New York Giants: Shepard And Latimer Ready To Take Over Without Beckham

New York Giants, Cody Latimer

Wide receivers could be a make or break position for the New York Giants this year, as the team attempts to bounce back from the disaster of a 2018 season with a very different looking roster. Some of the biggest changes are at the position of wide receiver, where they moved on from star wideout Odell Beckham Jr. There’s various players stepping up to fill the missing role of Beckham, and the Giants could either be a deeper team at receiver or they could suffer from poor performances.

It all depends on how a few players manage to do, and whether or not they live up to the expectations set for them.

“I feel like last season with Odell going out for those last [four] games kind of prepared me for what I was going to get into. The season before that as well with him going down with an ankle injury. I feel like it prepared me for this moment,” Sterling Shepard, who received a large contract extension soon after the Beckham trade, told the New York Post.

Shepard will have a larger role than he’s ever had before with the Giants, after signing a deal that’s worth $41M and four years. The deal, however, also comes with larger expectations that Shepard has ever had – and may force him to perform with more passes coming his way than before, as his role shifts from that of a clear number two receiver.

Shepard isn’t the only player the Giants are counting on, though. Cody Latimer has the potential to have a breakout year after getting healthy, and looks confident going into this season, claiming the team can be dominant at the position.

“Anybody can get the ball. You’re open, you don’t get it, that means somebody else is getting it and you’re hoping they make a play. We got an unselfish room in there. We don’t really care or actually don’t talk about it at all, who’s getting the ball,” Latimer stated. “It’s a group effort. The group can be dominant, period.”

Is Latimer right? That will depend on a number of factors, including play at both receiver and quarterback. The Giants do have the pieces to be one of the better offenses in the division, but as seen last season, putting together a new group of players in the starting lineup for the first time doesn’t always have the intended effect. When the preseason comes around in a couple of months, we’ll get a first look at just how well this group should mesh together on the field.

New York Yankees: DJ LeMahieu Continues To Lead The Team

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

Over the off-season, New York Yankee fans wanted Manny Machado, and they moaned and groaned when the team signed DJ LeMahieu to a two year deal instead. While Machado is batting a solid .278, LeMahieu is hitting .331 and is hitting over .360 in June alone.

11 games

With a 2-for-4 effort on Tuesday against the Blue Jays, LeMahieu extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Not just that, but he has been hitting over .500 with runners in scoring position this season.

His OBP is pushing .400, and LeMahieu will be an all-star with a shot at starting the game at second base.

The lowest that his average was this season was on April 22 after a game against the Angels. His average was under .300 for just four games this year, and he has been in the low to mid .300s since.

Power surge

Through just half of a season, LeMahieu has 11 home runs, already good for a tie for second in his career. His career high was 15 long balls just last year, and is on pace for 20 this year.

Also, his power has been impressive lately. He hit just one home run before May 11th.

On Tuesday, LeMahieu hit a historic home run, creating a major league record 28 games in a row with a home run.

LeMahieu has been great for the Yankees this year, and will continue to lead the team on offense.

New York Yankees Week In Review + ESM Yankees Player of The Week for 6/17-6/24

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

Weekly Recap:

After starting June by taking two of three from the rival Red Sox, the Yankees began to slide. They lost two of three to both Toronto and Cleveland, split a doubleheader against the Mets, and lost the first two games in a four-game set against the White Sox. They would salvage the final two games by scores of 8-4 and 10-3, settling for a series split.

Those two wins helped build momentum for Monday, the start of a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. Coming into this series, Tampa was only half a game behind the Yankees for first in the A.L. East. The first two games of this series were close, but the Yankees would come through in both by scores of 3-0 and 6-3.

The first win was fueled by a complete-game shutout by Masahiro Tanaka, who was solid, yet inconsistent in his previous handful of starts. Meanwhile, the second win was a team victory as multiple players drove in runs, including recent acquisition Edwin Encarnacion. Acquired late last week, the A.L. home run leader launched his first home run in pinstripes to help seal the victory of both the game and series.

C.C. Reaches #250 in blowout victory:

Veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia took the mound for the bombers in the series finale against Tampa Bay, once more looking for career win #250. The milestone was so close, yet so far away for Sabathia in his previous three starts, when he had 249 career wins. The fourth time would be the charm, as the Yankees would chase reigning A.L. Cy Young winner Blake Snell from the game after scoring six in the first inning, recording only one out, started by a three-run home run by Gary Sanchez.

While the Yankee offense would be shut down by the Rays bullpen for the next five innings, the bats came alive again in the 7th, led by Gleyber Torres. With the bases load and two runs already home in the inning, the 22-year-old sent a ball into the Yankees’ bullpen for his first career grand slam, sealing the sweep. The three victories increased the Yankees lead in the A.L. East to 3.5 games.

Yankees take 3 of 4 from Astros:

Their next test was the Houston Astros, who swept the Yankees in three games back on April 8-10. While the Yankees were coming off sweeping Tampa Bay, Houston was coming off getting swept in four games by the Cincinnati Reds, mainly due to lack of offensive production with RISP. The bombers took advantage, winning the first three games by scores of 10-6, 4-1, 7-5.

Despite losing the series finale 4-9, the Yankees finished the week 6-1. They now face the Toronto Blue Jays in a three-game series before flying to London, where they will face the Red Sox in the two-game London Series.

Giant Returns:

Giancarlo Stanton, who was out since April 1st with a left biceps tear, an aggravated left shoulder, and a left calf strain, finally returned on June 18. It took him most of the week to find his stroke, but on June 22, Stanton laced a pair of go-ahead two-run singles off the glove of Astros third baseman Yuli Gurriel for his first RBIs of the season.

Three days after Stanton’s return, Aaron Judge would follow suit. Judge was out since April 21 with a left oblique strain. In the three games he played this week, he was hitless and only drew one walk as he tries to find his rhythm again. The return of both Stanton and Judge is sure to make the Yankees’ lineup even more potent.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to our first ever Empire Sports Media Yankee of the Week!

Masahiro Tanaka:

Vs. Tampa Bay (6/17): W, 9.0 Innings, 2 Hits, 1 BB, 10 SO

Vs. Houston (6/22): ND, 6.0 Innings, 8 Hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO

In Tanaka’s two starts this week, he went 1-0, giving up 2 earned runs on 10 total hits, striking out 11 and walking two.

His first start against the Tampa Bay Rays came when the Yankees rotation and bullpen were both in need of a breather. Tanaka would deliver, allowing only 2 hits and walked one, striking out 10 for a complete-game shutout.

His second start against Houston wasn’t as clean, allowing eight hits, one of those being a two-run home run by Josh Reddick. He would end up getting a no-decision.

This second start was what made it such a tough decision, but the shutout in his first start, in my opinion, helped set up the rest of the week for the rotation and bullpen. As such, Tanaka just edges out our honorable mentions listed below:

Honorable Mentions (Not in order):

Gleyber Torres:

6 games, 5-20 (.250), 3 HRs, 9 RBI, 2 BB

Gleyber Torres, still only 22-years-old, continued to show why he’s one of the young faces of baseball last week. Despite only batting .250 for the week, Torres hit three home runs in as many days, including his first career grand slam. His fourth inning three-run home run on June 20 helped propel the Yankees to a 10-6 win over Houston.

Gary Sanchez:

6 games, 9-24 (.375), 3 HRs, 9 RBI

The Gary Sanchez comeback tour continued this past week. His three-run home run on June 19 against reigning A.L. Cy Young winner Blake Snell started a six-run first inning on their way to a 12-1 win and a sweep of Tampa Bay.

The following day against Houston, Sanchez hit a solo shot to start another six-spot in the bottom of the fourth. The next day saw Sanchez hit a two-out, solo home run in the third off Brad Peacock, again scratching the first run on the board for the bombers, who would go on to win 4-1.

D.J. LeMahieu:

6 games, 10-23 (.434), 3 HRs, 10 RBI

D.J. LeMahieu continued to show why signing him was actually a very good idea. He had at least one hit in every game he played last week, including three multi-hit games. He continues to excel with runners in scoring position, batting .478/.493/.701/1.195 on the year in those situations.

Cameron Maybin:

5 games, 8-14 (.571), 2 HRs, 4 RBI, 7 runs scored

Cameron Maybin continued to be a very good acquisition from Cleveland, starting the week in the midst of a four-game home run streak. Unfortunately, he only had one at-bat on June 21 against Houston before being taken out, having a hit and scored a run. He was subsequently put on the 10-day I.L. with a left calf strain.


New York Yankees: Jonathan Holder Optioned to AAA

New York Yankees, Jonathan Holder

There have only been four Yankee pitchers in club history to allow 5+ earned runs and 5+ hits while getting zero outs. Jonathan Holder has done it twice.

It is no secret that Holder has struggled this season. In his last seven games, Holder has thrown six innings and is credited to a 19.50 ERA. Last night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees were holding a 10-3 lead and decided to bring in Holder. Five batters later, it was a 10-7 game. Holder allowed two home runs, one of them being a grand-slam.

Following Monday’s game Holder met with media saying, “My breaking ball hasn’t been consistent, and I haven’t been able to come through in big jams. I haven’t been able to execute pitches in a timely manner.” While being asked about maintaining confidence Holder said, “It’s tough, it’s frustrating. It’s not fun, but, just keep working everyday and I got to realize every time I go out one pitch at a time and just execute.”

Following Monday’s match up against the Blue Jays, Holder was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Earlier in the season, Chad Green, struggled and figured it out down in triple-A. Yankee fans hope to see Holder do the same.

New York Knicks need to stick with Mitchell Robinson as starting center

New York Knicks, Knicks, Mitchell Robinson

While the New York Knicks utilized Mitchell Robinson and DeAndre Jordan in an interchangeable role last season, the younger of the two should see far more playing time in 2019.

Averaging about 20 minutes per game in 2018, Robinson gained essential experience that will help him develop even further in the season ahead. His 2.4 blocks per game put his defensive capabilities on display, leading all rookies in the category and ranking second in the NBA — add in his 7.3 points per game and you can justify making him the everyday starter.

His elite shot blocking is only a portion of the potential Mitchell represents. He can be a top rim protector in the league with a bit more growth and muscle mass.

New York Knicks: What does Mitchell Robinson need to work on?

His biggest issue is movement on the court. He can get lost in rotation and leave opposing players open with driving lanes or clear shots. He will need to refine that part of his game if he wishes to become a truly elite player at the professional level.

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One way I see Robinson making an impact in the future is off the pick and roll. His ability to spin off blocks and get to the rim in a hurry is impressive. It also helps his teammates get open looks at the basket. Additionally, his 2.6 offensive rebounds per game are top-notch given his 20 minutes per game average.

The most exciting part of the young center is the obvious progression he made throughout the course of the season. He finished the back end of the year shooting 70% from the field. He has the potential to be a very influential player on the Knicks, and they need to dedicate more playing time for the cause of his development, otherwise, they will just be stunting his growth.


New York Giants: Julian Love Will Be The Giants’ Steal Of The 2019 NFL Draft

New York Giants, Julian Love

The New York Giants‘ defense has been one of the league’s worst over the past two seasons. The Giants’ secondary has been particularly bad, allowing opponents to throw for more than enough passing yards to sink the Giants 24 times in two seasons.

In 2017, the Giants’ secondary allowed 252.4 passing yards per game (ranked 31st in the NFL). In 2018, the Giants’ secondary allowed 252.8 passing yards (ranked 23rd in the NFL), showing minimal to no improvement. For this reason, the Giants made it a point of emphasis to fix the secondary in 2019.

The Giants did just that in the 2019 NFL Draft. New York drafted three defensive backs in the 2019 NFL Draft (four if counting Sam Beal). One of the Giants’ draft picks, Julian Love, in the secondary was a major steal, and he could prove that as soon as his rookie season.

Julian Love Stats And Highlights

The New York Giants drafted cornerback Julian Love in the 4th round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Julian Love was considered to be a 2nd-round prospect, but the Giants managed to snag him much later than that.

The cornerback out of Notre Dame has been highly praised by NFL scouts and analysts. Lance Zierlein of had this to say about the Giants’ new cornerback:

Pure and simple, Love is a cover guy who possesses the feet, hips, instincts and competitiveness you want in a corner. He operates with outstanding technique from both man and zone, and his ability to anticipate and recognize routes allows for stickier coverage. He’s more finesse than physical and his lack of top speed might need to be schemed around with certain matchups. However, Love’s cover talent, intelligence and ball skills give him a good shot at succeeding outside or from the slot. – Lance Zierlein,

Julian Love played for three years at Notre Dame. In those three seasons, Love was a spectacular defensive playmaker. Julian tallied an insane 39 passes defended in those three years to go along with 5 interceptions. He even added 176 total tackles.

Julian Love is a playmaker against both the pass and the run. He is a great tackler for his position. In 2018, Love posted a 75.9 tackling grade via Pro Football Focus as he racked up 63 tackles that season. He also added 3 tackles for loss.

The Giants were extremely lucky to find Julian Love sitting available during the 4th-round of the draft. For reference, Love was the 45th ranked prospect on PFF’s Top 250 Big Board. Julian Love was the Giants’ biggest steal in this year’s draft, and when it is all said and done, he might be the biggest steal of the entire draft.

What is the New York Knicks pitch to Kawhi Leonard in free agency?

Can the New York Knicks convince Kawhi Leonard to come to New York?

The free agent market in the NBA is one of pure unpredictability. The New York Knicks will see players expected to join their ranks take their talents elsewhere and others agree to compete in the Mecca. My initial thoughts are – Kevin Durant won’t wind up being with the Knicks, but that won’t stop them from pursuing Toronto Raptors star, Kawhi Leonard.

As much as Leonard enjoys winning, he seems to enjoy the challenge just as much. Location doesn’t mean as much as holding the trophy at the end of the NBA finals, yet reports have stated he’s interested in going to Los Angeles.

The Knicks will start their pursuit with a disadvantage, but their game-plan should be to convince him that he can solidify his name at the top by leading a team of youth and becoming a mentor as well as a winner.

The New York Knicks need to emphasize their direction and the challenge:

Having youngsters like RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Damyeon Dotson to work with, Leonard might be intrigued by the leadership role and true challenge of New York. In addition, the Knicks have two max-contract slots to fill, which would allow them to pair Kawhi with another talented option.

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Think — Kawhi and D’Angelo Russell. Two elite talents that can work well together. Given Kyrie Irving ends up in Brooklyn, the Knicks will need to find talent at the point guard position, which is where Russell enters the picture.

Coming off an All-Star performance in 2018, the free agent will be looking to earn a pretty penny, and the reality is, the Knicks, residing up the block and a quick ride on the 4 train, are a good option. The point guard has already stated he wants to stay in the Big Apple, which gives the Knicks an advantage.

It will be interesting to see how they approach free agency and if Leonard is actually a possibility. It’s expected they will earn a meeting with him, but convincing him to lead a team of youth will be the difficult part.

New York Giants: Touchdown Wire Places Barkley As Top NYG Pick This Decade

New York Giants running back, Saquon Barkley.

The New York Giants have definitely been one of the more hit or miss teams in the NFL Draft’s first round in recent years. Sometimes, they end up drafting players that could be stars for a long time, such as Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., even if the latter player didn’t pan out in the long run.

Other times in recent memory, the team has taken players such as Eli Apple or Justin Pugh, who end up playing elsewhere a relatively short time later, with varying degrees of good performance. And in 2015, the team notably spent a top 10 pick on tackle Ereck Flowers, which panned out far worse than most would have imagined at the time and could be called one of the worst picks of the last front office regime.

But out of the players they’ve drafted this decade, which one is the best? According to Touchdown Wire, that title belongs to Saquon Barkley, who burst onto the scene as the second pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and hasn’t looked back since, quickly becoming the best back on the team and one of the finest in the league. Here’s what they had to say about the pick:

Saquon Barkley was one of the few bright spots for the Giants after being chosen second overall out of Penn State in 2018. Yes, there could be an argument for Odell Beckham Jr. here. However, the overall distractions that eventually led to his trade to the Browns open the door for Barkley.

There’s not much more elaboration but not much is needed when it comes to a player that finished second in the league in rushing and turned the Giants running game around entirely just with his presence on the field. Of course, Beckham has more experience with the Giants despite the trade, but it’s hard to argue that Beckham was the better pick because of the way things ended. It looks very unlikely that Saquon Barkley’s career, however, will feature a trade to the Cleveland Browns or any other team in the middle of his prime.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played in Barkley’s career, but is it crazy to call him the best Giants pick of the 2010s? Based on the way some of the team’s other first round selections have panned out in recent years, not at all.

New York Giants: How Darius Slayton will make an impact in 2019

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants drafted wide receiver Darius Slayton in the fifth-round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and his qualities match up perfectly with what head coach Pat Shurmur wants to do.

Having elite speed is only one facet of becoming a quality pass-catcher in the NFL. Slayton, who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash at the combine, brings that with him from Auburn. His quickness off the line of scrimmage and ability to break out into the open field is deadly, and something the Giants will look to utilize early and often in his young career.

The New York Giants are getting a glimpse of what Slayton can do:

To start the offseason, Slayton looked as if the Giants plucked him off a high school field — dropping every ball thrown his way and looking like a bigger mistake than positive influence. Since then, he’s emerged as one of the top rookies of the summer for Big Blue, earning first-team reps with teammate, CJ Conrad. The two rookies were the only players to earn reps with the starting team, an indication of their quality and progression so far.

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The reality is, Slayton will likely play a specific role in 2019 — I imagine as a wide-receiver screen and deep ball specialist. His speed gives him the ability to beat corners deep while Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard draw attention from the top corners on the opposing defense.

I would like to see Shurmur utilize Tate and Shep as blockers on the outside in a trips formation, throwing the ball to Slayton to see if he can break through into the secondary. It will be interesting to see how the Giants get him on the field and in what capacity.

He will ultimately be fighting off Corey Coleman and Cody Latimer for playing time this year, but he’s more than capable of stealing some reps away from the veterans.

New York Yankees looking to trade Clint Frazier – only for a controlled starter

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

The return of New York Yankees sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton has made outfielder Clint Frazier expendable, despite his impressive offensive production this season. His defense, however, has been the caveat in the story.

The Yankees have only been able to use the quick bat as a DH due to his issues in the field, and trading for slugger Edwin Encarnacion has made Frazier useless unless he’s considered a trading piece.

The reality is, Frazier will only be traded if a starting pitcher is involved, but I’m not convinced general manager Brian Cashman fully believes the Bombers need one. It’s possible the ride out the injury bug just as they did with the hitters, pulling up reserve options to fill the holes.

Pitching is different, though, it’s much harder to supplement good pitching than adequate hitting. That’s where the value from Frazier comes from and why it’s very possible he is traded this season.

The New York Yankees know what they want in a Clint Frazier trade scenario:

According to Ken Rosenthal on Fox twitter, the Yankees won’t deal Frazier unless they get a starting pitcher with at least two seasons of control.

With four-years of control on Frazier, the Yankees aren’t looking for a rental like Madison Bumgarner. They want an option that can produce over the next few seasons. A potential deal would factor in the potential of Frazier over the four-years of team control.

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He’s already showed he can be an everyday hitter in the lineup, but it will be his defense that needs to improve. If he can solve that issue, there’s no doubt he can be an everyday outfielder for a different team, which is what the premise of the deal is and why his value is so high.

Gaining a starting pitcher for his talents and minor-league prospect or two makes sense, but the return would have to be an impact player that can start right away and isn’t injury prone.