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Di Fino: Pitchers rising from the East

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Themes are overrated. Instead, enjoy a potpourri of Fantasy thoughts that might help you in your waiver wire hunting over the next six weeks, or, possibly, in some of your drafting next year:

Here's something that inadvertently just kind of happened this year: I universally added three rookie pitchers who came over from Japan in the offseason:

Yu Darvish ($16 in Tout Wars auction): 4.52 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 162 strikeouts.
Wei-Yin Chen ($2 FAAB bid in Tout Wars): 3.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 118 strikeouts.
Hisashi Iwakuma ($2 FAAB bid in Tout Wars): 4.16 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 58 strikeouts.

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I had a strategy going in to the Tout Wars auction where I would try to grab three pitchers for between 15 and 19 dollars. I ended up with Ricky Romero ($15), Darvish and Jon Lester ($17). The gambit didn't exactly turn out how I wanted (the gambit did, the results ... are still incomplete, at best), but I was able to patch things up with Chen and, eventually, Iwakuma. Next year, I think I'd go as high as $14 for Darvish, $7 for Chen and $1 on Iwakuma at the auction. Of course, Darvish could go on an otherworldly hot streak to end the season, and that could bump his value up to $19-20, which might make him a little too rich for my budget.

Chen, on the other hand, could go on a roll, and I don't think his value for next year would change much. He came into this year without much fanfare, and I could see that carrying over, despite his successful 2012 campaign. Chen was pitching well early and started the season hot, shutting down the Yankees, White Sox, and Angels in his first three starts. His numbers in Japan suggested he could sustain this -- not a lot of strikeouts, but great control (1.06 WHIP over four seasons in Japan) and some stellar ERA numbers (his 1.54 ERA in 2009 stood out as one example). It was Chen, in fact, who eventually led me to Iwakuma. As a member of Seattle's bullpen, Iwakuma was thrust into an unfamiliar role in middle relief; in Japan, Iwakuma started all 113 of his appearances. So, over 30 1/3 innings as a reliever, Iwakuma put up an unimpressive 4.75 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. But then, in July, the Mariners added him to the rotation. After a couple five-inning, stretching-out appearances, Iwakuma hit his stride. In seven starts, his ERA sits at 3.73. His numbers in Japan (2.67 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), like Chen, suggest that this isn't just sustainable, but can possibly be improved upon.

So, for the rest of the year? Iwakuma may end up being the best. He has a fresh arm from all the time in the bullpen, and he definitely has the friendliest home park of the three. Chen will probably remain steady, in a Mark Buehrle-ish manner, and Darvish will remain an x-factor -- capable of great things, able to contribute in strikeouts, but hampered by walks and inconsistency.

If you listen to the podcasts, watch the show, or read bitter replies on Twitter, you'll know that I hate the practice of slotting starting pitchers with RP eligibility into relief pitcher spots. It makes no sense -- there's no skill involved in blindly putting starters into the RP spots, and it doesn't reflect any measure of Fantasy skill, other than bumping up someone like Chris Sale's draft value because he can get you points in the RP slot.

Of the top 25 RPs in standard H2H point leagues, eight are starters (Chris Sale, Lance Lynn, Matt Moore, Lucas Harrell, Jeff Samardzija, Felix Doubront, Jose Quintana and Mike Fiers). Conversely, the waiver wire in our Podcast League -- 12 teams, standard scoring -- features the likes of Rafael Betancourt, Jim Henderson, Steve Cishek, Jared Burton, Wilton Lopez, Heath Bell, Santiago Casilla, Frank Francisco, Carlos Marmol, and Ryan Cook. So if a team loses a closer? No big deal -- not only are plenty available on the wire, but that owner can also snag a two-start Miguel Gonzalez to plug into the RP slot, as well. People argue that it's strategy and game play; I consider it a hindrance and an easy way out of having to make a tough Fantasy decision.

That being said, I'm totally fine with playing Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. Yes, he's played primarily third base this season. Position players are moved around with far more frequency than pitchers. And Ramirez's return to shortstop shows how fluid that practice is. There is a world of a difference between feasting on RP eligibility for starting pitchers -- thus making closers nearly irrelevant and turning values of some players upside down -- and slotting a hitter at a position he primarily played the year before. It's all arguable and a matter of tastes, but, in my mind, one is harmless lineup shuffling in a system built for being vague (utility, middle infield, corner infield spots), while the other greatly alters the strategy involved with the game.

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Justin Germano is my current suggestion to anyone looking for deep pitching help. And forget about it being a two-start week for him -- Germano could have some nice value in his one-start weeks as well. His major league numbers aren't the most exciting: In 284 innings over the course of seven seasons, Germano has a 4.82 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He has struck out just 175 batters in that time. But, so far this season, Germano has managed a 3.19 ERA and, more importantly, a 1.15 WHIP. In 13 minor league seasons, Germano had an impressively-low 1.21 WHIP. In fact, since 2010 -- after spending a season in Japan (just a weird coincidence for this column) -- Germano had a 3.06 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 226 2/3 minor league innings. It's the WHIP that makes him such an attractive option; Germano issued just 31 walks over the last three minor league seasons. In his brief MLB time since 2010, he has a 3.65 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. His low WHIP could make him a sneaky play for owners looking to stabilize their ratios the rest of the way.

Bryce Harper is going to be awesome next year. I spelled it out in a column earlier this year -- there's historical backing of this, with additional backing of the theory coming from Mike Trout. I'd expect Harper to hit 30 home runs, steal 30 bases and bat around .310. It might look insane right now, but after Trout hit .220 last year, it might've looked just as crazy to suggest he'd have a chance at 30 home runs, 50 steals and a .340 average this season. It would be wise to try and get Harper cheap as a keeper now from an owner who might have soured on him during this debut season.

Yoenis Cespedes might be right behind Harper in breaking out big-time next year. Consider that he played hurt, lost time to injury, and is a rookie who has never played in the minor leagues before this season. He's batting .301 with 15 home runs and 10 steals. That puts him at about 30-20 for a full, 162-game season ... if he just repeats his 2012 numbers. I'd bump those up for his second year, and imagine him at least threatening to join Harper in the 30-30 club next year.

Even if the season ended today, Rajai Davis will have averaged 40 steals a season over the last four years. Making the feat even more impressive? In only one of the past four seasons did he manage over 400 at-bats.

One silver lining to his disastrous season: Eric Hosmer has already equaled last season's total of 11 steals. And he's only been caught once. Last year, it took him 523 at-bats to hit that mark (and he was caught five times); he has just 416 at-bats so far this year. Along with J.D. Martinez and Brett Lawrie, Hosmer could be a stellar, sneaky bounce-back pick for 2013.

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The biggest diappointment for me this season is Everth Cabrera having just 20 steals. It may not seem like a big deal -- stressing over a player owned in 12 percent of leagues -- but, with his speed, he should have 30 at this point. And those 10 extra steals could mean three or four extra points in Rotisserie leagues, which could mean the difference between "mired in fourth" and "nipping at first" as the season winds down.

If I had Melky Cabrera in a keeper league, the most I'm keeping him at is six dollars. It's a combination of not knowing which team may sign him next year, Fantasy players ascribing his breakout seasons to PED use (thus driving down his price) and a general "meh" attitude when he comes up in queues. I'm not entirely sure you'll be able to get him for six dollars in an auction next year, but that's as high as I'll bid when his name comes up.

There's a decent team to be made this week from the typical waiver wire in a 12-team standard league ...
C: Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies
1B: Kendrys Morales, 1B, Angels
2B: Omar Infante, 2B, Tigers
SS: J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles
3B: Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals
OF: Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds
OF: Rajai Davis, OF, Blue Jays
OF: David Murphy, OF, Rangers
UT: Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves
SP: Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Orioles
SP: Hisashi Iwakuma, SP, Mariners
SP: Mark Rogers, SP, Brewers
SP: Freddy Garcia, SP, Yankees
SP: David Phelps, SP, Yankees
RP: Rafael Betancourt, RP, Rockies
RP: Dale Thayer, RP, Padres

In fact, I'll score this team against my opponent next week and report back on it. I'm betting this team of scrappy underdogs could get a win against a normal team, if things fall the right way.

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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Player News
Dustin Ackley belts two home runs Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:15 am ET) Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley clubbed two home runs Friday against the Astros.

Ackley struck in the third inning. He worked a five-pitch at-bat against Brad Peacock, belting a 79 mph knuckle curve to left. He struck again in the eighth, hitting another solo shot on a 90 mph fastball. Ackley finished 2 for 4, with three runs scored and two RBI. 


Kevin Gausman leaves with blister Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:08 am ET) Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman left with a blister Friday, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Gausman said a blister developed during the first inning, and forced him out of the game after the fifth. He was pulled after throwing 91 pitches. Gausman said the injury didn't bother him while on the mound. 


Edward Mujica picks up a save Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Red Sox closer Edward Mujica picked up his seventh save Friday against the Orioles. 

Mujica entered with a two-run lead, and managed to shut the door. After quickly getting a groundout, Mujica allowed a single against the second batter he faced. That was quickly erased, as he picked up a game-ending double play. It was Mujica's seventh save of the year. 


Brad Peacock struggles Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Astros starter Brad Peacock had a rough start Friday against the Mariners.

Peacock allowed seven runs, two earned, on six hits over 3 1/3 innings. He struck out two and walked four during the outing. Peacock did well in his first two innings, but ran into trouble in the third. Dustin Ackley belted a solo shot off Peacock tying the game 1-1. Things really fell apart in the fourth, though. After two errors put two men on base, Peacock gave up a three-run homer to Mike Zunino. After two walks, he allowed an RBI single against Robinson Cano. Peacock was pulled from the game at that point. The next batter would club a three-run shot. Two of those runs were charged to Peacock, though they were unearned due to the errors.

With the loss, Peacock dropped to 4-9. He’ll take on the Rangers in his next start. 


Taijuan Walker turns in strong start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker turned in a solid start Friday against the Astros. 

Walker allowed two runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked two during the outing. Walker gave up his first run early. After a double by Jose Altuve, Dexter Fowler singled in the run. Walker would settle in over the next three innings, before giving up his final run in the fifth. With two outs and a man on third, Fowler struck again, driving in another run on a single. Walker would get out of the inning without giving up any more runs. He was able to get two outs in the sixth inning before he was pulled.

Walker improved to 2-2 with the win. He’ll take on the Blue Jays in his next start.


Phil Hughes got off to a tough start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Twins pitcher Phil Hughes had a tough start Friday against the Indians.

Hughes allowed four runs on 10 hits over seven innings. He struck out five and did not issue any walks during the outing. Hughes gave up two of his runs in the fourth inning. With two outs, Hughes allowed a double, followed by two run scoring singles. Michael Brantley added to the scoring in the sixth, by hitting a solo home run to lead things off. Hughes allowed his final run in the seventh. After a leadoff double, Michael Bourn was able to plate a run with a sac fly. 

The Twins managed a comeback, giving Hughes the no-decision. He’ll take on the Tigers in his next start. 


Trevor Bauer turns in a quality start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer turned in a quality start Friday against the Twins.

Bauer allowed three runs on four hits over six innings. He struck out six and did not issue any walks during the outing. Home runs proved to be an issue for Bauer. Oswaldo Arcia took him deep to start the third inning, accounting for the first earned run. In the fourth, Kennys Vargas belted a solo shot as well. Bauer came out to start the seventh, but was pulled after giving up two singles. One run would score after he left the game. That run would be charged to Bauer.

The Twins managed a comeback, giving Bauer a no-decision. He’ll take on the Royals in his next start. 


Michael Cuddyer plates career-high seven runs vs. D-Backs
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer only needed three hits to drive in a career-high seven runs Friday night at home against Arizona.

Cuddyer launched a grand slam off Eury De La Rosa in the sixth inning. He also doubled in three runs in the eight, to go along with a fifth-inning double. He finished 3 for 5 with three runs scored and seven RBI in a 15-3 victory. He is hitting .335/.378/.593 with nine homers and 29 RBI over 167 at-bats.

Justin Verlander turns in strong start Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander turned in a strong start Friday against the Royals.

Verlander allowed one run on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out four and did not issue any walks during the appearance. Verlander was exceptional to start the game, going seven scoreless innings to start things off. After giving up a double to open the bottom of the eighth, Verlander was pulled from the game. The run wound up coming around to score after Verlander left. He was charged with the run.

With the win, Verlander improved to 14-12. He'll take on the Twins in his next start. 


Jason Vargas gets knocked around Friday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/19/2014) Royals pitcher Jason Vargas lasted just 3 1/3 innings Friday.

Vargas allowed five runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings. He struck out one and did not issue any walks during the outing. Vargas found himself in trouble in the first inning. After a leadoff single, Vargas gave up a run-scoring double to Miguel Cabrera. Victor Martinez drove in Cabrera, adding to the damage. Eugenio Saurez would add to the fun, driving in the third run of the inning. In the second inning, Torii Hunter would add a run on a double. After a quiet third, Vargas gave up his final run in the fourth. Ian Kinsler doubled in the final run given up by Vargas. He was pulled from the game at that point. 

With the loss, Vargas dropped to 11-10. He’ll take on the Indians in his next start. 


 
 
 
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