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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
Diamondbacks' Randall Delgado facing a roster crunch
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:48 pm ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Randall Delgado is facing a roster crunch, according to azcentral.com.

Delgado had some success after adding a slider last season, but faces a lot of competition this spring. While the competition for the fifth starter spot contains a lot of players, Delgado's experience in the bullpen last year could help him make the club. On top of that, he's out of options, giving him a better chance of breaking camp on the 25-man roster. 

Bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre said he believes Delgado could get the job done. "He can be a valuable piece in that bullpen, knowing that there might be some guys that are going to get protected," Stottlemyre said. "The fact that he can pitch in some different roles — he can give you some length, he can come in and strike a guy out. I saw this guy go through the middle of lineups on some good ballclubs and make the hitters look bad. It's there."

The 25-year-old Delgado posted a 4.87 ERA over 77 2/3 innings last season.


Nationals sign Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:57 pm ET) The Nationals have signed outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal, the team announced. 

Gwynn will be invited to major-league camp with the deal. The 32-year-old hit .152 over 105 at-bats with the Phillies last season. 


Nationals' Matt Purke hoping to get on a mound soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Matt Purke is hoping to throw off a mound in a few weeks, according to MLB.com.

Purke had Tommy John surgery last May, and has struggled with injuries since being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft. Purke was actually released by the club during the offseason, but came back on a minor-league deal. 

Purke said he was frustrated by the injuries, but understands he has to take it all in stride. "It's just something you have to take in stride, keep moving forward," he explained. "I'm ready to keep progressing the best I can and really get myself out there and pitch and perform. When my number is called, I'll be able to help when I can."

Purke is currently in the middle of a throwing program. He's been able to long toss, and hopes to throw off a mound in a few weeks. The team is still unsure when Purke will be ready for game action.


Twins' Danny Santana learning to play multiple positions
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) Danny Santana came to the Twins in 2007 playing primarily shortstop. Now, Santana is playing in the outfield and learning how to transition to a new position on the field.

"I didn't know how to play the outfield and I needed a lot of work," he said to MLB.com. "It wasn't hard, because I have the ability to play many positions. But the hard part was being in center field and throwing to the bases. At shortstop, you throw from different angles. In the outfield, you need to be on top to throw."

Santana hit .319 with 40 RBI and 70 runs scored in 405 plate appearances in 2014.

"There's a lot of people here who believed in Danny Santana's future for a long time. We were able to get a glimpse of that last year," manager Paul Molitor said. "I have a lot of confidence in that kid. He's going about his business very professionally. He's really a good listener and applier. Some guys listen well and have trouble taking it out there. He's pretty good at taking information and putting it into play."


Padres' Cameron Maybin to hit leadoff in first spring game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:07 pm ET) Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin will hit leadoff in the team's first spring game, according to MLB.com.

Manager Bud Black basically confirmed the news, though he wouldn't make it official as he prefers to let the player know before the media. Maybin is the forgotten man in the team's outfield heading into camp. While he's proven he can play center field, the club is expected to go with Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton when the regular season starts. 

Maybin, 27, hit .235/.290/.331 over 251 at-bats last season. 


Giants experimenting with Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:43 pm ET) The Giants are experimenting with using outfielder Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Aoki will hit leadoff on Tuesday with Angel Pagan sidelined. While Pagan is expected to claim the role once the regular season begins, manager Bruce Bochy said he would consider using Aoki in the leadoff role occasionally. When that happens, Pagan would hit in the third spot in the order. 

Aoki, 33, hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Glen Perkins feeling healthy heading into games
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Twins reliever Glen Perkins is feeling healthy heading into spring games, according to the Pioneer Press.

Perkins was shut down at the end of last season due to forearm and elbow issues. He hasn't experienced any of those issues this spring. "Really the barometer on how my arm feels is the bite on my slider," Perkins said. "If my slider is loopy, then my arm is probably tired, especially my forearm."

Perkins added that he threw a few sliders during a recent bullpen session, and was happy with how they looked. "I told them it was coming and they swung and missed at a few," he said. "It's got good movement right now. That means obviously I'm fresh, but also I'm strong and healthy."

Perkins is expected to pitch during an exhibition game on Wednesday. He posted a 3.65 ERA over 61 2/3 innings last season. 


Red Sox OFs Betts, Castillo to share time in CF this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday that outfielders Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will get equal playing time in center field this spring, MLB.com reports.

"Like we said at the outset of camp, we'll take all of camp to determine that," said Farrell. "They're going to get equal playing time. But I think it's important they both get comfortable with the combination of the guys on the flank because of communication, the responsibilities for balls in the gap, fly ball communication and those priorities."

While Betts had ample time to make an impression on the team during his rookie season, the Red Sox are still getting to know Castillo and his capabilities.

"With Rusney, I think it's a matter of frequent at-bats, more games played," Farrell said. "Particularly after our season concluded, he went to the [Arizona] Fall League and Puerto Rico, and through repetition, I think he's just gotten better timing and consistent routes in the outfield and he's looked very good here in camp so far."

Castillo went 12 for 36 in his short time with the Red Sox last season.


Report: Red Sox, Phillies haven't made progress on Hamels' deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) The Red Sox and Phillies have not made progress on a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Boston Herald. 

The Red Sox have been mentioned as a contender for Hamels in the past, but the club is hesitant to give up their top prospects for the pitcher. Though Phillies' special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld was spotted at Red Sox facilities on Monday, two sources told the Herald that no progress has been made on a deal. 

The Phillies are said to covet either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, but Boston has refused to include either player in a deal.

Hamels, 31, posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last year.


Cardinals' Carpenter seeks to balance aggressiveness, patience
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter hopes to combine the aggressiveness he displayed in 2013 with the patience he showed in 2014, MLB.com reports.

"I've had both extremes of it," Carpenter said. "I've had it where I've led the leagues in walks [2014], and I've had where I've led the league in hits [2013]. I'm trying to search for that perfect balance where you're aggressive, but you're still patient.

"In the postseason, I felt that I was more aggressive than I had been at any point in my career, but at the same time, I wasn't flailing at balls. I didn't lose anything. Now, it's finding the perfect balance to where I'm swinging the bat, I'm being aggressive, I'm trying to do damage, but at the same time, I'm a guy who can walk a lot, get on base and set the tone as a leadoff hitter. I think that's part of growing up as a baseball player. You learn and you adapt and you continue to try to figure out who you are as a hitter."

Carpenter homered four times during last year's postseason after hitting just eight home runs during the regular season, with his first two postseason blasts coming on the first pitch of his at-bats. He's looking to capture that approach more often this season.

"I think he's a smart enough guy to do it because he knows what he does really well," hitting coach John Mabry said. "That's what you take pride in -- those guys who put in all the work to get to where they are and then say, 'I'm not happy.' They want to put in the extra work to get to that next step, the next level."

Carpenter is looking to build off a 2014 season in which he hit .272/.375/.375 with eight home runs and 59 RBI in 595 at-bats.


 
 
 
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