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Pitching Preview for Week 1

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The last time Fantasy owners had to set rotations, James Shields was a Ray, Josh Johnson was a Marlin and R.A. Dickey was a Met (and had yet to win a Cy Young Award). Many of the pitchers you trusted a year ago will likely be fixtures on your active roster again this season, but not only have some pitchers changed teams, but others have changed roles, and others still have emerged from the minors.

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This preview of the upcoming starting pitching options is aimed at helping you to sort through this new landscape of alternatives in weekly leagues, particularly in standard mixed leagues. Each week, I will rank the top 70 starters, so if you have a dilemma over which of two or three pitchers to use in the coming weeks, you can refer to this list to see which is ranked highest.

I will also be reviewing several of the two-start pitchers in more detail. Not every two-start option will be analyzed in greater depth, as those typically ranked in the upper echelons of the top 70 are must-starts that you need to keep active week after week. Also, low-end pitchers who are largely unowned in mixed leagues -- and should remain that way for the time being -- will not be covered here. Ricky Nolasco and Jhoulys Chacin, for example, have been omitted from this week's analyses, even though both are scheduled to make a pair of starts.

Each pitcher covered will also get one of the following ratings: solid standard mixed league start, marginal standard mixed league start, deeper mixed league start or AL-only/NL-only start. Those who receive the "marginal standard mixed league start" tag could be worth using in the coming week, but owners should check their available alternatives before getting them active. As teams trot out the top of their rotations for the beginning of opening week, most of this week's two-start pitchers are strong Fantasy options, so there is a larger proportion of "solid standard mixed league starts" than there will normally be. The lower portion of the top 70 is dominated by one-start pitchers, as are the ranks of pitchers who just missed the cut, so this is probably not going to be the week to scour the waiver wire for two-start options.

My Top 70 Starting Pitchers for Week 1
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2
1 Clayton Kershaw SF (Cain) PIT (Burnett)
2 Justin Verlander @MIN (Worley) NYY (Sabathia)
3 David Price BAL (Hammel) CLE (Masterson)
4 Stephen Strasburg MIA (Nolasco) @CIN (Cueto)
5 Felix Hernandez @OAK (Anderson) @CHW (Axelrod)
6 Cole Hamels @ATL (Hudson) KC (Shields)
7 Adam Wainwright @ARI (Kennedy) @SF (Cain)
8 CC Sabathia BOS (Jon Lester) @DET (Verlander)
9 Chris Sale KC (Shields) SEA (Iwakuma)
10 Yu Darvish @HOU (Harrell) LAA (Weaver)
11 Johnny Cueto LAA (Weaver) WAS (Strasburg)
12 Matt Cain @LAD (Kershaw) STL (Wainwright)
13 R.A. Dickey CLE (Masterson) BOS (Lester)
14 Jered Weaver @CIN (Cueto) @TEX (Darvish)
15 Gio Gonzalez MIA (Eovaldi) N/A
16 Cliff Lee @ATL (Medlen) N/A
17 Madison Bumgarner @LAD (Ryu) N/A
18 James Shields @CHW (Sale) @PHI (Hamels)
19 Yovani Gallardo COL (Chacin) ARI (Kennedy)
20 Ian Kennedy STL (Wainwright) @MIL (Gallardo)
21 Brett Anderson SEA (Hernandez) @HOU (Bedard)
22 Jeff Samardzija @PIT (Burnett) @ATL (Hudson)
23 Jake Peavy KC (Santana) N/A
24 Max Scherzer NYY (Phelps) N/A
25 Mat Latos LAA (Wilson) N/A
26 Jonathon Niese SD (Volquez) MIA (Slowey)
27 Zack Greinke PIT (Sanchez) N/A
28 Josh Johnson BOS (Doubront) N/A
29 Kris Medlen PHI (Lee) N/A
30 Matt Moore BAL (Gonzalez) N/A
31 Brandon Morrow CLE (Jimenez) N/A
32 A.J. Burnett CHC (Samardzija) @LAD (Kershaw)
33 Jason Hammel @TB (Price) MIN (Worley)
34 Jordan Zimmermann MIA (LeBlanc) N/A
35 Roy Halladay @ATL (Maholm) N/A
36 C.J. Wilson @CIN (Latos) N/A
37 Hisashi Iwakuma @OAK (Parker) @CHW (Sale)
38 Tim Hudson PHI (Hamels) CHC (Samardzija)
39 Jon Lester @NYY (Sabathia) @TOR (Dickey)
40 Doug Fister NYY (Nova) N/A
41 Hiroki Kuroda BOS (Buchholz) N/A
42 Andy Pettitte BOS (Dempster) N/A
43 Anibal Sanchez @MIN (Pelfrey) N/A
44 Jarrod Parker SEA (Iwakuma) @HOU (Norris)
45 Matt Harrison @HOU (Norris) LAA (Hanson)
46 Alexi Ogando @HOU (Humber) N/A
47 A.J. Griffin SEA (Maurer) N/A
48 Jaime Garcia @ARI (Cahill) N/A
49 Clay Buchholz @NYY (Kuroda) N/A
50 Dan Haren @CIN (Bailey) N/A
51 Lance Lynn @ARI (McCarthy) N/A
52 Marco Estrada COL (De La Rosa) N/A
53 Dan Straily @HOU (Peacock) N/A
54 Matt Harvey SD (Richard) N/A
55 Vance Worley DET (Verlander) @BAL (Hammel)
56 Mike Minor CHC (Feldman) N/A
57 Homer Bailey WAS (Haren) N/A
58 Alex Cobb CLE (McAllister) N/A
59 Shelby Miller @SF (Vogelsong) N/A
60 Brandon McCarthy STL (Lynn) N/A
61 Wade Miley @MIL (Lohse) N/A
62 Josh Beckett SF (Lincecum) N/A
63 Derek Holland LAA (Vargas) N/A
64 Trevor Cahill STL (Garcia) N/A
65 Ryan Vogelsong STL (Miller) N/A
66 Tommy Milone SEA (Saunders) N/A
67 Tim Lincecum @LAD (Beckett) N/A
68 Jeremy Hellickson BAL (Chen) N/A
69 Paul Maholm PHI (Halladay) N/A
70 Ryan Dempster @NYY (Pettitte) N/A

Two-Start Options to Consider

Jon Lester, Red Sox (@NYY, @TOR): Lester has had a great spring, but last season, he was a liability in most mixed leagues. With just one of these matchups, I could see sitting Lester in Week 1 if I had strong alternatives, as we need to see if he is really back from his subpar year. Still, he wasn't quite as bad as his 4.82 ERA made it appear, and we can feel secure that Lester is still good enough to use in a two-start week in just about any scenario.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Jeff Samardzija, Cubs (@PIT, @ATL): After an effective first season in the Cubs' rotation, there shouldn't be much controversy about using Samardzija in a two-start week -- or in a one-start week, for that matter. Owners should rightfully have concerns about run support, as the Cubs' offense hasn't improved over the 2012 version that scored 3.2 runs per nine innings for Samardzija. That's really the only worry to have about him, but he can still offer enough with Ks, ERA and WHIP to keep in your lineup on a weekly basis.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Jonathon Niese, Mets (SD, MIA): With a 3.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, Niese looked like a breakout pitcher last season, but the skills have been there for the last three years. Ever since becoming a staple of the Mets' rotation in 2010, Niese has recorded good strikeout and ground ball rates, and he has lowered his walk rate each of the last two seasons. The 2012 version of Niese was legitimate, and he is worth using in any two-start week.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

A.J. Burnett, Pirates (CHC, @LAD): Burnett enjoyed a renaissance in his first year in Pittsburgh, as he threw strikes at the highest rate of his career and let his home park help him to avoid the long ball. Given the departure from Burnett's recent norms, owners should have some healthy skepticism about his chances for a repeat, but at least in Week 1, he should have a soft landing. Burnett's opening day start is at home against the Cubs, though his second start at the Dodgers could be dicey, it won't be enough to spoil his week.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Tim Hudson, Braves (PHI, CHC): Though Hudson's velocity and already-modest strikeout rate dropped last season, his ability to avoid hard contact was still very much in evidence. As a one-start pitcher, Hudson will often be a borderline option in standard mixed leagues, but with two starts, he is an easy choice to start over one of your back-of-the-rotation types.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Matt Harrison, Rangers (@HOU, LAA): With a shrinking walk rate and a pitch-to-contact approach, Harrison has been an efficient pitcher since becoming a full-time starter in 2011. If he had Hudson's ground ball tendencies and a pitcher-friendlier home park, Harrison would be an automatic choice in a two-start week. However, Harrison may not measure up to your other options in some two-start weeks, but that's not the case in Week 1. His start at Houston alone should give him enough value to earn an active roster spot.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Jarrod Parker, Athletics (SEA, @HOU): It would look like a dream week for Parker, who gets the lowly Astros along with a start against the Mariners at home, where he posted a 2.61 ERA last season. Parker relied on an 80 percent strand rate (according to FanGraphs.com) to keep his home ERA low, though, so he's not always going to be a slam dunk when he pitches at O.co Coliseum. However, most of your alternatives for filling out a back-end rotation spot this week are of the one-start variety, so you might as well roll with Parker this time.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Brett Anderson, Athletics (SEA, @HOU): With superb walk and ground ball rates, Anderson is a must-start in two-start weeks, just as long as he is healthy. He seems to have put the strained right trapezius muscle that limited him earlier in spring training behind him.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners (@OAK, @CHW): As a dual-eligible SP/RP pitcher, Iwakuma can't sit on the bench in Head-to-Head leagues, but is he worth starting in Roto? He did thrive in the rotation last season with a 2.65 ERA over 16 starts, but a high strand rate helped to shrink that mark. Then again, he's still a worthy start even if his ERA goes into the mid-3.00s, and for this week, he should survive U.S. Cellular Field given his ground ball tendencies.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Jason Hammel, Orioles (@TB, MIN): The Orioles may be a team without a true ace, but if Hammel can approach what he did last season, owners will be starting him most weeks. Hammel was generally consistent in his ability to get swings-and-misses and grounders before getting shelved by knee surgery. While it would have been more reassuring if Hammel could have put together a full season of strong stats, the possibility of a highly productive two-start week makes him sometime to get active for Week 1.
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Edinson Volquez, Padres (NYM, @COL): Getting out of Cincinnati helped Volquez to lower his ERA...as long as he was pitching at PETCO Park. Away from San Diego, Volquez's high home run and walk rates left him with a 5.60 ERA. It remains to be seen how the fences coming in at PETCO will impact Volquez, but with a start at Coors Field, it's easy to avoid him in this two-start week.
My take: NL-only start.

Justin Masterson, Indians (@TOR, @TB): The walk and strand rate issues that had dogged Masterson for most of his career reemerged last season after he appeared to have taken a step forward in 2011. He's not a threat to be taken out of the park, but a high ground ball rate will only take Masterson so far. If he can revert to his '11 level of production, then owners can consider using Masterson in standard mixed leagues. For now, he can be ignored in those formats, even in two-start weeks.
Rating: Deeper mixed league start.

Vance Worley, Twins (DET, @BAL): What happened to Worley from July on last season, when his ERA mushroomed from 2.92 to 4.20 over the course of 11 starts? It could have been the bone spur in his elbow or batters finally figuring him out. Or just maybe it was a fluke. Worley compiled an outrageously-high .404 BABIP during that stretch. A reduced ground ball rate suggests that Worley may have lost some effectiveness, but with his elbow surgery well behind him, Worley should be a viable two-start option once again.
Rating: Marginal standard mixed league start.

Bud Norris, Astros (TEX, OAK): Norris is homer-prone and susceptible to wildness, but despite velocity that has been on the wane, he has been a reliable source of strikeouts. Worth owning in standard 15-team mixed leagues, Norris isn't someone you'd start every week, but with a pair of outings, he is worth a try.
Rating: Deeper mixed league start.

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

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Player News
Indians' Ryan Raburn slugs first home run Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) Indians designated hitter Ryan Raburn went 2 for 3 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 4-3 loss to the White Sox Monday.

Raburn was slotted into the fifth spot of the lineup for the first time this season and rewarded manager Terry Francona for the move. The designated hitter entered the game with plenty of success against starter John Danks, hitting .341 with three home runs in 44 career at-bats, and he followed the trend with a second-inning home run, his first of the season.

Raburn has hit .316/.333/.684 with four doubles and five RBI in 19 at-bats. He could have trouble cracking the starting lineup in the coming week with the team set to face a string of right-handed pitchers.


Mets 1B Lucas Duda proving to be late bloomer
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:16 am ET) Greatness is generally achieved at a younger age than 29 by players that have it within them. But Mets emerging standout Lucas Duda isn't about to complain that he's just now reaching a very high peak.

Duda is off to a blistering start with a .347/.396/.551 slash line and eight RBI in 13 games. He is making more consistent contact for a team that has been the surprise of baseball in 2015.

"He is on the verge of absolute stardom, right on the cusp," Mets hitting coach Kevin Long told the New York Post. "He has strength and size and ability and aptitude and work ethic. He is hitting lefties and he is going to keep hitting lefties. I think he is close to having no deficiencies."

Duda is 5 for 9 against left-handers this season.


Athletics' Dan Otero earns win Monday with four scoreless innings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Athletics relief pitcher Dan Otero came up big for his team Monday, giving up just one hit in four scoreless innings of relief while striking out four and walking none to earn the win in his team's 6-3 victory over the Angels.

Otero (1-1) combined with Evan Scribner and Tyler Clippard to throw six scoreless innings of one-hit ball after starter Kendall Graveman lasted just three innings.

"That's big," Melvin said after the game, per MLB.com. "Confidence for a lot of guys, too. You're talking about Otero getting a little confidence back, Scribner used in a little different role and getting three key outs and finally getting to Clippard in a save situation. We hadn't been able to do that this year."

Otero came into Monday's game with a 6.75 ERA in four innings over five appearances. He said catcher Stephen Vogt spotted something with his left shoulder in his delivery last week, and he's been working to adjust.

"I was just kind of turning my left shoulder in a little bit," he said. "Getting a little too rotational. That's something I've been cognizant of throwing in the outfield, warming up every day. Noticed it tonight it was good, and it helps all my other pitches when I can stay in line, can stay through the catcher instead of spinning off to the first baseman."

Otero has now posted a 3.38 ERA and 6:0 K:BB ratio in eight innings.


Tigers' Greene on trade from Yankees: 'I felt like I got dumped'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:41 am ET) Tigers pitcher Shane Greene has given up just one earned run in 23 innings in his first three starts and has played with a chip on his shoulder after being traded by the Yankees this offseason, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"I felt like I got dumped," Greene said of being traded.

Greene went 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA and 81:29 K:BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings with the Yankees last year during his rookie season.

"I proved to myself that I was good enough," Greene said. "I guess I didn’t prove it to everybody else."

Greene is the only starting pitcher not scheduled to face the Yankees during the team's current four-game series. He expected to pitch during the series in spring training after being penciled in as the No. 5 starter, but the injury to Justin Verlander altered the team's rotation plans.

"I knew," Greene said. "April 22 would have been the day if I was No. 5."

Greene's next chance to face the team that traded him will come when the Tigers travel to the Bronx in June.

"I’ll get that chance," he said. "That time will come."


Brewers' Braun has favorable history against Reds' Marquis
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun finally connected for his first home run of the season Monday against the Reds. Still, despite the home run, Braun has gotten off to a slow start in 2015.

Although, he might be able to keep the momentum of Monday's performance going Tuesday.

On the hill for Cincinnati will be veteran right-hander Jason Marquis. Braun has fared pretty well against Marquis in his career. He is batting .520 (13 for 25) with one home run, five doubles, six RBI, three walks and three strikeouts against Marquis.


Padres' Wil Myers on being traded by Rays: 'I felt they'd given up on me'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:27 am ET) Coming into 2015, you could make the argument Padres outfielder Wil Myers hadn't yet reached his full potential or lived up to the hype that followed him as a top prospect in the minors. Apparently, any type of talk like that didn't sit too well with the 24-year-old outfielder.

"He told me early in spring training that he heard little whispers this winter that maybe he was not the player everyone made him out to be," Padres manager Bud Black said, per MLB.com. "I think that bothered him."

Myers has already been traded twice in his young career, with the latest deal being in December that shipped him from the Rays to the Padres. 

"More than anything, I am playing with a chip on my shoulder," Myers said. "Last year was the first bad year I had in my pro career. When Tampa traded me away, I felt they had given up on me.

"Almost everything I do is to be able to prove (the Rays) wrong."

Thus far, Myers is off to a good start to his Padres career. Myers, who is primarily hitting leadoff, is batting .283 with one home run, five doubles, eight RBI and 13 runs in 14 games.

"He told me early in spring training he was going to show that he should hit third, fourth or fifth," Black said. "I said, 'Wait a minute. You are not going to hit third or fourth because of the two guys [Justin Upton and Matt Kemp] we have here. Let's go in my office and sit down. Let's put a projected team together out there. You don't want to hit leadoff, so who's going to hit leadoff?' I told him, 'If you hit leadoff every day you might get the most at-bats in the NL,'" 


Royals' Paulo Orlando makes triples history Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:25 am ET) Royals right fielder Paulo Orlando went 1 for 3 with a triple, a walk and two RBI in Monday's 7-1 win over the Twins.

The triple was Orlando's fifth in his first seven games, setting a new major-league record for the fewest games to hit five triples to open a career, MLB.com reports. He said he knows pretty soon after making contact whether he has a chance at a triple.

"Usually when it gets over the infielder's head," he said. "… The whole game, I tried to pull everything. But the last pitcher, we got a report that he threw a little cutter, so I tried to think right side."

Orlando has an added chance at collecting base hits at home due to Kaufman Stadium's spacious gaps.

"It helps," manager Ned Yost said of the bigger ballpark. "But if you watch him fly around the bases, he's going to hit triples in any ballpark when he puts the ball in the gap."

Orlando has hit .269/.345/.654 in 26 at-bats.


Astros' bullpen steps up in win vs. Mariners Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:18 am ET) The Astros bullpen delivered five innings of one-run ball Monday to play a key role in the team's 7-5 victory, with lefty Tony Sipp picking up the win after delivering 1 1/3 perfect innings.

"You can tell everyone out there has confidence," Sipp said after the game, per MLB.com. "You can flip a coin and put any guy out there at any given time. And you know it's like a friendly competition -- see who can be the best guy out there and you know, hopefully we're all out there sitting on ones [ERA] at the end of the year, high-fiving, trying to see who can get down to point zero something. It's one of those things like winning [being] contagious; successful bullpens kind of feed off each other also."

The bullpen has delivered a 2.06 ERA in 48 innings, giving them the third-best mark in the majors. Astros relievers have also struck out 49 batters while issuing just 11 walks.

"The way we're lined up, we've got a lot of weapons in the bullpen," manager A.J. Hinch said. "Eventually, we'd like to not use them so often and so early, but tonight we needed everything we could."


Rockies' De La Rosa pins poor season debut on being 'really excited'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Rockies starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa made his season debut Monday against the Padres after missing the start of the season due to a groin injury. Unfortunately, it was a forgettable evening for the veteran left-handed pitcher.

De La Rosa was roughed up for nine runs (seven) earned on nine hits and one walk in two innings. 

"He got ambushed there, and I think it made it tougher to find a rhythm, especially after being out for so long," manager Walt Weiss said, per MLB.com.

De La Rosa blames his struggles on perhaps being a little too antsy to finally make his season debut.

"It's my first start," De La Rosa said. "Been pitching in Triple-A, but it's not the same. I was really excited. Hope I can be more calm next time and get better.

"I was overthrowing a lot. Got excited and was trying to throw as hard as I can. You can't make outs if you don't have command. It happened today. My command wasn't good.

"When I tried to throw in, the ball was in the middle. When I tried to throw away, it ran to the middle, too. I think I can fix it. My command wasn't there. I made really bad pitches today, and they hit it really good."


Confidence a driving force behind Anthony DeSclafani's fast start
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:06 am ET) Reds starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani has been pitching like a Cy Young candidate to begin the 2015 season, opening the year with a 2-0 record and 0.86 ERA in three starts.

It's been a nice turnaround for the right-hander, who struggled in his first stint in the majors in 2014 with the Marlins.

"Obviously, I believe in myself," DeSclafani said, per MLB.com. "Any big leaguer who is up here believes in himself. I just try to stay consistent in my mindset, on a day-to-day basis, on an outing-to-outing basis.

"You've just got to do your best to execute your pitches and let the defense play behind you. And they've been phenomenal. I've felt great with this team since Day 1. They've been really great and supportive, and I can't ask for anything more than that."

The Reds have been particularly impressed with DeSclafani's approach, makeup and demeanor.

"He's just an inherently confident guy," manager Bryan Price said. "That's one thing we ask our pitchers to do, is to be emotionally stable when they pitch. He's throwing the ball really well; he's throwing three pitches for strikes. He's doing all the little things. He's got a really nice changeup that he's developed here through spring training and into the early part of the season. I think it's a necessary pitch for Anthony to be a quality starting pitcher.

"There's something to be said for young guys getting their feet wet at the big-league level and he's done it with some style. He's been very effective for us. We hope to see that trend continue."


 
 
 
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