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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Now is the time for reflection

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Beep, beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ...

"We're losing him!"

"It's not working! We need the defibrillator!"

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Gweeeeeeeeee ...

"Clear!"

... CHOK!

"It's no use! He has to want to come back!"

"Once they leave for Fantasy Football, they never come back!"

"Who would come back for this, guys!? Who would come back!?"

"NO! I'm not losing another!"

Gweeeeeeeeee ...

"Clear!"

... CHOK!

"Forget it, man! It's over! It's over."

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee ...

Sadly, this sort of tragedy happens all too often. Fantasy Football comes a-knocking about mid-August and those already condemned to a losing record are too weak to resist its call.

But the tragedy isn't so much that they leave. It's that they don't come back. They don't pay a second thought to Fantasy Baseball until March, and by then, their memories of 2012 have pretty much turned to vapor.

If those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then all you accomplish by turning tail now is more of the same misery next year. So instead of giving in to the allure of something promising and new, take some time -- healthy, meaningful time -- to wallow in your sorrows. Reflect on what went wrong and what you can do to prevent it next time. It's the only way you get better.

Did you place too much emphasis on position scarcity, or not enough? Did you overvalue a particular attribute that turned out to be not such a big deal? Did you have the right distribution of hitters to pitchers? Were you too aggressive on the waiver wire early, dropping some of your best players before they had a chance to find their footing, or were you too passive, waiting too long on players who were nothing more than rolls of the dice in the first place? Did you go too young? What about too old? Did you have too many options at a particular position, forcing you to rely on in-season predictions that too often fall victim to small sample sizes? Could you have made better use of that excess on the trade market? Did you simply have bad luck with a few too many picks and would only be overcompensating by changing something now, or did you leave yourself too vulnerable to luck by being too reliant on upside or too dismissive of injury risk?

Only you can say for sure. Only you can know what your intentions were and what resulted from them. And sometimes, the answers aren't as obvious as they appear at first glance. If you suffered from bad pitching all year, take the time to understand why. Check out your pitchers' numbers side by side to see if they have a common flaw that you conveniently ignored. Go back to your league's draft results to see where you drafted them and if the alternatives for those same rounds would have been better. Think back to the pitchers you valued most on Draft Day and ask yourself if these are them or just the ones who happened to be at the top of the rankings at the time you drafted them. Think about it. Just stop and think, and when you're satisfied with your findings, you can turn your attention to Fantasy Football.

And you should, because it's awesome. Just make sure you're not using it as an escape for what went wrong here. Contrary to popular belief, now is the time you improve your Fantasy game, not next spring.

I'm in a 12-team Head-to-Head dynasty league and have worked my butt off to build a monster team that I think should win every single season. Omitting the prospects, here's breakdown of my roster. At catcher, I have Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Doumit. At first base, I have Paul Konerko and Eric Hosmer. At second base, I have Dustin Pedroia and Danny Espinosa. At shortstop, I have Elvis Andrus. At third base, I have Ryan Zimmerman and David Freese. In the outfield, I have Jose Bautista, Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Desmond Jennings and Carl Crawford. And at pitcher, I have Justin Verlander, C.J. Wilson, James Shields, Ian Kennedy, Adam Wainwright, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Lance Lynn, Ryan Dempster, Francisco Liriano, Ricky Nolasco and Brandon Morrow. Now, I'll admit I've had trouble picking the right starters each week, but how is my record 9-10? Am I doing something wrong here? -- Rob DeCapua (via e-mail)

SW: I understand you're not quite out of the playoff picture, but the self-assessment is still important for next year.

To a certain extent, your sub-.500 record is a product of bad luck. Though you certainly have some big names here that should, in theory, give you one of the strongest teams in the league, so many of those names have spent so much time on the DL or endured such lengthy slumps that they've had you handicapped pretty much all season.

Your only consistent performers from start to finish have been Andrus, Braun and Verlander -- great players, all of them, with Braun and Verlander in the discussion for best hitter and best pitcher, respectively. But they can't do it all on their own, and for stretches this season, they've had to.

The regression for Hosmer, Jennings and Moore has been disappointing. The general inconsistency for Cruz, Wilson, Kennedy, Wainwright, Lynn and Dempster has been frustrating. The DL stints for Pedroia, Bautista, Crawford, Fister and Morrow have been discouraging. But those haven't even been your most debilitating misfortunes.

Every player goes through slumps during the season. It's something you should anticipate in Fantasy. But Konerko, Zimmerman and Shields haven't just underperformed during their slumps, they've been unusable. Granted, Zimmerman and Shields have since turned it around, but now they're just picking up the slack for Bautista and Konerko.

And let's not overlook the side effect of their struggles. For a good three months this year, Zimmerman and Shields were having a negative impact on your lineup. Surely you noticed at some point, which means surely you benched them at some point. But that only compounded the problem. Because you committed to sitting them when they were down, you inevitably missed a percentage of what they delivered when they came back around. You couldn't predict when it would happen, after all. You had to wait and see. So if you got most of the bad and missed some of the good, you have to figure the net result is bad.

Which leads me to my next observation. Here, in your own words, is the biggest thing you're doing wrong, Rob: "I'll admit I've had trouble picking the right starters each week."

You're tinkering, and if you tinker with high-end options, which you seem to have at least one of at each position, more often than not, you lose.

I can understand you benching Zimmerman and Shields. It was so ugly for them for so long that you really had no other choice. The side effect was unfortunate, but you can chalk it up to bad luck. Any other questionable lineup maneuvers are probably more a case of over-managing, though.

The biggest mistake any Fantasy owner can make is to get caught up in streaks. Not every player can be at his best every week. It's ludicrous to expect it. On certain occasions, you might have reason to try the hot hand off the waiver wire, but only in place of mediocrity. You have so many high-end options that it should never be a consideration for you.

Every week, provided every player is at full health, your lineup should look like this: Ruiz, Konerko, Pedroia, Andrus, Zimmerman, Bautista, Braun and Jennings, with Cruz in the utility spot. I could see you rotating Crawford and Hosmer in for Jennings and Cruz based on matchups, but that's it. Get any cuter than that, and you'll end up chasing your tail.

It's a little trickier at starting pitcher because, for the most part, you want to take advantage of the two-start weeks, but your go-to five should be Verlander, Shields (at least right now), Wilson, Wainwright and Kennedy. Fister is so hot right now that I could see you swapping him in for the struggling Kennedy, particularly in the right matchups. I could also see Morrow, Lynn and Moore getting looks during two-start weeks. But that's it. The others are so far off talent-wise that they shouldn't even sniff your lineup.

If you miss out on the good weeks from the high-end players, you miss out on what separates them from the low-end players. By playing the guessing game with them, you end up doing your team more harm than good.

Which two of Alex Cobb, Patrick Corbin and Kris Medlen should I pick up? -- justinsawa (via Twitter)

SW: Let's go with Corbin and Medlen here.

Medlen is the most obvious of the three now that the Braves have confirmed they'll go with a six-man rotation for the next couple weeks. They did it seemingly for no other reason than to buy Medlen more time in the rotation, which tells you just how good he's been since shifting from the bullpen. His strikeout potential is modest, but he's extremely efficient with his pitches and a safe bet to help in ERA and WHIP.

Of course, Cobb has been pretty economical with his pitches as well, walking just three batters in his last four starts, and I wouldn't have a problem with anyone choosing to pick him up right now. But I give Corbin the nod over him for two reasons:

1. He's a better bet for strikeouts, having maintained a high rate throughout his minor-league career.
2. He's a better bet to keep his job.

Yes, for as well as Cobb has pitched lately, he'll presumably be the odd man out when Jeff Niemann is finally ready to return from a broken leg. Forgot about him? It's easy to do considering he hasn't pitched since May 14. But he has begun a minor-league rehab assignment and might need only three more starts before rejoining the big club.

Of course, no one can say for sure Niemann won't be the one to go to the bullpen if Cobb continues to pitch well, but when comparing two alike pitchers, job security has to enter the discussion.

What do you think of Eric Stults? I'm thinking about picking him up for his next start. -- @seawrighttttt (via Twitter)

SW: What happened with the Twitter handle there? Did the "T" key get stuck? I don't know about you, but I think I would have gone the backspace route in that case just so I didn't have to worry about having one of these back-and-forths on the phone one day:

"It's, uh, seawrighttttt, with four extra Ts."

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...

"No, four extra. Five total."

...

"S-E-A-W-R-I-G-H-T-T-T-T-T."

...

"No, 'T' as in turquoise ... yeah ... yeah."

...

"Right ... right ... no, wait -- that's not right. It's 'wright,' but not 'right.' It's, uh ... it's wrong."

...

"S-E-A-W-R-I-G-H-T."

...

"... -T-T-T-T. That's right. It's also wright."

...

"Ah-ha-ha-ha. Yeah, you got it. Riiight."

...

"All right. See you on Twitter."

And just like that, what should have been a five-second conversation instead lasted three minutes.

Speaking of inefficient, that's pretty much Stults in a nutshell, judging by his minor-league track record. I understand he managed to go 7 2/3 innings in a start Monday, giving him a 2.49 ERA in seven starts this season, and I'm happy for him. But those aren't the kind of numbers you can expect a 32-year-old journeyman to sustain -- especially not one who's spent almost his entire career in the minors, where he's surrendered 10.3 hits per nine innings and compiled a 1.49 WHIP.

If those numbers sound familiar to you, it's because they're basically Carlos Silva's. If you don't remember him, then that tells you something right there. If you do, then you're probably having to resist the urge to gag right now.

If Silva's numbers against major-leaguers can provoke that sort of response, what should Stults' numbers against minor-leaguers do?

And for all the time Stults spent in the minors, it's not like those numbers have been warped by his earlier years, before he made some crucial change that allowed him to maximize his abilities. He's pretty much been that hittable forever and always.

OK, so I'm assuming the "always," but I think it's a pretty safe assumption given his history. And though I don't generally have a problem with anyone riding the hot hand, you're playing with fire when it comes to Stults. When he crashes, he'll crash hard -- and perhaps at a time when you can least afford it.

I'm coming up on a huge decision in my 12-team league. In it, each team keeps four players. I have Josh Hamilton, Joey Votto, Ian Kinsler, Edwin Encarnacion, Matt Cain and Giancarlo Stanton, who if I don't keep, I'll never see again. Your thoughts? -- Chris Laettner (via e-mail)

SW: Not to be confused with Christian Laettner, I presume? Oh, heck. Let's create a little confusion. It can only help the page views.

I can make this dilemma much simpler for you by eliminating Encarnacion from consideration. And I think that's fair. I'm not saying nobody should keep him. He has performed like an elite player this season and, at age 29, could have more of these seasons ahead. But when assessing his value for next season, you can't compare him to perennial early-rounders like Hamilton, Votto, Kinsler, Stanton and Cain. Those players are as safe as safe gets, and above all, Fantasy owners aim for "safe" with their early-round picks. So while Encarnacion's numbers compare favorably with theirs and may continue to do so, he'll slip further in drafts just so no one makes the mistake of overpaying for a one-hit wonder. It's basically what happened to Alex Gordon, Michael Morse and Melky Cabrera this year. And while none have turned out to be busts, two of the three have fallen short of last year's numbers.

Plus, Encarnacion loses third base eligibility in the offseason. As a first baseman, he's still good, but not so good that you can't expect him to last a round or two into next year's draft.

Of the remaining five, Votto and Kinsler are obvious keepers. When healthy, they're arguably the best at their positions, so let's just go ahead and give them two of the slots. That means you have to leave out one of Hamilton, Stanton and Cain, and though you could make a case for any of them, my choice is Cain.

I don't like keeping pitchers. It's one of my most well-documented opinions over the years. They're at higher risk for injury. Their numbers tend to fluctuate from season to season. They're just dangerous, and again, more than anything else in early rounds, you want "safe."

Of course, Hamilton isn't exactly the best counter to those problems. He's at high risk of injury, and his numbers tend to fluctuate from season to season. If the dilemma was between him and a no-doubter ace like Jered Weaver, you'd keep Weaver instead. But Cain, for as good as he is, is still more of a second-tier starter, as his 4.44 ERA over his last eight starts should indicate. I'm betting you'll have a chance to draft him or someone else like him next year. I can't say the same for Hamilton.

I'll obviously use David Ortiz in my utility spot when he's healthy, but in the meantime, should I use Alex Gordon or Mike Moustakas? I need help in every category. -- @YUSoShady (via Twitter)

SW: If you need help every category, I don't know why you'd even consider Moustakas here. What advantage does he have over Gordon?

Gordon is clearly going to provide the better batting average, which has a direct impact on on-base percentage, which means he's clearly going to score more runs, especially since he's batting leadoff. And though neither Gordon nor Moustakas is Rajai Davis on the base paths, Gordon is more of a threat to steal, having swiped 17 bags last year.

I suppose you could say Moustakas is the greater source of power, but I don't think even that's an open-and-shut case. Sure, he has more homers this year, but if he maintains his current pace, he'll finish with 25, which is only two more than Gordon had last year. True, this year's numbers matter more than last year's, but it's not like 23 was an unrealistic number for Gordon. Maybe his three homers in his last four games are a sign he's going to close the gap on Moustakas between now and season's end.

I suppose if I was selling out for home runs and RBI, I'd give Moustakas the benefit of the doubt over Gordon. But if I needed help in any other category -- and you do in three -- I'd go Gordon all the way.

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Do you like Grant Balfour or Santiago Casilla for the rest of season? -- @angryelvis (via Twitter)

SW: I'm going Balfour here, and it has more to do with my distrust of Casilla than my faith in Balfour, whose past opportunities to close, including one at the beginning of the season, haven't gone well. In fact, I wouldn't even bet on him making it through the rest of this season in the role. The Athletics seem to prefer Cook closing, perhaps given Balfour's history, and will probably turn back to him as soon as he convinces them they can.

Still, a handful of saves during an erratic, short-lived term as closer is better than no saves at all, which is about what I expect Casilla to deliver the rest of the way.

He's been awful, blowing five of his last nine save opportunities. And for a team built on pitching and dependent on winning the close games, that kind of performance could be the difference in making and missing the playoffs. Quite simply, the Giants can no longer afford to have Casilla close.

Maybe his struggles are partially the result of an enormous blister that won't seem to heal, but that doesn't help his case. He can't regain the Giants' trust if he can't pitch. Maybe he'd get another shot if the Giants had no one else who could handle the role, but in Sergio Romo, who has compiled a 1.91 ERA and 0.87 WHIP and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings over the last three seasons, they have what would seem to be a natural ready to step in.

I'm not saying Casilla isn't worth stashing in certain leagues where saves are in short supply. I just think the odds are against him.

Rank these pitchers in terms of Head-to-Head value for the rest of the season: Lance Lynn, Chad Billingsley, Bartolo Colon, Scott Diamond, Miguel Gonzalez, Alex Cobb and Jeff Samardzija. -- Rob Ludwig (via Facebook)

SW: Got to love those questions that touch on seven players in one fell swoop. Don't worry; I'll make it snappy.

Lynn is my first choice. Call me sentimental, but he was too good early in the season for me to believe this latest stretch is more than a bump in the road. His 6.55 ERA over his last four starts is downright encouraging compared to the 9.98 ERA he put up during an earlier three-start stretch, and he followed up that bump in the road by allowing one earned run with more than a strikeout per inning over his next three starts. Yes, the innings are something of a concern, but it's not like you listed seven aces here. Given the alternatives, I'm willing to give Lynn the benefit of the doubt.

I don't know what's more impressive: Samardzija's 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings this season or his 2.41 ERA over his last eight starts. I like his ability and came pretty close to ranking him ahead of Lynn on this list, but his inconsistent walk totals and occasional early hooks have me thinking he'll be the less reliable of the two to close out the season. Besides, innings are a concern for him as well.

I guess I'll go Billingsley third. I can't really get excited about him. His control issues are about the same as Samardzija's, but he's not a threat for double-digit strikeouts every time out. Still, he'll get a decent number of strikeouts and more or less avoid the disastrous starts, so I guess I'm fine with him here. Overall, though, meh ...

I'm going to rank Diamond ahead of Colon, which I'll admit surprises even me, but when you get down to the numbers, they both do the same things well: throw strikes and eat innings. Shoot, Diamond actually leads the AL in walk rate. The key difference is Colon has been susceptible to the occasional blowup this year, which in mind makes him more trouble than he's worth in standard mixed leagues.

Gonzalez and Cobb are clearly the bottom-feeders here. I'll give Cobb the edge because he's on such a good run right now and was halfway serviceable last year as well, but I worry about his job security. Gonzalez boasts a pretty good fastball and isn't exactly a joke of a pickup, but judging by his pedigree and minor-league track record, I have a feeling he's due for a letdown.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also check us out on Facebook or e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Report: Angels' Hamilton likely to receive suspension
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2:05 am ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will likely be suspended for at least 25 games, according to FoxSports.com.

Hamilton met with Major League Baseball on Wednesday for a disciplinary hearing. CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman reported that Hamilton experienced a drug relapse a few months ago, and confessed that relapse to MLB. 

This is technically Hamilton's second violation as a major-leaguer. Hamilton was on the Rays 40-man roster during his first suspension, making him a major-league player. Typically, players who violate their drug treatment program for the first time are subject to a 15-25 game suspension. Given that this is Hamilton's second violation of his drug treatment program, it's unclear how severe the punishment will be.

With that said, commissioner Rob Manfred is reportedly trying to be lenient with any punishment. The league has a "favorable view of Hamilton's efforts to remain sober." Since his return to the majors, Hamilton has spoken honestly about his struggles with addition.

On top of that, Manfred is concerned about making the punishment too harsh. Hamilton's past relaspes have come when he's been away from the game. Manfred reportedly is not close to making a final decision on Hamilton's punishment at this time. 

Hamilton was already expected to miss the beginning of the season due to a shoulder surgery. It's unclear how much longer he'll be out due to a suspension.


Angels, Huston Street haven't talked extension yet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) The Angels and closer Huston Street have not talked about an extension yet, according to MLB.com.

Both sides are reportedly interested in a deal, but Street wanted to wait a week in order to settle in to camp. Once that happens, the two sides are expected to start negotiating a new deal. Street is entering the final year of his contract, and will make $7 million in 2015.

Street, 31, posted a 1.37 ERA over 59 1/3 innings last year.


Phillies' Ryan Howard working on his swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is working on his swing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Howard has spent time working with Charlie Manuel during camp. Manuel was brought in as spring training hitting instructor. Manager Ryan Sandberg has noticed the change in Howard's approach already. "As far as making some adjustments there, to really zone in to something that can really be productive for him and a little bit more consistent," Sandberg said. "I think there has been a little tweaking going on there."

Howard apparently has looked different at the plate. His stance has been described as "looser" and his hands are much lower when he starts his swing. 

The 35-year-old hit .223/.310/.380 over 569 at-bats last year. 


Dodgers unsure how Grandal, Ellis will split time
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Dodgers aren't sure how they'll platoon their two catchers, according to the Orange County Register.

A.J. Ellis has been the team's primary option the past few seasons, but the club brought in Yasmani Grandal during the offseason. While Grandal has a much higher offensive upside, it's unclear how much he'll play once the regular season begins. 

"There’s nothing going to come out of this camp where we’re going to say, ‘OK, this guy is going to start 72 percent of the time’" general manager Andrew Friedman said. "It’s going to be much more about Donnie (Mattingly) writing the lineup each and every day for what gives us the best chance to win that day."

Mattingly admitted that Grandal has "tremendous upside offensively," so it's possible he could lead that way more often. While Mattingly has indicated that he doesn't want to assign any personal catchers yet, there's a sense Ellis could be used when Clayton Kershaw is on the mound. 

Grandal hit .225/.327/.401 over 377 at-bats last year. Ellis hit .191/.323/.254 over 283 at-bats. 


Giants sign Ronny Cedeno to minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Giants have signed infielder Ronny Cedeno to a minor-league deal, according to the PCL transactions page.

Cedeno, 32, spent most of the year in the minors. He hit .313/.368/.431 over 281 at-bats in Triple-A. Cedeno received nine at-bats with the Phillies, but failed to record a hit. 


Brewers' Scooter Gennett glad to have full-time role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Brewers infielder Scooter Gennett is glad to have a full-time role heading into 2015, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Gennett spent last season in a platoon with Rickie Weeks, but with Weeks gone, he'll assume the full-time role. Gennett said he feels far less stressed about his position on the team this spring. "Seeing as I'm pretty much the everyday guy, that eliminated the stress, or whatever you want to call it, off my back," he said. 

"Just not having to worry about stuff out of my control. I've put myself in this position where I've earned the job, I've shown them what I can do, and now it's about consistently doing it," he added. 

Manager Ron Roenicke has already said he'll give Gennett plenty of opportunities to prove himself against left-handers. 

Gennett, 24, hit .289/.320/.434 over 440 at-bats last season. 


Cubs' Arismendy Alcantara will play all over the place
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Cubs utility man Arismendy Alcantara is going to play a lot of positions this season, according to ESPN.

Alcantara saw time in center last season, but the team's trade for Dexter Fowler will alter his role. Alcantara says he's ready for the challenge. "Mentally you have to be ready for that," Alcantara said. "They want me to play second base and the outfield." He's also expected to see some time at third base. 

Manager Joe Maddon is glad to have such a versatile player on the team. "When you get a guy like that and you want to give someone a rest, you don't feel like you're losing anything," Joe Maddon said. "And the big attraction there is also in-game. It's like having an extra guy on the bench."

The 23-year-old Alcantara hit .205/.254/.367 over 278 at-bats last year. 


Rockies ask Corey Dickerson to be more patient
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Rockies want Corey Dickerson to be a little more patient at the plate, according to MLB.com.

Dickerson had a breakout season in 2014, hitting .312/.364/.567 over 436 at-bats. He walked in 7.7 percent of his plate appearances, which was actually just above the league average. Still, the team wants Dickerson to be slightly less of a free-swinging this year.

"I talked to Corey about adding this much discipline to his game," manager Walt Weiss said. "We don't want that much, because then he wouldn't be Corey Dickerson." Weiss explained that it's difficult to deliver this type of message, as Dickerson's aggressiveness makes him effective. 

Dickerson said he would work harder to study pitchers and work on his approach during games. 

The 25-year-old is expected to open the year as the team's starter in left.


Marlins unlikely to add reliever now
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Marlins are unlikely to add a reliever now that Francisco Rodriguez is off the market, according to MLB.com.

The Marlins were involved in negotiations for K-Rod through at least Wednesday, and were reportedly willing to offer $10 million over two years. The club has been looking for a veteran reliever for some time, but may pass now that Rodriguez has signed with the Brewers.

Both Rafael Soriano and Phil Coke have been connected to Miami, but the team would likely only sign those players to minor-league contracts.


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson a favorite for the rotation
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Diamondbacks consider Chase Anderson a favorite to break camp in the rotation, according to azcentral.com.

The club wants to create a lot of competition for the rotation, and it was initially believed Anderson would be competing for a spot. General manager Dave Stewart sort of quashed those rumors, saying he perceives Anderson as a strong favorite right now. "Chase Anderson won nine games for us last year; you have to strongly consider him as part of our rotation," Stewart said. 

Anderson is expected to pair with Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson for now. The club will determine the final two spots in the rotation during camp.

Anderson, 27, posted a 4.01 ERA over 114 1/3 innings last year.


 
 
 
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