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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
Astros' Roberto Hernandez arrives at camp, throws in bullpen
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:28 am ET) Astros starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez arrived for spring training Thursday and threw in the bullpen. Hernandez missed the first two weeks of camp due to visa issues.

Hernandez, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, said he will throw in the bullpen again Saturday and then should be ready for his spring debut.

“We’ve got to get him off the bullpen mound and then gauge,” manager A.J. Hinch said, per MLB.com. “He’s prepared. He’s been working out at the main stadium in Santo Domingo. When he tells me he’s ready, he’ll be inserted. I’m just glad he’s here. Let’s get through one day first and then we’ll plan it out.”


Report: Mariners' Choi likely to miss 4-6 weeks following surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:24 am ET) Mariners first base prospect Ji-Man Choi will undergo surgery Thursday after suffering a fractured fibula during Wednesday's spring game against the Padres, according to MLB.com. He is expected to be sidelined 4-6 months.

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(10:19 am ET) Astros catcher Hank Conger is dealing with a minor left wrist injury, according to the Houston Chronicle. However, he could catch in a game this weekend.

“Conger has been delayed a little bit,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think we’re going to get him in a game this weekend, he’s not injured. It’s just we’re delaying the start of his spring until most likely this weekend. … We’ve tried to be good to these guys on the health side and our trainers have kept him healthy.

“I think he’s catching a 'pen today. We held him off a couple days, but he’s fine. He just needed a day.”


Padres' Upton crushes HR off batter's eye in CF in spring debut
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) Padres outfielder Justin Upton, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Braves, wasted little time showing the kind of impact he can bring to the San Diego lineup. Upton homered in his spring debut Wednesday against the Mariners, and it wasn't a shot that barely made it over the wall.

"That ball was crushed," manager Bud Black said, per U-T San Diego.

Upton blasted an 0-1 breaking ball from Mariners pitcher Forrest Snow off the batter's eye in center field at Peoria Stadium, which sits 410 feet away from home plate.

"You try to stay within yourself, under control," Upton said. "Most of the time, if you swing the bat with good path, you can get some backspin. I got lucky today and ran into one."


Redmond: Giancarlo Stanton on same plan as everybody else
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:07 am ET) Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton hit third and started in right field for his spring debut Thursday against the Cardinals.

Stanton, who hasn't played in a game since getting hit in the face by a pitch in September, hit off coaches and participated in a few live batting practices before getting into a spring game Thursday.

“It’s been great to see him, he looks good, I know he’s in great shape and know it’s the start of the process to prepare yourself for the season,” manager Mike Redmond said, per The Palm Beach Post. “He’s on the same plan as everybody else.”


Marlins SP Jose Fernandez (elbow) throws second bullpen session
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:58 am ET) Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (elbow) threw 20 pitches Thursday during his second bullpen session this spring, per The Palm Beach Post. Fernandez threw in front of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and the training staff.

Fernandez is expected to throw two bullpen sessions a week for most of March.


Dodgers' Turner: Joc Pederson only talks about hitting, ever
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:50 am ET) Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, who is competing for the starting job in center field, got his spring campaign started off on the right foot Wednesday against the White Sox. The highly touted prospect went 2 for 2 with one double and one run.

One person who was likely happy to see Pederson get off to a quick start was teammate Justin Turner, who spent the offseason working out in Los Angeles with the 22-year-old outfielder.

"He doesn't talk about anything but hitting, ever," Turner said, per the Los Angeles Times. "He loves to talk hitting. He's not afraid to ask questions, which I love. One of my pet peeves is when you're around guys who have a lot of valuable information and you don't ask them anything. When I'm around guys, I ask questions. I want to know what they're doing, what they're thinking, because I want to learn."


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(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
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(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


 
 
 
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