All-Star Spotlights: 5 Studs In 2015 That Need Praise

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

The All-Star voting has been wonky this year with the Mid-summer Classic being held in Kansas City. In the event that some of these players you’re about to read about don’t make it, I want something to be written about these hugely important players. Each brings at least one skill indispensable to his club, and several bring much more.

The Next Big Thing–Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers 

This offseason the Dodgers put their eggs in the Joc Pederson basket when they traded away All-Star Matt Kemp, who socked 25 home runs last season, to a division rival. Kemp had reportedly ruffled feathers in the locker room, but 20+ home run hitters aren’t too plentiful in this new, cleaner era. The pressure was on Pederson.

He has passed every test with flying colors. Pederson has become a premier power hitter already, cracking 19 home runs in 305 plate appearances. He’s been a plus defender in the outfield, whereas Kemp was one of MLB’s worst and eventually had to be removed from center field. In fact, Pederson has a flair for the spectacular in the outfield, making 40 plays outside of his zone already, and completing 20 percent of his “remote” opportunities, defined by Fangraphs as plays with a 1-10 percent chance of being made.

Dodgers fans surely have forgotten Kemp by now, and Pederson has even moved Yasiel Puig aside as L.A.’s big deal. If Pederson’s this good already, his ceiling seems limitless.

The Stick–Stephen Vogt, C, Oakland A’s 

During the 2015 A’s’ offseason makeover, Vogt was handed a full-time job. Previously he had been a potent platoon player, but in 71 games this year, vs. right-handers and southpaws, Vogt has been a beast. One of the A’s bright spots in this dim season thus far Vogt is slashing .304/.399/.545 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI.

He’s proven he can rake vs. left-handed pitching, batting .333 in 57 at-bats, but he remains death on conventional pitchers, socking 12 of his 13 blasts against them. Part of Vogt’s big season has been increased patience; he’s walking 14 percent of the time in 2015, up from 5.6 percent last year. His ground ball rate is up, but so is his line drive rate.

No catcher in 2015 has had as big an offensive impact as  Vogt, and he’s been a neutral defender too. Vogt is quietly one of the sport’s most valuable players right now thanks to that production at such a hitting-starved position.

The Fireman–Dellin Betances, RP, New York Yankees

Betances was one of MLB’s most dominant relievers last season, partially because of the length he gave the Yankees when he pitched. David Robertson was there to close the door but he left this offseason–even though Betances was the obvious choice to become the closer, free agent left-hander Andrew Miller took the role.

Betances never sulked, and instead has been as dominant in 2015 as he was in 2014. He has continued to go more than one inning, and his ERA is lower this year than last, and his strikeout rate has increased. In just 37.1 innings of work Betances has set down 61 hitters, and with Miller on the DL Betances has finally claimed that closer role. He has five saves on the season, and whether he keeps the job upon Miller’s return or cedes it back, he’s currently the most dominant reliever in baseball.

The Complete Package–Lorenzo Cain, OF, Kansas City Royals

The Royals made the World Series last season largely on the strength of their bullpen, and a phenomenal defense. Lorenzo Cain has continued to shine in that outfield, posting a 9.9 defensive rating and making 57 plays outside his zone. He routinely makes impressive plays look easy, and almost impossible plays look merely tough.


But he ain’t all glove. Cain has stepped up his work at the plate and become one of the more dangerous all-around players in MLB. He’s reaching base at a near-.350 clip, batting .290, and he’s stolen 13 bags.

Cain’s added 3.6 runs of value as a baserunner, and is a positive at the plate, in the field, and on the base paths. It’s unrealistic to call him an MVP candidate, but Royals MVP isn’t far-fetched.

The Buccaneer–A.J. Burnett, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates

This man won’t go away. After a brutal 2014 with the cellar-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies (8-18, 4.59 ERA) Burnett was expected to hang up his cleats. Instead, he decided to take another tour in Pittsburgh, and he’s once again formed a shockingly good 1-2 punch with Francisco Liriano.

Burnett is 6-3 with a 2.01 ERA–and it’s backed up by his 2.64 FIP. He’s whiffing 7.87 batters per nine innings, walking less than two-and-a-half hitters per nine, and keeping the ball in the park. Burnett has only allowed three home runs in 98.1 innings of action, and stranded 81.8 percent of baserunners. If the Buccos reach October, this may be the guy getting the ball in Game 1.

 

 

Is Jason Kipnis Really Leading The American League MVP Race?

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Rattle off some MVP candidates in the American League. Mike Trout? Miguel Cabrera? Felix Hernandez? Sure, all good choices. Place yourself in a world where you were asked this question, but hadn’t already seen the headline of this article. It’s unlikely Cleveland Indians 2B Jason Kipnis‘ name would have entered your mind.

That’s what I’m here for though–to keep you informed.

Kipnis is having an absolutely monstrous year so far. He’s slashing .354/.428/.523 with five home runs, 31 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He’s put up those numbers when while including a horrific March/April in which he batted just .218. Remove that, and he’s slashing .416/.498/.632. Wowwwwww!

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The Next Phase Of Adrien Broner’s Career Has Arrived

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Adrien “The Problem” Broner has a LOT of problems right about now. He’s coming off a loss to Shawn “Showtime” Porter on primetime NBC programming, when if he was three-quarters as good as he claims to be, he would’ve boxed Porter’s ears off.

Broner was lustily booed when his entrance hit, and in a tone-deaf move mimicked Odell Beckham Jr.’s Whip dance on his way to the ring. He’s as loathed as any boxer I can recall in my time watching the sport–which has been about 16 years. I’ve gone back and watched my fair share of historical matches as well, and few people have been as hated as Broner.

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Danny Garcia Is The Most Disappointing Fighter In Boxing

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Boxing is a brutal sport, and any fighter that steps in the ring–regardless of opponent–deserves to be respected for the risk they’re taking. However, when fighters talk about being great they have to fight the best. That’s why Danny “Swift” Garcia, someone I’ve frequently stuck up for in the face of multiple questionable matchups, is the most disappointing fighter in the sport right now.

If reports from several outlets are correct, Garcia is about to fight in his third straight non-title fight at a catch weight. The fight will be his second for Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and he’ll fight Paulie Malignaggi, a 36-year-old who hasn’t fought since getting knocked out badly vs. Shawn Porter in 2013.

Now it’s not official just yet, but if it’s true that’s just embarrassing. Garcia is the lineal junior welterweight champion; he holds the WBC and WBA titles, and yet hasn’t defended either belt since September 2013. Garcia was one of boxing’s brightest stars having upset the likes of Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse while he rose to the top of the 140-pound weight class.

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NBA Finals 2015 Picks–Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers In WrestleMania Form

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Sorry for missing the Conference Finals picks. All you missed was me being absolutely right about the Golden State Warriors bashing the Houston Rockets, and me being pretty damn wrong about the Atlanta Hawks, whom I thought would grind out a long series victory over the wounded Cavaliers. So we’re going to talk about these NBA Finals in basketball AND wrestling terms. As a refresher, here are the WWE wrestlers I handed out to each team.

Every NBA Playoff Team and their WWE Counterpart

NBA FINALS: Golden State Warriors (Brock Lesnar) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (John Cena) 

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Top Three Quarterbacks In The NFL

Special To The Sports Deli, 

Summer is just starting, so for some people, the NFL season is still pretty far away. However, there are some people who just can’t get enough of the action. They are already thinking about who to draft in fantasy football, and breaking down each individual position is the best way to strategize. At the quarterback position, things are changing slowly but surely. Some of the most dominant people in fantasy football are getting up there in age, and new talent is emerging. Here is a look at the three best players to draft from my fantasy football perspective at the quarterback position in 2015.

Aaron Rodgers

When Randall Cobb decided to stick with the Packers in free agency, that all but solidified another outstanding season for Aaron Rodgers in 2015. Pretty much everyone returns as far as targets are concerned, and he only needs to worry about staying healthy throughout the year. Is starting to distance himself from the rest of the NFL, and he is really the only top-tier guy right in the middle of his prime. Green Bay is going to be a Super Bowl contender, and
Rodgers should be able to put it up some pretty good numbers in fantasy football.

Andrew Luck

The time has officially come for Luck to be in consideration as the best quarterback in the NFL. He probably isn’t as sharp as Rodgers just yet, but he is closing the gap. Adding Andre Johnson to the mix could be the best move made by the Colts in quite some time.

Russell Wilson

Traditionally speaking, Wilson is probably not a top 3 quarterback in the NFL. However, his ability to make high percentage passes and also run the football make him one of the best options in the game. It also helps that he plays for the Seattle Seahawks, and they just added the best tight end in the game in Jimmy Graham. Some look at Wilson as a guy who just controls the game, but back-to-back Super Bowl appearances are starting to make some people believers. He jumps former mainstays Drew Brees and Peyton Manning by a slim margin.

 

 

NBA Playoffs 2015 Picks–Round 2 In WrestleMania Form

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo

Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs is in the books, and Round 2 kicks off today. As you’ve seen, this playoffs I’ve adopted a method of comparing the NBA teams to WWE Superstars and made my predictions. In Round 1 I was 7-of-8 picking winners, with my lone misfire being the San Antonio Spurs (The Undertaker) beating the Los Angeles Clippers (Seth Rollins) in seven. I couldn’t have been closer without getting a win. Alas, shouldn’t have picked against the Champ I guess.

Without further ado, I take you to Round 2!

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Terence Crawford Is Someone You Need To Start Watching

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

Last weekend was an awesome one for boxing. Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov may have put on the fight of the year, and a likable underdog named Andrzej Fonfara upset a far-less likable “star” in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

This weekend there’s a Spike TV card promising action (this was written before it aired) and a heavyweight title fight on Saturday. Wladimir Klitschko is fighting in the U.S. for the first time in seven! years.

Yet the boxing part of my brain can’t stop thinking about what was the least publicized fight off last weekend–Terence “Bud” Crawford‘s debut at junior welterweight.

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NBA Playoffs 2015 Picks–In WrestleMania Form

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

I was very pleased with myself for my NBA teams as WWE Superstars gimmicks, so I’ll use those comparisons in order to make my first round predictions. Below you’ll find the matchups as they are in the NBA’s bracket, but also how they’d appear on a WrestleMania match card with their assigned Superstars.

Let’s see how well I did in my comparing!

Eastern Conference

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NBA Playoffs Preview 2015: The 5 Most Important Defensive Aces This Postseason

By Raimundo Ortiz (@AroundtheMundo)

When measuring players for regular season awards, and even big, fat offseason contracts, offensive production tends to take precedence. Points put the fannies in the seats, and the name of the game is to score more than your opponent.

BUT! defense matters in wins and losses. In the postseason, defense is paramount, and when coaches have only one opponent at a time to prepare for, having difference-makers on the defensive end can make scoring damn near impossible. This year, these five players will make the biggest difference on D.

Kawhi Leonard, F San Antonio Spurs 

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