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Shuffling the Rotations for Week 1

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Last week's series in Tokyo between the Mariners and A's was like a nouvelle cuisine appetizer, but now comes the main course. Actually, with just 46 games over five days, Fantasy Week 1 (April 4-8) also comes to us as a mini-sized portion. After six months without Fantasy Baseball, though, it will be a treat to our taste buds.

With a downsized schedule, only 92 pitchers will get a start in Week 1, and there are no two-start pitchers, unless you are counting the four starters who pitched last week in Japan. That means that typically low-end options like Chris Capuano and James McDonald have cracked our weekly top 70, as many of the pitchers you would normally rely on in standard mixed leagues won't be making their first starts until Fantasy Week 2 (April 9-15).

Among those who will get Week 1 off include Cole Hamels, C.J. Wilson, Anibal Sanchez, Yu Darvish, Brandon Beachy, Trevor Cahill and Shaun Marcum. Head-to-Head owners anxious to get starter innings from RP-eligible Matt Moore and Neftali Feliz will have to wait another week, though owners of Cory Luebke will get production right away, as he will take the mound against the Dodgers on Friday.

Here is our inaugural top 70 starters list for the 2012 season. You will not only find pitchers viable in standard mixed leagues ranked here, but also their matchup information and ownership and start rates.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 1
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Roy Halladay @PIT (Bedard) N/A 10 HRs allowed in 233 2/3 innings in 2011
Halladay's ERA has actually shrunk in each of the last two seasons, so he shows no signs of slowing down.
2 Clayton Kershaw @SD (Volquez) N/A Career-best 2.1 BB/9 last season
Kershaw has cut his walk rate by 57 percent over the last two years, but he still strikes out more than a batter per inning.
3 Cliff Lee @PIT (Karstens) N/A Four straight seasons with fewer than 2.0 BB/9
At age 33, Lee continued to get better, increasing his K-rate for the fifth straight season.
4 Justin Verlander BOS (Lester) N/A Career-high 251 innings in '11
Verlander cut back on walks last season, but still needed 4.07 pitches to get through an average plate appearance.
5 Felix Hernandez @OAK (Colon) N/A Career 2.97 ERA in 11 starts at O.co Coliseum
Though Hernandez's ERA rose by 1.20 last year, his xFIP rose by only 0.03, showing he has the potential to win another Cy Young Award.
6 Jered Weaver KC (Chen) N/A 15 percent pop-up rate in 2011
Swinging strike and strikeout rates reverted back towards career norms in '11, but still a top option thanks to flyball outs.
7 Dan Haren KC (Hochevar) N/A 7.3 K/9 rate lowest since 2006
Haren is about as consistent as they come, but he is starting to show some small signs of decline.
8 David Price NYY (Kuroda) N/A 5.22 ERA vs. Yankees a year ago
Price did not fare well against the Bombers in five starts last season, but he's capable of beating anyone at this stage of his career.
9 CC Sabathia @TB (Shields) N/A 4.08 career ERA in March and April
Sabathia is a notoriously slow starter, but he did post a tidy 2.25 ERA through the end of April last year.
10 Zack Greinke STL (Wainwright) N/A Career-high 10.5 K/9 in 2011
If Greinke can just bounce back from subpar strand rates over the last two seasons, he can be a legitimate NL Cy Young candidate.
11 Ian Kennedy SF (Lincecum) N/A 2.64 home ERA last year
Kennedy could easily allow more than nine homers at Chase Field this year, but improved control makes him ace material.
12 Yovani Gallardo STL (Garcia) N/A Career-worst 12 percent HR/FB ratio in '11
Gallardo allowed 27 homers last year after giving up just 12 in 2010, but he should find the happy medium this year.
13 Matt Cain @ARI (Collmenter) N/A 4.22 career ERA at Chase Field
Cain has had his struggles pitching in Arizona, but he could still pick up a "W" opposing Collmenter.
14 Daniel Hudson SF (Bumgarner) N/A Averaged 27.9 batters per game last year
Hudson's sharp control helps him to be economical, making him especially valuable in Head-to-Head leagues.
15 Josh Johnson STL (Lohse) N/A Allowed 23 homers over last 70 starts
As good as Johnson has been in avoiding the long ball, he could be even stingier in the Marlins' spacious new ballpark.
16 Mat Latos MIA (Nolasco) N/A 4.6 runs of support per nine innings in 2011
Latos shouldn't suffer through another 9-14 season with the Reds' potent lineup backing him instead of the Padres'.
17 Tim Lincecum @ARI (Kennedy) N/A 79 percent strand rate last year
Walks haven't hurt Lincecum's ERA much, as he has stranded at least 75 percent of his baserunners in four straight seasons.
18 James Shields NYY (Sabathia) N/A 11 complete games in 2011
With a lower WHIP and fewer homers last year, Shields showed that he can be a workhorse when he doesn't get in his own way.
19 Ricky Romero @CLE (Masterson) N/A 14 percent line drive rate a year ago
An extremely low line drive rate accounted for most of Romero's improvement last year, but he will be hard pressed to repeat it.
20 Matt Garza WAS (Gonzalez) N/A 48 percent ground ball rate in '11
Garza induced frequent worm-burners after failing to break the 40 percent ground ball rate threshold in either of his two previous seasons.
21 Madison Bumgarner @ARI (Hudson) N/A 70 percent quality start rate last year
Bumgarner had a few clunkers last season, but far more often than not, he was somewhere between decent and great.
22 Jon Lester @DET (Verlander) N/A Left 76 percent of runners on base in '11
As with Lincecum, Lester's WHIP suffers from too many walks, but he has never had a strand rate below 74 percent over a full season.
23 Adam Wainwright @MIL (Greinke) N/A 2.50 career ERA at Miller Park
Wainwright can keep the ball down, so he won't get hurt by homers when pitching in Milwaukee.
24 Ervin Santana KC (Sanchez) N/A 2.90 ERA over last four months of '11
Something clicked for Santana midseason when he suddenly became grounder-prone, but can he keep it going in 2012?
25 Josh Beckett @DET (Fister) N/A 175 Ks in 193 innings last year
Beckett is erratic in all sorts of ways, but he has struck out at least eight batters per nine innings in every season but one (2006).
26 Tommy Hanson @NYM (Santana) N/A 2.44 ERA in first half of 2011
Hanson was so miserable before getting shut down last year, we forget how good he was before his shoulder woes ruined his season.
27 Stephen Strasburg @CHC (Dempster) N/A 19 walks in 92 career innings
Strasburg can do more than just whiff batters, as he has also shown pinpoint control.
28 Gio Gonzalez @CHC (Garza) N/A Career 4.32 road ERA
The move to the NL may add some Ks to Gio's stat line, but he has not been as effective away from Oakland over his career.
29 Justin Masterson TOR (Romero) N/A 5.23 ERA over last seven starts
Masterson boasted a 2.71 ERA into mid-August, but he faded down the stretch, so owners should see how he bounces back from a 216-inning season.
30 Jordan Zimmermann @CHC (Samardzija) N/A 1.7 BB/9 rate last year
Zimmermann threw more than two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, which kept him efficient and contributed to a 1.15 WHIP.
31 Johnny Cueto MIA (Buehrle) N/A 26.3 batters faced per game in 2011
Reds pitching coach Bryan Price says that Cueto excels at avoiding wasted pitches, which is why he goes far deeper into games than he used to.
32 Jaime Garcia @MIL (Gallardo) N/A .327 BABIP in '11
Garcia gave up a lot of hits on balls in play for someone with a league-average line drive rate, so expect a better WHIP and ERA this year.
33 Cory Luebke LAD (Billingsley) N/A 9.7 career K/9 as a starter
Many thought Luebke's K-rate would plunge as a starter, but he was every bit as good as when he was a reliever.
34 Derek Holland CHW (Peavy) N/A Career .468 opponents' SLG vs. righties
Holland is murder against lefties, but A.J. Pierzynski will probably be the only lefty in the latter two-thirds of the White Sox's order.
35 Wandy Rodriguez COL (Guthrie) N/A 13 starts in 2011 of at least seven innings
Rodriguez failed to make it at least six innings only six times in 30 starts last season, so you can rely on him for innings, if not wins.
36 Doug Fister BOS (Beckett) N/A 5 BBs in 70 1/3 innings with DET
We knew that Fister was a control artist, but his performance late last year was at a new level -- one he is unlikely to repeat.
37 Vance Worley @PIT (McDonald) N/A Ranked first in NL in called strike percentage in '11
Worley didn't get so many called strikes as a minor leaguer, so perhaps his 8.1 K/9 rate was a little fluky after all.
38 Jeremy Hellickson NYY (Hughes) N/A 1.0 career K/BB ratio vs. lefties
Hellickson will surely rank higher in future weeks, but a matchup against the lefty-loaded Yankees has the potential to end very poorly.
39 Ubaldo Jimenez TOR (Morrow) N/A 2.83 career ERA at Progressive Field
Five starts is a small sample, but for those looking for a silver lining, Jimenez has pitched well at his home park.
40 Hiroki Kuroda @TB (Price) N/A 4.33 career ERA vs. AL teams
Kuroda has pitched better against AL hitters than his ERA would suggest, but nine homers in 68 2/3 innings have hurt him.
41 John Danks @TEX (Lewis) N/A 4.68 career ERA at Texas
Danks has been homer-prone in his own home park, but Rangers Ballpark in Arlington hasn't been any kinder to the lefty.
42 Max Scherzer BOS (Buccholz) N/A 50 percent career quality start rate
Scherzer is highly inconsistent, so it's hard to trust him against a quality lineup like Boston's. Given the lack of alternatives, though, you may have to.
43 Gavin Floyd @TEX (Harrison) N/A 65 percent strand rate in 2011
Floyd is normally better at stranding baserunners, and he probably deserved a much better ERA than last year's 4.37.
44 Clay Buchholz @DET (Scherzer) N/A 17 percent liner rate since '08
Buchholz may not be a great strikeout pitcher, but consistent avoidance of line drives gives him solid value in standard mixed leagues.
45 Brandon McCarthy SEA (Vargas) N/A 0.72 WHIP vs. SEA since 2011
He is not alone in this distinction, but McCarthy has owned the Mariners since coming to Oakland.
46 Brandon Morrow @CLE (Jimenez) N/A 65 percent strand rate in '11
Morrow's difficulties with leaving runners on base may look like a bad-luck fluke, but it has been a pattern for him as a starter.
47 R.A. Dickey ATL (Jurrjens) N/A 3.58 pitches per plate appearance in 2011
Dickey isn't going to be the best pitcher for strikeouts and wins, but his aversion to walks will help him with ERA, WHIP and innings.
48 Colby Lewis CHW (Danks) N/A 5.54 home ERA last year
Lewis won't be viable in standard mixed leagues for many home starts, but a lack of better options could force you to stick with him in Week 1.
49 Bud Norris COL (Nicasio) N/A 52 percent quality start rate in '11
Norris turned in quality starts more often last year, but he still has more work to do in developing consistency.
50 Francisco Liriano @BAL (Chen) N/A 3.39 ERA from May to July 2011
Overall, Liriano's 2011 season was a train wreck, but he was his regular self during a healthy midseason stretch.
51 Erik Bedard PHI (Halladay) N/A 1.82 career ERA vs. NL teams
Bedard has spent his whole career in the AL up until now, but he was dominant over his 18 interleague starts.
52 Jair Jurrjens @NYM (Dickey) N/A 6 Ks over last four 2011 starts
Jurrjens wasn't himself before his season ended prematurely in August as he dealt with a knee injury, but he was missing bats again this spring.
53 Mike Minor @NYM (Niese) N/A .276 opponents' Avg on grounders in 2011
Minor got outs on ground balls at a rate far below his team's average, but fewer hits should get through this year.
54 Phil Hughes @TB (Hellickson) N/A 3.52 career ERA at Tropicana Field
Hughes is an advisable start in most leagues this week, but use caution when he starts at Yankee Stadium (4.77 career ERA).
55 Jonathon Niese ATL (Minor) N/A 3.1 K/BB ratio in 2011
Niese has developed into an ultra-efficient strike-thrower, and he could be one of this season's bigger surprises.
56 Bartolo Colon SEA (Hernandez) N/A 3.45 ERA road ERA with NYY
Colon can leave his Yankee Stadium struggles from last year behind, as he is a pitcher built for his new spacious home park in Oakland.
57 Ryan Dempster WAS (Strasburg) N/A 3.94 ERA from May '11 on
Dempster's 4.80 ERA last year was his highest in five years, but he was fine after a horrid April.
58 Ricky Nolasco @CIN (Latos) N/A .339 BABIP in 2011
Nolasco's high BABIP from last season might look like an indication of bad luck on balls in play, but he hasn't registered a rate lower than .323 since 2008.
59 Mark Buehrle @CIN (Cueto) N/A 3.32 career ERA vs. NL teams
This may be Buehrle's first year in the NL, but he has already amassed 271 innings against senior circuit hitters and has done well.
60 Johan Santana ATL (Hanson) N/A 6.5 K/9 rate in 2010
Maybe Santana can regain some of his old velocity, but 2007 was the last time he posted a K/9 rate above 8.0.
61 Matt Harrison CHW (Floyd) N/A .374 opponents' SLG in 2011
Harrison didn't give up many extra-base hits last season despite middling strikeout and ground ball rates, which raises doubts about a repeat in 2012.
62 Jonathan Sanchez @LAA (Santana) N/A 4.8 BB/9 in April/May 2011
Sanchez was extremely wild last season, but he was no worse than usual until June, when biceps tendinitis was likely starting to affect him.
63 Luke Hochevar @LAA (Haren) N/A 8.3 K/9 over last 10 starts
Hochevar got more movement on his slider late in the year, and perhaps as a result, his K-rate soared.
64 Jason Vargas @OAK (McCarthy) N/A Career 8.1 K/9 rate vs. OAK
Vargas is hardly a strikeout pitcher, but he gets his Ks against the A's, including a career-high 10 on 9/26/11.
65 Juan Nicasio @HOU (Norris) N/A 3.54 xFIP in 2011
Making a remarkable comeback from a broken neck, Nicasio is just a lower line drive rate away from being a dependable standard mixed league starter.
66 Chad Billingsley @SD (Luebke) N/A 8.7 percent swinging strike rate in '11
Billingsley's swinging strike rate has fallen by 24 percent over the last two seasons, which is why he is now a mediocre strikeout pitcher.
67 Chris Capuano @SD (Moseley) N/A 8.1 K/9 rate in 2011
An unheralded strikeout pitcher, Capuano's worst enemy is gopheritis, but he could have a very good start at PETCO Park.
68 Edinson Volquez LAD (Kershaw) N/A Career 1.50 WHIP
Everyone focuses on Volquez's move to PETCO Park, but a pitcher-friendly stadium can't stop him from being wild.
69 James McDonald PHI (Worley) N/A .302 Avg by opposing lefties in '11
McDonald has problems against lefty batters, but he catches a break with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley on the DL.
70 Jake Peavy @TEX (Holland) N/A 61 percent strand rate in 2011
Peavy had his issues last season, but it seems unlikely that he will allow nearly two of every five runners to score again this year.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Astros' Grossman, Villar due back in spring lineup Saturday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:13 pm ET) Astros outfielder Robbie Grossman (quadriceps) and infielder/outfielder Jonathan Villar (ankle) are expected back in the spring lineup Saturday, manager A.J. Hinch said Friday. Both players were involved in an outfield collision Wednesday. Both outfielders were involved in an outfield collision on Wednesday.

Phillies OF Domonic Brown takes BP, could be ready for opener
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(3:11 pm ET) Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown tested his sore Achilles on Friday with a round of batting practice. It was his first batting practice since suffering the injury last week. Brown is expected to run the bases Saturday, along with batting practice. If he clears those hurdles, he'll be inserted into minor-league games for extra at-bats, per the News Journal.

Brown believes he'll be ready for Opening Day.

"I've been doing a lot of conditioning, but that stop and start, that’s going to be the big test," Brown said. "Just been running kind of long distances and I sprinted [Friday] and it felt good.

"I'm excited because I was scared last week, I'm not going to lie to you."


Angels 3B David Freese (elbow) expected back in lineup Saturday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:44 pm ET) Angels third baseman David Freese, who suffered a hyperextended elbow Tuesday, took batting practice Friday and is expected to return to the spring lineup Saturday, per The Orange County Register.

Freese is batting .282 (11 for 39) with one home run, three doubles and seven RBI in 14 spring games. 

"Night and day," Freese said Friday when asked how he feels this spring compared to last, per MLB.com. "I'm more confident in where I'm at right now. I can't explain it. I don't really know how I was thinking last year, I just know how I feel right now, mentally, physically."


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(2:30 pm ET) With Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick likely to miss the start of the season due to an oblique injury, manager Bob Melvin said Friday that Ben Zobrist would start in right field and Eric Sogard would start at second base.

Melvin added, however, Reddick might be ready to play during the team's season-opening, seven-game homestand from April 6-12.


Tyler Clippard to open season as A's closer
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(2:21 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin announced Friday reliever Tyler Clippard will open the season as the team's closer with Sean Doolittle sidelined with a shoulder injury. Melvin added Dan Otero will be the right-handed setup man and left-hander Eric O'Flaherty will also be used in setup situations.

Clippard was the Nationals' full-time closer in 2012, recording 32 saves in 37 chances. He spent the last two seasons in a setup role. He has 34 career saves over eight MLB seasons.


Tigers SP Justin Verlander exits spring start with triceps cramping
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:14 pm ET) With the start of the season getting closer and closer, the Tigers did not want to see starting pitcher Justin Verlander leave his spring start Friday against the Blue Jays early. Unfortunately, that is what happened.

The 32-year-old right-hander left Friday's start in the third inning due to injury after he was visited on the mound by manager Brad Ausmus, pitching coach Jeff Jones and the trainer.

The Tigers announced Verlander left the game with cramping in his right triceps. He will be re-evaluated Saturday, but the Tigers don't anticipate him missing his next spring start.

Verlander allowed one run on one hit and one walk in 2 2/3 innings. The Blue Jays got their lone run off Verlander on Dalton Pompey's solo home run in the second inning. He struck out two. Verlander has a 5.63 ERA through five spring starts.


Francona: Indians taking no chances with Brantley, out a few more days
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(1:52 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona said Friday the team is taking no chances with outfielder Michael Brantley, who still had back soreness Friday, per MLB.com. Francona said Brantley is likely to miss a few more spring games and has no specific game in mind for his return.

Brantley, who is coming off a breakout season in 2014, is batting .321 (9 for 28) with one double, two runs, two RBI, two walks and three strikeouts in 10 spring games.


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(1:46 pm ET) Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino said emphatically Friday he is capable of playing every day, just six months removed from back surgery and having to abandon switch-hitting due to durability concerns.

"Just because I haven't done it here doesn't mean I'm not ready," Victorino said, per CSNNE.com. "[Thursday] was my best day, physically. I feel like everything's going in the right direction, physically -- my legs, running. I feel like I can go everyday, but obviously I have to show it here or show the consistency of it.

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Victorino has played back-to-back days this spring just once, and the second day he was the DH. Victorino is aware he needs to show manager John Farrell he can handle playing in the field on consecutive days without any issues.

"I'm not going to go in there and say, 'John, I need to go from Game 1 to Game 162,'' Victorino said. "But I've got to prove in these next 8-9 days. I've got to prove I can go back-to-back days or three in a row. That will be a test for myself, too.''


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