LAWRENCE, Kan. — Joel Embiid will sit out the final two regular-season games for No. 8 Kansas so that he can rest a lower back strain that has already caused him to miss a game, and it’s possible the freshman center could be out through the Big 12 tournament.Jayhawks coach Bill Self said Monday that Embiid re-aggravated the injury and that experts have told the team’s training staff that the best remedy is simply rest. An MRI exam taken on his lower back came back negative. “We’ve made a decision that since we are so close to the postseason, we will re-evaluate him on Sunday,” Self said. “If the discomfort ceases, he should be able to practice on Monday and participate in the Big 12 championship. If he’s still having symptoms of tightness and soreness, then we will look at sitting him longer through the postseason conference tournament.”The Jayhawks, who have already wrapped up their 10th straight Big 12 championship, play host to Texas Tech on Wednesday night. They finish the regular season Saturday at West Virginia.They’ll have a first-round bye in the Big 12 tournament, which starts March 12.”There is no reason why he should not be feeling much better by the NCAA tournament,” Self said. “The doctors feel that amount of time off should do him wonders for how he is feeling.”The 7-foot Embiid has been a revelation this season, averaging 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds despite only playing basketball for a few years. The native of Cameroon is expected to be a lottery pick if he declares for the NBA draft, though he told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he’s leaning toward returning to Kansas for his sophomore season. Either way, his ability to guard the rim — he’s already set the school’s freshman record for blocks — and create match-up problems in the paint will be invaluable in the NCAA tournament.Embiid miss the Jayhawks’ game against TCU on Feb. 15 with the same back injury, but came back to average 14 points and 10.3 rebounds the past four games. That includes a 12-point, 13-rebound performance against Oklahoma and a 13-point, 13-rebound outing against Oklahoma State.”It should not be an injury that keeps him out the rest of the season,” Self said. “Last time he was off five days and that worked nicely for him, and he was able to come back 100 percent.”
Chelsea threw the Premier League title race wide open by losing 1-0 at Aston Villa on Saturday, ensuring Manchester City trimmed the gap to the leaders to six points with a battling 2-0 win at Hull.Chelsea saw Willian and Ramires sent off, and manager Jose Mourinho sent to the stands, in a wild end to a match settled by Fabian Delph’s impudent 82nd-minute goal at Villa Park. City leapfrogged Arsenal and Liverpool into second place by overcoming the 10th-minute sending-off of captain Vincent Kompany to win at Hull thanks to goals by David Silva and Edin Dzeko.City has three games in hand over Chelsea, while Liverpool and Arsenal are seven points back having played two fewer matches.The battle to avoid relegation also heated up, with the bottom seven teams separated by just five points after last-place Fulham beat Newcastle 1-0 for the team’s first victory under new manager Felix Magath.Cardiff conceded a goal three minutes into injury time to lose 2-1 at Everton and is now just a point above Fulham along with Sunderland, which drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace.West Bromwich Albion won 2-1 at Swansea to move three points clear of danger, Norwich remained in trouble by losing 4-2 at Southampton and Stoke beat West Ham 3-1 in a match between two mid-table teams.Chelsea looked to be marching to the title in Mourinho’s first season back at Stamford Bridge, but a first defeat in 15 league matches offers plenty of encouragement to its title rivals. Arsenal and Liverpool will look to take full advantage on Sunday when they play Tottenham and Manchester United, respectively.Willian had already been sent off for two bookings, the second coming in the 68th for a slight tug of an opponent’s jersey, when Delph ran onto Marc Albrighton’s cut-back and flicked a left-footed finish from behind his right foot and into the corner.Ramires was then dismissed for a lunging tackle on Karim El Ahmadi that was described by Villa manager Paul Lambert as a “leg-breaker.” In the ensuing melee, Mourinho was ordered from the dugout by referee Chris Foy.”I asked for five seconds to ask one single question,” Mourinho said. “I had no question because I was sent to the stands.”Doubts were suddenly swirling around Man City’s title bid after a slump in form that saw the team lose to second-tier Wigan in the FA Cup quarterfinals, eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona, and slip nine points off the pace in the Premier League.A win in adversity at Hull will silence the doubters, especially considering Kompany’s early red card for pulling back Nikica Jelavic when last man.”Playing with one player less for 80 minutes is very difficult,” City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. “It was a great performance. We played well with and without the ball.”Silva curled home the opening goal from outside the area in the 14th minute and the Spain playmaker set up Dzeko for the clinching second in the 90th.Everton climbed into sixth place above Man United, boosting hopes of securing European football for next season, with a win over Cardiff at Goodison Park that was secured when Seamus Coleman mis-hit a shot into the net with seconds remaining in stoppage time.Gerard Deulofeu, on loan from Barcelona, made the home team’s breakthrough in the 59th following a string of brilliant saves by Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall. Juan Cala bundled in a scrappy equaliser for next-to-last Cardiff in the 69th.The heart-breaking defeat was made all the worse for Cardiff with the news of Fulham’s victory over Newcastle, courtesy of Ashkan Dejagah’s goal in the 68th.Fulham is just three points away from safety after its first win since New Year’s Day. Stephane Sessegnon and Youssouf Mulumbu scored second-half goals as West Brom came from behind at Swansea to give under-pressure manager Pepe Mel his first win since taking over on Jan. 9.”We know we are a good team even if every newspaper you read says we are going to go down,” said Mulumbu, who grabbed an 85th-minute winner. “I think in the second half we showed the real face of West Brom and I hope we are going to keep doing that.”Morgan Schneiderlin, Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez and Sam Gallagher were the goalscorers for Southampton against Norwich, which is four points off the bottom three but has played more games than most of its relegation rivals.
According to Fangraphs, the Mets’Eric Young Jr. has a career offensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of -16.7. His defensive war is -9.5. Yet, his overall career WAR is 1.4.The reason for the big difference is the same reason Young can have big-time fantasy value — his ability on the basepaths. Fangraphs says Young’s base-running ability has been worth 17.2 more wins than a replacement player over the course of his career. In fantasy circles, Young’s 46 stolen bases last season helped him post a 7.49 Roto Rater value — good enough to rank 47th among all OFsand 14th among all 2Bs. That’s pretty good for a guy who hit just two homers and drove in 32 runs in 148 games — 57 of which were in Colorado.Young will lose his 2B-eligibility this year, which will obviously hurt his value, but there’s always room on a fantasy roster for a guy who can lead the league in steals. OnlyJacoby Ellsbury had more stolen bases than Younglast season. Of course, for Young to seriously challenge for the league lead in SBs, he needs playing time, and that’s where things get tricky. Right now, the depth chart on the Met’s official sitedoesn’t list Young as a starter. NewcomerCurtis Grandersonis slated to play left field, the spot Young most frequently occupied last year.Juan Lagares, who graded out as a Gold Glove-caliber defender last season, is listed as the center fielder, andChris Youngis atop the depth chart in right. Any hopes of Young returning to second base are likely unfounded as long asDaniel Murphy and Ike Davis are both in the lineup at second base and first base, respectively.However, Mets GMSandy Aldersonhas said the club will start its three best offensive options in the outfield. Even with Young’s power deficiencies, that’s good news for him. He got on base at a 37.7-percent clip with the Rockies two years ago (and 34.2-percent clip the year before), so last year’s .310 OBP might have been misleading. Moreover, Young’s speed gives him the appearance of a “traditional” leadoff hitter, something no other Met can really offer. Right or wrong, that could help him win the job.There’s a good chance Young will be the Mets’ Opening Day center fielder. He might not stay there (or be there every day), but as long as he’s in New York’s lineup, he should be in fantasy owners’ lineups. Stolen bases are always at a premium in fantasy leagues, and Young has the potential to the lead the league while hitting .270-ish and scoring a good amount of runs. Even with no homers and few RBIs, he should go higher than the 21st round, which is where he went in our latest mock draft.MORE:Impact of Cruz signingProjection Check: Brandon PhillipsMock Draft 2.0
If you play in a league that scores on-base percentage instead of batting average, thank you for your part in advancing fantasy baseball.OBP is generally better than BA in measuring a player’s value to his team’s offense because it tells you exactly how frequently said player, well, gets on base. And Bill James is down with OBP, so you know it’s cool. 30 sleepers | 2014 Draft Kit | Join Fantasy SourceBut if you’re drafting for an OBP league, you’re going to have to significantly adjust the rankings you find on most fantasy sites tailored to traditional 5×5 leagues. To help get you started, here are five guys who are much more valuable in OBP leagues than BA leagues. Fantasy Source members can also check out our 2014 stat projections, which include OBP: Choo was one of seven players with an OBP over .400 last year (Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Joe Mauer, Paul Goldschmidt). All these guys are plenty valuable in any format, but give some extra credit to Choo, whose 138-point difference between his .285 average and .423 OBP was the highest in MLB. Amidst the batting average woes (.249) last year, Stanton still managed to post a career-high .365 OBP with teams pitching around him whenever possible. Expect more of the same in 2014. No one’s mistaking Santana, a career .254 hitter, for Mauer in standard formats, but his career .367 OBP is significantly higher and steadily improving. He’s also improved his average in each of the last two seasons, which is more good news for his OBP upside. Don’t worry about the wild swings in batting average for Napoli, who has a career .357 OBP with a personal-best .414 in 2011. His OBP last year was more than 100 points higher than his batting average. Neither of these guys can be counted on for a high average, but both consistently post OBPs well above those underwhelming averages. Last season, Bautista’s and Encarnacion’s OBPs were 99 points and 98 points higher than their averages, respectively. Oh, and both guys consistently mash when healthy.
Utah freshman defensive lineman Moana Ofahengaue is hospitalized in critical condition with a head injury, the school tweeted Monday night.Family, Utes pray for DL Moana Ofahengaue, in critical cond w/head inj. Family optimistic & thankful 4 support.http://t.co/fEiBhvGaOQ #utes— Utah Athletics (@utahathletics) February 25, 2014Multiple reports are attributing Ofahengaue’s injury to a motorbike accident that occurred on Sunday, though neither the school nor the family have disclosed exactly what caused his injury. Moana Ofahengaue, son of former Cougar Tevita Ofahengaue is in critical condition following a motorcycle accident on Sunday night.— Jason Shepherd (@kslshep) February 25, 2014Utah DL Moana Ofahengaue is in critical condition with a head injury following an accident on a motorized bike per the University of Utah— Brian Swinney (@BSwinneyScout) February 25, 2014Utah DL Moana Ofahengaue has been hospitalized following motorbike accident on Sunday. Redshirt freshman is in critical condition. #Utes— John Coon (@johncoonsports) February 25, 2014Ofahengaue joined the team in January of 2013, and the school lists his status as a walk-on for fall camp.
EDITOR’S NOTE: With college basketball’s biggest conference tournaments kicking off this week, that gives us wall-to-wall basketball. Is that a good or bad thing? Sporting News tackles the topic in a point-counterpoint form. Here, SN contributor Lance McAlister, a radio personality in Cincinnati, argues for the latter. I love college basketball, but despise conference tournaments. Why? They are cash-grabbing attempts to artificially inflate the excitement of college basketball and ultimately cheapen and devalue the regular season. The concept is completely backwards.Conference tournaments place value and emphasis on three days of tournament play over three months of conference play. Teams fight through nonconference play, exams, conference play, road trips, hours of practice and injuries. Their ultimate goal is to be one of the 68 teams rewarded with an NCAA Tournament appearance. Yet, conferences award their precious, automatic bids to the team that gets hot over a 3-4 day period.Fans of the traditional, multiple-bid leagues may not give this concept a second thought. The Big 12 will likely have seven bids this year, the Pac-12 and Big Ten could land six bids, while the ACC has five bids. But what about a one-bid league such as the Sun Belt, Horizon or Southland? Explain the logic of a regular season champ that suffers a conference tournament hiccup, resulting in having to settle for an NIT bid.Let’s be clear—conferences have the choice to award their automatic bid to the regular season champ or the conference tournament champ. If I were a conference commissioner, I’d want that to be the team that best represents the conference and offers the best chance to win in the NCAA Tournament. Wouldn’t you?As for the dollars and common sense of conference tournaments, look around at the half empty arenas at some of these events. Now, tell me how much interest they are creating. There is a redundancy aspect of conference tournaments. I grow weary of watching teams play each other a third time in a season. Been there, done that, and over it.Not to sound like the old man screaming to get kids off his lawn, but do you remember how it used to be? Years ago, ONLY the regular season champ earned an NCAA bid. The Missouri Valley Conference battle of the 1961-62 season is a classic case of value being placed on conference play. The Cincinnati Bearcats were 28-2, ranked second in the country, and the Bradley Braves were ranked 4th. The two teams tied for the regular season title, and had to meet on a neutral court to decide the regular season champ. The Bearcats were the defending national champs and had to win the tiebreaker game just to make the NCAA Tournament! The Bearcats won the game and went on to win back-to-back NCAA championships. The Braves lost, and were relegated to the NIT!Yes, there will be conference tournament madness and buzzer beaters this year. Cinderella will slip on the shoe and dance to the tournament. The TV camera will focus on the players celebrating on the court with their coach. But what about the team walking off the court, realizing their season-long body of work has been reduced to 40 minutes, and they are done?Stony Brook won the American East by three games last year, finishing 25-8 overall and 14-2 in conference. They lost in the conference tournament and wound up in the NIT. Why in the heck should a fan even pay attention to what happens during January and February? Liberty finished 15-20 overall, and 6-10 in the Big South last year. The Flames finished fifth out of six teams in their own division. But, they won four games in the conference tournament and grabbed the automatic bid. Meanwhile, top seed Charleston Southern packed up its 19-13 record, 12-4 in the Big South, and headed to the NIT. Nothing says March Madness like a team with a losing record crashing the NCAA Tournament.Give me the Ivy League way; a league smart enough to reward three months of work over three days.A Butler graduate still lamenting the Horizon League quarterfinal loss of the Bulldogs’ great 2002 team, Lance McAlister hosts a popular daily sports talk program on WLW and WCKY radio in Cincinnati.
The Milwaukee Bucks were in Philadelphia handily beating the Sixers in front of a crowd of few people. So, naturally, the crowd’s attention waned until they were gifted with a great diversion: a sleeping fan. And not just any sleeping fan. A guy in the FRONT ROW — as in feet on the court.there’s a dude sitting in the first row on the base line who is fast asleep. Out cold.— John Finger (@jrfingerCSN) February 25, 2014Guy in the first row of the baseline seats is out cold. Head’s on his left shoulder. (h/t @jrfingerCSN )— Christopher A. Vito (@ChrisVito) February 25, 2014Guy in a front row, baseline seat at #Sixers-#Bucks game is fast asleep. pic.twitter.com/bEqKyu2SUO— Jason Wolf (@JasonChadWolf) February 25, 2014This guy is sleeping! pic.twitter.com/eWZJzxvOUH— jon johnson (@jonjohnsonwip) February 25, 2014No joke, more people in Wells Fargo Center are watching Sleeping Guy than this Sixers-Bucks game.— Christopher A. Vito (@ChrisVito) February 25, 2014This guy is actually here the Sixers game in the front row: @TasMelas @jeskeets @LeighEllis @treykerby @StartersMatt pic.twitter.com/VXxNcuJ2f6— Bill(a)Self(ia) (@mrdangdang) February 25, 2014Tough times in Philly.
We held out for as long as we could, but it’s time to move Phillies starter Cole Hamels down the preseason draft rankings.Hamels on Thursday said that he’s suffered a setback in his recovery from left shoulder tendinitis, although the southpaw explained that it feels like fatigue rather than renewed pain. Either way, it sounds like Hamels is in danger of missing more than just a start or two, as initially hoped. Mock Draft | 2014 Draft Kit | Join Fantasy SourceAs a result, we’re docking Hamels five starts in his preseason projections in anticipation that he’ll miss all of April. Considering that he’s already getting a late start in spring training and still not able to throw, a 2014 debut in early May sounds reasonable, if not optimistic. We may be taking away even more starts if Hamels doesn’t report progress soon.Hamel’s new projection: 27 GS, 189.0 IP, 14-7, 3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 185 Ks Those numbers knock him out of the top 20 in our starting pitcher rankings, and he falls all the way to No. 102 in our Top 300. Assuming we don’t hear any more negative news on Hamels, that would put him near the top of draft boards in Rounds 7-9, about the time you’re debating whether skinny CC Sabathia really is a bounce-back candidate.We’ll be updating our rankings and projections all preseason to reflect the latest news from spring training so that you’re up to date for your fantasy baseball drafts. In fact, this week we’ve published a fresh set of rankings at every position, along with new Top 300, Keeper and Prospect rankings. Those are for Fantasy Source members only, so join today and start prepping for your drafts.Get Fantasy Source Baseball for $4.99 a month or $24.99 for a full year!
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Clint Bowyer thinks back to his youth and recalls the days with his family at motocross tracks and campgrounds — real camping with tents and campfires and not motorhomes — and then returning back to his home in Kansas.“We were always interacting with people and trying to get the most out of every weekend,” Bowyer says. “We were from Kansas. …” And then came the punchline:“(So) when you got back home, you couldn’t wait to get back to the track.”Bowyer then cracked up with his signature laugh at his little jab about his family and life in his home state — you have to be able to laugh at yourself. He laughed again much the same way the next day after his big flip in his Budweiser Duel qualifying race Thursday night.“Do you think it knocked me back to normal?” Bowyer said of his crash. “This could be dangerous.”That’s typical Bowyer, always having fun. Certainly there are exceptions — his sprint to fight Jeff Gordon at Phoenix in 2012, his intentional spin at Richmond that triggered race manipulation charges last year — but somehow Bowyer gets through them quickly.He doesn’t dwell on stress. He eventually talked some with Gordon. He was over the Richmond criticism and fallout in three weeks.His peers see him entering 2014 as the Bowyer they’ve always known.“I don’t think it’s fair to judge his personality off that one instance and that one day and that one moment (at Richmond),” good friend Tony Stewart says.“His personality has been consistent from day one that he got here. That’s the way people should judge him, by the way he is every day and not by one moment that wasn’t all his doing and his decision.”Bowyer enters the Daytona 500 not ready to put 2013 behind him because he already has. He still bristles at the idea that he disrespected the sport.“You learn some things about yourself through past and previous experiences,” Bowyer says. “I’ve made a lot of friends in the garage and those friends genuinely know me at heart.“I do like having fun but I take this opportunity seriously. It is important to me and always has been. I understand it is an opportunity and I am damn lucky to be here.”Bowyer truly feels that way. When he says he could still be happy racing the Midwestern dirt tracks and working in the auto shop where he was when he got the call from Richard Childress back in 2003, it is easy to believe him.The 34-year-old Bowyer owns a dirt race team and when he’s not spending time fulfilling his Michael Waltrip Racing obligations, he’s trying to take care of sponsors and make sure that team has everything it needs to race and have fun while doing it.It’s a reminder that he hasn’t always been a Cup driver.“Those days were hard, realizing the dream and then trying to figure out how to make it a reality and get that golden opportunity,” Bowyer said, thinking about his life in his early 20s. “That doesn’t happen every day but for some reason it did for me.”One of Bowyer’s jobs as a driver at MWR is to coach and help choose a driver as part of a program by sponsor Peak, which gives an opportunity to young drivers through its Peak Stock Car Dream Challenge. Last year’s winner, Patrick Staropoli, is actually a Harvard graduate, so in some ways Bowyer might have a little bit of a hard time relating to him.“Do you think I could graduate from Harvard?” Bowyer said. “Hell no. (I’d last) 30 seconds.“It probably would have been when I tried to introduce myself to the professor and he engaged in some crazy conversation right then and there. I would turn around and say, ‘This is not for me.’”But Bowyer can give good advice to young drivers by showing them that they need to have fun while also taking their opportunity seriously. While he admits that he hated coming to the track at times when he made the Chase for the Sprint Cup only once in his three final years at Richard Childress Racing, he found ways to make it enjoyable.The last two years, Bowyer has finished second and seventh in the Cup standings with three victories at MWR. Being successful is always more fun, but Bowyer also isn’t the sorest of losers.“My old man was hard on us but nothing like I remember kids getting locked in their trucks and riding in the back on the way home and stuff like that,” Bowyer says. “My old man wasn’t that way.“He was flat dead serious. He had everything he could muster up in the program and he made sure we took it serious, too. We had our fun and we enjoyed it. But when you put the helmet on, you better have your ass in gear.” Bowyer will on Sunday, when he will start at the rear of the field in a backup car for the Daytona 500.“We all did start somewhere and that was in hopes and dreams of this racetrack,” Bowyer says. “The Daytona 500 has spelled out NASCAR since its inception. This is the big one.“This is what puts you on the map. If you win this race, they can’t take that away from you. Ever.”
At 34 years old, Julius Peppers’ motor isn’t what it used to be. That didn’t scare the Packers off, with Green Bay picking up the Bears free agent and signing him to a three-year, $30 million deal. Of that, $7.5 million is guaranteed.But, the Packers are taking a calculated risk. Their plan for Peppers seems simple: When the quarterback is passing, run in one of the best pass-rushing defensive ends the game has seen. When it’s a run, sideline him. “It’s how hard he decides to play,” said Ross Tucker. “If they are using him only on a situational basis to rush the passer and he’s playing hard, then it was a great signing.”Just as important is surrounding quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 30, with the support he needs to get the Packers to the Super Bowl. “This is the prime of his career,” Tucker said. “Not saying you need to go on a spending spree, but let’s help him out a little bit.”Packers’ general manager Ted Thompson doesn’t go wild during the free agency period. Instead, he has focused on extending and restructuring current deals. They re-signed Sam Shields and B.J. Raji before reaching out for Peppers.“I like that Ted Thompson is finally being aggressive,” Tucker said. “Finally going out there, trying to supplement the roster with outside players.”
We spoke Saturday morning, which was before one officiating crew reversed a reversal and another reverted to the previous season’s version of the college basketball rulebook. So NCAA officials coordinator John Adams was in a pleasant mood regarding the effectiveness of the nation’s crews in implementing the game’s redefined contact restrictions.Adams acknowledged that enforcement of the newly emphasized rules against contacting ballhandlers was superior in November and December to what it has been in January and February, but declared the game “is still in a better place” than a year ago. There are statistics to support this position. In 2012-13, college basketball teams scored fewer points per game than at any point in six decades. Even in the past week, according to statistics compiled by Kevin Pauga of Michigan State’s basketball office, we were up roughly a basket per team from a year ago.Whereas last year started awfully for the efficacy college of offenses and got slightly worse, this year’s decline through the course of the season has been more severe. But not enough so to counteract the best aspects of the new rules, which make handchecking and other forms of contact against ballhandlers strictly illegal.Adams sees more plays made at the rim: more dunks, more blocks, more athleticism. He said the previous path of the game was “unsustainable” because it was becoming so rough and unattractive.When he sees rough games now, he considers them outliers.That likely would be his position on the handling of the controversial Louisville-Cincinnati game, when the officials reviewed an out-of-bounds play, made a determination to reverse the original decision to award the ball to the Cardinals, then re-checked and decided the Bearcats had touched it before it crossed the boundary. The process took seven minutes.As well, there was the stunning decision by official Tony Greene to call a charge on Syracuse forward C.J. Fair with about 10 seconds left and the Orange down a basket in what became an SU loss at Duke. The new rule regarding charges specifies the help defender must be in legal guarding position when the ballhandler begins his motion to shoot or pass; Fair was 8 feet out of the lane when he gathered to shoot; Duke’s Rodney Hood still was up the lane guarding forward Jerami Grant at that point.Greene called it a charge, anyway, leading SU coach Jim Boeheim to throw a fit that got him ejected. So it wasn’t the best day for college basketball officials. There were scores of other games played Saturday, though, and most passed without incident. We are a week away from March, and Adams is promising officials who work the NCAA Tournament will be graded on whether there is “constant enforcement” of rule 10-1-4 — the recitation of what constitutes a personal foul — as well as the entire rule book.So don’t expect the NCAA Tournament to be as physical as conference games have been. Officials want to advance in the tournament, same as coaches and players do. The final scores decide what becomes of the teams; the refs are graded by Adams and his crew.“If no one complains, sometimes an official will take the path of least resistance,” Adams told Sporting News about some of the physical games he sees. “These have been fouls for 20 years. We just weren’t calling them before.”
This is the latest preview in a series examining the 2014 fantasy baseball outlook of each major league team. Today, a look at the Milwaukee Brewers. For every MLB team preview along with player rankings, stat projections, dollar values and more, join Fantasy Source Baseball! Expected to compete in 2013, the Milwaukee Brewers instead were a total disappointment. Suspect pitching, injuries and a very notable suspension did them in.But outside of Braun’s return, the Brewers will start ‘14 very similar to how they finished last season. On offense, the changes are marginal — a potential platoon at first base between , and , and , who displayed power in his limited time last year, takes over for the traded in the outfield. Milwaukee’s rotation did get a big potential boost in free-agent signing , but the rest of the staff will stay largely the same.The good news for fantasy owners is that even a Brewers team without many reinforcements is still one that has plenty of fantasy potential. They play in a very hitter-friendly ballpark, have multiple power/speed threats, and offer solid options at scarce positions. And despite the difficult pitching environment, the Brewers have a few high-strikeout options than can contribute in just about any fantasy format.The real-life results may not be a whole lot better than last year, but fantasy owners don’t need to worry about it. The Brewers have options that can help you in the early, middle and late rounds of your draft. SP Matt Garza, 1B Mark Reynolds, 1B Lyle Overbay. OF Norichika Aoki, 1B/SS Yuniesky Betancourt, SP Chris Narveson. RP Tom Gorzelanny.Before the 2013 season, Ryan Braun was a guy in the mix to be the first player selected in fantasy drafts. But after a thumb injury limited his games and production and a suspension for performance-enhancing drug use wiped out the rest of his season, the opinions on him are wide ranging. Some would still spend a later first-round pick on him; others would not draft him at all. Just look at our February mock draft, where Braun went No. 8. In our prior mock, he went No. 21.The Biogenesis boys are an interesting bunch. Most received their punishments last year, but since the facility had been shut down prior to last season, it’s hard to say whether any of them were actually using their supplements during the ‘13 campaign. While that’s a plus for someone like , who broke out last season, it’s actually a bit of a red flag for Braun.He did bat .298, yet Braun managed just nine home runs and four stolen bases last season in 61 games. Even if you extrapolate that over a full season, Braun’s stats come in at around 23 home runs and 10 steals. That’s not top-of-the-draft value.Was that because he was off his PEDs? Was that just a down year — they do happen, even to the great players — that Braun can bounce back from? Did the looming Biogenesis mess weigh down on him? Was it just a bad stretch that over 150 games would have evened out with a hot streak? Or was it just bad luck with his thumb injury.Obviously, there’s no clear-cut answer. Braun’s no longer a top-five player on draft day, but you’re also not dealing with any perfect players after the top two anyway. It depends your comfort level. If you truly believe that Braun’s elite production was PED-fueled, then you should drop him. If you don’t, then taking him toward the end of the first round is the move to make.But if Braun is sitting there in the back half of the second round, he could score you some nice value. 1. Jean Segura, SS; 2. Scooter Gennett, 2B; 3. Ryan Braun, RF; 4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B; 5. Jonathan Lucroy, C; 6. Carlos Gomez, CF; 7. Juan Francisco, 1B; 8. Khris Davis, LF. The Brewers lineup looked to be almost eight deep last year. It’s not quite as strong this year, but five of the six players are locks to be drafted in all leagues and two others are sleeper candidates.There’s reason to be excited for ’s run totals this year as he, at least in theory, has a full season of Braun batting behind him. is in an interesting spot, as he’s the last of the proven run producers in the sixth spot, but he should have the green light to run whenever he wants. Of course, days of rest for Braun and , combined with the fact is a catcher, means Gomez will see plenty of games where he’s up higher in the order.Speaking of Ramirez and Lucroy, they are in prime positions for success. Ramirez batted .283 with 12 homers, 43 runs and 49 RBI in just 92 games. If he can stay healthy – a big “if” given he’s 35, he would provide real value at third base. Lucroy has provided excellent catcher production, chipping in with 12 homers and four steals in 96 games in ‘12 and 18 homers and nine steals in 147 games last season. Those steals are especially valuable. Lucroy’s could easily float under the radar in some drafts while being a top-five catcher in others. The battle to watch is at second base, where is trying to hold the job he won last season over . Gennett flashed little power and only marginal speed in the minors, but he hit six homers and stole two bases in 69 games in the majors last year. If he pans out, he could be a contributor in average and runs in deep mixed leagues. Weeks would be more interesting, as he hit 20 homers in three straight seasons before ‘13. But he’ll have to win his job back, and given how poorly he performed last year (.209 average, 10 homers, seven steals in 104 games), that may not happen out of the gate.The first base situation may result in a platoon. The Brewers signed right-handed slugger Mark Reynolds to a minor-league deal to compete with the left-handed Juan Francisco. Francisco hit 18 homers, all against righties, in ’13. Neither will contribute average, but if the platoon does shake out, they could be of use as spot pickups in daily league. , who is also in the mix and managed just 14 homers and a .242 average last year, can be safely ignored in daily leagues. At Triple-A in 2013, Khris Davis only batted .255. But he hit 13 homers in 69 games and then followed it up by slugging 11 homers in just 56 games for the Brewers. He also stole nine bases between the majors and minors. The average has never been consistent for Davis, but he is an intriguing late-round power sleeper with a little bit of speed.If Weeks can get his job back, it would suggest that he’s playing better than he did last year. That means he could provide a cheap source of power at a scarce middle infield position. He’s probably not worth investing in on draft day unless he wins the job outright, but he’s a guy to keep an eye on. 1. Yovani Gallardo, RHP; 2. Matt Garza, RHP; 3. Kyle Lohse, RHP, 4. Marco Estrada, RHP; 5. Wily Peralta, RHP. : Tyler Thornburg, RHP; Johnny Hellweg, RHP. Jim Henderson, RHP; Francisco Rodriguez, RHP. You’re not going to find any fantasy aces in Milwaukee. The nominal No. 1, , has suffered through declining peripherals for years. His ERA ballooned to over 4.00 for the first time in his career last season. posts solid ERAs, but he has never contributed the strikeouts fantasy owners need. has an impressive ground-ball rate, yet has struggled to get results.But it’s not all barren. should have a bit more success with his return to the National League, even if Miller Park is one of the few parks more unfriendly than Globe Life Park in Arlington. He’s always had good strikeout numbers, so if his ERA comes down, he’ll be a consistent mixed-league option. And while frustrated owners with his slow start last year (5.12 first-half ERA), he was excellent in the second half of the season (2.15 ERA) and posted strong strikeout and walk numbers.In the ‘pen, 31-year-old is the unquestioned closer on day one. He’s a high strikeout guy who has been prone to control problems in the past, giving him a profile a bit similar to the man he replaced, . Still, the strikeout rate is tantalizing for a closer, and he will be one of the cheaper options available on draft day. Should he falter, former closer would likely step into the role. The back of the rotation is still up in the air. Estrada and Peralta looks to be the early favorites with competition from and . Estrada would be the most fantasy useful right away. Peralta has had solid strikeout numbers in the minors, though it didn’t translate immediately to the majors. Thornburg had 2.03 ERA last year, with a 1.47 mark in seven starts. However, he gives up a decent number of fly balls in an unforgiving park and probably needs to miss more bats to be successful. Hellweg was atrocious in the bigs last year, posting a 6.75 ERA and a 9:26 K:BB ratio in 30.2 innings (no, that’s not a misprint — he walked nearly three batters for every one strikeout). He also threw four wild pitches and hit eight batters. Consider Hellweg a real-life “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn at this point, minus the glasses. Don’t trust him, even if he wins the job. posted strikeout rates in the mid-8.00’s at both Double-A and Triple-A. With excellent ground-ball rates in the bigs, he could be a real gem if he can approach those minor league K-rates. Control was an issue for him, but he did fare better with his walks in the second half of ‘13.Thornburg’s strikeout rate in 74.2 Triple-A innings was 10.49, which is far better than his 6.48 mark in the bigs. He’s unlikely to approach that number this season, but it suggests he is capable of getting his K-rate up to around 8.00. Aramis Ramirez struggled with a knee injury last season. That isn’t an issue at the moment, though he is missing a bit of the spring after having a polyp removed from his colon. Ramirez is expected to be fine for the regular season. … Garza has a screw in his pitching elbow, and the Brewers put medical clauses into his contract. It’s not a reason to take Garza off your draft board, as he’s pitched through it for years. But he also hasn’t thrown close to 200 innings the last two seasons either, so owners should factor that into their evaluations of him. This isn’t a farm system with prospects that are going to excite most fantasy owners. … The Brewers have a few pitchers who could be in the mix later in the year if they can figure out their issues. has been able to strike out a batter per inning in Double-A and Triple-A. Unfortunately his walk rate skyrocketed to 5.40/9 at the latter. He’ll need to be better to earn a promotion to the bigs. … and didn’t set the world on fire at Double-A last year and would need a major strikeout improvement to be useful fantasy options. … On the offensive front, is a first baseman who hit 24 homers at Triple-A last year. But a .247 average and .310 OBP seem to have kept him out of the mix in the majors for the time being. … Another first baseman, , hit 22 homers at Double-A and looks to have better contact abilities than Morris. If he can keep it going at Triple-A, he could be a mid-season option. Segura struggled in the second half after a blazing first half. That had to do with a slight increase in his strikeout rate and a large decrease in his BABIP. Nothing in his overall numbers look out of whack though. His strikeout rate is solid and his BABIP reasonable. Overall, he’s a good bet to get near 40 steals and hit 10 homers again, numbers he approached in 94 games at Double-A in ‘12. … Gomez’s walk rate isn’t pretty, and his strikeout rate is high. That means he’s not a good bet to hit .280 again. But the power and speed are real, as his homer rates have been consistent the past two years. Think production before Upton fell off a cliff. … Gallardo’s strikeout rate declined from around a batter per inning in ‘09-’12 to 7.17/9 last year. With a ground-ball rate near 50 percent, that’s still good enough to be an effective real-life pitcher, but for Gallardo to be a quality fantasy option again, he’ll need to get that K-rate up to around 8.00 again. Jonathan Lucroy played 14 games at first base last year. It’s unlikely you’d want to use him at first instead of catcher, but the extra eligibility could be useful in helping you make up first base or catcher games in daily leagues. … Juan Francisco gained first base eligibility last year and retains his third baseman status, as well. … For those of you who play specific outfield positions, Ryan Braun will be moving to right field this season. Miller Park is one of the best ballparks out there for power hitters. It ranked seventh in our Ballpark Power Index and has a home run factor of 127 for lefties and 134 for righties according to statcorner.com. It’s certainly a reason to like any Brewers power hitter, especially in daily leagues where their matchups at home can be exploited. The pitchers are always at risk for blowups due to the long ball, with fly-ball pitchers being especially vulnerable (see poor and his 25.8 percent HR/FB rate in ‘13). Keep that in mind with Estrada, a heavy fly-ball pitcher, and Garza, who hasn’t pitched there yet. Cincinnati RedsCheck out our Ultimate Draft Tool. It’s like having a Fantasy Source expert with you at the draft!
UCLA All-American candidate Kyle Anderson and leading scorer Jordan Adams were suspended one game each by coach Steve Alford for violating unspecified team rules. They served the suspensions Thursday evening during the Bruins’ 87-83 double-overtime home loss to Pacific-12 Conference rival Oregon. Anderson has been a revelation at point guard for the Bruins (21-7, 10-5) after spending most of his first year playing at power forward. Anderson is a 6-9, 230-pound sophomore from Fairview, N.J. He averages 14.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists, one of the best across-the-board stat lines of any player in college basketball. Earlier Thursday, he was announced as a finalist for the Oscar Robertson Trophy, presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association to the national player of the year. Adams, a 6-5 shooting guard from Atlanta, averages 17.2 points and 5.6 rebounds and shoots 46.6 percent from the field. He scored 28 points in the Bruins’ victory over California last weekend.Freshman Kyle Alford, the coach’s son, took the point guard position and his gifted classmate Zach LaVine, the team’s best option off the bench, took over Adams’ spot. Alford scored 31 points and LaVine added 17.The development was significant for Oregon, which is fighting for an NCAA Tournament spot. The Ducks improved to 19-8 overall record and 7-8 in conference.
PRETORIA, South Africa — Reeva Steenkamp was standing in a toilet cubicle and facing the closed door when she was hit in the right hip by the first of four hollow point bullets fired at her by Oscar Pistorius, a police ballistics expert testified Wednesday at the double-amputee Olympic runner’s murder trial.Steenkamp then fell back onto a magazine holder in the cubicle and was struck in the right arm and head by the last two shots fired by Pistorius with his 9 mm pistol through the door. Pistorius’ girlfriend crossed her arms over her head to protect herself, Capt. Christiaan Mangena said, when she was hit in the arm and head. He testified that he believed the second bullet shot missed Steenkamp and ricocheted off a wall inside the cubicle and broke into fragments, which caused bruising on her back. Mangena concluded through his analysis of the shooting scene and wounds on Steenkamp’s body from post-mortem photographs that one of the final two bullets went through Steenkamp’s left hand before penetrating her skull as she held it over her head. The policeman said he couldn’t determine the order of the last two shots.Pistorius, 27, is charged with premeditated murder in Steenkamp’s shooting death on Feb. 14 last year and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He says he shot Steenkamp, 29, by mistake through a locked door in his bathroom because he thought she was a dangerous nighttime intruder.Pistorius says Steenkamp went to use the toilet during the night without him knowing, but prosecutors maintain he killed her after a loud argument that caused her to possibly flee and hide in the toilet area.As Mangena threw his hands up to cover his head in court and replicate the “defensive position” he said Steenkamp took as the last shots were fired, Pistorius put his fingers in his ears in an apparent attempt to block out the testimony.June Steenkamp, Reeva’s mother, also was in the courtroom and occasionally glanced at photos of the bloody scene of her daughter’s shooting before looking away.Police ballistics expert Mangena said the bullet that struck Steenkamp’s skull broke into two fragments, one of which exited her head and struck the wall behind her. The first shot into the right hip broke Steenkamp’s hip bone, Mangena said.”I’m of the opinion that after this wound was inflicted, my lady, she dropped immediately,” Mangena said, addressing the judge in court under questioning from prosecutor Gerrie Nel. Steenkamp slumped into a “seated or semi-seated position” on top of the magazine rack in the cubicle, where she was hit another two times, he said.”She ended up with her head on top of the toilet seat, and the lower part of her body on the rack, Mangena said.Pistorius fired from a distance of at least 60 centimeters and no further than a wall behind him, about 3 meters away, Mangena said. Mangena also described the impact of the type of bullets in Pistorius’ gun, which were designed to cause maximum damage, he said.”It hits the target, it opens up, it creates six talons, and these talons are sharp,” Mangena said. “It cuts through the organs of a human being.”He noted the Black Talon brand of ammunition was often used for self-defense because while it caused significant damage to a human target, it was less likely to penetrate the first target and hit other people.Pistorius lawyer Barry Roux cross-examined Mangena and said the defense’s own forensic and ballistic experts would challenge the policeman’s testimony regarding the sequence of the shots. Roux also said defense experts had recovered a bullet and fragments from the toilet bowl that police missed. Mangena said he was aware of that.Mangena testified he conducted shooting tests to try to pinpoint the location from which the bullets were fired by Pistorius in the bathroom, based on where cartridge cases were found. However, in his tests, he said, the cases fell at different angles. He also noted that the cartridge cases at the scene of Steenkamp’s shooting could have been “moved or kicked around” during the investigation.He said Pistorius was probably on his stumps when he fired, supporting the athlete’s statement that he was not wearing his prosthetic limbs when he opened fire.Prosecutor Nel also asked Mangena to comment on a 2012 incident in which Pistorius allegedly fired his gun out of the sunroof of a moving car. The athlete faces a firearms charge in that case, as well as two other firearms-related charges.Mangena said firing a shot in such circumstances was dangerous. The bullet leaves the barrel at around 280 meters (900 feet) a second, and will travel upward, then stop and fall to the ground under the force of gravity and wind deflection, he said.”The bullet can still kill a person,” Mangena said.
Lizzy Seeberg, a student at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., wrote a note on the night of Aug. 31, 2010 that would change her life forever.Seeberg, a freshman, had just returned from a visit to the neighboring Notre Dame campus when she sent a frantic text to her therapist and to a fellow dorm mate that read “something bad has happened.” She later explained to both her therapist and her friend individually that she had been sexually assaulted by a football player at Notre Dame, an accusation she also documented in an affidavit.That affidavit was turned over to Notre Dame police, and when the school had not yet began investigating her claims 10 days later, Seeberg committed suicide.Some of the messages exchanged in the days before her death reportedly contained threats from Notre Dame players telling her “messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea.”Without Seeberg’s testimony, charges could never be filed.For months after her death, Notre Dame refused to publicly acknowledge Seeberg’s allegations.The name of the player accused of the sexual assault had long been rumored but had never been revealed to the public until today — nearly four years posthumorously.On Saturday, former Notre Dame linebacker Prince Shembo stood at the podium at the 2014 NFL Combine and told reporters that he was the player at the forefront of the Seeberg allegations.He said that Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly forbade him from speaking about the incident publicly while he was affiliated with the university.“Yes, I wanted to talk about it, but they had to keep everything confidential,” said Shembo. “Now that I’m out (of Notre Dame), I can talk about it.”“My name was going to flames and it just made my name look bad and I can’t even speak,” he said of his forced silence.”I have nothing to hide,” Shembo said. “No one’s heard from me one time. Do you go off of one person’s story? I’m still here, so I know I didn’t do anything. I tell them exactly what happened.”By that point, Shembo estimated he had already explained his story to 26 NFL executives.And now, to the entire nation.MINOR MIAMI TROUBLEThe University of Miami says it will investigate a possible secondary NCAA rule violation by the football program.The matter involves at least one assistant coach watching a voluntary workout from a distance Friday, which members of the media witnessed while covering a nearby Miami baseball game.The school announced Saturday that the Hurricanes’ compliance staff will investigate and report any violation to the NCAA.Last fall, the Hurricanes began three years of probation and lost nine football scholarships following a long NCAA investigation because of an extra-benefits scandal involving a booster.TRAGEDY ABROADJohn Durkin, a junior linebacker at Bates College (Maine) who was reported missing in Rome earlier this week, has been found dead, according to the college.The Rye Beach, N.H., native was participating in a study-abroad program through Trinity College with 55 other students when he went out to a bar in Rome and never returned, his friends said.A body found in a train tunnel between St. Peter’s and Trastevere stations was identified as Durkin late Saturday morning.Bates College head football coach Mark Harriman issued a statement on Saturday mourning the loss of the 21-year-old linebacker.“The Bates football family is deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and teammate John Durkin,” Harriman said. “John’s commitment to excellence in all phases of his life was inspirational to the other members of the squad and a major factor in the team’s success over the past three years.”Durkin appeared in two games, recording eight solo tackles for the Division-III Bobcats before sitting out the remainder of the 2013-14 season with an injury.KILL’S RAISEMinnesota has given football coach Jerry Kill a raise and another year on his contract.The university announced Saturday that Kill’s deal was extended through the 2018 season and that he’ll make $2.1 million in 2014, a big spike from his previous salary of $1.2 million. That was the lowest in the Big Ten.Athletic director Norwood Teague had promised for months the contract would be restructured.The Gophers went 8-5 last year, including a four-game winning streak in conference play for the first time since 1973. They’re 17-21 under Kill, who took over in 2011.Kill has been hampered by epilepsy, and seizures forced him to miss a game for the first time last October. He coached much of the season from the press box.MILLER’S LIMITATIONOhio State quarterback Braxton Miller had minor outpatient surgery on his right shoulder on Friday morning.A release from Ohio State said the surgery on his throwing shoulder took place at the Ohio State University Medical Center.Miller, the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year, will be limited in his activities throughout spring drills. The Buckeyes begin practices on March 4 and play their annual spring intrasquad scrimmage on April 12 at Ohio Stadium.Despite missing almost three complete games with a sprained knee, Miller ran for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season as the Buckeyes went 12-2.Contributors: Kami Mattioli, The Associated Press