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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
Mariners' James Paxton surrenders seven runs vs. White Sox
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:32 pm ET) Mariners pitcher James Paxton allowed seven earned runs on 10 hits and one walk in 3 1/3 innings while striking out three in his team's 12-4 loss to the White Sox Wednesday.

Paxton tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings in his spring debut but has struggled over his last two starts, and he finishes Cactus League action with a 7.84 ERA and 6:5 K:BB ratio in 10 1/3 innings. The Mariners have yet to set the rotation, but Paxton's next start will come during the regular season.


Report: Dodgers trade Drew Butera to Angels
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) The Dodgers have reportedly traded backup catcher Drew Butera to the Angels for a player to be named later or cash considerations, according to ESPN.com.

Butera was designated for assignment earlier in the week to make room on the 40-man roster. He hit .188 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 170 plate appearances in 2014.


Phillies pitcher Mario Hollands to have arm examined this week
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Mario Hollands is still dealing with an arm issue and it remains uncertain as to what is causing the issue, reports DelawareOnline.com.

Hollands will undergo an ultrasound on his common flexor tendon this week after his first MRI was unclear, according to the report. Hollands has an 11.81 ERA this spring with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched.

"Having to see everyone get ready for opening day is tough," Hollands said. "It hurts. But maybe I'll be up there for opening day so at least I can put on the uniform for the day."


Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse struggles in spring finale
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:58 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse surrendered seven runs on eight hits, including three home runs, in his final start of spring training. Lohse felt it was more of a way to open his eyes to adjustments before the season starts, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"That's not exactly what I wanted, but it's not a bad thing to kind of have a little bit of a wakeup call," said Lohse. "There wasn't a whole lot of good coming out of that. I definitely put myself in some tough situations out there. Made a couple of good pitches, a lot of bad ones."

Lohse, who will be Milwaukee's Opening Day starter, finishes the spring with a 4.74 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched.

"He made some mistakes," said manager Ron Roenicke. "Tight strike zone, he made some mistakes and they didn't miss much.

"I like what he's been doing. Today, I don't know how explain it. Sometimes your command just isn't there and sometimes you're facing a pretty good team. He knows what he needs to do. We feel good with him opening up."


Indians line up rotation, Zach McAllister to pitch home opener
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:38 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona has set the rotation for the first week of the season, with Zach McAllister slated to serve as the No. 4 starter and pitch the team's home opener next Friday against the Tigers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Corey Kluber draws the Opening Day assignment Monday against the Astros after winning the AL Cy Young award in 2014. He'll be followed by Carlos Carrasco Tuesday and Trevor Bauer Wednesday. McAllister will then face the Tigers Friday, with T.J. House taking the mound Saturday and Kluber pitching Sunday.


Brewers' Hector Gomez set to open season with team
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Brewers infielder Hector Gomez appears to be on track to break camp with the major-league team after a slew of roster moves Tuesday, and he credits pre-spring training work at a facility in the Dominican Republic operated by Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano for his spring success, MLB.com reports.

"[Cano] has a big complex, more than 25 players there every day," Gomez said Wednesday. "I said, 'Robby, I want to work.' He helped me. We would be on the field in the morning, then go to the gym, then back on the field in the afternoon. I was ready for this moment. I'm ready for Opening Day. I've watched on TV, and I want to be there. I want to feel that. I'm close."

Gomez has hit .240/.255/.320 in 50 at-bats this spring.


Red Sox C Christian Vazquez to undergo Tommy John surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:23 pm ET) The Red Sox announced Wednesday that catcher Christian Vazquez will undergo Tommy John surgery on his injured elbow Thursday, the Providence Journal reports.

Dr. James Andrews will perform the operation on Vazquez, who is without a timetable for return but will likely miss the entire 2015 season. He was placed on the 60-day disabled list Monday.


Indians' Corey Kluber allows three runs in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:21 pm ET) Indians pitcher Corey Kluber surrendered three earned runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings while striking out five and walking none in his team's 5-2 loss to the Giants.

Kluber was able to hold the Giants scoreless through three innings before he allowed one run in the fourth and two in the fifth. He closes the spring with a 3.86 ERA and 25:5 K:BB ratio in 23 1/3 innings. Kluber will square off with the Astros Monday on Opening Day.

"It's exciting for me personally that next time out there will be when it counts," Kluber said. "I'm happy with where I'm at both physically and mentally. I'm ready to go. I'm looking forward to it."


Giants' Bumgarner tosses four one-run innings in spring finale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:17 pm ET) Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner allowed just one earned run on five hits in four innings while striking out four and walking none in his team's 5-2 win over the Indians Wednesday.

Bumgarner has given up plenty of runs this spring but closes the Cactus League season on a fine note. He posted a 4.91 ERA and 18:1 K:BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings this spring. Bumgarner's next start will come on Opening Day against the Diamondbacks Monday.


D-Backs' Archie Bradley throws six scoreless innings in win
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:15 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley threw six scoreless innings during Wednesday afternoon's 3-0 win over the Reds. 

Bradley struck out two batters and gave up three walks. He surrendered only one hit. Bradley faced 21 batters and threw 69 pitches. This game dropped Bradley's spring training ERA to 1.61. 

Though the Diamondbacks have already announced their starting rotation, manager Chip Hale said this most recent outing — combined with the rest of his spring performance — may cause the club to reconsider its thinking

"We've named our five, but he's pushed the envelope all the way down to the last possible chance he had," Hale said, via the Arizona Republic. "He's looked great. We'll have to sit down and evaluate everything."


 
 
 
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