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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 7

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The ranks of two-start pitchers for Fantasy Week 7 (May 12-18) aren't brimming with low-risk, high-end talent. It's also shrinking. As we enter the weekend, the pool of two-start options is already getting pruned, as Aaron Harang looks primed to have his Monday start moved up to Sunday to accommodate another start for Gavin Floyd, who will remain in the Braves' rotation for now. Hector Santiago also departed the list of two-start pitchers, as he was demoted to the bullpen, though his replacement could inherit both starts.

Must start two-start options
1. Adam Wainwright vs. CHC, vs. ATL
2. Felix Hernandez vs. TB, at MIN
3. David Price at SEA, at LAA
4. James Shields vs. COL, vs. BAL
5. Jordan Zimmermann at ARI, vs. NYM
6. Gerrit Cole at MIL, at NYY
7. Dan Haren vs. MIA, at ARI
8. C.J. Wilson at TOR, vs. TB
9. Hiroki Kuroda vs. NYM, vs. PIT

In the initial draft of this week's two-start pitcher rankings, Harang had been relegated to the "avoid" list, and Santiago was the lowest-ranked starter, so these recent developments aren't the most impactful. However, the biggest changes may be yet to come, as the potential returns of Anibal Sanchez (finger) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) could cost Drew Smyly and Dan Haren their second starts, respectively, in Week 7. Haren would still be a recommended start in most formats if left with only Monday's outing against the Marlins, but a one-start Smyly at the Orioles should be reserved for leagues with RP slots and deeper Rotisserie leagues.

Even with two starts, Tyler Lyons is strictly a deep-league option, but the potential return of Jaime Garcia (shoulder, elbow) could limit him to only one start. Also, the current and potential owners of Mike Leake can rest easy, as he is not likely to get pushed back should Tony Cingrani (shoulder) re-enter the Reds' rotation in Week 7. This is a good thing, as Leake is the best of the two-start options who are currently owned in fewer than 70 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.

There are several two-start pitchers who are still free agents in the majority of our leagues, but only Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo are even worth considering as borderline options in standard mixed leagues. You are probably better off with a one-start Ian Kennedy or Drew Hutchison than most of this week's two-start pitchers, so it's a good week to focus on quality over quantity.

Monday update: The only certain change in the pool of two-start pitchers over the weekend occurred when the Indians pushed Danny Salazar's next start back from Tuesday to Thursday. The relegates him to one-start status, while Justin Masterson now gains a second start.

Sanchez looks poised to re-enter the Tigers' rotation this Sunday, so barring a setback, Smyly will get only one start this week, and he's been removed from this week's two-start pitcher rankings. Haren, on the other hand, appears safe to make both of his scheduled starts, as Ryu looks like an extreme long shot to get activated this week. Lyons is still a risky bet to make his second start, given the imminent return of Garcia.

Given how effective Chase Anderson was in his major league debut Sunday, he could keep his place in the rotation, and that could endanger a two-start week for either Josh Collmenter or Bronson Arroyo. Matt Shoemaker appears to be in line to replace Santiago in the Angels' rotation, and his potential for a two-start week makes him worth considering in AL-only leagues.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

10. Marco Estrada, MIL (vs. PIT, at CHC)

Estrada has been something of a caricature version of himself so far this season. He's always been vulnerable to home runs but has made up for it with good walk rates and lots of flyball outs. In 43 1/3 innings, Estrada has already allowed nine home runs, but he has also limited opponents to a .231 BABIP and 1.06 WHIP. Particularly if Estrada were facing a couple of power-laden lineups, this could be a scary week to trust him, but alas, he will pitch against the Pirates and Cubs. Estrada should do a better job of keeping the ball in the park going forward anyway, but these matchups should assuage any fears you might have about starting him.

Start Estrada over the following one-start pitchers: A.J. Burnett, Wily Peralta, Lance Lynn

11. Justin Masterson, CLE (at TOR, vs. OAK)

Masterson has been true to his 2013 form, hovering around a strikeout per inning and ranking among the elite ground ball pitchers. He has also been too wild at times and maddeningly inconsistent in general. Masterson's history of high walk rates means that he may not whittle down his 1.35 WHIP, but he should be able to shrink his 3.86 ERA if he can strand a few more runners. Based on his skill set alone, Masterson should be a must-start this week, but given that he has struggled with stranding runners for much of his career and that he has two tough matchups, he earns a spot on this week's "bubble list."

Start Masterson over the following one-start pitchers: A.J. Burnett, Wily Peralta, Lance Lynn

12. Zack Wheeler, NYM (at NYY, at WAS)

Five of Wheeler's seven starts have been of the quality variety, and he's lived up to the billing of a strikeout pitcher, notching 39 Ks in 39 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old also appears to be valdating his reputation for wildness, throwing just 61 percent of his pitches for strikes and issuing 4.1 walks per nine innings, but those ratios were skewed by Wednesday's five-walk performance against the Marlins. For the most part, Wheeler has shown decent control, and he's avoided extra-base hits, holding hitters to a .102 Isolated Power. Though he faces a couple of good opponents, Wheeler is close to being a must-start in two-start weeks.

Start Wheeler over the following one-start pitchers: A.J. Burnett, Wily Peralta, Lance Lynn

13. Andrew Cashner, SD (at CIN, at COL)

With a knack for efficiency, Cashner emerged as a reliable source of quality starts last season, providing 19 of them in 26 starts, and he reeled off four more to begin this season. In four starts since then, quality is not the word one would use to describe Cashner's efforts. He has gone 0-4 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.59 WHIP, as he has been getting fewer strikeouts. In fact, Cashner has been all too amenable to contact all season long, getting swings and misses on 7 percent of his pitches, and that could be a dangerous thing against the Reds and Rockies in their hitter-friendly parks. Fortunately, Cashner is a good ground ball pitcher in addition to being a control artist. With the fourth-lowest level of run support in the majors, Cashner could have a hard time adding to his win total, but he can still help to lower your staff's ERA and WHIP.

Start Salazar over the following one-start pitchers: Tyson Ross, Chris Tillman, Justin Masterson

14. Mike Leake, CIN (vs. SD, at PHI)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
22. Ryan Vogelsong vs. ATL, vs. MIA
23. Josh Collmenter vs. WAS, vs. LAD
24. Tom Koehler at LAD, at SF
25. Tim Lincecum vs. ATL, vs. MIA
26. R.A. Dickey vs. CLE, at TEX
27. Colby Lewis at HOU, vs. TOR
28. Ricky Nolasco vs. BOS, vs. SEA
29. Tyler Lyons vs. CHC, vs. ATL
30. Brad Peacock vs. TEX, vs. CHW
31. Vidal Nuno vs. NYM, vs. PIT
32. Bud Norris vs. DET, at KC
33. Cesar Ramos at SEA, at LAA
34. John Danks at OAK, at HOU
35. Jacob Turner at LAD, at SF
36. Jake Arrieta at STL, vs. MIL
37. Felix Doubront at MIN, vs. DET

Unlike Cashner, Leake has never shown the ability to be even an average strikeout pitcher, but he's been his Padres' counterpart's equal when it comes to inducing grounders. Leake doesn't have Cashner's advantage of pitching home games at PETCO Park (though neither does Cashner this week), but he does get a pair of advantageous matchups. His lone home start comes against the punchless Padres, while his road start has him facing the Phillies, who are also loitering in the lower reaches of the runs-scored rankings. Leake should also be well-served by his stinginess with walks (1.8 BB/9), so he's a reasonably safe start this week.

Start Leake over the following one-start pitchers: Chris Tillman, Justin Masterson, Jonathon Niese

15. Rick Porcello, DET (at BAL, at BOS)

Going back to last season, Porcello has strung together nine straight starts with no more than two walks (in addition to 2 1/3 relief innings with no walks), which has helped him to produce a 1.02 WHIP over that period. It's a good thing that Porcello has become elite as a control pitcher, because he hasn't been as good at inducing grounders as he has been in the past. He is throwing his sinker less often and his four-seamer more often this season, and according to TexasLeaguers.com, Porcello is throwing the latter pitch with less velocity and more spin. All of that adds up to fewer strikeouts and grounders. That combination, along with tougher matchups, makes him a less attractive option than Leake this scoring period, but he's still effective enough to use in a two-start week.

Start Porcello over the following one-start pitchers: Jonathon Niese, Chris Archer, Ian Kennedy

16. Mark Buehrle, CHW (vs. LAA, at TEX)

Because he racks up innings, Buehrle has long had his uses for points-league owners in his two-start weeks. So far this year, he has paid off for owners in all formats, due to his 1.91 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 6-1 record. It's unlikely that Buehrle can maintain an 83 percent strand rate and even more unlikely he will keep up a 0 percent home run-to-flyball ratio (the lone homer Buehrle has allowed was a line drive). The Blue Jays have done their part to help the veteran southpaw, chipping in 6.0 runs of support per nine innings, but that is also too good to last. Even if regression starts this week, Buehrle is a reasonable use of an active roster spot, but highly-available types like Smyly and Leake are even better choices.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Buehrle: Jonathon Niese, Ian Kennedy, Chris Archer

17. Jesse Chavez, OAK (vs. CHW, at CLE)

Through his first three starts, Chavez looked like a completely different pitcher than he had been as a reliever, getting more strikeouts and grounders than we had been accustomed to seeing from him. Though he has coaxed six swinging strikes or fewer in three of his last four starts, Chavez continues to pile up Ks, as he has been proficient at getting called strikes. His foray into ground ball pitching may have been short-lived, as Chavez's grounder rate has plummeted over his last four starts. The Astros, Rangers and Mariners didn't make Chavez pay a high price for his creeping flyball rate (though he wasn't especially effective in two of his last three starts), but the White Sox will offer the best lineup he has seen in awhile. Also, the Indians are highly averse to striking out, so that could be a tough matchup as well.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Chavez: Chris Archer, Ian Kennedy, John Lackey

18. Travis Wood, CHC (at STL, vs. MIL)

Owners might see Wood's 8.6 K/9 ratio and think he is a changed pitcher, but this 27-year-old isn't showing any real signs of a breakout. Since blasting the Phillies and Pirates for a combined 17 strikeouts and 30 swinging strikes in his first two starts, Wood has compiled a more typical 7.1 K/9, inducing whiffs on only 5 percent of his pitches. He has never been adept at getting grounders, but unless Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Matt Adams break out of their respective power funks, Wood just might get away with that against the Cardinals. When Wood faced the Brewers last month, they handed him one of his worst starts this season, and he could suffer the same fate against their slugging lineup, which will likely include Ryan Braun by the time he faces them..

Start the following one-start pitchers over Wood: Drew Hutchison, Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana

19. Bronson Arroyo, ARI (vs. WAS, vs. LAD)

Just as it looked like Arroyo might cease to be Fantasy-relevant, he has recovered from a terrible beginning to the season. In posting three consecutive quality starts, Arroyo compiled a typically low walk rate, issuing four free passes over 20 2/3 innings, and held opponents to a .216 slugging percentage. Matchups certainly played a role, as he faced the Phillies, Padres and a Brewers starting lineup that was without Ryan Braun, Khris Davis and Aramis Ramirez. Still, Arroyo got clocked by the Mets and Cubs earlier in the season, so he is clearly making progress. Given that he missed much of spring training with a bulging disc, we probably shouldn't be surprised that it has taken Arroyo awhile to get back on track. Now it looks like he is once again a viable two-start pitcher, though still a borderline one.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Arroyo: Corey Kluber, Clay Buchholz, Shelby Miller

20. Bartolo Colon, NYM (at NYY, at WAS)

To look at Colon's 5.36 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, it's not apparent that he has actually been fairly reliable this season. The only of his seven outings in which he has failed to record a quality start were when he faced the Angels and Rockies (at Coors Field). Those two teams, which both rank among the top-scoring squads in the majors, combined for 16 earned runs on 21 hits over 9 2/3 innings. Otherwise, he has posted a 2.65 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Colon has succeeded in the bulk of his starts, as he continues to be a strike-thrower extraordinaire, but he has also shown himself to be a risky play when facing tougher lineups. He already has a quality start against the Nationals this year, and the Yankees are a middle-of-the-pack offense. Facing the Bombers in the Bronx could be hazardous, though, as Colon has allowed 1.1 home runs per nine innings on the road since 2012, and Yankee Stadium isn't just any ballpark. Taking a flier on Colon could work in your favor, but given how bad his two worst starts were, it's not a move for the risk-averse.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Colon: Shelby Miller, Doug Fister, Garrett Richards

21. Ubaldo Jimenez, BAL (vs. DET, at KC)

Jimenez has been on a slow, steady path to recovery after emerging from his first three starts of the season with a 7.31 ERA. He has lowered that mark after each of his last four starts, but he's still a long way from being a solid two-week option. Jimenez is still not getting batters to swing and miss (well, batters who don't play for the Twins, whom he frustrated with 17 whiffs on 118 pitches), but he has notched 21 strikeouts in his last 24 innings due to a high called strike rate. His control has also been sharper, particularly over his two most recent starts. There is little evidence that Jimenez is back to being dominant, like has was in the second half of last season, but he is worth a try in standard mixed leagues, barring better alternatives.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Jimenez: Shelby Miller, Garrett Richards,Dallas Keuchel

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

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Player News
Chris Tillman in fine form Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/14/2014) Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings Sunday night against the Yankees. He did not figure in the decision, as Baltimore rallied to win in the ninth.

Tillman fanned six, walked one and allowed five hits while lowering his ERA to 3.29. He'll take on the Red Sox next Sunday.


David Robertson blows his fourth save
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/14/2014) Yankees closer David Robertson entered in the ninth inning Sunday and could not hold a 2-1 lead. The Orioles ripped Robertson for three hits in one-third of an inning, including run-scoring doubles by Steve Pearce and Kelly Johnson to end it.

Robertson fell to 2-5 and blew his fourth save chance in 40 opportunities.


Hiroki Kuroda's strong effort wasted
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9/14/2014) Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was in position for his 11th win after allowing one run over seven innings Sunday night, but the bullpen coughed up the lead in a 3-2 loss to Baltimore. Kuroda struck out six, walked none and allowed five hits.

Having lowered his ERA to 3.81, Kuroda will take on the Blue Jays at home Friday.


Hitters to sit in Week 25
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/14/2014) Thinking about starting Carl Crawford, Kurt Suzuki, Mike Napoli, Rougned Odor, Trevor Plouffe or Javier Baez in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 15-21)? You might want to think again.

Find out why in the latest Start and Sit Hitters.


Hitters to start in Week 25
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/14/2014) Looking for a sleeper hitter for Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 15-21)? Russell Martin, Steve Pearce, Jed Lowrie, Xander Bogaerts, Josh Rutledge and Michael Cuddyer might just fit the bill.

Find out why in the latest Start and Sit Hitters.


Carlos Beltran available again
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/14/2014) Though Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran wasn't in the starting lineup for Sunday night's game at Baltimore, he told ESPN he was available for the contest if needed and that he believes he could start Monday.

Beltran, who hasn't played since Tuesday, recently decided he would wait until the offseason to have surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.


Dana Eveland done for season
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/14/2014) Mets left-hander Dana Eveland, who has pitched only once in September because of inflammation in his elbow, has been ruled out for the season, according to MLB.com. Eveland's elbow is structurally sound. He received a cortisone shot in late August.

"[The elbow is] feeling better every day," Eveland said. "I hate to leave here, because I do feel like, you know, maybe in another week or so I'd probably be able to pitch again."

Eveland had a 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings in 30 appearances for the Mets.


Derek Norris not playing at 100 percent
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/14/2014) Athletics manager Bob Melvin told MLB.com Sunday that catcher Derek Norris' hip isn't at 100 percent.

"He's all right. He's a catcher," Melvin said.

Norris went 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout Sunday at Seattle and is batting just .238 (39 for 164) with two home runs since the All-Star break.


Alex Avila leaves with lightheadedness
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/14/2014) Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who missed time with a concussion earlier this month, had to be removed in the eighth inning Sunday against the Indians because of lightheadedness.

"He took one off the mask earlier in the day, but at the time, he didn't show the reaction that is normally associated with someone that's been concussed," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He kind of went about his business. And it wasn't until he actually went to hit his last plate appearance that someone said to me that he didn't seem right on the bench."

Avila struck out on three pitches and, when questioned upon his return to the dugout, complained of a headache. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the contest.

Avila traveled with the team to Minnesota after the game, but Ausmus told mLive.com he likely wouldn't play Monday against the Twins.


David Ortiz leaves for family issue
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(9/14/2014) Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz had to leave Sunday's game at Kansas City because of a family emergency, according to the Boston Herald. Ortiz went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts before being replaced by Christian Vazquez.

"He's fine. He got called away from this game," manager John Farrell said. "There was a family emergency that he had to attend to and he jumped on a flight late this afternoon."

Farrell added that Ortiz should rejoin the team Tuesday at Pittsburgh.


 
 
 
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