, he accumulated a 2.86 ERA.

He struggled in his second major league start at the end of July when he gave up seven hits and four earned runs in a little over three innings. He was quickly optioned to Triple-A following the outing.

He did what was asked of him in each outing, so the pitches are there, but general manager Mike Rizzo mentioned in an MLB Network Radio interview that a few more rotation spots would benefit him.

Expect him to be back soon.

Evan Marshall, Arizona Diamondbacks

Another player who has been back and forth between teams is pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks Evan Marshall. With the recent move of Zack Godley to the bullpen (and then eventually as a starter) the 26-year-old was recently optioned back down to Triple-A Reno. This was also after Zack Greinke was activated.

This is far from becoming Marshall’s permanent home. Even with an 8.80 ERA in the majors, he will probably make one more trip. He struggles against lefty hitters. Lefties are hitting a career .342 off of him so expect the D-Backs to hold off when it comes to a lefty-heavy lineup.

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Despite Missing Month, Clayton Kershaw Is Still The Best MLB Pitcher

by Will Carroll
Fan Duel

Despite Missing Month, Clayton Kershaw Is Still The Best MLB Pitcher

It’s been a while since Clayton Kershaw took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers. June 26th, to be exact. That was his sixteenth start for the team before a back injury sent him to the disabled list. The injury took people by surprise because Kershaw had been the best pitcher in the major leagues.

Even missing a month, Kershaw still is.

Using FanGraph’s WAR statistic, Kershaw remains the top pitcher, with 5.5 WAR. That’s a half win better than the next closest pitcher, Noah Syndergaard of the Mets. The full list can be seen here, but let’s unpack the stat a bit. We’ll keep the comparison to the NL, where the top five pitchers are Kershaw, Syndergaard, Jose Fernandez, and two Giants, Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner.

Of those five pitchers, Fernandez has 22 starts, but each of the other three has 24 starts, compared to Kershaw’s 16. Taking it a bit further, Syndergaard has gone 140 innings, Fernandez 139, Cueto 166, and Bumgarner 171. The difference is stark and that “six starts” can mean vastly different things. Kershaw’s 121 means that he was going 7 2/3 innings on every outing, while Syndergaard is only going 5 2/3. That’s a lot of pressure on the bullpen and a lot of outs that Syndergaard isn’t getting for the Mets when he’s the starter.

Kershaw was placed on the DL with a disc herniation. Sources tell me that it is the so-called L5/S1 disc and that Kershaw was fighting pain and weakness in his leg, which made the Dodgers worry that he would change his pitching mechanics. Kershaw was making progress during his rehab, but when he got back on the mound for the first time, the pain recurred. He was pushed to the 60-day DL at the trade deadline, which was a roster move and not an indication of setback. The team knew he wasn’t going to be back before the 60-day clock ran out in late August.

In fact, the team is not sure Kershaw will be back at all. Kershaw hasn’t been on the mound again and at this point, he’d need a couple rehab starts to get his innings back up. The minor league season is drawing to a close and Kershaw won’t be back on a mound until next week. It will be very tight for him to get any innings at all, though the team could use simulated games or send him to the spring training complex in Arizona for work.

However, the slightest setback would probably end his season and perhaps send Kershaw towards a surgeon’s table. Kershaw is dealing with the same issue at the same anatomical placement as J.J. Watt, the Houston Texans’ defender. Watt had surgery last month and would have about six weeks to heal up before Week 1 of the NFL season. All is moving along pretty well, but there’s almost no track record for pitchers coming back from this surgery.

The long term outcome is even worse. Prince Fielder was forced to retire after needing a second fusion in his cervical spine (neck), but no player – and especially no pitcher – has returned from a fusion in the lower back. Matt Harrison of the Texas Rangers is the only player to come back at all, but he’s had no success and has been on the DL in most of the time he’s been back. This is just a small reason of why Kershaw is trying to avoid even the lesser surgery that could help his symptoms.

Kershaw’s value is clear. Even with his missed time, he’s still statistically the best pitcher in the game. I doubt that he’ll get the Cy Young Award without coming back – durability and availability does factor in to many voter’s process – but if he can get in a couple starts and help the Dodgers get to the playoffs, the voters could be impressed by the comeback and the production. Right now, Kershaw’s not just the best pitcher in the big leagues, he has a chance to be the best story.

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NFL Preseason Preview: Five Games To Watch In Week Two

by Chris Corbellini
Fan Duel

If vanilla is your favorite ice cream flavor, then Week 2 of the preseason is absolutely your week.

The rush of pro football being back last weekend is long gone. After the OTAs, summer Oklahoma Drills, 11-on -11s against the scout team, and finally some game action, each club *thinks* they know what they have amongst their top-tier starters. There’s a lot of optimism to go around, from camp to camp, coast to cost. So don’t expect to see much more from those starters, or anything meaningful from the playbook — though a savvy head coach like Bill Belichick may call something unusual, just to make his opponents think he’ll use it in season.

So expect four large scoops of vanilla in every game.

Still, Week 2 holds a lot of importance for the players on the fringe of the roster. Simply put, they are playing to make their dreams come true. A 40-yard catch down the seam, a great tackle for loss on special teams … these things matter when formatting a final, 53-man roster and getting something on film for other teams to pour over. Meanwhile, some starters need to answer questions as well — which is just as important, if not more so. They have their sea legs under them now — one game is in the books — can they prove to the coaches that the consistency is there?

Preseason games can be incredibly competitive for those reasons. It’s just not all that meaningful for the marquee players. With that in mind, here’s what stood out in Vanilla-Ville:

Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers (Thursday night, 7 p.m. ET)

The most intimidating figure facing the Eagles wide receiving corps will be on the sideline.

Dorial Green-Beckham stands 6-foot-5, weighs 225 pounds, and can clock a sub 4.5 40 yard dash. Those measurables, plus a few leaping touchdown catches during his rookie season, prompted Philadelphia to trade offensive lineman Dennis Kelly for the receiver this past week.

Green-Beckham will not play in this one. He’ll probably be one of those guys with his arms folded in a team t-shirt and shorts (perfect for a cutaway for TV), watching the game unfold. But his mere presence should put pressure on the incumbent receivers. For one game at least, he represents unlimited upside without stepping onto the field.

Nelson Agholor, the team’s 2015 first-round selection, is one of the hardest workers on the team, according to the local media. But it hasn’t shown on the field yet. He told that same media the Green-Beckham trade doesn’t put any further pressure on him.

That’s just adorable.

He’ll be the most scrutinized player on the field by fans, and whether they admit or not … the coaches. Likewise, Reuben Randle, a free agent pickup from the Giants, and Josh Huff, a third-round pick in 2014, are under the microscope in this one against the Steelers defense.

Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns (Thursday night, 8 p.m. ET)

Can Robert Griffin III still play? He can certainly still sling it against a rush — completing a gorgeous 49-yard rainbow completion to Terrelle Pryor in the preseason opener. But can he be consistently accurate — on the run and in the pocket — in a game situation? Is this offense already his? Browns fans hope so.
NFL players are mostly an optimistic lot when talking/thinking about their starting quarterback. They have to be, otherwise the season is over before the real kickoff. To his teammates, all RGIII needs is to put together 2-3 smart, solid scoring drives in August to completely win them over. Week 2 is the perfect opportunity to do that — even without Corey Coleman (hamstring) or Josh Gordon (quad) available. Both are unlikely to play.

Chicago Bears at New England Patriots (Thursday night, 8 p.m. ET)

These teams faced one another earlier in the week and things got a little ugly. Nothing outrageous took place like an all-out brawl, but a joint practice in the August heat feels like a test of a team’s composure from Patriots HC Bill Belichick … and New England didn’t pass it. How cleanly they compete is something he’ll surely be watching closely, while the rest of us wonder where Tom Brady is.

A potential knucklehead on his roster — and a very talented one — is tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett is a former Chicago Bear, and wasn’t always in lockstep with his QB there, Jay Cutler. If you are to believe his brother, Michael Bennett, Cutler is the worst QB in the league. Bennett also dropped a few passes last week, so there’s plenty of motivation in this one to score a long receiving touchdown — or knock over a few of his former teammates.

Speaking of pass defense … the Bears don’t have any yet. Not really. Their best option at the moment, corner Tracy Porter, got smoked by Patriots receiver Julian Edelman earlier this week. Kyle Fuller (knee) and Bryce Callahan (muscle strain) are injury question marks, so 2015 undrafted free agent Jacoby Glenn has a chance to showcase his skills here against all that shiftiness and double moves by the Pats receivers.

San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos (Saturday night, 9 p.m. ET)

With playoff wins under his belt and a former first-round pedigree, this was Mark Sanchez’s job to lose. Did he lose it already? Too soon to tell, but he won’t be starting against the Niners in Week 2. Trevor Siemian will be the guy for the Broncos instead.

Say it together now: “Who?”

Siemian, a seventh-round draft pick in 2015, obviously has some familiarity with the Broncos system. Still, while sitting behind Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler last year, how many reps did he get? Manning will work extra with the scout team when he can. And that means Siemian, then a rookie, probably handed him the football and ran a few routes just to help out.

In the preseason opener, Simian went 7-of-12 for 88 yards. In this one, he runs with the 1s. The Broncos would love to be able to make a definite decision on their open QB battle by the third preseason game — and then generally keeping their starter out of harm’s way. So this is Siemian’s best chance to make an in-game impression.

The 49ers, meanwhile, are hoping to see more from Blaine Gabbert this weekend.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars (Saturday night, 7:30 p.m. ET)

On paper, judging from last year, this one doesn’t look all that exciting. But both these teams are young and eyeing a rise up the standings. There’s actually some pride at stake here.

Yes, really.

Two potential studs to watch will be Jaguars rookies Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey. Jack, who has impressed thus far, could play against the Buccaneers first team at middle linebacker, just to see where he is, and then keep him out there for a stretch. It’s still Paul Posluszny’s defense, but preseason is where you give a rookie a larger workload and hope he plays mistake free.

Ramsey (knee) is not a guarantee to play due to a spring injury. He didn’t play in the first game against the Jets. But the safety participated in a joint practice against the Bucs this week, and would love an in-game crack at his former FSU teammate, Jameis Winston.

Winston. Ramsey. Jack. Blake Bortles. Allen Robinson. Dante Fowler Jr. There’s a lot of talent here. One of these teams could be ready to make a jump.

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Fantasy Football Draft Strategy Suggestions To Take You To The Top

by Will Carroll
Fan Duel

Some Draft Strategy Suggestions To Take You To The Top

It’s getting to that time where if you’re having your Fantasy Draft party, you’re not too early. Waiting as long as you can, to let everything settle on the positional battles and to avoid the heartbreak of injuries, is still the smart play but it’s hard to get the whole gang together. I’m sure you have all your information all set up. You’ve got Numberfire’s Draft Kit, maybe an old school magazine, and a head full of facts, but here’s a couple strategies to put in your back pocket. Don’t have too many beers and forget them!


Al Davis said “the quarterback must go down.” In Fantasy, you’ll learn quickly that in nearly every year, one out of the top three players goes down with injury. That may change this year, since historically the top three picks are all running backs. This year is very different, so it will be interesting to see whether the rule of thumb holds true. What it does tell you is that if you have one of the top three picks, you should draft positively. That means there should be a guy you want, not taking a guy who falls to you because he’s rated highly. If you don’t believe in Odell Beckham, don’t take Odell Beckham. You can trade out of the pick in almost every league, which is often a smarter move.


Running backs aren’t plug and play. If Frank Gore or Todd Gurley goes down, the next guy in isn’t going to give the same production. While running backs are devalued in the modern NFL, that means there’s often even less value in the backups. With committee situations, it makes even less sense. Picking Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster is likely to leave you with the equivalent of one player. You’ll be guessing at TD touches, which can get you addicted to Maalox pretty quickly. It’s a better strategy to pick the known. If you lose one runner, you’ll have others. Depth is the key, not making sure you have the backup to a guy who’ll probably be splitting carries anyway. Handcuffing is a dinosaur strategy that stopped making sense about 2005, unless you’re Christian Grey.


If you want to get really bold and you believe that the New England Patriots will be fine for the first four games, there’s an opportunity to go “Quarterback Zero” and pick up Jimmy Garappolo late, then pair him with a younger quarterback like Jared Goff. You could be super-bold (bordering on reckless) and go with Paxton Lynch, but it’s probably better to take a falling but stable QB. Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins are ranked at the low-end of QB2’s by Numberfire, which surprises a lot of people given their production. It’s a deep year for QBs, so don’t overspend for anyone but the best. Bonus: the Garappolo/Brady combo isn’t the worst idea and it could be available late, but it almost guarantees you’ll need to waiver in a QB during the Week 9 bye, which could hurt your roster.


This seems basic, but I see players – even good players – ignoring this rule all the time. Is Eddie Lacy losing weight a good thing? Is Jamaal Charles really back from his ACL surgery (and how did he perform in the early weeks last time this happened)? Is David Johnson healthy and will Bruce Arians really give him 25 touches this season? If you have a target sleeper or that player you just have to have, can you make a good case for it, or are you going on your gut? There’s a lot more ways to screw up a fantasy draft then there is to get it right. If you can’t tell yourself in one short sentence why you’re picking a player, don’t.

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Are These 6 MLB Rookies the Real Deal?

by Jessica Kleinschmidt
Fan Duel

Are These 6 Rookies the Real Deal?

A rookie season is typically hit or miss. Whether we never hear from them again or we are configuring every possible trade to snag them, the scenarios seem to be the same.

This season, the rookie class has gone above and beyond the call of duty giving each and every one of us something to watch. Yankees’ Aaron Judge dominated his job to take over Alex Rodriguez’s spot and already has two home runs in four games. Alex Bregman has had a slower go at it in the bigs, but just recently picked up his first major league home run Tuesday night.

Here are six rookies that have made their presence known, but are they the real deal?

Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

Well the easy answer at the moment is “yes.” Aaron Judge is the real deal. Like I previously mentioned, he already accumulated two home runs and is batting with a .357/.438/.857 slash line. He wasn’t known for having a very high batting average in the minors, but he did hit 19 home runs in Triple-A. He was originally supposed to participate in the Triple-A Home Run Derby before being sidelined by an injury.

Safe to say that injury is in the past, and Judge is the future of the Bronx Bombers.

Lucas Giolito, Washington Nationals

Right-handed pitcher Lucas Giolito has made a few trips back and forth between the Triple-A Syracuse and the Nationals this season. When it comes to his time in the bigs, he’s come up small. He’s tossing a 4.91 ERA with five strikeouts in three games with the Nats. Two home runs and 12 hits off of him could make for a case he’s not ready. Or it’s just a small sample size.

There’s hesitation to say if Giolito is coming to the big show as one of the top rookies.

Trea Turner, Washington Nationals

Trea Turner has an interesting story. The utility player has dominated at every position in Triple-A that he was assigned, and we were unsure which position he was going to take over once he got the call this season. At this point, it doesn’t matter. Any position the 23-year-old plays at, he does well.

Turner is currently hitting a .309 batting average in a tough division. He has accumulated three home runs and 38 hits. He also has one of the best stolen-base percentages in the league.

He’s definitely the real deal.

Alex Bregman, Houston Astros

Alex Bregman had a fast journey throughout the Astros minor league organization. A small stint in both Double-A and Triple-A where he averaged a .309 batting average. He was even hitting around .400 at one point with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. Needless to say everyone was anticipating his call-up to the bigs.

But it was a short-lived anticipation.

He had his first major league home run Tuesday night, but that’s on the same side as a current .183 batting average. This could very well be the scenario where the Pacific Coast League is your best friend. It seems anyone with a bat can dominate in that league, it’s a matter of what they do in the majors that separates the boys from the men.

At this moment in time, I can’t say Bregman is the player we all wanted him to be, but he certainly has the potential.

Tyler Austin, New York Yankees

Another young guy on the New York Yankees up and coming list is 24-year-old first baseman Tyler Austin. He joined Aaron Judge on the recent call-ups when A-Rod bid his farewell with the pinstripes. Him and Judge are doing everything they can to make sure Rodriguez is nothing but a distant memory. Austin has played in just two major league games, but in those games he tallied a home run and three hits to be sitting at a .375 batting average.

Small sample size perhaps, but he was hitting a .323/.415/.637 slash line with Triple-A Scranton.

Real deal.

Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins

Right fielder Max Kepler is one of the guys you need to watch. He doesn’t have the highest batting average (.253) but he’s a rookie on everyone’s radar. He’s certainly improved from the three games he played in last season with the Twins when he sported a measly .143 average across the board.

He was recently named American League Player of the Week so he’s on the road to something great. Kepler’s not going to be known for being a power hitter necessarily, but the numbers continue to grow.

He’s the real deal for now, but he could truly go either way in the next few years.

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Explaining The Latest NFL Scandal: Will Matthews, Peppers, and Harrison Get Suspended?

by Will Carroll
Fan Duel

Explaining The Latest NFL Scandal: Will Matthews, Peppers, and Harrison Get Suspended?

The NFL finds itself knee deep in scandal again. We’re barely out of Deflategate and now we have … well, thankfully there’s no -gate attached to this one yet. Let’s hear it for Al Jazeera making that tough at least. But what is this latest scandal and why could it cost several NFL stars, including Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers of the Green Bay Packers and James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a suspension? I’ll try to answer the big questions:

How did this all start?

The news network Al Jazeera America (which has since closed) did an investigation into performance enhancing drugs, called “The Dark Side.” They met and filmed a man named Charlie Sly at a clinic in Indianapolis. Sly bragged that he supplied several athletes with performance enhancing drugs, including HGH and a compound called Delta-2. After the documentary aired, Sly quickly recanted his statements, saying he exaggerated and was trying to sell products. Sly also discussed other substances, such as ipamorelin, adderall, and toradol.

What players are involved?

In addition to Matthews, Peppers, and Harrison, there are three other players that are under investigation. Mike Neal is a free agent who was previously with the Packers and Dustin Keller was a TE with the Jets. There was also an investigation into a retired quarterback named Peyton Manning. There are also several athletes from other sports, including Ryan Howard, Ryan Zimmerman, and Taylor Teagarden, a retired MLB catcher. Teagarden admitted use and was suspended.

Wait, I thought they cleared Peyton Manning?

The NFL exonerated Manning and his wife after an interview. The NFL also interviews Charlie Sly and the owner of the clinic where Sly operated. At that point, the NFL said they found no evidence of wrongdoing. The league is no longer actively investigating Manning, but if new evidence comes up, they could re-open things against Manning even though he has retired.

What are these drugs that the players are accused of taking?

HGH is human growth hormone. It is a hormone present in all humans and is directly tied to the growth of the body during puberty. Synthetic HGH was created in the 1980s and can be used to treat idiopathic short stature — kids that don’t grow. There is very little scientific evidence that HGH has any performance enhancing effect in mature adults. It might help Simone Biles reach five foot (if she wanted) but it wouldn’t help James Harrison play football.

Delta-2 is a prohormone very similar to DHEA. There’s no reason for an NFL or MLB player to take Delta-2 instead of DHEA since DHEA is not a banned substance. It is legal in the US and has been an odd exception to drug testing since it began. Congressional ties to the supplement industry, specifically Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have kept this loophole open despite DHEA being banned by WADA.

Would they have shown up on a drug test?

Yes. The NFL tests for HGH, as does MLB. This requires a blood test and due to several factors, including a short detectable period, very few have ever been caught for use and none in the NFL. Delta-2 (or Delta-2-androst-17-one) is a prohormone that is a metabolite of DHEA, which is tested for. There’s some question on whether or not the DHEA test would cause a positive if someone was taking Delta-2, but DHEA is not banned by US pro sports, due to it being a legal supplement. DHEA is banned by WADA. Delta-2 is now specifically banned by both the NFL and MLB.

How long could they be suspended?

Ironically, making the argument that deflating footballs was equivalent to taking PEDs might set a precedent for Roger Goodell. While there is wide discretion for Goodell setting discipline, it would most likely be four games. Only Mike Neal has a previous known drug positive, so it would be hard to extend this past a one-positive penalty for the others. Neal could take a longer suspension.

Would the suspensions hold up, or would this be years of court time again?

Goodell’s wins in court over Tom Brady and over Adrian Peterson in recent years have given the league precedent to work with. The players and the NFLPA have been very resistant to interviews, claiming that the league doesn’t have the authority to force their participation. Harrison has offered to be interviewed at his home and has submitted an affidavit. It looks like this one is headed to a showdown and quite likely, the NFL, the NFLPA, and the affected players will end up back in court over both the requirement to be interviewed and any resultant suspensions.

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6 MLB Players Who Have Been Fantasy Baseball Busts Since the All-Star Break

by Matt Musico
Fan Duel

For those struggling through the season’s first half, getting a few days off can help spur a hot streak, as we discussed yesterday. It doesn’t always work that way, though. Fantasy baseball players are constantly looking for opportunities to capitalize on, whether it’s a buy-low situation or hanging on to someone with a solid track record in hopes they figure things out.

The following six players haven’t been able to use the midseason break to their advantage, leading them to be nothing but busts for both season-long and daily fantasy players over the past month.

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Mets

The entire 2016 season has been a struggle for Granderson, but not because of his batting line. While his .226/.317/.420 triple slash isn’t great, it’s not much different than what we’ve seen him produce over the last five seasons. However, what is dumbfounding is his inability to drive in runs — the man has hit 18 homers, but has collected just 31 RBI.

It was bad in the first half, but it’s gotten even worse in the second half. Grandy is hitting just .186/.250/.304 in 102 at-bats since the All-Star break, with only three homers and four RBI. No, that’s not a typo. Basically, if Granderson doesn’t homer, he doesn’t drive in runs. And his homers are normally of the solo variety.

Posting a .127/.228/.165 line in 79 at-bats with runners in scoring position will make it hard to be a productive fantasy commodity.

Carlos Martinez, SP, St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have had plenty of ups and downs this season, especially in the starting rotation. Adam Wainwright struggled mightily out of the gate and Michael Wacha hasn’t been the hurler St. Louis needs in 2016. Martinez was superb in the first half, though, with his 8-6 record, 2.85 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 91 strikeouts in 107.1 innings.

His solid season hasn’t exactly continued after missing out on the All-Star game. In 30 innings of work since the break, he’s posted a 5.10 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, with his biggest problem being a spike in walks allowed — after walking 36 in 107.1 innings, he’s proceeded to hand out 14 free passes in his most recent 30 frames.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies

Spring training stats don’t count, but when someone like Franco appears to put it all together by hitting nine homers and riving in 23 runs, fantasy players take notice. While the Phillies are in a rebuilding year, the young third baseman posted a solid .813 OPS with 18 homers and 52 RBI through his first 316 at-bats.

His production has proceeded to fall off a cliff for the time being, as he’s sputtered to a .180/.242/.279 triple slash in his last 111 at-bats. His only saving grace to fantasy players is he’s at least still produced runs (17 RBI, 12 runs scored) during a horrific slump.

Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians

Talent hasn’t been the question with Bauer since debuting in 2012. The problem has been harnessing his ability enough to keep his BB/9 rate under control and be an effective starter. He began the year on the outside looking in with regard to Cleveland’s solid rotation by getting sent to the bullpen, but made most of an opportunity to show what he’s capable of.

The 25-year-old right-hander became a valuable asset to manager Terry Francona with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar dealing with injuries, as he compiled a 3.30 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 101 innings en route to posting a 7-3 record. Those good feelings have been nonexistent in his most recent 30.1 innings of work, pitching to an unsightly 6.23 ERA with a 1.71 WHIP…and allowing too many walks is becoming a problem again (18 BBs allowed in the second half).

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals

The 2016 All-Star game MVP was one of the few bright spots for Kansas City in the first half given all the injuries they’ve dealt with, but he’s taken a complete nosedive since being the brightest star in San Diego.

Hosmer was on track for a career year in his age-26 season after hitting .299/.355/.476 through his first 334 at-bats, but he’s followed that up by slashing just .190/.246/.267 in his most recent 116 at-bats. Like Franco, he hasn’t been a complete waste of time during this slump since he’s still driven in 17 runs, but it’s getting tougher for fantasy owners to hold on and wait for him to come back around.

Fernando Rodney, RP, Miami Marlins

In 28.2 innings with the San Diego Padres, Rodney surrendered a total of one earned run, and the Marlins jumped the market to bolster their bullpen by acquiring him. Since he brought his talents to South Beach, it hasn’t been nearly as sunny — the right-hander has allowed 12 earned runs in 21.1 innings pitched.

This is a crucial time for Miami, who must play without Giancarlo Stanton for the remainder of this season and are without their young closer, A.J. Ramos. If the Marlins want to make the playoffs, they’ll need Rodney to recapture some of the magic he had in San Diego. Fantasy players wouldn’t mind it, either.

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Will the Chicago Bulls or the Cleveland Cavaliers Win the DeMarcus Cousins Sweepstakes?

by Alan Goldsher
Fan Duel

For two members of the United States Men’s National Basketball team, the Rio Summer Olympics has become a Boogie wonderland.

Jimmy Butler isn’t the only Olympian to be involved in a bromance with the man they call Boogie: It’s been speculated that thanks to their on-court chemistry in Brazil, Cavs All-Star Kyrie Irving could try and recruit Cousins to help form a Golden State Warriors-like super team in Cleveland when the Sacramento center becomes a free agent after the 2017-18 season.

With the rumors flying, the question becomes, would Chicago or Cleveland offer Boogie a better situation? The answer might seem simple on the surface (Cleveland, naturally), but there are several factors involved that muddy the waters:


Somebody needs to tell Kyrie Irving that concocting a Warriors-like “big four” with himself, Cousins, LeBron James and Kevin Love would be next to impossible; Golden State’s signing of Kevin Durant required a level of salary cap juggling that Cleveland likely couldn’t pull off. As for a trade, Sacramento likely wouldn’t agree unless Love was involved, but Love wouldn’t fit into the Kings future plans (whatever those plans may be), so they probably wouldn’t agree in the first place.

Chicago, on the other hand, can offer a combination of young veterans (Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic), up-and-comers (Denzel Valentine, Doug McDermott) and draft picks (they have two first rounders in 2017, one of which used to belong to Sacramento) that would be far more enticing than anything Cleveland could deliver.



Chicago had a bumpy 2015-16 season and missed the postseason for the first time since 2009. In his rookie campaign, Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg had to deal with a whole lot of turmoil, stemming in part from the fact that he wasn’t Tom Thibodeau. Much of that turmoil might have left the building with new New York Knicks Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah—Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that their relationship with Butler and the rest of the team had deteriorated dramatically—so it’s possible the mess is on its way to being cleaned up.

The Cavs, on the other hand, are coming off of two consecutive NBA Finals appearances and are a massive favorite to win this season’s Eastern Conference title. Tyronn Lue has proven himself to be a savvy coach and his recent five-year, $35 million contract extension demonstrates the organization’s strong commitment to his vision, so Cleveland is both really stable and really good. (It’s interesting to note that Lue’s deal runs for five years, while LeBron James’ contract is up in three seasons. Sure, that was likely James’ decision, but still.)

ADVANTAGE: Cleveland


History tells us that when an Alpha Dog frontcourt star takes his place alongside LeBron James, his numbers make an immediate downward spiral. The first season Chris Bosh paired with James in Miami (2010-11), his averages took a 5.3 point/2.5 rebound hit, while Kevin Love’s maiden voyage in Cleveland (2014-15) found him losing 9.7 points and 2.8 boards.

If we split that down the middle and apply it to Cousins’ 2015-16 totals, we’re looking at averages of 20.8 and 9.2 boards, making it the first season in his career during which he didn’t average a double-double. Boogie would likely be willing to sacrifice digits for a ring, but he might not be thrilled about it.

In Chicago, Cousins would be the co-Alpha with Jimmy Butler and his numbers would likely take a slight dip, but nothing that would cause him to pause.



While Cousins and Irving seem to be getting along well, Boogie and Butler appear to be on their way to becoming best friends forever:

Additionally, new Chicago Bull Rajon Rondo — Boogie’s former Sacramento teammate and fellow former Kentucky Wildcat — have been tight for years. There’s something to be said for comfort level.

Advantage: Chicago


Let’s assume Golden State has the NBA title sewn up for the length of Kevin Durant’s contract, that being two seasons. For Cleveland, the addition of Cousins combined with the subtraction of Love slightly improves their chances of taking down the Dubs before 2018. Slightly.

In 2018, when some or all of Golden State’s Durant/Stephen Curry/Klay Thompson/Draymond Green core go their separate ways — and a trophy for anybody other than the Dubs again becomes a realistic thing — LeBron James will turn 34 and enter the final year of his contract. Michael Jordan won his last championship when he was 35 and in the final year of his contract…and then he retired. So for Cousins, it might well be 2018 or bust.

As for Chicago, the Bulls we see today won’t come close to resembling the Bulls we’ll see in 2018. Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo could be gone after their contracts are up on two years, plus the Cousins trade will have emptied Chicago’s cache of young assets, thus we’re looking at Butler, Boogie and a whole bunch of who-knows-what. So it’s 2016 or bust, and with Golden State standing in the way, bust has the edge.

Advantage: Cleveland

While Cousins is driving this particular ship, Sacramento ultimately has to agree to any trade, so if Boogie thinks the Kings brass would be more apt to pull the trigger on a deal with Chicago, he’ll apply the pressure. Even if the Cavaliers have a better shot at a ring than the Bulls, the Windy City offers Cousins stats, friends and the postseason, a far better combo platter than what he’s being served in Sacramento.

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Historic 2017 Running Back Class Has NFL Looking For Top Pick at Devalued Position

by Will Carroll
Fan Duel

Historic. Loaded. Unprecedented.

That’s what scouts and executives are saying about the anticipated running back draft class coming into next year’s NFL draft. However, finding a fit for a position becoming less and less valued in the modern NFL isn’t quite as easy as knowing how good these players are.

The first key is the class is anticipated, not guaranteed. Almost all the top RB talent involve underclassmen, who could choose to go back for another year if they don’t have a big season or if they get advised to go back in hopes of being a higher pick the following year, when there’s simply not as much competition. Several of these players, with the right production and set of circumstances, could end up the no. 1 overall pick.

After speaking to a handful of scouts and executives and checking online opinion, the class is a bit tiered. If the draft were held today, Leonard Fournette (LSU) would be the top ranked, but not by much. The big, bruising running back fits with almost all NFL systems and his durability is a major plus. Just behind him is Dalvin Cook (FSU), who could put up better numbers than Fournette due to the quality of the team around him and a slightly more favorable schedule.

“I like Fournette’s size,” said one NFL exec involved in his team’s draft. At 6’1″ and 230 pounds, Fournette can run between the tackles and challenge linebackers for the extra yards, but also has plus-plus speed. Recorded at 4.35 in high school, Fournette has gone faster than that.

There’s no question the size/speed combo will have a lot of teams looking, but comparisons to Herschel Walker and Adrian Peterson are also ratcheting up expectations.

The same holds true for Dalvin Cook. Cook isn’t quite as big (5’11”, 201 lbs) or quite as fast (4.46), but he produces on the field. He has had some off-field issues, but teams can address those pre-draft. “Cook’s numbers will be great at Florida State, but he’s not Jamaal Charles,” said one scout. “He’s got the potential and the college production, but he’s going to need the right situation in the NFL. Put him with a bad team and he’s not going to make that team good on his own.”

The next name is where things get a bit less locked in. Christian McCaffrey has the production and the pedigree (his father, Ed, was a longtime NFL receiver), but his size (6’0″, 201 lbs) is a concern for some. Some think he’ll end up more of a Wes Welker than an Adrian Peterson. He may well end up sitting beside Fournette and Cook at the Heisman ceremony, but there are more questions about system for McCaffrey.

“He’s bigger than you think, but he doesn’t look it,” said one scout. “Looking at his film, it’s all there, but somehow you come out thinking it’s not. I think the problem is that there’s no good comparable in the league right now.” McCaffrey is also a top return man, with speed (4.37-second 40-yard dash) and a burst even Fournette and Cook don’t have.

Beyond the clear top three, there’s a number of other prospects who could enter the draft. Coming off ACL surgery, Nick Chubb (Georgia) took over for Todd Gurley, who’s success in the NFL in the same system and off the same injury will help Chubb answer some team’s questions. Chubb’s production might be held back, given he’s coming off major knee surgery and has Sony Michel, another top RB, sharing carries. (Michel isn’t expected to come out this year.)

There are other backs who are clearly going to go high in the NFL draft beyond these top four. Shock Linwood (Baylor) is expected to get a lot of looks, but the system and off-field issues at Baylor may push him back, especially if the team shifts out of the high-powered attack they had under Art Briles.

Royce Freeman (Oregon) is highly thought of, but the Oregon system hasn’t produced top runners. Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) might have a lower profile than the top three, but his production has been better than most. He’s got size (5’10”, 235 lbs) and speed (4.5), plus he’s put up 427 yards in one game as a Freshman! “Perine’s as good on field as the top four,” said one scout. “He’s more Frank Gore, a strong bell-cow back, but someone’s getting a good one low in the first.”

With all this to choose from, which teams need a running back? At the top of the draft, there’s always some question. The last top runner picked, Trent Richardson, will scare some off. Expect a QB or two at the top, followed by Myles Garrett (Texas A&M), the pass rushing monster who could go first overall.

There are eight teams that most of my sources thought would end up with a high enough draft pick and a need: Miami, San Diego, Cleveland, New Orleans, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis and Oakland. Some, like San Diego and Cleveland, will probably spend their picks on other needs, but the rest will be looking hard at these RBs. “There’s no way New Orleans doesn’t try to trade up for Fournette,” said one exec. “Maybe all the way to 1-1.” Fournette is a New Orleans native and would fit the system perfectly.

Two expected Miami and Detroit would also look at Fournette, then default to Cook. “Ajayi and Foster are going to end up a disaster for [new Head Coach Adam] Gase, so he’ll plug that gap quick,” said one scout. Cook would also be a great fit for Tampa Bay, where he could reunite with Jameis Winston, though the team has Doug Martin. “He’s cheaper and better,” said a scout.

McCaffrey is the interesting one. While he could conceivably go to almost any of these teams, many pointed at Oakland. “He’s the opposite of what you’d expect from an old school Raiders pick,” said one scout. “He’s smart, well spoken, a good kid. He’s finesse and speed. Plus he’s pretty local coming out of Stanford. Heck, if they move, he’s a kid you don’t worry about in Vegas.”

Another thought he’d be the perfect fit for Indianapolis. “Gore’s not the answer and you know the Colts love Stanford kids,” said the exec. “You give Luck one more weapon out of the backfield and I think he’ll be a good real running back, not a hybrid.”

This class of running backs is historic and unprecedented. It’s also extremely talented, but confusing to find fits. Good running backs who should have long, productive careers, could fall to the second round like last year, when Heisman winner Derrick Henry fell out of the first round and into the laps of a team that didn’t have a clear need for him. We have almost a year to see how this all plays out, but once it does, the NFL will have its biggest infusion of rushing talent in over a decade.

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