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2014 MLB Team Previews

The 2014 MLB season is almost here! Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman brings you an in depth look at each of the 30 teams, prospects and key questions as we head towards opening day.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Puckmania Weekly Blog: End of an Era

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Puckmania Weekly Watch: End of an Era
By WildOnSports NHL Insider Erin Gilman

It was an exciting and even depressing for some this week in the NHL. As a born and raised Canucks fan I must say it is with a heavy heart that Canucks nation says goodbye to a fan favorite. Manny Malhotra was “guided” in to what is being called an “early retirement” Last season Malhotra missed the majority of the season with an eye injury, and according to GM Mike Gillis “His health is of the outmost importance to the organization” Manny never fully recovered from his injury only gaining back 70% of his eye sight. Though too proud to admit the troubles he has been having it is clear to his teammates and management alike. Malhotra has been asked to remain in the Canucks organization though his roll is still yet to be determined. He is a strong member of this club and fans will be happy to know he will remain, though no longer in his jersey a Canuck none the less. But some good news for this saddened organization and fan base, forward Ryan Kesler makes his season debut tonight against the Dallas Stars.

Some other notable events from this passed week; Chicago has still yet to experience a regulation loss and have moved to 13-0-3 for the season. Roberto Luongo has moved to the top goalie spot and is putting his “replacement” Cory Schneider to shame. Todd Bertuzzi of the Detroit Red Wings has been placed on the injured reserve for ongoing “back issues” and Thomas Vanek is leading all offensive score boards still with a very impressive 23 points over all and a plus minus of 11 falling short of only one man, Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes with a 12 plus minus rating over all.

Key Match Ups this Week:

Vancouver Canucks vs Chicago Blackhawks
One of the greatest rivalries in sports today. I have been to these games and there is no courtesy, no friendships and no holding anything back. These two teams HATE each other, and their fans are no better. I have actually seen fans removed from these games, and I have been to Boston vs Montreal games, and anyone that knows hockey knows about that rivalry. With Kesler back in the forward position he will be a player to watch, as according to Kesler he “has to make up his absence to his fans” I also suggest keeping your eye on the goalies of this game. As Luongo and Schneider battle for the start and Blackhawks goalie Crawford looks to keep his team in their “no regulation loss” run (However Crawford is currently listed day to day for an undisclosed upper body injury we can hope he is back in time) Kevin Bieksa will be another player to keep your eye on, with less penalty minutes this season then any before I expect to see some fights from him.

Boston Bruins vs Winnipeg Jets
Not a regular rivalry YET, But still one I expect to be exciting from beginning to end. As a Boston Bruin player you don’t necessarily hate teams as much as players on those teams. Players that come on the ice with a BIG target on their back. I expect the target this week to be Dustin Byfuglien. As a known “instigator” he normally has a large target on his back and this Bruins team is far too strong to want that. Its also a great game between these two teams when we see Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart take on their old team mates. I expect a high scoring game and a lot of penalty minutes.

Hoopshysteria: Previewing All-Star Weekend

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Hoopshysteria: Previewing All-Star Weekend
By Wild on Sports Basketball Analyst Talyon Perry
February 15, 2012

We finally made it to the All-Star break. For many teams its much needed but for Lebron James and the Miami Heat the break could have waited a few more weeks. Lebron has played better than anyone in these last half-dozen games, including Michael Jordan, getting 30+ points and shooting 60+ percent from the field. His great play has also helped teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh by getting them more open shots. If they keep playing like this, there is no one that can stop them from repeating. On the other side of the country, the LA Clippers finally have both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin back from injury which helped them to beat their inner-city rivals the Lakers.

Now lets preview the big events of All-Star weekend:
3pt Contest: There are three possible winners Steve Novak, Stephen Curry, and Ryan Anderson. Novak is one of the best 3pt shooters in the league and will have no other competitions to distract him. Curry is arguably one of the top shooters in the league and is looking for redemption after being snubbed from the All-Star game. Anderson has a huge advantage in being a big man because he will not have to jump as much, remember last years winner was forward Kevin Love.

Dunk Contest: There are lots of great Dunkers in this but it's between Bledsoe and Evans. Bledsoe has a great jump and can learn from former champion Blake Griffin. You have to give the edge to last years champ Jeremy Evans, he did it last year and can do it again.

Rising Star Game: Shaq vs Chuck. This will be a typical Outside (team Shaq) vs inside (team Chuck). I have to give this game to Team Shaq as Lillard and Irving will shoot the lights out, don't be surprised if it happens after the Super Bowl.

Main Event - All-Star game: These teams are both amazing and consist of superstars but with the Heat's big 3 will carry the East to victory.

Video: Tubby Smith Breaks it Down Post Game

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Tubby Smith Breaks is Down Post Game


Oh Tubby... What better way to celebrate victory than getting down to Ke$ha post game? A good little laugh. Big win Minnesota. Can't say I blame the guy for celebrating a bit.

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Houston Astros

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Houston Astros
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Houston Astros
2012 Record:
55-107
Everybody expected the Astros to be terrible, and they got worse as they traded away veterans, but the GM used trades and the draft to help restock the farm system.
 
NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Chris Carter, Carlos Pena
NOTABLE LOSSES: Jed Lowrie, Wilton Lopez
 
Keys to Success: Will the Astros clear the 50-win mark? What players will even be league average? The pitching offers some hope but the only position player who can be expected to perform well is Jose Altuve, and even he is not quite an all-star. Can Chris Carter or Carlos Pena hit enough home runs to offset their strikeouts and low batting average? Which of their prospects will come up this year? What veterans can they trade?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool
 
 JONATHAN SINGLETON, 1B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
 
TBD
xx
x
 
Singleton, 21, is the best first base prospect in baseball. He’s been young for every level he’s played at and he’s excelled with the bat. Last year for AA-Corpus Christi he hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 HR and 79 RBI in 131 games. He also walked an impressive 88 times and his strikeout total is high (131) but not absurd for the kind of hitter he is. Singleton might have made Houston’s team immediately had he not failed a drug test (not steroids, however) and will now miss the first 50 games of the season. Add the presence of Carlos Pena and Chris Carter, and Singleton might have to mash for a few months in AAA before getting called up to Houston. When he arrives, he could be Houston’s best pure hitter since Lance Berkman.
GEORGE SPRINGER, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
TBD
TBD
x
Athletic Springer was Houston’s first-round pick in 2011, and he had a strong debut with High-A Lancaster, hitting .316/.398/.557 with 22 HR, 82 RBI, and 28 SB in 106 games there. Lancaster is a very good hitter’s park, however, and Springer struggled the last month in AA, hitting just .219/.228/.342 in 22 games. He will get plenty of time to adjust to the high minors, however, as he is only 23. He projects to be a 20/20 player annually, but his true hitting ability and batting eye have yet to be determined since pretty much everyone hits at Lancaster. His 156 strikeouts overall in 581 PA is a pretty high mark. A lower batting average will be tolerable if he can stick in center field.
DELINO DESHIELDS JR, 2B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
TBD
xx
x
x
x
 
Deshields, the son of the former big league regular of the same name, had a terrible first season in 2011, but he repeated low-A Lexington and looked like a different player. Including the last month at High-A Lancaster, Deshields hit .287/.389/.428 with 12 HR, 83 walks, and 113 RS. He also went nuts on the base-paths, stealing 101 SB (!!!) over the course of a season, a near-historic total which would have gotten more press had it not happened the same year that Reds’ OF Billy Hamilton broke the all-time record (with 155). Deshields will be just 20 years old next year, and his offensive potential is tantalizing when you consider the low offensive output from second basemen overall. He does strike out a lot (131 times) for a player with his lack of power, but at the same time, he’s not a slap hitter. He could put up respectable power numbers in addition to his strong leadoff profile.
CARLOS CORREA, SS:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
TBD
x
 
x
x
Correa was the first pick in the draft overall, and at age 17, his .258/.305/.400 line in rookie-ball doesn’t say much about his abilities, other than the expected fact that he will have to work on plate discipline. Scouts praise his swing and overall presence at the plate, and they think he will be able to stick at shortstop as well. With a player this young and this far away there is a wide range of possibilities, but that includes the potential to be a star. Correa was not the consensus best player in the draft, but Houston signed him to save some money to sign prospects LANCE McCULLERS and RIO RUIZ later for more than what MLB “recommends” for those draft slots. It will be a while before they can attest to the success or failure of that strategy.
JON VILLAR, SS (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
TBD
xx
 
 
x
x
Villar is Houston’s shortstop of the present, especially after the Jed Lowrie trade. Villar has never hit much in the minors, but he is athletic and his numbers have improved over time to the point where he could be more than just a glove man. Last year he was hurt but hit .261/.336/.396 with 11 HR and 39 SB in 86 games with AA-Corpus Christi. That modest OPS is his highest total yet in the minors, but he is only 22. At the very least, he will provide speed and defense, and his plate discipline, while not good, is not so terrible as to be a major weakness (he’s cut down his strikeout rate a bit as he’s moved through the minors). Scouts have always liked him so there is also some breakout potential.
 
2012 Top Draft Pick: Correa
 
Sleeper MLB Contributor: OF ROBBIE GROSSMAN could get on base and play a competent center field.
 
2013 Outlook and Projection: At the major league level, the Astros will be very very very bad. However, thanks to some savvy trades and good drafting (including some high picks now), the Astros are on the right track. Their minor league system is overflowing with talent, and some of their top players might start showing up in Houston as early as this season. Still, it’s probable that any production rookies can muster will be offset by trades of ‘veterans’, as Houston continues to stockpile talent. Nobody on the major league roster right now should be untouchable as no one is good enough or young enough to be part of the next good Astros team. With the possible exception of catcher, Houston also has better prospects at almost every position than their big league counterparts. Jose Altuve could probably land a top prospect from a team that needs help up the middle, and pitchers Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris could also be useful in a trade. GM Jeff Luhnow has demonstrated an ability to make trades at the right time, buying low and selling high, unafraid to jettison talented players in the right deal. This is a sharp departure from the previous GM, Ed Wade, who watched stars Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt decline and yield paltry returns when they were eventually dealt.
Projection: REBUILDING (could contend by: 2016)
 
 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

NHL Fanduel Players to Start - February 15th Edition

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NHL Fanduel Players to Start - February 15th Edition
With the NBA off for All-Star Weekend, lets take a look at the best plays for Friday in NHL Fanduel...

LW - Thomas Vanek  vs.  Boston Bruins  $8,100
Vanek is a absolute Bruins killer. He had a five point night on 1/31 against them that included a hat trick. A bit pricey but a great pick.
LW - Andrew Cogliano  vs.  Detroit Red Wings  $4,200
Cogliano has scored in two straight and is a pretty good bargain this week at just $4,200.
RW - David Clarkson  vs.  Philadelphia Flyers  $6,600
Clarkson is having a monster season. He has transformed from a hard hitting checking line player to a fantasy stud. His nine goals, six assists and 21 penalty minutes put him at the top of fantasy charts so far in 2013. A must play.
RW - Damien Brunner  vs.  Anaheim Ducks  $5,100
Looking at Brunner's game by game stat line show a very interesting trend. He has scored a goal in every other game so far this season. Last game? No goal. If the trend continues he will bank one Friday night.
C - Patrick Elias  vs.  Philadelphia Flyers  $5,700
The seemingly ageless Elias has 8 points in his last five games. He is a hot as any right now.
C - Jonathan Toews  vs.  San Jose Sharks  $7,500
Toews has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last four games. The Hawks are as hot as anyone. If they want the winning ways to continue they will need a big game from Toews and company against the Sharks.
D - Kevin Shattenkirk  vs.  Calgary Flames  $5,100
The Blues have been struggling lately but the lone bright spot has been Shattenkirk. The power play QB has been an assist machine. With Kippersoff out the Flames are vulnerable. Expect a good game.
D - Zdeno Chara  vs.  Buffalo Sabers  $5,800
Chara and the Bruins power play have really been struggling this season. That may be the lone dark spot as the team is as good as any 5 on 5. The rivalry with Buffalo has become more amped up than ever this season. The Bruins are going to need a game game from the captain in this one.
G - Jon Quick  vs.  Columbus Blue Jackets  $6,800
One of the better goaltenders in the league going up against one of the lower scoring teams in the league. Looks like a steal as long as he plays.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Seattle Mariners

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Seattle Mariners
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Seattle Mariners
2012 Record:
75-87

The Mariners continued their recent trend of fielding a miserable offense and some park-aided pitching ‘stars’.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Joe Saunders, Kendrys Morales, Mike Morse, Jason Bay
NOTABLE LOSSES: Jason Vargas, John Jaso

Keys to Success: Will their young hitters be able to weather the physical and psychological effects of Safeco Field and become useful players? Can Dustin Ackley rebound from his terrible season? The Mariners don’t lack talented hitters-their lineup is littered with former top prospects-but sustained success has been hard to come by. Plate discipline doesn’t seem to be an issue, as Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Mike Carp all get on base…when they walk. Can Franklin Gutierrez either stay healthy or hit at a league average level again? He is a premium defensive player so if he can rediscover his lost offense, he’ll be a quietly valuable player. Will their bushel of promising pitching prospects fill out the back end of the rotation this year?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool


Mike Zunino, C:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
xx
 
xx
x
x
TBD
Top draft pick Zunino’s debut was a little ridiculous, but in a good way. He hit an insane .360/.447/.689 with 13 HR and 43 RBI between rookie-level Everett and then in a brief trial with AA-Jackson. Everett is a good hitting environment, and he should have destroyed that level as a 21-year-old, but his near-equal success in AA establishes him as a legitimate threat to become a top-tier offensive catcher. Zunino might start back at AA, and Seattle might want to give Jesus Montero a full season to prove once and for all whether or not he can stay at catcher. Still, Zunino could soon force his way into the major league lineup.
TIJUAN WALKER, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
xx
TBD
x
x
x
Walker’s numbers overall were mediocre. In 25 starts with AA-Jackson he went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA and and 118 strikeouts in 126.2 innings. However, he did so as a 19-year-old, which made him the youngest starting pitcher in the league, and he continually draws rave reviews for his mix of stuff. He has plenty of time figure out how to best utilize his impressive mix of pitches and when he does, he can be an ace. Walker may find Safeco Field especially rewarding, and could even challenge for an immediate role in the spring.
DANNY HULTZEN, LHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
x
x
 
x
x
Hultzen, taken second overall in the 2011 draft, was billed as a polished left-hander who might not have ace-level stuff but made up for it with a near-major league ready command of his pitches. He lived up to that reputation in AA-Jackson, going 8-3 with a 1.19 ERA (!!!) in 13 starts, with 79 K in 73 innings. However, he hit a wall at AAA-Tacoma, calling into question his big league readiness and even his ability to start. He went 1-4 with a 5.92 in 12 starts with Tacoma. Most disturbing was his 43 walks in 48.2 innings (although he did strike out 57), and that kind of control issue was completely out of the blue. There are no issues with his stuff, so if Hultzen can put that bad stretch behind him, he can compete for a rotation spot.
NICK FRANKLIN, SS (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
TBD
TBD
x
x
x
Franklin is a very solid shortstop prospect who is close to the majors, a good thing considering incumbent Brendan Ryan hit under .200 (albeit with arguably the best defense in the league). His overall .278/.347/.453 line with 11 HR in 121 games hides a major split between AA-Jackson (.322/.394/.502) and AAA-Tacoma (.243/.310/.416), but he’s only 22, and overall Franklin has hit well in the minors (.283/.351/.458). His speed right now is still solid but he’s been gradually slowing down as he gets older and fills out, to the point where it might not be a major part of his game in the majors. Expect him to start the year repeating AAA-Tacoma.
CARTER CAPPS and STEPHEN PRYOR, RHP (relievers):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
TBD
x
x
xx
x
These two pitchers deserve brief write-ups as rookie relievers who could instantly dominate, as they were excellent in the minor leagues and both held their own in the second half last year with Seattle. Don’t be surprised if either become Seattle’s closer this year. 


Top 2012 Draft Pick: Zunino 


Sleeper MLB Contributor: lhp JAMES PAXTON is a little behind Walker and Hultzen, but he is young and talented and could put it all together quickly. 


2013 Outlook and Projection: Seattle’s offensive misery is starting to look like Colorado’s desperate and futile attempts to find pitching in the earlier part of the last decade (and again now). They have been dead last in the American league in runs scored 4 years in a row…and the year before that, 2008, they were “only” second-to-last. Since 2010, Seattle has not had more than three players hit above league average (minimum: 200 at-bats). Last year’s best hitter, John Jaso, was traded away for one-dimensional power hitter Mike Morse, exactly the kind of hitter who struggles in Safeco. In fact, their slugger grab bag this winter seems destined to disappoint. The trio of Morse, Morales, and Bay, no matter where they play, will also bring down the team defense, although they are still strong up the middle. However, there is hope for the Mariners. Two things allow for a realistic scenario in which they surprise and contend: first, extreme pitching environments can often benefit the home team as it can be something of an equalizer against teams with better offenses. Mediocre fly ball pitchers can thrive, where in other environments they would fail. Not only that, but Seattle still has good pitching depth behind Felix Hernandez, with a good mix of veterans and young talent (watch out for the underrated Erasmo Ramirez). Second, Seattle has an impressive amount of prospects who are near-major league ready, in addition to players who are already on the team, like Jesus Montero. Their overflow of talent is also spread out over the diamond, the kind of mix that could instantly bring a team out of the basement. It would foolish to expect that, but it’s not impossible.
POSSIBLE CONTENDERS


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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Los Angeles Angels

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Los Angeles Angels
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2012 Record:
89-73

The Angels were a high-profile disappointment as the “real” Albert Pujols didn’t show up until May and the back end of their starting rotation didn’t deliver as promised.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Josh Hamilton, Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton
NOTABLE LOSSES: Dan Haren, Torii Hunter, Ervin Santana, Kendry Morales

Keys to Success: Can Albert Pujols hold off further decline? His last two years, while still strong, have been well below his previous historic batting lines. Can Peter Bourjos recover from a lost 2012 to be a solid regular again? Who will replace Tommy Hanson in the rotation when his arm falls off in May? The Angels need several relievers to step up and succeed behind closer Ernesto Frieri. The Angels must also bite the bullet and admit that Vernon Wells is just a grossly overpaid bench player at best. He deserves 150 odd at-bats against left-handed pitching, but nothing more.

Prospect Watch:
 Prospect Key
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool
KALEB COWART, 3B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x


x
x
x
Cowart, 21, is the only significant position player prospect in the Angels’ system right now. Cowart hit .276/.358/452 with 16 HR and 103 RBI in 135 games between low-A Cedar Rapids and high-A Inland Empire, without a significant drop off between the two levels (although Inland Empire is a hitters’ haven). His 67 walks and 111 strikeouts are fine, and he looks right now like a future power-hitting third baseman. He’s still a ways away, however.
NICK MARONDE, LHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
TBD

x
x
x
22-year-old Maronde blew through the minors this year. He started out in high-A Inland Empire, a difficult place to pitch, with a 1.82 ERA in ten starts and a K/BB ratio over 4 before moving up to AA and eventually the major leagues. Overall in the minors he went 6-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 18 starts, with 90 K and just 19 BB in 99.2 innings. He threw some innings with Los Angeles in September as a short reliever to get left-handed hitters out. In 12 games he pitched 6 innings, allowing just 1 ER and striking out seven. He could start 2013 in the bullpen, or as a swingman. If the Angels are still interested in him as a starter, they could send him back to AAA to begin the season.
Top 2012 Draft Pick: (3rd round) RJ Alvarez, RHP
Sleeper MLB Contributor: KOLE CALHOUN, OF, has hit well in the minors…but in great hitting environments. He could probably do better right now as a fourth outfielder than Vernon Wells.
2013 Outlook and Projection: Overpaying for Josh Hamilton, and taking him away from a division rival in the process, makes the Angels’ winter a superficial success. In reality, their overhaul of the rotation leaves them just as open to fielding a frontloaded pitching staff. A pitcher like Tommy Hanson was only available in the first place because his elbow foretold imminent collapse. There is also the chance that Albert Pujols continues to decline, or a fluke injury leaves them with poor production anywhere in their thin lineup. Still, it is easy to underestimate a top-heavy team like the Angels, as they still possess an enviable quantity of high-end talent, and no serious holes on paper to start the season. Mike Trout established himself as the best player in baseball last year, and his presence alone adds 5-7 wins over even an average center-fielder. For now, Arte Moreno’s expensive tastes result in...
LIKELY CONTENDERS

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NBA Power Rankings - Feb 13th Edition

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NBA Power Rankings
February 13, 2013

1. San Antonio Spurs 41-12
2. Miami Heat 34-14
3. Oklahoma City Thunder 39-12
4. Los Angeles Clippers 37-17
5. New York Knicks 32-17
6. Denver Nuggets 33-19
7. Memphis Grizzlies 32-18
8. Indiana Pacers 31-21
9. Golden State Warriors 30-21
10. Chicago Bulls 30-21
11. Brooklyn Nets 30-22
12. Houston Rockets 28-25
13. Utah Jazz 28-24
14. Atlanta Hawks 28-22
15. Boston Celtics 27-24
16. Portland Trail Blazers 25-26
17. Milwaukee Bucks 25-25
18. Los Angeles Lakers 24-28
19. Philadelphia 76ers 22-28
20. Dallas Mavericks 22-29
21. Toronto Raptors 19-32
22. Minnesota Timberwolves 19-30
23. Detroit Pistons 20-33
24. Sacramento Kings 19-33
25. New Orleans Hornets 18-34
26. Phoenix Suns 17-35
27. Cleveland Cavaliers 16-36
28. Washington Wizards 15-35
29. Orlando Magic 15-36
30. Charlotte Bobcats 12-39

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NHL Power Rankings - Feb 12th Edition

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NHL Power Rankings
February 12, 2013

1. (2) Chicago Blackhawks (10-0-2)
2. (7) New Jersey Devils (8-1-3)
3. (5) Boston Bruins (8-1-1)
4. (10) Anaheim Ducks (8-2-1)
5. (1) San Jose Sharks (7-3-2)
6. (9) Vancouver Canucks (7-2-2)
7. (8) Detroit Red Wings (7-4-1)
8. (14) Pittsburgh Penguins (8-5-0)
9. (18) New York Rangers (6-5-0)
10. (19) Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5-0)
11. (23) Dallas Stars (6-5-1)
12. (4) St. Louis Blues (6-5-1)
13. (6) Ottawa Senators (6-4-2)
14. (11) Montreal Canadiens (6-4-1)
15. (3) Tampa Bay Lightning (6-5-0)
16. (22) Carolina Hurricanes (6-4-1)
17. (13) Edmonton Oilers (5-4-3)
18. (27) Philadelphia Flyers (5-7-1)
19. (20) Nashville Predators (5-3-4)
20. (16) Minnesota Wild (5-5-1)
21. (24) Winnipeg Jets (5-5-1)
22. (26) Phoenix Coyotes (5-5-2)
23. (15) Buffalo Sabres (5-7-1)
24. (17) Los Angeles Kings (4-5-2)
25. (12) New York Islanders (4-7-1)
26. (21) Colorado Avalanche (4-6-0)
27. (25) Washington Capitals (3-8-1)
28. (30) Calgary Flames (3-4-2)
29. (29) Florida Panthers (4-6-1)
30. (28) Columbus Blue Jackets (4-7-2)

Monday, February 11, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Texas Rangers

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Texas Rangers
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Texas Rangers
2012 Record: 93-69, lost WC
The Rangers looked primed to threepeat as pennant winners but faded badly in September and lost a disappointing wild card tiebreaker against the upstart Athletics.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: AJ Pierzynski, Lance Berkman

NOTABLE LOSSES: Josh Hamilton, Mike Young, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara

Keys to Success: Can the Rangers find room for top prospect Jurickson Profar without hurting the team? Moving Ian Kinsler to first base might work. There has also been talking of shifting Elvis Andrus to center field. Will they lose Nelson Cruz for 50 games? How much will Lance Berkman play without getting hurt? Who will replace Josh Hamilton’s playing time among their outfield prospects? Will Alexi Ogando start or relieve?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key:
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool

JURICKSON PROFAR, SS:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
x
x
x
Profar is the best prospect in baseball. Last year as one of the youngest players in the upper minors (19), he hit .281/.368/.452 with 14 HR, 62 RBI, and 16 SB for AA-Frisco. He is ready right now to do well in the majors, and although he might not yet excel at any one tool (except possibly his batting eye), he also has no weaknesses and he should offer star-level production in the near future as he matures into more power/in-game speed/etc. This puts Texas in a funny position as their current shortstop, Elvis Andrus, is one of the best in the game, and in fact the other logical positions to switch him or Profar to-second and third-are covered by stars as well.
LEONYS MARTIN, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
TBD
x
xx
x
x
TBD
Only health concerns hold Martin back from being a major league contributor. In 55 games, the 24-year-old Martin hit .359/.422/.610 with 12 HR, 42 RBI, and 10 SB (but 9 CS) for AAA-Round Rock. That slugging percentage is misleading as Martin probably offers mostly gap power in the majors, although in Texas’ park it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reach 20 HR…if he plays the whole season. The loss of Josh Hamilton opens up a place for him in the lineup and he is ready to succeed.
MIKE OLT, 3B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
xx


x
x
x
Olt was the subject of trade rumors all winter as his best position, third base, is taken up by Adrian Beltre in Texas. The Rangers still seem to like him enough to try him in the outfield or first base during the spring. He hit .288/.388/.579 with 28 HR and 82 RBI in just 95 games for AA-Frisco. Olt will be 24 next year, so he’s not young for a top prospect, but he could be a classic slugger who doesn’t hit for average but makes up for it with 70+ walks every year. That profile is more valuable at third base, but even so, Olt is another bat who could let fans forget Josh Hamilton over the next year or so.
MARTIN PEREZ, LHP:
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
TBD
TBD
TBD

x
x
Perez deserves a write-up because he’d shown past flashes of dominance, and he’s close to the majors, but everything is up in the air after a terrible season in AAA. The 21-year-old went 7-6 with a 4.25 ERA in 21 starts, but that masks some major red flags: a 4.9 K/9 and a 1.2 K/BB ratio (69/56), both numbers being well below average. Those numbers were not representative of his career, as throughout the minors, even when Perez struggled, he has fanned batters (7.7 K/9). His fastball is hard but not exceptionally so. He is still young, and left-handed, two things which give him a chance to show that his vacillating stuff and performance are concerns he can put behind him.
CODY BUCKEL, RHP:
Fastball
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
TBD
TBD
x
x
xx
x
Buckel is nearly the opposite of Perez, a right-hander with mediocre but consistent offerings who nevertheless commands his pitches well and has thus far bested minor league hitters to the tune of a crazy 10.5 K/9 over 250 innings. Last year he split the season, first dominating High-A Myrtle Beach with a 1.31 ERA in 13 starts, then later holding his own at AA-Frisco (5-5 with a 3.78 ERA). Overall he went 10-8 with a 2.49 ERA and 159 strikeouts and 48 walks in 144.2 innings. Buckel’s stuff, while not great, is still good enough to project him to succeed in the majors, although his ceiling is probably a mid-rotation starter.

2012 Top Draft Pick: Lewis Brinson, OF

Sleeper MLB Contributor: Texas has a number of intriguing relief prospects, but the best and closest to contributing is probably WILMER FONT who struck out 29 batters (!!!) in 15 innings at the end of the year for Texas.

2013 Outlook and Projection: This winter the Rangers lost two franchise faces in Hamilton and Young and will not miss either of them. In the latter’s case, the Rangers will benefit from addition by subtraction, as Young was no longer an asset as a full-time player. His production was so bad, in fact, that he may have cost them wins. Replacing him with even an average DH will add enough production to mitigate the loss of Hamilton. Speaking of, the Rangers have so much young talent that losing Hamilton, and even Nelson Cruz for 50 games (if that happens), will not hurt as much as people might think. The perception is the Rangers had a terrible winter as they lost Hamilton and “lost” the Zach Greinke bidding war, but the reality is doing nothing is a fine strategy for a team that probably has the most impressive overall talent pool in baseball. They have no holes, plenty of depth, and plenty of promising young players who could erase memories of a relatively quiet winter.
STRONG CONTENDERS

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Oakland Athletics

Wild on Sports
http://www.dailyrepublic.com/files/2012/08/19-As-Color-24p-930x1024.jpg
MLB 2013 Team Preview: Oakland Athletics
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Oakland Athletics
2012 Record: 94-68, won WC, lost in ALDS
The Athletics traded away their two best pitchers over the previous winter yet saw their win total jump up by 20, turning them into play-bound underdogs in the process. 

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: John Jaso, Jed Lowrie, Hiroyuki Nakajima

NOTABLE LOSSES: Brandon McCarthy, Cliff Pennington, Chris Carter, Jonny Gomes, Brandon Inge

Keys to Success: What kind of contribution will infielder Nakajima make for the team? The recent addition of Jed Lowrie covers shortstop, but probably not for the whole season as Lowrie is notoriously injury-prone. Can Oakland get quality production out of shortstop and second base all year? Who among their big 2012 surprises will retain their success? In particular, how real was Brandon Moss’ transformation into a half-season superstar?

PROSPECT WATCH:
Prospect Key:
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool

DAN STRAILY, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health

x
x
x
x
x
Straily does not have premium stuff but he mixes his pitches well and has enough movement and deception to lead the minor leagues in strikeouts last year. He fanned 190 batters in just 152 innings across the minors’ two highest levels, with a 9-7 record and a 2.78 ERA. His major league trial was brief but successful, enough that I think he is being undervalued by traditional scouts. In seven starts, Straily went 2-1 with a 3.89 ERA and a 16/32 BB/K ratio in 39.1 innings. It is one thing to be skeptical about a pitcher whose talent lags behind his performance, particular if he is a little older (Straily will be 24 next year). However, once he proves he can do it at the majors, then he deserves to be taken seriously.
ADDISON RUSSELL, SS:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
xx
xx
x
x
x
Russell was taken eleventh overall in this year’s draft, but even that looks like a steal after a stellar debut during which he flashed superstar potential. Between three levels of rookie-ball, Russell hit .369/.432/.594 with 7 HR (26 XBH), 45 RBI, and 16 SB. The 19-year-old also looked great at shortstop and has a good chance to stay there. He’s already a top prospect and further success in full-season ball next year could see him approach overall top-ten status on prospect lists very soon.
GRANT GREEN, 2B (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x

TBD

TBD
x
Green has bounced all over the place and his prospectus status has moved accordingly. His offense has generally been adequate if not overwhelming, and he’s 25 now. Last year at AAA-Sacramento he hit .296 with 15 HR and 75 RBI. The most promising aspect of his season was his decline in strikeouts, from 119 to 75 in near the same amount of plate appearances. He probably won’t walk much and he offers below-average speed. His potential production from second base could be solid.
MILES HEAD, 1B:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x

x
TBD


Miles Head drew some notice with a loud .382/.433/.715 line as a 21-year-old with High-A Stockton in the first half of the season. Moved to AA-Midland in the second half, he was less prolific, hitting .272/.338/.404 and drawing concern with his 16/75 BB/K ratio in 213 at-bats. Overall he hit .333 with 23 HR and 84 RBI. Two signs are encouraging; first, he hits right-handers well, showing no major platoon split, and he showed a similar pattern of production in 2011; struggling in High-A, which he obviously adjusted to this year. His defense is very suspect, so he’ll have to hit to play. But he’s an interesting prospect.

2012 Top Pick: Russell

Sleeper MLB Contributor: MICHAEL TAYLOR, OF, was once a top prospect but has mostly struggled with health and performance since joining Oakland. He may still have the talent to avoid AAAA status.
2013 Outlook and Projection: Unlike the Orioles, the other major surprise contender in last year’s AL playoff race, the Athletics are for real. Billy Beane’s near-complete turnover of the roster yielded spectacular results last year, and many of the success stories are primed for a repeat.  Yoenis Cespedes has superstar potential, and both Jarrod Parker and Brett Anderson are primed for stong pitching seasons. The recent addition of John Jaso also gives Derrek Norris more time to develop into an everyday player. The Oakland roster is suddenly full of guys with old-school “moneyball” skills-high OBP, power, and good base-running, although they are definitely not a softball team, with strong defenders in the outfield. Still, the Athletics look more solid than formidable, and they are playing in the same division as the Rangers and free-spending Angels.  That makes them merely POSSIBLE CONTENDERS.

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