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Setting the Trends: Deciphering the Cook quandary

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Let's kick off this column with a little game. What do these six players have in common?:

Mike Napoli
Josh Hamilton
Andruw Jones
Anthony Gose
Chone Figgins
Jesus Montero

If you guessed they represent the only six players who have struck out facing Boston's Aaron Cook this season, you are correct! In 51 2/3 innings, Cook has struck out just six batters. To put that in perspective, 168 pitchers have as many or more strikeouts in the month of August. In his last three innings, Cardinals closer Jason Motte has struck out six batters. In four total innings pitched by position players Drew Butera, Chris Davis and Rob Johnson this season, the trio have managed four strikeouts.

And yet, he's being added in leagues. Way, way down at the bottom of the "Most Added" list sits Aaron Cook, whose ownership has risen from 5 percent to 6 percent. He has three wins, and, despite a rather-high 4.70 ERA, he sports a 1.22 WHIP, which is well below the league average of 1.31. He's never been known for his strikeouts, accruing a 3.8 K/9 over the course of a 10-year career before 2012, but his 1.0 K/9 rate this year is amazingly low.

Speaking in Fantasy terms, Cook is currently at war ... with himself. His low strikeout rate suggests he'll face a handful of poundings before the season is out, but his impressive WHIP points to an eventual lowering of his ERA. The best advice I can offer? Don't let that battle play out on your active roster. Six percent ownership is AL-only territory and there will probably be a lot of finger-crossing for the remainder of his starts for his owners in that format. Not to worry, though -- you have other options.

On to the rest of Roster Trends!

Most Added Players (as of 8/14)
Player % increase
1. Manny Machado, SS, BAL 65
2. Alex Cobb, SP, TB 29
3. Jim Henderson, RP, MIL 28
4. Eric Chavez, 3B, NYY 20
5. Clayton Richard, SP, SD 18
6. Miguel Gonzalez, RP, BAL 15
7. David Murphy, OF, TEX 13
8. Paul Maholm, SP, ATL 13
9. Kris Medlen, RP, ATL 13
10. David Phelps, RP, NYY 13

Most Added Highlights

Manny Machado, SS, BAL
Jump in Ownership: 65 percent (from 16 percent to 81)
Reason for the jump: Machado, Baltimore's top prospect, made his presence known in his first four games with the Orioles, hitting .375 with three home runs, seven RBI and a 1.500 OPS.
Why you should join the crowd: In his first week, Machado showed that he could play at the major league level, after a somewhat surprising promotion to take over everyday third base duties. In three minor league seasons, he twice hit double-digit home runs and steals in the same season (keep in mind, these seasons were markedly shorter -- 382 and 402 at-bats -- than a regular major league season), and managed a respectable .352 OBP this year. He has been compared, since he was drafted, to Alex Rodriguez.
Devil's Advocate: Machado is the third high-profile 19-year-old to break into MLB in the last two seasons, following Mike Trout in 2011 and Bryce Harper in 2012. Trout's success this year has somewhat clouded our memories of his sub-par campaign last year, when he was 19, in which he hit .220 with five home runs and four steals in 40 games. Harper has fared a little better in his debut this season, with a .249 average, 10 home runs, and 13 steals in 94 games. This came after his first four games, in which Harper looked like a no-brain Fantasy add, hitting .385 with three doubles and an OPS of 1.015. On top of all this history of players who aren't Machado, his own stats suggest he might be due for a major correction -- over 820 minor league at-bats, Machado, who never played above Double-A before his promotion, hit just .263. There's no guarantee that Machado will tail off, but it might be wise to temper excitement over his hot start.

Less than 50, more than 50
Players owned in less than 50% of leagues who should be owned in more than 50%
Player % owned
1. Lorenzo Cain, OF, KC 49
2. Todd Frazier, 3B, CIN 48
3. Carlos Gomez, OF, MIL 33
4. Justin Ruggiano, OF, MIA 32
5. Tyler Colvin, OF, COL 30

Jim Henderson, RP, MIL
Jump in Ownership: 28 percent (from zero percent to 28)
Reason for the jump: All signs point to Henderson as the new closer for the Brewers.
Why you should join the crowd: Forget for a moment about Henderson's rootability factor -- a 29-year-old career minor-leaguer who spent 10 seasons in the minors before getting his chance this year -- there's a chance Henderson could finish the year with double-digit saves. He has 61 career saves in the minors, and, while his career ERA isn't as impressive as one would like (3.96), he had a 1.69 EA this season with Nashville, and has a 3.38 ERA so far this season with the Brewers. In two situations with Milwaukee, Henderson has yet to allow a hit or run, walking just one batter in two innings, striking out three, and getting two saves. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke says that while he won't name Henderson his closer, the 6-foot-5 righty will likely get most of the calls.
Devil's Advocate: Outside of the near-4.00 ERA in the minors, Henderson has some competition in the bullpen; most notably John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez. While both have failed miserably as the closer so far this year, it's not out of the question for Roenicke to insert the duo into save situations. Manny Parra and Kameron Loe also could stumble their way into opportunities with the Brewers, as well. Keep in mind that Roenicke played under Tommy Lasorda from 1981 to 1983, a stretch in which Steve Howe had 39 saves (eight in 1981, 13 in 1982, 18 in 1983), Tom Niedenfuer had 20 (nine in 1982, 11 in 1983), and Dave Stewart had 15 (six in 1981, one in 1982, eight in 1983) -- with all three essentially splitting opportunities over the three years.

Making room for Manny
The most-dropped shortstops
Player Ownership decrease
1. Rafael Furcal, SS, STL -7%
2. Yunel Escobar, SS, TOR -5%
3. Jed Lowrie, SS, HOU -4%
4. Willie Bloomquist, SS, ARI -3%
5. Alexei Ramirez, SS, CHW -3%

David Murphy, OF, TEX
Jump in Ownership: 13 percent (from 25 percent to 38)
Reason for the jump: Murphy has played in 19 straight games, hitting .348 with 10 RBI, one home run, one steal and an OPS of .895.
Why you should join the crowd: Over the last four years, Murphy has averaged just over 400 at-bats, with a .277 average, 14 home runs and 10 steals. He's on that pace again this season, but with a higher average and a bit more stolen base potential. Murphy has the ability to hit 20-23 home runs (he's hit as many as 17 in 128 games), and steal 16-19 bases (his career high is 14 steals, in 138 games). Owned in just 38 percent of leagues, Murphy could provide a nice boost to a team in a deeper league looking for boosts in point totals (he has four weeks of 20 or more points) in the outfield.
Devil's Advocate: Playing time has always been a concern for Murphy, and, while he has managed to play 19 games in a row, there's always a chance that Craig Gentry hits his way back into the rotation, or Julio Borbon and Leonys Martin nip away at Murphy's playing time with possible September call-ups.

Farmville
The most-added minor leaguers
Player Percentage increase
1. Jurickson Profar, SS, TEX 3
2. Billy Hamilton, SS, CIN 3
3. Steve Johnson, SP, BAL 2
4. Tyler Skaggs, SP, ARI 2
5. Kyle Zimmer, SP, KC 1

David Phelps, RP, NYY
Jump in Ownership: 13 percent (from 4 percent to 17)
Reason for the jump: Phelps took CC Sabathia's spot in the rotation, and is in the midst of a two-start week for the Yankees.
Why you should join the crowd: In 57 innings pitched for the Yankees this season, Phelps has a 2.53 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, with 59 strikeouts. He may not last past Sabathia's DL stint, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility to consider that Phil Hughes (0-2, 11.88 EA in his last two starts) and Ivan Nova (1-2, 9.17 ERA in last three) are not looking anywhere near as pretty as Phelps does right now.
Devil's Advocate: Simply put, there's not an obvious spot for Phelps to fill in the Yankees' rotation right now, despite his stellar numbers so far this year.

Chris Carter, 1B, OAK
Jump in Ownership: 5 percent (from 29 percent to 34)
Reason for the jump: Carter has 10 home runs in 105 at-bats this season.
Why you should join the crowd: Not only has Carter been pounding the ball this year, but he's also played his way into a full-time role with the A's, having started nine games in a row. His August hasn't been as pretty as the rest of his season (.256 average and .883 OPS in August vs. .273 average and 1.067 OPS in his previous 21 games), but he still is a threat to hit a home run every time up, and, while he's prone to plenty of strikeouts, he has the potential to hit around .270 to go along with the power.
Devil's Advocate: Remember Daric Barton? Kila Ka'aihue? Brandon Moss? Jonny Gomes? Dan Johnson? Michael Taylor? Brandon Allen? Conor Jackson? Kevin Kouzmanoff? Jack Cust? Hideki Matsui? The A's have a habit of rotating and recycling a host of would-be power hitters, in a way that makes it somewhat frightening to get attached, Fantasy-wise, to any Oakland slugger.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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(1/29/2015) The Brewers are talking to reliever Neal Cotts, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

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