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Top 70 starters for Week 18

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Early trades have cleared up some of the confusion owners might have faced regarding their rotations heading into Fantasy Week 18 (July 30-August 5). We now know Zack Greinke is an Angel, Wandy Rodriguez is a Pirate and Anibal Sanchez is a Tiger, so we can have confidence in knowing what their matchups will be for the coming scoring period.

We also know that Francisco Liriano is a member of the White Sox's rotation, but owners of Liriano and other members of Robin Ventura's rotation still have to deal with some uncertainty. As of this writing, Liriano's next start had not been scheduled, and it's not yet clear whether the White Sox will trade a starter, move one to the bullpen or stick with a six-man unit. For the purposes of this week's top 70, I have assumed Liriano will start Monday at Minnesota, the rest of the rotation will get bumped back a day and that a six-man rotation will be in play for now. Keep tabs on developments that could unfold before Monday's lineup deadline (first pitch is 7:05 p.m. ET), as the matchups for the White Sox's pitchers and their opponents could easily be different from those posted here.

As it stands, though, these are the 70 starting pitchers whom owners in standard mixed leagues will be able to trust for the week ahead.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 18
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 David Price @OAK (Griffin) BAL (Gonzalez) 28 percent flyball rate
The A's have become a surprise power threat and they lead the majors in team flyball rate, but Price is boasting the lowest flyball rate of his career by far.
2 Stephen Strasburg PHI (Lee) MIA (Nolasco) 2 BBs or fewer in eight of last 10 starts
Not only does Strasburg's strikeout rate lead the majors, but he is also consistently stingy with free passes.
3 Cliff Lee @WAS (Strasburg) ARI (Cahill) 21 percent called strike rate
Though Lee's whiff rate is down this season, he continues to get nearly a strikeout per inning, because he remains one of the game's best at getting called strikes.
4 Clayton Kershaw CHC (Maholm) N/A Opponents' .343 SLG vs. righties
Kershaw has actually been a little better at limiting extra-base hits against right-handed hitters, so he should be able to neutralize Alfonso Soriano as well as Anthony Rizzo.
5 Madison Bumgarner NYM (Hefner) @COL (Francis) Career 2.84 ERA at COL
Coors Field has presented few problems for Bumgarner, as he has allowed only a single earned run there over his two most recent starts.
6 CC Sabathia SEA (Millwood) N/A 49 Ks, 10 BBs over last 47 2/3 innings
Sabathia hasn't been going quite as deep into games lately, but he has still been outstanding for the most part, posting a 2.59 ERA over his six starts just prior to Saturday's outing against Boston.
7 Justin Verlander @BOS (Beckett) N/A 4 HRs allowed in 69 2/3 home innings
Verlander's mild flyball tendencies have hurt him in a few of his road starts, but he has been able to avoid homers at Comerica Park.
8 Cole Hamels @WAS (Detwiler) N/A 7.1 innings per start, last seven starts
Hamels has been unusually wild during this recent stretch, but he has been effectively so, as he continues to give his owners innings, strikeouts and a low ERA.
9 Jered Weaver @TEX (Oswalt) @CHW (Humber) 6.2 K/9 in road starts
Weaver not only allows more homers on the road, but he's a below-average strikeout pitcher as well. He can still be your ace for this week, but even with two starts, he's more of a borderline one.
10 Jake Peavy @MIN (Diamond) N/A 4.8 K/BB ratio vs. lefties
Peavy hasn't dominated lefties to the degree he has with righties, but he's limited them to a .299 on-base percentage due to a lack of walks. That will help against the Twins.
11 Gio Gonzalez MIA (Buehrle) N/A 9 Ks in six innings vs. MIA
Gonzalez stymied the Marlins' hitters in his start against them earlier this month, and they have been striking out a high pace in general over the last several weeks.
12 Matt Cain NYM (Niese) N/A 4.05 ERA over last seven starts
Cain's numbers have not been impressive since he tossed his perfect game, but most of the damage had been sustained in two aberrant performances (10 line drives allowed vs. CIN, three home runs allowed at PHI).
13 R.A. Dickey @SD (Richard) N/A .404 BABIP over last five appearances
Dickey has slogged through a disappointing July with a 6.49 ERA, even though he avoided contact at a good rate. Some bad luck on balls in play may have played a role.
14 Chris Sale LAA (Greinke) N/A 11 percent swinging strike rate, last two starts
Sale has had trouble with stranding runners over his last two starts, but he has actually taken his whiff rate up a notch.
15 Johnny Cueto SD (Ohlendorf) N/A 76 percent quality start rate since 2011
Like Jered Weaver, Cueto can be used every week in every format despite a below-average strikeout rate due to his consistency and efficiency.
16 Zack Greinke @CHW (Sale) N/A 1.64 ERA at CHW, last three starts
For his first start back in the AL, Greinke gets a familiar foe and he will go to a venue where he has had success in his most recent starts.
17 Felix Hernandez @NYY (Kuroda) N/A Career 1.47 ERA at Yankee Stadium
Hernandez hasn't been getting much run support, but even at Yankee Stadium, owners can count on him to do everything possible to hold up his end of the bargain.
18 Clay Buchholz DET (Scherzer) MIN (De Vries) 7.1 K/9 over last eight starts
Over the past three years, Buchholz built his value by avoiding line drive base hits, but of late, he's just done a better job of avoiding contact altogether.
19 Roy Halladay ARI (Saunders) N/A 1.27 WHIP over last two starts
Since returning from the DL, Halladay's WHIP has not been up to par, but it hasn't been as awful as his 6.55 ERA. It's unlikely that he'll allow nearly half of his baserunners to score going forward, and his WHIP should improve as well.
20 Mike Leake SD (Volquez) PIT (McDonald) 4.46 ERA, last seven home starts
Home runs have spoiled many of Leake's home starts this season, and while the Pirates can pack a punch at the plate, the Padres have the third-fewest homers in the majors.
21 Max Scherzer @BOS (Buchholz) CLE (Lowe) 11 percent popup rate
Not only has Scherzer missed a lot more bats this season, but improved popup and line drive rates have made a real difference in his Fantasy value.
22 Jordan Zimmermann MIA (Johnson) N/A 72 percent strikes thrown, last four starts
Zimmermann's command just keeps getting better, as he has struck out 22 batters over his last 24 innings while walking only two.
23 Adam Wainwright MIL (Rogers) N/A 61 Ks over last 58 1/3 innings
Wainwright has really started to hit his stride, as he is now striking out batters at a rate that is even higher than his pre-Tommy John surgery norm.
24 Ben Sheets MIA (Zambrano) N/A 40 percent ground ball rate
Sheets may be fortunate to have not allowed a home run yet, but his luck could continue against the Marlins, who have left the park only 11 times over the last 15 days.
25 Josh Johnson @WAS (Zimmermann) N/A 1.19 WHIP in July
Johnson has fallen flat in Fantasy this past month, but most of his supporting stats have been strong. As his good WHIP suggests, he just needs to strand more runners, and his track record shows that he can.
26 Yovani Gallardo HOU (Keuchel) N/A 2 BBs over last 17 2/3 innings
Walks have been a problem at times for Gallardo, but he's been throwing strikes at a much higher rate over his last three starts.
27 Roy Oswalt LAA (Weaver) @KC (Smith) 10 percent swinging strike rate
The increase in Oswalt's K-rate appears to be legitimate, as he is getting more swings-and-misses than he did a season ago.
28 C.J. Wilson @TEX (Harrison) N/A Career 3.97 ERA at TEX
As a top 20 Fantasy starter, Wilson deserves to be used every week, but he has a long record of merely pedestrian production when pitching in Arlington, so he gets a downgrade this week.
29 A.J. Burnett @CHC (Dempster) N/A 20 Ks over last 28 1/3 innings
Burnett's strikeout pace has slowed down over his recent starts, but his improved control and stronger ground ball tendencies have made him a more effective pitcher this year, even without the Ks.
30 Ian Kennedy @PHI (Blanton) N/A 2.42 ERA over last three starts
Kennedy is no longer encumbered by the high BABIP that plagued him prior to the All-Star break, and we're once again seeing the Cy Young candidate who emerged last season.
31 Mike Fiers HOU (Lyles) N/A Seven straight quality starts
Though Fiers has overperformed during his quality start streak, he is good enough at avoiding contact and walks to be a must-start option in nearly all formats.
32 A.J. Griffin TB (Price) TOR (Romero) 29 percent called strike rate on curveballs
Griffin's upper-60s curveball is baffling hitters, who are frequently taking it for a called strike. That's helping him to maintain a decent strikeout rate without overwhelming stuff.
33 Doug Fister CLE (Jimenez) N/A 67 percent strikes thrown, last eight starts
Earlier this season, Fister's command was merely average, but now he is back to his extreme strike-throwing ways.
34 Hiroki Kuroda SEA (Hernandez) N/A 15 percent line drive rate
Kuroda's consistent avoidance of liners, along with his pinpoint control, allows him to post low ERAs and WHIPs every year, even though he's not especially averse to contact.
35 Tommy Hanson MIA (Buehrle) HOU (Harrell) 31 Ks over last 28 1/3 innings
Wildness has gotten the better of Hanson over his last three starts, but over a longer stretch, he has shown that he can still be relied upon to help with strikeouts.
36 Anibal Sanchez CLE (Masterson) N/A 2 ER in seven innings vs. CLE on May 19
Sanchez had a rough debut for the Tigers, but the Indians should be an easier matchup than the Blue Jays, and he has had success against them already this year.
37 Dan Haren @TEX (Darvish) N/A Opponents' .182 Avg, last two starts
Since coming back from the DL, Haren has mostly avoided hard contact, looking much more like the pitcher he had been over the previous five seasons.
38 Tommy Milone TB (Shields) TOR (Laffey) 1 HR allowed in 59 2/3 home innings
Even in the likely event that Milone fails to maintain a sub-1.00 home ERA, he's been good enough at home that he is a must-start whenever he has a pair of outings at O.co Coliseum.
39 James Shields @OAK (Milone) N/A .403 BABIP over last six starts
Shields is getting Ks, avoiding walks and not even giving up too many homers, yet he has been saddled with a 5.80 ERA since June 28. It doesn't add up, and he's due for better things any time now.
40 Francisco Liriano @MIN (De Vries) N/A 5 BBs over last 16 2/3 innings
Liriano finally had a meltdown in his most recent start, but we can't blame the usual culprit: wildness. He's been throwing strikes at an above-average rate over his last three outings and could continue to do so when he opposes his former team this week.
41 Jonathon Niese @SF (Cain) N/A 7 quality starts in last 10 tries
When Niese has been bad, he has been awful, but far more often than not, he's been outstanding.
42 Mat Latos PIT (Rodriguez) N/A 15 percent called strike rate, last three starts
A lack of called strikes has put a damper on Latos' K-rate lately, but the free-swinging Pirates could help him to get back on track.
43 Yu Darvish LAA (Haren) N/A Opponents' .198 Avg vs. righties
Darvish has been shutting right-handed hitters down and that is going to make life tough for the top four batters in the Angels' order.
44 Jon Lester MIN (Deduno) N/A .204 flyball BABIP
Lester has a history of giving up a high rate of flyball base hits, and Fenway Park likely plays a role, but the Twins -- who have the majors' lowest flyball rate -- could give Lester a break from the trend.
45 Ryan Dempster PIT (Burnett) N/A Opponents' .479 SLG, last two starts
This may or may not be Dempster's matchup for the week, so I've gone a little conservative on the ranking. However, the 14 line drives and three homers he has allowed over his two most recent starts are also a bit concerning.
46 Kyle Lohse @COL (Francis) MIL (Estrada) 1 HR allowed in 21 career innings at COL
As a contact pitcher, Lohse is at risk with any visit to Coors Field, but he escaped his start there last season with just two runs over six innings.
47 Ivan Nova BAL (Tillman) N/A 3.38 ERA over last three home starts
Most of Nova's starts over the past two months have been on the road, but he's had a little more success at home during that span than he did earlier in the season.
48 Chris Capuano ARI (Miley) N/A 3.5 K/BB at home
Capuano's 1.64 home ERA isn't just about a lower home run rate; his strikeout and walk rates have also been better at Dodger Stadium.
49 Mark Buehrle @ATL (Hanson) @WAS (Gonzalez) 1.19 road WHIP
Buehrle has been homer-prone on the road, but his aversion to walks follows him wherever he goes, making him helpful with WHIP in any given start.
50 Jeff Samardzija @LAD (Billingsley) N/A 1.91 ERA in July
Samardzija just completed a highly successful month, but his most recent start, in which he walked six Cardinals, shows that he is still too erratic to view as a must-start in all formats.
51 Josh Beckett DET (Verlander) MIN (Blackburn) No home runs allowed over last 74 innings
Beckett's command has been erratic over the past month, but it's been two-and-a-half months since he last coughed up a home run, and a higher ground ball rate has played a role, albeit a small one.
52 Clayton Richard NYM (Dickey) N/A 1.14 home WHIP
Richard's last two home starts weren't very good, but his control is still sharp, and he can help with WHIP and innings.
53 Matt Moore BAL (Hunter) N/A 3.6 BB/9 at home
Moore has been much more effective in his home starts, as his walk rate has been much closer to normal at the Trop than at other venues.
54 Trevor Cahill @LAD (Harang) @PHI (Lee) 2.91 road ERA
Some of Cahill's success on the road is the result of BABIP fluctuations, but a substantially lower home run rate away from Chase Field has made a difference, too.
55 Justin Masterson @DET (Sanchez) N/A 17 double plays induced
Masterson gets himself into trouble with walks and sometimes has trouble stranding the runners he puts on, but he also gets out of jams by way of the double play.
56 Jeremy Hellickson BAL (Chen) N/A 11 percent popup rate in July
Hellickson isn't striking out very many hitters, but he has a 3.33 ERA for the month because he is back to getting oodles of easy flyball outs.
57 Phil Hughes BAL (Britton) N/A Seven innings or more in five of last six starts
Hughes is still too prone to giving up the long ball, but he's been effective enough overall that it's not knocking him out of games early.
58 Mike Minor MIA (Eovaldi) N/A 26 Ks, 4 BBs over last 27 1/3 innings
Minor has been hitting the strike zone with more consistency, and while he remains a home run risk, he should be safe to use against the anemic Marlins' offense.
59 Ryan Vogelsong @COL (Sanchez) N/A 1.0 HR/9 on the road since 2011
Vogelsong has been more vulnerable to homers away from AT&T Park, so while he has generally been reliable on the road, he could find trouble in the thin air of Colorado.
60 James McDonald @CIN (Leake) N/A 29 percent flyball rate in July (per FanGraphs)
McDonald's recent struggles have been more about finding the strike zone than about flyball tendencies, so he has a chance to turn things around at Great American Ball Park.
61 Tim Hudson HOU (Galarraga) N/A .084 Isolated Power over last four starts
Hudson is getting very few strikeouts lately, but he is as good as ever at getting grounders and clamping down on extra-base hits.
62 Derek Holland LAA (Santana) @KC (Hochevar) Opponents' .347 SLG vs. lefties
Holland's mastery of lefties won't help him much against the Angels, but it should make for a long day for the Royals' Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer and -- if he can play -- Mike Moustakas.
63 Homer Bailey SD (Marquis) PIT (Bedard) 34 Ks over last 37 2/3 innings
Bailey is often a risk to start at home, but he's been ratcheting up his strikeout rate. With the whiff-happy Padres and Pirates coming to town, owners should take advantage of the matchups.
64 Marco Estrada HOU (Norris) @STL (Lohse) 41 Ks over last 31 2/3 innings
Estrada may be the new Max Scherzer, offering owners strikeouts by the bushel, but also potentially putting the ERA category at risk. He's worth the gamble with an upcoming matchup against the Astros.
65 Wade Miley @LAD (Capuano) N/A Opponents' .307 OBP, last three starts
Miley was in a brief lull prior to the All-Star break, but ever since, he has been back on his game. In addition to exhibiting great control, he has been bumping up his whiff rate.
66 Aaron Harang ARI (Cahill) CHC (Garza) Opponents' .203 Avg, last six starts
It's unlikely that Harang can continue to limit base hits at his recent rate, but he's been in a legitimate groove, popping up batters on nearly one of every six hit balls over the last five weeks.
67 Erik Bedard @CHC (Germano) @CIN (Bailey) 21 percent called strike rate
Bedard's average fastball velocity has fallen below 90 mph this year, but an increase in his called strike rate has helped him to remain a strikeout pitcher.
68 Jason Vargas TOR (Laffey) N/A 1.65 ERA over last six starts
Vargas has played exclusively in pitcher-friendly parks during his hot streak, but he can extend it with a start at Safeco Field in Week 18.
69 Jarrod Parker TB (Cobb) N/A 2.28 home ERA
Parker has stumbled in recent weeks, but a home start against a power-starved Rays club should make for a productive week.
70 Lance Lynn @COL (Friedrich) N/A 1.19 GB/FB ratio, last seven starts
Lynn was having a good month before Friday's blowup at Wrigley Field, but the combination of a recent decrease in grounders and a trip to Coors Field makes him a risky play for the coming 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
Reds sign Brennan Boesch to minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Reds have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Boesch, 29, is a career .256/.309/.412 hitter over five seasons for the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.

He was in the minors for most of last season, hitting .332 with 25 homers for the Angels Triple-A affiliate. 


Royals acquire infielder Ryan Jackson from Dodgers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Royals have acquired infielder Ryan Jackson from the Dodgers for cash considerations. Jackson was out for most of last season with a wrist injury. 

Jackson hit .278 with 34 RBI at Triple-A Memphis, playing 122 games at shortstop and third base in 2013.


Report: Talks break down between Yanks, Phils about Rollins deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Yankees and Phillies reportedly discussed a deal for 35-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins before talks broke down, according to ESPN reporter Jayson Stark.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Rollins is "one of the best shortstops in baseball still" but wouldn't confirm Yankees interest in the veteran. Amaro also said Rollins is "somebody we want on our club and would be very hard to replace."

Rollins is due $11 million this season and his contract is up at the end of 2015. Rollins hit .243 with 55 RBI and stole 28 bases in 2014. 


Padres' Blaine Boyer clears waivers, heads for free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Padres right-handed pitcher Blaine Boyer cleared waivers Wednesday and will enter free agency, according to U-T San Diego. Boyer was designated for assignment last week.

Boyer appeared in 32 games last season for the Padres and posted a 3.57 ERA. 


Rays designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have designated 29-year-old Sean Rodriguez for assignment. 

Rodriguez hit .211 with 12 home runs last season. 


Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa clear waivers, released by Rays
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released by the Rays Wednesday. 

Both Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment Thursday. Molina, 39, hit .178 over 225 at-bats last year, while Figueroa hit .233 in 43 at-bats. 


Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


Yankees' Sabathia confident he can return to being 200-inning pitcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia continues to deliver positive updates coming off July knee surgery.

"The knee, I have no complaints," Sabathia told YES Network. "I’m able to do all of my workouts. … I’m changing a few things. Not as much pounding and running. I’m in the pool a lot, on different machines to get cardio, (on the) bike. Just adding a few different things to get some cardio in."

Despite coming off surgery and being limited to eight starts (46 innings) in 2014, Sabathia feels he can get back to being a 30-start, 200-inning pitcher in 2015.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I can. If you asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ but the way I’m feeling now and being able to work out, definitely."


Report: Indians expressing interest in Kendrys Morales
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) The Indians have expressed inerest in DH/first baseman Kendrys Morales

Morales, who split time between the Twins and Mariners last season, hit .218 with 42 RBI.


Brewers' Ryan Braun 'cautiously optimistic' coming off thumb surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11/26/2014) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is optimistic coming off October thumb surgery. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a nerve.

"It definitely worked," Braun said Wednesday, per MLB.com. "It makes a huge difference."

Braun swung a bat 10 days after the procedure and was happy the pain in his thumb was gone.

"Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years," he said. "I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited."

While Braun is definitely optimistic, he is also a bit cautious because he isn't in the grind of playing baseball every day. He has received full clearance, however, for all offseason activities.

"I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into spring training and see how it responds," Braun said. "But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time."


 
 
 
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