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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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Thursday, February 20, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

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MLB 2014 Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Doorman

2013 Overview:
Toronto went on all-in last year, spending most of their prospect depth on half of Miami’s roster and the reigning NL Cy Young winner, RA Dickey. On paper they looked like favorites to win the division. But you don’t play the games on paper and things fell apart in a bad way last year. Toronto could off to a bad start and never really contended. Almost nothing went right; offensive stars Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista missed large chunks of the year due to injuries, catcher JP Arencibia put up a mind-boggling .227 OBP, the back end of the rotation went MIA for most of the year and Toronto didn’t have the depth to recover, resorting to AAA fodder like Todd Redmond and Chad Jenkins. RA Dickey was solid but unspectacular and Brandon Morrow took a big step backwards. The list goes on.

Winter Grade: D 
Coming: Dioner Navarro
Going: JP Arencibia, Josh Johnson, Rajai Davis
The Blue Jays were linked to several pitchers (Jeff Samardzija, Masahiro Tanaka) all off-season but in the end did absolutely nothing to address the gaping holes in their rotation. The only real move they made was to jettison their whiff-happy catcher, JP Arencibia, and are gambling that Dioner Navarro can come close to matching his surprising production from last year. To really look good going into 2014, Toronto probably needed another middle infielder, at least one dependable rotation arm, and perhaps some more arms in the bullpen as well. Right now they seem stuck in neutral.

Wild Card:
Anthony Gose is only 23 and still is the most athletic player on their roster; he is the kind of guy you bet on to break out. If Gose can tap into some of his power and avoid striking out too much, he could become a similar player to Carlos Gomez, providing everything except batting average.

Key Contract Years:
Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera, Adam Lind ($7.5 million option), Brandon Morrow ($10 million option). Lind’s option might be an easy pick up for Toronto, if he duplicates last year’s production. Morrow is more suspect, mainly due to health concerns.

Righties Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin will compete for a rotation spot in spring training. The former has better stuff while the latter shows better control (and has already made his big league debut). Neither one is supposed to be an ace, but Stroman is also a candidate to move to the bullpen, where he could thrive immediately. Ryan Goins is the surprise incumbent at second base, after starting their in September. He played strong defense but hit an empty .252 and has never shown the ability in the minors to be anything more than a bench player, if that. He’s also already 26 so what you see is what you get.

Key Questions:
What is the health status of their back end starters (Morrow, JA Happ)?
Can any of their former top prospects, like Kyle Drabek, step up and reclaim some lost luster after missing so much time?
How much of a rope do they have before management is forced to pull the plug and start trading pieces?

Farm System Overview: YELLOW (average)
Several interesting pitchers are near ready for some type of role in the majors, while their lone blue chip prospect, rhp Aaron Sanchez, needs to work on his command in AA. The Blue Jays were one of the teams the new draft rules targeted, as they had spent a lot of money on players in late rounds despite the slot recommendations. They still have a lot of young talent at the lower levels, some of whom could break out this year. Not signing their top pick last year hurt, but they will have 2 picks among the first 10 in 2014, which could be a huge boost for them.

2014 Prognosis: Unlikely Contenders
The main takeaway is that Toronto is now a franchise left in limbo, with too many interesting pieces for them to be dismissed, but not enough depth or secondary talent on their roster to give them flexibility. Now that Baltimore has acquired more pitching, Toronto looks like the worst team in the AL East on paper, but that’s where the Red Sox were a year ago. Essentially the Blue Jays are in a holding pattern until they prove that this roster is definitely uncompetitive, at which point names like Jose Bautista or Mark Buehrle could be dealt for prospects. Back to the drawing board.

USA vs. Canada Across the Board

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USA vs. Canada Across the Board
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

Life the way it should be!

No, we are not talking about the State motto of Maine. Instead we will be treated to Olympic Hockey rivalry of its finest over the next two days as North American juggernauts Canada and the United States square off with medal bids on the line for both the Men's and Women's brackets.

The fun starts on Thursday at 12:30est when the women square off in the gold medal game. The two premier clear cut favorites coming into the Olympics have done nothing to dis-spell that notion, crushing all opponents in their paths. Those path actually crossed in the round robin portion, offering us a treat sneak peak of what most assumed would be a preview of the gold medal game.

Sure enough, here we are again! Canada won the first match-up 3-2 in a very back and forth game. The USA won the previous high profile match-up at the World Championships.

Clearly these two are the creme of the crop in women's hockey. Thursday's match-up should only further showcase the elite talent that these two clearly have.

On the men's side, the game that many hoped would be for the gold medal in a rematch of 2010 comes a round early as the two will do battle in semifinal action on Friday at 12pm EST. Both teams have shown flashes of brilliance and dominance throughout but both have been tested in down to the wire fashion making for a pretty level playing field coming into this one.

The United States comes into the game as the highest scoring offense in the tournament -- an unbelievable thought considering the criticism prior to the tournament about a lack of goal scoring fire power. The line of Pavalski-Van Reimsdyk and Kessel has been nearly unstoppable. Patrick Kane seems to be a bit of a sleeping giant. When he has the puck on his stick he seems to be in a league of his own, the that has not translated to goals as you would expect. Recently, paired with Ryan Kessler and Dustin Brown that scoring touch seems to be just a tick away from breaking out. If USA can get two lines producing at the rate of the Kessel line, they will be very tough to defend.

The Canadians survived a bit of a scare in the quarterfinals against a very hot Lavian goaltender. Goal scoring has not been the strength to this point that many expected, but with the depth they have igniting the scoring touch could come at a moments notice. The line of Getzlaf, Perry and the rotating third wheel has been the strongest line for them all tournament. Defensively, they have yet to really face an offensive with sustainable firepower. That said, they have held their own in the defensive end and Carey Price has looked like a goaltender capable of leading a team to a gold medal. It will be interesting to see if they re-insert P.K. Subban into the line-up on the back end in search of a little more offensive firepower.

Any way you slice it, we are in for some unbeatable, world class hockey the next two days.  Buckle up folks, we are in for one wild ride!

NFL Draft Prospectus: TE Jace Amero

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NFL Draft Prospectus: TE Jace Amero
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jennifer Jeffrey

Jace Jordan Amaro was born on June 26, 1992 (damn, he is young, either that, or I am just old)

In high school, at MacArthur High in San Antonio, Texas, Amaro was an All-American tight end. According to Rivals.com, he is regarded as a four-star recruit. Jace was ranked as the number three tight end in his class. During his junior year, Amaro suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Amaro went to Texas Tech University. During his first game against Northwestern State, as a sophomore, he had 4 catches for 49 yards and pretty much stayed consistent the rest of the season. The last game against West Virginia, he had 5 catches for 156 yards and 1 touchdown, his best game of his sophomore season.

In the same game, he was sidelined after he had a hard hit to his midsection while he was jumping for the ball. Later, it was diagnosed as a grade III spleen laceration, fractured rib and had internal bleeding (ouch). He was hospitalized and need 6.5 units of blood; he was bedridden for three weeks.

The Player...
Even after only playing 6 regular season games in 2012, Jace was named a 1st team All-Big 12 Conference player by ESPN. The sophomore season ended with 25 catches for 409 yards and 4 touchdowns. Jace did recover from his injury and played in the 2012 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas against Minnesota. But, apparently he punched a defender and was ejected from the game....jeez.

Amaro started his 2013 junior season strong. He led the country at his position in receptions and receptions yards through seven games and led in reception yardage on 3rd down. For his efforts, he earned Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Week following a 136 recovery yard and 2 touchdown performances over West Virginia.

Jace Amaro is alongside Michael Crabtree as the only Red Raiders to record eight or more receptions in 6 consecutive games, ever. Watch out for Richard Sherman.

During his junior year at college, Jace suffered significant injuries. A hit in a Kansas game forced him to be carted off the field. Also, a high hit to the helmet again had him returning to the locker room.

Amaro broke the single season tight end receiving record during the 2013 Holiday Bowl, with 8 receptions and 112 yards.

Draft Prospectus...

Amero is projected as a mid-late first round selection in the 2014 Draft.

“I am kind of unique. I can play receiver and tight end. I know I didn’t play as much tight end at Texas Tech, but I know I can.” Amaro said

He is one of the top 3 tight ends in this upcoming draft along with NC’s Eric Ebron and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins.  Of the three, Ebron looks to be most athletic, Seferian-Jenkins has the best size and speed and Amaro seems to be the best receiver.

NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock says the New England Patriots may be looking Amaro’s way.

“Seferian-Jenkins, for lack of a better term, is built like Rob Gronkowski, whereas Amaro from Texas Tech is built more like Aaron Hernandez. So there are a lot of people that like Amaro and point to Hernandez as that, quote, kind of guy.”

I hope he isn’t made out of glass like Gronkowski. But, it seems he is injury prone.

At 6 foot 5, 257 pounds, he has the frame to block. Amaro will more than likely be the first tight end drafted in May. Or drafted as a receiver. Let’s hope. I know a team who could use him.

Monday, February 17, 2014

2014 Olympic Men's Hockey Bracket & Schedule

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2014 Olympic Hockey Bracket & Schedule

The teams are set! Let the real hockey begin!

The group round robin round is now over and we have our official rankings and bracket for the 2014 Sochi Olympic games for Men's Ice Hockey. What an exciting first week to Olympic hockey it has been! Russia, many experts favorites to make it to the gold medal game on home ice have looked very human, losing a thriller to the United States and surviving a nail bitter against Slovakia. They have arguably three of the top 5 offensive players in the world on their team, yet have had a very difficult time finding the back of the net.

For Team USA and Canada it has been business as usual. The United States won the most exciting Olympic game is recent memory, knocking off Russia in an eight-round shootout. The biggest question mark coming into the games for the USA was goal scoring. That has not been an issue at all as the USA has the best goal differential in the tournament at +11. Canada has been as advertised. Even though they have not gotten a whole lot of production out of their big name stars, they have controlled the play in all three of their games and look ever bit the team that won gold in Vancouver. The ways things are set up, we are likely to see a USA-Canada match-up in the semifinals.

Sweden, 2006 golf medal winners, come into the quarterfinals as the the #1 seed. They are the only team in the tournament to collect the full possible nine points with three regulation wins. As expected, Henrik Lundquist has led the way in net, shutting out the surprise Switzerland team 1-0 and leading the charge against the Czech Republic in a 4-2 victory. He will be more important than ever now in a likely semi-final match-up against Finland or Russia.

You can find the complete TV schedule for the remaining games here...

Feb. 18
3 a.m.

Slovenia vs. AustriaNBCSN
Feb. 18
7:30 a.m.

Russia vs. NorwayUSA
Feb. 18

Switzerland vs. LatviaNBCSN
Feb. 18

Czech vs. SlovakiaMSNBC
Feb. 19
3 a.m.

Sweden vs. SloveniaNBCSN
Feb. 19
7:30 a.m.

Finland vs. RussiaNBCSN
Feb. 19

USA vs. CzechUSA
Feb. 19

Canada vs. LaviaMSNBC
Feb. 21
7 a.m.

Sweden vs. FinlandNBCSN
Feb. 21

USA vs. CanadaNBCSN
Feb. 22
10 a.m.

Bronze Medal GameNBCSN
Feb. 23
7 a.m.

Gold Medal GameNBC

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Detroit Tigers

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MLB 2014 Team Preview: Detroit Tigers
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

2014 Overview:
Roar! The Tigers have owned the AL Central division for the past three years, averaging 92 wins and playing deep into the ALCS in each season. Also in two out of the last three years, the Tigers have provided both the league’s MVP and Cy Young award winner, a testament to the extraordinary talent they’ve been able to put on the field. Also in two out of the last three years, the Tigers have provided both the league’s MVP and Cy Young award winner, a testament to the extraordinary talent they’ve been able to put on the field. Only the surprising Red Sox juggernaut was able to stop them from a second straight pennant.

Winter Grade: B-
Coming: Ian Kinsler, Rajai Davis, Joe Nathan
Going: Prince Fielder, Doug Fister, Jhonny Peralta, Omar Infante, Joaquin Benoit Every three or four years we are reminded that the Tigers don’t quite have the payroll flexibility of the largest market teams (Yankees, Phillies, etc). After several years of signing high-profile free agents, Detroit spent the winter re-tooling and attempting to find some payroll flexibility while still remaining the team to beat in the Central. Trading Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler is a deceptively good move, as Kinsler’s defense makes up for some of the difference in power, while allowing Miguel Cabrera to move back to first base. However, the Doug Fister trade was rightfully panned, as Dave Dombrowski didn’t get enough in return for the mid-rotation stalwart, possibly because he was myopically focused on specific players in the return.

Wild Card(s): Alex Avila was a down-ballot MVP candidate three years, but injuries and poor performances have made him more of an afterthought. Still just 27, a repeat of his 2011 season would be huge, especially now that Prince Fielder’s absence leaves a big hole in the lineup.

Key Contract Years: Max Scherzer, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez. Does Detroit have the financial wherewithal to keep Scherzer, even if he repeats his Cy Young season? The latter two aren’t as significant, and might be playing year-to-year after their contracts are up.

Nick Castellanos will play third base for Detroit this year, and offers batting-title upside eventually. He cut down on his strikeouts in AAA last year and should have an immediate impact, even if he’s not a star. He played in the outfield last year so he’ll have to spend spring training re-learning his old position. On the pitching side, last year’s ‘closer of the future’, Bruce Rondon, still hasn’t lost his rookie status or his fastball, with a solid debut in 30 games last year (3.45 ERA, 9.3 K/9). The Tigers are very high on lefty starter Robbie Ray, who they acquired from the Nationals for Doug Fister.

Key Questions:
How will defensive whiz Jose Iglesias fare in his sophomore season?
He hit like a star for Boston, tailed off considerably with Detroit (.259/.306/.348), and may always see his value rise and fall on empty batting averages.
How much offense can they expect from left field, currently expected to be some kind of Rajai Davis/Andy Dirks platoon?
Does Miguel Cabrera have protection in this lineup? Does he need it?

Farm System Overview: YELLOW (average) 
After Castellanos, Detroit has nobody with star upside. Last year was the first year since 2009 that they had a first-round draft pick (they took rhp Jonathan Crawford), although they’ve spent first-round money on guys like Castellanos before. However, they have some interesting middle infield depth and enough pitching to use in trades or reinforcements going forward.

2014 Prognosis: Strong Contenders
Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez give Detroit an unbeatable 1-3 punch in the rotation, and it’s entirely possible that the offense lost from losing Peralta and Fielder will be compensated by their new and improved defensive alignment in the infield. They could still use another power threat, but if it becomes an issue they have the means to acquire a bat midseason.

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