…a collection and expansion of my notes from the week in sports
March 5, 2014
Who will be this year’s Yasiel Puig? We have been blessed as fans over the past few years to witness some remarkable performances by first year players. In addition to Mike Trout, and Puig bursting onto the scene, there have been notable showings by many position players, as well as pitchers. This year should prove to extend the streak, but since the biggest surprises have been from the two outfielders, let us keep our attention there. Allow me to present Avisail Garcia as the one most likely to carry the torch. While his name is already pretty well out there, largely in part to his post-season performance when still with the Tigers, it may surprise you to be reminded he will be just 23 when the season approaches the mid-way point. Given the moniker “Little Miggy” for his uncanny resemblance to fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera, it is also in part to his games similarities to the two-time, and reigning, MVP. Standing at an imposing 6’4” and 240 pounds, Garcia punishes balls but has not yet shown to be a big time slugger. He has solid plate discipline which has translated into a high average at every stop he has made, and even shows the ability to swipe the occasional bag. The majority of his sample size to this point has been in the minor leagues, but judging by that there is a lot to be excited about. The best news is that now with the Chicago White Sox, who don’t figure to be competitive this season, he for the first time in his young career has stability. Not having the pressure to win a World Series, like he faced in Detroit, should allow him to flourish in the more open environment. He will continue to develop his power, and will hit some homers purely by accident with his tremendous size, while maintaining his high average. He should surpass 500 at bats hitting anywhere between 3rd and 5th, and while not a powerhouse, does have some protection in a decent lineup. So what is not to like? Do I think he can rival what Trout and Puig did with their first taste of extended playing time? Not so much. But of all the young outfielders who figure to make a splash in the 2104 season, I think he has the best chance to. Over a full season it would not surprise me if he hits .285 with 25 Home Runs, 85 RBI’s, 80 Runs, and throws in 15 steals as well. Most don’t have him projected this high, which is why you will be able to select him in much later rounds of your draft. If you do your homework on Avisail Garcia, you will see all the makings for a breakout this season are there. Never would have you believed Trout and Puig could have amassed the numbers they did, but now I am telling you to believe Garcia can. He is an outfielder you must own this season, and going forward. You can most likely draft him as your fifth at the position, but by seasons end he could be delivering Top 30 production. You have been warned.
When the Phantom of the Association, Lebron James, abused the Charlotte Bobcats for 61 points, a riot almost ensued. Not in the arena, but mainly on twitter and talk shows. The long going debate of who is the greatest basketball player of all time was re-infused. There will never be a clear cut answer, but Lebron vs. Durant vs. Kobe vs. Melo vs. Michael vs. Wilt vs. Russell vs… do you follow my drift? I personally don’t have a singular favorite player, although Mark Jackson and Steph Curry are as close as any. Regardless, all the mention of truly elite talent led me back to the problems I have with Carmelo Anthony. The New York Knicks won 54 games last season, made supposed improvements to the roster, and somehow this season has imploded. The finger has been pointed at, in no particular order, James Dolan, Mike Woodson, Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, and even his brother Chris. At no point has the blame been placed on Melo. I wrote in the first week of the season how Melo needed to be more of a distributor, and less of a one-dimensional selfish scorer. To his credit he has played his heart out, is having a career year, and seems to genuinely try to incorporate his team more. But what good is a career year if it isn’t enough to get a “Championship caliber” roster into championship contention? The names mentioned above, with the exception being Melo, all have one thing in common. Their teammates knew they were the clear cut leader, because they acted as such. Kevin Durant has dealt with injury and inconsistency on his team, yet he has led them to the best record in the league, as of today. Lebron James has brought his team to three consecutive Finals appearances, and even led a far inferior Cavaliers team there once as well. Kobe Bryant may never be considered the consummate teammate by his peers, but he took charge and demanded effort from the roster. Even to the point of confrontation with Shaquille O’Neal. Michael Jordan was notorious for his practice habits, leadership, and desire to leave every last ounce of himself, literally, on the court. So when then will people realize Melo is just a nice player? He is a complimentary piece that can help a team with a structure. Tracy McGrady led the league in scoring; Twice. George Gervin accomplished that feat numerous times, and is considered one of the greatest players of all time. You know what else the “Iceman” has in common with “T-Mac”? Zero Finals appearances, let alone Championship rings. If you want a fun player to root for, Carmelo Anthony is a great attraction to build your franchise around. If it is a Championship you seek he should not be at the top of your list. I have been a New Yorker since I was born in the Bronx thirty nine years ago. Despite the Nets making every attempt to gain my loyalty, it will always be hard to not support the Knicks. When NFL teams suffer, it is the quarterback who generally draws the ire of criticism. When big money baseball players fail to lead their team to wins, they are generally berated. When it comes to Melo, he seems to escape blame. He is a professional basketball player getting paid to win, he is not David Blaine. New Yorkers are supposed to be the most educated sports fans around. Perhaps the majority should begin to live up to that.
NFL Free Agency is about to be underway, but unlike the over-anxious, I can wait. There is so much that can change between now and March 11th, but there are some notable game changers available, especially at the Wide Receiver position. Between the depth of Free Agents, and the talent in this year’s Draft class, it will be interesting to see how teams approach filling their needs for pass-catchers… I wouldn’t push the panic button just yet for the Syracuse Orangemen, but their confidence has truly waned in the past few weeks. The Carrier Dome generally holds a significant home court edge, but as witnessed by Georgia Tech coming in and winning, that too has been lost. Jerami Grant, son of former NBA twin Horace, has been affected by an injured back. Getting him healthy will be the key to an Orange run in the tourney, and if he can return to full strength this team should go far. CJ Fair is the type of player who can carry a team offensively, as Carmelo Anthony did in his lone college season. But, as was the case with Melo, the supporting cast will be the determining factor… Finally, for all the Fantasy Football fanatics – and even the less enthusiastic – be on the lookout for some exciting news. If you follow me on Twitter you many have seen the hash tags #ComingHuge and #3-2-1. The latter symbolizes the date 3/21, while the former should be self-explanatory. Yes, March 21st will be only the beginning for taking your passion to the next Level. LevelUpFantasy.com is here and the best is still to come. Be ready!