Fantasy Baseball: Batter stock watch

Fantasy Baseball: Batter stock watch


Will Venable, OF, Padres: We can't promise the batting average will be playable, though Venable has hit .282 in the second half. We're in this story for the category juice (two homers, 10 steals over those 34 games) and the solid run production, especially when the Padres are on the road. He seems to like the No. 2 slot in the order, where he carries a .348.430.565 line over 22 starts. Consider Venable as a possible sleeper for 2013 as well, especially if San Diego finally moves in the Petco Park fences.

Scott Podsednik, OF, Red Sox: He's 36 and he didn't even play in the majors last year, but he's shown decent skills in a limited period with Boston (.375.402.458 over 96 at-bats, seven steals). While Bobby Valentine's crew is one of the most disappointing teams in the majors, don't blame the offense - the Red Sox are second in runs, trailing only Texas. Podsednik's playing time is secure now that Carl Crawford is down for the year.

Tyler Colvin, 1BOF, Rockies: It's been a challenge to keep him in the lineup all year - manager Jim Tracy is a serial tinkerer - but Colvin's spot is finally safe with Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer on the DL. Colvin's strikeout rate is a little worrisome, but nonetheless he's given us a .294 average in part-time duty, with decent power (14 homers) and speed (seven steals). And while Coors Field is driving most of the story, Colvin isn't a pumpkin on the road (.272 average, .476 slugging).


Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays: He's fallen into some bad mechanics at the plate, swinging too early in the count and getting himself out against lefties. It adds up to a .176.228.280 slash over 32 games in the second half, with a measly three homers. Perhaps the presence of Jose Bautista will help in September - Rasmus was crushing the ball earlier in the year, in front of Joey Bats - though every numerical study about batter protection fails to validate the theory.

Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics: His plate discipline has collapsed in the second half, leading to an ugly .204.248.367 line, and he's also shown less aggressiveness on the bases. The A's still love Reddick for his right-field defense and his intensity, but perhaps he'd not best suited for the No. 3 spot in the lineup. An ongoing battle with a troublesome tooth may also play into Reddick's slump - maybe the recent fixing of that problem will go a long way towards fixing the offensive production. But if you can sell the overall stats on face value, you'll likely be overpaid in return.


Pedro Ciriaco, Utility, Red Sox: His minor-league profile is pedestrian and he's walked just two times compared to 23 strikeouts in The Show, but Ciriaco has his plus points, too (.344 average, eight steals, bats leadoff some of the time). And if you're limited in your bench spots or pickups, consider the utility that Ciriaco offers: he covers second, shortstop and third base in Yahoo! standard leagues. And like we discussed with Podsednik above, Ciriaco gets the undertow of Boston's lineup to help him out.

David Murphy, OF, Rangers: He's finally figured out a path against lefties, while he's continuing to crush righties like normal. And Murphy has always been a monster in Arlington: this year he's a .366.440.571 overlord in front of the home folks. Being in the most prolific lineup in the majors is another plus point. Enjoy the ride.

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Sidney Crosby makes season debut, scores in Penguins win

Sidney Crosby makes season debut, scores in Penguins win

After missing the first six games with a concussion, Sidney Crosby made his season debut Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins hosted the Florida Panthers. Crosby scored in the second period to help the Penguins to a 3-2 win.

Down 2-0 in the second period, Evgeni Malkin fed a wide open Crosby in the high slot who fired a wrist shot past goalie James Reimer for the goal. The power play tally sparked the Penguins' comeback as Carl Hagelin and Eric Fehr added goals in the third period for the win.

Pittsburgh could soon get another boost as goalie Matt Murray suited up as the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury on Tuesday. Murray has not yet played this season after breaking his right hand in the World Cup of Hockey. If the team feels comfortable enough to use him as the backup, his first start can't be far behind.

After Tuesday's win, the Penguins currently sit in first place of the Metropolitan Division with nine points, two ahead of the Washington Capitals though the Caps have two games in hand.


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Morning tip: Emphasis on spacing should enhance Otto Porter's output

Morning tip: Emphasis on spacing should enhance Otto Porter's output

The bigget emphasis on the offensive end under coach Scott Brooks, since training camp and through seven preseason games, is spacing. Whether Bradley Beal is running the offense or John Wall has them flow into pick-and-rolls before calling a set, the ball doesn't move so effortlessly if the floor is congested.

That's where Otto Porter comes in. Going into his fourth season, and second as the starter at small foward, this is where he should flourish. Porter doesn't thrive standing still in the corner for catch-and-shoot three-pointers. He prefers to be moving to the ball, and the off-ball movement and spacing that creates the avenues for the passes from the guards allows him to maximize his skill-set.

"We can get anything we want as long as everybody keep moving, everybody keep sharing the ball," said Porter, who had the tendency to disappear during long stretches of games or multiple games under Randy Wittman. 

Center Marcin Gortat is optimistic by what he sees overall. In the Wizards' last preseason game, a win over the Toronto Raptors, they had 33 assists on 49 field goals. Beal had nine assists and no turnovers.

"We’re moving the ball much better than we’ve been moving the last few years," Gortat said. "We run completely different drills in practice. … We have a lot of options."

[RELATED: No love lost for Wizards with new-look Hawks]

Gortat is one of the top five screening big men in the NBA, and Brooks has his guards doing more screening as well. Taking advantage of defenses watching the ball when Wall has it with backdoor cuts for slip passes is more common. 

"The perimeter guys are doing a good job of finding open cuts to the basket. Otto was one of the best at doing it," Brooks said. "We have to continue to work on our spacing. Sometimes we don’t want you to cut. You have to space out."

The change is welcomed for Wall who doesn't have to do everything all the time with defenses loading to him on the ball. Porter can be a more effective third scorer. With more players touching the ball it will keep them engaged and in theory make them more productive. 

"With our offense, he just wants movement," Wall said of Brooks' philosophy. "I talk to guys about cutting at certain times. I think Otto, he’s one of the best cutters in the league when he has the opportunity to do it. When we’re penetrating and driving there’s so much attention on us we have guys like (Markieff Morris) that can pass and (Gortat) who can knock down shots. It’s about cutting and getting the timing down pat. Our starting five is a free-flowing offense.”

[RELATED: Brooks, Beal impressed with Wizards' passing this preseason]