Category Archives: John Stoeter

Week 2: Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em

By John Stoeter


Quarterback

Start ‘Em

  • Peyton Manning (vs KC): Manning scorched the Chiefs last year in Kansas City, throwing for 403 yards and 5 TDs. Kansas City allowed Jake Locker to put up 19 fantasy points last week, so look for Manning to extend his success from last week into another valuable fantasy performance.
  • Aaron Rodgers (vs NYJ): Although Rodgers had a horrific fantasy performance last week in Seattle, he’s a must-start this week against the New York Jets. Aaron Rodgers gets the Jets defense at Lambeau Field coming off a terrible loss in which they got pummeled by the Seattle Seahawks. Expect Rodgers and the Packers to bounce back strongly and put on an offensive show. After all, rookie QB Derek Carr threw for 2 TDs against this defense last week; look for Rodgers to do that and more. A lot more.
  • Andy Dalton (vs ATL): If you’re anything like me, you probably get a little skiddish when hearing that Dalton is a must-start. Surprisingly enough, he was a top-10 fantasy QB last season in a lot of leagues. Believe me, I would know. He rode my bench all season, and all season long he outperformed RG3. Dalton threw for 300+ yards last week, and now he gets to throw against a defense that allowed 300+ yards in the air last week. Then again, the QB who threw for 300+ yards was Drew Brees, but look for Dalton to have similar success against the Falcons at home this week.
  • Andrew Luck (vs PHI): Luck put up 370 passing yards last week against the Denver Broncos. This week, he gets the Philadelphia Eagles, who allowed Chad Henne to throw for 266 yards last week. I expect Luck to have a pretty good game passing, somewhere in the ballpark of 300+ yards passing with a couple TDs to go a long with it.

Sleepers

  • Jake Locker (vs DAL): Locker gets a Dallas team that should allow a fair share of fantasy points to the opposing QBs. He put up 266 yards in the air last week with 2 TDs. I expect Locker to put up slightly better numbers than last week. If you’re hurting for a QB, or you’re in a 2-QB league, Locker is definitely worth a look at starting.
  • Robert Griffin (vs JAC) I know, I know. And again I know. Nothing scares me more than putting RG3 in the same topic as starting. But if you’re hurting for QBs or don’t like your matchup, RG3 should be worth a gander. Yet RG3 has been disappointing fantasy users for the over the past year so take this advice with caution. He gets Jacksonville this week, so hopefully that can be a site for sore eyes.

Sit ‘Em

  • Tony Romo (at TEN): Tony Romo just looked awful last week. If you have another option at QB I’d advise that you take that route over Tony Romo this week.
  • Russell Wilson (at SD): On the road against a tough San Diego team, I have Wilson and the Seahawks losing in a low-scoring affair. The Chargers are a weird team, and this a game I see them winning.
  • Phillip Rivers (vs SEA): For the same reasons I said not to start Wilson, you don’t start Rivers this week. Even at home, the legion of boom will make its presence felt in this low scoring affair.
  • Cam Newton (vs DET): Coming off a rib injury, expect the Lions defensive line to bring constant pressure upon Newton as he struggles this week. As Newton said, he has a lot to prepare for this week as he focuses on Donkey Kong Suh and fellow former teammate Nick Fairley.

Start With Caution

  • Matt Ryan (at CIN): Ryan had a career game last week, throwing for 448 yards and 3 TDs. This week he will be on the road against an above average Bengals defense. Matty Ice might just be ice cold this week, so don’t expect last weeks success against Cincinnati this week.
  • Matt Stafford (at CAR): I expect this game to be a low-scoring affair as the Detroit offense struggles to create points against a tough Carolina defense.
  • Ryan Tannehill (at BUF): The Dolphins always tend to struggle against the Bills especially at Buffalo. I expect this trend to continue this week as well.
  • Colin Kaepernick (vs CHI): Kaepernick looked great last week, but a major part of that was Romo throwing the game away in the first half. He only threw for 201 yards and the 49ers’ offense struggled significantly in the second half. Kaepernick struggled the majority of preseason and I expect that trend to continue this week against Chicago.

Running back

Start ‘Em

  • Adrian Peterson (vs NE): Peterson upset a lot of fantasy owners last week with his poor performance, but look for an breakout as he gets the Patriots this week. New England allowed Knowshon Moreno to run all over them for 134 yards last week, expect Peterson to have similar numbers this week.
  • Frank Gore (vs CHI): The Chicago Bears’ rush defense between the tackles ranked worst in the NFL last season, and so far it’s following the same pattern. Look for Gore to have a good day running the football on them.
  • Alfred Morris (vs JAC): Morris averaged 6.5 YPC last week against Houston, and now he is set up nicely to face Jacksonville’s defense who allowed 4.5 YPC last week. With the Washington offense struggling, they’ll turn to Morris for a big workload to keep the pressure off RG3.
  • Giovani Bernard (vs ATL): Even after having little success rushing against the Ravens last week, Bernard still caught 6 receptions for 62 yards. Atlanta struggled containing the rush last week so look for Bernard to have a good game against this Atlanta defense.
  • Arian Foster (at OAK): Foster rushed for 103 yards last week and this week he gets a defense that allowed over 160+ yards on the ground last week. With Fitzpatrick at QB, look for the Texans to keep pounding the run game.
  • Matt Forte (at SF): DeMarco Murray tore up the San Francisco defense last week and that was with the Cowboys’ terrible offensive showing. I expect similar results from Forte this week.

Sleepers

  • Jamaal Charles (at DEN): Even though Charles struggled last week against Tennessee, he’s not a guy you have riding the pine on your fantasy team. The Chiefs offense shouldn’t struggle as badly as it did last week. It’s also worth noting that Charles has historically done pretty well against Denver, so I expect the same results this week.
  • Shonn Greene (vs DAL): Greene got the majority of the touches last week against Kansas City, and this week he faces a mediocre Dallas defense that allowed Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde to run all over them.

Sit ‘Em

  • Reggie Bush (at CAR): Bush was basically nonexistent rushing the ball last week as he carried it for only 15 yards on 9 tries. He was a big factor in the passing game but against a much tougher Carolina defense on the road, I don’t see Bush racking up too many points this week.
  • Ryan Mathews (vs SEA): Mathews is set for a tough game as he is prepared to take on Seattle’s defense this week. Besides finding the end zone, he struggled last week against the Cardinals and I expect these struggles to continue.
  • Trent Richardson (vs PHI): Even though Trent looked better than he did last season, I’m not sold on him being a top-tier fantasy RB this season. Bradshaw produced more fantasy points last week out of the two and I’m sure he’ll be stealing some carries this week as well.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew (vs HOU): Jones-Drew had a terrible game rushing the ball last week and until he proves other wise I wouldn’t put too much stock into him fantasy wise. Especially with a rookie QB who is unproven in the pass game thus far.

Start With Caution

  • Andre Ellington (at NYG): Although the Giants pass defense looked terrible last week, their rush defense performed admirably, as they held the Lions to 2.5 YPC. With Ellington still being hobbled by a foot injury he could struggle to perform this week.
  • Darren Sproles (at IND): Sproles performed great last week, due in large part to a long TD run that accounted for the majority of his yardage. I expect Sproles to be a part of the passing game, but McCoy will receive the majority of the carries this week. I wouldn’t start Sproles solely based off one big rush he had last week.
  • Toby Gerhart (at WAS): Gerhart will be a game-time decision with a sprained ankle, and coming off his performance last week I wouldn’t rely too heavily on him this week if you have alternative options.

Wide Receiver

Start ‘Em

  • A.J. Green (vs ATL): Green had a monster game against the Ravens last week, and I expect the same results this week as he faces Atlanta. Atlanta allowed Colston to bring in 110 yards last week, as well as allowing rookie Brandin Cooks to gain 77 yards. Cincinnati gets Atlanta at home this week, so I expect some monster results out of Green.
  • Jordy Nelson (vs NYJ): Nelson led the team in targets last week and although he didn’t find the end zone he still had a pretty productive game. I imagine Nelson will repeat on his success last week as he faces a much weaker defense in the New York Jets.
  • Reggie Wayne (vs PHI): Reggie Wayne returned from injury last week by compiling 9 receptions for 98 yards while leading the team in targets with 13. He should be set for a very big day versus a secondary struggling against the pass.
  • Kendall Wright (vs DAL): With a struggling Dallas defense, look for Wright to connect with Locker on multiple occasions as he led the team in targets last week.
  • Randall Cobb (vs NYJ): Coming off a game in which he scored against the legion of boom, Cobb is set to have a big game against the New York Jets as well.
  • Calvin Johnson (at CAR): Did you see last week’s game? You have to start Megatron. Even though the Panthers’ defense is a lot better than the Giants’, Johnson is a must start as he is Stafford’s favorite target. Regardless of the defensive attention, Johnson will produce this week.

Sleepers

  • Vincent Jackson (vs STL): Jackson and the whole Buccaneers offense struggled last week. Look for an offensive explosion out of Jackson and the Bucs this week as they play the Rams.
  • Brandin Cooks (at CLE): After showing off his explosiveness in his debut game as a rookie, look for Cooks to repeat off that success, as Colston will more than likely be covered by Joe Haden. That shold leave Cooks as the go-to guy after Jimmy Graham.
  • DeSean Jackson (vs JAC): Having seen Maclin explode for a long bomb last week and Sproles run for a long one as well, I’m convinced this Jacksonville defense will allow another monster TD this week. With Jackson’s big play capability look for some shots down the field headed his way.
  • Greg Jennings (vs NE): Jennings has proven to be Matt Cassel’s favorite target. With all the hype around Cordarrelle Patterson, people forget that Jennings was the most consistent receiver last week. Patterson only had 26 yards in the air last week, while Jennings had 58 yards to go along with a TD.

Sit ‘Em

  • Keenan Allen (vs SEA): After last week’s struggles against the Cardinals, the Chargers turn around to play the Seahawks this week. Things don’t look good for Allen this week either.
  • Allen Hurns (at WAS): Despite Hurns’ debut breakout in which he took the fantasy world by a storm, he was a non-factor after the first quarter of last week. I don’t expect last week’s success to carry over into this week against Washington.
  • Golden Tate (at CAR): Golden Tate had a great debut for the Lions last week, as he almost cracked a 100 yards receiving. He’s a great weapon alongside Calvin Johnson, but most of the targets this week will go Johnson’s way as Stafford and the Lion’s offense will struggle.
  • Kelvin Benjamin (vs DET): Benjamin had a great fantasy performance last week, but I expect him to struggle as Cam Newton shakes off the rust after coming back from his rib injury. My prediction is Newton and Benjamin won’t be on the same page as they struggle with chemistry.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson (vs NE): Minus one huge run Patterson played very inefficiently fantasy-wise last week. I don’t expect the same breakout play this week, and the majority of the targets will go Greg Jennings’ way.

Start With Caution

  • Donnie Avery (at DEN): Avery was the go-to guy last week as Dwayne Bowe was suspended. With Bowe back in the mix, I don’t expect the same big week from Avery.
  • Percy Harvin (at SD): Having never really seen Percy Harvin in many games in a Seahakws uniform, it’s hard to pinpoint his exact role on the team. If the Chargers choose to solely lock in and focus on Harvin, he could struggle this week.
  • Mike Wallace (at BUF): As I stated before, the Dolphins traditionally struggle in Buffalo, and I expect the same results this week. If the Bills’ defense provides enough pressure on Tannehill, Wallace’s fantasy production could take a hit.
  • Dez Bryant (at TEN): You have to start Dez Bryant if he’s on your team. However, if you have a flex league and you’re receiver heavy, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bench him until Tony Romo finds his rhythm again.
  • DeAndre Hopkins (at OAK): Hopkins had a great game last week, making 4 catches for 89 yards and a TD. But so far in his short career, Hopkins has had trouble producing back-to-back successful fantasy games. He could struggle this week as Andre Johnson will probably get the majority of the targets.

Tight Ends

Start ‘Em

  •  Julius Thomas (vs KC): With his big performance last week and Wes Welker still out, Thomas is a must-start this week, and a must-start all year long.
  • Jimmy Graham (at CLE): Graham didn’t score a TD last week, but I’d bet he does this week. Even after being held scoreless he still caught 8 receptions for 82 yards. I’m sure Graham finds his way into the endzone against Cleveland.
  • Rob Gronkowski (at MIN): Just like the other two of the this “Big 3” tight end group, Gronkowski is a must-start.
  • Delanie Walker (vs DAL): I expect Walker to tear up the Dallas defense just as Vernon Davis did last week.
  • Greg Olsen (vs DET): With the Lions defense focusing in on rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin and the weak receiving core of the Panthers, look for Newton to trust ol’ reliable—Greg Olsen. I expect Olsen to lead the team in targets, especially in the red zone.

Sleepers

  • Zach Miller (at SD): With the Seahawks on the road where they historically play worse, look for Wilson to look for Miller in goal-line situations.
  • Charles Clay (at BUF): Being held scoreless last week against New England, look for Clay to try to make his return to the endzone this week against Buffalo.
  • Ladarius Green (vs SEA): If the Seahawks choose to key in on Gates, Green could be a major target in the Chargers offensive scheme this week. It’s worth a gander in a deeper league, or a two-TE league.
  • Zach Ertz (at IND): Having seen the field day Julius Thomas had last week, Zach Ertz could be in store for a big day as well against Indianapolis.

Sit ‘Em

  • Jared Cook (at TB): I don’t know if I trust QB Austin Davis to get Cook the ball enough to make him a viable fantasy option this week.
  • Jermaine Gresham (vs ATL): Atlanta held Jimmy Graham scoreless last week, so it could be a tough day for Jermaine Gresham. However, they double-teamed Graham the majority of the game. I don’t see Gresham receiving the same treatment, but I don’t see him having a big fantasy game either.
  • Brandon Pettigrew/Eric Ebron (at CAR): Ebron was a non-factor last week and Pettigrew only hauled in 1 reception for 9 yards. With an even tougher defense in store, I don’t see either one of these guys being a factor this week.

Start With Caution

  • Antonio Gates (vs SEA): Gates has his hands full with the Seattle Seahawks defense this week. The Seahawks could choose to key in on Gates and create a rough day for him and his fantasy owners.
  • Vernon Davis (vs CHI): Kaepernick struggled throughout the preseason, and the Bears could choose to take away his favorite target in Davis. I expect the Bears to make Kaepernick hit his wideouts over Davis. Not to mention the Bears defense held Scott Chandler in check last week, and he couldn’t catch a cold.
  • Scott Chandler (vs MIA): Chandler scored as many fantasy points as I did last week: zero. Although Miami has a history of allowing fantasy points to TEs, I don’t believe Chandler will have that successful of a game against them.

    John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Stoeter850.

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NFL Playoff Predictions: AFC

By John Stoeter


It’s never to early to start predicting the NFL playoffs, right? Well, here at Scouts Alley we’re getting a jump on it early this year. The AFC is starting to look like a much inferior conference to that of the NFC. With that being said, let’s start these Week 2 playoff predictions, starting with the AFC.


 AFC East: Miami Dolphins

The Patriots’ run at holding the torch in the AFC East is coming to its end and, with that, the Tom Brady era is over. With the recent departure of Logan Mankins, the Patriots offensive line couldn’t outmatch the Dolphins. Brady was under duress constantly, having been sacked four times.

Here’s what ESPN and Tom Brady enthusiasts such as Skip Bayless aren’t telling us: Tom Brady ranks dead last out of the 32 quarterbacks qualified for yards per pass attempt, while also ranking 29th in passer rating out of the 32 qualifying quarterbacks. With that said, credit a very solid Miami Dolphins defense for putting such intense pressure on the New England Patriots offense.

Every team in this division has improved in some form, yet the Patriots have regressed. Their defense is mediocre at best, while their offensive unit isn’t too much better. When your best receiver is Julian Edelman, you’re in trouble.

With an injury-prone Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots are in for a rough 2014 season. Not to mention, they are running a backfield of Shane Vereen and Steven Ridley. Even behind Bill Belichick’s gameplanning and Tom Brady’s brilliance, these New England Patriots are doomed.

Ryan Tannehill is entering his 3rd NFL season and he’s starting to become a much more complete quarterback. With the addition of Knowshon Moreno to go along with Lamar Miller in the backfield, Miami can now provide a much more balanced offense around Tannehill. Not to mention, barring any more scandals, the Dolphins can have distraction-free year in which they can have a fully intact offensive line to finish out the season.

I do have Miami losing to Buffalo in Buffalo this Sunday. But beyond that, I have the Dolphins edging it out in this up-for-grabs division, dethroning the Patriots and the Tom Brady era.

 AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals

Further showing the weakness of the AFC this season, the Bengals will win this division pretty easily.

The Baltimore Ravens are far from the team they were when they won the Super Bowl in 2012. And the Pittsburgh Steelers defense is going to allow a lot of points that I don’t see Ben Roethlisberger being able to overcome. And by mid-season the Cleveland Browns fans will start a “We want Johnny” chant that has Brian Hoyer packing his bags for free agency.

And as much as I like this team, I still expect them to be early ousted in the playoffs yet again.

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts

The first half of the Indianapolis/Denver game had the Colts looking like their defense was once again in trouble. However, they got it together and held Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos scoreless in the second half.

The Colts defense is going to struggle throughout the year, yet they appear to be more solid than last season. Andrew Luck gets his favorite weapon back in Reggie Wayne. Trent Richardson gets a full year of the Colts playbook under his belt so there’s no way he plays as poorly as he did last season. Even if he struggles, Ahmad Bradshaw is back and healthy and will be able to handle the load in the backfield.

And last but not least, the Colts added Hakeem Nicks alongside Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. Andrew Luck leads the Colts to yet another division victory making Irsay look even smarter for the releasing of Peyton Manning.

Don’t expect the Colts to cruise along with this division as easily as they did last season. If Jake Locker can remain healthy, look out for the Titans to have a re-surging season behind him. When healthy, Locker has shown to be a viable quarterback for the Titans. Having gone 7-9 last season playing three-quarters of the season without Locker, the Titans will be a threat in the AFC South.

Also, it is a guarantee that the Texans win more than 2 games this season. This past Sunday snapped their 14-game losing streak dating back to last season. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s good enough to win some games with the talent that’s surrounding him. But overall, this remains the Colts’ division to win.

AFC West: Denver Broncos

Last week’s victory basically answered any doubts about the Broncos and Peyton Manning. The key this offseason for the Broncos was their improvement on defense with the additions of Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and T.J. Ward. With a better defense and Peyton Manning calling the shots, this division is a lock for the Broncos barring any injuries.

The Kansas City Chiefs got smoked by the Titans last week and, although that doesn’t make them a bad team, I don’t see them repeating last season’s success. As for the San Diego Chargers, they’re good but not that good.

Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans

Yep, I’m really not picking the Patriots to make the playoffs this season. I don’t see the magic this year that leads to a last-second touchdown to beat the Saints, or a miraculous comeback against the Broncos. I have them going 8-8 and that’s not enough to cut it, even in a depleted AFC.

The Tennessee Titans are my dark horse pick to make it to the postseason this year. I believe that behind a healthy Jake Locker, they stand a really good chance at receiving a wild-card bid. Their defense is better than people give them credit for, and I believe people will find that out this season.

The Pittsburgh Steelers went 8-8 last season and they will improve upon that this season. After all, they started off last season by going 0-4 and finished strong, ending with an 8-4 record to finish off the year. Already off to a better start, I believe the Steelers can take care of a weak AFC North and find themselves in the remaining wild-card spot.


John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Stoeter850.

2014 Fantasy Sleepers

By John Stoeter


It’s that time of year again where fantasy nerds like me and you scour the internet for all sorts of fantasy advice and updates. And before I get into any details, let me just explain what the fantasy world means by the term sleepers. A “sleeper” is not necessarily a player that you’ve never heard of before. A “sleeper” would be a player who is not on many people’s radars as a huge fantasy contributor. With that being said, let’s start with the sleepers of this upcoming 2014 fantasy season.

Sleepers

  • Andre Williams/RB/NYG

College football fans know and remember Andre Williams as the FBS Division 1-A top leading rusher of 2013. He is currently slotted as the No. 2 RB on most depth charts, but don’t be surprised if the rookie grabs the top spot around mid-season. Rashad Jennings is the current starting RB but he has never had a full season starting in the NFL. Jennings could finally flourish as the No. 1 back but with multiple games starting under his belt, I believe we’ve seen his ceiling. Williams will receive a fair amount of touches throughout the season and, in my opinion, impress enough to steal the starting job from Jennings. Jennings will have a good season in most PPR leagues as he is good at receiving out of the backfield, but look for Williams to receive more touches for New York this season.

  • Toby Gerhart/RB/JAC

After being stuck behind Adrian Peterson all of his career, Gerhart finally gets the chance to start for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the limited time Gerhart has had rushing the ball, he has been very effective. He only had 36 attempts in 2013 but he averaged 7.9 yards with those attempts. Whether the starting quarterback is Chad Henne or Blake Bortles, Gerhart will receive a healthy amount of touches this season. His yards per game will take a hit due to a lower-level passing game, but his attempts will go up resulting in some major fantasy points. With Jacksonville struggling offensively, look for Gerhart to be the heart of this offense and get a plethora of touches in 2014.

  • Jonathan Stewart/RB/CAR

Stewart has been injury-prone the past couple seasons, hurting his draft stock in 2014. However, he scored two TDs against the Chiefs in his last preseason game, and DeAngelo Williams hasn’t rushed for more than 1,000 yards in any of his past four seasons. If Stewart can manage to stay healthy, don’t be surprised if he starts to receive more touches than Williams. With fresher legs under him, Stewart can find himself stealing snaps from Williams and Tolbert. I wouldn’t suggest drafting him high but definitely have your eyes on him, especially if you’re in a deeper league like I am.

  • LeGarrette Blount/RB/PIT

Disregarding his latest arrest, Blount could be a huge fantasy star this season. Blount and starting RB Le’Veon Bell were both charged with marijuana possession Wednesday. However, Bell also received a DUI to go along with his charge, which could mean suspension time. Blount hasn’t had the cleanest history slate either, so he could be looking at some suspension time as well. Blount had more carries than Bell in the previous preseason game, and both are in line to receive their fair share of touches on the season. If Blount starts to outperform Bell, Tomlin won’t be afraid to give him more touches. Also worth mentioning is that Blount is an excellent third down and goal line back. Blount could be in line for a big fantasy season, so make sure to keep an eye on him.

  • Kelvin Benjamin/WR/CAR

It’s not often that a rookie receiver steps into a playoff team as the number one wideout but it appears that’s exactly what Benjamin is for the Carolina Panthers. With Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn gone, Benjamin represents the most potential for the Panthers receiving core. At 6’5″ he’ll be a big body that Cam Newton can trust, especially on third downs and in goal line situations.

  • Kendall Wright/WR/TEN

Unless you’re a Titans fan or you’re in a PPR league, you might not know who Kendall Wright is. Because Wright flew kind of under the radar last season, I thought I would mention him here. He caught 94 passes with 1,079 receiving yards last season. He only had two TDs, but he led the team in targets at 140. With Jake Locker back and healthy, look for a similar season from Wright but with more TDs. Wright will be a huge part of the Titans offense, and he’s a must-have in a PPR league. A lot of people may have already known this, but for those who didn’t (because, well, it’s the Titans) I thought it would be worth a mention.

  • Terrence Williams/WR/DAL

With Miles Austin gone, look for Williams to have a breakout season as the number two wideout for the Dallas Cowboys. In his rookie season last year, Williams had 44 receptions for 736 yards with 5 touchdowns. Look for Williams to put up even more impressive numbers in his sophomore season.

  • Kenny Britt/WR/STL

Kenny Britt posted up stats last year that would’ve been great for one game but terrible for a season. Britt had a forgettable 2013 season in which he recorded only 11 receptions for 96 yards with no TDs. Look for a much better season from Britt as he reunites with his former head coach, Jeff Fisher. With Tavon Austin stretching the sidelines both vertically and horizontally, look for Britt to be a huge addition to this St. Louis Rams offense. He could become Sam Bradford’s favorite and most reliable target.

  • Doug Baldwin/WR/SEA

With Golden Tate gone and an injury-prone receiving core, look for Baldwin to be the one consistent piece Russell Wilson throws to. Although Percy Harvin will be the number one WR in Seattle, he has only played in ten regular season games the past two seasons. With Doug Baldwin already in sync with QB Russell Wilson, look for him to be a favorite target, especially if there happen to be any injuries in the Seattle receiving corps. Baldwin posted 50 receptions for 778 yards with 5 TDs last season. Baldwin should have similar numbers to these in 2014, if not better.

  • Emmanuel Sanders/WR/DEN

Is Eric Decker really as good as his stat line shows last year? No. Not at all, not even close. And that’s not a knock on Decker, but more of compliment of Peyton Manning. Look for Emmanuel Sanders to put up a slightly less impressive version of Eric Decker’s 2013. Sanders will probably have less receptions, yardage, and TDs, but he will still have a quality fantasy season. Peyton Manning spreads the ball like none other, and although I don’t see Manning having the season he had last year, he’s still Peyton Manning. And believe me when I say that Sanders will get his share of wealth. Keep your eye on Sanders as you slide down your list of receivers during your draft. He won’t disappoint.

  • Ladarius Green/TE/SD

With Antonio Gates aging, look for Ladarius Green to become Phillip Rivers’ guy out in San Diego. Green fits the mold of the new age TE like Gronkowski or Graham. Green is 6’6″ with a monstrous wingspan. He is an immediate threat for the Chargers offense and even if he doesn’t start week one, he will definitely be a huge goal line target. More than likely, Green’s youth and explosiveness will lead him into the number one role at TE.


John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Stoeter850.

Why The Tampa Bay Rays Botched the David Price Trade

By John Stoeter


The Rays organization had been rumored to have wanted more in return for David Price than what the Chicago Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija. If that’s the case, then I have to feel somewhat disappointed in this trade if I’m a Rays fan. It’s not that I hate this trade, because I don’t, but I do feel like the Rays could’ve netted a better return than  LHP Drew Smyly, INF Nick Franklin, and INF Willy Adames.

So let’s compare the two deals really quickly. The Cubs received the 7th ranked prospect in SS Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney, and RHP Dan Straily for RHPs Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.

Here is a look at Dan Straily’s numbers through the minor leagues and the past few seasons.

dan straily

Here is a look at Drew Smyly’s numbers through the minor leagues and the past few seasons as well.

drew smyly

If you compare Dan Straily’s 2013 season to Drew Smyly’s current 2014 season, both are eerily similar. While Smyly has more upside and has the better career WAR, both pitchers are strikingly similar in the couple seasons they have had starting in the big leagues. Straily hasn’t thrown many innings this season, but in 2013 he was an average starter with comparable numbers to Smyly. In 2013, Straily had a 3.96 ERA and FIP of 4.05 while going 10-8 in 27 starts. In 2014, Smyly has an ERA of 3.93 with a FIP of 4.08 while collecting a record of 6-9 through 18 games started. The numbers are practically identical in these categories. Smyly has K/9 of 7.60 this season while Dan Straily had a K/9 of 7.33 in 2013. Smyly has the better BB/9 while Straily posted a better HR/9 and BABIP in 2013. All in all, I believe Smyly is the better pitcher than Straily, but is he that much better? I don’t believe so. As a reliever, Smyly can do some serious damage as he proved with his 2013 season. But as a starter he doesn’t appear to be all that much better than Dan Straily.

While Willy Adames is an 18-year-old who can rake and has the potential to drive in many runs, he is a few years away from reaching the major leagues. The Rays appeared to be mostly interested in receiving major league ready pieces who can help the Rays contribute next season. Addison Russell, another shortstop prospect, is estimated to make his arrival to the major leagues next season. Russell is a widely touted prospect with a huge ceiling, who put up extremely impressive numbers last season with Oakland’s A+ ball club in which he spent most of his season.

In the Oliver 5 Year Projections that Fangraphs does, Russell puts up far superior numbers than Adames and a far better WAR.

Addison Russell

Addison Russell

Willy Adames

Willy Adames

Willy Adames is still very young and is already considered to be the Rays #2 prospect, so his upside is phenomenal. But if the Rays were more interested in receiving major league ready pieces rather than prospects wouldn’t a player such as Addison Russell make more sense than Willy Adames. We won’t know the future of either of these player’s careers for years to come but as for now Russell portrays to be the more dominant prospect.

At some point, the Oakland A’s were in talks with the Tampa Bay Rays about a similar trade involving David Price and Addison Russell. Now who knows who else would have been involved in this package but I’m sure it would have been similar to the deal with the Chicago Cubs. For speculation case, let’s say the A’s offered up Addison Russell and Dan Straily just as they did for the Chicago Cubs. Addison Russell could be the Rays future shortstop for multiple years to come playing alongside Evan Longoria who is locked up through the 2022 season. The A’s just gave up Tommy Milone for practically nothing, so if they didn’t want Straily I’m sure Milone would’ve been available. Maybe you don’t get the Nick Franklin out of this deal, but I’m sure the Rays could’ve added a third party into the mix to attain whoever else they may have wanted.

Personally, I would rather have a combination of Russell and Straily over Adames and Smyly. While Smyly is better than Straily I don’t believe he makes up the difference between Russell and Adames. Russell has the ability to be the future of a franchise. As far as I know Willy Adames and Nick Franklin don’t possess this same talent.

With an already stacked rotation, the Rays might not even have room for Drew Smyly in it next season. The Rays already have a rotation that includes Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, and Jeremy Hellickson. Not to mention top prosect Alex Colome and the returning Matt Moore. I don’t question whether Drew Smyly would succeed in this rotation because I believe he will. But who do you remove from this rotation to give Smyly the opportunity to start?

Like I said, I don’t hate this trade because Nick Franklin can be an admirable replacement for losing Ben Zobrist next season. Whenever Franklin was getting playtime in 2013 he put up ok numbers for the Seattle Mariners while also putting up some decent power. The switch-hitting Nick Franklin can replace the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist, so I understand the need or desire to grab Nick Franklin. But Franklin doesn’t possess nearly the same star power Addison Russell possesses. Also, unless Smyly goes to the bullpen the Rays didn’t necessarily need another starting pitcher nor do they have room for them.

I really feel Rays GM Andrew Friedman expected too much for David Price resulting in him ignoring a plethora of great trades. And with the Rays having the best record since June 11, I believe the whole organization got caught up in the hype that they could make a playoff run. Once that excitement faded after a few losses, the Rays scrambled to unload David Price but by that time the potential suitors had already addressed their needs or weren’t willing to unload top notch prospects. The Rays panicked at the deadline and in return missed out on getting the maximum package out of David Price.

After all, this is the same organization that traded James Shields and Wade Davis for 2013 Rookie of the Year award winner, Wil Myers, and Jake Odorizzi. To attain Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi out of that deal was simply phenomenal. So it’s not that I question the Rays front office, they’re fantastic. But if they got Myers and Odorizzi for James Shields, don’t you think they could’ve received just as much or more for David Price? The Royals made an egregious trade that most major league teams would never make, so I’m sure the Rays wouldn’t have been able to duplicate a trade of that caliber. But I’m sure they could have received a better trade package than the one they acquired. But the Tampa Bay Rays are one of the smartest teams in all of baseball so I’m sure they probably made a great decision. But I can’t help but feel the Rays potentially missed out and passed upon many top-caliber players who could have had an immediate impact for the team.


John Stoeter is a creator for Scouts Alley, you can follow him on twitter @Stoeter850.

Winners of the MLB Trade Deadline

By John Stoeter


The 2014 MLB trade deadline was filled with multiple blockbuster trades and numerous trades involving key players. It reminded me more of the NFL Draft rather than the slow moving deadline date I’ve grown accustomed to. Murphy Powell basically broke down every major trade that happened yesterday so it’s my job to discuss the winner’s and loser’s of each of these deals. “If you’re not first, you’re last”, so let’s start with the winner’s of this action-packed trade deadline.


 Detroit Tigers

What Detroit did yesterday was a modern-day Houdini act. It’s not that I’m shocked the Tigers received David Price via trade, however I am shocked as to how little the Tigers gave up in order to obtain Price. Detroit found themselves a midst a three-team trade that involved them only getting rid of OF Austin Jackson, LHP Drew Smyly, and INF prospect Willy Adames. Sure, the immediate loss of Austin Jackson will hurt the team offensively but who is going to be the more superior piece to a potential World Series title? Without a doubt the answer is David Price. Not to mention, Detroit still has many key offensive pieces in Cabrera, Kinsler, and both J.D. and Victor Martinez. The addition of a year and a half of David Price far outweighs the immediate loss of Austin Jackson.

Drew Smyly pitched lights out as a reliever last season but hasn’t posted the same dominating results this season as a starter. So strictly speaking on this season, David Price is an immediate upgrade to an already great starting rotation. The Tigers lead all of baseball in WAR when it comes to starting pitching, and that was before David Price joined the equation. David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez creates one of the nastiest rotations in all of baseball. The Tigers now find themselves with the last three Cy Young award winners in their rotation. That should be enough to strike fear into any major league offense.

Willy Adames is the only piece that doesn’t affect the Tigers immediately. Adames is an 18 year-old prospect who has power potential and a knack for extra-base hits posting an impressive 12 triples thus far this season in the minors. According to MLB.com, he already ranks second in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. While Adames has the potential and future promise to be something special, he wouldn’t have affected the Tigers this season and realistically next season as well. Adames impact in the majors isn’t until a few years away and the Tigers are in a win now state of mind. So for the Tigers to only rid themselves of two major league pieces and one prospect for the 2012 Cy Young award winner, I call that a victory for the organization. As the major-league leader in K’s, Price can help relieve the Tigers of the struggle’s Verlander has had recently. If Verlander does manage to find his old form then look out for the Tigers to dominate the American League and do some serious damage in the playoffs.

Boston Red Sox

For a team selling at the deadline, they sure did come out looking like a winner. The Red Sox are having a similar year to that of their 2012 season. A season in which they are under-performing yet they have many great pieces built around them. The Red Sox traded away some big names in 2012 and as the legend has it, won the World Series in 2013. It appears the Red Sox are using a similar strategy this season as they received some big league talent that will be there to start their 2015 campaign.

In a plethora of trades the Red Sox received OF Yoenis Cespedes, 1B/OF Allen Craig, RHP Joe Kelly, LHP Eduardo Rodriguez, INF Kelly Johnson, and competitive balance draft pick from the Oakland A’s. The Red Sox addressed all of their off-season offensive needs in the month of July. Cespedes and Craig immediately help improve a struggling Red Sox outfield and add a power threat to the line-up. While Craig has had a poor season thus far, he is a career .291 hitter and drove in 90+ RBI’s in 2012 and 2013. In a hitter-friendly Fenway Park, look for those numbers to spike back up in 2015. Craig is under contract through 2017 with a team option for the 2018 season.

The Red Sox addressed their modern day needs by attaining big league pieces who can have an immediate impact. But also while in the process of making trades, they strengthened an already impressive farm system. Within the past few days they added pitchers Eduardo Rodriguez, Heath Hembree, and Edwin Escobar to their mix of skillful minor-league prospects.

The most interesting thing to all of this is Jon Lester is open to a return to Boston. Lester is set to become a free agent this fall and has already stated that remaining a Red Sox would be of interest to him. This could be a win-win for both Lester and the Red Sox. Lester gets the opportunity to compete for another World Series title while the Red Sox add Yoenis Cespedes to their line-up. All the while, both Lester and Boston have every intention of re-uniting next season.

With a stacked farm system and now some big-league talent added to their roster, look for the Boston Red Sox to once again be a contender in 2015. The pitching will be an issue of concern for the team but with the potential to re-sign Lester and pitching prospect Henry Owens, all is bright in the Red Sox organization. All is bright minus this horrific 2014 season of course, but with a few big trades at the deadline the Red Sox find themselves huge winners.

Seattle Mariners

As discussed previously on Scouts Alley, the Seattle Mariners offense has been bad. Out of the 30 MLB teams, the Mariners rank 23rd in offensive WAR. Not to mention ranking 23rd in batting average, 25th in runs batted in, and 25th in slugging percentage. The Mariners were in a desperate need to add some right-handed pop to the line-up. And although Austin Jackson isn’t necessarily a major power threat, he is an immediate upgrade over James Jones and Endy Chavez. Jackson is a career .277 hitter who will bring some spark to the Mariner’s lead-off position and outfield.

As a part of the David Price three-team deal, the Mariners only gave up prospect Nick Franklin in order to get Jackson. And for a ball club fighting hard to get into that second Wild Card position this was a much-needed deal for them. If the Mariners manage to make the playoffs then they have to feel confident in Felix Hernandez taking the mound in a win-or-go-home playoff game. With a team dealing with a deficiency of runs, a deal had to be made, and they made it.

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves addressed some of their concerns by adding utility player Emilio Bonifacio and left-handed relief pitcher James Russell to the mix. The Atlanta Braves offense has struggled immensely all season to produce runs. Bonifacio can find playtime by fielding practically any position on the field. And whenever he’s in the line-up he can become the lead-off hitter Atlanta desperately needs. Don’t be surprised if Bonifacio starts to see more time than BJ Upton who has struggled the majority of this season. Fredi Gonzalez isn’t a stranger to benching star players including benching Heyward in 2011, leaving Uggla off the 2013 playoff roster, and benching Upton for the 2013 playoffs. James Russell is a veteran LHP who can help cement the Braves bullpen which has been in need of a consistent lefty. With little to no money to spend the Braves made the necessary moves to stay in contention for an NL East division or a potential Wild Card game.

Baltimore Orioles

In order for the Orioles to retain first place in the AL East they had to strengthen their pitching. And since the Orioles couldn’t strengthen their starting rotation they did the next best thing by adding LHP Andrew Miller. Miller is averaging a K/9 of 14.67 this season while also posting a FIP of 1.69. Andrew Miller was the most valuable reliever available this deadline and the Orioles made the move to get him. The combination of O’Day, Miller, and Britton in the 7th, 8th, and 9th will not only allow Baltimore to remain in closer ball games, it’ll help them win them also.


John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @stoeter850.

Major League Trade Talk

By John Stoeter


It’s that time of year again where baseball fans find their excitement via the Major League trade deadline. Whether your team is trading away their future prospects or trading to receive future prospects, it is reason for excitement. With only four more days left for ball clubs to make a deal, get ready for the constant pressure and headlines each GM and team might face. So let’s talk about the deals that have already transpired here throughout the past week or so.


Jake Peavy to the Giants

The San Francisco Giants traded relief pitcher/closer Heath Hembree and starting pitcher Edwin Escobar to the Boston Red Sox for Jake Peavy. With Matt Cain injured and struggling as badly as he has, the Giants must have felt obligated to obtain another starter to help them with their playoff push. But is Jake Peavy really the answer for the Giants? In the 20 games Peavy started for the Red Sox he went 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA and 4.81 FIP. Peavy has a $15 million player option for the 2015 season so the Giants are taking a risk on a turnaround second half out of Peavy.

The Red Sox receive Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar out of the deal but most importantly rid themselves of Jake Peavy’s player option for the 2015 season. Escobar is now considered to be the tenth-best prospect in the Red Sox organization, according to MLB.com. But the lefty has struggled mightily this season, posting an ERA of 5.11 through his first twenty games started. Hembree appears to be a quality relief arm thrown into the mix and has a lot closing experience in the minors, which is always a bonus for young relief pitchers.

Unless Jake Peavy can return to his vintage Padre form I don’t see this trade benefiting the Giants all too much. As a matter fact, I see it as more of a burden to the team. The Giants already have a veteran in Tim Hudson who has been exceptional this season. The deal for Jake Peavy just seems like a desperation move in an effort to catch the red hot Los Angeles Dodgers, who, of course, just swept the Giants at home. You can’t fault the Giants for making a run at the veteran though. They’re still in a great position to make the playoffs as they are tied for Wild Card lead in the Natonal League. And it’s worth mentioning that it’s an even year, so the Giants are probably due for another World Series title.

Chase Headley for Yangervis Solarte

The New York Yankees acquire third basemen Chase Headley for third basemen Yangervis Solarte and pitcher Rafael De Paula. The Yankees made the trade for Headley on the possibility that they might get to see him perform more like he did in his breakout 2012 season. The Yankees could use help offensively, especially with power. The switch-hitting Headley could be able to take advantage of that short porch in right field, but most of all take advantage of a line-up that can protect him. The Padres are among the worst offenses in baseball, so Headley could very well benefit from a change of scenery. In the midst of a contract year and a playoff race, maybe the Yankees get a resurgent Chase Headley. As a matter of fact, Headley’s first day with the Yankees resulted in a walk-off hit so maybe it’s a sign of great things to come for him.

 headley

However, I must say that the San Diego Padres have to feel somewhat upset with the result of this trade. Had they traded Headley after his breakout 2012 season they could have netted much more in return than Solarte and De Paula.

It is worth noting that both Solarte and Headley hit their first home run with their new clubs yesterday.

Soria Exits Texas

In an effort to aid their malnourished bullpen, the Detroit Tigers traded for closer Joakim Soria. The Tigers relief corp ranks 23rd in WAR and 26th in ERA. Even though Soria isn’t the same person as he was in 2008-2010, he is still very effective out of the pen. Soria is having a career best in FIP and strikeout to walk ratio. Not to mention, his BB/9 is at a career best also with a 1.9. If Soria keeps pitching well and keeps his walks down then he’ll cement a struggling Tigers bullpen. Soria has a 2015 team option, so I see this a much needed pickup for Detroit. But don’t be shocked if they go after another arm to help aid their bottom-of-the-barrel bullpen.

Street to Los Angeles

Pitching is essential if the Angels plan to keep up with the best team in baseball, the Oakland Athletics. In an attempt to do just that the Los Angeles Angels traded for closer Huston Street in an effort to strengthen their mediocre bullpen. In return the San Diego Padres received a slew of prospects – Jose Rondon, Taylor Lindsey, R.J. Alvarez, and Elliot Morris. I like the move for both ball clubs. The Angels get better by adding a all-star closer while the Padres continue to rebuild and unload contracts. Street has 2015 team option and thus far has pitched lights out this season with a 0.97 ERA.

In Other News

  • The Seattle Mariners traded for Kendrys Morales in an effort to help one of the worst offenses in baseball. However, I don’t think his .233 batting average and one home-run will be all too much help for them.
  • The Yankees traded for Chris Capuano to add to their injury-depleted starting rotation. They also went after Jeff Francis, and Brandon McCarthy was added to the mix on July 6th as well. With Tanaka, Nova, and Sabathia all most likely out for the season the Yankees could use all the help they could get in the rotation. Pineda is scheduled to return here in the next few weeks but nothing is guaranteed for this rotation. So adding a plethora of arms was definitely in the best interest of the Yankees.

John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Stoeter850.

Deadline Deals: National League East

By John Stoeter

standings

Here is a current look at the standings of the National League East division. The Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals find themselves neck-and-neck atop the division. The injury bug has not been kind to either of these clubs, yet both teams have found ways to persevere. So let’s start off by taking a look at what both teams will need to do to win this division and make a serious run in the playoffs.

Washington Nationals

The first couple months of the season were a rough, injury-plagued time for the Washington Nationals. Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bryce Harper all had early stints on the disabled list for a month or longer. At the start of June, the Nationals hoisted a record of 27-28 sitting 3.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves. But since the start of June, the Washington Nationals have tallied a record of 24-15 and now sit tied for first place with Atlanta.

Although there have been rumors reported of a potential Ian Desmond trade, I personally don’t see this deal happening. Desmond is currently the team’s leader in home runs and RBIs, and although he leads the team in strikeouts with 111, backup shortstop Danny Espinosa is second on the list with 97 strikeouts. Even worse for the Nationals is that Espinosa has calculated these totals through 102 less at-bats than Ian Desmond. So unless the Nationals find themselves in the heart of a Starlin Castro trade, I do not see them sending their best viable option at shortstop to another team.

The Nationals are a rare team that simply gets its trade deadline advantage by their star players returning and being healthy. A healthy Nationals lineup can rank as one of the best in the National League. For them to have such a rough first half of the season and still be in first place is a big confidence boost for the team.

So let’s talk about what has anchored this Nationals ball club down while the stars on offense were injured. According to Fangraphs the Washington Nationals hoist a 12.9 pitching WAR, which ranks first in the National League and second throughout all of baseball. They rank first in all of the majors in FIP and ERA. The Nationals arguably have the best rotation in baseball next to the Oakland Athletics. Getting a healthy line-up behind this Nationals staff will only produce more wins for the ball club. FIP

There has been rumors of left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler being dealt to strengthen the team but unless they receive a mind blowing offer I do not see Detwiler being dealt. Detwiler is currently pitching pretty well in relief for the Nationals and as any Major League team knows, bullpen depth is very important for playoff contending teams.

All is in favor for the Washington Nationals considering the second half of their schedule is relatively easy, as they see a lot of games against some cellar-dweller teams. The month of September consists mostly of the Phillies, Mets, and the Marlins besides two crucial meetings with the Atlanta Braves. If anything, look for the Nationals to strengthen an already great bullpen or add some pop to their bench. But for the most part, don’t look for any blockbuster trades out of the Washington Nationals. They are in prime position to make a great second half run barring any key injuries to the team.

 

Atlanta Braves

After a 17-7 start, the Atlanta Braves found themselves on a rough month-and-a-half stretch in which they went 19-28. But since their rough skid in May-June they have found themselves with a 16-8 record in their last 24 games. So there you have it, you’re looking at the streakiest team in baseball, similar to the 2013 Atlanta Braves. They have the capability of running off a ten-game win streak at any moment or running off a nine-game losing skid. You never know with this streaky lineup.

The Atlanta Braves started this season with even worse news than the Washington Nationals. During spring training the Braves found themselves without their ace Kris Medlen and middle of the roatation starter Brandon Beachy after Tommy John surgeries. (Could you imagine the Nationals losing Stephen Strasburg and Doug Fister before the season even started?)

So the Atlanta Braves inked Ervin Santana to a one-year deal and found lightning in a bottle with the signing of Aaron Harang. Even through all of Atlanta’s pitching woes they still lead the majors in Quality Starts, according to ESPN. And according to Fangraphs they have the third best FIP in the majors sitting only behind the Nationals and the Cardinals.

Quality Starts (2)

One can make the case that Atlanta has been pitching the best in the majors with these statistics. So why does everyone keep stating the need for another starting pitcher? It’s simple, injuries happen in the game of baseball. The Braves have already lost Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, and Gavin Floyd for the season due to injuries. This is the same Atlanta Braves team that was forced to throw Freddy Garcia against Clayton Kershaw in a must-win Game 4 in the 2013 NLDS. Although Garcia pitched admirably and put the Braves in position to win, no team wants to see a 37-year-old seasoned veteran past his prime in the playoffs against Clayton Kershaw.

Mike Minor has yet to find his form this season and has struggled thus far. According to Fangraphs, his 0.2 pitching WAR ranks worst among the Atlanta Braves starters. The loss of Gavin Floyd severely hurts the Braves as he was starting to pitch really well. This leaves David Hale as the main option if any starter were to go down. Atlanta would love to add some pitching depth to their rotation. But the $14.1 million signing of Ervin Santana and the inability for the team to rid themselves of Dan Uggla’s contract will make it hard for the Braves to pick up any significant portion of salary.

Look for the Braves to go after a pitcher such as Jake Arreita for their starting concerns. But Arrieta may come with a price the Braves aren’t currently willing to give. Atlanta doesn’t have much to give in their farm system and Frank Wren isn’t the type to deal the farm away either. However with Arreita’s affordable salary and the way he has been pitching, he might just be worth the asking price of the Cubs. Arrieta will be under team control through 2018, receiving his first arbitration eligible season next year.

Another need of the Atlanta Braves is a left-handed reliever. The bullpen of Atlanta has struggled this season and so far has created question marks. However, the return of Jordan Walden and the emergence of rookie Shae Simmons creates a lot of promise for Atlanta. Luis Avilan pitched great for Atlanta last season but has struggled mightily this season out of the pen. If the Braves can find another left-handed reliever to take some pressure off Avilan then their pen immediately looks better and shapes up more like it did in 2013.

There have been links to the Braves and left-handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller of the Boston Red Sox. If the Braves could strike a deal gaining Miller then it would significantly help the bullpen. However, Miller could just be a half-year rental so the Braves might not be willing to give up too much for him. If Atlanta finds a starter at the deadline this gives them the option to throw lefty Alex Wood back in the pen for a relief role. Also, keep in mind that Jonny Venters is scheduled to return to Atlanta in late August or early September. But with the rust of coming off a second Tommy John surgery so late in the season, he might not be able to benefit Atlanta as much as they had hoped.

So look for a deal similar to one of these for the Atlanta Braves and not a massive blockbuster acquisition at the deadline. If the Braves can somehow find a suitor for Dan Uggla then the financial landscape will change in the Braves favor. But until then look for them to play the waiver wire wisely in the meantime. Don’t be surprised if Atlanta designates Dan Uggla for assignment and releases him outright. Besides the threat of power, he serves no purpose on Atlanta’s bench and is only creating distractions. If Atlanta releases Uggla then look at them to target some more power off the bench.

The best hope for Atlanta to retain its division title is for them to beat up on the Nationals during their two September match-ups. The Atlanta Braves have a tougher second-half schedule than the Washington Nationals, so barring a major collapse by Washington, the Braves will need to take care of business during their visits. Which dating back to the start of 2013, Atlanta has had no problem doing, going 20-9 against the Nats.


 John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. Follow him on Twitter @Stoeter850.

Why Heat Fans Shouldn’t Be Mad at LeBron James

By John Stoeter


 

Photo Credit: By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Dwyane Wade an LeBron James) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Dwyane Wade an LeBron James) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

While it is understandable for any Miami Heat fan to be upset with LeBron James for leaving the  Heat, they should first look at everything he brought to the organization during his tenure in Miami.

Dwyane Wade and his 26.6 PPG led the 2009-2010 Miami Heat team to a 47-35 record, which qualified for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. However their playoff run was short-lived as they were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

According to Basketball Reference, Jermaine O’Neal was the highest paid player with a whopping salary of $23,010,000. Udonis Haslem was second on the team in Win Shares with 6, followed closely behind Quentin Richardson with 5.8. And they ranked 15th in attendance with 726,935.

Now let’s take a look at the 2010-2011 Miami Heat team which included the emergence of LeBron James and Chris Bosh alongside Dwyane Wade. The Miami Heat improved to a 61-21 record and found themselves in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. They improved their attendance to 5th in the NBA with 810,930. In the 2011-2012 NBA season they were 4th in the league with an attendance of 657,855. (Keep in mind that the 2011-2012 NBA season was shortened to 66 games due to a NBA lockout.) The Miami Heat attendance rate increased to 3rd in the league during the 2012-2013 NBA season with 819,290. And even though the Heat didn’t see an increase in attendance during the 2013-2014 season, it still qualified for 4th-best in the NBA.

During the four seasons LeBron James played for the Miami Heat, they had a top-five attendance rate. Not only did LeBron James bring an influx of money to Heat organization, he also brought championships back along with him. The Miami Heat won two consecutive NBA titles from 2012-2013. LeBron James won the MVP award and the Finals MVP award during both of those seasons. James brought a much needed excitement back to the city of Miami. He brought resilience and recognition back to an organization in need of it. But most importantly he brought back two banners that now hang proudly in AmericanAirlines Arena.

For instance, fellow Scouts Alley creator Murphy Powell and I attended Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals. We went to the NBA Finals strictly just to see LeBron James, the greatest player in the NBA. And while the both of us have always liked the Miami Heat because they were in Florida, we never truly cared for them. We never truly cared until LeBron James joined the team that is. And the high increase in attendance shows that many other NBA fans felt the same way as we did.

So to any bitter Miami Heat fans, you should be thankful for everything LeBron James has done for the Miami Heat organization. The recognition and relevance in which the Miami Heat have received these past four seasons are all thanks to LeBron James. Unless you are a die-hard Miami Heat fan, the average fan would not even remember Quentin Richardson. Yet, he was the Miami Heat’s third most productive player from the 2009-2010 season. Would y’all have rather seen more consecutive seasons such as the 2009-2010 season, or the four amazing and energizing seasons LeBron James provided? So be happy for the many wonderful memories that LeBron James shared with Miami.

The Miami Heat will see a decrease in attendance this year and the fans can clamor it’s because of “bandwagon” fans. But once the bitterness and heartbreak subsides, they’ll truly see how lucky they were to witness the King James dynasty in Miami. Heat fans will remember the shoe-less Mike Miller, LeBron losing his headband, the infamous Ray Allen shot, and all the excitement Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals brought. They’ll look into those rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena and thank LeBron James for his 2012 and 2013 NBA Championships, and truly realize the legacy he created for the Miami Heat organization.

  • LeBron’s left-handed game winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013

Lebron James

  • LeBron’s career-ending dunk on Jason Terry

Lebron James

  • LeBron’s clutch shot to ice Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

Lebron James

  • LeBron’s monsterous block on Tiago Splitter

Lebron James

The Darko Dynasty Disaster

By John Stoeter

Pistons_starting_5
Photo Credit: By flickr user Dave Hogg (flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2002-2003 Detroit Pistons advanced to Eastern Conference Finals in which they got swept 4-0 by the New Jersey Nets. Needless to the say, this was a very good team who was just a piece or two away from serious NBA Finals contention. Luckily for the Detroit Pistons organization, they were in the perfect position to better themselves immediately with an early draft selection. The Detroit Pistons found themselves in a rare predicament in which they hoisted the second pick of the upcoming 2003 NBA Draft. In 1997, the then-Vancouver Grizzlies traded their 2003 first round pick to the Detroit Pistons for Otis Thorpe.

So there we have it, the Detroit Pistons were in prime position to upgrade their squad and change NBA history forever. With the second pick of the 2003 NBA Draft they selected Darko Milicic, passing on the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. Not to mention, they passed up on numerous role players who would have helped the team significantly more than Darko Milicic did. Chris Kaman, Josh Howard, David West, Kyle Korver, and Kendrick Perkins are just a few names on a big list of players who would have produced far more efficiently.

But instead of focusing on all of the NBA talent that the Pistons passed up, I simply want to focus on one player. Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo was one of the first few stars to do the whole one-and-done experience. As a freshman at Syracuse, Anthony averaged 22.2 PPG and 10 RPG. He was the true definition of a star in the making, arguably the best player in college basketball. And the greatest part about Carmelo Anthony was that he had just led Syracuse to a NCAA National Championship. He dominated the tournament while also winning the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award. Had it not been for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony would’ve virtually been a shoe-in for the number one draft pick.

But the Detroit Pistons decided it was in their best interest to draft the seven-footer, Darko Milicic. At the time many would argue that the Pistons had made the right decision. With International players really starting to make a mark on the league it may have seemed safer to draft players across seas. The Pistons more than likely looked at Darko as Dirk Nowitzki 2.0, or the future big man of the NBA. And being one piece away from a serious NBA Finals run, the Pistons thought Darko was the future and the piece needed to win it all. The combination of Ben Wallace and Darko Milicic was supposed to be the key that led them to the promised land.

Fortunately, for the Pistons they went on to win the NBA Finals that year in a 4-1 series win over the Los Angeles Lakers. However, it was the mid-season acquisition of Rasheed Wallace that would lead them to a NBA Finals title, not Darko Milicic. As a matter of fact, out of the seventeen players who qualified, Darko Milicic’s -0.2 Win Shares registered as worst on the team. 

With the small amount of play time Darko MIlicic saw, he showed little to no improvement. However, in his defense it is hard to see improvement whenever you barely get any minutes to play. The whole Detroit Pistons organization has to be somewhat at fault for the way they handled his minutes and playtime. It is very easy to shake up the confidence of a player that young. The Pistons should have done a better job providing a role in which he could succeed in early on. When a young athlete’s confidence is destroyed, it can be a very hard thing to regain. Especially whenever the whole culture in which you are experiencing is all relatively new and unfamiliar.

Tayshaun Prince was selected with their first pick in the 2002 NBA Draft so the need for another small forward wasn’t necessary.  Prince was a premier defender, good three-point shooter, and showed many signs of potential.

However, when a talent like Carmelo Anthony comes through the draft and you have the opportunity to draft him, you draft him with no questions asked. Carmelo Anthony demonstrated once in a lifetime potential. That type of talent and star power is rare and should never be passed upon.

The Detroit Pistons went on to go to six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals from 2002-2007. After their title in the 2003-2004 season they went to a second straight NBA Finals in which they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in a decisive win-or-go home Game 7. Could Carmelo have powered these Detroit Pistons into a dynasty that was capable of running off a few titles? Now nobody knows how the future would have unfolded had they drafted Carmelo Anthony instead of Darko Milicic but you have to wonder “what if”?


John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @Stoeter850.

Not 1, Not 2, Well Maybe Only 2?

By John Stoeter


The decision that sent Lebron James packing to South Beach in 2010 can ultimately be the same decision that sends him packing his bags back to Cleveland in 2014. During Lebron’s spell in Miami, the team has been to four straight NBA Finals appearances while winning two of them. So what seems to be the problem? Similar to his Cleveland days, Lebron has little to no help surrounding him.

In the 2014 NBA Finals Lebron scored 28.2 PPG, leading the Miami Heat in scoring. The other two members of the so-called big three averaged 29.2 PPG. Unfortunately for Lebron and the Heat, this was Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade’s combined PPG for the series. Well Bosh and Wade must be producing elsewhere then, correct? False. Bosh and Wade went on to average only 9 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game during the 2014 NBA Finals. Sure, if each one did that individually then that doesn’t sound all too bad. However, these were their combined statistics, whereas Lebron James averaged 7.8 rebounds and 4 assists.

The combination of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade only averaged 1 more point than James while producing fewer assists and only averaging 1.2 rebounds more than the king. At this point, Lebron must be quoting his inner Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, saying, “We need your help!!!!” Seriously, minus Lebron, the Spurs made the Heat look like a Michael Jordan-less Tune Squad.

In a must-win Game 4 in Miami, Dwyane Wade shot 3-13 from the field and only scored 10 points. Chris Bosh scored 12 points but managed to grab only 4 rebounds. Lebron out-rebounded the starting squad by his lonesome. In a win-or-go-home Game 5, Chris Bosh shot 6-14, going 0-5 from behind the three-point line while only producing 13 points. Dwyane Wade shot 4-12, only manufacturing 11 buckets. Lebron went on to lead the team in scoring with 31 while also leading the team in rebounds and assists. The Miami Heat’s lack of offensive production has to at least have Lebron squabbling the options of taking his talents to Cleveland. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a decision part two.

The Cleveland Advantage

       The combination of Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins has to at least spark the interest of Lebron James. Kyrie Irving is a premiere PG in the league and his 20.8 PPG has to at least attract Lebron James slightly. And if you remember Kyrie Irving stole the show by winning this years MVP in the all-star game. The kid seems to be big time and is dripping with potential. The ability for James to actually come off the ball and play a true SF/PF position would be very beneficial for him. Most importantly, it would be very beneficial for his legs and his body. As we have all seen in the previous year’s finals, Lebron struggles with severe leg cramps. And although there are many reasons behind this, you have to like the idea of Kyrie Irving being able to reduce the stress of Lebron James and his legs. More than likely Lebron will still have the ball the majority of the time. But the idea that he can actually play with a great PG for once instead of a multitude of mediocre ones has to be intriguing.

Now let’s get to the Andrew Wiggins factor of the Cavaliers sales pitch. The phenom freshman from the Kansas Jayhawks has been raved upon since his high school days. Similar to another number one draft pick by the Cavaliers named Lebron James. Before his transition to college, many experts dubbed Andrew Wiggins to be the next Lebron James. Not to mention, it is believed that Andrew Wiggins’ game will transition very smoothly into the NBA. An NBA-sized court will allow Wiggins to move with more spacing which he seems to be a lot more comfortable doing. The trio of James, Irving, and Wiggins has the capability of a true big 3 with some athletic scoring ability. Not to mention, unlike the Miami Heat of 2014 which was running on lack of cartilage and fumes, this team has youth behind it.

But the biggest benefit to a possible Cleveland return for the king is that it’s home. The decision for Lebron James to return to Cleveland is simply deeper than a good team with a chance of winning. A couple weeks ago Lebron posted videos on Instagram of him and his buddies from Cleveland. He is quoted saying, “Man I miss my dogs! Can’t wait to get home for the summer.” Lebron stills owns a home there and returns every summer to vacation. The majority of his friends and family still reside in Cleveland and the surrounding areas. It seems to me that Lebron would love nothing more than to return to Cleveland and win their first major professional title since 1964. The hometown villain could become a hero and cement his legacy in Cleveland sports forever. As the saying goes, “there’s no place like home.”

Cleveland Crisis

       First, let’s address the youth of this team. Andrew Wiggins is only 19 and Kyrie Irving is just 22. While there have been rookies who have risen to stardom and help win titles before, it is very uncommon for a team this young to do so. The major core of this team would be 24 and younger besides Anderson Varejao. I don’t believe James will want to come to a team in which he feels he will have to coach throughout the season. In my opinion, James will be more interested on a team where he can contend immediately. Lebron is interested in rings, not coaching young stars and molding their future. This Cavaliers team hoisted a 33-49 record last year and have yet to receive a winning season since the departure of James. Although they have had much “luck” in the NBA draft, they have been bad enough to receive three number one draft picks in the past four seasons. And not to mention, this is the same team that wasted the 2013 number one pick on Anthony Bennett.

       Also, this is the same exact organization that failed to provide James with any extra help or relief necessary to provide a serious NBA Finals run. Seriously, there were seasons in which Larry Hughes and an old washed-up Shaq and Ben Wallace led the team in salary. Does Lebron really want to risk his future on another bad management fiasco in Cleveland?

       The other big question mark on this team is newly hired head coach David Blatt. The man is a widely successful European coach. But who knows if his style of play will translate into a successful offense in the NBA. I believe that all these question marks surrounding Cleveland will be a little bit too much for Lebron James to commit to. Maybe in a few years as this team matures we will finally see a return of the king in Cleveland.

In Riley We Trust

       Lebron James will have a sit-down with Pat Riley today. He will announce his doubts and uncertainties for the following Miami Heat season, but all in all it’s about winning, and I believe that Lebron trusts Pat Riley enough to make the moves around him in order to create a roster capable of another championship run. At the moment the heat only have four players currently committed to this season’s basketball team. These players consist of Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. This so far looks like a much better and youthful team to build around Lebron. But if you add in the fact that Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are likely to sign with the Heat again if Lebron does, the average age of the roster starts to take a significant hit.

       In order for Lebron to resign with the Heat, I believe they have to get some true scoring power or make a trade for a guy like Marc Gasol. A true center in Miami is a must-need. If Chris Bosh can go back to shooting his mid-range shot and playing PF then the Heat immediately look better. Taking Bosh away from grabbing boards and adding in a center who can do that will ultimately be a significant upgrade for the team. Lebron will trust in Riley and his genius mind and go on to play another season for the Miami Heat.

The Rumor Portion

       Everybody loves a sweet rumor so let me end with a wild prediction. It was reported earlier that after speaking with Lebron James, Chris Bosh and his agent have started to at least take offers from other teams. One offer being the 4 year/88 million dollar deal with the Houston Rockets. Lebron James needs more star power and scoring in Miami. However, he knows that the Heat will not rid themselves of Dwyane Wade. Even though Wade has a bum knee and looked like a shell of himself in the previous NBA Finals; his job is safe. The guy is hero in that city and loved by all. He has been a part of all of the organizations championships and it’s pretty safe to say that his job is locked up.

       So here is where it gets interesting. What if Lebron was toying with Chris Bosh in order for him to leave town? Maybe Pat Riley and Lebron James discuss a evil maniacal plan to rid themselves of Bosh and his salary. They make the announcement that Lebron won’t be returning to Miami, creating a frenzy in the free agent market. Chris Bosh makes the decision to sign with the Rockets. Which, personally, I find to be a great pick up. And it leaves the Rockets as a number one favorite out of the west. Bosh with his mid-range and Howard with the rebounds and defense would create the best PF/C combo in the league.

       But back to the Lebron sweepstakes. After a day or two of pandemonium it’s announced that the Heat sign Carmelo Anthony to a deal, which was the evil plan created by James and Riley. Next thing you know, the Heat are back in business with another big blockbuster free agency. Thus leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers heartbroken, playing the role of scapegoat while Lebron James returns to the Miami Heat organization.

       The Miami Heat roster could look something like this:

PG: Cole/Napier

SG: Wade

SF: Anthony

PF: James

C: Whoever, it doesn’t matter

Let’s say the bench looks something similar to this.

SG: Allen

SF: Granger

PF: McRoberts

PF: Haslem

C: Anderson/Oden

Throw in whoever else they decide to add to the mix. Now that sounds like some serious championship contention and an immediate upgrade for the Miami Heat and Lebron James.


John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @Stoeter850.