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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
1B Clint Robinson hooks up with Nationals
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:05 pm ET) The Nationals have signed first baseman Clint Robinson to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training.

Robinson had been in the Dodgers organization. He compiled a strong .312/.401/.535 slash line at the Triple-A level a year ago.


Report: RHP Hiroki Kuroda heading back to Japan
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:58 pm ET) Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is heading back to Japan, thereby ending his career with the Yankees, per various reports.

Kuroda, who will be 40 years old in February, pitched seven seasons in the major leagues, including the last three in the Big Apple. He finished 2014 with an 11-9 record and 3.71 ERA.


Astros LHP Downs, IF Petit heading to Fresno
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:07 pm ET) The Astros have outrighted left-hander Darin Downs to Triple-A Fresno after having cleared waivers. 

The team has also announced that infielder Gregorio Petit has accepted an assignment to Fresno. He and Downs are set to join the squad in spring training.


Nationals taking chance on 2B Dan Uggla
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:48 am ET) Second baseman Dan Uggla, who has spent most of his recent years creating a breeze at the plate, has signed a minor league deal with the Nationals with a spring training invite.

Uggla received a career-low 141 at-bats last season with Atlanta and San Francisco. He compiled a disturbing slash line of .149/.229/.213 with 46 strikeouts. His batting average has fallen in each of the last four years.


Diamondbacks bring in LHP Dan Runzler
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) Left-hander Dan Runzler did not stick around in Japan for long. He spent the last two months of the 2014 season there, but is back in the states after signing a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks.

Runzler compiled a 3.30 ERA and fanned 53 in 46 1/3 innings at the Triple-A level for San Francisco last season before bolting to Japan.


RHP Juan Gutierrez remains with Giants
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:52 am ET) The Giants have re-signed right-hander Juan Gutierrez to a minor league contract. The deal likely includes an invitation to spring training, per Baseball America.

Gutierrez appeared in 61 games for San Francisco in 2014, compiling a 3.96 ERA and allowing 60 hits in 63 2/3 innings.


Darin Downs outrighted to Triple-A Fresno
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:41 am ET) The Astros sent left-handed reliever Darin Downs outright to Triple-A Fresno. Downs made 45 appearances with the Astros last season. He posted a 5.45 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and 27:19 K:BB ratio over 34 2/3 innings.

Report: Diamondbacks sign Jordan Pacheco to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) The Diamondbacks will re-sign infielder Jordan Pacheco to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, MLBDailyDish.com reports.

Pacheco hit .255/.299/.333 in 153 at-bats between Colorado and Arizona in 2014. He made appearances at catcher, first base, second base and third base last season.


Indians sign Jeff Manship to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Indians have signed pitcher Jeff Manship to a minor-league deal. Manship posted a 6.65 ERA and 16:14 K:BB ratio in 23 innings with the Phillies in 2014.

Rockies sign Roger Bernadina to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Rockies have signed outfielder Roger Bernadina to a minor-league deal. He hit .167/.304/.258 in 66 at-bats with the Reds and Dodgers in 2014.

 
 
 
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