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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
Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch struggles in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:25 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch surrendered seven runs on nine hits, including one home run, in just 3 2/3 innings of work Sunday against the Dodgers.

"He threw the ball well for three innings, then it got a little loose," manager Jeff Banister said. "He got the ball up a little and got it flat. But he had three solid innings. The fastball was there and the breaking ball was in play."

Tepesch is now 1-2 in spring training with a 10.38 ERA.


Rays 2B Logan Forsythe looking for consistency at the plate
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:20 pm ET) Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe is working to become a more consistent hitter, regardless of his role on the team, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"I think consistency depends on how you feel at the plate if the rhythm and timing are there," Forsythe said. "Last year I think that my swing was at a good point to where the rhythm and timing were there going into playing every day, so when I got into that consistency of more at-bats, more playing time, my swing kind of came out more. It's not hit or miss, but I think there's certain times in the season when the swing is there and it's not there. That's baseball."

Forsythe hit .223 with 26 RBI in 301 plate appearances in 2014. He is feeling good about his approach with Opening Day right around the corner.

"There's time when you feel good about your swing. It comes based on results you get in a game,” Forsythe said. "That feedback doesn't necessarily always have to be, 'Oh I got a hit.' Or, "I drove a run in.' Or 'I hit a home run.' As long as you put the barrel to the ball, it can be a line drive out or a web gem made on you, that confidence is boosted, and the more opportunity you get when your confidence is up, you're going to get better results."


Twins pitcher Mike Pelfrey makes first appearance out of the bullpen
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:15 pm ET) Twins pitcher Mike Pelfrey threw one scoreless inning Sunday, sending the Orioles down in order. Pelfrey, who made his frustrations about the transition known, settled down a bit and felt somewhat comfortable in the appearance, reports MLB.com.

"It was good," Pelfrey said. "At the end of the day, I have a lot of respect for him. I got a lot of things off my chest, and he got a lot off his. So it was a very good discussion. Obviously, my emotions probably got the best of me yesterday. So I told him I'm going to be professional and go to the 'pen and give it everything I have."

He has made just four appearances out of the bullpen in his career compared to 183 starts.

"I wanted to see how fast I could do it, and it was surprising to me I only needed those 10-12 pitches," Pelfrey said. "So that was pretty good. I think the hardest part was playing catch before the game and then waiting around and doing it again."


Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson goes 3 2/3 innings Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:05 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Daniel Hudson tossed 3 2/3 innings Sunday, allowing no runs on three hits with four strikeouts against the Rockies. It was Hudson's longest outing of spring training.

"For a couple of hitters there, I'd lose the release point and fly open a little bit and fall behind," Hudson said to MLB.com. "My two-strike pitches were better today, but I wasn't getting ahead as much as I wanted. It'll come.

"I was pretty disappointed about the way I threw to hitters in the first part of the game. It's the first time I've gone [into] four innings in 2 1/2 years. It kind of comes with it."


Padres outfielder Wil Myers working at first base in workouts
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:55 pm ET) Padres outfielder Wil Myers is taking limited practice time at first base during workouts, manager Bub Black said Sunday according to MLB.com.

Myers, who is hitting .278 with three home runs this spring, is currently projected to be the team's starting center fielder, but is part of a very deep outfield.


Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa leaves with back tightness Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:51 pm ET) Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa left Sunday's game after his back flared up, manager Bruce Bochy said according to Andrew Baggarly.

Ishikawa, who is hitting .191 with six RBI in 47 plate appearances this spring, is expected to be re-evaluated Monday.


Brewers release reliever Chris Perez
(8:18 pm ET) The Brewers have released reliever Chris Perez , the team announced.

In camp on a minor league deal, Perez pitched in 10 spring games, surrendering three earned runs in 10 innings (2.70 ERA). 

Perez pitched in Sunday's game but left with a right ankle sprain.

With the departure, the Brewers will consider Rob Wooten, Tyler Thornburg and Michael Blazek for their remaining two bullpen roles.


Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson allows just one hit Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:56 pm ET) Cubs pitcher Edwin Jackson surrendered just one hit Sunday in 4 2/3 innings against the Royals. Jackson, who missed his last start after his GPS sent him to the wrong ballpark, is battling with Travis Wood for the final spot in the starting rotation.

"It was a little bit of everything working in my favor today," Jackson said to MLB.com.

Jackson is now 2-1 with a 5.28 ERA in five spring training starts.


Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez strikes out eight in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:51 pm ET) Royals pitcher Edinson Volquez surrendered an opening-inning home run, but settled down to throw eight strikeouts over five innings Sunday against the Cubs. Manager Ned Yost was happy to finally see why the team signed him this offseason, reports MLB.com.

"I don't see him struggling," Yost said before the game. "The importance I place on Spring Training performance and the importance you place on Spring Training performance are two different things. I'm looking for him to gain arm strength and I'm looking for him to refine his mechanics where he's down [in the strike zone] consistently. To me, he's right on schedule."

Volquez allowed two runs on six hits, making his ERA now 7.79.


Brewers pitcher Michael Blazek struggles in outing Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(7:44 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Michael Blazek allowed three runs on four hits, including a home run, in 3 2/3 innings of work Sunday against the Athletics. Blazek, who is competing for a spot in the bullpen, knows it just wasn't there, reports MLB.com.

"I just didn't really feel like I had my best stuff today," said Blazek, who entered the game with a 3.29 ERA. "I didn't really have the breaking ball like I had the last few outings. I was kind of battling trying to get command of that. It was kind of an off-mechanics day, really is what it felt like. I was kind of fighting it."


 
 
 
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