Brandon Funston

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Brandon Funston is a Yahoo! Sports fantasy expert who has spent more than a decade in the industry. After spending eight years as a fantasy personality on ESPN's online, TV, radio and magazine outlets, he's happy to be back on the West Coast where he can watch his hometown Seattle teams at a reasonable hour of the day.

  • Sleepers and Busts: The Starting Pitchers

    Atlanta's Alex Wood is bringing the funk to the Braves rotation. (Getty)

    For the past month, the Yahoo fantasy crew has offered up its player rankings for the upcoming 2014 fantasy baseball campaign. Now, with the season only a couple weeks away, we felt it was time to take a deeper dive into the rationale behind those rankings, specifically where each expert has most drastically veered from the group-think (Yahoo ADP) path. Below, each expert explains his dissenting opinion on a couple players he likes more than the Yahoo ADP and a couple players he likes less than the ADP. For this exercise, we'll call them our sleepers and busts at the middle infield positions. In case you missed them, here's our sleepers and busts in the outfield, down on the corner and up the middle.

    THE SLEEPERS

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

    Alex Wood, Atl - With his funky delivery and change-up heavy approach, Wood produced nearly a K per IP last season and produced a near 50 percent ground-ball rate. The only concern was whether he was going to see more time in the rotation or in the bullpen. But Tommy John victims Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy (not to mention Mike Minor starting the year on the DL) means the Braves will be leaning on Wood as a starter out of the gates — that he's been lights out this spring certainly didn't hurt his cause. Wood is going as the No. 56 starter, on average, in Yahoo drafts, but I have him pushing top 30 territory. (Brandon Funston)

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  • Sleepers and Busts: The Middle Infielders

    Xander Bogaerts, Boston legend in the making? (Getty)

    For the past month, the Yahoo fantasy crew has offered up its player rankings for the upcoming 2014 fantasy baseball campaign. Now, with the season only a couple weeks away, we felt it was time to take a deeper dive into the rationale behind those rankings, specifically where each expert has most drastically veered from the group-think (Yahoo ADP) path. Below, each expert explains his dissenting opinion on a couple players he likes more than the Yahoo ADP and a couple players he likes less than the ADP. For this exercise, we'll call them our sleepers and busts at the middle infield positions. In case you missed them, here's our sleepers and busts in the outfield and at the corner infield.

    THE SLEEPERS

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

    Xander Bogaerts, Bos - I'm all in on Bogaerts. The 21-year-old has a nice minor league resume, but it's the eye test that has sold me. He definitely doesn't look like a kid. With a quick, patient bat and an ability to drive the ball to all fields, Bogaerts stepped up on the postseason stage last season and showed that he was up for the challenge, hitting .296 in 12 playoff games against the likes of aces Adam Wainwright, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and company. Those that are hesitant to buy in on Bogaerts this season will point to the fact that he's hitting down in the Boston lineup. But I doubt that lasts. After all, how long are we really expecting top of the order hitters Grady Sizemore, Shane Victorino or Dustin Pedroia to avoid the DL? I'm looking for Bogaerts to post a line similar to Manny Machado's from last season as he relentlessly peppers the Green Monster all season long. (Brandon Funston)

    Read More »from Sleepers and Busts: The Middle Infielders
  • Sleepers and Busts: The Corner Infielders

    Josh Donaldson - the man, the myth, the mullet. (Getty)

    For the past month, the Yahoo fantasy crew has offered up its player rankings for the upcoming 2014 fantasy baseball campaign. Now, with the season only a couple weeks away, we felt it was time to take a deeper dive into the rationale behind those rankings, specifically where each expert has most drastically veered from the group-think (Yahoo ADP) path. Below, each expert explains his dissenting opinion on a couple players he likes more than the Yahoo ADP and a couple players he likes less than the ADP. For this exercise, we'll call them our sleepers and busts at the corner infield positions. In case you missed them, you can find our outfield sleepers and busts here.

    THE SLEEPERS

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

    Brandon Belt, SF - Belt got off to a sluggish start in '13 but, if you throw out his first 18 games, he finished as a top 75 fantasy commodity the rest of the way. Here's a guy with an impressive pedigree coming off a season in which he showed prolonged success. And he is just entering his prime as he'll turn 26 in April. He's also expected to hit third in the lineup, in front of Buster Posey. Last season Belt hit .320 in 181 ABs as the No. 3 hitter. His current ADP is right around 143 overall, but I like him at least two rounds earlier than that. (Brandon Funston)

    Read More »from Sleepers and Busts: The Corner Infielders
  • Sleepers and Busts: The Outfielders

    There's no shortage of fantasy intrigue in the Chicago White Sox outfield (Getty)

    For the past month, the Yahoo fantasy crew has offered up its player rankings for the upcoming 2014 fantasy baseball campaign. Now, with the season only a couple weeks away, we felt it was time to take a deeper dive into the rationale behind those rankings, specifically where each expert has most drastically veered from the group-think (Yahoo ADP) path. Below, each expert explains his dissenting opinion on a couple players he likes more than the Yahoo ADP and a couple players he likes less than the ADP. For this exercise, we'll call them our sleepers and busts at the outfield position. Next week, we'll discuss the infield outliers. Until then, let us know in the comments section which players have you furthest out on a limb.

    THE SLEEPERS

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

    Adam Eaton, CHW - With his speed and ability to get on base (.450 career minor-league OBP), there weren't too many buzzier players heading into the '13 season than Eaton. But a sprained elbow in the spring rained on his parade. Now, relocated to Chicago's South Side, there's much less fanfare for Eaton heading into '14 - his Yahoo ADP is way down at No. 224 overall. But everything we liked about Eaton still remains. The expected leadoff hitter for the ChiSox is tearing up the Cactus League, and it's not far-fetched to think he can score 80-90 runs, hit 10 home runs, steal 20-30 bases, all with a batting average north of .280. If he comes close to those numbers, he'll be an absolute draft-day steal. (Brandon Funston)

    Read More »from Sleepers and Busts: The Outfielders
  • Pressing Questions: The Los Angeles Dodgers

    Who's excited about the M's '14 season? Anyone? ... Anyone? (Getty)

    We continue our series of MLB fantasy previews, wherein we consider 4-5 key questions surrounding each team. Baseball is coming, gamers. Pitchers and catchers report soon. Fantasy owners report immediately...

    The Los Angeles Dodgers head into '14 on the upswing. After winning the NL West in '13 – the third time in the past six years that it has accomplished that feat (losing in the NLCS each of those seasons) – LA sits as a frontrunner to claim World Series hardware this upcoming season. In fact, the general consensus in Las Vegas has the Dodgers as the favorite to win it all. The Yahoo sports baseball crew likes the St. Louis Cardinals as the top team for '14, but lists the Dodgers at No. 2 overall in its preseason countdown of MLB top teams.

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

    Of course, for our purposes here, we don't care about wins and loses. We only care about individual statistics, and in that department, there should be no shortage of fantasy production to mine from this SoCal roster. Based on average live draft data from Yahoo, so far, four Dodgers players can be expected to come off the board among the top 50 selections, including three in the top 30. And that doesn't include closer Kenley Jansen, who had the fourth-highest K/9 rate (min. 50 IP) in MLB last season (13.03). With a full season opportunity ahead as the Dodgers' stopper, you could make the argument that he deserves to be the No. 1 closer selected (though Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel probably makes a slightly better case). And also not in that top 50 mix is outfielder Matt Kemp, who has proven his No. 1 overall upside in the virtual setting when he's been able to stay healthy. Of course, his health is a huge question mark these days. No doubt, it's the most Pressing Question for this team as it gears up for a World Series run in '14. Let's start with a deeper dive into Kemp's situation.

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  • Pressing Questions: The Seattle Mariners

    Who's excited about the M's '14 season? Anyone? ... Anyone? (USAT)

    We continue our series of MLB fantasy previews, wherein we consider 4-5 key questions surrounding each team. Baseball is coming, gamers. Pitchers and catchers report soon. Fantasy owners report immediately...

    That big (and, undeniably, hilarious) photo above sort of sums up the general feeling about the Mariners these days, at least among Seattle sports fans. The NFL's Seahawks just brought the city of Seattle its first major sports championship since '79. The Seattle Sounders, with a wanna-be EPL fan base, has averaged 44k fans each of the past two seasons, twice as much as any other team in Major League Soccer. Throw in a devoted group of Bring Back the Sonics enthusiasts, and you could say that the Mariners, with four consecutive seasons with 75 wins or less, have become a threadbare afterthought amongst the Seattle sports fabric.

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

    Certainly the Mariners have helped exacerbate their situation, thanks to some questionable PR tactics. A couple years ago, the team made the very unpopular move of positioning itself as a political roadblock for Chris Hansen, who is trying to build a NBA/NHL stadium in the M's backyard. And, then there was the Seattle Times report by Geoff Baker that came out in December, with former manager Eric Wedge and many other ex-employees helping detail the dysfunctional work environment in the M's front office under GM Jack Zduriencik.

    If ever a team was in need of some positive vibes, it was the Mariners heading into this past offseason. Enter Robinson Cano, for 240 million dollars over the next 10 years. And that's the obvious place to start our '14 Pressing Questions for Seattle:

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  • Pressing Questions: The Colorado Rockies

    It's all about health when it comes to the Rockies' stars (USAT)

    The Rockies finished last in the National League West last season, but their run differential (-54) was better than both the Padres (-82) and Giants (-62). Moreover, Colorado actually had a winning record when both Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez were healthy (h/t Gene McCaffrey). Of course, the former is hurt almost every year, and this is just the nicest way of painting Colorado’s otherwise poor season, as they finished 18.0 games behind the N.L. West winner and allowed the most runs in the Senior Circuit (albeit thanks a lot to Coors Field, which remains baseball’s best hitter’s park by a wide margin. In fact, it has increased run scoring by 36 percent over the past three seasons. The next highest has been the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington at a distant 15 percent).

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

    The Rockies enter 2014 with mostly the same team as last year, losing Dexter Fowler and Todd Helton while adding Justin Morneau and Brett Anderson.

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  • Pressing Questions: The Houston Astros

    At least from a fantasy perspective, there's a little more to get excited about in Houston this year. (USAT)

    We continue our series of MLB fantasy previews, wherein we consider 4-5 key questions surrounding each team. Baseball is coming, gamers. Pitchers and catchers report soon. Fantasy owners report immediately...

    As expected, the Astros took up residence in the AL West basement in '13, their first season in the Junior Circuit. At this time last year, there were but two Astros worth placement on mixed league fantasy baseball draft boards, those being pocket rocket second baseman Jose Altuve and closer Jose Veras. The good news for Astros fans is that, while reality still bites heading into the '14 campaign, the team's fantasy prospects have significantly improved. That was evident in a mock draft that we conducted with friends and family of Yahoo fantasy in January, where six Astros were drafted (Altuve, George Springer, Dexter Fowler, Jason Castro, Jonathan Villar, Chris Carter), and that doesn't include their expected closer to-be, Jesse Crain (more on him below).

    Because of seven consecutive years of futility (finishing no higher than third in its division, including three straight last-place finishes), Houston has been able to compile a lot of high picks in the MLB draft. That has led to one of the league's most talent-rich farms at the moment. In the past two drafts, Houston had the top pick in each, nabbing shortstop Carlos Correa and starter Mark Appel, respectively. And, after finishing with a woeful 51 wins last season (worst win total in MLB since '04), Houston will again get the top choice among the '14 amateur crop.

    So the promise of youth is the focus for Houston, and for fantasy owners looking to cash in on the team's talent offering for '14. The veteran Altuve is still the top roto commodity here, but five-tool outfield prospect George Springer is, perhaps, generating the most preseason buzz, as he was the second Houston player off the board in the above mentioned mock draft, this despite the fact that he may not see Minute Maid Park until the season is a couple months underway.

    As we dive into the team's Pressing Questions, we'll use Springer as the springboard. Let's get to it ...

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  • Mock it up: Fantasy Baseball '14

    If drafting a fantasy roster before pitchers and catchers have even reported seems criminally premature, don't worry, we get it. And so you can sit back, relax and let spring training play out a bit before you start diving in to the '14 draft season, we spent the month of January hashing out a 20-round mock draft with a host of Yahoo friends and family members (myself, and fellow Yahoos Andy Behrens, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don and Brad Evans, Rotoworld's Matthew Pouliot, Drew Silva, Ryan Boyer and D.J. Short, Razzball's Grey Albright, Wall Street Journal/Yahoo Michael Salfino and Chris Liss of Rotowire) .

    The following is a rundown of our snake-draft mock exercise (the draft grid and, below that,a pick-by-pick commentary from the owners), which we hope you'll be able to use as a reference to help prepare you for your draft. Learn from our mistakes or be inspired by our genius. You make the call!

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]

     

    ROUND 1 
    FUNSTON
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  • NFL Skinny: Week 16 Rankings Preview

    Expect Bears QB Jay Cutler to be a Championship Week fantasy bull. (USAT)Thinking ahead is a necessity in fantasy football. By the conclusion of Monday night, owners need to immediately turn their thoughts to roster maintenance so as to account for the ever-changing NFL landscape. Injuries, depth chart fluctuations and upcoming matchups need to be mulled in an effort to determine which players should be added, dropped, benched and/or started in the week ahead. The Skinny will strive to paint an early picture of what you can expect in the coming week of NFL action. The player rankings below are subject to change based on news developments and my constant scrutiny as we move towards the kickoff of Week 16. But, at least, the Skinny represents a best-guess starting point for owners to consult as they begin their week of roster preparation.

    Editor's Note: This is the final week for the Skinny in '13, but look for Yahoo! position rankings to be live by Tuesday, December 24 in Week 17, where my rankings will be listed along with the other four Yahoo! fantasy

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