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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 8

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This week's two-start pitchers run the gamut from Madison (Bumgarner) to Franklin (Morales), but there are enough quality options who are likely to be available either on your bench or waivers that you could revolutionize your rotation.

Ian Kennedy and Francisco Liriano both make this week's "must-start" list, even though both hurlers are benched in at least 25 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.

Must start two-start options
1. Adam Wainwright vs. ARI, at CIN
2. Masahiro Tanaka at CHC, at CHW
3. Stephen Strasburg vs. CIN, at PIT
4. Julio Teheran vs. MIL, vs. COL
5. Justin Verlander at CLE, vs. TEX
6. Hisashi Iwakuma at TEX, vs. HOU
7. Mike Minor vs. MIL, vs. COL
8. Madison Bumgarner at COL, vs. MIN
9. Ian Kennedy vs. MIN, vs. CHC
10. Francisco Liriano vs. BAL, vs. WAS
11. Garrett Richards vs. HOU, vs. KC

Of the 12 pitchers on this week's "bubble" list, only Corey Kluber and Wily Peralta are activated in more than 70 percent of our leagues, and four of these borderline options are still available as free agents in at least 20 percent of our leagues. This week looks like it could be an especially good one for switching things up a little more than usual in your rotation.

Heading into the weekend, it also appears that none of the must-start or bubble pitchers are in danger of losing their two-start status. A couple of prospects -- the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman and the Marlins' Anthony Desclafani -- could actually join the ranks of two-start pitchers. While neither is the safest choice for standard mixed league owners, each could benefit owners in deeper leagues, so owners in those formats should watch the developments in Toronto and Miami over the weekend.

Alex Cobb (oblique) is on course to return this week against the Athletics, so his Saturday rehab start bears watching. Not only do Cobb's owners need to monitor this situation, but so do Jake Odorizzi's, as he could lose his second start should Cobb return. Chris Sale (elbow) is not likely to return in Fantasy Week 8 (May 19-25), but should he be ready after Friday's rehab start, he would likely knock Andre Rienzo off the two-start pitchers list.

Each of the dozen borderline two-start options has some value for owners in standard mixed leagues, but some are more trustworthy than others. With one-quarter of the season in the books, some interesting trends have developed for most of these pitchers, and I'll review them and explain what they mean for each pitcher's value for the week ahead.

Monday update: The weekend's events created some turnover on the this week's two-start pitchers list. Miguel Gonzalez, Anthony Desclafani and J.A. Happ are now slated for two starts, while Yordano Ventura, Drew Smyly and Wei-Yin Chen are now scheduled to make only one start. Smyly's removal from the list is particularly worth noting, as many owners had already claimed and activated him for his apparent two- start week. However, with Rick Porcello getting moved back due to a side injury (and Robbie Ray getting re- inserted into the rotation to spot start for him), Smyly got his second start bumped to Fantasy Week 9 (May 26-June 1). With just a single start at the Indians, Smyly is now just a last-resort option in standard mixed leagues.

Cobb appears due to return to make one start this week, though the Rays have yet to announce when that will happen. It seems likely that Cesar Ramos will lose his spot in the rotation, but if not, Jake Odorizzi could lose his second start for Week 8. Sale will make at least one more rehab start, according to the Chicago Tribune, so he won't be making an appearance for the White Sox this week. Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to return Wednesday at the Mets, so he is a recommended start in standard mixed leagues. Stroman, who was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo on Sunday, obviously won't be making a start, much less two, so he needs to be stashed.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

12. Corey Kluber, CLE (vs. DET, at BAL)

With his nine-strikeout performance at the Blue Jays on Wednesday, Kluber racked up at least eight Ks for the fourth time in his last five starts and for the fifth time this season. Given that Kluber rarely hands out walks, he would seem to have emerged as a must-start pitcher, whether with one start or two. However, he sports a very ordinary 1.28 WHIP, and that's not necessarily the result of bad luck. Kluber has a fluky- looking .364 BABIP, but it may not regress as much as you might expect, as he has been prone to allowing line drives at a high rate in each of his three seasons as a starter. The pattern has persisted long enough for me to keep Kluber off the must-start list -- though just by a little -- for the coming week.

Start Kluber over the following one-start pitchers: Andrew Cashner, Tony Cingrani, Marco Estrada

13. Doug Fister, WAS (vs. CIN, at PIT)

Following up on a shaky season debut at the Athletics, Fister looked more like his old self on Wednesday at the Diamondbacks, limiting the Snakes to one run on five hits and no walks in seven innings. It was classic Fister, as he got plenty of called strikes and got grounders when his opponents swung and connected. That formula worked well for Fister in each of the previous three seasons, but in case you think he may have benefitted from a favorable matchup, he does draw two teams this week who rank in the lower third in runs scored. Most likely, he doesn't need the help, and he'll be useful to start in every two-start week.

Start Fister over the following one-start pitchers: John Lackey, Scott Kazmir, Tyson Ross

14. Dallas Keuchel, HOU (at LAA, at SEA)

If you had put me in a time machine and sent me back to mid-April, then told me I would soon be recommending Keuchel as a two-start pitcher, I wouldn't have believed you. Just eight starts into the season, Keuchel has made a believer out of me. He has been solid or better in each of his last seven starts and backed up his Fantasy stats with a 12.1 percent whiff rate, 1.9 BB/9 ratio and a 66 percent ground ball rate. If you took the best parts of Marco Estrada and Charlie Morton and transplanted them into a lefty, this is what you'd get. It's a combination that makes Keuchel worth starting almost every week, as long as he keeps this going.

Start Keuchel over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn, Nathan Eovaldi, Gerrit Cole

15. Trevor Bauer, CLE (vs. DET, at BAL)

Bauer is finally up for more than a spot start, and better yet, his first week as a regular member of the Indians' rotation this season provides him with two starts. With a 63 percent strikes thrown rate at Triple-A Columbus (according to StatCorner.com), it would appear that Bauer has ironed out his control issues at last, though he has posted a less-than-impressive 9.2 percent whiff rate and 8.6 K/9. If Bauer has to sacrifice some strikeouts in order to have control, it's a bargain that's worth striking, but owners shouldn't expect a humungous strikeout total, now that he is facing major leaguers. Though he has two opportunities to collect Ks, he will face the Tigers and Orioles, and neither team strikes out much.

Start Bauer over the following one-start pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi, Gerrit Cole, Jeff Samardzija

16. Wily Peralta, MIL (at ATL, at MIA)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
24. Jake Odorizzi vs. NYY, at SD
25. Yovani Gallardo at ATL, at MIA
26. Anthony Desclafani vs. PHI, vs. MIL
27. Mike Leake at WAS, vs. STL
28. Jason Vargas vs. CHW, at LAA
29. Colby Lewis vs. SEA, at DET
30. Scott Feldman at LAA, at SEA
31. Andre Rienzo at KC, vs. NYY
32. J.A. Happ at BOS, vs. OAK
33. Scott Carroll at KC, vs. NYY
34. Franklin Morales vs. SF, at ATL
35. Felix Doubront vs. TOR, at TB

With just one walk over 13 innings in his last two starts, Peralta's makeover as a control pitcher is showing some staying power, but his ability to induce whiffs and grounders has abandoned him. Peralta got only two swinging strikes off his slider in his most recent start and none in his prior start, and according to BrooksBaseball.net, he got very little horizontal movement on the pitch in his most recent outing. It's a minor red flag, and with the whiff-happy Braves and Marlins on his plate this week, Peralta could get his K-rate moving in the right direction again.

Start Peralta over the following one-start pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi, Gerrit Cole, Jeff Samardzija

17. Drew Pomeranz, OAK (at TB, at TOR)

Since replacing Dan Straily in the A's rotation just over a week ago, the only thing that Fantasy owners can fault Pomeranz for is not going beyond five innings in either of his starts. He has yet to allow a run or an extra-base hit as a starter, and he has struck out 13 batters while walking just two. Pomeranz had also been effective over his nine relief appearances, but over those outings, we could see some of the potential pitfalls of relying on him. He threw only 61 percent of his pitches for strikes and had allowed a couple of homers over 13 2/3 innings. That's not a big sample, but poor control and moderate ground ball tendencies were hallmarks of his Rockies career. The latter shouldn't hurt Pomeranz much in his home starts (or at pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field this week), but his visit to Toronto could bring back some bad memories from his time in the Mile High City.

Start Pomeranz over the following one-start pitchers: Jeff Samardzija , Hyun-Jin Ryu , Justin Masterson

18. Josh Beckett, LAD (at NYM, at PHI)

After failing to go deep into games earlier in the season, Beckett has been both effective and durable over his last four starts, posting a 2.28 ERA over 27 2/3 innings. Beckett has been both good and lucky over that stretch, notching 24 strikeouts and a 10 percent whiff rate, but he has also benefitted from a .233 BABIP. Even with more hits likely to fall in future starts, Beckett might not hurt your team's WHIP, but he can be vulnerable to extra-base hits, as a .200 opponents' Isolated Power over his recent stretch shows. If either the Mets or Phillies were good power-hitting teams, Beckett might not have made the cut for this week's bubble list, but he just might get away with middling ground ball tendenies and mediocre control this week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Beckett: Jeff Samardzija, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Justin Masterson

19. Bronson Arroyo, ARI (at STL, at NYM)

Arroyo's rebound from an early-season slump just keeps getting better, as he has pitched successively deeper into each of his last five starts. That trend is about to reverse, as Arroyo tossed a complete game in his last start against the Nationals, but with three straight starts of seven innings or more, he appears back to being the efficient innings-eater he was with the Reds. Arroyo's finesse only takes him so far in Fantasy; he is still too much of a contact pitcher to use in most one-start weeks. In a two-start week that includes the National League's two worst power-hitting teams, Arroyo is a safe, if unspectacular, option.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Arroyo: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Justin Masterson, C.J. Wilson

20. Rafael Montero, NYM (vs. LAD, vs. ARI)

Montero walked away from Wednesday's major league debut against the Yankees with a quality start, and his prospect status and minor league track record would seem to recommend him as a solid choice for Fantasy owners in his first-ever two-start week. Control has never been a major issue for Montero, and during brief stints in the Eastern and Florida State Leagues, he showed promise as a strikeout pitcher. His strikeout rate dipped once advancing to the Pacific Coast League, and throughout his minor league career, Montero had never shown much of a knack for inducing grounders. That's what makes his five swinging strikes and 14 flyballs against the Yankees concerning. There's enough upside here to make Montero an intriguing two-start option, but his inexperience and uneven profile make him a risky one as well.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Montero: C.J. Wilson, Robbie Erlin, Jesse Chavez

21. Jason Hammel, CHC (vs. NYY, at SD)

Hammel is no stranger to inconsistency, but his most recent start ended a string of strong outings that dates all the way back to his season debut. He has walked more than two batters in a start only once (and that was a three-walk game) and has gotten at least nine swinging strikes in six of his eight starts. A lack of foul balls has probably cost Hammel some strikeouts, but he is once again showing the potential to be an above-average strikeout pitcher. Hammel is still not getting grounders like he did in his 2012 career year with the Orioles, but at least for his upcoming start against the Padres, that shouldn't hurt him too much. He is nowhere near as good as his 0.91 WHIP would suggest, but Hammel is showing enough encouraging signs to be worth using as a last-resort option in standard mixed leagues.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hammel: C.J. Wilson, Robbie Erlin, Jesse Chavez

22. A.J. Burnett, PHI (at MIA, vs. LAD)

Though we are only seven weeks into the season, Burnett has already gone through three distinct phases. He began the year miserably, pitching with no signs of control. Then Burnett ran off a string of four consecutive quality starts in which he walked two or fewer batters in each outing while striking out close to a batter per inning. In his last two starts, Burnett's control has gone missing yet again, though he has continued to miss bats. As with Hammel, inconsistency is nothing new to Burnett, but there has been enough good so far to earn him a spot on this list, if just barely. If you're looking for an encouraging sign, the Dodgers are among the teams most prone to swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Burnett: Jesse Chavez, Dan Haren, Tyler Skaggs

23. Miguel Gonzalez, BAL (at PIT, vs. CLE)

With a 4.76 ERA, Gonzalez might not look like a viable two-start pitcher, but if not for the seven home runs he has allowed in 39 2/3 innings, he would appear to be much more intriguing. Over his career, Gonzalez has been far more prone to allowing homers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards than on the road, as one would expect. His first start of the week will be against the Pirates at pitcher-friendly PNC Park, so owners will be able to enjoy the benefits of Gonzalez's enhanced strikeout rate (7.9 K/9) without the usual home run risk. His second start is at home, but against an Indians lineup that lacks home run thump. Especially since Gonzalez is a relatively late addition to this list, he is highly available and could provide a nice return as a last-second free agent pickup.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Gonzalez: Dan Haren, Tyler Skaggs, Jonathon Niese

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
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautisa goes yard twice in loss
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:18 pm ET) Jose Bautista could finish this season with the worst batting average of his career, but he simply continues to produce for the Blue Jays. The latest example was in a Saturday defeat to visiting Kansas City.

Bautista mashed two home runs for his first multi-dinger day since June 15. He crashed solo homers in the fifth and ninth innings after singling and scoring in the fourth. He now has 23 homers and 70 RBI on the year despite a .237 average.

His big afternoon ended a 7-for-43 slide at the plate.


Royals closer Greg Holland shaky, but snags save Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:08 pm ET) Royals closer Greg Holland heightened the tension in a dramatic game Saturday in Toronto, but in the end was able to send the crowd home unhappy.

Holland arrived with a one-run lead and allowed a walk to pinch-hitter Troy Tulowitzki and single to Chris Colabello after retiring the first batter. But Ben Revere and Josh Donaldson grounded out to secure his 23rd save.

It was his seventh straight appearance in which he has allowed at least one baserunner.


Bullpen blows win for Blue Jays SP Mark Buehrle
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Blue Jays veteran starter Mark Buehrle threw 89 pitches Saturday. Perhaps if he had tossed 100 or more, he would be celebrating a victory.

Instead, he was lamenting a no-decision and his team's defeat as his bullpen blew the 5-4 lead with which he departed.

Buehrle surrendered three earned runs on five hits in seven innings with no walks and three strikeouts. His struggles were limited to a Ben Zobrist homer in the first, as well as a two-run single by Eric Hosmer and RBI single by Kendrys Morales in the sixth.

The right-hander has been on a tremendous roll with 14 quality starts in his last 15 outings. His 3.32 ERA would be his lowest since 2005 if maintained.


Cliff Pennington replaces David Peralta in left for Diamondbacks
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:56 pm ET) Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta isn't in the starting lineup for Saturday's game, after 70 starts there this season. 

Cliff Pennington starts in his place for just the second time this season. He previously got the call in left field on June 28. 


A.J. Pollock not in Diamondbacks' lineup
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:55 pm ET) Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock isn't in the starting lineup for Saturday's game. Pollock left Friday's game early after injuring his hamstring and will get additional rest on Saturday. 

The absence caused a chain reaction in the Arizona outfield. Ender Inciarte moves to center field after playing the last three in right. 


Royals SP Yordano Ventura weathers storm to gain victory
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:52 pm ET) Two rotten innings did not doom Royals starter Yordano Ventura in Toronto on Saturday. His supporting cast made sure of that.

Ventura was sailing along with a perfect game through 3 2/3 innings when four straight singles turned his 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit. He then sandwiched two outs around a walk in the fourth before successive homers by Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista made it 5-1.

That's when Mr. Hyde turned into Dr. Jekyll again. Ventura retired the last seven batters he faced while his team staged its comeback and he wound up with his second consecutive win. He finished having allowed five runs on six hits in seven innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

He is still saddled, however, with a rather ugly 4.98 ERA.


Diamondbacks' Welington Castillo plays DH, Jarrod Saltalamacchia catches
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:52 pm ET) The Diamondbacks play Houston at an American League park on Saturday, giving them a DH. Catcher Welington Castillo gets a break from the field, playing DH for the first time this year.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia will play catcher for 16th time this year and first since July 4.  


Padres promote SP Leonel Campos, DFA C Tim Federowicz
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:43 pm ET) The Padres have promoted starting pitcher Leonel Campos from Triple-A El Paso and designated for assignment catcher Tim Federowicz.

Campos pitched in six games a year ago but has yet to toe the rubber for San Diego this season. He has earned the promotion by allowing just 28 hits in 49 1/3 innings and posting a 2.92 ERA for the Chihuahuas.

Federowicz has been sidelined all year with a knee injury. He was reinstated before receiving the DFA tag.


Mariners' Logan Morrison out of lineup for third straight day
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:40 pm ET) Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison isn't in the starting lineup for Saturday's game, the third straight start he's missed.

Morrison suffered a thumb injury in Wednesday's game and hasn't played since. 

Jesus Montero starts at first base for the second straight game and fourth time this season. 


Robinson Cano returns to Mariners' lineup at DH
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3:38 pm ET) Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano returned to the starting lineup on Saturday, but he'll take at least another day to return to the field. 

Cano has missed the last three games with a strained abdominal muscle. He's in the lineup at designated hitter on Saturday.

Ketel Marte gets the start at second base for the second straight day and second time this season. 


 
 
 
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