“The Hugh Hefner Approach To Linebackers”

I’m the type of fantasy owner that holds off as long as I can before drafting linebackers. I stay away from gambling on repeat production at an unstable position. The safer route is to stack your offense and build quality depth. Because linebacker is such a physically demanding position, I tend to target youth. I take the Hugh Hefner approach to drafting linebackers, I’m always looking for newer-younger models. Khalil Mack will be on the minds of most IDP players so I didn’t put him in this list. I’m looking for young 3-down linebackers with the opportunity to make an impact.

The Steelers are known for having a rich tradition of linebackers. Spending a first-round pick on Ryan Shazier caught my attention. Some analysts believe Shazier lacks leg drive and will struggle with the physicality of playing in the NFL. The Steelers track record paired with Shazier’s athleticism makes me a believer. Dick Lebeau is still a tremendous football mind and will find ways to fit Shazier in his defense. Lawrence Timmons is still a solid player, but Shazier’s physical gifts should help elevate the Steelers front-7.

Cardinals MLB Kevin Minter is a 2nd year player that has the opportunity to take a job and run with it. Darryl Washington is gone for the season with a drug suspension and Karlos Dansby has joined the Browns. There’s an opportunity for MInter to step into a 3-down role in the middle of the Cardinals defense. A lack of surrounding playmakers gives Minter the opportunity to rack up a high number of tackles.

Zach Brown should be a monster in the Titans revamped defense led by Coordinator Ray Horton. Brown is a 3rd year player that is best known for having 2 pick-six in the season finale in 2012. The previous regime didn’t view Brown in high regard. I expect Horton to make Brown the centerpiece of his defense. Horton is a tremendous defensive mind that will get the most out of Brown.

Bears MLB Jon Bostic is another player to keep track of this summer. D.J. Williams has played well in spurts throughout his career, the problem has been injuries. Betting on Williams being able to stay healthy isn’t a wise choice. Bostic looked lost at times during his rookie season, but with a year under his belt could possibly take over the middle in the Windy City.
Rookie 5th rd pick Lamin Barrow out of LSU is another IDP player to track this summer. Will Barrow get reps in training camp with the opportunity to take over the MLB spot in Denver? Nate Irving is in a contract year and doesn’t play all 3 downs as Von Miller and Danny Trevathan stay on the field in sub packages. Irving is listed as the starter right now, but Barrow may have the skill set to force the issue for more playing time.

These are young linebackers that IDP owners should keep track of this summer. FIguring out players you can take later allows you to load up offensive depth. Knowing who’s next is a better strategy than settling for old name brand.

Buy Low Wide Open For Segura

Brewers SS Jean Segura is one of the most dissappointing players of the 2014 season for fantasy owners. 2013 saw Segura make an All-Star appearance with a .294 avg, .329 OBP, and 44 steals. Segura’s BABIP for 2013 was .326 above league average. So far this season its been tough sledding as Segura is batting only .239. Young players sometimes struggle the year following a breakout year as opposing teams get a book on the player. The dropoff from 2013 to 2014 isn’t too difficult to figure out.

The league has certainly adjusted properly to Segura’s attacking style at the plate. Some of the numbers for this year to last are staggering. Segura feasted on southpaws in 2013 and this year its the complete opposite. Segura is batting .145 vs. southpaws, which isn’t even close to his weight (205). 2013 saw Segura feast vs. lefties to tune of a .317 avg. A 172 point drop in batting average from one year to the next is an astronomical drop. First pitches are also an area where the league has adjusted to the Brewers Shortstop. 2013 saw Segura attacking first pitches to the tune of a .406 avg. While in 2014 the league has adjusted and Segura has a .182 avg. Deeper in counts where he should have the advantage are a problem as well. 2-1 counts are no longer an advantage for Segura. It’s a .125 avg on 2-1 counts in 2014 compared to a .324 avg last year. 2 strike counts Segura was better last season as well. In 1-2 counts Segura’s batting .191 while in 2-2 counts the avg. drops to .105. Last season Segura hit .271 in 1-2 counts and .292 in 2-2 counts.

The Brewers coaching staff has a long way to go in getting Segura back on track as he’s hitting just .176 in the last 28 days. The Brewers can’t just hit the eject button on Segura like fantasy owners may be tempted to do. I own Segura in 4 of my 7 fantasy baseball leagues. I have trade offers out in the leagues in which I don’t own Segura. My belief is that Segura will turn it around at some point this season. The BABIP stat is one that projects how lucky or unlucky a player has been during the season. Segura’s BABIP is .265 right now which is below league average. WIth a better approach at the plate and a little luck Segura could be back to producing more at the dish. Since Segura’s numbers are rock bottom right now the buy low window is wide open. Shortstops with speed don’t grow on trees for fantasy owners, the time to buy is now.

Deng Trade Has Potential Ripple Down Effects For Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich

The Chicago Bulls are a team in transition with the first domino dropping as Luol Deng gets moved the Cavaliers for the right to release Andrew Bynum and draft choices. The Bulls probably aren’t done talking trades as Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich are strong possibilities to get moved before the February 20th trade deadline. Expect to see Tony Snell to take over Dunleavy’s minutes and D.J. Augustin to see plenty of playing time when Hinrich gets traded.

Dunleavy may see more of the playing time with Deng’s departure as a trade showcase. His contract is worth roughly $3.3 million dollars next season. Teams looking for a cost effective veteran perimeter scorer could be interested in Dunleavy. His True Shooting Percentage of .569 and Player Efficiency Rating 13.7 could certainly help contending teams. Dunleavy is an asset on a tanking team that could net more cap relief, a 2nd rd pick, or maybe an inexpensive young player in return.

Owners should track Snell for the near future as his role after the trade is yet o be determined. Snell struggles with shot selection and is just finding his bearings at the NBA level. Snell does bring effort on the defensive end and could help fantasy owners looking for defensive stats. The effort on the defensive end should lead to more playing time down the road this season.

The Bulls would be best suited to move Hinrich as soon as possible before his body breaks down yet again. Hinrich’s offensive win share of -0.1, True Shooting Percentage of .459, and Player Efficiency Rating of 9.3 are unacceptable for a team that is in the process of rebuilding. Hinrich is under contract this season for $4.059 million dollars. The Bulls could save more money and acquire maybe a 2nd rd pick or inexpensive young player in return. What Hinrich does bring to the table at this point is a 1.2 Defensive Win Share and veteran presence. The 33-year-old combo guard could help contending teams off the bench in a capacity of around 20 minutes-per-game.

Fantasy owners should look to add D.J. Augustin as a bench stash at this stage of the season. Augustin is averaging 12.3 points, 7.2 assists,and 1.7 steals per 36 minutes. The .541 True Shooting Percentage and 13.3 Player Efficiency Rating give Augustin a leg up on Marquis Teague for more playing time. It will be painstaking for Coach Tom Thibodeau to watch Augustin on the defensive end. Augustin is a player that could end up being more valuable in fantasy basketball instead of real basketball.

Rickie Weeks, Adam Dunn, and Gordon Beckham Could Use New Homes

The Hot Stove season has cooled off as many of the high profile free agents have signed. Clubs that missed out in free agency can look to the trade market to make changes. This post will outlay a hypothetical 3-team trade that in my opinion would be beneficial for all parties involved.

The White Sox would like to move Adam Dunn’s massive $15 million dollar salary to save money. Dunn’s OBP in 3 seasons with the White Sox .292, .333, and .320 is too close to his weight 285 lbs. Dunn just hasn’t been able to make the adjustment to being a full-time DH. The White Sox signed Jose Abreu to a 6-year $68 million dollar deal this offseason to play 1B. Paul Konerko was brought back on a 1-year deal worth $2.5 million dollars for a farewell tour. The White Sox are a club in transition that needs to move on from veterans and rebuild with youth. Jake Peavy, Matt Thornton, and Alex Rios were sent packing last summer for prospects and salary relief. Moving Dunn for salary relief and possibly a low-level prospect at this stage of his career would be a positive development.  Dunn isn’t worth a package of blue-chip prospects at this point.

Clearing up the DH spot would allow the White Sox to move Dayan Viciedo to DH. “The Tank” has graded out as a below average left fielder in his young career. Viciedo has a -2.4 defensive win share for his career. The advanced fielding stats for last season aren’t pretty. The Range Factor per game (1.46 with the league average of 2.23 per game) and Fielding percentage (.970 with a league average of .987) don’t help the pitchers.

The Brewers have Rickie Weeks $11.5 million dollar salary on the books for 2014. There’s a club option that can be voided if Weeks doesn’t have 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 1,200 combined in 2013-14. Scooter Gennett batted .324 with a .356 OBP last season with the Brewers. Gennett has earned the 2B job going into spring training. Weeks is essentially the elephant in the room at this stage of his career. A change of scenery may be the best course of action for Weeks.  GM Doug Melvin has failed to land a 1B as Corey Hart signed with the Mariners and Logan Morrison was traded to the Mariners.  The Brewers have also been linked to the Mets Ike Davis.  Hunter Morris is the top 1B prospect in the organization, but struggled in Triple-A last season. The 24 HR was good but, the .310 OBP leaves something to be desired.

The Brewers and White Sox both could benefit from a Weeks-Dunn swap. The White Sox would save $3.5 million dollars on the deal. Last season the Brewers 1B were the least productive in all of baseball with a .629 OPS.  Dunn’s career .934 OPS at Miller Park in 288 plate appearances may be worth the risk. Acquiring Weeks could trigger another domino.

The White Sox may also best be suited to explore options for 2B Gordon Beckham as well. The 8th overall pick in the 2008 draft hasn’t cut the mustard in his time with the White Sox. 2014 is his first year of arbitration eligibility and free agency comes in 2016. With an offensive win share of 1.1, 1.4, and 1.1 the last 3 seasons, the White Sox should be considering options to move on from Beckham. Marcus Semien and Micah Johnson are in the pipeline and could be ready to play in the majors in the near future. The White Sox have position players in their farm system, but lack quality pitching prospects.

The Blue Jays have shown interest in Beckham in the past and have a depth of arms in their farm system. The Blue Jays probably won’t move Aaron Sanchez, Roberto Osuna, or Marcus Stroman for anything outside of a top flight player. Lefties Daniel Norris and Sean Nolin could possibly be had for the right price. Upgrading 2B should be a priority for the Blue Jays as they ranked last in all of baseball with a .556 OPS at the position in 2013. Beckham would be a cost effective upgrade over Maicer Izturis and Ryan Goins.

All parties involved would improve with this 3-team deal as the White Sox can shed salary and add prospects. The Brewers and Blue Jays would acquire players at positions of weakness to help them try to win this season. Feel free to post any comments.

 

Scooter Gennett or Rickie Weeks for Brewers?

Has the time finally come for Scooter Gennett to take over the second base job from Rickie Weeks? The 2011 All-Star is coming off a pair of down seasons. Weeks batted .230 in 2012 and just .209 in 2013. Weeks is due $11 million this season with a team option for $11.5 million in 2015. The option can be voided if Weeks does not make 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 1,200 plate appearances in 2013-2014 combined. Gennett batted .324 in 213 at-bats last season with the Brewers. The minor league track record is there for Gennett with a career .297 batting avg. and .337 on-base percentage. If Gennett is the choice the Brewers may be better off moving Weeks this winter.

The Royals are a potential trade fit for Weeks. Emilio Bonifacio and his career .262 bating avg. is better suited to play a utility role. Johnny Giovatella sports a career .240 batting avg in limited major league duty in Kansas City. The Royals do have a 2nd base prospect in the 4th overall pick in the 2010 draft in Christian Colon, who was selected ahead of Matt Harvey and Chris Sale. In 1779 career minor league plate appearances, Colon owns a .339 on-base percentage. A veteran acquired thru free agency or trade could be an option if the Royals want to give Colon a little more seasoning. Colon is playing winterball and hitting .357 in the Roberto Clemente league in Puerto Rico. Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, Mark Ellis, and Omar Infante are veteran free agents that possibly could come in on a short term deal.

The Royals went 86-76 fighting for a wild card berth late into the 2013 campaign. A major problem area for the Royals was the top spot in the order. Royals lead- off hitters batted .246 with a .309 OBP last season. The batting avg. is 26th and OBP 25th in all of baseball. Alex Gordon was out of place last season batting leadoff with a .255 avg. with a .323 OBP, but was much better in the 3 spot at a.391 clip. David Lough hit .271 with a .297 OBP in limited at-bats at the top spot. Lough owns a career .297 avg and .349 OBP in 7 minor league seasons. Alcides Escobar isn’t a candidate to bat leadoff with a career .179 avg. at the top spot. Lorenzo Cain owns a .243 avg. and .298 OBP at the top spot.

Rickie Weeks sports a career .256 avg. with a .354 OBP as a lead-off hitter. Ned Yost managed Weeks in Milwaukee and that could also assist in making a deal. Weeks presents a buy low option for the Royals as his value is at an all-time low. The Brewers may even have to help offset some of the salary to get a Weeks deal done. For the price, Weeks may be a better option than what they can find on the free agent market. It’s a short term option to help a team trying to win right now. The trade could help out the Brewers as well. Even if the Brewers have to pay a portion of Weeks salary, the balance could be used to address other problem areas of the club like the rotation or bullpen.

Fantasy Owners Meet Brandon Bostick

Packers TE Jermichael Finley will be out indefinitely with a spinal cord contusion. Fantasy owners looking to replace Finley’s production in the Packers high powered passing attack raced to the waiver wire to pick up Andrew Quarless. In the 2 TE sets Quarless was used as the in-line Tight End while, Finley played as the move Tight End. My belief is that Brandon Bostick has the skill set to fit Finley’s role in the offense better than Quarless.

Bostick played both football and basketball at Newberry College in South Carolina. Newberry is a D2 school that plays in the South Atlantic Conference. Bostick was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent in the spring of 2012. The Packers perceived depth at Tight End led to some trade calls from other teams in camp. Multiple media outlets reported teams contacted the Packers to inquire about Bostick’s availability. Bostick would probably have been a hot commodity if he was released in camp.  D.J. Williams was cut instead and joined the Jaguars.

Blocking will probably curb Bostick’s snaps this season. This Packers coaching staff has a proven track record of coaching up their young players and getting them ready to play. I expect the Packers to find away to implement Bostick’s athleticism into their offensive needs down the seam and in the red zone. The Packers remaining schedule is a gold mine for fantasy owners. The Vikings (29th) twice, Bears twice (27th), Eagles (31st), Giants (20th), Lions (28th), Falcons (23rd), and Cowboys (30th) all struggle in pass defense.

Owners in deep keeper leagues should take a flier on Bostick. Racing out grab Bostick in a shallow league may not be necessary just yet. I went with gut instinct and own Bostick in a pair of 12-team leagues.

Enes Kanter Provides Good Late Round Value

Jazz PF Derrick Favors is expected to be one of the biggest breakout players for the 2013-2014 season. Fantasy owners may be tripping over themselves to acquire his services in drafts. For those that miss out on the prized Jazz big man, remember there’s 2 young bigs in Utah ready to take off this season. C Enes Kanter is one of my favorite breakout players for the season. Kanter enters my Circle of Trust in 2 of 4 leagues this season.

A deeper look into Kanter’s bio shows he’s been viewed as a blue chip prospect. Kanter was declared ineligible to play for Kentucky and entered the 2011 NBA draft. The Jazz used a pick acquired from the New Jersey Nets in the Deron Williams trade. There’s a reason Kanter was so heavily recruited in college and selected with the 3rd overall pick in the draft. Thru 2 NBA seasons Kanter has been a bench player due to the presense of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in Utah. The veteran duo is gone and Kanter’s time to shine starts now.

His career 36 Min avg. 14.9 PPG, while shooting 53% from the floor, with 10.7 RPG, and 1.0 BPG. Bargain basemen shoppers looking for value at the end of drafts should target Kanter. I expect his value to surpass the $3 I spent in an auction draft and pick 107 of a snake draft. In a league with more emphasis on stretch bigs and an uptempo game, Kanter is mauling back to the basket center. Kanter is a similar player to Nikola Pekovic of the Wolves in terms of a bruising style of play , but much less polished on the offensive end. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors are options 1a and 1b in the Jazz offense. Kanter should be able to contribute on the offensive end with the help of good guard play and on put-backs. Fantasy owners looking for a big toward the middle to end of their drafts should target Kanter.