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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
Angels' Jered Weaver feels good after Monday's bullpen session
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:26 pm ET) Angels pitcher Jered Weaver threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Monday and reported no issues, reports MLB.com. All 20 pitches were fastballs.

Weaver is on the disabled list with a hip injury. He is expected to conduct another bullpen program in the next couple of days and the session will include his entire repertoire of pitches.


Astros SS Jed Lowrie begins swinging fungo bat
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:08 pm ET) Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie has progressed from swinging a waffle ball bat to a fungo, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Lowrie is trying to comeback from surgery on his right thumb. He has been sidelined since April 27. Lowrie has also been able to take grounders and conduct light throwing sessions.


Royals SS Alcides Escobar removed from Monday lineup
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7:00 pm ET) Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has been scratched from the Monday lineup after originally having been penciled in.

Escobar is dealing with a finger issue that caused him to leave the game Sunday. He has not missed a start since May 7.


A's P Pat Venditte throws 80 pitches in catch session
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Athletics pitcher Pat Venditte, dealing with a right shoulder strain, 80 pitches while playing catch, according to the Bay Area News Group

Venditte, an ambidextrous pitcher, threw 40 pitches right-handed and 40 pitches left-handed. Half of those pitches were from 60 feet and the other half were from 75 feet. Venditte has been on the disabled list since June 10. 

Venditte is scheduled to throw again this Wednesday. 


Angels RP Mike Morin nearing return
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) Angels pitcher Mike Morin has completed his rehab assignment and rejoined the team, reports MLB.com.

The Angels open a three-game series against the Yankees on Monday and Morin is expected to be activated during the series. Morin has been sidelined since May 23 because of a strained oblique.


D-Backs P Patrick Corbin (elbow) to return to mound next week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(6:38 pm ET) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said pitcher Patrick Corbin will be ready to return for Arizona's series against the Rangers next week. 

This series begins next Tuesday, July 7 and will go only two games. 

Hale said Corbin will need this week to finish out his rehab. Corbin has been on the disabled list after missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery in 2013. 


Francona sends plea for Indians 1B Carlos Santana to find stroke
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6:33 pm ET) Struggling Indians first baseman Carlos Santana is the subject of a plea from Terry Francona, who was hoping for far more production.

Santana has endured a long first-half slump for the second straight season. He was hitless in the Sunday doubleheader in weakening his average to .211. It has not been lower all season.

"It's kind of confounding," Francona told MLB.com. "He's a better hitter than what he's shown. We all know that. I don't think I'm overstating it. We desperately need him. He's kind of that connector because he's a switch-hitter and he can be right in the middle and, with his on-base skills, there's just so much he can do when he's going more towards himself than what's been happening."

Santana was at least leading the American League in walks, which has resulted in a .372 on-base percentage. But even those have dried up - he has just two in the last 10 games.


Tigers release Brendan Harris
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:22 pm ET) The Tigers parted ways with second baseman Brendan Harris on Monday, reports The Toledo Blade.

Harris had been playing for the team's Triple-A affiliate.


Willis: 'Borderline obvious' Eduardo Rodriguez was tipping pitches
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Red Sox pitching coach Carl Willis indicated Monday starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was tipping his pitches while throwing out of the stretch during his last start Thursday against the Orioles.

"It was borderline obvious," Willis said, per The Providence Journal. "He'd been so good out of the windup. Going back and looking at the pitches he executed from the stretch, they were still quality pitches. It's safe to say that there's a good likelihood that could have had something to do with it."

Rodriguez was perfect through three innings Thursday before his outing fell apart in the fourth inning. He was pulled after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings.

"All pitchers, when they come here, they're establishing history," Willis said. "There's video. Guys are facing them. He's faced Baltimore twice now. This will be the second time he's faced Toronto. There's nothing like hitters seeing it -- and seeing where they can pick up the ball.

"More than anything, it's a matter of pitchers being consistent within their deliveries. More so than not, starters have a consistent delivery where everything looks the same. That's what you gear yourself towards."


Royals SS Alcides Escobar fine for Monday game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:51 pm ET) Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar has recovered enough from a finger issue to be in the lineup Monday night in Houston. He is in his familiar leadoff spot.

Escobar was removed from the game Sunday with a split nail on his right index finger, but the move was deemed purely precautionary.

He has hit safely in six straight games and 13 of his last 14 to send his average soaring from .255 to .281.


 
 
 
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