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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
Cubs acquire Felix Doubront for PTBNL
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(3:21 pm ET) The Red Sox have sent pitcher Felix Doubront to the Cubs for a player to be named later according to multiple media reports Wednesday.

Doubront had fallen out of favor in Boston after he was removed from the rotation, especially since he has expressed unhappiness with that role. Doubront has a 6.07 ERA in 59 1/3 innings this season with the Red Sox, and it Is not clear if he will return to a starting role with the Cubs. 


Angel Pagan all but set for minor league rehab stint
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:17 pm ET) Giants outfielder and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan will work out in Arizona on Wednesday, per CSN Bay Area. If all goes well, he will begin a rehab stint Thursday with their rookie league team.

Pagan has been sidelined since June 14 with a back injury.


Justin Masterson worth a gamble for NL-only owners
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(3:17 pm ET) Justin Masterson's move from the Indians to the Cardinals by way of Wednesday's trade isn't likely to do much for his Fantasy value on its own. He will inherit a better pitcher's park, but that shouldn't impact the 29-year-old sinkerballer much.

Masterson also moves to the more pitcher-friendly league, but that effect will likely be neutralized by getting a new team that is far less likely to offer run support. The Cardinals rank second-to-last in runs scored this season, while the Indians currently rank sixth.

The trade itself does nothing to make Masterson more desirable to owners in mixed leagues, though he is still worth stashing at least in deeper formats in the event that he rediscovers his early-season form. While Masterson has only shown brief flashes of the potential he showed last season, he had been decent through his first eight starts of 2014, going 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. A mediocre WHIP is pretty much a given with Masterson, but as long as it's not awful, he can be worth starting. Even during the awful weeks leading up to his disabled list stint, Masterson was getting strikeouts, and with a high ground ball rate, he offers the promise of a low ERA.

In the 11 starts prior to his DL trip, Masterson walked 36 batters in 49 innings. If those control issues were at all related to his knee injury, the Cardinals -- and Fantasy owners -- could enjoy a version of Masterson that is more like what we saw earlier this year or maybe even last year, assuming he is healthier now.

For that reason, he is worth a bid or waiver pickup in NL-only leagues. Masterson offers enough downside that you don't want to clean out your FAAB account to get him. In the event that Jon Lester or John Lackey crosses over to the senior circuit, you want to preserve most of your cash. Still, Masterson is worth a $5-to-$10 bid in a $100 FAAB league in the hopes that he turns his season around.


Report: David Price probably sticking around with Rays
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:09 pm ET) The suddenly contending Rays will now only trade ace David Price if an offer arrives that they can't refuse, per ESPN.com, which has pointed out that the left-hander made his start as scheduled Wednesday.

The Rays bottomed out at 18 games under .500, but entered play Wednesday just one game under the break-even mark. They are attempting to become the first team in major league history to fall that far under .500 and make the playoffs.


Michael Wacha switched to 60-day DL
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:59 pm ET) Cardinals shelved pitcher Michael Wacha has been moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the roster for fellow right-hander Justin Masterson.

Wacha could be out for the season with a shoulder injury.


James Ramsey elevated to Triple-A Columbus
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:52 pm ET) Newly acquired outfielder James Ramsey has earned a promotion in the trade that sent him from the Cardinals to the Indians. He will join Triple-A Columbus Clippers after having spent this season in Double-A.

Justin Masterson to make St. Louis debut on Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Just-acquired right-hander Justin Masterson is set to make his first start with the Cardinals on Saturday against Milwaukee.

Masterson, who is on the disabled list with a knee issue, has struggled in his rehab stint with Triple-A Buffalo. He gave up seven earned runs in 11 2/3 innings with eight walks. His decreased velocity this season has been a concern.


Endy Chavez ready to roll Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:26 pm ET) Mariners right fielder Endy Chavez has returned to the starting lineup Wednesday for the game in Cleveland after missing time with a finger issue.

Chavez, who pinch-hit Tuesday, owns a stat line of .269/.306/.363 this season.


Report: James Ramsey going to Cleveland in trade
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) The Indians have reportedly acquired outfield prospect James Ramsey from the Cardinals Wednesday, in exchange for pitcher Justin Masterson, the New York Post reports.

Ramsey is hitting .300/.389/.527 in 67 games at Double-A Springfield this season. The 24-year-old was a first-round pick out of Florida State in the 2012 draft.  


Clint Hurdle explains benching of Pedro Alvarez
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:15 pm ET) Clint Hurdle has compared Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez to Travis Snider and Josh Harrison in justifying his move to bench the former again Wednesday.

"He's not outplaying Harrison," he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Snider's a hot bat that's in the lineup."

Alvarez is leading the major leagues in errors, including 21 on bad throws, and owns a stat line of .238/.309/.437.


 
 
 
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