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Plumbing the Depths for Week 17

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With the trade deadline approaching, several major league rotations are bound to get shuffled over the next couple of weeks. That will provide an opportunity for some minor leaguers to get a callup and claim a rotation spot, providing some fresh arms to insert into your deeper league Fantasy rotations.

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Until those reinforcements come, there are some more familiar names who are available on waivers who deserve a start for Fantasy Week 17 (July 23-29). This week's Plumbing the Depths highlights 10 starters who need to be claimed and/or activated in deeper mixed leagues and league-specific formats, as their recent trends and upcoming matchups make the coming week look like a productive one in Fantasy. Ubaldo Jimenez's presence among this week's group may look odd, as he is owned in many standard mixed leagues, but even in a two-start week he probably shouldn't be. Too often, Jimenez allows too many walks and homers to be useful, even in many deeper formats, but this time around he's worth a shot in some of the deeper mixed leagues in which he is currently benched.

Here is the lowdown on Jimenez and some of the other underused pitching options for deeper leagues, starting with those slated for two starts. All stats are current for games through Wednesday, July 18.

Deeper league two-start options

Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians:
Projected matchups: DET (Fister), @MIN (DeVries)
2012 stats: 8-8, 5.09 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 79 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 77/43
Outlook: Now that Jimenez is no longer a ground ball or a strikeout pitcher, he is far less effective, but he still has his uses depending on the matchup and venue. Jimenez sports a 3.66 ERA at pitcher-friendly Progressive Field, where he has allowed just four doubles (but also eight homers) all season. He could fare well at home against the Tigers, and Target Field might be a good venue for him as well. However, Jimenez is still having serious enough issues with control that he should not be made active in standard mixed leagues, even with a two-start week.

Lucas Harrell, Astros:
Projected matchups: CIN (Leake), PIT (McDonald)
2012 stats: 7-6, 4.43 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 69 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 26/19
Outlook: Among RP-eligible starting pitchers, Harrell has the fifth-most points in standard Head-to-Head leagues, so for points league owners, he may be more than just a deep league option in Week 17. Thanks in part to a series of favorable matchups, Harrell has shaved more than half a run off his ERA over his last four starts, and he can continue to help owners over his two starts next week. The Reds are a mediocre offensive team on the road and the Pirates are the majors' third-worst team at getting on base. Harrell has shown himself to be vulnerable against good lineups, but he rarely gets hit hard when faced with a favorable matchup. He is safe to start outside of standard and shallow mixed leagues for the coming scoring period.

Drew Pomeranz, Rockies:
Projected matchups: @ARI (Saunders), CIN (Latos)
2012 stats: 1-4, 3.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 32 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 25/12
Outlook: He is still not going very deep into games, but in his three starts since his recall from Triple-A, Pomeranz has been more efficient. In getting more whiffs and inducing more grounders when hitters do make contact, the one-time Ole Miss hurler has held batters to a .136 average in his last three turns. He has been helped by a six percent line drive rate in those starts, which he is highly unlikely to sustain, but the upturn in his skill ratios is a welcome sign. With a pair of potentially challenging matchups (yes, Cincy is weaker on the road, but this is Coors Field), Pomeranz is too risky to use in standard mixed leagues, but he is worth activating in just about any format deeper than that.

Joe Kelly, Cardinals:
Projected matchups: LAD (Billingsley), @CHC (Wood)
2012 stats: 1-2, 2.75 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 25 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 16/9
Outlook: If you guessed that the gap between Kelly's high WHIP and low ERA suggests that he has gotten out of his fair share of jams, then you guessed right. He has allowed hitters to amass a .272 batting average overall, but that marks drops to .222 over the 27 at-bats in which he has had two men or more on base. Even though Kelly's ERA is currently below 3.00, he is nowhere close to viable in standard mixed leagues, but he is also far from a last resort option in deeper leagues. His 51 percent ground ball rate should make him immune to the whims of the Wrigley Field climate zone, and he should master the Dodgers, who continue to have trouble scoring. Kelly is a must-start this coming week in all NL-only leagues as well as in some deeper mixed leagues.

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Tommy Hunter, Orioles:
Projected matchups: @CLE (Masterson), OAK (Colon)
2012 stats: 4-4, 5.71 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 46 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 3/1
Outlook: It's easy to overlook Hunter, as home runs have left him with some ugly Fantasy stats. The move to the AL East, with its souped-up lineups and hitter's parks, has not done Hunter any favors, but he has turned in some gems when he has pitched outside of the division. One of his better starts came back in April against the A's at home, and he'll get to face Oakland in Charm City once again next week. A trip to Cleveland also bodes well for Hunter, as he had not allowed a homer there in either of his previous starts there as a Ranger. Hunter is too volatile to trust outside of AL-only leagues, but he's widely available in those formats and worth starting for this two-start week.

Waiver wire targets

Carlos Villanueva, Blue Jays:
Projected matchups: DET (Porcello)
2012 stats: 4-0, 2.68 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 57 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 36/15
Outlook: Last season, Villanueva made 13 starts for Toronto, and it didn't go well. He posted a 5.15 ERA in those appearances, as he allowed too much contact and yielded a .284 batting average to opposing hitters. This time around, Villanueva is proving much tougher to hit, as he has maintained a 13 percent swinging strike rate, as opposed to the seven percent rate that he compiled in his 2011 starts. Granted, he has made only three starts so far, but it's impressive that he has achieved the feat against the Angels, Royals and Indians, three of the four best contact-hitting teams in the American League. Villanueva is still a little too wild to trust in shallower formats, but he needs to be active in far more than 15 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com going forward.

Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays:
Projected matchups: DET (Turner)
2012 stats: 5-7, 4.29 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 42 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 22/9
Outlook: Villanueva isn't the only Blue Jays pitcher who has been increasing his whiffs lately. After a contact-heavy start to the season, Alvarez has induced whiffs on seven percent of his pitches over his last six starts. That's still a bit below the major league average, but it's progress, as Alvarez's rate was just four percent over his first dozen starts. He is also getting more grounders, as his rate has inched up to 58 percent. Having posted quality starts against the Angels and Yankees over the past three weeks, Alvarez is starting to bear the fruits of his improving skill set. Alvarez's ownership and activation rates continue to be on the wane, but it's time for owners in deeper mixed leagues to start rostering and starting Alvarez once again.

Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks:
Projected matchups: NYM (Niese)
2012 stats: 1-2, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 57 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 9/3
Outlook: Collmenter's on-again, off-again relationship with the Arizona rotation is back on again. After being supplanted by Trevor Bauer, Collmenter reclaimed his starting gig with the demotion of Bauer back to Triple-A. To look at Collmenter's 2012 stats, you would think he was a radically different pitcher, getting more swinging strikes and ground balls, but those improvements were achieved during his stints as a reliever. Owners should expect the Collmenter they saw last year, which wasn't all that bad. He probably won't provide many strikeouts, but with few walks and a high popup rate, Collmenter should put up a good ERA and WHIP, even if he turns in the occasional clunker.

Luis Mendoza, Royals:
Projected matchups: @SEA (Vargas)
2012 stats: 3-6, 4.32 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 50 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 5/3
Outlook: None of Mendoza's first five starts this year were quality starts, but ever since notching his first one on June 12 against the Brewers, he has been notably reliable. Having recorded five quality starts in his last six tries, Mendoza has lowered his ERA by more than a run. Improved control has the been the key, as he has been throwing his two-seamer for strikes more often, and he has walked just 10 batters over his last 37 2/3 innings. Given that he pitches to contact, Mendoza can't afford to issue too many free passes if he is to succeed. Between his recent improvement and a favorable upcoming matchup -- the Mariners don't hit much or draw a lot of walks -- Mendoza is a solid start for owners in AL-only leagues this coming week.

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Ross Ohlendorf, Padres:
Projected matchups: @MIA (Sanchez)
2012 stats: 3-0, 5.87 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 20 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 1/0
Outlook: For the better part of the last year and a half, Ohlendorf has either been hurt or ineffective. However, his strong performance against the Astros on Tuesday was a reminder of what he can be: a decent starting option for owners in league-specific formats. Strong flyball tendencies can be a liability for Ohlendorf, but he couldn't have landed in a better rotation than the Padres', as he gets to make his home starts at PETCO Park. Marlins Park isn't a bad spot either, and that's where Ohlendorf will ply his craft in Week 17. He is worth a flyer, especially with a start against a struggling Marlins squad.

Vulnerable rotation spots

Mets: The Matt Harvey Era in Flushing will have to wait, as the Mets will send Miguel Batista to the mound on Saturday to face the Dodgers, filling the vacancy left by Dillon Gee (shoulder). However, the team considered calling up Harvey for the start, and the New York Post reported that Harvey could be recalled as soon as next week. If Batista does not fare well this weekend, there is a chance Harvey will make his big league debut on July 26 at Arizona. The 23-year-old prospect is still availale in more than four-fifths of our leagues, but the time is now to pick him up for your deeper mixed league and NL-only rosters.

White Sox: The Pale Hose will need a starter for Monday's game against the Twins, but it's not yet clear who will fill the vacancy. Dylan Axelrod is the most likely candidate, but he is currently in the bullpen. Should Axelrod be sufficiently rested to get the call on Monday, he would be worth using in AL-only leagues. However, because the White Sox have a day off on Thursday, he would likely be skipped for his next turn, precluding a two-start week.

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
Rangers 1B Mitch Moreland won't play spring games until next week
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:36 pm ET) Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland will run the bases on Tuesday, and won't seen any spring games until next week, according to the Star-Telegram. Texas is taking a cautious approach with Moreland in camp after he underwent ankle surgery last June.

The 29-year-old Moreland hit .246/.297/.347 over 167 at-bats last year.


Blue Jays' Gibbons yet to settle on closer, could use committee
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday that while Brett Cecil has the ability to close, he might not serve as the team's closer, the National Post reports.

"He could do it. He might not. It might be somebody else," Gibbons said.

The manager also raised the possibility of using multiple closers.

"It could be one of those deals where one night he might be closing, the other night he might have to come in at the end of the seventh or eighth inning," Gibbons said.

Despite the face that Gibbons hasn't deemed Cecil his closer, he did praise his pitching ability Tuesday.

"He’s got some overpowering stuff," Gibbons said. "He’s a lefty and I don’t think there’s a better curveball out there. He can throw it for strikes, he can bring it down low in the zone and bounce it for a strikeout. That’s kind of his go-to pitch. He doesn’t rattle. He’s pretty confident and calm when he’s out there."

Cecil went 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA, 76:27 K:BB ratio and five saves in 53 1/3 innings in 2014. He owns a 11.1 career K/9 rate in relief.


White Sox's Geovany Soto feeling good at the start of spring games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) White Sox catcher Geovany Soto said he is feeling good after being limited to 78 games the last two seasons due to injuries. He missed time in 2014 because of arthroscopic surgery on his left foot and a torn meniscus in his right knee.

"I love where I'm at," Soto said, per The Chicago Tribune. "My legs feel great. My whole body feels great. I'm just anxious to get started and show these guys what I can do, hopefully stay healthy and break camp."


Dodgers' Mattingly: Hyun-Jin Ryu's (back) next step will be BP
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:22 pm ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters that starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu came out of Monday's bullpen session "fine," and that his next step will likely be throwing batting practice, according to SB Nation.

Ryu is dealing with a back injury, but has been throwing the last couple of days without pain. At this point, Ryu remains without a timetable for his first spring game. He went 14-7 in 2014 with a 3.38 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 152 innings pitched last season.


Hinch: Astros 'likely' to use seven-man bullpen in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Astros manager A.J. Hinch indicated that the team is likely to use a seven-man bullpen this season, leaving two spots open for competition this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"Likely," Hinch said of a seven-man bullpen. "There’s always a chance that (changes) depending on how the schedule plays out, and there’s always a debate on how many pitchers to carry during interleague. Now interleague is pretty much year round, so I mean, in a perfect world with our roster, it’s likely to carry a seven-man ‘pen. If we feel like we need an extra pitcher or injury happens, there’s different ways to shape our roster, then we will, but likely 12."

The two open spots will likely be filled by a left-handed pitcher and a long reliever. The competition for the second lefty in the pen likely comes down to Kevin Chapman and nonroster invitees Joe Thatcher and Darin Downs. The long relief role has a broader list of candidates, including Alex White and Asher Wojciechowski, who will prepare both as starters and relievers.

"We’re going to stretch out a lot of our guys," Hinch said. "Some of them are because they’re competing in that fifth starter spot, some of them are bullpen guys. Will Harris is going to throw multiple innings. Obviously (Sam) Deduno has been a starter in the past, he’s in a competition for the fifth man spot. Wojo, White, those guys are going to need to, going to plan for the season on both fronts, whether it’s a starter or reliever. But we’re preaching multiple innings. It’s important if you have a seven-man bullpen that you have a couple of guys that can get four, five, six outs if needed and be a bridge to the rest of the bullpen."


Rangers' Tolleson: 'I'd like to be that bridge' between starters, closers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson told reporters he would like to become the link between the starting rotation and back-end relievers Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz this season, according to the Dallas Morning News.

"I would like to be that bridge," Tolleson said.

Tolleson led the club with 71 2/3 innings of relief last season. He pitched more than one inning 20 times and held left-handed hitters to a .282 on-base percentage.

"He's got the skill set to be one of those that we use in the latter portions of the game," manager Jeff Banister said. "He seems to love the competition."


Nationals faced with tough decision regarding Michael Taylor
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:10 pm ET) The Nationals are faced with a tough decision when it comes to outfield prospect Michael Taylor, who appears to be on the cusp of being ready for a regular role at the major-league level.

A major issue is playing time since the Nationals have a starting outfield of Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Denard Span. Taylor would be a solid fourth outfielder, but having him coming off the bench is not ideal for his development.

“It’s the same age-old decision that must be made regarding guys that are just on the cusp of being big-league ready and everyday players,” manager Matt Williams said, per NatsInsider.com. “And a question of depth on your team, too. … It’s a question of depth on your team, it’s a question of how much playing time they’re really going to get, and are they better served staying in the minor leagues and getting those at-bats until their opportunity arises. But Mike’s close. He’s really close.”


Nationals' Aaron Barrett: 'I'm ready for a full season'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Aaron Barrett worked on strengthening his shoulder and legs in the offseason to improve his longevity throughout the entire season. Barrett admitted he wasn't used to a full major-league schedule, which contributed to him feeling "tired" in the middle of his rookie season.

"I'm ready for a full season," Barrett said. "Last year was a long season for me. It was my first year up. I had a lot of appearances, a lot of warm-ups and stuff like that. I think that is part of the process of coming up and working on that. I did as much training as I possibly could for this year."


Daniel Descalso brings versatility, playoff experience to Rockies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Rockies infielder Daniel Descalso is ready to fill the role of versatile veteran who can play second base, third base or shortstop as needed, the Denver Post reports.

"I'll be ready for whatever comes my way," Descalso said Monday. "It's been a while since I've played just one position for any length of time, so I've worked hard to reach a comfort level at all three spots. I have an idea of what it takes to stay sharp."

Another factor that piqued the interest of the Rockies this offseason was his postseason experience, as he has played in 44 postseason games and won one championship.

"All of that factored in quite a bit," manager Walt Weiss said. "I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that's a big reason why we brought Danny in here."

Descalso has made 110 starts at second base, 91 at third base and 88 at shortstop in his five-year career, seeing at least 100 appearances at all three poitions. He hit .242/.333/.311 in 161 at-bats last year with the Cardinals.


Francona: Jason Kipnis likely to make spring debut this weekend
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:02 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday second baseman Jason Kipnis (hand) will likely make his spring debut this weekend, per MLB.com.

 
 
 
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