2012 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Preview: Part 2

10. Yonder Alonso, SD, OF – One of the best first names in the Bigs lived up to his lofty name in his stint with Cincy last summer, to the tune of a .409 wOBA in 98 PAs. Since traded to San Diego as part of the Latos package, Alonso might not see as many balls go over the wall in spacious Petco, but he should have a full-time gig in 2011. He also hits for a good enough average and gets on base often enough (career .299/.354/.479 line) that he could have a sneaky .280/20/80 season in him, in which case he has waiver/late round gold written all over him.

9. Bryce Harper, WAS, OF – Mr. Future HOFer is ranked this low only because of the probability that he doesn’t crack a couple hundred PAs in the majors this year. Remember, he is only 19, Washington has to handle him with kid gloves, and I don’t think he is ahead of the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., who ‘only’ put up a .333 wOBA at that age – and he had a full season of action. I can’t see the Nats having him start out in D.C. in April, as by keeping him down in AAA for a couple months, they keep another year of team control. If Harper makes his debut this summer, it could be very exciting stuff. I personally would not reach for him as a 2012 stud, but would it really surprise anyone if he has a 25/20 rookie campaign in half a season?

8. Devin Mesoraco, CIN, C – Mesoraco could end up being an all-star this year, he could ride the pine 3-4 games a week or be sent down to AAA, or something in between. So it goes with young talented MLB-ready players under Dusty Baker. No question in my mind Mesoraco is the better offensive player compared to Ryan Hannigan but Baker loves his vets, which could hurt the future star this year as far as playing time. However, I have him this high because I believe his play (backed up by his .289/.371/.484 2011 Triple A season) will force Baker’s hand sooner rather than later. He has a real shot at a .270/60/17/65 season, which should place him near the upper echelon of fantasy catchers in 2012.

7. Yoenis Cespedes, OAK, OF – I am not as high on the Cuban import as some, but I do think the ’26 year old rookie’ (I’d take the 26 with a grain of salt) should be quite productive as a starter in the A’s outfield. The track record for Cuban defector position players is a mixed bag – for every Alexei Ramirez and Kendry Morales, there’s a Yuniesky Betancourt and Rey Ordonez – and international players always seem to struggle early on when joining MLB. I have him in the top 10 because he is toolsy, he should start, and because he did show amazing average/power/on base skills last season in Cuba (33 HR, .333 AVG, .424 OBP).

6. Dayan Viciedo, CWS, OF – Speaking of defectors (2008), here is another one at #6. Viciedo should have the RF job to himself this year with the trade of Carlos Quentin, and with his prodigious power potential, should also be a near lock for 20 HRs. He also shouldn’t kill you in AVG, but don’t expect too disciplined an eye at the plate, as he only last year started to be a bit more selective with his swings. He gets my vote over Alonso because of the home park, and over Cespedes because of experience.

5. Yu Darvish, TEX, SP – For $110 million dollars, if I am a Ranger’s fan, this guy needs to be a top 20 pitcher, let alone a top 5 fantasy prospect. But for our purposes, he should be the 2nd best ‘rookie’ pitcher behind Matt Moore, which should translate into a solid, if unspectacular 2012 campaign. The last Japanese pitcher hyped this much was, as we all know, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and we know how that turned out – although his owners did love that 2008 season. I’d let others buy into the hype that he is a top 20 fantasy starter, but he is a great value if he falls around #40.

4. Mike Trout, LAA, OF – Looks like the immensely talented Trout will be the odd man out to start the season in Anaheim, as there currently is no starting OF position available to him. But this is only because the front office is too heavily invested in Vernon “21 million a year for zero WAR” Wells and Torii “negative UZR” Hunter. After a few months tops, the Angels should see the light and get Trout into the starting lineup, where he should be a very good power/speed/runs threat. The skills are there, all he needs is the opportunity. I think there is a solid gap between him and the top 3 because of this, but that could change fast if one of the old men gets hurt/is terrible early.

3. Jesus Montero, SEA, DH/C – the lone holdover from last year’s list, he was only a disappointment from an opportunity standpoint, crushing in his limited ABs in Sept. This year, no excuses for ol’ Jesus; it is put up or shut up time in a starring role in the Great Northwest. The home park is not nearly the bandbox Yankee Stadium is, but his power/average combo and ability to go opposite field should translate anywhere; just temper expectations for a 30 HR rookie season. He will start out in Yahoo leagues as only a UTIL, but should gain catcher eligibility soon after the season starts, as the Mariners seem bent on letting him catch a couple of games a week. I say he puts up pretty handsomely on his way to around a .280/.340/.480 line and potential AL rookie of the year consideration.

2. Matt Moore, TB, SP – He’s the top rookie SP, and I don’t even think it is close. High K rate, solid BB rate, low WHIP, mid-90s heat, good and getting better change-up, a clear track record of dominance at all levels – including 9+ sparkling innings in the bigs last fall – the kid has it all. I don’t see much of an innings cap coming, as he pitched over 160 last year, and he could end up being TB’s ace by mid-season. But even tempering expectations gives you a back end fantasy starter to be proud of. Moore is the real deal.

1. Jason Kipnis, CLE, 2b – Kipnis just barely exceeded the rookie eligibility threshold in 2011 by a whole 6 ABs, but we will make an exception for him here. He had a hell of a debut last summer, hitting 7 HR in 150 PAs, to the tune of a .371 wOBA. While Trout, Darvish, Moore, and Montero may be sexier names for the top spot of best 2012 fantasy prospect, I think Kipnis is the safer bet to provide across the board above average to very good stats in all 5 major fantasy categories, and – bold prediction – ends up being a top 5 2B by season’s end. A .280/80/20/80/20 season is not out of the question.

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2012 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Preview: Part 1

Well, its March, so time to start rolling out my 2012 top prospect list. Every year, highly regarded rookies with little to no previous MLB exposure are looked to as possible fantasy contributors for the upcoming season. It may not surprise anyone that, for the most part, first year players struggle to live up to expectations for a myriad of reasons: inexperience against MLB-type opponents, lack of roster space/position blocking, fatigue, regression at the high A level, team control issues, etc. But this doesn’t stop us in the fantasy world from dreaming that we will draft the next Jason Heyward or Ryan Braun or pick up the next Mike Stanton, Kevin Maas or Shane Spencer off of waivers (Go Yankees!) – and hopefully avoid the next Alex Gordon (pre-2011) or Brandon Wood.

I will go through my top 20 ‘impact prospects’ for the 2012 fantasy season in two installments. Obviously ‘impact’ is an amorphous term, and nothing is more debatable than a list of players who have little to no big league experience.  However, I will use some definitions to try to make ‘impact’ more concrete. For hitters: ‘impact’ means at least 130-150 ABs and production at or above a .330 wOBA, or weighted on base average (check out http://www.fangraphs.com for more on this and FIP, used below for pitchers). Why .330 wOBA? Given that .330 is around league average from year to year, if a rookie can produce at or above that number, we will consider them to be more or less helping your fantasy team, at least on a back up level. Around that number, a guy should be giving you decent counting stats. For pitchers, it gets a little more complicated.  For starters we will use: at least 80 IP, a mid 4 ERA, and a low 4 FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, which tries to take out some of the random outcomes out of a pitcher’s control once the ball leaves their hands.  For relievers: 25 IP, mid 3 era and FIP to match.  Now, I know most fantasy formats do not use wOBA or FIP as categories; they are still too exotic for most and fantasy games are more about counting stats anyway.  However, you can rest assured that a good wOBA/good FIP usually is a good indication of solid fantasy production. For the definition of prospect, we will hover around the standard rookie eligibility definition: around 130 or less at bats, or 50 innings or less pitched at the big league level.  Some of these guys have their names all but penciled in on big league rosters, some are just complete crapshoots; some are not as talented as others, but have a much better opportunity to play everyday; most of you will disagree with me, and probably half of these guys will end up having well below league average numbers (50% was my success rate from 2011).  Anyway, on to the list with #20-11; 10-1 will follow next week:

20. Wilin rosario, COL, C – Given that the Rockies signed Ramon Hernandez this off-season, it looks like Rosario is probably another year away from being the everyday catcher in Denver. However, Hernandez is 36, and he may break down behind the plate sooner rather than later, and most definitely will need a lot of rest. If Rosario puts up solid power numbers in the minors as expected, he could get the call and provide great power from the catcher slot (combined 40 HR in a little over 700 PA the last two years in AA) as a back up/utility player. He probably won’t help average-wise – most catchers don’t – but he makes for an intriguing monitoring situation for later in the year when you make your playoff run, or when you are thinking about stocking up on young talent in keepers.

19. Tyler Skaggs, ARI, SP – Skaggs has ripped through A and AA the past two years, and his K rate, ERA, and FIP have all gotten better each year. His walk rate has held steady in the mid to high 2’s/9, a nice bonus for such a young arm, and he’s left-handed to boot. He will probably start in AAA if he holds his own in ST, and looks to be a notch below fellow prospect teammate Trevor Bauer. If he dominates the minors again, I can see him cracking the rotation during the summer, or at least making some useful spot starts. I highly doubt Joe Saunders, Josh Collmenter, and/or Trevor Cahill will all last a full season with the D’backs.

18. Shelby Miller, STL, SP – Miller’s upside screams ace, but not in 2012. I just don’t see the Cards rushing their best prospect to the majors, even though he probably could do as well or better than Kyle McClellan, Kyle Lohse, or Jake Westbrook. Be that as it may, given his prowess in A-AA the past two years (sub 3 ERA/FIP, over 10 K/9, around 3 BB/9), I would not be surprised if he is a late season call-up to bolster the back of the rotation if St. Lou is making a playoff run. His rank is only this low due to lack of opportunity.

17. Trevor Bauer, ARI, SP – Bauer has made only 7 professional starts, across high A and AA in 2011, but that was because he spent 09-most of 11 at UCLA, where he K’ed 203 in 136 innings his last year there. In the small sample size he has in the pros, he dazzled with a 17 and 14 K/9 in A and AA respectively, though he did have control issues, with above a 4 BB/9. Still, this guy can pitch, and the D’Backs look like they will give him a shot in the spring. Even if he gets some polish in AAA as expected, Bauer has the upside to make an impact in 2012.

16. Brett Jackson, CHC, OF – Jackson turns 24 this summer, and looks to have made progress every year in the minors, culminating in a .297/.388/.551 line in 48 games in AAA in 2011. He can run (20 SBs in 115 games in 2011), he has patience at the plate (13% walk rate), and flashes some pop (20 HR). More importantly, given the Cubs’ lack of OF talent and likelihood of being in rebuilding mode, Jackson should get a good amount of reps and have himself a solid rookie campaign on the North Side.

15. Zack Cozart, CIN, SS – Cozart is a bit old for a prospect, clocking in at 26, but he only just had his first cup of coffee last fall, where he performed amazingly for a SS, albeit in just 38 PAs (.324/.324/.486). Cozart looks like the lead pony to grab the starting SS job in Cincy in 2012, and could be a great late round speculative pick, possibly good for a 70/10/60/10 .270 season. You definitely could do worse picking much earlier at this thin position.

14. Julio Teheran, ATL, SP – Though he didn’t light up the majors in his 19 IP last year, Teheran remains a top-notch pitching prospect, one who could crack Atlanta’s rotation out of ST due to Tim Hudson’s injury and an open competition for spots 4 and 5; I don’t think it will happen though, as Atlanta has other, older options in Brandon Beachy, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor, and will want to be extra careful with their future ace. Teheran had a very good 2011 otherwise (7.6 K/9, 3 BB/9, 2.55 ERA, 3.06 FIP), and could have a productive 2012 fantasy season as a summer add-on/spot starter.

13. Jarrod Parker, OAK, SP – Once the Diamondbacks top pitching prospect, and now a member of the A’s, Parker should finally arrive in the majors full-time after he proved in 2011 that he was fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery which cost him all of 2010. Parker pre-surgery showed very good strike out abilities (9 K/9), but has often struggled with control (around 3.5-4 BB/9). With the A’s 3-5 spots wide open due to injuries to Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson (and Bartolo Colon the #2 at this point), Parker could see some substantial work in the majors this year right off the bat. His pedigree suggests that work will produce a decent output.

12. Jacob Turner, DET, SP – Turner impressed Detroit so much in his three AAA starts in 2011 (10 K/9, 1.5 BB/9) that he got the call when they needed some starts in September. Alas, he did not fare well during his call-up, but I’ll chalk that up to the usual rookie shock, as I feel Turner has the skill set, home park, and offensive backing to give you some solid counting stats. Turner should have a legit shot to compete for the 4-5 spots out of ST, if the Tigers feel like giving up a year of team control. If not, look for him to join the team during the summer when Detroit should be tired of looking to Rick Porcello, Phil Coke, and a cast of also-rans to fill out the rotation. I give him the edge over Teheran because of better opportunity, and over Parker because of health.

11. Addison Reed, CWS, RP – Our first – and only – rookie reliever featured, Reed  exploded onto the scene in 2011, going from A, A+, AA, AAA to the majors all in one year. Along the way, his K/9 never fell below around 12, his BB/9 never rose above around 2.5, and his highest ERA was in his 7.1 IP in Chicago (3.68), mainly due to a crazy high BABIP of .474. Reed is big, throws hard, and has the classic closer make-up. Just don’t draft him expecting a 2012 version of Craig Kimbrel (you really shouldn’t draft any closer expecting Kimbrel-like numbers, the dude had a ridiculous 2011).


NFL Recap – Week 16

Final recap of the year here. Always sad when another fantasy football season comes to a close; hope every had a blast, win or lose:

Texans v. Colts: Houston is the most 1-dimensional playoff team on offense, and you-know-who, Mr. Foster, had another great game (158 rushing, TD, 3 for 16 receiving). Good news for Foster owners, bad news for Houston fans. No passing game whatsoever from the Texans, while Dan Orlovsky (244, TD, fumble lost) and Reggie Wayne (8 for 106, TD) hooked up often, rewarding those who gambled on Wayne in the championship round.

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WR Waiver Gems – Week 16

Its Championship Week! Here is the last installment of the year for the low-owned receiver waiver picks that I think can make the difference between winning it all and placing second:

Demaryius Thomas, DEN, 40% (@BUF): I’ll just have to hammer it home again in the final week; Thomas deserves to be owned in more than 40% of the yahoo leagues, given his league leading 338 yards in December, to go with 3 TDs. He doesn’t have too bad of a match-up either, going against Buffalo’s average pass D (230 yards, 26 TDs). Look for Denver’s late season #1 WR to put up double digit points against the Bills: 75 yards, TD.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, OAK, 31% (@KC): Not in love with his match-up – KC’s pass D has only given up 209 yards/game, along with 22 TDs. But Bey has been Oakland’s best WR this year when healthy, with 2 productive weeks in a row, and I can’t see him being totally shut down at this stage; look for him to have mid-level yardage to go with a score: 50 yards, TD.

Donald Driver, GB, 25% (CHI): Driver is not a sexy pick, but he should start with Greg Jennings out, and gets a pliant Bears D to find holes in (254 yards/game, 17 TDs) as Rodgers’ third option behind Nelson and Finley. I don’t expect too much from him, but he might be a solid flex play if you have no other great options – ringing endorsement, I know: 75 yards.

Deep League Special:

Andre Roberts, ARI, 3% (@CIN): Roberts has had three straight productive fantasy games, with his last coming against the stingy Browns’ pass D. He draws Cincy’s nearly as tough secondary this week (214 yards/game, 18 TDs), but John Skelton seems to like the kid – that is, when Larry Fitz is being triple teamed as per usual. Roberts could sneak into fantasy relevance again in week 16, so might be worth a look: 80 yards.

NFL Recap – Week 15

Falcons v. Jaguars: Matt Ryan has come on of late, and continued his high scoring here (224 passing, 3 TDs), with 2 of the TDs going to Roddy White (10 for 135). White has been one of the best if not the best fantasy WR the last few weeks, and this game came right in the thick of the fantasy playoffs. Julio Jones also contributed nicely (5 for 85, TD). Jacksonville did very little all game, with Chastin West getting the only TD catch (3 for 38). Blaine Gabbert was awful again. On the ground, Michael Turner (61, TD) and MJD (112 rushing) both provided decent totals, but you know you wanted more out of these two studs.

Cowboys v. Bucs: Tony Romo had a special game (249 passing, 3 TDs, 1 rushing TD, fumble lost), and he spread the scores around to Miles Austin (5 for 53), Dez Bryant (4 for 40), and Laurent Robinson (3 for 29). Jason Witten had himself a decent yardage day as well (4 for 77). Felix Jones ran well for the second straight week (108 rushing, 3 for 23 receiving, fumble lost) and merits consideration in all leagues for the championship round against the Eagles. Tampa gave you Dezmon Briscoe (3 for 36, TD) and a little bit of Josh Freeman (148 passing, TD, 37 rushing, fumble lost) and that was it.

Texans v. Panthers: Houston’s fantasy impact started and stopped with Arian Foster (109 rushing, TD, 5 for 58 receiving, fumble lost); the rest of ’em were invisible. For Carolina, Cam Newton gave you what you expect by now (149 passing, 2 TDs, 55 rushing), tossing scores to Steve Smith (5 for 82) and Jeremy Shockey (2 for 35), while DeAngelo Williams was productive (61 rushing, TD).

Dolphins v. Bills: If I told you Reggie Bush would lead many teams to a win in the semi’s, you might have thought I maybe was thinking of Michael Bush. Well, Reggie proved us all wrong with another big game in the clutch (203 rushing, TD, fumble lost). Matt Moore also chipped in (217 passing, 2 TDs), while Brandon Marshall (3 for 84, fumble lost) and Anthony Fasano (2 for 28) caught the scores. The Bills gave you a monster game from C.J. Spiller (91 rushing, TD, 10 for 73, TD), a good one from Stevie Johnson (5 for 82), and a TD catch from Derek Hagan (2 for 12). Ryan Fitzpatrick was erratic, but put up solid fantasy numbers (318 passing, 2 TDs, 3 INTs); if you trusted him, you had more faith than me.

Titans v. Colts: Ugly one, with none of the QBs doing anything of note. Several receivers had good days though: Nate Washington (7 for 62, TD), Jared Cook (9 for 103, fumble lost), Lavelle Hawkins (8 for 88), and Reggie Wayne (3 for 33, TD). Both running backs also did well, as Chris Johnson (55 rushing, 8 for 54 receiving) and Donald Brown (161 rushing, TD) each went over 100 total yards; CJ hurt his ankle, but expects to play this week. You could’ve started Donald Brown and C.J. Spiller in week 15 and dominated your match-up; thats late-season fantasy football for ya.

Bengals v. Rams: Welcome to 2011 Kellen Clemens! He actually did ok, especially considering the circumstances (229 passing, TD). Steven Jackson was an all-purpose nightmare for Cincy (71 rushing, 9 for 72 receiving), and Danario Alexander caught Clemens’ TD pass. The cats got two solid fantasy rushing outings from both Cedric Benson (76 rushing, TD) and Bernard Scott (2o rushing, TD), and, as usual, A.J. Green did his thing (6 for 115), though he sprained his shoulder; look for him to suit up in a must win for Cincy on Saturday.

Seahawks v. Bears: Mighty Mighty Marshawn strikes again; he rushed for two, despite a low yardage total of 42. Dude just produces. Tarvaris Jackson held his own (227 yards, TD), hitting Michael Robinson for a score, but otherwise it was Seattle’s D that did the heavy lifting. Chicago is a mess right now, and only Kahlil Bell did anything useful (65 rushing, 5 for 43, TD). Johnny Knox suffered a pretty bad back injury, and he is done for the year; the Bears just cannot catch a break.

Saints v. Vikings: Of course the big story is Drew Brees again having a ridiculous video-game type of performance (412 passing, 5 TDs, fumble lost), on his way to almost certainly breaking Dan Marino’s season passing yards record in the next week or two. Ok, on to the recipients of his generosity: Lance Moore (5 for 91, 2 TDs), Marques Colston (8 for 91), Darren Sproles (33 rushing, 5 for 79, TD), Jimmy Graham (7 for 70, TD, fumble lost), Pierre Thomas (44 rushing, TD, 2 for 41), and John Gilmore (2 yard TD grab). Christopher Ivory provided most of the ground game (74 rushing). Minny never really got AP going, but Christian Ponder (120 passing, 2 TDs, 34 rushing) did hook up with Toby Gerhart often (4 for 46, 2 TDs); Everyone else blew.

Packers v. Chiefs: So close GB, so close. Ah, well, at least Aaron Rodgers didn’t have too bad a day (235, TD, 32 rushing, rushing TD). Donald Driver caught the TD pass, but only had 7 yards, Jermichael Finley was the leading receiver for the Pack (3 for 83), and Ryan Grant provided over 100 all-purpose (66 rushing, 3 for 35 receiving). KC didn’t have much to crow about fantasy-wise, but Steve Breaston (4 for 50, 25 rushing), Leonard Pope (2 for 72), Jackie Battle (37 rushing, TD) and Kyle Orton (299 passing) weren’t terrible.

Redskins v. Giants: Eli Manning had his worst game of the year by the numbers, but his receivers didn’t help at all, dropping passes and running  bad routes left and right. This led to no good QB or WR/TE numbers from a single Giant, probably crippling any one who was heavily invested in this team this week. Only Ahmad Bradshaw with his garbage time TD (58 rushing, 3 for 21 receiving) helped you. Washington had Jabar Gaffney (6 for 85), and Santana Moss (2 for 40, TD) giving you positive points; they didn’t exactly put on a show, it was just that bad a game played by the boys in blue.

Lions v. Raiders: Matt Stafford (391 passing, 4 TDs) and Carson Palmer (367 passing, TD) put on quite the aerial display, with Stafford obviously getting the better of it. Megatron returned to elite-ness with a vengeance (9 for 214, 2 TDs), and could not have picked a better week for his owners. Nate Burleson (7 for 81, TD) and Titus Young (5 for 21, TD) also reaped the benefits of Stafford’s prowess. Michael Bush maybe didn’t match Reggie, but he had a nice day himself (77 rushing, 7 for 62 receiving), while Darrius Heyward-Bey (8 for 155, TD, fumble lost) had his best game of the year; he is not a great WR, but this year he at least shed his ‘complete first round bust’ tag with flashes of brilliance.

Browns v. Cardinals: Seneca Wallace probably didn’t budge from the waiver wire, but he had a better day than Eli (226, TD, 21 rushing, fumble lost). He hit Greg Little all day (5 for 131, TD), while Peyton Hillis actually gave his owners – those who remain – something to sing about (99 rushing, TD). John Skelton (313, TD) hooked up with Andre Roberts (6 for 60, TD), and Beanie Wells ran for a score (51 rushing) to complete the fantasy notables.

Jets v. Eagles: I think this was the dream team Vince Young was talking about pre-season. Michael Vick did it with the arm and legs (274, TD, 32 rushing, TD), LeSean McCoy was unstoppable (102 rushing, 3 TDs, fumble lost), and Brent Celek looked incredibly fast and was uncoverable (5 for 156, TD). Mark Sanchez had a rough game, but did toss two TDs (150 yards), while Santonio Holmes (4 for 40, fumble lost) and Plaxico Burress (1 9 yard TD, simply amazing catch) were the targets. Shonn Greene was back to his 70 yards and a cloud of dust routine.

Patriots v. Broncos: Tim Tebow didn’t lead a comeback, but he did put up great fantasy numbers yet again (194 passing, 93 rushing, 2 TDs). Demaryius Thomas got the lion’s share of the passing yards (7 for 116), and he makes for an intriguing start against the Bills next week in all but the shallowest leagues. Lance Ball replaced the injured Willis McGahee (leg) and scored a TD (64 rushing, 2 for 41 receiving, fumble lost). Tom Brady was exceptional (320, 2 TDs, 1 rushing TD), as Aaron Hernandez (9 for 129, TD) was the TE of choice this week; he also got Chad Ochocinco his first TD catch of the year (1 33 yard catch). New England got two additional rushing TDs, 1 each from Danny Woodhead (40 rushing) and BJ Green-Ellis (17 rushing).

Ravens v. Chargers: Philip Rivers throws for 270 and 1 TD, yet SD put up 34 on Baltimore due to their short TD runs from Ryan Mathews (90 rushing, 2 for 19 receiving) and Mike Tolbert (40 rushing, 2 for 18 receiving). Malcolm Floyd found many a hole in the secondary (5 for 96, TD), while Vincent Jackson also had some nice catches (3 for 84). Despite only scoring 14 points, the Ravens did have some useful fantasy players, namely Joe Flacco (226 passing, 2 TDs), Ray Rice (57 rushing, 9 for 55 receiving), and Torrey Smith (6 for 77, TD). Ed Dickson also hauled in a score (3 for 36).

Steelers v. 49ers: Not much to report here, big defensive battle. Vernon Davis was the #1 star (6 for 72, TD), Frank Gore the #2 (65 rushing, TD), and Heath Miller (5 for 82) and Jerricho Cotchery shared the #3 (5 for 93). Honorable mention for Rashard Mendenhall (64 rushing, 3 for 25 receiving). Mostly a dud if you were banking on Big Ben, Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown to work their magic.

WR Waiver Gems – Week 15

Playoff semifinals (or first round, if your league stupidly includes week 17) are upon us; let’s see what is out there on the waiver wires:

Steve Breaston, KC, 37% (GB): With Kyle Orton back behind center and Green Bay’s ultra friendly passing D (288 yards/game, 23 TDs) on tap, Breaston could be a nice sleeper as a flex/WR3. Yea, Orton is not going to remind people of Joe Montana – or even Steve DeBerg – but he should fare better than Tyler Palko did, which means more targets for Breaston throughout the game, with KC probably down by 21 before the 1st quarter is over: 85 yards.

Demaryius Thomas, DEN, 31% (NE): Back to the well with D.T. Featured here last week, he performed great for the second straight week. Tim Tebow seems to looks his way often – when he is actually interested in passing the ball – and the Pats’ secondary is a mess, as everyone is no doubt aware (308 yard/game, 21 TDs). Is it three WR1 games is a row for Thomas? I say affirmative: 80 yards, TD.

Jacoby Jones, HOU, 26%, (CAR): Jones gets the start in place of the injured Andre Johnson, so there’s one plus. Another is that T.J. Yates seems like a competent QB who can heave the ball downfield from time to time. A third is that Carolina’s defense is terrible across the board (236 passing yards/game, 22 TDs), and will have no choice but to focus on containing the Texans’ vaunted rushing attack, leaving holes throughout the secondary for Jones to run through. I don’t love him for a huge day, but a couple of deep balls should find his hands, leading to a serviceable day: 70 yards.

Deep League Special:

Devin Aromashodu: Michael Jenkins is hurt, giving Mr. A a start against the sieve-like Saints passing D (268 yards/game, 20 TDs). More of a possession guy than a vertical threat, he should be able to haul in 6-7 passes from Christian Ponder playing from behind, on his way to a Wes Welker-lite kind of day: 75 yards.

NFL Week 14 Recap

Steelers v. Browns: Ugly score, ugly fantasy impact. Well, Big Ben had a good day (280, 2 TDs), but it came at a price: he has a badly sprained ankle and his status is in doubt for this Sunday’s game; he is day to day. And, ok, so did Antonio Brown, who was really the only receiver Ben looked to for big gains (5 for 151, TD). Rashard Mendenhall had 76 on the ground, pretty disappointing against Cleveland’s horrid rush defense. The Browns? No one did a thing against Pittsburgh’s suffocating defense. Injury-wise for the Browns, Colt McCoy was leveled by Mr. James Harrison, and suffered a concussion as the price.

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WR Waiver Gems – Week 14

Its playoff week for most leagues, so here are some last minute little-owned picks of mine who might give you that 1 pt win to move on.

Davone Bess, MIA, 22% (PHI): Bess’s numbers don’t jump out at you, with him only catching a handful of passes for minimal yardage each week. However, he has caught two TDs the past three weeks, and Philly does allow its fair share of passing TDs (22, with 229 yards/game). Worth a flier as a red zone scorer in my opinion: 35 yards, TD.

Demaryius Thomas, DEN, 11% (CHI): Talk about going from complete afterthought to star in 1 week. Thomas had his best game a pro against the Vikings (144, 2 TDs), and, although I don’t foresee another near 30 pt. fantasy output this week against the Bears (260 yards/game, 15 TDs), I can still see him giving solid WR3/WR2 production, as long as Tebow throws at least 15 passes or so: 90 yards.

Deep League Specials:

Golden Tate, SEA, 3% (STL): The last two weeks, Tate has caught two TDs, and looks to be coming on as Tarvaris Jackson’s prime red zone target. Yea, St. Lou is actually stout against the pass (208 yards/game), but they have given up 18 TDs, and they have to stack the box against Marshawn Lynch inside the 20, giving Golden Boy some openings near the goal line. Look for Tate as a sneaky  play in your flex/WR3 slot: 40 yards, TD.

Chaz Schilens, OAK, 1% (@GB): Schilens should get plenty of looks this week, starting in place of the injured Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, against the opportunistic but porous Green Bay pass D (293 yards/game, 22 TDs). He had himself a nice game last week in Garbage Time against the Dolphins (6 for 89), and I can see him putting up a similar yardage total this week with Oakland likely playing from behind most of the game: 80 yards.

NFL Week 13 Recap

Eagles v. Seahawks: It was the LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch show in this one. McCoy (84 rushing, TD, 4 for 49, TD) and Lynch (148 rushing, 2 TDs) both made fantasy owners happy. Wish the same could be said for the QBs. Vince Young was terrible, but I guess you could do worse fantasy-wise (208 passing, TD,  4 INTs, 32 rushing). Tarvaris Jackson was as vanilla as can be (190, TD). Golden Tate had a tidy little day filling in for done-for-the-season Sidney Rice (4 for 47, TD), while Riley Cooper continues to do well in Jeremy Maclin’s absence (5 for 94). Maclin could be back this week, but I wouldn’t expect the 4-8 Eagles to rush him back.

Colts v. Patriots: Kudos to Indy for making a late run in this game, thanks to Dan Orlofsky (353 passing, 2 TDs), Donald Brown (41 rushing, TD, 15 receiving), and Pierre Garcon (9 for 150, 2 TDs), with Austin Collie in a supporting role (7 for 70). At least the Colts look like they can score with the new QB. Still no passing defense in sight though: Tom Brady (289, 2 TDs, ho-hum), Rob Gronkowski (rushing TD – on a lateral, 5 for 64, 2 TDs), and Wes Welker (11 for 110) all went to town. BJ Green-Ellis scored a rushing TD too, but not much else (14 rushing).

Broncos v. Vikings: Did not see this offensive explosion coming. Tim Tebow actually completed over half of his passes, and only rushed for 13 yards! (202 passing, 2 TDs, fumble lost). Demaryius Thomas caught 144 of those yards on 4 catches, 2 of which went for TDs. Willis McGahee did the heavy lifting on the ground for Denver (111, TD, fumble lost). For Minny, Christian Ponder went off (381, 3 TDs, fumble lost), Percy Harvin was the biggest beneficiary (8 for 156, 2 TDs), while Toby Gerhart filled in solidly for AP (91 rushing, 8 for 42 receiving). Kyle Rudolph caught a 19 yard TD, and Devin Aromashadu (6 for 90) rounded out the fantasy mentions.

Titans v. Bills: CJ is back folks! Maybe too little too late for some of his owners, but hey, whatta you gonna do? (153 rushing, 2 TDs). That was it from Tennessee. Buffalo saw Ryan Fitzpatrick (288, TD, fumble lost), C.J. Spiller (83 rushing, TD, 3 for 19), Brad Smith (7 for 72), and Stevie Johnson (5 for 52, TD) all put up respectable days.

Raiders v. Miami: Matt Moore had a Tebowesque day against the Silver and Black (162 passing, TD, 22 rushing, TD), Reggie Bush kept being useful (100 rushing, TD), and Devone Bess caught a short TD (4 for 27). For Oakland, a bunch of garbage time points: Carson Palmer (273, 2 TDs), Chaz Schilens (6 for 89), T.J. Houshmandzadeh – yes, that guy (1 for 40, TD), and Darrius Heyward-Bey (3 for 23, TD) all provided shot in the dark waiver value.

Jets v. Redskins: Shonn Greene had his best fantasy day of his career, yet most people probably benched him in shallower leagues (88 rushing, 3 TDs, 26 receiving). Besides Greene, you really didn’t get much from the other Jets: Mark Sanchez was ‘eh,’ (165, TD), and Santonio Holmes caught his TD throw (4 for 58) but that was it. Roy Helu had another fine day in the starting RB role for Washington (100 rushing, TD, fumble lost, 4 for 42), and Fred Davis had 6 catches for 99 yards.

Falcons v. Texans: T.J. Yates? He held the fort (188, TD, fumble lost) while Arian Foster did his thing (111 rushing, TD, 3 for 41). Andre Johnson even had a solid game (4 for 97) – before leaving with a hamstring injury, and Joel Dreessen had a 3 yard TD catch. Guy has been cursed this year. Tony Gonzalez (7 for 100) and Roddy White (4 for 51, TD) led the way for Atlanta, while Matt Ryan was below average, albeit against one of the better defenses in the league (267, TD).

Chiefs v. Bears: Ugly offense all around. Tyler Palko didn’t do anything bad, but not much good (157, TD) after he took back over for Kyle Orton, who left with a dislocated finger, ouch. Dexter McCluster caught a hail mary TD, which pretty much made his fantasy day (61 rushing, 4 for 46 receiving). This game was otherwise a fantasy wasteland. Oh, and Matt Forte sprained his MCL, probably done for the year; More bad news for the Bears.

Bengals v. Steelers: Other than A.J. Green (6 for 87), this was all Pittsburgh. Rashard Mendenhall didn’t have the yards (60), but did have the scores (2 rushing); ditto for Mike Wallace (3 for 38, 2 TDs). Antonio Brown only had 2 catches for 67 yards, but returned a punt for a TD. Big Ben threw for 176 yards and 2 scores.

Panthers v. Bucs: Cam Newton has a lot of work to do to be a great QB, but not to be a great fantasy player; the guy just produces (204 passing, TD, 54 rushing, 3 TDs, 27 receiving even!). He even was nice enough to leave some points for Jonathan Stewart (80 rushing, TD, 19 receiving), while getting Legedu Naanee his first TD of the year (2 for 38). Tampa didn’t put up much, with Josh Johnson (229, TD, 45 rushing), Mike Williams (5 for 93), and Dezmon Briscoe (23 yard TD catch) being the only useful ones.

Ravens v. Browns: Ray Rice. Over 200 yards. Nicely done young man. (204, TD, 10 receiving). Ricky Williams. 76 and a touch. Sense a pattern? Baltimore ran all over Cleveland, so the passing game was not needed. Hope you benched Flacco and Co. Peyton Hillis had a good yardage day for the Browns (45 rushing, 52 receiving), Even Moore caught Colt McCoy’s 1 TD pass (2 for 28), and McCoy himself was middle of the road (192, TD, 12 rushing).

Packers v. Giants: Where to begin? Rodgers (369, 4 TDs, 32 rushing) and Manning (347, 3 TDs) were great, as were many receivers: Jordy Nelson (4 for 94), Greg Jennings (7 for 94, TD), Jermichael Finley (6 for 87, TD), Donald Driver (4 for 34, 2 TDs), Victor Cruz (7 for 119), Hakeem Nicks (7 for 88, 2 TDs), and Travis Beckum (1 for 67, TD). Oh, and Brandon Jacobs wasn’t half bad (59 rushing, TD).

Cowboys v. Cardinals: No one had a monster day here, but there were a few good ones. Tony Romo (299, TD), and Kevin Kolb – welcome back –  (247, TD) were decent QB2’s, while Dez Bryant (8 for 86, TD), Laurent Robinson (4 for 72), Andre Roberts (6 for 111), and LaRod Stephens-Howling (1 for 52, TD) did you right in the WR/flex slots. Beanie Wells held his own on the ground (67, TD). This was the first game DeMarco Murray really bombed (38 rushing).

Rams v. 49ers: For the Rams…the punter Donnie Jones had a lot of punts. Yea, this was all SF, really an understatement. Michael Crabtree (4 for 96) and Kyle Williams (2 for 66) caught TDs, Frank Gore ran for 73, and Alex Smith gave you great numbers for him  (274, 2 TDs). The rest of the scoring was left to David Akers.

Lions v. Saints: Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers? Really can make a great argument for either being MVP. Brees kept pace this week (342, 3 TDs), while his opponent Matt Stafford was playing catch-up and thus threw for a ton of yards (408, TD). Kevin Smith hurt his ankle again, but did provide decent numbers nevertheless (34 rushing, TD, 6 for 46); he may be ok for this week’s game against Minnesota. Mark Ingram scored for the second straight week (54 rushing). For the receivers, Nate Burleson (5 for 93), Maurice Morris (5 for 47, TD, 28 rushing), Darren Sproles (5 for 46, TD, 28 rushing), Robert Meachem (3 for 119, TD), Jimmy Graham (8 for 89), and Lance Moore (2 for 23, TD) all joined the party.

Chargers v. Jaguars: Philip Rivers reminded everyone why he was a drafted as a top 5 QB this year, at least for one game (294, 3 TDs). As such, Vinny Jackson (4 for 72, TD), Malcolm Floyd (4 for 108, TD in a triumphant return), and Vinny Brown (1 for 22, TD) all turned in good to great performances. Antonio Gates also had a decent game, but you didn’t draft him for 6 catches, 70 yards. The ground game also was on for SD, as Ryan Mathews (112 rushing) and Mike Tolbert (24 rushing) both crossed the goal line against the Jags. Blaine Gabbert was actually ok here (195, 2 TDs), but it was a big game for MJD (97 rushing, 6 for 91, TD); dude has been a big fantasy value, given many people thought this would be a down year for him. Some guy named Cecil Shorts caught Gabbert’s other TD, a 5 yarder, his only catch of the night.

WR Waiver Gems – Week 13

Here’s this weekends best low-owned WR waiver picks as far as I see it. I know, I missed the Thursday game – again. Shit happens.

Johnny Knox, CHI, 46% (KC): A very popular flavor of the week, given his huge week 12 game against the Raiders (4 for 145, TD). All this with Caleb Hanie behind center too, so he obviously has a good rapport with the backup. KC doesn’t allow much yardage through the air (225/game), but they have allowed 19 passing TDs, ties for fourth most in the league. Look for Knox to find some holes deep with a red zone score in the mix, as the Chiefs focus on stopping Matt Forte over everything else: 65 yards, TD.

Damian Williams, TEN, 24% (@BUF): Williams has been a sneaky source of receiving TDs this year with 5 on just 27 receptions. Given the fickle and random nature of predicting WR TDs, I don’t know if he does it again this week against the Bills pass D (244 yards/game, 21 TDs) but I like his chances of putting up a solid yardage total, close to what he did against Carolina in Week 10: 90 yards.

Greg Little, CLE, 17% (BAL): Yea, Little has a horrible match-up against one of the best defenses in the league against the pass (201 yards/game, a measly 7 TDs), but he also has decent days the past two weeks against two of the better pass defenses in Jacksonville and Cincinnati, hauling in 5 passes each game, with a TD last week. I can see him again getting ample targets on his way to a good yardage day in your flex/WR3 spot if you have no better options: 70 yards.

Deep League Special:

Brandon LaFell, CAR, 4% (@ TB): Not a reliable pick by any means, given how Cam Newton likes to takes matters into his own hands a lot of the time, but LaFell gets the weak Bucs pass D to work with (255 yards/game, 19 TDs), and Newton has looked his way more often the past few weeks. I can see a sneaky high single digit scoring day from this guy, boosted by a short score, which would be great from a guy sitting on waivers in just about every league: 30 yards, TD.