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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
Athletics RF Josh Reddick (back) doubtful for Monday's game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:44 am ET) Athletics right fielder Josh Reddick is doubtful for Monday's game against the Orioles, according to CSN Bay Area.

“Maybe doubtful tomorrow, but I don’t think it’s enough to where we have to worry about long term,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Reddick left Sunday's game due to lower back tightness. He believed he injured his back while making a play on a foul ball.

“It’s a lot better than when it initially happened,” Reddick said. “My back locked up and started spasming out. After the play I went back and watched it. From what I gathered, it looked like it happened from me avoiding the ballboy, who didn’t move one bit. … Nothing serious. Hopefully it’s something that’s just day to day. I’m sure with Bob (being cautious), I probably won’t start tomorrow. I’ll get some more treatment done so I’ll be ready to go Tuesday.”


Mariners RP Vidal Nuno to make spot start on Tuesday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(1:40 am ET) Mariners relief pitcher Vidal Nuno will start for his team against the Rockies on Tuesday, according to the Seattle Times.

Nuno last started a game on July 5, but it was for Triple-A Tacoma during a brief demotion.

“It’s just another day,” he said. “Now I just have to go 80 to 100 pitches and set the tone of the game.”

The Mariners are confident Nuno can provide the rotation some much needed rest.

“He can go five easily if we need him to,” McClendon said. “He’s very durable and he’s rested.”


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson strikes out three in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:26 am ET) Diamondbacks starting pitcher Chase Anderson tossed four innings during a Rookie League rehab game on Sunday.

Anderson allowed four hits and struck out three batters, but did not allow any runs in what was a solid performance.

Anderson is on the 15-day disabled list with a triceps injury.


Cubs C Miguel Montero goes 1 for 3 in rehab game Sunday
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:24 am ET) Cubs catcher Miguel Montero went 1 for 3 in a Double-A rehab game on Sunday.

Montero is out of commission with a thumb injury.


Phillies 2B Chase Utley gets two hits in rehab game
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(12:21 am ET) Phillies second baseman Chase Utley went 2 for 3 with a walk and two singles in a Triple-A rehab game on Sunday.

Utley is on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle injury.


Nationals SP Jordan Zimmermann gives up five runs in loss
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Nationals starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was not sharp during his start against the Mets on Sunday.

Zimmermann gave up five runs on six hits in six innings of work. He struggled at times with his location, as he allowed a season-high three home runs. Zimmermann did manage to strike out seven batters, but the damage from the home runs he allowed proved too costly.

With the loss, Zimmermann dropped to 8-7 this season with a 3.57 ERA.


Mets closer Tyler Clippard notches 18th save of the season
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Mets closer Tyler Clippard closed out the ninth inning of his team's win over the Nationals on Sunday with ease.

Clippard gave up one hit, but then put away Washington to pick up his 18th save of the season. He has a 2.55 ERA in 42 1/3 innings of relief.


Mets SP Noah Syndergaard strikes out nine in win over Nats
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(8/2/2015) Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard was dominant during his start against the Nationals on Sunday.

Syndergaard allowed just two runs on seven hits over eight innings of work. He struck out nine batters and didn't allow a single a walk. Syndergaard made a pair of mistakes on two solo home runs, but was simply masterful besides that.

With the win, Syndergaard improved to 6-5 on the season with an impressive 2.66 ERA.


Cubs' Dan Haren considering retirement after this season
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/2/2015) Cubs pitcher Dan Haren is planning to retire after this season, he said on Sunday, per MLB.com.

"I would say right now the chances are this will probably be it," he said. 

He wasn't willing to commit to the plan, 100 percent, however. "I don't want to say this is it and pull a Brett Favre," he said


Brewers not sure of Kyle Lohse's rotation spot
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/2/2015) Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse is in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, manager Craig Counsell said on Sunday. 

Lohse is 5-13 with a 6.31 ERA after Sunday's loss.

"He was in a lot of trouble all day," Counsell said, per MLB.com. "There was trouble pretty much every inning and it was big trouble. He struggled today and we need better from him."

"We have to discuss that in the next few days," Counsell said of Lohse's status in the rotation.


 
 
 
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