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Don't wait until it's too late!

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Each team has a 40-man roster, with a handful of players on the 60-day DL. In addition, there are hundreds of players in the minor league system not on the 40-man rosters. And then there are the Johnny Damons of the world, banging on the doors to be allowed back in.

So, add it all up, and you're talking a solid 1,600 players floating around with at least a smidgen of a claim for relevance. Granted, that list is whittled down to about 750 truly-relevant major league players on any given day, and, in a 12-team Fantasy league, you'll likely have to know about half that number.

Which means there's plenty of room for gaps.

Every year, there are a handful of players who make a big splash during the season and have people running to Google or Wikipedia, trying to get some information on these guys who seemingly came out of nowhere. The list includes players like former Mexican Leaguer Joakim Soria, Japanese star Kei Igawa, and inspiration for the heartwarming movie, The Rookie, Jim Morris.

This year, in just two weeks of action, we already have a few new members of the group, including the following three: an under-the-radar pitcher brought over from Japan, a slugger who had toiled in the minors for the last nine seasons and a young fireballer who turned a stellar spring training into a spot on one of this year's hottest teams.

Bryan LaHair, OF/1B, Cubs
Why You Don't Know His Name: LaHair toiled in the minor leagues from 2003 to 2011 -- with occasional, short-lived big-league stints in Seattle and with the Cubs -- putting up a .295 batting average in 3624 at-bats.
Why You Should: In 2011, his 38 home runs earned him Pacific Coast League MVP honors. So far this season, he is hitting .360, with two home runs -- a grand slam and a shot that went out of Wrigley Field, onto Sheffield Ave.
Is He Worth A Spot On My Team?: Yes. Part of being successful in Fantasy is getting the breakouts before they break out. Time is running out to snatch LaHair. The 29 year-old Worcester, Mass., native was an unpopular pick in drafts this season because many would-be owners feared him being either a quadruple-A player (success in the minors, but just can't hit at the major league level), or eventually being pushed out by prospect Anthony Rizzo, who was acquired in a trade with the Padres by a front office that had initially drafted him while they were running the Red Sox. But LaHair has proven that he has real power and can hit for average. After entering his first game as a pinch hitter on April 7 -- he had been sidelined with back issues -- LaHair has strung together an eight-game streak of reaching base safely. His OPS, as of Wednesday morning, is 1.128, and, just as a nice cherry on top, he's good for a few steals as well.

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Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles
Why You Don't Know His Name: With all the hype surrounding Yu Darvish and his move from Japan to MLB, Chen, 26, quietly signed with the Orioles in the offseason.
Why You Should: Chen managed a 2.48 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 88 starts in the Central League, according to Baseball Reference. In 2009, over 164 innings pitched, his ERA was 1.54. But while pitchers like Darvish, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and even Igawa came to America with a good deal of fanfare over their gaudy strikeout totals, Chen is more of a Mark Buehrle-type, sporting lower strikeout numbers, but impressively lower ratios.
Is He Worth A Spot On My Team?: In deeper leagues and some scoring leagues, he is. Chen won't post the sexiest of statistics, but his numbers from Japan indicate that he won't rely on the strikeout to get batters out. So far this season, Chen has done pretty much the opposite of this, striking out 10 batters in 11 innings, with a 1.46 WHIP (and a relatively low-for-the-WHIP 3.27 ERA).

Drew Smyly, SP, Tigers
Why You Don't Know His Name: He's played one year of professional baseball.
Why You Should: During that one year, he had a 2.07 ERA and 1.103 WHIP across two levels in the Tigers organization. He struck out 130 batters in 126 innings.
Is He Worth A Spot On My Team?: Eventually, he'll be relevant in all mixed leagues. For now, though, he's a stellar option in Al-only leagues, all keeper leagues, and can help a squad in 14 or 12-team leagues. I'm not just using Smyly as an example to kill some space in a column; I have him in several of my own leagues, and am reaping the rewards. He's not exactly Justin Verlander, who had a 1.29 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in his one season in the minors, but he's off to a great start so far this season with a 0.90 ERA and eight strikeouts.

A future question you might find yourself asking ...

Who is Matt Maloney?

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If Francisco Liriano's troubles turn out to be the result of an injury (keep in mind he said earlier this spring that he pitched through shoulder pain last year), very deep leaguers may be seeing Matt Maloney's name pop up as a possible replacement in the rotation.

Maloney, 28, has a 4.91 ERA and 0.95 WHIP so far this season for the Twins in a long relief role. When Scott Baker and Jason Marquis were both absent in spring training, it was Maloney who was briefly stretched out as a possible replacement. Maloney posted a 1.17 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in spring training, for what that's worth, and had a successful minor league career, posting a 3.27 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over almost 900 innings in the Cincinnati system (he was traded to Minnesota this winter).

Maloney hasn't met much success in the majors, with a 5.36 career ERA. But, if you just isolate the games in which he's pitched four or more innings -- he has 11 starts in his career -- he has a 4.15 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. And if you dismiss his first three career starts, from June 2009, his ERA is 3.26, with a 1.16 WHIP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Zack Greinke records four Ks in one inning, cruises past Giants
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:56 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke recorded a rare feat while picking up his 12th win of the season Friday night against the Giants in San Francisco. He became the fifth pitcher in franchise history to record four strikeouts in an inning.

Greinke struck out Hector Sanchez swinging and Tim Lincecum looking. He struck out Hunter Pence swinging, but the pitch was low and got past A.J. Ellis, as he reached safely at first. Finally, Greinke struck out Gregor Blanco. The pitch was low and got past Ellis, but the catcher was able to throw Blanco out in time at first base.

Greinke allowed four hits and one walk while striking out 10 in seven shutout frames in an 8-1 victory. Of his 106 pitches, 65 were strikes.

Greinke has recorded double-digit strikeouts four times this season. He owns a 2.74 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP over 21 starts. His next start will come Thursday at home against Atlanta.


Yasiel Puig rips out three triples in win over Giants
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:56 am ET) Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig came up with a historical performance at the plate in his first game back from injury against the Giants in San Francisco.

Puig tripled in the first, doubled in the third, tripled in a run in the fifth and tripled again in the sixth. He finished 4 for 5 with two runs scored and two RBI in an 8-1 victory.

Puig’s three triples are the most by a Dodger since Jimmy Sheckard in 1901 for Brooklyn. He also became the first player in team history to record at least two triples and a double in a game since Sandy Amoros in 1956. His 11 total bases were the most by any Dodger without ever hitting a home run.

Puig owns a .315/.402/.543 slash line with 12 homers and 54 RBI in 352 at-bats this season.


Tim Lincecum gets roughed up in loss to Dodgers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum was hit hard Friday night at home against the Dodgers, dropping to 9-7 on the year. The right-hander permitted six runs on nine hits and no walks while striking out six over 4 1/3 innings of an 8-1 defeat.

Lincecum has allowed nine earned runs over his last 19 innings of work. He owns a 3.96 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP over 125 innings of work this season. He will look to pick up the pieces and get back on track Wednesday at home against Pittsburgh.


Charlie Furbush serves up go-ahead HR in extras
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:54 am ET) Mariners reliever Charlie Furbush (1-5) took the loss without recording an out Friday night against the Orioles in extras. Furbush allowed a go-ahead home run to Chris Davis in the 10th inning before he was pulled. It was the only batter he faced in the game. He owns a 3.90 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over 30 innings of relief.

Zach Britton slams door shut on M's in extras
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:52 am ET) Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton struck out one and needed only 11 pitches to retire the side in order to close out a 2-1 win over the Mariners in 10 innings. Britton has converted 19 saves in 22 tries, with a 1.74 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP over 51 2/3 innings of relief.

Darren O'Day Ks two, picks up relief win
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:50 am ET) Orioles reliever Darren O'Day struck out the only two batters he faced and picked up his third win of the season. He needed only 10 pitchers to retire two batters in the ninth, while the team scored the go-ahead run in the 10th to win the game. He owns a 1.00 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP over 45 innings of relief.

Huston Street notches second save with new club
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) Angels closer Huston Street struck out one, worked his way around a hit and needed only nine pitches to complete a scoreless ninth inning for the save Friday night at home against the Tigers. Street has struck out four and has not allowed a run over his first three innings of work for his new club. He has converted both of his save chances over that span.

Mike Morin picks up relief win Friday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:22 am ET) Angels reliever Mike Morin entered Friday's game in the sixth inning against the Tigers.

Morin came in for Tyler Skaggs with two outs in the sixth and struck out Torii Hunter for the final out of the frame. The Angels scored two runs in the bottom of the frame, which proved to the difference, giving Morin his third win of the season. He owns a 2.61 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 38 innings of work this season.


Tyler Skaggs settles for no-decision
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs fell one out shy of a quality start in a no-decision Friday night at home against the Tigers. The right-hander permitted one run on five hits and one walk while striking out five over 5 2/3 innings of a 2-1 victory.

The Angels scored both runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Mike Morin, who recorded the final out of the sixth for Skaggs, picked up the win.

Skaggs owns a 4.49 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 17 starts (108 1/3 innings). His next start will come Thursday at Baltimore.


Drew Smyly Ks career-high 11 in losing effort
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Drew Smyly(6-9) posted a career-high 11 strikeouts, but it wasn't enough in a tough-luck loss Friday night against the Angels in Anaheim. The right-hander was charged with two runs on four hits and one walk over 5 2/3 innings of a 2-1 defeat.

Prior to this game, Smyly did not strike out more than seven batters in a game this season. He owns a 3.77 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP over 100 1/3 innings of work. His next start will come Thursday at home against the White Sox.


 
 
 
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