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Reality Check: Plenty of work left to do

Senior Fantasy Writer
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In the majority of Fantasy leagues, the trade deadline has now passed, so if you've stuck it out for this long, you might as well see it through to the end.

Of course, you can't really do anything to improve your team anymore -- at least not in a direct way -- so if you're not already in the playoff hunt, you're competing just to save face. But if you're at all within striking distance, you might want to head to your team's "setting and alerts" page and reconfigure your e-mail notifications. The waiver wire is about to become an interesting place.

The passing of the trade deadline changes the way Fantasy owners assess their players. Quite simply, they lose all patience for them. True, Fantasy owners aren't the most patient lot anyway, but one thing that keeps them from acting on their impulses is the possibility of a trade. The thought process goes something like this:

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"Yeah, he stinks right now, and I'd rather be starting four or five of those players on the waiver wire. But he has 'name value,' and I spent a lot to get him. Who knows? Maybe he'll come around.

"Worst case, I can always trade him."

Yeah. So much for that.

With the 'ol stash-and-trade no longer a possibility, those underachievers look all the more like lost causes, and the temptation to swap them out for immediate production becomes too great to ignore.

And to a certain extent, it's warranted. If you can't trust a player to perform when you need him most, why waste precious roster space on him? On the other hand, six weeks is plenty of time to reverse a streak. Some of your coldest players now could be some of your hottest down the stretch, and vice-versa.

How can you tell which ones? Chances are anyone who knows the answer to that has already made millions off it and doesn't need to take some job writing on the Internet, in which case you're stuck with me and my hunches and feelings that kind of, sort of, pass for answers. Heaven help us.

If nothing else, I do have an understanding of recent events and a presumed understanding of how the average Fantasy owner interprets those events. With that knowledge, I've pinpointed some of the absurdities that might develop on your league's waiver wire over the next couple weeks and sorted them into two categories. We'll tackle the first one first so that it can stay first and not, by virtue of sequence, become second.

Players on the verge of getting cut who you'll want to add right away.

The category speaks for itself, but the presentation may require some explanation. I'll name a player, then give what I imagine the person dropping him is thinking, then give what I imagine your rebuttal to be. It's a little unorthodox, but if you try really hard, you'll see some value in it.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/3B/OF, Angels
Rationale: "I knew this guy was a bust from the beginning. I can't even get a 10-point week out of him anymore. What a joke!" *Click*
Response: But everyone is entitled to a bad week or two -- or four, in this case. Trumbo was so reliable earlier in the season that you had to expect a drought at some point. An August slump only makes a September surge more likely.

James McDonald, SP, Pirates
Rationale: "What, are the Pirates trying to break this guy? He went from All-Star snub to Oliver Perez, Part 2. Shut him down already before you're out of the wild card race and dialing Dr. Andrews!" *Click*
Response: Or maybe McDonald simply had a crisis of confidence, a period when he fell into some old habits and couldn't find his way back. Maybe his two-hit effort at St. Louis last time out is a sign he's back on course. Maybe you should just chill and trust in the coaching staff that got him this far.

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals
Rationale: "I don't know what happened to this guy after those seven home runs in 11 games just after the All-Star break. No wait, I do. He remembered he was Adam Laroche!" *Click*
Response: Um, have you seen his second-half numbers? Even with this recent slump, he still has a career .293 batting average and .883 OPS after the All-Star break, which is basically what Prince Fielder does every other year. The pattern is too reliable for you to start questioning it after only a couple of down weeks.

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C.J. Wilson, SP, Angels
Rationale: "This guy can't do anything right! Last time he won a game, I was still wondering what kind of fireworks to buy for the Fourth of July. The kind that blow up my Fantasy team, apparently." *Click*
Response: OK, Wilson's last 10 starts haven't been his finest, but he does have five quality starts during that stretch. Even if he stays this bad, he's bound to have better luck in the win-loss department with the Angels' offense backing him. And most likely, he'll overcome this recent bout with wildness like he has every other time over the last two years.

Get the idea? OK, then, here's the second category:

Players on the verge of getting cut who you'll want to ignore ... for now.

Forgive me if the cryptic use of ellipses makes this category sound like the epilogue to a slasher film, but I wanted to remind you that even the players who appear to be lost causes right now could still turn things around. You wouldn't want to ignore a monster week from someone just because of something some Fantasy writer wrote weeks earlier, when the circumstances were obviously different.

For the most part, though, these guys deserve a collective "meh."

Michael Young, 1B/2B/3B, Rangers
Rationale: "Young? The only thing young about this guy are the doe-eyed girls who drafted him because "he's cute" and now defend his .641 OPS with cries of "oh, but he tries so hard!" Give me a break! I'm trying hard, too -- to win my Fantasy league! I'd be better off with Dustin Ackley." *Click*
Response: At this point, you really would. Young, age 35, has been stuck in this rut all season long while Ackley, age 24, is at least making some measure of progress with four homers and four steals since the All-Star break. It's not much, but it's something.

Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves
Rationale: "I thought this guy was an ace! Maybe if he had actually taken the mound last September, he wouldn't have forgotten how to pitch. At this rate, he'll be lucky to see the sixth inning again." *Click*
Response: Well, he did pitch six innings in his last start, but it was the first time in five starts and the third time in 10. He may not have forgotten how to pitch, but he has yet to regain his velocity and command after tearing his labrum and rotator cuff last August, and at this point, you have to wonder if he ever will.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
Rationale: "A .233 batting average? A .668 OPS? If this guy isn't a lost cause by now, no one is!" *Click*
Response: Agreed. It's been fun, Hosmer, but better luck next year.

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Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
Rationale: "Have you seen what he's done since the All-Star break? The only franchise he's saving is the one that sells his eye black. Those are clown numbers, bro!" *Click*
Response: A .191 batting average in 35 games is pretty sorry and perhaps indicative of a 19-year-old struggling to adjust to a league that has him figured out. Again, better luck next year.

As always, I should point out the importance of context in these scenarios. I wouldn't suggest for anyone in a 16-team league with 30-man rosters to drop Tommy Hanson, for instance, and if the waiver wire didn't offer anything promising in return, I wouldn't suggest for anyone in a 10-team league to do it either. I trust that goes without saying, though. If you've made it this far, you're knowledgeable enough to know which assessments pertain to you and which ones don't.

And if these do, look alive out there. Just because you no longer have any trade offers coming your way doesn't mean your work is done. Your biggest acquisition may be yet to come.

In the now ... A look at how recent events have impacted certain players' Fantasy value

Ryan Doumit, C/OF, Twins: In case you haven't noticed, Doumit is now the ninth-ranked catcher in Head-to-Head leagues, ahead of such notables as Brian McCann, Jesus Montero and Mike Napoli. He accomplished it in part by scoring the fourth-most Head-to-Head points among catchers since July 22, which he accomplished by hitting .316 with seven home runs and a .943 OPS during that stretch. At first glance, those numbers might seem unsustainable to you, but keep in mind he hit .318 with an .858 OPS for the Pirates in 2008 and .303 with an .830 OPS for them just last year. So why wasn't he as productive in Fantasy then? Quite simply, he didn't get the at-bats. He was a full-time catcher who had to sit every fifth day when healthy, which he quite often wasn't given the rigors of the position. Now that he's primarily a DH, he gets more at-bats than practically any catcher, having started 27 of the team's last 29 games, so even if he does lose something statistically over the next six weeks, he'll still rank high enough at the position to be universally started in Fantasy.

Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays: Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it. You're all now witness to Colby Rasmus, Part 2, which began with him hitting .331 with 11 home runs and a 1.038 OPS during a 32-game stretch earlier this year only to conclude with him hitting .194 with six home runs and a .604 OPS in 42 games since. It's an awful lot like his 2010, which began with him hitting .283 with 16 home runs and a .957 OPS in 70 games only to conclude with him hitting .270 with seven home runs and a .768 OPS over his remaining 74. Or is it Colby Rasmus, Part 3? After all, he also hit .313 with three home runs and an .873 OPS in his first 37 games last year only to hit .185 with 11 home runs and a .603 OPS the rest of the way. Granted, he's been dealing with a groin injury over the last couple weeks, so maybe his recent struggles are partially the result of that. Or maybe he's just a streaky former top prospect who's already maxed out his potential. The more of this history he accumulates, the more tempted I am to believe the latter.

Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox: A couple weeks ago, Lester was Public Enemy No. 1 in the swarming maelstrom of discontent that has become Red Sox Nation. And frankly, his Fantasy owners were about ready to take up arms and chase him off a cliff as well. But over his last two starts, he's looked like the Lester of old, posting a 1.38 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Is that enough to redeem him in the eyes of his Fantasy owners? Considering the struggles never matched up with the stuff in the first place, it should be. His velocity has been as good as ever this year. His walk rate hasn't been especially high. He's just given up a lot of hits. His (former) pitching coach, Bob McClure, offered some insight into the problem just a week or two before the resurgence began by saying Lester developed some bad habits mechanically last year that have continued this year. If they've been working on the problem since then, chances are this is the result. If you own Lester in Fantasy, you may not be quite ready to declare him your ace, but you're allowed to trust him again.

Brian McCann, C, Braves: One of the biggest mysteries of the 2012 season has been the downfall of McCann, a career .280 hitter who has hovered around the .230 mark all year. Early on, he was a victim of the league's newfound appreciation of the infield shift, but in more recent days -- particularly in August, during which he's batting .103 (4 for 39) -- his struggles have become inexplicable. That is, until now. An MRI recently revealed a cyst and frayed labrum in his right shoulder -- an injury that, while bad enough on its own, has also led to a subluxation, according to the Braves training staff. No one can say for sure how long he's had the injury, but just like that, his path back to Fantasy stardom has gone from being a nature walk to something you'd see in a Jeep commercial. No one's saying he's an automatic drop, but if he manages to stay the 10th-ranked catcher in Head-to-Head leagues, it'll be something of an accomplishment. And you can forget about him moving up.

Tyler Greene, 2B/SS, Astros: One of the few positives to a roster devoid of known Fantasy talent is that it provides opportunity for the unknown. And every once in a while, one the unknown takes that opportunity and runs it with, performing so well that he enters the ranks of the known and remains there for years to come. That scenario seemed to be unfolding for Jed Lowrie before he went down with a leg injury in mid-July. Now, Greene is the prime candidate in Houston. The trade that brought him there in early August came with little fanfare given his minimal role in St. Louis, but considering the power and speed he showed throughout his minor-league career, it could be a move Fantasy owners point to later as one that changed the landscape of the shortstop position. Greene offers legitimate 20-20 potential, and though he's no guarantee to realize it at age 29, the first results are encouraging. If you're willing to gamble this time of year, here's your shot in the dark.

Down the line ... A brief update on some of the minor-leaguers or prospects who have caught the attention of Fantasy owners

Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers: The rumors of Profar's impending promotion began the day the Rangers called Mike Olt up to the majors, with Steve Buechele, Profar's manager at Double-A Frisco, being one of the loudest proponents of the move. Profar brings enormous offensive talent to the shortstop position -- think the second coming of Hanley Ramirez, potentially -- but it would be wasted on Fantasy owners if he doesn't have a place to play. At last check, Elvis Andrus is still in Texas, so are we back to speculating about Michael Young's job security? Mitch Moreland's? Mike Napoli's? As with Olt, Profar's arrival, if it happens, figures to be much ado about nothing. At age 19, he could stand to finish out the season at Double-A anyway.

Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks: Skaggs, who has been overshadowed in the Diamondbacks organization by Trevor Bauer this year despite an elite pedigree of his own, is looking like a candidate to make a spot start in the Diamondbacks' doubleheader against the Marlins Wednesday after getting pulled from his scheduled start Sunday. His last start wasn't the greatest -- he allowed eight earned runs in five innings Aug. 14 -- but in his previous seven starts, he compiled a 0.89 ERA, catching the attention of general manager Kevin Towers. A one-and-done deal wouldn't be much help to Fantasy owners, who'd have no reason to trust Skaggs straight out of the minors, but if it leads to more looks in September, it could make the left-hander a prime sleeper entering next season, as happened for Matt Moore between last September and this spring.

Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs: Soler's greatest misfortune, at least in terms of hype, was defecting from Cuba at the same time as Yoenis Cespedes. He still got his payday, but he's a relative unknown in Fantasy. That's about to change, though, given his numbers in the minor-leagues so far. Despite a recent promotion to Class A Peoria, the 20-year-old still stands head and shoulders above his peers, batting .333 (9 for 27) with two homers, one steal and a 1.030 OPS, and according to his hitting coach, Barbaro Garbey, it's likely to continue.

"He will move up a little faster than expected if he continues to have a good pitch selection and the same approach he's been showing at the plate and using the whole field," Garbey told MLB.com Saturday. "That's the most important thing."

Soler is no immediate help to Fantasy owners, but if these early returns count for anything, he won't need to go the Kendrys Morales route, taking a long and winding path to the majors. Look out for him next year.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Rockies surprising 2B LeMahieu cranks first homer Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:45 am ET) Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu had his nine-game hitting streak to start the season snapped Friday night. He apparently didn't take too kindly to it.

LeMahieu, a hot hitter on a hot-hitting team, provided most of the offense in a loss to the Dodgers with a two-run homer in the seventh inning off standout right-hander Zack Greinke. The RBI give him eight on the year and the performance improved his slash line to an impressive .463/.476/.585.


Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis thriving early this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis has ripped through the first two weeks of the season with a bang, hitting .333 in 45 at-bats. Manager John Gibbons loves the way the rookie is playing this season.

"He's got the complete game, he really does," Gibbons said. "He was such a good hitter in spring training I thought to myself: 'This kid will hit some home runs in his career.' But he's shown a lot more power than I expected."

Gibbons is handling things at the plate like an old veteran, according to Gibbons.

"One thing he's got that's advanced for a young guy is he's got a great approach at the plate, he doesn't chase out of the zone much. He's got the ability to foul off tough pitches to stay alive and a lot of guys can't do that. And he handles breaking balls, at least fouls them off, and that's a big part of it. He stays alive and if they make a mistake he doesn't miss it. He's been very productive."


Blue Jays manager just fine with Kevin Pillar's aggressive style of play
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:38 am ET) Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has no issue with how outfielder Kevin Pillar attacks the game head on, reports the Toronto Sun. He will deal with the slight issues that comes with his aggressiveness.

"I love the fact that he's aggressive, he can pull off some catches that a lot of guys don't make," Gibbons said. "It depends on the situation, some balls you can't get to, them back off. But he's always had that mindset (to go get it) and that's what allows him to be so good and make those plays. A lot of guys don't. But he's smart enough too to know there's certain times he's got to back off too."

Pillar doesn't think he's overly aggressive.

"He believes he's going to make it, that's why he makes a lot of them," Gibbons added. "There's no hesitation with him at all. He's got a ton of confidence when he's playing that outfield, really in his whole game. When he's on the bases he's a confident kid too."


Adrian Gonzalez drives in three more for Dodgers on Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) The 2015 RBI Machine, otherwise known as Adrian Gonzalez, was at it again Saturday night.

The Dodgers slugger not only boasts a ridiculous batting average of .523, which actually went down in the game but he added three RBI to his total, giving him 14 in 11 games. He brought home a run with a fielder's choice in the third and singled in two in the fifth. Gonzalez owns an eye-popping slugging percentage of 1.045.

He has struck out just three times in 44 at-bats on the year.


Dodgers closer Peralta overcomes pain in neck to be pain in neck to Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) For a guy considered questionable to pitch with a neck issue, Dodgers closer Joel Peralta was certainly impressive Saturday night.

Peralta was a pain in the neck to the Rockies. He closed them down with a shutout inning, yielding only a walk along the way to notch his third save.

The right-hander has yet to surrender a run in six outings as he holds down the role for the injured Kenley Jansen.


Rockies starter Lyles can't compete against Greinke in defeat
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:24 am ET) Opposing pitchers must be sharp when matched up against Dodgers stud Zack Greinke. Rockies right-hander Jordan Lyles was not sharp Saturday night. The result was his first loss of the season.

Lyles walked five in six innings. He also gave up five hits and four earned runs. He was hanging in there until a two-run single by Adrian Gonazalez in the fifth stretched the Los Angeles lead to 4-1.

His ERA jumped more than a point to 3.50, but he will have a chance to lower it Thursday against San Diego.


Mariners catcher Mike Zunino rips first home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Mariners catcher Mike Zunino went 1 for 3 at the plate in Seattle's 3-1 win over the Rangers Saturday. Zunino did his damage in the fifth when he smacked the first pitch he saw from Colby Lewis over the left center field wall for a solo home run, his first of the year.

Zunino, who also struck out twice, boosted his average to .139 in 36 at-bats this season.


Dodgers RHP Greinke good enough for second win Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:16 am ET) Good was good enough Saturday night for Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke.

Greinke was dominant in his first two starts this season. He was merely good against the hot-hitting Rockies and that earned him his second win.

Only a two-run homer by DJ LeMahieu in the seventh inning really marred his performance. He finished having yielded three earned runs on five hits in 6 2/3 inning with one walk and three strikeouts. His ERA nearly doubled to a still-wonderful 1.83.

Greinke has now allowed just 12 hits and two walks in 19 2/3 innings. He will try to continue his fine start Thursday in San Francisco.


Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis knocked around for 10 hits in loss
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis allowed three runs on 10 hits in Texas' 3-1 loss to the Mariners Saturday. 

Lewis worked efficiently through the first three innings before running into issues in the fourth. Lewis allowed a sacrifice fly to Seth Smith, allowing Robinson Cano to score. Then in the fifth, Lewis surrendered a leadoff home run to Mike Zunino.

Brad Miller then tripled in the sixth, driving in Kyle Seager, before getting pulled.

Lewis, now 1-1, boasts a 3.79 ERA and will look to get back on track Saturday against the Angels.


Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez strikes out 12 in win Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:14 am ET) Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez allowed one run in seven innings of work in Seattle's 3-1 win over the Rangers Saturday. 

Hernandez struck out 12 and needed 111 pitches, 70 for strikes, to get through his outing. Hernandez allowed two baserunners in the fifth, putting runners on first and third. He got Elvis Andrus to ground out to short, but allowed the run to score.

Hernandez, now 2-0, boasts a 2.37 ERA and will look to keep rolling Saturday against the Twins.


 
 
 
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