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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, March 1, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: San Francisco Giants

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: San Francisco Giants
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
2012 Record:
94-68, won WS
The Giants won the World Series for the second time in three years. Buster Posey won the MVP. They had a good year.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: none
NOTABLE LOSSES: none

Keys to Success: Can Tim Lincecum rebound from his awful 2012 season? What kind of pitcher can they expect this year? His 3.83 ERA in the second half of the season is still not vintage Lincecum, but it would sure be a welcome improvement. Can they adequately replace Melky Cabrera’s production? Is Gregor Blanco an everyday player? Will Pablo Sandoval ever be healthy and productive in the same season again? Who is their sixth starter/backup in case of injury?

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

GARY BROWN, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
TBD
x
x
Brown look liked he may be a star after a .336/.407/.519 2011, but it turned out to be a result of the good hitting environment in the California League. Brown’s AA trial was a lot less impressive: he hit .279/.345/.385 with 7 HR and 33 SB (but 18 CS) in 538 AB and needed a strong finish to get there. Brown was a first-round draft pick but he’s starting to look like a fourth outfielder; if he can’t improve his base-running, he’s just a defensive extra. His plate discipline is solid but not spectacular and he has gap power, so there is still a chance that he can be an everyday player.
JOE PANIK, SS:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
Panik is another high draft pick, but unlike Brown, he makes the most of his more limited skill set. Panik offers only gap power and average speed, but he has hit well in the minors and his contact ability is exemplary. With High-A San Jose, Panik hit .297/.369/403 with 7 HR and 76 RBI. He also walked more times (58) than he struck out (54), and hit .370 in August. It is still difficult to determine how strong of a hitter he is and he might have to move to second base. Some scouts still doubt he is an everyday player. But Panik works hard and plays hard, so don’t be surprised if he plays above his perceived talent level.

2012 Top Draft Pick: Chris Stratton, RHP 

Sleeper MLB Contributor: ROGER KIESCHNICK, OF, could get playing time if Gregor Blanco falters; he offers one-dimensional power, it’s too bad he and Blanco couldn’t simply combine into one player. 

2013 Outlook and Projection: Brian Sabean is a perplexing GM. His record is littered with some pretty big duds: high-profile free agent signings that have failed (Zito, Rowand), blocking prospects (Ben Molina over Posey), retaining Giants past their expiration date (Molina, Aubrey Huff). Nevertheless, the Giants have won two World Series in three years, and they look strong going forward. This winter, Sabean repeated his flawed plan of two years ago in simply working to retain the exact championship team: Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Affeldt, and Angel Pagan were all given generous contracts to stay Giants. That strategy backfired in 2011, as players like Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell could not duplicate their success from the previous year. Although keeping Scutaro is questionable, this year may be different as the Giants success seems less reliant on fluky performances. They have a well established core and it’s hard to see them not being competitive. How does Sabean do it if he’s such a mediocre team builder? I hesitate to say he’s lucky, although acquiring the career years of Cabrera and Pagan for magic beans seems more fortuitous than premeditated. Overall, he relies on a strong group of talent evaluators at the minor league level, and a great development team. That is to his credit, as it represents a major change from the Barry Bonds years. The Giants have drafted extremely well-Posey, Bumgarner, Cain, and Lincecum were all top picks-and that has formed an elite core that can thrive amid even adequate complementary players. Dumpster diving has yielded them gems like Ryan Vogelsong and Gregor Blanco. Who will be this year’s hero? Boof Bonser?
LIKELY CONTENDERS

Hoopshysteria: Brawling in the Golden State

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Hoopshysteria: Brawling in the Golden State
By Wild on Sports Basketball Analyst Talyon Perry
March 1, 2012

This has been an exciting week for the Golden State Warriors. They started with a small brawl, that involved Indiana's Roy Hibbert (Hibbert given a one game suspension), and continued with a 54 point performance from Stephen Curry (11-13 3pt). Although they lost both games we saw flashes of stardom from Curry that might answer any critics that believe that the Warriors should have traded Curry instead of Monta Ellis. Other notable performances include Kobe's 38-12-7 game against the Mavs ("Amnesty that") and Kevin Durant's third triple-double against New Orleans.

Now for our weekend preview: Get ready for a track meet in Denver, when two of the league's best fast-break teams meet: the Thunder vs the Nuggets. It's hard to argue against the Thunder but it will be a show none the less. Saturday we will enjoy an Eastern Conference match-up between the Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls. These two teams are battling for better playoff seeding. Watch for Brooklyn to take an important victory on a great night from Joe Johnson. 

Sunday will be a Basketball heaven with two great match-ups. First, the Heat take on the Knicks. This will great in large part due to the Carmelo and James match-up; who ever wins that match-up wins the game. We will finish off the day with another OKC Thunder game, when they face the Clippers. Westbrook will try to prove that he is one of the top points guards in the league against Chris Paul who seems next to impossible to shut down. No matter who you're a fan of, this weekend will be some of the year's best basketball. Enjoy.

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman
 
Los Angeles Dodgers
2012 Record:
86-76
The Dodgers thought they’d hit the jackpot after a new owner bought a bunch of Red Sox in August, but they coasted to a second place finish. 

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Zach Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Skip Schumaker
NOTABLE LOSSES: Shane Victorino

Keys to Success: What is the health status of Carl Crawford? The Dodgers have him now for a long long time so they better hope he brings a little bit of what he left behind in Tampa. In fact, the Dodgers are making a rather large gamble that both Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett also are not in rapid decline. Can Dee Gordon mature into an everyday player? How will they juggle their abundance of starting pitching to get the best results? Who will they trade? What could they even get for someone like Aaron Harang?

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

ZACH LEE, RHP:
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
 
 
x
TBD
x
The Dodgers gave Lee five million two years ago but he has yet to really reward their extravagance and right now looks more like a mid-rotation starter than the ace he once promised to be. Lee, 21, went 6-6 with a 4.39 ERA last year with 103 K in 121 IP split between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and AA Chatanooga. He still has time to develop his secondary pitches and his control is good, so he is a good bet to reach the majors as a starter, but he’ll probably start 2013 at AA again.
YASIEL PUIG, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
x
TBD
x
Puig got a seven-year contract from the Dodgers despite not playing in a professional league for over a year. Scouts praise his tools but even so at the time of the signing analysts were perplexed with the length and dollar amount (42 million) for a player that raw. A .354/.442/634 line in 95 AB (23 games) makes the Dodgers look smart but the sample size was still too small to draw any major conclusions, other than perhaps his batting eye is solid for a player who had such a large playing gap. He also split time between the Arizona League (rookie) and the California League (High-A), great hitting environments. He provides a much needed boost to Los Angeles’ farm system, one that is especially devoid of position player talent.


2012 Top Draft Pick: Corey Seager, SS 

Sleeper MLB Contributor: Both ALEX CASTELLANOS and SCOTT VAN SLYKE look ready to step in and do something in the outfield if Carl Crawford isn’t healthy or Andre Ethier is inexplicably traded away. 

2013 Outlook and Projection: Over the past nine months, the Dodgers have spent an extraordinary amount of money, not all wisely, but the sheer bulk of talent brought in promises to give them at least short-term success. Ironically, despite all their imports, the strength of the Dodgers remains in their two elite home-grown superstars Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. No other player on the team can safely be counted on to produce at a top level, although about half a dozen Dodgers are certainly capable of rising to such heights. Their spending has instead bought them upside and all-around depth around the diamond. Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez may never again be all-stars but if they match their 2012 production, they will be very useful for the Dodgers, and major upgrades over who they replaced. In particular, look for Josh Beckett to thrive even without his best stuff in Dodger Stadium. On paper, the Dodgers have surpassed the Giants in terms of overall talent on hand, although they will have to play 162 games to prove that they are in fact, the best. Lots of long-term commitments means that this is the Dodgers team for the next few years at least. But they haven’t run out of money yet.
STRONG CONTENDERS


Thursday, February 28, 2013

NHL Pre-deadline Moves: Canadiens Put East on Notice

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NHL Pre-deadline Moves: Canadiens Put East on Notice

Perhaps the biggest surprise thus far in the NHL season has been the play of the Montreal Canadiens. After finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference a year ago the Canadiens have completely flipped their fortunes in 2013 with a record of 13-4-3, good for 29 points and 1st place. They lead pre-season favorites Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins by 3 points and do not seem to be stopping any time soon.

That message was reaffirmed this week as the Canadiens make, what to this point is the biggest trade of the 2013 season, re-acquiring right wing Michael Ryder from the Dallas Stars for underperforming winger Eric Cole.

After big seasons from both players in 2011-12 with 35 goals a piece, one player continued that scoring touch this season while the other floundered and was subject to considerable criticism. Ryder had six goals and 14 points in 19 games for Dallas this season. Cole, a measly three goals and three assists in 19 games for Montreal.

Aside from the obvious addition of scoring and power play help, the move may be of far greater importance for another reason: they kept Ryder away from a division foe in the Boston Bruins who were rumored to be in discussions with the Stars last week for Ryder's services. Interestingly, Ryder has played for both organizations in the past, including being a part of the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship team in Boston.

Where Ryder fits in with the Canadiens offense will be interesting to see. The top two lines have been fairly productive. That said, adding the scoring ability of Ryder to that mix certainly can't hurt. It is a big move for a team who many believed to be in a bit of a rebuild this season. They are telling that the league the time is now. Watch out Eastern Conference! The Canadiens are going to formidable team to beat for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NBA Power Rankings - February 27th Edition

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NBA Power Rankings
February 27, 2013
 
With the trade deadline now passed we are coming down to crunch time. The top of the pack remains mostly in tack this week while we see a bit of shuffling in the mid ranks. Where does your team stack up?

1. San Antonio Spurs (45-13)
2. Miami Heat (40-14)
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-15)
4. Los Angeles Clippers (40-18)
5. Memphis Grizzlies (37-18)
6. Indiana Pacers (35-21)
7. Denver Nuggets (36-22)
8. New York Knicks (33-20)
9. Golden State Warriors (33-23)
10. Brooklyn Nets (33-24)
11. Atlanta Hawks (32-23)
12. Chicago Bulls (32-24)
13. Houston Rockets (31-27)
14. Boston Celtics (30-27)
15. Utah Jazz (31-26)
16. Los Angeles Lakers (28-30)
17. Milwaukee Bucks (26-28)
18. Portland Trail Blazers (26-30)
19. Dallas Mavericks (25-30)
20. Toronto Raptors (23-34)
21. Washington Wizards (18-37)
22. Philadelphia 76ers (22-32)
23. Detroit Pistons (22-37)
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33)
25. New Orleans Hornets (20-37)
26. Sacramento Kings (19-38)
27. Phoenix Suns (18-39)
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-38)
29. Orlando Magic (15-41)
30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-43)


See Last Week's Rankings Here 

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Chicago Cubs

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Chicago Cubs
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman
Chicago Cubs
2012 Record:
61-101
The Cubs were bad, as expected, but year one of the Theo Epstein brought in some promising prospects and a great deal of hope for the future.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker
NOTABLE LOSSES: Bryan LaHair (if that even counts?)

Keys to Success: What growth is in store for Starlin Castro and Tony Rizzo? Both are solid young everyday players right now but neither is a star just yet. Castro in particular has become a popular player due to his youth and immediate success, but he could improve upon an aggressive approach. Will Alfonso Soriano and/or Matt Garza perform well enough to land the Cubs decent prospects later on in the season? Is there gold to be mined from Scotts Feldman and Baker? Can anyone spell Jeff Samardzija without looking?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key 
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool
 
JAVIER BAEZ, SS:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
xx
x
x
 
TBD
x
Baez is one of the most exciting prospects in the minors right now, for reasons good and bad. He has tremendous power, and not just for a shortstop, and his hitting game overall looked great in 57 games at low-A Peoria, as the teenager (he’s 19) hit .333/.383/.596 with 12 HR, 33 RBI, and 20 SB. He fell off quite a bit at the end of the season with High-A Daytona: .188/.244/.400 with 4 HR and 4 SB in 80 AB/23 games. The raw numbers do not indicate just how aggressive he was at the plate: his overall .346 OBP is boosted by 11 HBP, and he walked just 14 times in 321 PA (he struck out 69 times). Baez is the kind of talent who could never walk and still hit .300 with power, but he will probably have to make adjustments, as his time in Daytona proved. If he starts being more selective, watch out.
JORGE SOLER, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
TBD
x
x
Soler, 21, is a talented Cuban import who could move relatively quickly but spent his playing time in 2012 between rookie-ball and Low-A Peoria. Overall he hit .299/.369/.463 with 5 HR and 12 SB in 134 AB, getting better as the season wore on. Despite his limited playing time, scouts were high on Soler who got a large contract from Chicago despite his rawness. The signing shows a strong commitment by Theo Epstein and his team to invest in developing talent via the draft and international market (he also added Kyuji Fujikawa this year), a better use of resources than signing veterans to fill in the gaps during a losing season. Soler is very athletic and fits best in right field. He’ll probably start in High-A this year.
AL ALMORA, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
TBD
x
x
Almora is an incredible athlete and he was Chicago’s top draft pick last summer. He debuted in rookie-level with the AZ Cubs and Boise, overall hitting .323/.331/.464 with 2 HR, 19 RBI, and 5 SB in 140 AB. The numbers are not as important at this point as the scouting reports, which praise his all around ability and attitude. He only walked twice, which is a concern, but his very low strikeout rate is very encouraging. Almora is just 19 this year and could start the season with low-A Peoria, although Chicago could have him work on pitch recognition in extended spring training, as they did with Javier Baez last year. Either way he’s a great prospect.
ARODYS VIZCAINO, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
x
x
x
x
 
Vizcaino missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery. Before that stalled his timetable he was a hot prospect with Atlanta, and when he was traded last year for Paul Maholm he instantly became Chicago’s top pitching prospect.  Before he went down, Vizcaino was on the verge of pitching in the majors-in fact, he threw 17 innings with Atlanta in 2011 at the end of the year. A crowded rotation almost forced Vizcaino to the bullpen, but with Chicago he could start again, and there is no reason not to at least let him try. His overall minor league numbers pre-2012 are strong: a 2.91 ERA, 279 K in 269 IP, and a low 2.3 BB/9. Health concerns could also move him to the bullpen, but he should have some role with Chicago by midseason.
KYUJI FUJIKAWA, RHP (reliever, rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
x
x
x
x
x
Fujikawa, 32, was signed to a two-year contract and comes to America after some very successful seasons with the Hanshin Tigers in the Japan Central League. In his last six seasons for the Tigers, Fujikawa had a 1.36 ERA, 202 saves, and 12.4 K/9. He could be Chicago’s closer if Carlos Marmol continues to be wild and ineffective in the role.
BRETT JACKSON, OF (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
 
x
x
x
Jackson is a talented, athletic center fielder who’s success could easily be undone by his excessive strikeout totals, usually not a great indicator for having a long major league career. At his best, he offers good defense and a solid power/speed combination and if everything goes right he could have a 20/20 season in the majors. Unfortunately, he might not hit enough to play every day, or even play at all. Jackson hit .256/.338/.479 with 15 HR and 27 SB last year in 106 games with AAA Iowa. Included in those numbers are 12 triples (good), 47 walks (also good), and 158 strikeouts (very bad) in just 467 PA. His 33.8 K% was the second most in AAA, behind only journeyman and ex-big leaguer Bill Hall. His numbers got even more extreme when he moved to Chicago: in 44 games and 120 AB, he hit .175/.303/.342 with 59 K, striking out in almost half of his plate appearances. Even the most notorious hackers who play every day are not so prolific at wind generation: among those who qualified for the batting title, leader Adam Dunn struck out in “only” 33.8% of his plate appearances. Jackson will get a second chance to show he can be an asset of some kind this year, perhaps a (very) poor man’s Curtis Granderson if things turn out right.

2012 Top Draft Pick: Almora

Sleeper MLB Contributor: 3B JOSH VITTERS is a long-shot to overcome his problems with pitch recognition, as he swings at everything. However, his natural hitting ability could still allow him success. He’s a good bet to hit better than his .121 mark last year, at least!

2013 Outlook and Prediction: The Cubs approach since Epstein took over has been to quietly rebuild until the team looks good enough to strike. They’ve signed a handful of role players over the past two winters, nice additions like David DeJesus and Travis Wood, but these are not the kinds of guys who will propel them back to the playoffs. The Cubs have tried to trade veterans at opportune moments, and got lucky when Ryan Dempster put together three strong months, good enough to land them a solid prospect in third basemen Chris Villanueve. Might Alfonso Soriano be able to land them a similar package if he continues to hit for power? The Cubs might have to chip in a lot of money to get someone back who could help them. The real blue-chip asset the Cubs have to deal is Matt Garza; they gave up a lot to acquire him two years ago and if he shows enough this year he will be all over trade rumors, especially around the deadline. The Cubs already have some young players on their major league roster who they can build around, and Edwin Jackson was signed long-term with an eye towards the future as well. Still, 2013 will be spent determine where their holes are in the lineup and the rotation. Their minor league talent is very lopsided towards position players-only Tommy John ‘veteran’ Arodys Vizcaino is close to the majors-so they still might have to spend a few years finding the right guys to fall in line behind Jackson and Jeff Samardzija.
REBUILDING (could contend by: 2015)
 

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman
 
Pittsburgh Pirates
Record:
79-83
Another losing season in Pittsburgh; for two years running, they have made lucky/unsustainable deep runs into July/August, only to come back to Earth.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: Russell Martin, Francisco Liriano
NOTABLE LOSSES: Joel Hanrahan
 
Keys to Success: How long will it take for them to realize Clint Barmes is terrible? What version of AJ Burnett will appear in 2013, the “good” one or the “Yankee” one? Can James McDonald pitch at a mid-rotation level of success for a full season? How will their younger pitchers develop, and which ones will get first crack at the rotation? What roles are envisioned for guys like Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, who they acquired last year and seem to fill similar niches? Will they work with platoons at 1B and RF to minimize major splits in stats from guys like Garrett Jones? 2013 would be a good time for Starling Marte to establish himself as a second star behind Andrew McCutchen in the lineup.

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key 
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool
 
GERRIT COLE, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
xx
x
x
x
x
x
Cole did nothing to reduce his image as a future star one year after being draft first overall in the 2011 draft. The 22-year-old went 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA and 136 K in 132 IP across three levels (one AAA start), without major differences in his stat line at any stop. He is sometimes ranked behind guys like Jose Fernandez and Shelby Miller because he wasn’t truly dominant at any level, mixing in some bad outings, but his solid progress makes him a very low risk to be anything worse than a mid-rotation starter by the end of this year. Pittsburgh might want to be cautious with a player this valuable but he is more than on track to anchor their rotation for a while.
KYLE MCPHERSON, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
 
x
x
xx
TBD
x
McPherson has some of the best control in the minor leagues, with a career 1.5 BB/9 in almost 600 IP. He has an average fastball, however, and he’s 25 next year. Is he Kevin Slowey or is he Doug Fister? Sometimes control freaks without great stuff are hard to predict, and many don’t pan out despite their superlative numbers. McPherson did look good in a brief major league trial, going 0-2 with a 2.73 in ten games last year with a 7/21 BB/K ratio in 26.1 IP.  In the minors, he went 3-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 12 starts between AA-AAA. He only walked 9 batters in 67 IP, against 63 K. He could open 2013 in Pittsburgh’s rotation, although without major success he’ll probably be bumped to the bullpen by a guy like Cole.
JAMESON TAILLON, RHP:
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
xx
TBD
 
x
TBD
x
Taillon’s stuff is ahead of his performance at this point, which could indicate command issues. In particular his K/9 (7.4 last year) is low for someone who throws as hard as he does. A superb AA debut-3 wins in three stars, a 1.59 ERA and shiny 1/18 BB/K in 17 IP-was a nice end to a mostly mediocre season. With High-A Bradenton, he went 9-8 with a 3.55 ERA in 23 starts, which is fine overall, but he only struck out 98 K in 125 IP, which is low for a top prospect in a hitter’s league. His control has been very strong and his overall numbers are decent, but he will need time to time in AA and AAA to improve himself to the point where he can be a no. 2 starter or ace. I have a feeling that he will not immediately become one even on moving to the majors, but there remains a lot to dream on. He’ll be 22 this year.
ALEN HANSON, SS, and GREGORY POLANCO, OF:
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x
x
x
TBD
x
x
File these guys under “names to know.” They will play in High-A Bradenton this year, so they aren’t close, but this pair offers five-tool, star potential at their respective positions.
 
2012 Top Draft Pick: Barrett Barnes, OF
 
Sleeper MLB Contributor: relievers VICTOR BLACK and BRYAN MORRIS were once injury-prone starters who are now older than most prospects but throw hard and thrived in the high minors. Joel Hanrahan’s departure leaves them an opening to earn saves this year in Pittsburgh. 
 
2013 Outlook and Projection: Is this the year? The one where Pittsburgh finally breaks through and wins at least the wild card? They finally might have the talent to do it, as their top prospects reach the upper minors and those who have already made it to Pittsburgh are ready to succeed. Pittsburgh is in a similar situation to fellow long-time losers in Kansas City, but GM Kevin Huntington has opted for a far more measured approach than the Royals’ impatient glory grab this winter. Since the trading deadline, Huntington has tried to improve his team by trading for young veterans and making upside free-agent plays. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is the only older player who has cost significant prospects. Huntington likes buying low on players—Jose Tabata, Gabby Sanchez, etc, with mixed results. AJ Burnett represents the apex of this philosophy, but he’s also struck fool’s gold on former prospects like Tim Alderson (who?) and Andy LaRoche (what?) in the past. He’s shied away from acquiring top talent from other teams, instead banking on the Pirates’ top draft picks to move up and succeed. So far only Andrew McCutchen has established himself as a star, although Pedro Alvarez now looks like at least an everyday player. Their pitching development could make or break 2013; they have no aces on paper but they have depth to throw five solid guys out there and someone like Gerrit Cole or even Jeff Locke could become a top starter immediately. Two things are working against the Pirates this year. First, prospects are inherently unpredictable and while Pittsburgh is on the cusp of long-term success, some re-tooling may need to happen to field a contender. Second, the Reds and Cardinals are both unusually strong teams who the Pirates have to play 35+ times. To be so close, and yet so far!
UNLIKELY CONTENDERS
 

MLB 2013 Team Preview: Milwaukee Brewers

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MLB 2013 Team Preview: Milwaukee Brewers
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

Milwaukee Brewers
2012 Record:
83-79
The Brewers suffered a comedown from an all-in 2012 bid, and although they had a surprising late run, it was too little, too late. 

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: none
NOTABLE LOSSES: Shawn Marcum, ½ a season of Corey Hart (injuries)

Keys to success: Will they have enough pitching? The Brewers are counting on their younger prospects in the high minors to contribute significantly. Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers are more about results than stuff…how long can they keep it going? Only Yovani Gallardo remains as a starter with a consistent track record of success. What are they going to do about filling the hole at first base left by Corey Hart’s injury?

Prospect Watch
Prospect Key 
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool
 
Mark Rogers, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
x
TBD
 
x
 
Rogers was a first round draft pick eight years ago…and somehow is still one inning short of losing his rookie eligibility. He’s looked good in the brief time he’s had with the Brewers, going 3-1 with a 3.43 ERA and 52 K in 49 IP. Unfortunately, he’s had lots of trouble staying healthy and effective in his career. Last year in AAA he went 6-6 with a 4.72 ERA and a 49/74 BB/K ratio in 95 IP. He’s always had control problems, which means despite his big league success he’s probably going to end up being a reliever, and he could be a good one since he throws very hard.
Wily Peralta, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
x
x
 
 
x
 
Peralta is another pitching prospect who finished his season with a nice run in Milwaukee after struggling in AAA. In six starts, he went 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA and 11/23 BB/K ratio in 29 IP. However, with AAA-Nashville, he went 7-11 with a 4.66 ERA and while his 143 K in 147 IP is nice, his 78 BB total is way too high. Peralta has mostly had success in the minors, and ended 2012 on a strong note. He still has a good mix of pitches, which still gives him a chance to be a dominant starter. However, his lack of command/control to date means there is a wide range of plausible outcomes for his career, from star to AAAA washout.
Hunter Morris, 1B (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
xx
 
TBD
 
 
 
The injury to Corey Hart speeds up Morris’ timetable in a big way. Initially expected to prove himself at AAA-Nashville, the big slugger has a good chance this spring to finish as Milwaukee’s opening day first baseman. Morris has big power; he hit .303/.357/.563 with 28 HR 113 RBI in 136 games for AA-Huntsville. That was by far his best season yet. He’s very aggressive and even if he has enough bat speed for the majors, he probably won’t hit for average. Morris only walked 40 times last year but that was nearly double his 2011 rate so he is learning and it is very possible he will adjust to the majors enough to play every day.
Tyler Thornburg, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health
TBD
x
x
TBD
x
x
Thornburg has moved very quickly through the minors, and pitched in eight games with Milwaukee at the end of the year, going 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA and 22 K in 20 IP. The red flag in his debut was 8 HR allowed; he will have to do better and/or improve his fly-ball rate. Thornburg has a solid but unspectacular fastball that could play up in relief. He mixes his pitches and did well enough in the minors to earn a chance at starting. Last year between AA-AAA he went 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA and a strong 37/113 BB/K ratio in 112 IP. His control improved last year after a wilder-but-dominant 2011 (2.57 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 10.5 K/9). Whether Milwaukee needs a mid-rotation starter or a late-inning reliever will determine his role for most of this year. 


2012 Top Draft Pick: Clint Coulter, C 

Sleeper MLB Contributor: Counter OF KHRIS DAVIS’ age and health concerns against the fact that he hit .380 with power in limited time in AA last year. 

2013 Outlook and Projection: The Brewers always knew they would probably not be as good as they were in 2011, but 2012 was still a disappointment. Ironically, it was not the loss of Prince Fielder that caused them to slip down to .500. In fact, GM Doug Melvin made a brilliant move by signing Aramis Ramirez to a more cost-effective deal than Fielder’s. Ramirez in fact may have been MORE valuable last year when you consider position differences. It was the pitching, especially the bullpen, which eroded their success. The Brewers relievers had the worst ERA in the league at 4.66, after pitching to a 3.32 mark in 2011. John Axford and Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez were terrible at the end of games. Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers were surprisingly competent but that was not enough to offset losing 20-odd starts from Greinke (trade) and Marcum (injury). Milwaukee had some payroll flexibility this winter but they made the dangerous gamble that enough of their young pitchers are ready to step up behind Yovani Gallardo, who himself is not quite an ace. Their one major pitching acquisition, Tom Gorzelanny, is a nice swingman/long reliever, but he’s been spotty in the recent past when starting. With expected attrition, the Brewers might be lucky to get a reliable starter from among Thornburg, Peralta, and Rogers, but all three have talent so you never know. Left-hander Chris Narveson will be back but he was never anything special. Milwaukee still has a strong, balanced offense, mixing in speed and power around the diamond. They don’t have much depth, a fact already exposed by Corey Hart’s injury. Because of the rotation’s general lack of experience, Milwaukee could either see the bottom fall out this year, or could sustain hopes at making the playoffs. They have enough minor league depth for a trade or two but don’t quite have the pieces for an elite player.
POSSIBLE CONTENDERS

Monday, February 25, 2013

NHL Power Rankings: February 26th Edition

Wild on Sports
NHL Power Rankings
February 26, 2013

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

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