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Shuffling the Rotations for Week 5

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One month into the season, the Top 70 doesn't look quite the way that many would have imagined it on opening day.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Clay Buchholz and Francisco Liriano have not given owners much of value, and even at this early stage, they are too risky to start in standard mixed leagues. Some may put Tim Lincecum in the same category, though I have enough hope for him returning to his elite level of production to wedge him into this week's ranking, albeit in the lowly 68th spot. You may also not have expected to see rotation newbies like Chris Sale, Lance Lynn or Drew Smyly on our list of viable starters for standard mixed leagues, but all three make an appearance this week.

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Cliff Lee's name was gracing the very top of this list last week ... that is, until he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an oblique strain. He is absent once again on the list for Fantasy Week 5 (April 30-May 6), but there is a chance that he could be activated for a Friday start against the Nationals. Should the Phillies commit to activating Lee this week prior to Monday's lineup deadline, Lee returns to must-start status, but owners may have to wait until Fantasy Week 6 (May 7-13) to start him again.

Another pitcher not making the list is Jeff Samardzija, though the last spot came down to him and Jason Hammel. Both have been pleasant surprises, and both have two-start weeks ahead, but I opted to give the edge to Hammel, who has the longer track record of success. The last one-start pitcher to get whacked from the list was -- believe it or not -- A.J. Burnett, who handled the Cardinals and Braves in his first starts back from the DL.

But enough about the pitchers who didn't make the cut ... here are the 70 who are safe to use in standard mixed leagues this week.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 5
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Cole Hamels @ATL (Beachy) @WAS (Zimmermann) Has issued more than one walk in only one of last eight starts
Hamels is getting more whiffs so far this season, and he has issued a total of just three walks.
2 C.J. Wilson MIN (Blackburn) TOR (Drabek) Career 3.02 ERA at Angel Stadium of Anaheim
Wilson's had only one home start so far, but he has fared well at his new park over his career.
3 Felix Hernandez @TB (Hellickson) MIN (Marquis) 91.7 mph average fastball velocity
Hernandez is throwing with less gas this year, but he's getting more called strikes on his fastball and slider.
4 Matt Cain MIA (Nolasco) MIL (Wolf) 19 percent infield fly rate
Cain's command has been razor-sharp, and he hasn't allowed much hard contact.
5 Justin Verlander KC (Mendoza) N/A 0.91 WHIP since 2011
Friday's start against the Yankees was the first this season in which Verlander allowed more hits than innings pitched.
6 Jered Weaver MIN (Hendriks) N/A Career 0.8 HR/9 at home
Weaver can be homer-prone in other venues, but he does a great job of keeping the ball from leaving Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
7 Clayton Kershaw @COL (Pomeranz) N/A 59 percent ground ball rate
The ability to induce grounders was the one area where Kershaw hadn't excelled ... until now.
8 Roy Halladay @ATL (Hanson) N/A 12 percent swinging strike rate
Halladay isn't getting many Ks yet, but he is still getting lots of swings-and-misses.
9 Jordan Zimmermann ARI (Cahill) PHI (Hamels) .277 opponents SLG
Zimmermann has pitched to contact, but he has allowed only two flyball base hits through his first four starts.
10 Zack Greinke @SF (Bumgarner) N/A .387 BABIP
Greinke is likely to give up far fewer hits on balls in play going forward, helping to reduce his 4.56 ERA and 1.27 WHIP.
11 James Shields SEA (Beavan) N/A Career 3.38 ERA at home
The Mariners have been scoring runs this year, but Shields is still tough to beat at the Trop.
12 Ian Kennedy @WAS (Detwiler) N/A 68 percent strikes thrown (entering Sat.)
Kennedy became a very good control pitcher last season, and he hasn't given back any of his gains.
13 Stephen Strasburg PHI (Kendrick) N/A 10 consecutive starts without a HR allowed (entering Sat.)
The Phillies have been power-deprived this year, so Strasburg should continue to keep the gopher ball at bay.
14 David Price OAK (Ross) N/A 1.2 GO/AO ratio
Price is on pace to post his third straight season with an increase in ground ball rate.
15 Josh Johnson @SD (Bass) N/A .293 opponents' Avg on grounders
The Marlins' infield defense hasn't been very good, but Johnson is unlikely to give up so many ground ball base hits from here on out.
16 Brandon Beachy PHI (Hamels) @COL (Nicasio) 49 percent ground ball rate
Beachy established himself as a flyball pitcher last year, but if he can continue this season's ground ball trend, he can escape Coors Field unscathed.
17 Adam Wainwright PIT (Morton) @HOU (Norris) 2.88 xFIP
Wainwright's xFIP shows that if his early homer binge was indeed a fluke, he is back to being the elite hurler he was before Tommy John surgery.
18 CC Sabathia @KC (Chen) N/A 60 percent strand rate
Sabathia's peripherals are not much different than usual, but he's just had trouble leaving runners on base, which bodes well for a turnaround.
19 Shaun Marcum @SD (Volquez) N/A Career 7.9 K/9 in first half
Marcum's late-season troubles a year ago were nothing new; he has helped more with strikeouts earlier in the year throughout his career.
20 Matt Garza LAD (Billingsley) N/A Career 2.34 ERA at Wrigley Field
Garza's move to the Friendly Confines last season hasn't hurt him one bit, as he has held hitters to a combined .217 batting average there.
21 Dan Haren TOR (Morrow) N/A Opponents' .533 Avg on balls in air (entering Sat.)
Haren has a lower-than-average line drive rate, so his luck on airborne balls in play should improve.
22 Yovani Gallardo @SD (Luebke) N/A 28 Ks in 21 1/3 career innings vs. SD
Gallardo got clubbed by the Cardinals on Friday, but he should have a much easier time with the Padres in Week 5.
23 Chris Sale CLE (Jimenez) @DET (Below) 65 percent strikes thrown
Sale has actually shown stronger command of the strike zone in his four starts than in his 94 1/3 innings of relief work.
24 Yu Darvish @TOR (Drabek) @CLE (Jimenez) Opponents' .069 Isolated Power
For those unfamiliar with Isolated Power, Darvish has essentially turned the average opposing hitter into Jamey Carroll.
25 Mat Latos @PIT (McDonald) N/A 15 percent line drive rate since 2010
Hitters are connecting off Latos more often this year, but he has a consistent ability to avoid hard contact.
26 Tommy Hanson PHI (Halladay) N/A Career 2.23 ERA vs. PHI
Hanson has kept the Phillies in check over seven previous starts, and this is far from the toughest Phils' lineup that he has had to face.
27 Madison Bumgarner MIL (Greinke) N/A 7.8 percent swinging strike rate
Bumgarner is getting fewer whiffs overall, but he's still getting them on his fastball and curveball; it's mainly his slider that's been more hittable.
28 Josh Beckett BAL (Hunter) N/A 92 mph fastball velocity on Tues. vs. MIN
Beckett's K-rate has been dragged down by just one start, but it's also encouraging to see that his velocity rebounded in his start against the Twins.
29 Vance Worley CHC (Volstad) @WAS (Gonzalez) Allowed 5 RBI on 4 HRs
Worley has been a bit lucky that there haven't been more men on base when he has allowed homers this year, but his xFIP is still just 3.11.
30 Anibal Sanchez @SF (Vogelsong) N/A 3.3 K/BB since 2011 (entering Sat.)
The control issues that often plagued Sanchez over the first five years of his career appear to be long gone.
31 Gio Gonzalez PHI (Worley) N/A Has not allowed an ER in 20 straight innings
Gonzalez is bound to regress to the mean, but lately it's been hard to find a flaw in his game.
32 Cory Luebke MIL (Gallardo) N/A 12 Ks over last 21 innings
It's a small sample but still a trend worth tracking. Are hitters starting to figure Luebke out?
33 Johnny Cueto @PIT (Correia) N/A Career 2.70 ERA vs. PIT
The Pirates have scored the fewest runs in the majors, so Cueto should continue his pattern of mastery against them.
34 Matt Moore SEA (Noesi) OAK (Milone) 72 strikes in 100 pitches on Thurs. vs. LAA
Moore is still struggling with efficiency, but his improved command in his most recent start was good to see.
35 Jeremy Hellickson SEA (Hernandez) OAK (Colon) .221 BABIP
Hellickson led the majors with an ultra-low .224 BABIP a year ago, and improbably, he has an even lower rate now.
36 Brandon McCarthy @BOS (Bard) N/A Allowed 2 ER or fewer in 5 of 6 starts
McCarthy doesn't have flashy stats, but since last season, he has become remarkably consistent.
37 Jon Lester BAL (Chen) N/A 17 percent foul ball rate
Don't fret about Lester's 6.0 K/9; it's a 13 percent decrease in foul balls that has been the biggest contributor to his drop in strikeouts.
38 Hiroki Kuroda BAL (Hammel) @KC (Sanchez) 67 percent quality start rate since 2010
Kuroda is just an average strikeout pitcher, but he does everything else well enough to be a reliable start in most weeks.
39 Erik Bedard @STL (Westbrook) N/A 10 percent swinging strike rate on April 22 vs. STL
Whiffs have been harder to come by for Bedard this year, but he had success against the Cardinals and he gets them again in Week 5.
40 Colby Lewis @CLE (Gomez) N/A Career 26.7 AB per HR allowed vs. lefties
Lewis gives up plenty of long balls to lefties, but he's actually a little stingier than he is against righties (26.2 AB per HR). That's mild good news for his start vs. CLE.
41 R.A. Dickey @HOU (Norris) ARI (Cahill) 5 BBs in 30 2/3 career innings vs. HOU
Dickey's emergence as a control pitcher has made him Fantasy-relevant and he has been especially sharp against the Astros.
42 Lance Lynn PIT (Burnett) N/A Has allowed one run in 5 of 6 career starts
Lynn has been succeeding by getting batters to take called strikes at an extremely high level. He should succeed against the Pirates, even though they have a free-swinging lineup.
43 Wandy Rodriguez NYM (Schwinden) N/A 8 BBs in 31 1/3 innings
Rodriguez has been unusually stingy with walks this year, though the Mets -- the NL leader in walk rate -- will test him.
44 Justin Masterson @CHW (Danks) N/A 3.63 pitches per plate appearance
Masterson has had issues with his command this season, but oddly enough, he has been more efficient on a per-batter basis than ever.
45 Mark Buehrle ARI (Corbin) @SD (Richard) 3.62 runs of support per nine innings
Buehrle has pitched well enough to earn Ws in all of his starts, but only seven NL starters have received less run support.
46 Ricky Romero TEX (Harrison) N/A Career 0.92 ERA vs. TEX
With a diminished K-rate and a tough opponent, this might look like a bad week to start Romero, but he has thrived in four prior starts agaisnt the Rangers.
47 Jaime Garcia @HOU (Lyles) N/A .304 opponents' ground ball Avg
Garcia's K's are down, but it's the ground ball base hits that have been killing his WHIP. Improvement is likely on the way.
48 Derek Holland @CLE (Lowe) N/A Career 2.55 ERA vs. CLE
For Holland more than most pitchers, it's all about the matchup. He's had past success against the Indians and should continue the trend.
49 Jonathon Niese @HOU (Happ) N/A .105 flyball BABIP
Niese would have had much better results in 2011 if not for a high rate of in-the-park flyball hits, but his rate has normalized so far this year.
50 Mike Minor PIT (McDonald) @COL (Moyer) 0.9 GO/AO
Minor is an improved pitcher this year, but with some mild flyball tendencies, he could have a rough start at Colorado.
51 Jake Peavy @DET (Smyly) N/A 75 percent strand rate
Peavy would have likely posted sub-4.00 ERAs in each of the last two years if he had stranded more runners, but that's not been a problem in 2012.
52 Ricky Nolasco @SF (Cain) @SD (Wieland) 54 percent quality start rate since 2011
Nolasco has yet to prove himself as a reliable standard mixed league option, but with two mediocre offenses on his plate, he can be trusted this coming week.
53 Drew Smyly CHW (Peavy) N/A 22 Ks in 22 innings
Smyly stranded every one of his baserunners for the month of April, but even if he hadn't, he would have had a sensational start to his big league career.
54 Juan Nicasio LAD (Harang) ATL (Beachy) Career .235 Avg vs. righties
The Braves will be a tough assignment for Nicasio, but his track record against righties provides hope that he can shut down Matt Kemp and the Dodgers.
55 Jeff Niemann SEA (Millwood) N/A 3.29 xFIP (entering Sat.)
Niemann's strikeout and ground ball rates have soared in the early going, and only a 62 percent strand rate has hurt his ERA.
56 Ivan Nova BAL (Arrieta) N/A Career 3.34 ERA vs. BAL
Nova hasn't always had success in his home starts, but with the third-lowest team batting average in the AL, the Orioles should provide few challenges.
57 Johan Santana ARI (Corbin) N/A 12.5 percent swinging strike rate
Santana's fastball might sit in the upper 80s, but he can still get batters to fan with regularity.
58 Bronson Arroyo CHC (Samardzija) @PIT (Morton) 3.20 pitches per plate appearance
Arroyo has always pitched with economy, but he leads the majors with a ridiculously-low P/PA ratio, which helps him to rack up innings.
59 Bud Norris NYM (Dickey) STL (Wainwright) Career opponents' .240 Avg at home
Norris has allowed homers more often at Minute Maid Park than on the road, but he's been more effective at home, as he has held batters to a low batting average.
60 Bartolo Colon @TB (Hellickson) N/A Career 3.31 ERA at Tropicana Field
Colon is still something of a risk in stadiums geared for offense, but he is safe to start when he pitches in Tampa Bay.
61 Trevor Cahill @WAS (Zimmermann) @NYM (Dickey) 6 BBs in last 3 starts (18 1/3 innings)
Cahill owns an ugly 4.4 BB/9, but that's weighed down by his wild first start. He's better than his overall stat line indicates.
62 Brandon Morrow @LAA (Haren) N/A 8 BBs in 32 2/3 innings
Morrow finally got some Ks on Saturday against the Mariners. Even if he doesn't keep that up, his control has been impressive so far.
63 Kyle Lohse @HOU (Harrell) N/A Nine consecutive quality starts
Is this a new Lohse? During his quality start streak, which dates back to 2011, he has struck out 42 batters while walking only 10.
64 Chad Billingsley @CHC (Garza) N/A Career 0.7 HR/9
Whatever shortcomings Billingsley has had in recent years, he has always been stingy with homers. That's bad news for the Cubs, who rank last in the majors in the category.
65 Jason Vargas MIN (Pavano) N/A Career 3.57 ERA at Safeco Field
Vargas is often safe to use for his home starts, but that's especially true this week, since he is facing a power-deprived Twins lineup.
66 Ryan Dempster @CIN (Leake) N/A 23 Ks in 20 1/3 innings
Dempster (quad) is expected to be activated from the DL for Thursday's start, and he should pick up where he left off.
67 Tim Hudson @COL (Moscoso) N/A .331 opponents' SLG in 2011
It remains to be seen how rusty Hudson (back) will be coming off the DL, but he has been a reliable Fantasy start for years and deserves a chance in Week 5.
68 Tim Lincecum MIL (Estrada) N/A 24 Ks in 18 2/3 innings
Despite diminished velocity, Lincecum continues to give owners strikeouts. There hasn't been much else, so he's a low-end option for standard mixed leagues for now.
69 Tommy Milone @BOS (Buchholz) @TB (Moore) 44 percent ground ball rate
Milone is good at inducing infield flies, but he is also showing an improved ability to get grounders over his first four starts.
70 Jason Hammel @NYY (Kuroda) @BOS (Buchholz) 94 mph average fastball velocity
Hammel is throwing harder than he did earlier in his career, and it's probably not a coincidence that he is posting a career-high swinging strike rate.

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
Brewers GM not looking to add another starting pitcher
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:09 pm ET) Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said Sunday the team is not looking to add another starting pitcher to replace Yovani Gallardo.

"I don't think we have room for a notable starting pitcher," Melvin said. "We'd like to add a pitcher that could be a spot starter."

Milwaukee currently has Jimmy Nelson as their fifth starter, who went 2-9 in 2014 with a 4.93 ERA and 57 strikeouts for the club.


David Murphy's role unclear for Indians heading into season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Indians outfielder David Murphy is heading into his second season with the club and is trying to figure out what his role will be with the team.

Murphy said Sunday he got the chance to speak with general manager Chris Antonetti when the team traded for Brandon Moss in December.

"Communication is huge just in general in this game," Murphy said. "It's nice to go into the season knowing how he feels, and I'm sure he's speaking for the front office and the coaching staff. Just having an idea of how they feel about it, and giving me a chance to voice my opinion in how I feel about it, the lines of communication are open. I definitely think that's a good thing. It's kind of hard to know at this point how things are going to fall into place."

Murphy, who hit .262 with eight home runs and 58 RBI in 2014, knows being traded is one option to find playing time.

"I think everybody can logically see that there's only so many spots out there for so many players," Murphy said. "I'm prepared to lose playing time, but not to the point where I'm going to get 150 at-bats. If that's the case, and that's the best-case scenario for them and for me, I'm open to [a trade]. But I feel like this team has a great chance to win, and for that reason, I would love to be here."

Indians manager Terry Francona said recently Murphy will be the right fielder in Cleveland to open the year.

"Well, it's hard to say right now, because we don't know how healthy Swish or Moss are," Francona said. "So right now, Murph's our right fielder. I don't know if that's going to change in the next month or not."


Brewers' Tyler Thornburg thankful to avoid serious injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:23 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Tyler Thornburg was lucky to avoid Tommy Joh surgery in 2014. After being place on the disabled list in June, Thornburg was diagnosed with a wrist flexor strain. However, after a few more starts, doctors determined Thornburg injured his UCL. Thankfully for Thornburg, rest and time off was enough to allow the injury to heal.

"I feel great," Thornburg said. "Honestly, the best thing ever was the timing of everything. Right now and I’m very optimistic and if it works out I definitely feel very blessed for not having to go the other route. We had time; that was the biggest thing. We gave it as much time as possible to heal.

"The way we have it scheduled now, I would be ahead of everyone, " he said. "So it’s just in case of a setback, then I would be perfectly on schedule. But what we have planned right now, if I’m not having any setbacks then we can just kind of scale it back a little bit.

Thornburg finished 2014 with a 3-1 record with a 4.25 ERA in 29 2/3 innings.


White Sox 3B Conor Gillaspie bulks up
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:52 pm ET) White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie says his offseason weight training program has enabled him to add 15-20 pounds of muscle, "which should translate into driving the ball harder," reports ESPN.com.

“Honestly I’m hoping that by taking the same swing that I did last year, because I’m stronger, I’m hoping that translates into more power,” Gillaspie said, per the website. “It may or may not. We have enough guys that do hit for power on this team now. There are quite a few of them, so truthfully, I think I might be just as valuable getting on base, drawing walks, moving runners.” 

Gillaspie hit .282 with seven homers and 57 RBI in 130 games last year.


Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg throwing bullpen sessions
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:36 pm ET) Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg, who missed the second half of last season with an elbow injury, is throwing bullpen sessions as he tries to prepare for spring training, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Thornburg went 3-1 with a 4.25 ERA in 27 appearances before getting shut down in June.

Yu Darvish: 'My elbow feels fine'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Speaking publicly for the first time since he was shut down late last season with right elbow inflammation, Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish said he's feeling no ill effects now, reports MLB.com. Darvish, who's throwing off flat ground, is on track to begin throwing off a mound early next month.

"My elbow feels fine and I am able to throw on my throwing program," Darvish said, per the website.

Darvish has been working out in Texas during the offseason and said his training is "going well." General manager Jon Daniels said Darvish is "right on schedule."

"I think Darvish is very in tune with his body as much as anybody and knows how he's feeling," Daniels said. "He's very confident. Like any of these guys, until they're out there you're always going to have some reservation, but that's the worrywart in me. From all the information we have, I'm encouraged. He's basically been cleared to do just about everything."

Darvish's last start came Aug. 9 against Houston. He went 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 22 starts, tossing two complete games and one shutout.


Brewers reliever Jim Henderson throwing again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Brewers reliever Jim Henderson, who had shoulder surgery last August, began throwing off a mound last week and will toss bullpen sessions this week, reports MLB.com. Henderson hopes to be 100 percent by Opening Day, the report added.

Henderson was limited to 14 appearances last season. He went 2-1 with a 7.15 ERA.


Ryan Braun says his thumb feels 'significantly better'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, who underwent a thumb procedure last October, said his thumb feels "significantly better" than at this time last year, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Braun was plagued throughout last season by a nerve issue at the base of his thumb, the paper noted.

"Knock on wood, I feel great; it feels really good," Braun told reporters.

"Everything is going well. Regular offseason, regular routine. I started hitting a little bit earlier than I typically do, just to see how it felt. So far, so good. It feels really good.

"I do everything I regularly do. I don't hit off live pitching but I take regular batting practice like we would during the season, and it feels good. I don't feel anything at all."

Added Braun: "I know it's significantly better than where it was this time last year, which I'm encouraged by. But as I told you guys the last time I saw everybody (at Thanksgiving) the real test will come in spring training, once we've played games for a couple of weeks and that everyday wear and tear. See how it recovers, see how it responds."


Stiff competition for fifth spot in Mariners' rotation
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias and Erasmo Ramirez are the leading candidates for the fifth spot in the Mariners' starting rotation, reports the Tacoma News Tribune. "The more competition, the better," Walker told the paper.

"It brings out the best of everyone who is fighting for the spot."

Walker posted a 1.96 ERA in six outings last September after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.


Report: Yankees decline reconciliation with Alex Rodriguez
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:50 am ET) After meeting with new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to clear the air over his year-long suspension in 2014, Alex Rodriguez also reached out to the Yankees to set up a meeting, but was turned down, reports the New York Post.

Rodriguez requested to meet with the Yankees to apologize for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, but was told to wait until spring training. Reports also surfaced that Rodriguez is looking noticeably thinner compared to recent seasons, a source told the New York Post.

Rodriguez is set to report to spring training Feb. 25.


 
 
 
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