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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
Ryan Goins gets start at short for Blue Jays
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) With Jose Reyes out for the weekend with a rib injury, Ryan Goins got the start for the Blue Jays at shortstop on Sunday.

Goins will bat ninth for the game against Atlanta. 


Mets' Michael Cuddyer, Wilmer Flores out of lineup Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:11 am ET) Mets left fielder Michael Cuddyer and shortstop Wilmer Flores are not in the starting lineup for Sunday's matchup with the Marlins.

It's just the second time on the bench this season for both players. Kirk Nieuwenhuis will bat seventh and play left field, while Ruben Tejada will bat eighth and play shortstop.

The Mets are heavy favorites (-200) against the Marlins Sunday.


Braves' Freddie Freeman serving as DH Sunday vs. Blue Jays
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:06 am ET) Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is serving as the team's designated hitter for Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

The Braves have mixed and matched at designated hitter during the series in Toronto, using Chris Johnson and Nick Markakis there in the team's first two days. Catcher Christian Bethancourt is also back in the lineup Sunday after sitting out the team's first two games of the series.

The Braves are underdogs (+135) against the Blue Jays Sunday.


Rays' Kevin Kiermaier (illness) remains out of lineup Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:01 am ET) Rays center fiedler Kevin Kiermaier is out of the lineup for a second straight game Sunday against the Yankees.

Kiermaier missed Saturday due to illness and will not be in the starting lineup against a right-handed starter for the second time this season Sunday. With Kiermaier sidelined, Desmond Jennings slides back to center field Sunday, with Brandon Guyer manning left.

The Rays are home underdogs (+112) against the Yankees Sunday.


Blue Jays add Jeff Francis, option Colt Hynes
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:54 am ET) The Blue Jays selected the contract of pitcher Jeff Francis Sunday while optioning pitcher Colt Hynes to Triple-A Buffalo.

A 10-year major-league veteran, Francis tossed five shutout innings in his only start with Triple-A Buffalo, striking out five while allowing two hits and two walks. Hynes gave up two hits without recording an out Saturday and departs with a 6.00 ERA and 4:2 K:BB ratio in three innings.


Tigers' Castellanos in lineup, Avila misses second straight start
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:49 am ET) Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos is back in the starting lineup after serving as a pinch-hitter Saturday, while catcher Alex Avila is not in the starting lineup for a second straight day.

Castellanos managed an RBI single in his only at-bat Saturday to extend his hitting streak to six games. He has hit .282/.341/.462 with one home run and four RBI in 39 at-bats.

Avila entered Saturday's blowout loss in the seventh inning to play three innings at first base, just his second career appearance at the position. He has hit .190/.414/.333 in 21 at-bats. James McCann, who is 2 for 15 after going hitless in four at-bats Saturday, is behind the plate for a second straight game.

The Tigers are favorites (-135) against the White Sox Sunday, per VegasInsider.com.


Cubs' Mike Olt (wrist) expected to begin rehab in 3-4 weeks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:38 am ET) Cubs third baseman Mike Olt (wrist) said Saturday he expects to begin rehab in three-to-four weeks, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Olt is in a cast after suffering a hairline fracture in his wrist, but he was able to avoid any ligament damage. He's expected to eventually return in a reserve role provided rookie Kris Bryant can remain healthy.


Angels activate Garrett Richards from 15-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:16 am ET) The Angels activated pitcher Garrett Richards from the 15-day disabled list Sunday, per the league's transactions page.

Richards missed the beginning of the regular season as he continued to work his way back from knee surgery, but he's ready to make his debut in Sunday's season finale against the Astros in Houston. He excelled in his first full season as a starter, going 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA and 164:51 K:BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings in 2014.


Angels pitcher Mike Morin tagged for three-run homer Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:14 am ET) Angels pitcher Mike Morin lasted just 1/3 of an inning Saturday in Los Angeles' 4-0 loss to the Astros. Morin served up a three-run home run to Robbie Grossman on a 1-0 pitch in the seventh, leading to the Angels' loss.

"We know the dimensions of the ballpark," Morin said. "I didn't execute the pitch -- bottom line."

Morin has posted a 4.91 ERA in 3 2/3 innings this season and may be fighting for a role with his struggles.

"I trust Sosh completely," said Morin. "It has nothing to do with that. I'll be ready day in and day out, whether it's the second inning or the 10th or the seventh. It's not weighing on my mind at all."


Rockies surprising 2B LeMahieu cranks first homer Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu had his nine-game hitting streak to start the season snapped Friday night. He apparently didn't take too kindly to it.

LeMahieu, a hot hitter on a hot-hitting team, provided most of the offense in a loss to the Dodgers with a two-run homer in the seventh inning off standout right-hander Zack Greinke. The RBI give him eight on the year and the performance improved his slash line to an impressive .463/.476/.585.


 
 
 
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