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Plumbing the Depths for Week 21

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Once upon a time, Roberto Hernandez was a pitcher who drew interest from owners in standard mixed leagues. That's a name change and several seasons ago, though, as he has been bedeviled by poor control and high home run rates in his more recent campaigns.

Hernandez's age and identify fraud scandal (and suspension) may be behind him now that he has made his season debut with the Indians, but as his poor showing on Wednesday reflected, he is even a risky pickup for owners in deeper leagues. The story of Hernandez's debut was a familiar one; he got the Angels to hit plenty of grounders, but he sustained too much damage on those balls that went airborne, including a pair of solo home runs. Hernandez gave owners a sneak preview of these difficulties when he allowed five home runs during a pair of Class A rehab starts in recent weeks. He still has time to shake off the rust and provide value to owners in deeper leagues, but until he starts to show improvement, there is little reason for owners to chase after him. His four percent ownership rate sounds just about right for now.

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On the other hand, each of the 10 pitchers featured below should have more value for owners in deeper leagues than Hernandez. If you're looking for a waiver pickup for Fantasy Week 21 (August 20-26), there is a good chance that several of these pitchers will be available in your leagues, and each offers some promise for the coming scoring period. All stats are current for games through Wednesday, August 15.

Deeper league two-start options

Joe Saunders, Diamondbacks
Projected matchups: MIA (Buehrle), SD (Volquez)
2012 stats: 6-9, 3.70 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 87 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 41/22
Outlook: With career-best strikeout and walk rates, Saunders has been a surprisingly solid option in deeper leagues, and in the occasional two-start week, he has even been trustworthy in standard mixed leagues. Saunders is not always an advisable start at home, though, where he sports a 4.72 ERA and 1.5 HR/9 rate. In Week 21, the lefty has the good fortune of facing the power-deprived Marlins and Padres at Chase Field, so these shouldn't be typical home starts. Saunders has already faced each squad once on the road this season, and he didn't allow a run in either start. Owners in standard mixed leagues should be able to find more reliable options, but in anything deeper, Saunders should be considered a must-start with these matchups.

Mike Leake, Reds
Projected matchups: @PHI (Halladay), STL (Garcia)
2012 stats: 5-7, 4.29 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 95 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 40/22
Outlook: As recently as three weeks ago, Leake was barely available in deeper formats, as he was riding a two-month stretch of consistently good starts. Back-to-back flops against the Padres and Pirates left owners dumping Leake in droves, but he rebounded in subsequent outings against the Cubs and Mets. Even with a two-start week on the horizon, the needle on Leake's ownership rate has barely moved. Even with his recent pair of subpar starts, the 24-year-old has posted a 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP since May 16. Leake's matchups aren't the most favorable, but he should be started in all deeper leagues next week, and even a few standard mixed ones.

Lucas Harrell, Astros
Projected matchups: @STL (Wainwright), @NYM (Hefner)
2012 stats: 10-8, 3.81 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 103 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 35/22
Outlook: Owners in Head-to-Head points leagues have known for some time now that Harrell is a sneaky play in two-start weeks, as he is currently the fourth-highest ranked RP-eligible starter in those formats. Based on Harrell's ownership rate, what seems to be a better-kept secret is that he has been just flat-out good for the last two months. Over his last 10 starts, Harrell has posted a 2.23 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, as he's been getting more strikeouts while maintaining a high ground ball rate. He has also allowed just two homers over that 10-game span, and with a pair of starts away from Minute Maid Park, Harrell could continue his quiet success.

Freddy Garcia, Yankees
Projected matchups: @CHW (Floyd), @CLE (Jimenez)
2012 stats: 4-10, 4.28 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 97 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 22/12
Outlook: Garcia has been rivaling Harrell as an under-the-radar success. His first stint as a starter this season was so miserable (12.51 ERA over four starts) that his season-to-date stats are still bearing the weight of those early runs and hits. Since rejoining the rotation in early July, Garcia's ERA is a tamer 3.69, and though he is still susceptible to the long ball, he's missing enough bats to get by. Going back even further, Garcia's ERA from May forward is 3.17, reflecting the success he enjoyed during two months of bullpen work. Granted, the schedule has worked in Garcia's favor lately, but he's turned in good starts against the Rangers and Red Sox in his recent run, so he has a chance to tame the White Sox in the tougher of his two matchups this coming week.

Will Smith, Royals
Projected matchups: @TB (Hellickson), @BOS (Cook)
2012 stats: 4-4, 5.09 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 34 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 3/1
Outlook: Two weeks ago, I singled out Smith in this space as an underowned pitcher who needed to be used in more AL-only leagues, if not deeper mixed league formats. Since then, he has been making a case for even greater popularity, yet his ownership rate has barely budged. His first start out of his last three, against the Rangers, was lackluster, though having allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings, he kept the Royals in the game. He followed that effort up with a pair of seven-inning quality starts against the Orioles and A's. There is no evidence to suggest that Smith is going to bust out as a strikeout pitcher, but the progress he made as a 22-year-old in Double-A last season suggests that he could have staying power as a control artist in the majors.

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Waiver wire targets

Ross Detwiler, Nationals
Projected matchups: ATL (Medlen)
2012 stats: 6-5, 3.18 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 74 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 57/31
Outlook: Detwiler has remarkably similar rate stats to Matt Harrison and only slightly less run support, yet the Rangers' hurler is almost universally owned, while Detwiler has only recently cracked the 50 percent ownership mark. Harrison does have more value, especially in points leagues, as he is almost a lock to last six innings or more, but given the degree of their similarities, it's hard not to conclude that Detwiler is owned in too few leagues (and perhaps, that Harrison is owned in too many). Detwiler's popularity has risen enough that he won't be available in most deeper leagues, but he needs to be snapped up in those where he is still on waivers. He's been on a serious roll over his last six starts, holding opponents to a .311 slugging percentage, so he also needs to be on active rosters in all deeper formats.

Zach McAllister, Indians
Projected matchups: @SEA (Iwakuma)
2012 stats: 5-4, 3.46 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 69 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 33/15
Outlook: After striking out 59 batters over 62 1/3 innings over his first 10 starts this year, McAllister looked like a sure-fire regression candidate, and in fact, his K-rate has started to shrink over his last three outings. Even if McAllister's days as a strikeout pitcher are over, it's not necessarily a bad thing for Fantasy owners. Those strikeouts were fueled by a high foul ball rate, which we often see from flyball pitchers, but more recently, we've seen McAllister rediscover his ability to induce grounders. That gives him a chance to lower his home run rate, which in turn, can help him to maintain his relatively modest ERA and WHIP. Toss in a favorable matchup against the Mariners, and this looks like a good week to start McAllister in the 33 percent of leagues he is currently owned in and then some.

Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners
Projected matchups: CLE (McAllister)
2012 stats: 3-3, 4.16 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 58 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 22/11
Outlook: Iwakuma will face off with McAllister, so at best, only one will emerge with a "W," but both are worth starting in most deeper leagues. Iwakuma's numbers don't look as impressive as McAllister's, but if you factor out Iwakuma's time in the bullpen, it's a closer contest. He's been striking out more batters since entering the rotation, posting a 7.7 K/9 rate as a starter, as compared to his 6.8 rate as a reliever. Also, his starter ERA (3.73) is more than a run lower than his mark as a reliever (4.75). Iwakuma's sketchy control prevents him from having broader Fantasy appeal, but he may be underrated as a source for Ks. Deeper-league owners needing to make a run in that category need to look into claiming the former Rakuten Golden Eagle.

Kyle Kendrick, Phillies
Projected matchups: WAS (Jackson)
2012 stats: 5-9, 4.53 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 74 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 6/4
Outlook: Kendrick has turned in more than his share of mediocre performances this year, so it would be easy to dismiss Tuesday's seven innings of shutout ball against the Marlins as the product of a favorable matchup. However, it was the fifth time in Kendrick's 16 starts that he pitched at least seven innings, and in three of those long starts, he held the opponent scoreless. The other two victims, by the way, were the heavy-hitting Cardinals and Braves. The point here isn't that Kendrick is a safe bet in deeper leagues week in and week out, as inconsistent command has gotten him into trouble too often. It's that Kendrick does have the potential to stymie opponents, which makes him valuable enough to start in most NL-only leagues. Kendrick shouldn't be the target of waiver wire hysteria, but NL-only owners intrigued by his latest start should give him a try.

Jeremy Hefner, Mets
Projected matchups: HOU (Harrell)
2012 stats: 2-4, 4.76 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 33 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 1/0
Outlook: Strikeout pitchers are in high demand, so here at Plumbing the Depths, you'll find a lot of control pitchers. Hefner falls in that category, but he has the makings of a good one. At each level of the minors, he has shown the ability to limit walks, and he has done it again over his first 18 appearances as a major leaguer. According to data on the StatCorner site, Hefner threw 67 percent of his pitches for strikes as a starter at Triple-A Buffalo this year, and he has followed that up with a 66 percent rate as a Mets starter. Now that he is back as part of the Mets' six-man rotation, Hefner is worth picking up and using in deeper NL-only leagues. Though he hasn't fulfilled it yet, Hefner has the potential to lower your Fantasy staff's WHIP, as he is just a correction of his .321 BABIP away from doing so.

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Vulnerable rotation spots

Athletics: Brett Anderson is rehabbing with Triple-A Sacramento, and he could be ready to return to the A's rotation in Week 21, possibly for Saturday's series finale against the Rays. It's not yet known how manager Bob Melvin will reshape the rotation, though it would seem to mean a permanent move to the bullpen for Travis Blackley. If Melvin opts for a six-man unit, that would mean more days between starts for youngsters Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and Dan Straily.

Red Sox: Manager Bobby Valentine plans to put Felix Doubront back in the rotation after having his most recent turn skipped. He will start sometime during the Red Sox's next homestand, which begins on Tuesday against the Angels, though Valentine has yet to indicate whether Aaron Cook will lose his starting role or stay as part of a six-man rotation.

Rockies: Jhoulys Chacin is expected to rejoin the Rockies for their series at the Mets next week. He has missed more than half the season due to nerve damage in his chest. Tyler Chatwood is the most likely candidate to get pushed out of the rotation.

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' Michael Lorenzen tosses three one-run innings Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:57 pm ET) Reds pitching prospect Michael Lorenzen surrendered one earned run on four hits in three innings in Thursday's 13-2 win over the Indians.

"It went good," Lorenzen said after the outing, per MLB.com. "My fastball command was good. The tempo was good. That was the most important thing for me -- tempo and fastball command. I was able to go out there and accomplish my goal for the day."

Lorenzen came into Thursday's start having allowed no hits and six walks in two innings in his previous appearance. He threw 45 pitches in Thursday's game and another 20 in the bullpen to reach his pitch-count target.

"I worked on some breaking balls," Lorenzen said. "I gave up some two-strike hits with my breaking ball. I didn't finish them. They were a lot better in the bullpen with a couple of adjustments that I made."

The Reds are looking at Lorenzen for a long-relief role but could use him as a starter at some point this season.

"That gives him a chance to get to 80-85 [pitches] in his next outing, which to me, means he's ready to start," manager Bryan Price said before the game. "You can safely say he could throw 90-95 pitches in his first start of the season."


White Sox 3B Conor Gillaspie says plantar fasciitis is not an issue
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:57 pm ET) After initially being bothered by plantar fasciitis at the beginning of spring training, White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie said he is over the injury, reports MLB.com.

"It's fine," Gillaspie said. "First thing [in the morning] and last thing at night, it's kind of sore, but as far as affecting me playing, it doesn't. It did a little bit when I first got here, but it has gone away. Credit to [White Sox head athletic trainer] Herm [Schneider] for working hard with me every day on that."

While Gillaspie will likely be dealing with discomfort in his foot for most of the season, he said it's nothing he can't manage.

"The workload lessens as you get into the season as far as practice hours go. Obviously, I'm hoping that calms it down a bit, having a little less to do," Gillaspie said. "It's not a big issue."


Mets' Matt Bowman shines in spot start vs. Nationals
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:48 pm ET) Mets pitching prospect Matt Bowman surrendered just two hits and one walk in five scoreless innings while striking out four in Thursday's 8-3 win over the Nationals.

"He was extremely impressive against a very good team," manager Terry Collins said after the outing, per MLB.com. "These guys, like all pitchers, are starting to get in shape. They're starting to get their stuff going and you see what they really have, and what they can really feature. I can understand why he's very much liked around here and how he showed up in this camp. From what I saw tonight, the command of his stuff, the poise, he's a pretty impressive-looking pitcher."

With the Mets set to open the regular season against the Nationals, the team held Opening Day starter Bartolo Colon out of Thursday's matchup and opted to use Bowman, who has posted a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings this spring.


White Sox SP Brad Penny allows six runs vs. Dodgers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:34 pm ET) White Sox pitcher Brad Penny struggled in Thursday's spring loss to the Dodgers, giving up six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in four innings while striking out two.

"I went out there and I was kind of letting it go, throwing more than pitching," Penny said after the outing, per MLB.com. "I got behind. I was working on the cutter today, which I thought was better than it has been. So, just too many balls over the plate."

Penny is competing for a spot in the team's opening rotation while Chris Sale is sidelined. He's put together a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring.


Angels' Jered Weaver strikes out eight Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:25 pm ET) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in 5 1/3 innings while racking up eight strikeouts in Thursday's spring start against the Cubs.

Weaver brought a 1.69 ERA into the outing and though that mark rose more than a full run Thursday, the starter has posted an excellent 18:1 K:BB ratio in his last three starts. He's on pace to deliver his best spring numbers since 2008.


Cardinals' Kevin Siegrist has trouble holding runners Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:18 pm ET) Cardinals pitcher Kevin Siegrist allowed two stolen bases in his inning of work Thursday while surrendering one earned run. He's made mechanical adjustments this spring to try and quicken his delivery, MLB.com reports.

"He got a little longer today for some reason," manager Mike Matheny said. "I don't know if he's trying to put a little more [velocity] on it or exactly what it is. I think he was thinking a little more about his stuff. Those are things that we hadn't seen much from him this spring."

The run was the first Siegrist has allowed in six innings this spring, and he's racked up seven strikeouts while issuing only one walk.


Giants OF Justin Maxwell competing to earn a spot
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(9:17 pm ET) Giants outfielder Justin Maxwell is working to win a spot on the team's bench, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Maxwell has a fan in manager Bruce Bochy, who has liked him since he came out of college. The 31-year-old has a batting average of .267 with two doubles, one triple, one home run, six RBI and 11 strikeouts. 

There is a clause in his minor-league contract that will let him out of his deal is he is not named to the 25-man roster.


Nationals' Gio Gonzalez tosses five scoreless innings vs. Mets
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:53 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez allowed just two hits and three walks in five scoreless innings while striking out five in Thursday's 8-3 loss to the Mets.

Gonzalez has held the opposition scoreless in three of his four spring outings while posting a 2.63 ERA and 13:6 K:BB ratio in 13 2/3 innings. He could make two more spring starts before making his regular-season debut.


Diamondbacks P Chase Anderson strikes out four Thursday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:47 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Chase Anderson started Thursday's game against the Padres and surrendered one run over six innings.

Anderson gave up six hits while walking two and striking out four batters. It was Anderson's longest outing of the spring. Anderson has pitched 14 2/3 innings this spring and given up three runs.

Anderson is competing for a starting role in the rotation, but he said he's hasn't been informed if he's in the rotation, reports MLB.com.

"They haven't said anything to me," Anderson said. "They just told me to do the best I can. I'm just going to keep pitching. That's all you can do. It's going to come down to the wire, which I think is good for our team, our organization."


Mariners' Roenis Elias surrenders six runs vs. Brewers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:43 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Roenis Elias allowed six earned runs on eight hits and three walks in three-pluss innings while striking out one in his team's 15-1 loss to the Brewers Thursday.

Elias came into the game with a 3.86 spring ERA but endured his worst Cactus League performance, giving up four runs in the first inning alone and being charged with two of Milwaukee's three fourth-inning runs. He's competing for the final rotation spot with Taijuan Walker, who has tossed 18 scoreless innings this spring.


 
 
 
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