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Setting the Trends: Never too late to tinker

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Lost in all the hullabaloo surrounding the Red Sox/Dodgers blockbuster trade? The fate of Boston's Fantasy Football league.

Most Added Players (as of 8/29)
Player % increase
1. Brett Anderson, SP, Athletics 39
2. David Phelps, SP, Yankees 25
3. Pedro Ciriaco, SS, Red Sox 24
4. Kris Medlen, RP, Braves 20
5. Kyle Kendrick, SP, Phillies 18
6. Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics 15
7. Bronson Arroyo, SP, Reds 14
8. Grant Balfour, RP, Athletics 13
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks 13
10. David Murphy, OF, Rangers 12

Outfielder Cody Ross gave a peek inside the team's Fantasy machinations in a diary ("weblog"?) he writes for ESPN Boston. It's a minor note at the very end of an insightful recounting of the mega-deal. Ross is a co-owner of a still-unnamed team with Jacoby Ellsbury. The duo had the first pick in the Red Sox league and planned on picking a running back, until the trade struck. "We have to re-pick the draft order, which I'm pretty upset about," Ross writes, "because four teams are gone now with the trade."

So now Cody Ross -- as pleasant a surprise as any in Fantasy this year -- gets to feel, in a very roundabout manner, the frustrations of having Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford anywhere near your Fantasy teams.

On to the Roster Trends!

Most Added Highlights

David Phelps, SP, Yankees
Jump in Ownership: 25 percent (from 13 percent to 38)
Reason for the jump: With Ivan Nova being placed on the DL, Phelps is now a member of the Yankees' rotation.
Why you should join the crowd: In 70 innings pitched this season, Phelps is 3-4 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. Since re-joining the rotation, things have been a little bumpy -- he has a 4.50 ERA in his last three starts, but has been killed by home runs, giving up four in that span. His 1.11 WHIP over the three starts is what makes him attractive -- he's not putting a lot of batters on base, he's just giving up untimely home runs. Need a more silver lining? Phelps has pitched all three games in Yankee Stadium, against the Rangers, Red Sox and Blue Jays, who all land in the top nine in home runs this season. But Yankee Stadium is especially kind to left-handed batters, and the home runs were given up to David Murphy (lefty), Adrian Gonzalez (lefty), Yorvit Torrealba (righty--but his shot went opposite field and registered as the fifth-shortest of the year in the Stadium, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker tool) and Adam Lind (lefty). It's not that Phelps is going to pitch to righty-only lineups on the road this year, but he has been hit with some harsh luck in the small sample size, and should be able to bring his ERA down to a level that better matches his WHIP.
Devil's Advocate: First and foremost, Phelps could lose his spot when Nova returns from the DL. Or, for that matter, when Andy Pettitte (remember him?) returns from his DL stint. There's also a chance that home runs continue to haunt Phelps, especially at home, although his minor league numbers (0.5 HR/9 rate) don't suggest them being a huge problem.

Less than 50, more than 50
Players owned in less than 50% of leagues who should be owned in more than 50%
Player % owned
1. Mark Reynolds, 3B, Orioles 48
2. Tyler Colvin, OF, Rockies 43
3. Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers 41
4. Brandon Belt, OF, Giants 38
5. Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks 37

Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks
Jump in Ownership: 13 percent (from 24 percent to 37)
Reason for the jump: Skaggs, one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, is 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA and 1.22 WHIP through two starts with Arizona.
Why you should join the crowd: Outside of Skaggs having the skill to succeed (2.98 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.9 K/9 in 389 minor league innings), Skaggs has a couple circumstantial elements that work in his favor. First, a spot in the Arizona rotation was opened up when the Diamondbacks shipped Joe Saunders to Baltimore in a trade earlier this week. Second, Skaggs only has 134 2/3 innings pitched this season, so he's probably not going to be shut down and has a fresher arm than other in-season minor league call-ups (Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, and Mike Fiers are all 15-20 innings ahead of Skaggs).
Devil's Advocate: Skaggs has just two major league starts under his belt and while fellow prospect Trevor Bauer pitched poorly through a groin injury when he was called up, he's been on fire again recently in the minors and could get a start or two before the season is over. It's doubtful that he supplants Skaggs -- it's only questionable that he gets recalled -- but it's something to keep in mind when adding Skaggs to your Fantasy team.

5-4-3-2-1
Useful players owned in 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 percent of leagues
Player % owned
1. Justin Germano, RP, Cubs 5
2. Nate McLouth, OF, Orioles 4
3. Jeff Mathis, C, Blue Jays 3
4. Logan Forsythe, 3B, Padres 2
5. Sam Fuld, OF, Rays 1

Josh Beckett, SP, Dodgers
Jump in Ownership: 11 percent (from 75 percent to 86)
Reason for the jump: Beckett has been freed from the dysfunction of the Red Sox (as well as having to face a DH three to four times a game), landing in sunny California with the Dodgers.
Why you should join the crowd: Because there's always a chance that Beckett pulls an A.J. Burnett, turning a nightmare season in the American League East into a stunning turnaround in the National League. Beckett has the tools to do just that: he's turned in a sub-3.50 ERA four times since 2002, with a sub-1.25 WHIP six times. He has a career K/9 of 8.4, and he has finished in the top five of K/BB three times. He didn't exactly wow in his first start with Los Angeles, but he was just one out away from a quality start, which would have been his 11th out of 20 starts this season, and -- of course -- he made his Dodgers debut in Colorado, not the friendliest of ballparks for pitchers.
Devil's Advocate: You don't have to look much deeper than Beckett's 2012 stint in Boston to see how low he can go: A 5-11 record with a 5.23 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. And a career-low in strikeout rate.

Kicked to the curb
The most-dropped non-injured, non-suspended hitters
Player Percentage decrease
1. Chris Johnson, 3B, Diamondbacks -8
2. Daniel Murphy, 1B, Mets -8
3. Colby Rasmus, OF, Blue Jays -5
4. Trevor Plouffe, SS, Twins -5
5. Eric Chavez, 3B, Yankees -5

Casey Kelly, SP, Padres
Jump in Ownership: Eight percent (from seven percent to 15)
Reason for the jump: Kelly, one of the players included in the trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, had a solid debut on Monday, pitching six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out four.
Why you should join the crowd: After being converted to a pitcher in 2009, Kelly put up impressive overall numbers in the minors, with a 3.77 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. This includes a 5.31 ERA in New Hampshire in 2010 -- his first full year as a pitcher. Assuming he sticks in the rotation (Andrew Cashner and Anthony Bass are making their final rehab starts this weekend), he'll pitch the majority of his games from here forward in spacious PETCO Park.
Devil's Advocate: The rotation squeeze is going to have at least two victims from a group that includes Kelly, Cashner, Bass, Andrew Werner, and Eric Stults. There hasn't been much indication on who the odd men out will be.

Mauro Gomez, 1B, Red Sox
Jump in Ownership: Five percent (from zero percent to 5)
Reason for the jump: Gomez is getting increased at-bats thanks to the Achilles injury suffered by David Ortiz and the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers.
Why you should join the crowd: Oh, hey, no big deal ... he's just this year's International League MVP. But if you need more on the slugger, Gomez showed a lot of power in the minor leagues, hitting 20 or more home runs four separate times since 2007. So far this year he's batting .292 with four doubles and a home run in 14 games. Since his recall on August 23, Gomez has started in five straight games (three at first base, two at DH), and has scored five runs.
Devil's Advocate: Gomez is 27 and had toiled in the minor league systems of the Rangers, Braves and Red Sox for nine seasons before making his major league debut this year. To go along with his four seasons of 20-plus home runs, Gomez has four seasons of 100-plus strikeouts. But his batting average has been steadily rising over the last three years (from .281 in 2010 to .301 in 2012), and he managed to mix in six steals last year as well.

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
Nationals' Casey Janssen no longer dealing with shoulder discomfort
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:40 am ET) During a brief visit to the Nationals clubhouse, Casey Janssen told reporters the right shoulder discomfort he experienced during spring training is gone, but his velocity is still a tick off, according to the Washington Post. Janssen will leave the club and start a minor-league rehab assignment on Thursday.

Tigers C Alex Avila trying to find his groove at the plate
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:33 am ET) Tigers catcher Alex Avila may be starting to snap out of his recent funk at the plate. After going 2 for 4 with a solo home run on Tuesday, Avila now has hits in three of his last four games. He recently broke a five-game hitless streak, and has seen his batting average rise to .214, entering play on Wednesday.

"I feel good," Avila said Tuesday after the game, per MLB.com. "It's easy to look at averages, but the difference between hitting .200 and .250, .260 at this point is like two hits, like the line drive that I had caught today." 

Despite the positive outlook, Avila appears will be on the bench for Wednesday's game against the White Sox, with lefty Chris Sale scheduled to be the starter for Chicago. 

"The last few games he's looked good," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He looked good in batting practice the last couple games, but he still won't play tomorrow."


Pirates' McCutchen: 'I'm not doing what I should be doing for the money'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) Pirates manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged that Andrew McCutchen's sore left knee has impacted his approach on running to first base, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

McCutchen, who is making $10 million this season, voiced his frustration after he was held without a hit in four at-bats during Tuesday's loss to Cincinnati.

"I'm sick and tired of going 0-for-freaking-4. I know I'm better than that," McCutchen said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I'm getting paid what I'm getting paid because of the way I should be playing. Right now I'm not doing what I should be doing for the money I'm making. ... It's under mediocre right now. It's bad."

McCutchen has been dealing with a sore knee since spring training, and at one point in early April revealed that he's only at "80 percent." He began the year hitting .238 (10 for 42) with two doubles, two homers and 10 RBI over his first 12 games. However, over his last 13 games, the former MVP has hit only .140 (7 for 50) with a triple and three RBI.

After Tuesday's game, he reassured that injury is not the main factor for his issues at the plate.

"I feel good, I feel strong when I'm up there. I feel fine when I'm hitting," McCutchen said. "I can't sit here and say my knee is the reason. I don't believe so. I just believe I’m a little off. ... Once it's going, it ain't gonna stop. While I'm down, get me while I'm down."


A's SS Marcus Semien reaches base safely nine games in a row
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:24 am ET) Athletics shortstop Marcus Semien went 1-for-3 in Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Twins. The individual performance is certainly nothing to write home about. But he has now reached base safely via a hit or a walk in nine consecutive games, including hits in four straight.

On the season, Semien is slashing .273/.322/.427 with three home runs and 12 RBI. He should continue to be the regular at shortstop for manager Bob Melvin for the foreseeable future. 


Nationals P Sammy Solis delivers three shutout innings Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(11:03 am ET) Nationals pitcher Sammy Solis had his best performance of the season on Tuesday against the Marlins. Granted, he's only made two appearances on the season after being recalled in late-April. But there's no denying how effective the young left-hander was on Tuesday.

After starter Stephen Strasburg was forced to leave the game due to a shoulder injury, Solis came in and fired three shutout innings, allowing just one hit and struck out a batter. 

"The good thing about Sammy is that he is a former starter and he understands how to pace himself," manager Matt Williams said after the game, per MLB.com. "He threw the ball really well. He kept us in the game and allowed us to have chances to win it."

Solis had been pitching well in Double-A before his promotion to the big club, throwing four innings and allowing one hit (a solo home run). 


Michael Morse still not starting for Marlins on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:50 am ET) Struggling first baseman Michael Morse was held out of the Marlins lineup for the second straight game on Wednesday. Morse hasn't recorded a hit since April 28, and will receive his fourth day off in the last five games.

Justin Bour, who has seven hits in 14 at-bats since being recalled on April 25, was the starting first baseman for the third straight day for manager Mike Redmond.


Nationals 3B Yunel Escobar hits third on Wednesday vs. Marlins
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:42 am ET) Nationals third baseman Yunel Escobar hit from the No. 3 position in manager Matt Williams' lineup on Wednesday. It was the first time this season that Escobar hit third in the batting order, as Williams shuffled the order a bit for the matinee matchup against the Marlins.

Escobar continues to hit well in 2015, though he did go hitless in three at-bats on Tuesday.

Shortstop Ian Desmond was moved up to the second spot in the lineup, while Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman returned to their normal spots, batting fourth and fifth respectively on Wednesday. 


Jayson Werth sits again for Nationals on Wednesday vs. Marlins
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:33 am ET) Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth was not in the starting lineup once again on Wednesday against the Marlins. Werth, who missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury, was out of the lineup for the second consecutive game, though no injury is being reported.

Michael Taylor drew the start in left field on Wednesday, batting eighth in the lineup for manager Matt Williams. 


Giants' Bochy on Panik and Crawford: 'It's fun to watch those two'
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:29 am ET) Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is loving what he's getting from shortstop Brandon Crawford and second baseman Joe Panik, both in the field and at the plate. 

"It's fun to watch those two go, how they work together," Bochy said Tuesday, per MLB.com. "Craw is so gifted, and Joe Panik has made so much improvement defensively. They're so solid out there, offensively and defensively. They make the routine plays, and when you need a double play, they turn it as well as anybody."

The two continued their offensive prowess in Tuesday's victory over the Padres. Crawford, who was moved up to the fifth spot in the batting order, reached safely in all four of his plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored. This was his third mult-hit performance in his last six games.

Panik, meanwhile, hit a solo home run, his second of the year, in the fifth inning. He went 1-for-4 on the evening. He has hit safely in four of his last five games.

"We have a great relationship," Panik said. "He makes my job easier -- just a great guy to play with. When you first get called up, a lot of emotions are running through you, the typical butterflies. The game tends to beat up on you. Then you look over at Brandon, and everything's fine.


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by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
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"It would just be against certain left-handed pitchers, we want to keep his bat in the lineup, like for a day game after a night game, or if he's caught consecutive games," Black said, per MLB.com. "Take the load off his feet from catching."

Norris has played just one game at first base during his career, and that was in 2013. But Black expressed confidence that Norris could handle a transition.

"It would be a gradual build-up of reps. We are working through this," Black said. "But he was an amateur third baseman. He has good hands, good feet and a good baseball mind. This will not happen quick, but we're thinking about it."


 
 
 
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