World Cup Previews
Our soccer writers, Brian Stultz and Will Jordan, are offering their thoughts on each of the groups for the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, and you can find their analysis below:
Prospect Buy and Hold
With the news that Gregory Polanco will be called up on Friday.....oh wait, no he won't. It seems the Pirates were upset that the news of the call up were leaked before they could announce it to the world, so they decided to wait. So Pirates. We had a few other prospects called up this week, including Astros first base prospect Jon Singleton, Rockies starter Eddie Butler and Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, who is pitching today.
Here is Jason Hunt's list of the players who could be called up in the next few weeks, or later this season. His weekly Buy and Hold series takes a look at players you should look at grabbing off your league waiver wire before they are called up, and before your league mates grab them.
Phil Hughes is having a breakout year
It was pretty obvious in his last two years with the Yankees that Phil Hughes needed a change of scenery and he got just that when he became a free agent last offseason. Hughes ended up signing a four year deal with the Twins, to the scoffs of many baseball writers who wondered why the Twins signed him for so many years. Well, the signing is looking pretty good after the first two months of the season, as Hughes is having a breakout season for the Twins.
Yesterday, Hughes shut out the Blue Jays, one of the best lineups in baseball, on 7 hits, no walks and 9 strikeouts in 7 innings in the Twins 7-2 win. Hughes improved his record to 7-2 with a 3.17 ERA, 2,76 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, a 1.11 WHIP and a fantastic 72-8 strikeout to walk rate in 82.1 innings. His improvement can be pinned on his reduced home run per fly ball rate and reduced walk rate. Pitching in Minnesota's spacious Target Field certainly helps as well.
Hughes is still available in about 30% of leagues right now, so grab him if he is on your league waiver wire.
For more on Hughes and the Twins, make sure you check out Twinkie Town, SB Nation's Twins fan site.
The Dodgers already had a terrific starting rotation with aces Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but now Josh Beckett is pitching like.....well, like the 2011 Josh Becket this season. Beckett stifled the Reds on Tuesday night, shutting them out on two hits, a walk and 7 strikeouts in 6 innings in the Dodgers 6-1 win. Becket is now 4-3 with a low 2.35 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a 70-24 strikeout to walk rate in 72.2 innings. He has given up two runs or less in 9 of his 12 starts this season. Here's a strange stat: he has given up 19 earned runs all season, and at least 10 of them via the home run ball.
Remember when Phillies starter Cole Hamels was dealing with a minor shoulder injury, making all of his owners nervous that it might be something more serious? Yeah, that's all in the past now, as Hamels is back to being the old Hamels again. Last night, he shut out the Padres on 5 hits, a walk and 11 strikeouts over 8 innings, but received zero run support. Hamels is on a nice roll now, and is now 2-3 with a 3.07 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and a 70-22 strikeout to walk rate in 67.1 innings. Over his last three starts, he has given up just one earned run in 22.2 innings, and has given up one run or less in five of his last seven starts, lowering his ERA from 7.02 to 3.07.
The Twins surprised everyone by signing free agent DH/first baseman Kendrys Morales last week, and decided not to start him out in the minors to get him some at bats to work out the rust. Many questioned this decision, but after his performance on Wednesday, maybe Morales can hit in his sleep. Yesterday, Morales went 3-5 with 2 doubles, a run scored and 3 RBI in the Twins 7-2 win. He is available in 71% of leagues right now, so if you play in a deep or AL only league, go out and grab him.
There were several excellent pitching performances on Wednesday night, with Reds starter Johnny Cueto tossing a gem of his own. Cueto shutout the Dodgers on 3 hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts in 6 innings in the Reds win. Cueto improved his record to 6-5 with a 1.85 ERA, a 0.77 WHIP and a 109-22 strikeout to walk rate in 102 innings on the mound. He has given up two runs or less in 12 of his 14 starts this season, and has to be one of the top candidates for National League Cy Young award right now.
Yeah. it's time to drop Justin Verlander now. Verlander got knocked around once again last night, giving up 7 runs on 8 hits, 4 walks and 6 strikeouts in 5.2 innings in the Tigers loss to the White Sox. Verlancer is now 6-6 with a 4.61 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and a terrible 67-39 strikeout to walk rate in 91.2 innings this season. He has now given up 5 or more runs in five of his last six starts. I would bench him if my league rules allowed it, or just drop him if your league does not have a bench spot.
For more fantasy baseball (and football) news and rankings, make sure you check out Fantasy Rundown, your one stop for all the fantasy news you need on a daily basis.