NASCAR: Erik Jones ready for a Richard Petty reset

Bid farewell from Joe Gibbs Racing, Erik Jones is ready to reboot his NASCAR Cup Series career in the iconic No. 43 car.

Erik Jones’ NASCAR name has been constantly mentioned alongside the sport’s most victorious characters. He has raced alongside Kyle Busch and 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott in the famed Snowball Derby short track event, winning two of them. His memorable championship trek during the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was traversed in a truck owned by Busch. A debut season on the premier Cup Series level in 2017 was run at Furniture Row Racing, where he raced alongside that season’s ultimate winner: Martin Truex Jr. In the year after, he succeeded Matt Kenseth in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota…which previously hosted a pair of titles from Tony Stewart.

Now, with Jones seeking to hit the reset button on his Cup career, he’s working with arguably the most memorable name in the history of auto racing: Richard Petty.

Jones, 24, is set to be the driver of Petty’s iconic No. 43 car, a vehicle owned and operated by the seven-time champion and New York-based businessman Andrew M. Murstein. The protege of Richard Petty Motorsports was called upon to take the ride over in October with Bubba Wallace heading over to a new team funded by Michael Jordan and Jones’ race day competitor Denny Hamlin.

“It’s a little bit hard to totally grasp the impact that Richard Petty has had on NASCAR and the No. 43 itself,” Jones remarked in a meeting with reporters this week. “I never got to see The King race, so that’s kind of an interesting thing I think for me. But I know obviously his impact on the sport, what he means to NASCAR and what he means to NASCAR fans. Growing up, my grandmother was and still is a huge Richard Petty fan and there’s a lot of people that are really excited to see me in that car from back home.”

“It’s been hard to wrap my head around that a little bit and really think about all the history in that car and what it’s meant to the sport. But I hope I can go out and do it and its fans proud. I know there’s a lot of fans of that car, just from back when Richard was driving it himself, so hopefully, we can go out and make those fans happy.”

Jones and Petty will be partners in rebooting as NASCAR inches toward the 2021 Cup Series season. Once seen as one of NASCAR’s most intriguing prospects, Jones’ Cup Series career hit a bit of a roadblock last season, which wound up being his last in the No. 20 machine.

Things started off pleasant enough, as Jones won the season-opening exhibition known as the Busch Clash a week before the Daytona 500, leading only a single lap as one of six drivers to finish the wreck-filled race. But the regular season wound up being a struggle, as Jones was the only Gibbs driver to miss out on the Cup Series postseason. He also failed to add to his win total, leading JGR to end a collaboration that dated back to 2012. Christopher Bell will serve as the new driver of the No. 20, joining an all-star unit that includes Hamlin, Busch, and Truex Jr.

Jones will now join an RPM team struggling to recapture its glory days. The No. 43 car played host to all but eight of Petty’s record 200 victories on the Cup circuit, but hasn’t visited victory lane since July 2014, when Aric Almirola won a Daytona summer race shortened by rain. Wallace’s 22nd-place posting in 2020’s final standings was the first time that an RPM driver finished in the top 25 of the standings since Almirola’s finish in 17th five years prior.

Despite the relative downgrade, Jones is very enthusiastic about what he can accomplish at RPM. In some ways, he views the transfer from the massive operation at JGR to RPM’s single-car setting as having its share of benefits. It has allowed Jones to experience flashbacks to his days as a budding short track racer in his home state of Michigan.

“It just kind of brings me back to short track racing to me more than anything, what I grew up doing in Late Models and stuff there. Obviously, that was my family team, so it was really just me, my dad, we had a crew chief a couple of times and that was it,” Jones remarked of the change. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s nice to just be able to walk into the shop and right off the bat get to say ‘hi’ to everybody and there’s nowhere to walk around all day trying to get to see everybody that you need to see. So, I’ve enjoyed it. The communication is really easy.”

Of course, the most attractive aspect of a Petty collaboration is the chance to talk shop with The King himself. Jones was incredibly impressed by and enjoyed the fact that, even in his advanced age, the 83-year-old Petty remains an active prescience in the RPM garage as the offseason continues.

“It’s really neat for me to see how in-tune he is with everything that’s going on,” he said. “You don’t really know until you spend time with somebody how much they’re really involved and what they’re doing. With The King, with his team, he’s all in. So, it’s been really neat to see and just get some advice from him right off the bat about dealing with sponsors, dealing with fans, and things he’s done over his time in the sport to really nurture those relationships and build strong relationships with sponsors and fans.”

“I’ve definitely enjoyed the time I’ve gotten to talk to him so far. For me, I’m looking forward to continuing that through the year and just being able to go to him, ask questions and get advice about something he’s been around his whole life. And most of the time the sport has been around itself, he’s been involved too. I’m excited to grow that relationship and get to chat with him about racing and obviously hope to make him proud on the track.”

If anything, Jones was able to create some strong momentum at the end of the 2020 season with a respectable output that he reached from outside the postseason limits. He was the best-finishing non-playoff driver in 17th place, earning four top-five postings over the concluding ten races (including a runner-up showing at Talladega in October).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC Vegas 17 Preview: Anthony Pettis – Alex Morono

Tomorrow night at UFC Vegas 17 there’s a solid welterweight contest featuring a former champion. Former lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis (23-10), is back in action at welterweight taking on Alex Morono (18-6, 1 NC).

For Morono he’s going to be attempting to pickup his second UFC win in the last two months. Back at UFC Vegas 14, Morono took on Rhys McKee. Morono was able to get the unanimous decision victory that night.

Since November of 2018, Morono has gone 4-1 inside the octagon. This is the biggest fight of his career in terms of name recognition. If he can get a win tomorrow night over a former UFC champion, it would be big for him.

“Showtime” will be looking to pickup his second straight win tomorrow night as well. We last saw the former UFC lightweight champion at UFC 249 when he took on Donald Cerrone.

That night, Pettis was able to squeak out a decision victory. That win snapped a two-fight losing streak for Pettis. Pettis’ career has been up and down over the past few years, but he’s only lost to top competition inside the UFC.

UFC Vegas 17 Prediction

This matchup is an interesting one on paper when you look at the credentials of both fighters. Both of these fighters are blackbelts in taekwondo. Both of these men are also really slick on the ground.

That makes for a very compelling matchup at UFC Vegas 17. However, there is one thing about Morono that really concerns me and that is his striking defense. We’ve seen in his past couple of fights that it hasn’t been great.

Khaos Williams was able to knock him out in 27 seconds and Rhys McKee was able to land 50% of his strikes in their fight. McKee through over 200 strikes so that tells you that Morono was hit a lot.

I think Pettis is going to be able to take advantage of that at UFC Vegas 17. Morono’s chance at winning comes down to wrestling Pettis. However, I just don’t know if his wrestling will outweigh the shots he’s going to take from the former champion.

Prediction: Anthony Pettis by Unanimous Decision

Aaron Donald has kind words for New York Jets, Sam Darnold

On the cusp of Los Angeles Rams history, Aaron Donald made it clear he’s not taking the New York Jets’ visit lightly.

The holiday season is often meant to be one of glad tidings of comfort and joy. One of the NFL’s most fearsome defenders is fully on board with that concept.

With the holidays come the NFL’s most crucial games, as the calendar inches closer toward the postseason. Aaron Donald’s Los Angeles Rams (9-4) have three such contests remaining. Though their playoff prescience is mostly assured, they’re engaged in a brutal battle for the NFC title with the Seattle Seahawks, a battle that could shift an NFC playoff game from Lumen Field to the Rams’ palatial home of SoFi Stadium.

While the Rams have looked strong at the perfect time, having won three in a row and dismantling the New England Patriots on a national stage last week, they were unable to gain separation from the Seahawks, who crushed the woebegone New York Jets by a 40-3 final last weekend at home. Little more needs to be said about how wayward the Jets’ season has become, but things certainly have a chance to get uglier this weekend. The winless Jets (0-13) will return to the west coast this Sunday to round out their interconference slate in Inglewood (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). 

Los Angeles would almost have every right to take the Jets lightly, especially with New York now missing six defensive starters from their opening day lineup after linebacker Jordan Jenkins was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

But Donald isn’t buying the idea of an easy Los Angeles victory. The interior pursuer of quarterbacks spoke highly of the opponent in his weekly statements and also had friendly words for his Sunday prey.

“Obviously, they’re not playing how they want to play, but I think he’s a good quarterback,” Donald said of Darnold, Peter Botte of the New York Post. “He’s really mobile. He can move, make things happen with his feet, and get out of trouble. It looks like he’s strong. I’ve seen a couple times when it looked like he was about to get sacked, but he was able to break out and make something happen. He’s a solid quarterback, so we’ve been studying that and understanding that plays aren’t going to come easy. We’ve got to earn them. We’ve just got to do our job. He’s a good quarterback. They’ve got some good players around him, young players.”

A Sunday sack of Darnold could set history for the second consecutive weekend. Donald is three sacks away from tying Leonard Little for the most in Rams history (87.5). Darnold was previously the victim of a Jamal Adams sack in Seattle that made his former teammate the NFL’s single-season sack leader amongst defensive backs.

A native of Orange County’s Huntington Beach, Darnold is ready to make his return to Los Angeles, where he entered the national spotlight as the star thrower for the University of Southern California Trojans. He reciprocated Donald’s praise in his own availability.

“Aaron Donald is a good player,” Darnold said, per Botte. “He definitely pops out on tape, especially it seems like whenever a play needs to be made, he is always there making it. So it will be fun playing against him.”

As the Jets seek some form of momentum and any good feeling to take from this lost season. Some members of the team feel like they can take a lesson or two from Donald, one of the premier defenders and scariest backfield invaders in the NFL.

“When you watch this guy get doubl- teamed almost every snap, and the five snaps he gets singled up, he wins,” Gase said of Donald, per team reporter Eric Allen. “I’m sure every D-tackle is trying to get to that point, especially guys that have similar skill sets of length, quickness, strength, things like that, they’re like, ‘Hey, I want to be like that guy.'”

“You look at their front, their front is very disruptive, with their games, especially on third down, so we have to do a good job up there up front and then the back end, they have really good players there too and they do a good of disguising coverages and mixing it up that way,” Darnold said of the Rams defense as a whole, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we are excited for the opportunity.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants: Julian Love likely to fill in at outside cornerback in Week 15

New York Giants, Julian Love

The New York Giants‘ cornerback position is in a dire circumstance at the moment. Elite cornerback James Bradberry has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will be out on Sunday night. Additionally, starting slot cornerback Darnay Holmes was out last week and is expected to be out again this week, as he has not practiced this week.

This leaves the Giants with few options at cornerback. Isaac Yiadom is healthy and will continue to start on the outside. But on the opposite side of Yiadom is a huge question mark. The Giants are likely to move rookie safety Xavier McKinney inside to play slot cornerback this week. However, the second outside cornerback position might also be played by a safety.

The Giants have a few talented safeties who could shift outside to cornerback this week. One intriguing option is second-year safety, Julian Love. The Giants drafted Julian Love in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft and he has been an excellent depth piece for them since last season.

Julian Love at outside cornerback

When the New York Giants drafted Julian Love last offseason, he was actually designated as a cornerback. Love played the cornerback position in college at Notre Dame. He occasionally played safety at the collegiate level but moved to the back end full-time once he was in the NFL.

Love is not the fastest guy by any means, which is why he is a better fit on the back end. But with few options outside this week, Julian Love could move back to his collegiate position against the Cleveland Browns.

Most of the beat reporters are predicting that Julian Love will play outside cornerback in Week 15. Upon being drafted, Julian Love had this to say about his alignment on the defense:

My skillset allows me to play outside or inside. Wherever they need me I’m going to compete. – Julian Love via the Giants on Twitter

According to Pro Football Focus, Julian Love played 8 total snaps at wide cornerback in his rookie season. This season, he has played only 6 snaps out wide. The majority of Julian’s snaps have come at free safety this season (453 snaps).

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com stated that “Love’s cover talent, intelligence, and ball skills give him a good shot at succeeding outside or from the slot,” prior to the NFL Draft. Finally, Giants fans might actually get to see Julian Love put those skills to use on the outside.

Rays sign former Mets pitcher Michael Wacha to one-year contract

New York Mets, Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha, who pitched last season with the New York Mets on a one-year deal, will be using a different uniform in 2021. The Tampa Bay Rays, known for their use of analytics and technology to optimize pitching performance, are taking a similar flier on the talented right-hander.

Wacha, 29, agreed to sign a one-year contract worth $3 million to pitch with the 2020 runner-ups, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. His time with the Mets included a 6.62 ERA and a 5.25 FIP in 34 innings, but the Rays believe there is potential for more in his right arm.

In fact, despite his inflated ERA with the Mets, he posted some of the best strikeout and walk rates of his career. Wacha’s 9.79 strikeouts per nine frames was the highest of his eight-year career in MLB, and the 1.85 BB/9 was the lowest.

He had a weird statistical season with the Mets

Some of the best analysts of the game say that one of the most appropriate ways to try to determine future performance (it’s obviously impossible to know for sure) is by judging a pitcher’s strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Wacha certainly evolved on that front.

The other issue for the Rays is that during his time with the Mets, Wacha served up a whopping nine home runs in his 34 frames, or 2.38 per each nine innings. That obviously won’t last over a larger sample size, but it is a worrisome development that he needs to fix in order to be effective and win a rotation spot.

With a little better luck in the home run and BABIP department (he had a .366 mark with the Mets, by far the highest of his career) Wacha’s season could have been better. He was injured at one point, too, missing a couple of starts with shoulder inflammation. But overall, he seems like a solid investment by the Rays at that price.

Yankees: Cole talks about working with Sanchez and Higashioka; weighs in on LeMahieu and Tanaka’s free agencies

Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

New York Yankees’ marquee signing of last season, Gerrit Cole, hadn’t spoken with the media since their season ended against the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Division Series. He had a roller-coaster-like year that saw him make a string of mediocre starts, but he finished strong and had a 2.84 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 2020.

He talked with YES Network reporter Meredith Marakovits on Yankees’ Hot Stove this week, and discussed several subjects in the encounter.

It was reported that Cole preferred working with Kyle Higashioka as his catcher, but he did praise Gary Sanchez too while talking about the New York Yankees’ situation behind the plate.

“We’re fortunate to have two tremendously talented catchers,” Cole said. “For someone to be able to fill in at any time and bring some of their unique attributes that elevate a team as a whole … To have a dual weapon threat, or even if one guy’s your primary guy and someone else is supplementing players like that, it makes a big difference towards the end of the season and in the most important games. So that’s a blessing to have two quality guys like that.”

Cole said he expects to work with both backstops during spring training.

Cole spoke about the Yankees’ highest-profile free agents

While talking about DJ LeMahieu, he focused more on him enjoying his free agency rather than campaigning for the Yankees to bring him back.

“True pro’s pro right. We talk about it amongst ourselves in the league, who everybody is a big fan of regardless if you’re competing against him or playing with them. DJ kind of sets the gold standard in that regard. He’s not changed much since the first time I played with him in the Fall League, I was impressed with him back then. The stoicism. The deliberate. The way he goes about his game. It’s nice to see him flourish. Obviously, I think very highly of his talent and his skill level, but also hold in high regard the human being.

“This is an exciting time for him. He’s done (free agency) once. Now he’s doing it again. And he’s looking to get a big chunk of certainty I guess for the next four, five, six years … whatever it may be for him. It’s exciting as a player to go through that, so I’m happy for him.”

Lastly, his friend Masahiro Tanaka, who spent the last seven seasons with the Yankees, is also a free agent. However, Cole said the two of them had an encounter recently, but offered no insight on whether he is leaning towards returning or signing with another team.

“I don’t have any insight (on Tanaka’s free agency),” Cole said. “We had just talked about trying to get sushi. We’re both sushi lovers and during the season it was quite difficult to get good sushi or go out. So we took the opportunity before he went back to Japan to just catch up one more time in the offseason.

“I’ve kind of stayed away from blowing him up too much early (in the offseason with calls or texts) because, let’s face it, we’re all probably focusing on the holidays now and the (free agent) market’s been moving slow. So there’s probably not a whole lot to talk business there. But I anticipate circling back around in the new year and checking in on him and seeing how he’s doing because he turned out to be a good friend.”

For the look of things, the New York Yankees’ chances of bringing both LeMahieu and Tanaka back are slim, at best.

UFC books Frankie Edgar – Cory Sandhagen

Frankie Edgar

The UFC is currently finalizing a big-time fight at bantamweight that could be a title eliminator. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was first to report that the promotion is finalizing a bout between Frankie Edgar (24-8-1) and Cory Sandhagen (13-2).

The fight is going to take place on February 6th. Frankie Edgar is competing in his third weight class inside the UFC. The former lightweight champion of the world made his bantamweight debut back in August when he took on Pedro Munhoz.

The fight was razor close, but Edgar was able to pickup the split decision victory. That win snapped a two-fight losing streak for the former UFC lightweight champion. In all honesty, Edgar finally appears to be competing in his natural weight class.

Cory Sandhagen bounced back in a major way when he fought in October on Fight Island. Over the summer at UFC 250, Sandhagen was dominated and finished in the first 90 seconds by Aljamain Sterling.

It was a very poor performance, but Sandhagen got his shot at redemption in October when he took on Marlon Moraes. That night, Sandhagen looked rejuvenated and he was able to finish Moraes in the second round of their fight.

Sandhagen has always been looked at as a future UFC champion. He’s great on the ground and his striking has really evolved. He will be getting the biggest fight in terms of name recognition on February 6th.

State of the UFC’s Bantamweight Division

Currently the UFC is looking to book the title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling for the first quarter of 2021. Originally, they were supposed to fight at UFC 256, however, Yan had to pull out of the fight.

Given the new timeframe, it lines up perfectly with the Edgar – Sandhagen fight. The UFC‘s plan could be to have the winners of these two fights face off in the summer. While not confirmed, the Edgar – Sandhagen fight is likely going to be a title eliminator.

Another interesting wrinkle in the division is the return of TJ Dillashaw. Dillashaw says he wants to return in March which could line him up for a title shot as well. My guess is whoever looks the best between the winner of this fight and Dillashaw will get the next UFC title shot.

UFC Vegas 17 Preview: Greg Hardy – Marcin Tybura

Tomorrow night there’s an intriguing heavyweight clash at UFC Vegas 17. That heavyweight clash features former All-Pro defensive lineman, Greg Hardy (7-2, 1 NC), taking on the surging Marcin Tybura (20-6).

Both of these fighters will be looking to break into the UFC‘s top 15 at heavyweight with a win tomorrow night. It’s been an interesting ride for Greg Hardy so far in his UFC career.

Hardy was awarded a developmental deal with the UFC after winning his first two pro fights on Dana White’s Contender Series. After getting another first round knockout in XFN, Hardy got the call to the big show.

Hardy lost in his first pro fight after he was disqualified for throwing an illegal knee. After that fight he won two straight by knockout. He then defeated Ben Sosoli by decision, but the fight was turned to a No Contest after Hardy used an inhaler.

Hardy stepped in last minute to face Alexander Volkov in his first UFC main event after that where he lost. Since then, he defeated Yorgan De Castro by decision and he’s knocked out Maurice Greene.

Standing across from Hardy is Marcin Tybura. The former M-1 Heavyweight champion has won three-fights in a row leading into UFC Vegas 17. After entering the promotion with only one loss, Tybura has gone 7-5 in the UFC.

UFC Vegas 17 Prediction

The heavyweight battle at UFC Vegas 17 is going to go one of two ways in my opinion. Either Hardy is going to get another first round knockout or Tybura is going to grind out another decision victory.

Tybura is the type of fighter who is just going to bull forward and push you against the fence. From there, he does a good job of using dirty boxing and clinch strikes to wear out his opponents.

We’ve seen Hardy’s gas tank look a little dicey at times in his UFC career. Tybura has been finished before and you can bet Hardy can finish him if he connects. However, that’s a big if.

Hardy is going to have to be patient and look for big shots as Tybura is coming in. I don’t see Hardy’s power translating well over a three round grinding fight. If he’s going to get it done, he has to do it early.

Unfortunately for Greg Hardy, I’m not sure he’s going to be able to do it. He can easily put Tybura away, but something tells me we are going to see Tybura using his superior clinch game tomorrow night to get a decision.

Prediction: Marcin Tybura by Unanimous Decision

New York Yankees: Predicting the Yankees 2021 opening day roster

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

New York Yankees fans always look forward to the upcoming season. Today I do a fool’s chore in predicting what the opening day roster will look like. I say it’s a fool’s chore because so many things can happen from now till opening day. Nevertheless, it is fun to look forward to what a season might look like for our favorite team. With the coronavirus still likely to impact the new season,, we presently do not know if fans will be in the stands if there will be a universal DH, or even how many games will be played.

Many of those unknowns have caused many teams, including the New York Yankees, from making substantial investments in their teams. The New York Yankees, who lost more money than any team in baseball last season will be penny pinching. Many free agents that would normally have been signed, remain unsigned until there is more clarity as we advance. Here are my predictions for the Yankee’s opening day roster.

Starting pitching:

Yankee ace Gerrit Cole will lead off the rotation without question. Behind Cole, it lacks clarity after the loss of Masahiro Tanaka,  James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. Backing up Cole at least at the beginning of the season will likely be Domingo German whose return has been blessed by the front office, after he will be Jordan Montgomery and Deivi Garcia. The fifth spot in the rotation will be a competition between Clarke Schmidt and Jonathan Loaisiga. If they don’t work out, the Yankees have plenty of other options. The rotation will likely change based on performance and the return of Luis Severino sometime before the All-Star break.

The Yankee bullpen:

The New York Yankees bullpen will be challenged this year with the loss of Tommy Kahnle, who will be out of action the entire season rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery. Aaron Boone has often gone after Chad Green in many situations. I am predicting he will be used more than ever before in several roles. First out of the box will be Luis Cessa, Miguel Yaujer and recently re-acquired Adam Warren and Adam Ottavino.  Holding down the late innings will be Zack Britton and closer Aroldis Chapman. Don’t be surprised when you see both Britton and Chapman sharing closing responsibilities. If the season turns out to be 162 games, look for the Yankees to use many more arms to avoid stress on the main bullpen arms. Think Nick Nelson, Brook Kriske and newly acquired Nestor Cortes Jr.

Backstop:

The Yankees have announced that Gary Sanchez will again be the Yankees starting catcher. However, with the excellent performance of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka look for him to be competing for starts. He will likely continue the role of catching ace Gerrit Cole.  Depending on Sanchez’s hitting ability or lack thereof, we will see much more of “Higgy” this season. Should either Sanchez or Higashioka be injured most likely, Anthony Seigler will be called up from the minors. The Yankees lost their third catcher, Erik Kratz, to retirement.

First base:

Forget the rumors. Luke Voit isn’t going anywhere; he will be the starting day first baseman. Voit hit the most home runs in baseball last year, and that is production the Yankees will keep in the lineup. Also, don’t be surprised to see him move up in the lineup over Giancarlo Stanton. Even with his lousy stats, look for Mike Ford to backup Voit at first.

Second base:

Have no fear; DJ LeMahieu will again man second base for the Yankees. Even though the negotiations have stalled to keep DJ in pinstripes, the Yankees will get the deal done, even if they have to pay more for a longer time than they want. It’s hard to believe that the general manager Brian Cashman will let DJ go with another team.

Shortstop:

Gleyber Torres will remain at shortstop for the Yankees in 2021, despite general manager Brian Cashman indicating that he was out of shape for the 2020 season. The displacement of the regular season last year until the mid summer hurt Torres’ ability to stay in shape, throwing off his game plan and ultimately affecting his statistical outputs. The Yankees still feel confident he can play at a high-level and is still getting used to the shortstop position, so we don’t expect any changes there.

Third Base:

It’s a forgone conclusion that Gold Glove nominee for two years in a row, Gio Urshela will again be manning the hot corner at Yankee Stadium. The only question will be who will back him up. The answer to that is that it will most likely be DJ LeMahieu not Miguel Andujar. Andujar is a 50/50 to be a Yankee next year. He may very well be part of a trade for some Yankee need.

Right Field:

Right field will be manned by Aaron Judge. Judge will have his best season for the Yankees since 2017. Other than a short stint on the IL he will be on the field more than in that past three years. He will also lead the 2021 team in home runs. Backing up Judge will be the ever improving Clint Frazier that really showed off his stuff when replacing Judge.

Centerfield:

Believe it or not Aaron Hicks will have an injury free season and will hold down centerfield for the Yankees. Backup for Hicks will not be Brett Gardner as the team will finally part ways with the veteran. But the team and Yankee fans will celebrate Brett Gardner day at some point in the season. The likely back up for Hicks will be Trey Amburgey the minor league senation and Mike Tauchman. It wouldn’t be over surprising if the Yankee fans get their first glimce of Jasson Dominguez late in the season..

Left Field:

Left field now belongs to Clint Frazier after a dramatically improved season last year. Half way through the season last year Boone gave Frazier a permanent spot in the lineup and he did nothing but perform to all to see. Backing up Frazier will be Mike Tauchman.

DH:

Giancarlo Stanton has cemented his place as the team’s everyday DH. With his propensity for get injured it is not likely that the Yankees will have him spend any amount of time on the field. The Yankees have spent too much money on Stanton not to have him in the lineup. Stanton if healthy could have his best season with the Yankees since 2018. Last year a healthy Stanton dazzled the fans late in the season and especially in the postseason when he hit six home runs in just seven games.

Bench:

With MLB not releasing the number of players allowed in the opening day roster it’s difficult to predict how many bench players will be allowed.  The Likely candidates are Tyler Wade with his speed and ability to play nearly anywhere.  Mike Ford and Mike Tauchman. You may also see at times Jordy Mercer and Thairo Estrada.

Disclaimer:

I have to add a disclaimer because if the Yankees hire a mid-lever starting pitcher or if they retain Brett Gardner it will throw some of these predictions off. If they fail to re-sign DJ LeMahieu it will throw them even further off, as they will likely bring in a new shortstop possibly a Didi Gregorius, moving Gleyber Torres to second base. Just like I did this year, I will again visit this page and point out where I went wrong and why.

 

UFC Vegas 17 Preview: Khaos Williams – Michel Pereira

If there’s one fight on the UFC Vegas 17 card that gives me goosebumps it’s this one. A banger of a welterweight matchup between Khaos Williams (11-1) and Michel Pereira (24-11, 2 NC).

If you want a fight at UFC Vegas 17 that’s almost guaranteed to produce a finish, look no further than this one. Khaos Williams has fought twice this year and neither one of those fights has gone past the first minute.

Williams made his UFC debut in February against Alex Morono. He finished him in 27 seconds. From there, Khaos took on knockout artist Abdul Razak Alhassan who had never been finished. Williams knocked him out in 30 seconds.

Khaos Williams is going to bring ungodly power into the fight tomorrow night. However, it’s power that he’s really honed in on this year. Only six of his eleven wins have come by knockout, but he’s finally tying everything together with his power to get finishes.

Standing across from Williams at UFC Vegas 17 will be Michel Pereira. Pereira is one of the more entertaining fighters in the UFC. He’s a wild man who will do some crazy stuff inside the octagon.

We’ve seen him do a backflip in the middle of the fight. We’ve seen him blow kisses at opponents then open hand slap them. You truly never know what you are going to get from Michel Pereira.

Pereira is just 4-3 in his last seven fights. Granted, one of losses was a DQ loss to Diego Sanchez in a fight that he was completely dominating. While flashy, sometimes Pereira doesn’t fight as smart as he needs to in order to get his hand raised.

UFC Vegas 17 Prediction

I truly have no idea what is going to happen at UFC Vegas 17. However, I know that someone is going to get knocked out. I really can’t see this fight going to the judges scorecards with these two powerful strikers.

Pereira has a very diverse attack. He’s going to throw kicks, flying knees, and big punches. Khaos Williams is also well rounded, but so far we’ve only seen his hands doing the damage inside the octagon.

Prior to his UFC debut, Pereira was knocked out by Dusko Todorovic. We know he can be finished while Khaos Williams hasn’t been in much trouble throughout his career.

In my prediction, I’m going to go out on a limb in saying Khaos Williams is getting another finish. I think he’s going to catch Pereira with something during one of Pereira’s flashy attacks. A clean counter shot puts Pereira away in the first round in this one.

Prediction: Khaos Williams by KO – Round 1