The thing about pitching sleepers for deeper leagues is that, if they are any good, they don't sleep for long.
Previously unheralded pitchers like Mike Minor, Ross Detwiler and Bartolo Colon had been sneaky pickups for owners in larger Fantasy formats, but due to their sustained success, they are now all but unavailable in those leagues. The parade of new sleepers never ends, though, so while this week's Plumbing the Depths features some repeat guests, like Clayton Richard and Luke Hochevar, first-timers like Blake Beavan and Jason Marquis are also among the pitchers who could help to freshen up your deep-league rotation.
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While not every pitcher featured this week is necessarily a good start in every deep format for Fantasy Week 20 (August 13-19), each is worth starting in league-specific formats, and each should be owned in a larger share of leagues than he is currently a part of. All stats are current for games through Wednesday, August 8.
Deeper league two-start options
Clayton Richard, Padres
Projected matchups: @ATL (Hudson), SF (Vogelsong)
2012 stats: 9-11, 3.79 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 85 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 45/27
Outlook: Richard will almost certainly be on the top 70 list of starting pitchers for Week 20, signifying that he is safe to use outside of deeper leagues, but he qualifies for this list as well. With an ownership rate of only 45 percent, Richard is unowned in many deeper mixed leagues, but especially with a two-start week on the horizon, he should be owned in all such formats. Richard's low ERA (3.05) and WHIP (1.12) at PETCO Park makes him worth starting just for his second start alone, so any production you get from his outing in Atlanta will be gravy.
Blake Beavan, Mariners
Projected matchups: TB (Cobb), MIN (Deduno)
2012 stats: 7-6, 5.12 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 50 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 24/15
Outlook: As a flyball-prone, pitch-to-contact type, you would think that Beavan would be perfectly suited for Safeco Field, but his 4.58 home ERA suggests otherwise. However, Beavan has been better at home than that mark indicates, as five of his seven home outings have been quality starts. In fact, if you exclude a single horrific start against the Dodgers, Beavan's home ERA shrinks to a much more respectable 3.38. The Rays in particular should make Week 20 a productive one for the second-year hurler, as their sluggish offense has gotten into a deeper rut recently. While there are plenty of better options for standard mixed league owners, Beavan needs to be picked up and started in most deeper leagues.
Alex Cobb, Rays
Projected matchups: @SEA (Beavan), @LAA (Wilson)
2012 stats: 6-8, 4.32 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 62 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 19/11
Outlook: Cobb has done a superb job of inducing grounders ever since joining the Rays' rotation in May, but shaky command had left him lacking as a contributor in Fantasy. Over his last three starts, he has started to turn his season around, throwing 71 percent of his pitches for strikes and issuing only one walk over 21 innings. Luck has also looked more kindly upon Cobb lately, as he has been reversing unfavorable strand and BABIP rates. With Jeff Niemann (leg) due to return within a couple of weeks, Cobb probably doesn't have much more time left as a starter, but at least for the coming week, he needs to be started in any format deeper than a standard mixed league.
Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays
Projected matchups: CHW (Quintana), TEX (Harrison)
2012 stats: 7-8, 4.47 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 49 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 21/10
Outlook: Alvarez has alternated brilliant starts with poor ones over the last several weeks, and that inconsistency makes him a less desirable option than Richard, Beavan or Cobb. However, it could be a good enough two-start week for Alvarez that he could help owners in a much larger swath of mixed leagues than he is currently owned in. It will help that he gets a pair of home starts, even if they're against some tough competition, as Alvarez's command has been sharper when pitching in Toronto. That has enabled him to pitch six innings or more in nine of his 11 home starts.
Jeremy Guthrie, Royals
Projected matchups: OAK (Colon), CHW (Quintana)
2012 stats: 4-12, 6.10 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 63 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 5/1
Outlook: With good control and a penchant for popups, it seemed a shame that Guthrie's escape from the AL East landed him in Coors Field this past offseason. With his subsequent trade to Kansas City, it appeared that Guthrie had finally landed with a team whose ballpark was well-suited for him. Guthrie's first start at Kauffman Stadium -- a five-inning affair against the Twins -- did not go well, but he was much more effective in his second start against the Rangers. Guthrie's most recent turn on Wednesday at Chicago was even more encouraging, as he held the White Sox scoreless for eight innings, pounding the strike zone and inducing five infield flies. While it's never a good idea to make too much out of back-to-back starts, there are enough reasons for AL-only owners to trust Guthrie with a pair of home starts. All mixed league owners should sit this one out, but they should keep an eye on Guthrie this week to see if he has potential for future weeks.
Waiver wire targets
Luke Hochevar, Royals
Projected matchups: OAK (McCarthy)
2012 stats: 7-9, 5.04 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 93 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 21/8
Outlook: Hochevar is at it again. He has quietly posted a 3.48 ERA over his last 10 starts and is giving us reason once again to ask if he is in the midst of a breakout. We've seen Hochevar perform well over extended stretches before, only to eventually lapse into mediocrity -- or worse. Because Hochevar has let Fantasy owners down before, it would be easy to dismiss his recent stretch, but the truth is that he was not going to continue to be as bad as he was over the season's first two months. He was capable of better command and stronger ground ball tendencies, and he has delievered those since mid-June. Hochevar has had long-standing issues with not stranding baserunners, so a mid-3.00s ERA represents his upside, but he is worth owning and starting in far more leagues than he is currently.
J.A. Happ, Blue Jays
Projected matchups: TEX (Darvish)
2012 stats: 7-10, 4.98 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 110 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 16/6
Outlook: Happ is getting nearly an extra inch of sink on his sinker this year, according to PitchFX data, yet it hasn't helped him to lower his ERA or WHIP much. While the increased movement has helped Happ to add 11 percentage points to his ground ball rate, his HR/9 ratio is actually higher than it was last year. If that were the end of the story, we might just look at Happ's history of high homer rates and disregard his souped-up sinker, but he is also getting batters to chase pitches out of the zone and swing and miss at career-high rates. A home start against the Rangers might not be the best time to start Happ, at least outside of AL-only leagues, but he is worth a pickup in deeper mixed leagues.
Jason Marquis, Padres
Projected matchups: @ATL (Medlen)
2012 stats: 7-10, 5.47 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 78 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 10/4
Outlook: With the season-to-date stats that Marquis is carrying (see above), you may wonder why owners in 10 percent of our leagues are bothering with him. As a Padre, though, Marquis owns a more palatable 4.10 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. If those numbers don't excite you, wait...there's more! In his 12 starts with San Diego, Marquis' K/9 rate is a robust 8.0. Sure, that rate is completely out of character, but owners may be able to buy into the slightly higher rate (8.4) from his home starts, as batters tend to strike out at a higher rate when playing at PETCO Park. Marquis won't have that advantage in Week 20, when he pitches at Turner Field, but Marquis is still worth a pickup for his future starts in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only formats.
Miguel Gonzalez, Orioles
Projected matchups: BOS (Doubront)
2012 stats: 3-2, 3.80 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 40 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 8/4
Outlook: For someone who was largely unknown a month ago, Gonzalez's ERA, WHIP and K-rate are fairly impressive, and he deserves even more attention than his current numbers would merit. If you subtract out the stats from his July 25 outing against the Rays -- a start he made despite being ill -- Gonzalez is left with a 2.62 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. Granted, he has benefited from a 79 percent strand rate that should shrink over time, but Gonzalez's ability to get batters to fan is legitimate. At minimum, Gonzalez is a must-start in AL-only leagues, and deeper mixed league owners are missing out on a pitcher who could help them more than some of the arms they currently have rostered.
Brian Duensing, Twins
Projected matchups: DET (Fister)
2012 stats: 2-7, 4.46 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 39 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 2/1
Outlook: Two years removed from Duensing's surprisingly robust 2010 season, we can now look back and view his 3.04 ERA as a starter as a classic case of a small sample fluke. Just because Duensing isn't as good as he appeared to be then doesn't mean he is completely devoid of Fantasy value now. Over his three most recent turns in the rotation, Duensing has displayed the reliable control and ability to induce grounders that allowed him to enjoy success earlier in his career. He clearly fits the mold of the prototypical contact pitcher -- a type that the Twins seem to favor -- and that limits his Fantasy appeal to deeper leagues. However, as long as Duensing remains in the rotation, he is worth starting on a weekly basis in AL-only leagues.
Vulnerable rotation spots
Braves: Tommy Hanson could return to the Braves' rotation as soon as Wednesday, and that will leave manager Fredi Gonzalez with a tough decision. Having made just two starts to date, Kris Medlen would appear to be the most likely choice to send to the bullpen, but Gonzalez has said that he would consider keeping a six-man rotation, at least through the end of August.
Red Sox: MLB.com reports Franklin Morales will be rejoining the Red Sox's rotation after making a successful spot start last Sunday against the Twins. Manager Bobby Valentine has not yet decided whose spot Morales will take, but he has said that he will stick with a five-man rotation. Aaron Cook and Felix Doubront are the most obvious members of the current rotation to be replaced.
Indians: Roberto Hernandez will make a rehab start for Triple-A Columbus on Friday, and that would put him on track to return to the Indians' rotation on Wednesday at the Angels. That start currently belongs to Chris Seddon, and he would appear to be the most likely candidate for a demotion, though Corey Kluber's job could also be in jeopardy.
Rockies: Jhoulys Chacin could return in Week 20 if his rehab start for Triple-A Colorado Springs goes without incident. The Denver Post reports that Chacin will take Tyler Chatwood's spot in the Rockies' rotation when he is ready to return.
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