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Pitcher rankings for Week 15

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Fantasy Week 15 (July 13-15) may be a short week in terms of the number of major league games that will be played, but it won't be short on tough decisions for Fantasy owners. Every team has just three games this week, which means only 90 pitchers will be making a start. Especially in deeper leagues, you may have no choice but to accept that your rotation will be short on starts this week. But in standard mixed leagues you should be able to get a full slate of starts. You just may need to make a trip to the waiver wire to find them, but it won't always be easy to figure out which arms to go with.

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To help you in that process, I have ranked all 90 probable starters. The top half of the list consists of pitchers who are must-starts this week in practically any format. The next 25 pitchers on the list are those who are borderline viable in standard mixed leagues and many of them may require a waiver claim. The bottom 20 pitchers should be avoided if possible in standard mixed leagues, but you may need them to provide you with stats in deeper leagues.

Even though most teams will be running out their best starters this week, there are still a few Fantasy stalwarts who won't take the mound over the weekend, and therefore, will need a replacement. The following pitchers currently in the top 30 in standard Head-to-Head scoring will not make a start in Week 15: Kyle Lohse, Chris Capuano, Ryan Vogelsong, CC Sabathia (groin, eligible to be activated from the DL, but not scheduled to start this weekend) and Wade Miley. There is still a chance that Johan Santana will start for the Mets on Sunday at the Braves, but his twisted ankle could keep him out until Fantasy Week 16 (July 16-22). Finally, Felix Doubront, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore, all of whom are among the top 30 RP-eligible pitchers, will not start this week.

Note: An asterisk indicates the pitcher has not officially been named as a starter for Week 15 at the time of writing, but he is projected to be a likely starter.

The Top Half

The starters are worth using this week in virtually any format.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: vs. LAD (Richard)
2. Chris Sale, White Sox: @KC (Mendoza)
3. Justin Verlander, Tigers: @BAL (Tillman)
4. David Price, Rays: vs. BOS (Buchholz)
5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners: vs. TEX (Darvish)
6. Jake Peavy, White Sox: @KC (Hochevar)
7. Matt Cain, Giants: vs. HOU (Norris)
8. Stephen Strasburg, Nationals: @MIA (Nolasco)
9. Cole Hamels, Phillies: @COL (Pomeranz)
10. Cliff Lee, Phillies: @COL (Friedrich)
11. Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks: @CHC (Maholm)
12. James McDonald, Pirates: @MIL (Greinke)
13. Madison Bumgarner, Giants: vs. HOU (Rodriguez)
14. R.A. Dickey, Mets: @ATL (Hanson)
15. Jered Weaver, Angels: @NYY (Nova)
16. *Yovani Gallardo, Brewers: vs. PIT (Correia)
17. Zack Greinke, Brewers: vs. PIT (McDonald)
18. Yu Darvish, Rangers: @SEA (Hernandez)
19. Gio Gonzalez, Nationals: @MIA (Buehrle)
20. Johnny Cueto, Reds: vs. STL (Westbrook)
21. Josh Johnson, Marlins: vs. WAS (Zimmermann)
22. James Shields, Rays: vs. BOS (Beckett)
23. Lance Lynn, Cardinals: @CIN (Leake)
24. Matt Harrison, Rangers: @SEA (Iwakuma)
25. A.J. Burnett, Pirates: @MIL (Wolf)
26. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals: @CIN (Latos)
27. Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals: @MIA (Johnson)
28. C.J. Wilson, Angels: @NYY (Kuroda)
29. Jason Hammel, Orioles: vs. DET (Fister)
30. Matt Garza, Cubs: vs. ARI (Cahill)
31. Vance Worley, Phillies: @COL (Guthrie)
32. Ryan Dempster, Cubs: vs. ARI (Saunders)
33. Tommy Hanson, Braves: vs. NYM (Dickey)
34. Justin Masterson, Indians: @TOR (Romero)
35. *Jonathon Niese, Mets: @ATL (Sheets)
36. Mat Latos, Reds: vs. STL (Wainwright)
37. Derek Holland, Rangers: @SEA (Millwood)
38. Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees: vs. LAA (Wilson)
39. Jarrod Parker, Athletics: @MIN (Duensing)
40. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: vs. BOS (Morales)
41. Tim Hudson, Braves: vs. NYM (Young)
42. Josh Beckett, Red Sox: @TB (Shields)
43. Tommy Milone, Athletics: @MIN (De Vries)
44. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros: @SF (Bumgarner)
45. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox: @TB (Price)

Worth a Try

Each of these starters will be viable for owners in standard mixed league formats, though they should be avoided in shallower leagues. Some of your lineup dilemmas may involve several of the pitchers in this group, so I will address why each one is worth using this week.

46. Francisco Liriano, Twins: vs. OAK (Griffin)

Liriano's wildness is still a concern, but he has been whiffing batters at a much higher rate since returning to the rotation in late May. The A's are very good at drawing walks, so that prevents Liriano from being one of the more solid options this week.

47. Ivan Nova, Yankees: vs. LAA (Weaver)

Nova has been sensational lately, posting a 1.70 ERA over his last seven starts. Though he has been getting more grounders, his home run rate has also benefited from pitching in Yankee Stadium just once over the past month, so this start will be a real test for him.

48. Ben Sheets, Braves: vs. NYM (Niese)

In his prime, Sheets would reliably put up superb strikeout-to-walk ratios. Double-A isn't the major leagues, but it was encouraging to see his strong command in evidence in a pair of starts for the Braves' Southern League affiliate.

49. Bud Norris, Astros: @SF (Cain)

Norris pitched well in his final start before the break, but he continues to be a little too flyball-prone. Still, he is a worthy risk with a start at AT&T Park.

50. Chad Billingsley, Dodgers: vs. SD (Marquis)

Wildness hasn't been a problem for Billingsley lately, but he has been very hittable over his last five starts, allowing opposing hitters to bat .345. Then again, he hasn't had a particularly favorable schedule, but a start against the Padres changes that trend.

51. Clayton Richard, Padres: @LAD (Kershaw)

Though Richard scuffled in his most recent start, he has been very good at limiting extra-base hits and walks over the past six weeks. Factor in that he will face a Dodgers lineup that has had trouble scoring, and it looks like a safe week to get Richard into your rotation.

52. Mark Buehrle, Marlins: vs. WAS (Gonzalez)

Owners shouldn't count on Buehrle to extend his string of three straight games with seven or more strikeouts, but they should rely on him to produce his 13th quality start of the season. Especially in this short week, that's good enough for Buehrle to earn a start in Fantasy.

53. Max Scherzer, Tigers: @BAL (Chen)

The schedule has done Scherzer some big favors over the past month, as he has reeled off five straight quality starts. High home run and line drive rates are always a threat to his ERA and WHIP, but he should fare well enough against a struggling Orioles offense.

54. Aaron Harang, Dodgers: vs. SD (Volquez)

Given how poor his command has been, Harang is probably lucky to have a 2.53 ERA over his last eight starts. The Padres may draw a few walks, but they aren't likely to do much damage when they swing the bats.

55. Doug Fister, Tigers: @BAL (Hammel)

Fister continues to throw strikes and get grounders, but he has been getting killed on balls in play. The Tigers' defense has likely played a role in Fister's struggles, and that limits his value to that of a low-end option for standard mixed league owners.

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56. Mike Leake, Reds: vs. STL (Lynn)

Leake has rebounded admirably since his poor start to the season, but he has also had more than his share of favorable matchups along the way. He will probably rank higher in future weeks, but the Cardinals make Leake riskier than normal for Week 15.

57. A.J. Griffin, Athletics: @MIN (Liriano)

Griffin has looked good in his first three starts, though a 91 percent strand rate raises some doubt about his ability to sustain his success. As a pitch-to-contact type, Griffin should continue to benefit from the A's solid defense.

58. Jose Quintana, White Sox: @KC (Chen)

Quintana didn't profile as a strikeout pitcher in the minors, but he has been missing bats this year, even against some good lineups. Maybe it won't last, but Quintana has shown enough promise to earn a start, at least this time around.

59. Trevor Cahill, Diamondbacks: @CHC (Garza)

Cahill continues to be inconsistent, but he is starting to go deeper into games with more regularity. Over his last seven starts, he has lasted seven innings or more four times.

60. Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles: vs. DET (Scherzer)

Chen hasn't posted a quality start at home since May, but earlier this year, he tamed both the Yankees and Rangers at Camden Yards. He's far from a sure thing, but Chen has the potential to be useful this week.

61. Jerome Williams, Angels: @NYY (Garcia)

Williams presents some uncertainty, as he will just be coming off the disabled list, and he has a tough matchup, too. However, earlier this year, he showed a knack for pitching with efficiency

62. Edinson Volquez, Padres: @LAD (Harang)

Volquez benefits from a good matchup, but he has the potential to hurt your team's WHIP in any given week. At least this time, though, he should help with ERA and Ks.

63. Chris Young, Mets: @ATL (Hudson)

Young has yet to give up more than three runs in any outing, so that alone makes him worth starting this week. However, he doesn't fare all that well against lefties, so the Braves' lefty-heavy lineup could present some challenges.

64. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins: vs. WAS (Strasburg)

Over his three most recent starts, Nolasco has sent his ground ball rate back upward. Time will tell if the trend will last, but at least it provides some explanation for his latest change in fortune, as Nolasco has gone 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA over that span.

65. Bruce Chen, Royals: vs. CHW (Quintana)

Chen has allowed only two home runs to lefties all season long, so especially with a start at pitcher-friendly Kaufffman Stadium, he could limit the damage done by Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski.

66. Chris Tillman, Orioles: vs. DET (Verlander)

Wildness has gotten the better of Tillman in the past, but so far this season -- mostly in Triple-A -- he has been much more of a strike-thrower. He will have a hard time getting a "W" opposing Verlander, but Tillman could still put up some useful stats in this matchup.

67. Paul Maholm, Cubs: vs. ARI (Kennedy)

Maholm has recovered from a rocky beginning with the Cubs, as he has been getting more strikeouts over the past month. Maybe there's no reason for it, but he's actually been ringing up Ks at a faster pace in his home starts, striking out 6.9 batters per nine innings.

68. Kevin Millwood, Mariners: vs. TEX (Holland)

Millwood's freakish ground ball binge from earlier this season has passed, but he is still avoiding the long ball. Though the Rangers always pose a threat, Millwood has allowed only two homers in 34 innings at Safeco Field this season.

69. Franklin Morales, Red Sox: @TB (Hellickson)

The Yankees punished Morales last Saturday, exploding for four home runs and six runs total, but the Rays aren't nearly as dangerous of an offensive threat. Though he remains something of an unknown quantity as a starter, for the most part this season Morales has done a great job locating his pitches and staying out of trouble.

70. Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians: @TOR (Laffey)

With lower velocity and weaker ground ball tendencies, Jimenez is not the pitcher he used to be. However, he has been walking fewer batters lately and that's helped enough to give him a 2.93 ERA over June and July.

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Deep League Filler

These pitchers should be avoided in standard and shallow mixed league formats, though those near the top of this list could be used as last-resort options.

71. Tim Lincecum, Giants: vs. HOU (Harrell)
72. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays: vs. CLE (Masterson)
73. Joe Saunders, Diamondbacks: @CHC (Dempster)
74. Kevin Correia, Pirates: @MIL (Gallardo)
75. Carlos Villanueva, Blue Jays: vs. CLE (Lowe)
76. Cole De Vries, Twins: vs. OAK (Milone)
77. Derek Lowe, Indians: @TOR (Villanueva)
78. Jake Westbrook, Cardinals: @CIN (Cueto)
79. Lucas Harrell, Astros: @SF (Lincecum)
80. Luke Hochevar, Royals: vs. CHW (Peavy)
81. Jason Marquis, Padres: @LAD (Billingsley)
82. Drew Pomeranz, Rockies: vs. PHI (Hamels)
83. Freddy Garcia, Yankees: vs. LAA (Williams)
84. Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners: vs. TEX (Harrison)
85. Aaron Laffey, Blue Jays: vs. CLE (Jimenez)
86. Luis Mendoza, Royals: vs. CHW (Sale)
87. *Randy Wolf, Brewers: vs. PIT (Burnett)
88. Brian Duensing, Twins: vs. OAK (Parker)
89. Christian Friedrich, Rockies: vs. PHI (Lee)
90. Jeremy Guthrie, Rockies: vs. PHI (Worley)

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
Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:58 pm ET) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:44 pm ET) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:22 pm ET) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:01 pm ET) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:00 pm ET) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


Nationals sign pitcher Rich Hill to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Nationals signed pitcher Rich Hill to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Friday night

Hill spent time with the Angels and Yankees in 2014 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances. 

His career ERA is 4.72 over 10 years, which includes additional stops with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox and Indians. 


Tim Melville, Kyle Lobstein to start Monday and Tuesday for Tigers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:18 pm ET) Tigers coach Brad Ausmus announced that pitchers Tim Melville and Kyle Lobstein, respectively, will get starts in upcoming games on Monday and Tuesday, according to MLB.com

Melville will start in an exhibition between the Tigers and college team Florida Southern. Lobstein will start in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. 


 
 
 
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