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Reality Check: A new uncertainty

Senior Fantasy Writer
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And so it begins.

The Biogenesis investigation, which the Miami Times first brought to light in late January, is no longer a specter hanging over Fantasy owners, but a full-on plague promising to bring down anyone who dared toy with it.

The first to fall, the biggest of all: Ryan J. Braun. With MVP-caliber production every year since breaking into the big leagues, he was each of his Fantasy owners' ace in the hole -- fresh off the DL, back in the lineup, ready to put a disappointing first half behind him. Yes, his suspension comes just when his owners were beginning to trust him again, just when the world had them believing a lengthy appeals process would precede any possible suspension, just when they thought trading him might not be in their best interests.

Talk about a punch in the gut.

And with that, every other player connected to the Biogenesis investigation is flagged: a group that includes Everth Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Bartolo Colon and Jhonny Peralta, among others. It doesn't even matter if they're guilty or not. They're on the list, and now that everyone knows what happens to those on the list, they're imminently worthless. You'd have better luck selling wine by the sieve.

Go ahead. Try trading one of them. I can guarantee what the response will be.

"Oh, no. That deadweight could be done tomorrow. Just look at Ryan Braun."

Yes, look at him.

Look at how he made what seemed like the height of paranoia an instant reality.

Look at how he reduced his value to zero at the drop of a hat.

Look at how he made even the sure things in Fantasy suspect.

Then, look down, because that's where you're headed in the standings.

If you're a Braun owner, this little retrospective is nothing more than salt in the wound. He had value. It's gone now, your ace in the hole reduced to something slightly less than Skip Schumaker. But that's not the most depressing part: If you're a non-Braun owner, you can't even use his sudden suspension as a cautionary tale.

What are your options, really? Unloading Cabrera, Cruz, Colon or Peralta before they get suspended? That's probably a lost cause. They're already suspended in the minds of so many that you wouldn't get 50 cents on the dollar anymore. You might not even get a dime.

Dumping them just to spare yourself the heartache? Well, that's premature. Just because Braun chose to forego the appeals process and serve his suspension now doesn't mean they all will. Cabrera could still end up being the waiver claim who leads you to the championship when all's said and done.

Ideally, you could go all used-car salesman and use that very argument as a last-ditch attempt to finagle a deal, but if you actually pull it off -- and without a veto, I might add -- your talents are going to waste, my friend. Let's you and I revive the Pet Rock.

More realistically, you're at a standstill with these four. The safe approach is to consider whatever they give you as a bonus and to position yourself to survive without them. Practically speaking, the Cabrera owner might put in a claim for an up-and-comer like Brad Miller, or the Cruz owner might swing a deal for a power hitter like Adam Dunn. The options are endless, of course. Better to act now, before your league's trade deadline, than to roll the dice and leave yourself with nowhere to turn.

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Because if the Braun revelation showed us anything, it's that the reckoning could come any day now.

As for Braun, he at least has the benefit of a known timetable now. Yeah, he'll miss the rest of this season, but he'll enter next year fresh, without any known threats to his playing time, and will presumably go off the board in the early rounds because of it. Sure, you'll find some who question if he's really the same player now that he's off "the juice," but to me, he already proved it with his near-MVP performance last year, when the league office was dying to catch him in the act after he got off on a technicality that offseason. If he managed to skate through then, I don't know if we can trust that anyone is clean.

And I'm not sure I'd want to play Fantasy Baseball in that scenario. I understand exceptions will always pop up, but I have to believe that's all they are. The game should be about making predictions and maneuvering pieces, not sniffing out cheaters and sorting out half-truths. Injuries are one thing. Regression is one thing. But this?

This introduces an element of uncertainty to a game that has more than enough already.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
David Freese finally on roll for Angels
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:37 pm ET) Angels third baseman David Freese has struggled much of the season, but has saved his best stretch for the stretch run.

Freese has raised his average to a season-high .261. He has hit safely in 12 of the last 13 games with 17 hits in 45 at-bats and has slugged three home runs in the last nine games, during which time he has 10 RBI.


Alejandro De Aza on fire since joining Orioles
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:29 pm ET) Orioles outfelder Alejandro De Aza has sizzled since arriving from the White Sox and has started every game since Sept. 7.

De Aza has hit safely in 11 of 12 games and is 16 of 49 during that stretch with two home runs and nine RBI. He has fanned just seven times.


Red Sox promote slew of players from Pawtucket
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:51 pm ET) Ballyhooed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is far from the only promotion from Triple-A Pawtucket made by the Red Sox on Wednesday. But he is certainly the most significant.

The team has also brought up left-hander Edwin Escobar, right-hander Heath Hembree, third baseman Garin Cecchini, outfielder Bryce Brentz and catcher Ryan Lavarnway.


Hanley Ramirez targeting weekend return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:41 pm ET) Don Mattingly has claimed that Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez is feeling better Wednesday and could rejoin the lineup this weekend against the host Cubs.

Ramirez pinch-hit Tuesday and is not starting Wednesday in Colorado. He has been dealing with an elbow strain.


Michael Morse not ready for return Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:36 pm ET) Giants left fielder Michael Morse is still absent from the lineup Wednesday against the host Diamondbacks.

Morse has been out since Aug. 31 with a strained oblique, but is expected back soon. He will return with a stat line of .280/.338/.477.


Angel Pagan still a no-go Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:33 pm ET) A back ailment continues to sideline Giants center fielder Angel Pagan in Arizona on Wednesday afternoon. He is out of the lineup.

Pagan has been sidelined since Sunday and has been limited to 95 games this season.


Wilmer Flores upping his stock for 2015
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:55 pm ET) Granted, if the Mets make a play for Starlin Castro or some other high-profile shortstop this offseason, all bets are off, but Wilmer Flores' two-homer performance Tuesday against the Marlins was just the latest indication that the 23-year-old is on the verge of turning the corner.

And that's an exciting prospect for Fantasy owners now that he's proven at least competent at the weakest position in the game.

In his last 18 games, he's batting .303 with five home runs and a .984 OPS. He has struck out just twice in 66 at-bats during that stretch. In 43 games since the All-Star break (or since his return from the minors, more accurately), he has struck out just nine times in 140 at-bats.

That was his calling card in the minors, where he never struck out even 80 times in a season and was typically between 60 and 70. The high contact rate often resulted in a .300 batting average -- particularly in the upper levels, when he began to develop the power to hit 15-plus homers and 30-plus doubles.

It's a skill set similar to the one Edgardo Alfonzo brought with him to the majors in the late 90s. If you were playing Fantasy then, you'll probably remember he had a few years when he was a pretty stellar option even at the height of the steroids era. And he wasn't even a shortstop during that time.

Sleeper alert?


Report: Twins contemplating shutting down Glen Perkins
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) The Twins could be considering shutting down closer Glen Perkins for the season, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ron Gardenhire has admitted he's worried about the struggling veteran left-hander.

"Yes, I'm concerned," he said about Perkins' recent drop in velocity. "We're going to talk with him (Wednesday). There's a lot of frustration involved right now. We're going to definitely talk with him and see where we're at and see how he's feeling because he just came off that (neck/shoulder) thing and he's had a couple outings where we think the velocity is down. We just want him to be honest with us and not hurt himself."

Perkins has blown three of his last five save opportunities, including Tuesday night, when he surrendered a three-run homer to Detroit slugger J.D. Martinez in the ninth inning. He has allowed five homers in his last eight appearances and at least one hit in each of his last nine.


Jake Arrieta gives owners something to remember
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:32 pm ET) Just in case you were beginning to have some doubts about Jake Arrieta, noticing that he hasn't been quite as dominant in recent weeks with a 3-4 record, 3.67 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 12 starts since his breakthrough June, he made sure that line of thinking wouldn't haunt you in the offseason, regardless of how his final two starts go, with his performance Tuesday night.

Not only did he record his first complete game and shutout, but he threw a one-hitter, setting a career high with 13 strikeouts. It was a start even better than any of those he had in June, and he did against the same Reds team that beat him up for six earned runs in four inning back on Aug. 28 -- one of two ugly starts that served to inflate his ERA during that 12-start stretch.

The 28-year-old right-hander has maintained his velocity throughout and, apart from a trio of three-walk games at the beginning of July, hasn't encountered any of his past control issues. And for all his strikeouts, he has one of the lowest home run rates in the majors, making him the best of both worlds as far as quality pitchers -- a groundballer who won't give up a bunch of cheap singles pitching to contact.

In other words, he checks off every box on the list.

The one exception, of course, is durability. Until he goes 200 innings, you have reason to wonder if he can. But once all the established aces go off the board, Arrieta will rank as high as any pitcher in 2015. Top 25 seems like a lock.


Jake Lamb, David Peralta still out for Diamondbacks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:18 pm ET) Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb (quad) and outfielder David Peralta (back) remain absent from the lineup Wednesday against visiting San Francisco.

Lamb has had just one at-bat since Friday after an encouraging 7-for-19 stretch. Peralta has been sidelined since Sept. 5.


 
 
 
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