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In our weekly Top 70 list, I count down the viable starting pitcher options for owners in standard mixed league formats. Each week, that list includes a handful of pitchers who are owned in fewer than 50 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, but there are still dozens of starting pitchers who rarely, if ever, get to be included in the column. We have heard from Fantasy owners playing in deeper leagues who want to read about more pitchers who are relevant in their formats, and starting with this week, we will be answering your call.
In Plumbing the Depths, we will put the spotlight on a sample of starting pitchers you won't want to use in standard mixed leagues. However, these starters could still help owners in formats ranging from a 14-team mixed league to a deep league-specific format. In this inaugural edition of the column, I will size up the Fantasy fortunes of some one- and two-start options for owners to consider in their deeper leagues for Week 12 (June 18-24).
All stats are current for games through Wednesday, June 13.
Deeper league two-start options
Derek Lowe, Indians
Projected matchups: CIN (Latos), @HOU (Happ)
2012 stats: 7-5, 3.78 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 28 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 49/27
Though he has hit a few bumps in the road, Lowe has already amassed seven wins along with a respectable ERA, even though only Henderson Alvarez and Bartolo Colon have induced whiffs at a lower rate. Lowe's sinker is getting him ground balls galore, and because they have prevented home runs and created double plays, those grounders have helped to keep his ERA legitimately low. However, Lowe's inability to miss bats has put a heavy burden on his WHIP. That makes Lowe someone to avoid in standard mixed leagues, but his matchups aren't particularly tough next week, so he is a reasonable two-start option in deeper mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Mike Minor, Braves
Projected matchups: @NYY (Sabathia), @BOS (Buchholz)
2012 stats: 3-4, 6.01 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 59 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 36/10
Minor has allowed only one earned run in each of his last two starts, so for at least some owners, he may look like a reasonable risk in Week 12, especially since he has two starts. Of course, his matchups are unfavorable, to say the least, but even in his recent two-start run, Minor has been no less wild or flyball-prone than he had been in his earlier outings. Owners in all formats should sit Minor if at all possible, though many NL-only owners may be hard pressed to find a better option.
Rick Porcello, Tigers
Projected matchups: STL (Lynn), @PIT (Correia)
2012 stats: 4-4, 5.18 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 44 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 32/15
With a high ERA and WHIP and not many strikeouts, it's a little befuddling as to how Porcello can still be owned in close to one-third of our leagues, but he is on pace for a double-digit win season. In related news, Porcello has been the recipient of more than seven runs of support per nine innings. The Pirates shape up as a good matchup for Porcello, as their offense has been the least potent in the majors, but the Cardinals are even more proficient than the Tigers at racking up runs. Despite his two-start status, this is a good week to bench Porcello outside of AL-only leagues.
Kevin Correia, Pirates
Projected matchups: MIN (Diamond), DET (Porcello)
2012 stats: 2-6, 4.43 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 25 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 6/3
Correia bears some similarity to Lowe in that he allows contact a high rate but minimizes the damage by way of a high ground ball rate. Lowe is actually better at getting grounders, but Correia just may be the more effective pitcher overall. His WHIP is 21 points lower than Lowe's in large part because opponents hit for a much lower average against Correia when the ball is on the ground. While Lowe has yielded a .268 batting average on grounders, Correia has kept his mark down to a tidy .188. The difference probably lies in their respective defenses, as the Pirates boast a much rangier middle infield than the Indians do. The Tigers could be a challenge for Correia, but as the lineup with the majors' highest ground ball rate, the Twins should play right into his hands. For this two-start week, Correia should be started in all NL-only leagues and even some deeper mixed leagues.
Jonathan Sanchez, Royals
Projected matchups: @HOU (Happ), STL (Lynn)
2012 stats: 1-2, 5.93 ERA, 1.85 WHIP, 22 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 17/2
Sanchez has had little to offer Fantasy owners other than bad stats and copious DL time, but he is still only two years removed from Fantasy relevance. In his first game back from his latest DL stint, Sanchez was surprisingly solid in his start against the Brewers on Wednesday. Having issued 96 pitches, Sanchez threw 64 strikes, including nine swinging strikes. Given his track record, there will surely be wilder times ahead, but Sanchez is worth picking up and stashing. In Week 12, he should be active only in the deepest leagues, as the Cardinals are a dangerous opponent, but if he passes that test, he should be started in deeper formats in the coming weeks.
Waiver wire targets
Kevin Millwood, Mariners
Projected matchups: @SD (Ohlendorf)
2012 stats: 3-5, 3.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 52 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 18/7
Millwood's status was in question after being pulled from a no-hitter last week due to a groin injury. He'll be back to start on Saturday against San Francisco, and he has a chance to build on a string of strong recent performances. Over his last six starts, Millwood has posted a 1.46 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, and a nine percent line drive rate and 0.2 HR/9 rate over that span show how hard he has been to hit. With an upcoming start against the woeful Padres, Millwood should be starting in practically all formats deeper than a standard mixed league.
Michael Fiers, Brewers
Projected matchups: @CHW (Humber)
2012 stats: 1-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 17 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 4/2
Over his first three starts, Fiers appears to have gotten a raw deal. Despite maintaining a pristine strikeout-to-walk ratio (17 Ks, 2 BBs), just as he had done in the minors, he has been saddled with a mediocre ERA and WHIP. A .382 BABIP is to blame, but as a flyball pitcher, Fiers profiles as more of a low-BABIP type. At least for the coming week, you can forget about whether Fiers has been unlucky or not, as he could get clobbered at homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Fiers should be stashed for Week 12, and with the potential return of Marco Estrada, he could be out of a job by Week 13. However, if Estrada's return is delayed, Fiers should stick around for the time being and would be worth using in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only formats in most weeks.
Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners
Projected matchups: @ARI (Hudson)
2012 stats: 0-0, 2.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 5 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 2/1
Ramirez got the call to take Blake Beavan's spot in the M's rotation, and though he doesn't have flashy numbers, he is worth a long look in deeper leagues. He is a control artist with a knack for getting grounders, and that formula has helped him to compile a 3.11 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in seven Triple-A starts this year. The Diamondbacks, who walk and hit flies at high rates, present an interesting challenge for Ramirez, so owners skittish about starting Ramirez can take a wait-and-see approach. However, there are some enticing matchups ahead, so now is the time to pick up the rookie before he becomes a better-known commodity.
Liam Hendriks, Twins
Projected matchups: @PIT (McDonald)
2012 stats: 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 9 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 2/0
Hendriks is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take his place in the Twins' rotation for the second time this season. The 23-year-old didn't fare well the first time around, allowing 18 earned runs in as many innings before earning a demotion. Back at Rochester, Hendriks was superb, rediscovering his command and getting swinging strikes at a much higher rate. Hendriks may not have been ready for the majors in his previous stints with the club, but the skills are clearly there. He is worth a flier in AL-only leagues.
Jesse Chavez, Blue Jays
Projected matchups: @MIL (Marcum)
2012 stats: 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 7 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 1/0
As a farmhand with the Pirates, Chavez looked like he had some potential as a future closer. While his career as a reliever flamed out spectacularly, Chavez has found new life as a starter, and he is the leading candidate to take over for injured Brandon Morrow (oblique). His ability to get strikeouts has translated from his relief role to the longer outings of a starter, and he has avoided the high walk rate that often dogged him in the majors. The big question for Chavez is whether he will be able to avoid home runs, especially pitching in the power-heavy AL East, but at the very least, he is worth a pickup in deeper AL-only leagues.
Vulnerable rotation spots
White Sox: John Danks (shoulder) could be activated from the 15-day disabled list next week, but White Sox manager Robin Ventura told the Chicago Sun-Times that he will not use a six-man rotation. Rookie Jose Quintana would be the obvious odd man out, but he has been far more effective than either Gavin Floyd or Philip Humber. However, Quintana's owners shouldn't abandon the search for a replacement. Even if he stays in the rotation for the time being, he could be due for a big -- and ugly -- correction. While his strikeout, ground ball and line drive rates have been mediocre, Quintana has been bailed out by an 86 percent strand rate. Even the best pitchers have trouble maintaining a rate above 80 percent, so there is little reason to think that Quintana will continue to succeed at anywhere close to his current level.
Rockies: Jeremy Guthrie may have started the season as the Rockies' nominal ace, but he is now on the verge of losing his rotation spot. There is no shortage of potential replacements waiting in the wings, but none of them may be ready. Jhoulys Chacin (shoulder), Juan Nicasio (knee) and Jorge De La Rosa (elbow) are all on the DL, but none is close to activation. Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood are both toiling in the minors, but the organization has indicated that they don't think either is ready for a promotion. Guillermo Moscoso could be moved from the bullpen, but if he is, his extreme flyball tendencies make him a huge risk every time he takes the mound at Coors Field. Chacin, Nicasio and De La Rosa are all worth stashing, but otherwise, owners are best off to avoid this whole situation.
Pirates: There is an off chance that Jeff Karstens (groin) could return for a start in Week 12, but even if he isn't ready for activation, that doesn't mean that Brad Lincoln will keep his spot in the Pittsburgh rotation. While Lincoln had been superb as a reliever, he has struggled greatly in his three starts, amassing a 6.91 ERA. Particularly if there is news of a further delay for Karstens, look into picking up either Rudy Owens or Jeff Locke, both of whom are having strong seasons in Triple-A.
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