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  • Never change, YYZ (USAT)

    Although it's been two decades since the Blue Jays made a playoff appearance (touch em' all Joe), hopes were high on the 2013 outfit. Big hitters were added, name pitchers brought north. Pennant fever grips the YYZ. Alex Anthopolous is a genius.

    Alas, Toronto's season was pronounced DOA in the doctor's office. Only two position players made it past 118 games played - think about that for a moment - and the top three starting pitchers had disappointing years. The out-the-door 74-88 mark was just a one-game improvement from the previous model. Alex Anthopolous needs a new plan.

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

    Maybe the Blue Jays can turn themselves into this year's Red Sox, the team that arrives a year late and shocks the division. Certainly no one is expecting much from Toronto as we wait for the snow to melt. Clay Davenport's projection model has them pegged for 78 wins, while Joe Sheehan's back-of-envelope prediction says 76-86. If you want to drop a few ducats on the AL East champion, the Jays offer the largest payout (that's a nice way to say they're earmarked for the basement).

    But even if the team isn't special, there's plenty of fantasy intrigue here. A few Toronto players will go in the early rounds of every draft, and Rogers Centre is usually a plus park for offensive production. You'll want to take a good look around this roster.

    Read More »from Pressing Questions: The Toronto Blue Jays
  • Paul Konerko, back for a farewell tour (Getty)

    White Sox general manager Rick Hahn had an active, interesting, expensive and undeniably productive offseason. Of course his team was horrendous last year, winning only 63 games and ranking last in the A.L. in runs-scored, so it's not as if he could simply afford to tread water.

    We have a bunch of new faces to discuss here, so let's get the south side Q&A started with the team's priciest addition...

    Q: Just how good can Jose Abreu be in his first MLB season? If we want him in fantasy, where do we have to draft him?

    A: Abreu will almost certainly be a beast in the power categories. Let's start there. Sure, the Cuban defector is making a significant leap in terms of quality-of-competition, but it's not as if he's the first hitter to transition recently from Serie Nacional. The numbers delivered by Abreu over multiple seasons in Cuba's top league were obscene. He hit 30 homers in 89 games in 2009-10, then 33 in 66 games the following year, tying Yoennis Cespedes for the league lead. In 2011-12, it was 35 bombs in 87 games. His best single-season slash-line was .453/.597/.986.

    Do those numbers work for you? Let's hope.

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

    Read More »from Pressing Questions: The Chicago White Sox
  • When they finish with the rooftop owners, the Cubs are suing these birds (Getty)

    When the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, the U.S. had only 46 states. Russia was ruled by a czar. No human had yet reached the north pole. Or the south pole. Frank "Home Run" Baker had not yet hit his first home run. The list of major league mascots back then included the Doves, Naps, Highlanders, Browns and Superbas. Harry Caray had not yet been born, nor had Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell or Jack Brickhouse.

    What I'm saying is this: It's been a long damn time since the Chicago National League Ball Club won a title. And when the team last claimed a championship, in 1908, the final game of the Series drew a record-low 6,210 fans. So there were remarkably few witnesses to an event that now exists outside living memory.

    But hey, the present-day Cubs front office has a plan. Fans may not be thrilled with the timeline of the current plan, but it exists. Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have built a stellar farm system atop the smoking ruins of Jim Hendry's former empire. At every level of this organization, we find high-quality talent. Chicago spent next to nothin' on the major league roster this offseason, avoiding the big-name domestic free agents (Cano, Ellsbury, Choo, Granderson, et al) — a reasonable course of action, because those guys are all 30-somethings. The team pursued 25-year-old Masahiro Tanaka, but the Yankees pursued harder.

    Ultimately, the biggest offseason additions were Justin Ruggiano and a pantsless bear. Sigh.

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

    Read More »from Pressing Questions: The Chicago Cubs
  • Stephen Curry is blowing up (USAT)

    Stephen Curry has shot 12-of-17 from behind the arc over the past two games, putting him on pace to finish the season with 261 triples. He’s missed a few games, so that puts him well below last season’s mark, when he set the NBA record with 272 three-pointers, but it would still be around a top-20 finish all time. After shooting 45.3 percent from downtown last season, Curry is hitting a career-low 40.7 percent this year, although that’s partially because he’s attempted a career-high (and NBA-high) 8.4 3pt per game, and many of them are a high degree of difficulty. Despite that, Curry’s overall FG% is higher this year (45.3) compared to last (45.1), and after never recording 7.0 apg during a season before, the point guard is handing out 9.0 apg in 2013/14, second only to Chris Paul (11.2). Curry is currently in the top-five both in apg and ppg, and no player has finished a season with both those distinctions since Tiny Archibald in 1976 (when he somehow led the league in both categories, becoming the only player in NBA history to do so).

    Curry’s 4.1 tpg also “leads” the NBA, but it’s hard to argue with anything he’s done on the basketball court this season (and this is mostly because of his 28.8 Usage Rate, which ranks seventh highest in the league. Curry’s Turnover Ratio (12.2) is actually the second lowest of his career. So this is simply a volume issue). He’s scored 486 points on “pull up” shots this season, which is more than 100 more than the next most (Kevin Durant). He’s also recorded more “drives” this season than LeBron James (312 vs. 307). Despite all the turnovers, Curry has been the fifth most valuable fantasy player this season, including being the No. 1 player over the last two weeks. Among players who’ve averaged at least 20.0 ppg this year, no other has gotten more than 6.5 apg (James). Curry has averaged 9.0. Among that group, Curry is also tied for the lead with 1.8 spg (with Paul George) and only Damian Lillard is within 0.5 of his 3.4 3pt. Moreover, Curry’s 4.5 rpg leads all those point guard eligible. Let’s just hope his ankle problems are a thing of the past.

    Read More »from Mostly NBA Notes: Talking Stephen Curry, James Harden and a look around the league
  • Party on Lansdowne Street (USAT)

    Most of Boston's 2012 highlights were made off the field. The glorious salary dump with the naive Dodgers. The sacking of Bobby Valentine. You take what you can get during a crummy 69-win season.

    In 2013, the electricity returned to Fenway Park. Expected to be an also-ran in the loaded AL East, the Olde Towne Team shocked baseball - cranking out a 97-win season, and eventually, a World Championship. A healthier team certainly helped, not to mention a manager who wasn't loathed by his entire clubhouse. Love that dirty water.

    Just about everyone expects Boston to contend in 2014, but the Red Sox probably won't be the AL favorites. New York has predictably reloaded, signing a host of big-name free agents (including expatriate Jacoby Ellsbury). The Tigers still have Miggy Cabrera and a ridiculous pitching staff. Oakland and Texas look formidable out west. Tampa Bay's roster teems with talent.

    Something old and something new is the theme for Boston's Pressing Questions - we have two old-timers to discuss, along with a couple of new kids on the block. Grab your T-pass and make the jump, Wahlberg.

    Read More »from Pressing Questions: The Boston Red Sox
  • Everybody chops (Getty Images)

    The winning continued in Atlanta last year, unabated. This franchise has advanced to the postseason in three of the past four seasons and in 17 of the past 23. It's kind of sickening, really.

    The Braves are coming off a 96-win campaign and most of the key pieces are back. This team's rotation returns three young starters who posted ERAs of 3.21 or better in 2013, all of whom appeared in at least 30 games. Atlanta also features a defensive wizard at shortstop and the game's most dominant closer. The opening day lineup will, in all likelihood, only include one player who's seen his 30th birthday. This year's Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be dominated by Braves, too.

    Yup, sickening. But despite a rich recent history of success, Atlanta's roster is not entirely without questions. Let's preview...

    Read More »from Pressing Questions: The Atlanta Braves
  • Red October (USAT)

    When it comes to money, market and glamour, the Cardinals probably can't match some of the big boys at the table, your Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox. But you could argue St. Louis is the best current organization in baseball. The resume leaps off the page.

    St. Louis has 10 playoff appearances over the last 14 years, including two championships and four overall World Series trips. The roster is stuffed with talent at every possible arc - proven veterans, ascending young talent and even some blue-chip prospects. No one hands you 90-plus wins before the season starts, but it's hard to imagine the Cardinals having a crash landing anytime soon. This is a loaded group.

    We're just in it for the numbers, of course, but when a real-life baseball team is in the yearly playoff conversation, we're going to find plenty of juicy roto angles. And the Cardinals certainly didn't sit on their success; there's been a fair amount of winter change under the arch. Let's take a look.

    Read More »from Pressing Questions: The St. Louis Cardinals
  • Denver royalty (USAT)

    From: Scott Pianowski
    To: Mark Stopa
    Sent: Wed, Jan 29, 2014 12:42 pm
    Subject: Super Bowl Breakfast

    This should be a fun one. An elite offense. An elite defense. Reminds me of the Pirate Bowl a decade ago, Raiders and Bucs. That was also the first Breakfast Table Super Bowl, by the way.

    Sometimes I think the information cycle of the Internet drains the fun from these games. Mike Salfino has been Bah Humbugging the matchup, as he is wont to do (as Jonah Keri once said, Mike could ruin a Ferrari on Christmas morning). Okay, maybe Denver's offense is more impressive in a historical sense than Seattle's defense, and I grasp Mike's point about offense primarily driving outcomes. But that doesn't mean Seattle can't win this game, or heck - potentially win, decisively.

    I've made my pick, but that's going to wait. Take your first run down the slopes. How do you feel about the game being outdoors in New Jersey? Is Peyton Manning playing for his legacy, or is that an overplayed angle? How much money did you win on the Pro Bowl?

    Super Bowl Breakfast is served.

    Read More »from Breakfast Table: Super Bowl 48
  • Russell Wilson said (USAT)

    So, there's a big game coming on Sunday. You might have an opinion or two on it. Here's what the Yahoo Fantasy Staff has to say.

    - Andy Behrens: Broncos 31, Seahawks 21

    X-Factor: If the officials allow Seattle's DBs to play by 1977 rules — holding, grabbing, redirecting, assaulting — then maybe it's a game. But if the 2013-14 rulebook is the law of the land, Denver should run away.

    Despite the fact that Peyton Manning has been terrific in cold weather in recent seasons, everyone continues to claim he struggles. I'm kinda looking forward to the destruction of that talking point.

    Read More »from Super Bowl Predictions, Yahoo Fantasy Staff
  • Yu Darvish, fantasy superstar (USAT)

    The Rangers missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2009, finishing one game behind a wild card berth. Texas was a bit unlucky, as its run differential (+94) was the seventh-best in baseball, and the team enters 2014 with World Series aspirations once again. Manager Ron Washington will be in the final year of his contract, and his in-game management is typically a hurdle Texas has to overcome. The Rangers ranked inside the top-10 in MLB last year both in runs scored and ERA, although they came in a mediocre 16th in team WAR.

    Texas lost Matt Garza and (likely) Nelson Cruz through free agency, but they countered by signing Shin-Soo Choo to a massive $130 million contract. Moreover, they made the league’s biggest offseason trade, dealing Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder (and cash considerations) in a rare one-for-one swap. Both Fielder and Kinsler are coming off disappointing seasons and are locked in expensive contracts, but it’s easy to see the reasoning behind this for Texas, who has super prospect Jurickson Profar waiting in the wings to overtake second base.

    It helps having the Astros in the A.L. West, but with the A’s averaging 95.0 wins over the past two years and the Angels a safe bet to be much better in 2014 to go along with an improving Mariners team, the Rangers aren’t exactly in the easiest division. Still, this is a team with plenty of talent and should continue to be a contender.

    Onto the pressing questions:

    Read More »from Pressing Questions: The Texas Rangers

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