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Reality Check: Pitchers on our minds

Senior Fantasy Writer
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David Price. Cole Hamels. Stephen Strasburg. Matt Cain. R.A. Dickey. Yu Darvish. James Shields.

Chances are if you own one of that illustrious group, you hate him right now. All seven of them bombed to some degree Sunday, testing the limits of the term "ace."

But even in your blinding rage, you can still muster enough rational thought to ask yourself the ever-important question: What are you going to do about it? Oh, you may begin to question the likelihood of Dickey repeating his Cy Young season or rethink the impact of Hamels' offseason shoulder soreness, but practically speaking, what are you going to do? Bench him? Trade him? Dump him? Of course not.

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Last week in the 2013 debut of Reality Check, I looked at the role perception plays in value, particularly in this early stage of the season when everything every player does is scrutinized beyond what's actually useful. What just happened tends to carry more weight than it normally does, so you have to take it into consideration when you weigh who to add and who to drop.

After all, stashing a player nobody else wants is just a waste of a bench spot.

But as we just covered, even with his poor start Sunday, you're not cutting Hamels no matter how many batters Jeremy Guthrie strikes out or how few hits Travis Wood allows. You're not even entertaining the possibility. So where's the cutoff? Which players are worth adding, when and at whose expense?

Context. It distinguishes a lead pipe from a lead role, and in Fantasy Baseball, it makes the world go round. I could provide it only in general terms last week because the season had just started, but we have data now. Scant as it may be, it's there, and it's influencing perception as we speak.

So to piggyback on last week's piece, let's look at the dozen or so pitchers who caught my attention in the first week and are still somewhat available on the waiver wire (owned in less than 80 percent of leagues).

Why pitchers? Frankly, I care about them more this time of year. Pitchers are less predictable from year to year, so I find that more of them catch the league by surprise each year. In other words, you're more likely to strike gold with a pitcher than a hitter. Plus, particularly in Head-to-Head leagues, you can only make so much room for hitters. Between playing matchups and maximizing two-start weeks, you can never have too many pitchers.

Most added starting pitchers (as of 4/9)
Player Own %
1. Travis Wood, SP, Cubs 38
2. Jose Fernandez, SP, Marlins 80
3. Jeremy Guthrie, SP, Royals 38
4. Barry Zito, SP, Giants 49
5. Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies 21
6. Justin Masterson, SP, Indians 18
7. J.A. Happ, SP, Blue Jays 31
8. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians 58
9. Eric Stults, SP, Dodgers 13
10. Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates 76

For each pitcher, I've listed pros and cons, as well as whether I'm ready give him the benefit of the doubt over the two pitchers I consider to be the most over-owned pitchers in Fantasy, Jeremy Hellickson (85 percent) and Tommy Milone (82 percent).

Those I'd take over Hellickson are already about on equal footing with the pitchers owned in 85 to 90 percent of leagues, such as Josh Beckett, Jarrod Parker and Julio Teheran. I feel good enough about their ability that I'll likely stick with them even if they have a bad start next time out.

Those I'd take over Milone I'd consider adding over any pitcher owned in less than 80 percent of leagues, but they're all on short leashes. One bad start would be enough to send me back to the waiver wire in search of the next hot hand catching everybody's attention.

Those I'd take over neither still need to show me something. I have my eye on them, but because they were so under-the-radar to begin with, I don't feel like I have much competition for them right now. Either that or I just don't like them. One more good start could spring me to action, though.

Keep in mind this is a purely objective exercise. I don't have anything invested in these pitchers, and neither should you. If they work out, great. If they don't, I'm cutting them and moving on. While projections are fun and useful to an extent, they don't come with a money-back guarantee. To account for the many things I don't know, I've found that casting a wide net this time of year will often snag me a breakout or two that I never saw coming.

Jose Fernandez, Marlins

Ownership: 79 percent
Pros: Buckets and buckets of talent, poise beyond his years
Cons: Limited minor-league experience, pitch counts, innings limit
Over Jeremy Hellickson? Yes
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

Yes, Fernandez will have a pitch count, but because the Marlins haven't suggested what it will be, I'm still optimistic he'll be able to eke out six innings more often than not. Even if he lasts only three-fourths of the season, more outings like his debut Sunday will make him well worth the investment.

A.J. Griffin, Athletics

Ownership: 76 percent
Pros: Low walk rate, solid debut last year
Cons: Too many home runs, relatively low ceiling
Over Jeremy Hellickson? Yes
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

Griffin strikes me as underowned at 76 percent. He doesn't have ace potential, but his 15 starts last year suggest you won't find much better on the waiver wire, provided Fernandez is no longer available.

Derek Holland, Rangers

Ownership: 75 percent
Pros: Decent stuff, strong supporting cast
Cons: Hitter's park, past inconsistencies
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

I want to buy into Holland based on his strong first showing, especially since it came at home, but he's fooled me enough in the past to know better. Maybe now that the Rangers have instructed him to focus more on pitching and less on bad impressions, he'll show better consistency.

Phil Hughes, Yankees

Ownership: 67 percent
Pros: Excellent pedigree, pitches for the Yankees
Cons: Inconsistent results, pitches for the Yankees
Over Jeremy Hellickson? Yes
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

In previous years, even if Hughes struggled, you could count on him getting plenty of run support with the Yankees. Not this year. If he doesn't take another step toward meeting his frontline potential this year, he's waiver fodder in mixed leagues. Based on the work he did last June through August, I'm willing to gamble on him.

Justin Masterson, Indians

Ownership: 66 percent
Pros: Better stuff than track record suggests
Cons: Track record suggests bad stuff
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

Did you know Masterson two-hit the Blue Jays over eight innings in his first start last year, striking out 10? He's worth a flier, sure, but keep your expectations in check.

James McDonald, Pirates

Ownership: 61 percent
Pros: Last year's first half
Cons: Last year's second half
Over Jeremy Hellickson? Yes
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

McDonald was practically an All-Star in the first half last year, so as long as he keeps his walk rate down, as he did in his first start, I'm excited about owning him.

Dillon Gee, Mets

Ownership: 48 percent
Pros: Improved strikeout-to-walk ratio before injury last year
Cons: Best season cut short
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? No

When he needed surgery to repair a blocked artery in his shoulder last July, Gee was looking usable in Fantasy, but nothing more. I have a feeling he'll be highly affordable later.

Ervin Santana, Royals

Ownership: 46 percent
Pros: Just about everything you'd want in a pitcher except for ...
Cons: Too many home runs
Over Jeremy Hellickson? Yes
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

Santana has always been susceptible to the home run, but last year's rate was historically bad and about double his career norm. Monday, he gave us a taste of what he can do when he keeps the ball in the yard. He had a 1.60 ERA in the seven starts he didn't allow a homer last year.

Travis Wood, Cubs

Ownership: 37 percent
Pros: Low WHIP
Cons: Poor home run rate, limited innings
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? No

Though he can be a surprisingly good source of strikeouts at times, Wood lacks the upside or consistency to move the needle for me at this early stage of the season.

Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies

Ownership: 36 percent
Pros: Good stuff, glimpses of potential
Cons: Coors Field, shaky control
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? No

After the way the ball flew out of Coors Field last year, I'm not sure you can trust the humidor effect anymore. Too risky for me.

Jeremy Guthrie, Royals

Ownership: 35 percent
Pros: Coming off strong finish, eats innings
Cons: Minimal strikeout potential, up-and-down track record
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

If Guthrie goes seven and eight innings every time out, like he did after coming over from the Rockies late last season, he'll be useful in all formats, even more so than Milone. Because he doesn't have any strikeout potential to fall back on, though, I'm remaining skeptical.

J.A. Happ, Blue Jays

Ownership: 30 percent
Pros: Used to be a decent option
Cons: Standard for decent has changed
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? No

The league was a little more geared toward hitters when Happ impressed with a 1.24 WHIP and 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings in 2009, and he hasn't been as good since then. I need to see more.

Miguel Gonzalez, Orioles

Ownership: 29 percent
Pros: Good so far
Cons: Poor pedigree, no real track record
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? Yes

Gonzalez hasn't given me reason to doubt him yet. I'd prefer my pitchers to get a few more strikeouts, but I think he has better potential for them than Milone does.

John Lackey, Red Sox

Ownership: 16 percent
Pros: Impressive track record, eye-opening debut
Cons: Injury history, impending DL stint
Over Jeremy Hellickson? No
Over Tommy Milone? No

The guy used to be a Cy Young contender and was throwing in the mid-90s before straining his biceps in his season debut. He'll actually be a more justifiable stash if he goes on the DL.

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
Indians want Michael Bourn to get back to his base-stealing ways
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:58 pm ET) The Indians want outfielder Michael Bourn to get back to his base-stealing ways, according to the Plain Dealer

Prior to joining the team, Bourn had compiled five straight seasons with at least 40 steals. Since joining the team, he's stolen 33 bases in two seasons. Injuries have played a role in his decline. Bourn admitted he had some trouble adjusting to the American League in his first season with Cleveland. He tore his hamstring on the final day of the season, and had offseason surgery, but the issue still plagued him in 2014. 

Manager Terry Francona agreed, saying "When he gets on base, he has to disrupt the game." Francona added, "he wants to do it really bad, he just wasn't in position to do it the last couple of years. Hopefully, those injuries are limited and he can use his legs because he's a huge part of what we do."

Bourn, 32, hit .257/.314/.360 over 444 at-bats last year.


Rockies, Adam Ottavino avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) The Rockies have avoided arbitration with pitcher Adam Ottavino, according to MLB.com.

Ottavino agreed to a one-year deal with the club. Ottavino will make $1.3 million next season, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The 29-year-old posted a 3.60 ERA over 65 innings last year.


Astros looking at pitcher Kevin Correia
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:40 pm ET) The Astros are looking to add pitcher Kevin Correia, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Houston is said to be seeking a backend starter, and Correia fits the bill. The 34-year-old posted a 5.44 ERA over 154 innings with the Twins and Dodgers last year. 


Angels hopeful Garrett Richards will be ready for opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:19 pm ET) The Angels are hopeful that pitcher Garrett Richards will be ready by opening day, according to the Orange County Register

If Richards isn't ready for the start of the season, the team expects him to be back shortly after that. Richards had knee surgery in August, but he's been able to make progress. General manager Jerry DiPoto said he was "optimistic" about Richards' status. Richards has been able to increase his running on a treadmill, and hasn't experienced any issues with his throwing program, according to DiPoto. Richards is currently throwing from 125 to 150 feet about five times per week.

Richards posted a 2.61 ERA over 168 2/3 innings last year.


Orioles' Matt Wieters throwing from 150 feet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:42 pm ET) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters has begun throwing from 150 feet, according to MASN.

Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery last season, and is working his way back from the surgery. He was cleared to start throwing from 150 feet on Monday. Wieters had previously been throwing from 120 feet. He said he's preparing as if he'll be ready for opening day.

Wieters hit .308/.339/.500 over 104 at-bats last year.


Orioles bring in Parmelee, De La Rosa on minor-league deals
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) The Orioles have signed outfielder Chris Parmelee and pitcher Dane De La Rosa on minor-league deals, according to MLB.com.

The 26-year-old Parmelee spent his first four seasons in Minnesota before becoming a free-agent during the offseason. Parmelee hit .256/.307/.384 over 250 at-bats last year.

De La Rosa, 31, pitched just 2 1/3 innings with the Angels last season. He had knee surgery in September.


David Buchanan will compete for one of two spots in Phillies' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:08 pm ET) Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan said refininig his curveball has been a point of emphasis this offseason, as he prepares to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I had success with (my curveball) in certain games,” he said. “It started coming along there toward the end. But it’s definitely something that has a lot of work still to go. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s getting better, which is all I can ask for.”

There is two spots currently open in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are considered the leading candidates for the openings in the rotation. 

“There’s going to be some competition,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week. “I think that’s the only way that you can get better is by creating competition. I can’t sit here and tell you today that David Buchanan’s going to be one of our guys in the rotation, but he absolutely is going to get an opportunity to pitch in spring training and be ready and compete for one of those spots.”


Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

 
 
 
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