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Top 70 starters for Week 20

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The revolving door of available Fantasy starers just keeps spinning.

CC Sabathia exited the building this weekend, going on the disabled list with a sore elbow, but Tommy Hanson is expected to be back in the mix. Hanson (back) will make a rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Gwinnett, which should be his final tuneup before returning to the Braves next weekend. Because his return is not a given, though, Hanson is not included among the top starters for Fantasy Week 20 (August 13-19). Tim Hudson is included, and due to a two-start week he is ranked 39th. Hanson's return could rob Hudson of a second start, and while a one-start Hudson is still worth starting in standard mixed leagues, owners in shallower leagues should follow this situation closely prior to the locking of lineups on Monday evening.

Brandon Morrow (oblique) could possibly return next Sunday as well, but weekly league owners won't likely get confirmation of this prior to the Monday lineup deadline. Aside from Morrow's owners, standard mixed league owners shouldn't feel much of an impact from this situation, as only Henderson Alvarez (who could lose a second start) would see his value change for Week 20.

Here are this week's viable starting pitching options for standard mixed leagues, including their matchup information and some related statistical nuggets.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 20
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Cole Hamels @MIA (Eovaldi) @MIL (Fiers) Pitched seven or more innings in eight of last nine starts
Hamels is well past his midseason swoon, and only a lack of run support has kept him from being one of the top Fantasy options in recent weeks.
2 Gio Gonzalez @SF (Vogelsong) NYM (Young) 67 percent strand rate, last two starts (per FanGraphs)
Uncharacteristically, Gonzalez has gone eight and nine innings, respectively, in his last two starts, but a low strand rate has put a damper on a couple of otherwise strong performances.
3 Clayton Kershaw @PIT (Rodriguez) N/A One home run allowed over last eight starts
Justin Ruggiano's long drive on Friday night marked the first time since June 26 that Kershaw had allowed a homer. While he's proficient at avoiding the gopher ball, he's benefited from good venues, and he will again in Week 20.
4 Justin Verlander BAL (Hunter) N/A Career 0.8 HR/9
Though Verlander leans towards being a flyball pitcher, he has shown throughout his career that he is very good at limiting home runs.
5 Felix Hernandez TB (Hellickson) N/A 9.7 K/9 at home
As expected, Hernandez has been less homer-prone at Safeco Field, but he's also enjoyed a jacked-up strikeout rate in his home games as well.
6 Jered Weaver TB (Shields) N/A 15 doubles allowed
Weaver hasn't just been stingy with home runs; he has eschewed extra-base hits of all kinds, and has limited opponents to an astounding five doubles in 58 2/3 home innings.
7 Ryan Vogelsong WAS (Gonzalez) @SD (Richard) Second-most effective fastball in majors (per FanGraphs' pitch value data)
Though Vogelsong's velocity is down from last year, he is getting far more movement on his fastball and more swings-and-misses on it as a result.
8 Zack Greinke CLE (Jimenez) TB (Moore) Six percent swinging strike rate with LAA
Greinke hasn't missed many bats since joining the Angels, but over the past five-and-a-half seasons, he has been getting whiffs consistently, so chances for a turnaround are strong.
9 Cliff Lee @MIL (Estrada) N/A Seven straight starts with no more than one walk
Lee's strikeout rate has been receding, but over his last seven starts, he is average less than a walk every nine innings.
10 David Price @LAA (Haren) N/A 0.93 WHIP over last 10 starts
Price's quality start streak is now up to 10 starts, and over that stretch, he is getting more than a strikeout per inning and holding batters to a .194 batting average.
11 Roy Halladay @MIA (Buehrle) N/A 13 percent line drive rate, last three starts
A high liner rate sabotaged Halladay's efforts in his first two starts back from the DL, but batters haven't mustered much hard contact against him since then.
12 Ian Kennedy @STL (Kelly) @HOU (Galarraga) 1.1 HR/9 on the road
Kennedy has been scorched by 11 home runs in only 64 home innings this year, but with a pair of road starts -- including one against the woeful Astros -- owners should get the benefits of his strong command without the risks of an excessive homer rate.
13 C.J. Wilson CLE (Masterson) TB (Cobb) Induced 20 double plays (T-4th in MLB)
Wilson's high walk rate (4.1 BB/9) has inflated his WHIP, but his ERA has been spared in part due to all of the twin killings he has generated.
14 Adam Wainwright ARI (Saunders) N/A 2nd-most Fantasy points among SPs, last 21 days (standard scoring)
Wainwright has been nothing short of dominant over his last four starts, and only A.J. Burnett has provided a higher payoff for owners in points leagues over that span.
15 Jake Peavy @TOR (Villanueva) @KC (Chen) 2.03 ERA vs. TOR
Peavy has struggled against the Royals in three starts this year (5.93 ERA), but he has had few problems with the Jays, and now he gets to face them without several key bats in the lineup.
16 Stephen Strasburg @SF (Lincecum) N/A One extra-base hit allowed over last two starts
A Scott Cousins double represents the only extra-base hit off Strasburg so far this month.
17 Matt Cain @SD (Ohlendorf) N/A 69 percent strikes thrown vs. COL on Sat.
During his recent funk, Cain had not displayed his usual level of command, but he pounded the strike zone to good effect against the Rockies in his latest start.
18 Johnny Cueto CHC (Raley) N/A 21 Ks, 3 BBs over last three starts
Cueto is in the midst of his least-impressive stretch of the season, and yet he is still commanding the strike zone as well as ever.
19 R.A. Dickey @CIN (Leake) N/A Three straight starts of seven innings or more
Dickey already has a streak of six straight seven-plus inning starts this year, and with his complete game victory over the Marlins on Thursday, he appears to be in the midst of another roll.
20 Hiroki Kuroda TEX (Harrison) BOS (Beckett) 11 or more ground balls in five of last six starts
As Kuroda has been getting gobs of grounders over the past month, only Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo and Alex Avila have managed to go yard against him during that stretch.
21 A.J. Burnett STL (Westbrook) N/A 3.57 pitches per plate appearance (7th-lowest in NL)
Burnett is throwing strikes at the highest rate of his career and walking batters at his lowest rate in six years. Once notorious for his wildness, Burnett is among the most efficient starters this season.
22 Josh Johnson PHI (Kendrick) @COL (Pomeranz) 59 percent outside-the-zone contact rate (per FanGraphs)
Johnson is back to being a reliable source of strikeouts, as he has been the eighth-best pitcher in the majors at getting batters to whiff on pitches that should be balls.
23 Mat Latos NYM (Young) CHC (Volstad) Opponents' .145 Avg over last three starts
Latos' mastery over the righty-heavy Brewers on Wednesday was to be expected, but he has also had good starts recently against more balanced Rockies and Pirates lineups.
24 Madison Bumgarner WAS (Zimmermann) N/A 40 Ks over last 32 innings
After a slow start in the strikeout category, Bumgarner has approached his K-rate from last year with a string of five games with seven punchouts or more.
25 Jordan Zimmermann @SF (Bumgarner) N/A 82 percent strand rate
Very few pitchers can sustain a strand rate in the upper 70s or high 80s, but in Zimmermann's defense, he allows few homers and he has been leaving a higher proportion of runners on base in each successive year in the majors.
26 Yovani Gallardo PHI (Worley) N/A 78 percent quality start rate (T-3rd in MLB)
Because Gallardo occasionally has dramatic meltdowns, owners might be tempted to think of him as inconsistent, but he delivers quality starts at one of the highest rates in the majors.
27 Matt Moore @SEA (Millwood) @LAA (Greinke) Opponents' .236 Avg (8th-lowest in AL)
Moore's erratic control has been frustrating at times, but the rookie has emerged as one of the most unhittable starters in his league.
28 Mike Fiers @COL (Francis) PHI (Hamels) 0.3 HR/9
Should we fear Fiers in the thin air of Colorado? In 10 of his 12 starts, he has pitched in home run parks, so despite being a flyball pitcher, Fiers may have a knack for preventing hitters from squaring up.
29 Jeff Samardzija HOU (Galarraga) @CIN (Redmond) 3.1 runs of support per nine innings (lowest in MLB)
Samardzija deserves much better than a 7-10 record, and now that Cubs are scoring a little more often, maybe he can become a better source of wins.
30 Dan Haren TB (Price) N/A Opponents' .210 Avg, last four starts
Haren has been wilder than normal of late, but he is still doing a good job of preventing base hits.
31 Doug Fister @MIN (Duensing) N/A 6 BBs over last 45 1/3 innings
Remember when Fister came to Detroit at the trade deadline in 2011 and barely walked anyone? He's not quite at that level now, but it's close enough.
32 James Shields @LAA (Weaver) N/A 3 HRs allowed to righties
Shields has been undone by the long ball in several of his starts, but right-handed hitters have barely touched him up. That should encourage Shields' owners as he sets to face Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo.
33 Clay Buchholz @BAL (Tillman) N/A Induced 22 double plays (2nd in MLB)
Buchholz has been providing a low WHIP over the last couple of months, but even it rises again, his propensity for the double play ball will help him to keep his ERA low.
34 Chris Sale @KC (Mendoza) N/A 28 percent line drive rate, last five starts
Sale has been getting away with a high line drive rate over the past five-and-a-half weeks, but he may not be so lucky when he faces the Royals, who are one of the majors' best line drive hitting teams. That earns Sale a downgrade this week.
35 Anibal Sanchez @MIN (Deduno) BAL (Chen) 3.70 xFIP
Sanchez has been a little too homer-prone this year, but he deserves better than a .323 BABIP, and according to xFIP, his ERA should be more than a half-run lower than it is.
36 Ryan Dempster @NYY (Phelps) @TOR (Villanueva) 12 BBs over last 56 1/3 innings
Over the first two months of the season, Dempster walked batters at what would have been a career-low rate. Skeptics take note: all he has done since then is drop his walk rate even lower.
37 Ben Sheets LAD (Capuano) N/A .379 BABIP vs. righties
Right-handed hitters have racked up a .300/.378/.425 line against Sheets, but that's over just 45 plate appearances, so that high batting average -- and the BABIP behind it -- are likely to shrink.
38 Mike Minor SD (Stults) LAD (Harang) .085 flyball BABIP
Minor has held opponents to a .247 average, but owners can trust this favorable stat. It's built on a low flyball BABIP that is sustainable, given Minor's flyball tendencies and the Braves' outstanding outfield defense.
39 Tim Hudson SD (Richard) LAD (Billingsley) 6.7 K/9 at home
Few, if any, owners start Hudson to get strikeouts, but at least in his starts at Turner Field, he's close to an average strikeout pitcher.
40 Jeremy Hellickson @SEA (Hernandez) N/A 43 percent ground ball rate
Given that he has allowed 19 home runs, you wouldn't know it, but Hellickson has been much less of a flyball pitcher this season. Safeco Field is a good place for Hellickson's homer rate to do some regressing to the mean.
41 Francisco Liriano @TOR (Laffey) N/A 17 percent line drive rate
Liriano still walks too many batters, but batters continue to have trouble making contact against him or getting hard hits when they do make contact.
42 Jonathon Niese @WAS (Detwiler) N/A 1.40 ERA vs. WAS since 2011
Niese has totaled 21 Ks over his last 19 1/3 innings against the Nats, and he should be able to take advantage of their free-swinging ways yet again.
43 Max Scherzer @MIN (De Vries) N/A 1.73 WHIP over last three starts
It might look like Scherzer is getting stuck in yet another one of his ruts, but a .500 BABIP is responsible for the damage to his WHIP, and that figure can only go down from here.
44 Phil Hughes BOS (Morales) N/A 20 percent foul ball rate
Even though Hughes is merely average at getting swinging strikes, he can maintain a decent K-rate due to his consistent ability to get batters to foul balls off.
45 Clayton Richard @ATL (Hudson) SF (Vogelsong) 161 2/3 innings pitched (5th in MLB)
Richard has taken his control and efficiency to new levels this season, and that has enabled him to become a top 40 pitcher in points leagues.
46 Kyle Lohse ARI (Cahill) N/A Fifth-most effective slider in majors (per FanGraphs' pitch value data)
Lohse is throwing more sliders this year and having more of them taken for strikes, which is helping him to achieve an ultra-low 1.7 BB/9 rate.
47 Wade Miley @HOU (Keuchel) N/A 11 percent swinging strike rate, last six starts
The Nationals missed on only four swings against Miley on Saturday, but that lack of whiffs has been the exception for the rookie since the All-Star break.
48 Jason Vargas MIN (Diamond) N/A Eight consecutive quality starts
Vargas is known for his lopsided home/road splits, but he has posted four quality road starts since late June. All but one were in pitcher's parks, but with a home start in Week 20, owners won't have to worry about what all this means.
49 Justin Masterson @LAA (Wilson) @OAK (Parker) 5.8 percent XBH/PA ratio (9th-lowest in MLB)
Masterson's skill stats aren't much different from C.J. Wilson's, and like the Angels' southpaw, he is very adept at avoiding extra-base hits. As a strand rate victim (67 percent), his ERA does not reflect the similarities.
50 Lance Lynn PIT (Bedard) N/A 59 percent strikes thrown, last four starts
Lynn's results have been mixed lately, but he is falling into a pattern of consistently poor command. While he is still capable of success, he is becoming more of a low-end option in standard mixed leagues.
51 Yu Darvish @TOR (Happ) N/A 59 percent strikes thrown, last three starts
What goes for Lynn also goes with Darvish. He's still worth starting based on the hope of a return to form, but he's dangerously close to being benchable.
52 Kris Medlen SD (Marquis) N/A 88 pitches thrown at NYM on Sat.
Medlen crossed the 80-pitch barrier for the first time this season, and more important, he made it to the seventh inning. Now that he is stretched out, Medlen can be trusted in a one-start week.
53 Brandon McCarthy @KC (Hochevar) N/A 3.44 pitches per plate appearance (2nd-lowest in MLB)
McCarthy hasn't been getting grounders like he did last year, but he's no less valuable now. He still avoids homers in pitcher-friendly venues (like Kauffman Stadium) and continues to be one of the game's most efficient hurlers.
54 Matt Harrison @NYY (Kuroda) @TOR (Alvarez) 0.7 HR/9 since 2011
Though he is much more of a ground ball pitcher than Mike Fiers, like his Brewers counterpart, Harrison manages to avoid home runs despite pitching home games in a hitter's park. That skill should transfer to his starts at Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre.
55 Jarrod Parker @KC (Guthrie) CLE (Masterson) 12 percent called strike rate, last six starts
Parker is throwing more strikes lately, but his pitches in the zone have been getting clobbered. That makes him a risk with one start, but with two starts against mediocre offenses, Parker is worth a shot.
56 Jon Lester @NYY (Phelps) N/A 3.34 road ERA
A start at Yankee Stadium is not an easy week for anyone, but for Lester, it probably beats just about any start at Fenway Park, where he has been monumentally bad.
57 Chad Billingsley @PIT (Correia) @ATL (Hudson) 1.06 WHIP over last six starts
Billingsley's control has been unusually good since early July, and he has sustained the improvement long enough to be worth trusting with a two-start week.
58 Franklin Morales @NYY (Hughes) N/A Six innings or fewer in six of seven starts
Morales can help with strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, but his inefficiency makes him a poor bet to help with innings, even when his pitch count goes over 100. He would rank higher if these rankings only applied to Rotisserie formats.
59 Bartolo Colon CLE (Kluber) N/A No earned runs allowed in last 23 2/3 innings
Colon will not have a two-start week as initially anticipated, but he is in enough of a groove that he can be used with his lone start against the Indians.
60 Dan Straily @KC (Smith) N/A 51 percent flyball rate
In his second start, Straily served up 14 flyballs, four of which left the yard. Good news: he also induced three popups. Better news: the Royals' lineup doesn't pose as many threats as the Angels' lineup did.
61 Scott Diamond @SEA (Vargas) N/A 2 HRs allowed over last 50 1/3 innings
Diamond hasn't pitched in a hitter's park since June 24, when he started at Cincinnati, but the schedule should continue to help him out in Week 20 when he and the Twins travel to Seattle.
62 Wei-Yin Chen BOS (Beckett) @DET (Sanchez) 3.41 ERA over last six starts
Even including Thursday's shellacking by the Royals, Chen has an impressive stat line from his last half dozen starts, as he has been getting easy flyball outs and close to a strikeout per inning.
63 Josh Beckett @BAL (Beckett) @NYY (Kuroda) .373 BABIP over last six starts
With Felix Doubront getting skipped, Beckett is in line to draw two starts. His 7.39 ERA since early July might make him look like someone to bench, but he just may have been a victim of bad luck on balls in play.
64 Jeff Karstens LAD (Harang) @STL (Kelly) 11 percent swinging strike rate
Karstens had increased his whiff rate to the point where he is close to being an average strikeout pitcher, and he hasn't lost any of his pinpoint control.
65 Jose Quintana @TOR (Alvarez) @KC (Guthrie) Opponents' .371 SLG vs. lefties
Quintana's strikeouts are disappearing, but the extra contact hasn't hurt him, at least against left-handed hitters. That's an encouraging trend for this week, especially against the Royals.
66 Alex Cobb @SEA (Beavan) @LAA (Wilson) 71 percent strikes thrown, last three starts
Cobb is starting to show the control he demonstrated in the minors, and that has contributed to three straight quality starts.
67 Miguel Gonzalez BOS (Cook) N/A 12 percent popup rate
Flyball-prone Gonzalez is a risk to get hurt by homers, but his ability to coax infield flies means that his .252 BABIP and 1.23 WHIP shouldn't regress much, if at all.
68 Carlos Villanueva CHW (Peavy) TEX (Dempster) Two walks or fewer in five of seven starts
Control can still be an issue for Villanueva at times, but since becoming a starter, he has been a fairly reliable strike-thrower.
69 Ivan Nova TEX (Holland) N/A Eight quality starts in last 13 attempts
After three straight sub-quality starts, Nova got back on track with a strong effort at Toronto on Saturday, getting whiffs like he had before his mini-slump.
70 Aaron Harang @PIT (Karstens) @ATL (Minor) 0.8 HR/9
Harang is allowing homers at his lowest rate since his 2002 rookie season, as he's even avoiding them on the road. With visits to pitcher-friendly Pittsburgh and Atlanta, he can have continued success.

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
(4:09 pm ET) 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
(3:16 pm ET) 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
(2:18 pm ET) 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
(2:08 pm ET) 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
(2:04 pm ET) 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
(1:55 pm ET) 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
(1:33 pm ET) 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
(12:23 pm ET) 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
(12:05 pm ET) 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
(11:54 am ET) 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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