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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
Mariners' Jesus Sucre gets start over Mike Zunino
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:43 pm ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino is not in the starting lineup for Sunday's game, marking the first time he'll start the game on the bench since June 21. He's started the last 10 behind the plate.

Replacing Zunino at catcher is Jesus Sucre, who gets his tenth start of the year. 


Orioles inform Bud Norris he's headed to the bullpen
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:36 pm ET) The Orioles informed Bud Norris that he would be sent to the bullpen, per the Baltimore Sun.

Manager Buck Showalter confirmed that Kevin Gausman would start Tuesday's game, and Norris would be the right-handed long-relief man and spot starter. 

"We certainly have confidence in him, but he’s capable of a lot better level than he’s pitching at right now," Showalter said of Norris. 

"I'm going to go down there and pitch and when I get called on, I'm going to do the best job I can," Norris said


Indians shuffle outfield before facing off against Pirates
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:11 pm ET) The Indians' outfield will look a little different when they take the field against the Pirates on Saturday.

Michael Brantley will start at center field; Brandon Moss will take the role of right fielder; and Mike Aviles will play left field.


Mariners roster shuffle: Recall two players, reinstate one
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:06 pm ET) The Mariners made a number of roster moves on Saturday.

Seattle recalled outfielder James Jone and right-handed pitcher Mayckol Guaipe from Triple-A Tacoma. Those moves were followed by lefty pitcher David Rollins beinf reinstated from the restricted list.


Padres' Brandon Morrow throws 40-pitch bullpen
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(1:06 pm ET) Padres pitcher Brandon Morrow threw a 40-pitch bullpen session before Saturday's game. 

Morrow has been on the 60-day disabled list from a shoulder injury that has sidelined him since May 3. 

The next step for Morrow is a simulated game next week, before one of the team's games in Pittsburgh, per U-T San Diego.


Mark Canha not in Athletics' Saturday lineup
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:55 pm ET) Ben Zobrist will replace Mark Canha in the Athletics' starting lineup for Saturday's game. 

Canha has started the last two games and three of the last four. Zobrist has started the last two games at second base. 


Andrew Miller throws 30-pitch bullpen for Yankees
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:39 pm ET) Yankees reliever Andrew Miller threw a 30-pitch bullpen session before Saturday's game. 

Miller has been on the disabled list with a left forearm flexor strain since June 11. 

"I'm happy with it," Miller said per NJ.com. "Physically felt good but also I'm kind of at the point where I want to make sure I'm starting to get sharp, and obviously today wasn't bad at all."

Miller hopes to get a minor league rehab assignment in the near future. 


Nationals SP Stephen Strasburg leaves game with apparent injury
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:39 pm ET) Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg left Saturday's game against the Giants after suffering an apparent injury in the fourth inning, per the Washington Post.

Strasburg left the game after throwing 3/2 innings. He seemed to be grabbing at his left side and grimacing in pain.

Strasburg (5-5) has a 5.16 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 18 walks in 61 innings this season. 


Red Sox recall Steven Wright, option down Noe Ramirez
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) The Red Sox recalled pitcher Steven Wright from Triple-A Pawtucket. 

Wright is 2-3 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts at Pawtucket. He's 3-2 with a 4.15 ERA in previous stints with the Red Sox earlier this year. 

To make room for Wright, the Sox optioned Noe Ramirez to Triple-A. Ramirez made his MLB debut and took the loss in the tenth inning of Friday's game.

“High number of innings out of the bullpen — we need a fresh arm and someone capable of going multiple innings,” manager John Farrell said, per WEEI.


Padres RF Matt Kemp out of lineup amid struggles
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:13 pm ET) Padres right fielder Matt Kemp will not be in the lineup against the Cardinals on Saturday.

Kemp has struggled at the plate over his last four games, hitting .071 with just one hit and three strikeouts.


 
 
 
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