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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 9

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A full slate of games on Memorial Day contributes heavily to what is shaping up to be an overload of two-start pitchers for Fantasy Week 9 (May 26-June 1). No fewer than 50 pitchers are currently slated to finish up the second month of the season with a two-start week.

Must start two-start options
1. Max Scherzer at OAK, at SEA
2. Yu Darvish at MIN, at WAS
3. Jered Weaver at SEA, at OAk
4. Cole Hamels vs. COL, vs. NYM
5. Johnny Cueto at LAD, at ARI
6. Zack Greinke vs. CIN, vs. PIT
7. Tyson Ross at ARI, at CHW
8. Sonny Gray vs. DET, vs. LAA
9. Jon Lester at ATL, vs. TB
10. Michael Wacha vs. NYY, vs. SF
11. Tim Hudson vs. CHC, at STL
12. Lance Lynn vs. NYY, vs. SF
13. Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. CIN, vs. PIT
14. Jeff Samardzija at SF, at MIL
15. Ervin Santana vs. BOS, at MIA
16. Yordano Ventura vs. HOU, at TOR
17. Drew Hutchison vs. TB, vs. KC
18. Kyle Lohse vs. BAL, vs. CHC

Almost assuredly, Brandon Cumpton will extend the list of two-start pitchers, as he appears to be all but a lock to replace Wandy Rodriguez in the Pirates' rotation. However, there are several pitchers who could shrink the list by Monday's lineup deadline. Matt Cain (hamstring) and Michael Wacha (elbow) are questionable to make their next starts, so their two-start weeks could be in jeopardy. Deep league owners may be looking forward to two-start weeks from Eric Stults and Nick Tepesch, but if Andrew Cashner (elbow) and Joe Saunders (foot, ankle) make their respective returns this week, Stults and Tepesch could be limited to a single start.

It's highly unlikely that either Mat Latos (forearm) or Dillon Gee (lat) will be ready to return in Week 9, so that should spare Alfredo Simon and Jacob deGrom from losing a second start.

While there are many good two-start pitchers, not many of them are highly available in standard mixed leagues. Brandon McCarthy and Collin McHugh stand out as waiver options who could help mixed league owners, but while both are intriguing possibilities, neither is without significant risk. There's more on that, along with an analysis of 10 other borderline options, just below.

Monday update: Not much has changed in the starting pitcher landscape over the weekend. Wacha has been confirmed to make his Monday start against the Yankees, so he remains among the two-start options for the week. Cain, however, will be skipped in favor of Yusmeiro Petit on Monday versus the Cubs. He could make a start later in the week, though, but with so many two-start pitchers available, he is best saved for deeper leagues.

Astros manager Bo Porter used Saturday's spot start by Brett Oberholtzer to push everyone back a day, so now Scott Feldman gains a second start this week, while Jarred Cosart loses his. And as expected, Cumpton has replaced Rodriguez in the Pirates' rotation, so he does in fact inherit a two-start week.

MLB.com reports that Cashner is probably "several weeks" away from returning, so owners should plan to move on without him for Week 9, though Stults' owners can feel confident about him drawing two starts this week. Tepesch also appears safe to make both of his scheduled starts, even though the Rangers have put Saunders back in the rotation. The lefty will slide right into Scott Baker's turn on Wednesday at the Twins, keeping the rest of the rotation intact.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

19. Jonathon Niese, NYM (vs. PIT, at PHI)

After a fast beginning to the season that produced a 1.82 ERA over his six initial starts, Niese has regressed by allowing 20 hits and nine earned runs over his last 17 innings. Aside from his most recent start in which he threw only 56 of his 97 pitches for strikes, Niese has continued to do what he does best, which is to avoid walks and extra-base hits. Niese has already notched two quality starts against the Phillies this season, and like their cross-state counterparts, the Pirates shouldn't pose much of a threat to Niese's Week 9 stat line. Neither lineup has been exceptionally good at drawing walks or hitting for power.

Start Niese over the following one-start pitchers: Dallas Keuchel, Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson

20. Aaron Harang, ATL (vs. BOS, at MIA)

Harang, too, has fallen off from a hot early-season pace, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a Fantasy owner who wasn't expecting that. He finished April with a disastrous nine-run thrashing at the hands (fins?) of the Marlins, and in May, Harang has a compiled a 3.86 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Between those stats and a six- year run of mediocrity that preceeded this season, owners may decide they've had enough of the 36-year-old, but even during his recent slide, Harang has pitched more like the mid-2000s version of himself. He has induced swinging strikes at a 10 percent rate or higher in six of his 10 starts, and he missed that threshold by one whiff in a seventh start. Harang has also shown excellent control, and his 1.22 WHIP would be even lower if not for a .366 batting average on grounders allowed. The Ks should keep coming against the Red Sox and Marlins, who both rank among the upper one-third of teams in strikeout-per-plate appearance ratio.

Start Harang over the following one-start pitchers: Garrett Richards, C.J. Wilson, Trevor Bauer

21. Jose Quintana, CHW (vs. CLE, vs. SD)

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For the last few season, Hiroki Kuroda has epitomized the type of pitcher who goes underappreciated in Fantasy because he's steady, but not spectacular. Quintana is making a strong bid to be the new Kuroda. He has made only one start this season that was a head-turner -- a 10-strikeout affair against the Tigers -- and a five-inning, five-run outing at the Rangers was his only stinker. His consistency is reflected in his eight quality starts, which ties him for eighth-most in the majors. Quintana's average-across-the-board ratios render him as a deeper league option in the vast majority of his one-start weeks but useful in standard mixed leagues in two-start weeks like this one.

Start Quintana over the following one-start pitchers: C.J. Wilson, Trevor Bauer, Scott Kazmir

22. Nathan Eovaldi, MIA (at WAS, vs. ATL)

Last week's six-run start at the Giants aside, Eovaldi has continued to do his part in preventing earned runs, but strikeouts have suddenly become scarce for him. If that perists, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as a pitcher with good control and ground ball tendencies can be useful in Fantasy, even if he pitches to contact. Eovaldi has had both of those qualities in most of his starts this season, and with the majors' third-highest swing rate (per FanGraphs.com) and upper-90s heat, there is still some strikeout potential there. Owners may also note that the last time Eovaldi faced the Braves, he got seven strikeouts and 21 whiffs over six innings.

Start Eovaldi over the following one-start pitchers: Trevor Bauer, Scott Kazmir, Ubaldo Jimenez

23. Tanner Roark, WAS (vs. MIA, vs. TEX)

Roark is the anti-Eovaldi in that batters have been loathe to swing at his offerings, but his control is good enough to make that work. He doesn't walk many batters, as he has yet to issue more than three bases on balls in any of his 14 major league starts, and he gets enough called strikes to be a decent strikeout pitcher. Roark should be a pretty safe bet in most two-start weeks, but in getting the Marlins, who have struggled offensively on the road, and the snake-bitten Rangers, he looks like an especially trustworthy option this time.

Start Roark over the following one-start pitchers: Scott Kazmir, Ubaldo Jimenez, Gerrit Cole

24. Tyler Skaggs, LAA (at SEA, at OAK)

Skaggs has yet to develop consistency, at least in his game-to-game results, but he is emerging as a viable Fantasy option in the Niese mold. The Southern California native has walked only 14 batters in 58 2/3 innings and induced grounders on 53 percent of his pitches. Skaggs owes his .652 opponents' OPS to more than just a high ground ball rate and low walk rate, as he has made six of his nine starts at pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium, but then again, he visits similarly favorable Safeco Field and O.co Coliseum this week.

Start Skaggs over the following one-start pitchers: Ubaldo Jimenez, Gerrit Cole, Tony Cingrani

25. Brandon McCarthy, ARI (vs. SD, vs. CIN)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
31. Clay Buchholz at ATL, vs. TB
32. Nick Tepesch at MIN, at WAS
33. Wade Miley vs. SD, vs. CIN
34. Scott Feldman at KC, vs. BAL
35. Chris Tillman at MIL, at HOU
36. Chris Young vs. LAA, vs. DET
37. Wei-Yin Chen at MIL, at HOU
38. Chase Whitley at STL, vs. MIN
39. Tommy Milone vs. DET, vs. LAA
40. Kyle Kendrick vs. COL, vs. NYM
41. Jhoulys Chacin at PHI, at CLE
42. Brandon Cumpton at NYM, at LAD
43. Jeremy Guthrie vs. HOU, at TOR
44. Roenis Elias vs. LAA, vs. DET
45. Jacob deGrom vs. PIT, at PHI
46. Edinson Volquez at NYM, at LAD
47. Erik Bedard at TOR, at BOS
48. Josh Tomlin at CHW, vs. COL
49. Kevin Correia vs. TEX, at NYY
50. Eric Stults at ARI, at CHW

Like several of the pitchers on this list, McCarthy has demonstrated superb control, as he has thrown 68 percent of his pitches for strikes. He has been too hittable at times, and specifically, those times have occurred when he has faced his toughest opponents. McCarthy allowed five earned runs or more against the Giants, Rockies, Dodgers and White Sox and no more than three earned runs against the Mets, Cubs, Phillies, Padres, Nationals and Cardinals. Maybe that pattern is coincidental, but if you're nervous about starting McCarthy in Week 9, you can be encouraged by matchups that pit him against two of the lowest-scoring offenses in the majors. On his own merits, McCarthy is close in value to the similarly-inconsistent Skaggs, but with a lesser chance for run support, I have ranked him just below the ex-Diamondback.

Start the following one-start pitchers over McCarthy: Trevor Bauer, Scott Kazmir, Ubaldo Jimenez

26. Mark Buehrle, TOR (vs. TB, vs. KC)

In Thursday's start at the Red Sox, Buehrle did what he had already done eight times in nine previous outings: dispatch an opponent with no more than two runs allowed. With an 8-1 record and 2.16 ERA, Buehrle is on an extraordinary run, even though he is putting up his usual supporting stats. Buehrle has long been an efficient innings-eater with good control, but he has needed an 82 percent strand rate and a 1.8 percent home run-to-flyball ratio to prevent runs at an unlikely rate. Two starts at Rogers Centre practically invites a regression -- especially in Buehrle's home run rate. When the power-poor Rays and Royals are the Blue Jays' guests, Buehrle stands a better chance to keep his streak going.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Buehrle: Ubaldo Jimenez, Gerrit Cole, Tony Cingrani

27. Drew Smyly, DET (at OAK, at SEA)

Smyly's owners know all too well that he's been lined up for two-start weeks before, only to see him put in the bullpen or pushed back, losing a scheduled start in the process. However, the Tigers do not have a day off this week, and there are no foreseeable needs for spot starter to be inserted into the rotation, so maybe this week is the week. Smyly has enough strikeout potential to merit inclusion on this list, and two favorable venues should minimize the risk posed by his flyball tendencies. Because Smyly hasn't been allowed to settle into a role, he may not be in top form yet, so he's still not close to being a must-start option.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Smyly: Gerrit Cole, Tony Cingrani, Ian Kennedy

28. Phil Hughes, MIN (vs. TEX, at NYY)

Those familiar with Hughes' history know very well why he doesn't rank higher this week, despite his 3.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Two words: Yankee Stadium. When Hughes called the Bronx home, he compiled a 4.82 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 1.8 HR/9 there. Maybe Hughes is an improved pitcher this season, but it's hard to know how he will respond to a hitter-friendly environment. He's been to one once in 2014 -- his season debut at U.S. Cellular Field -- and he allowed four runs in five innings with two home runs. Hughes should be fine at home versus the Rangers, but weekly leagues owners will have to start him at their own risk.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hughes: Tony Cingrani, Ian Kennedy, Doug Fister

29. Alfredo Simon, CIN (at LAD, at ARI)

Just as Simon was starting to look shaky, he bounced back with strong back-to-back outings at the Phillies and Nationals. He has shown a penchant for pitching deep into games, and Simon lasted seven innings or more in both of those starts, as well as in five of his nine starts this season. While Simon can chalk some of his success up to good control, he also has to credit some incredibly good luck. He has allowed very few baserunners in large part because opponents have hit .145 against him on ground balls, and then he has allowed a mere 14 percent of the baserunners he has allowed to score, which is roughly half the typical rate for a starting pitcher. Though Simon isn't the flyball pitcher Hughes is, he's every bit as risky, as he is less of a strikeout pitcher and has a tough matchup of his own with the Dodgers.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Simon: Francisco Liriano, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz

30. Collin McHugh, HOU (at KC, vs. BAL)

McHugh has yet to match the dominance of his first two starts in the Astros' rotation, but even though he's been inconsistent, he has kept the strikeouts coming. With an eye-popping 13.5 percent swinging strike rate, McHugh has had at least as many strikeouts as innings in four of his six starts, and that, along with a 12 percent popup rate, has allowed him to hold opponents to a .196 batting average. Half a dozen starts represents a small enough sample to warrant suspicion of a breakout season for a journeyman pitcher, but there's another reason to view McHugh as a low-end option in standard mixed leagues. Even if McHugh proves to be a legitimate strikeout pitcher, his flyball tendencies could still lead to him getting hit around.

Start the following one-start pitchers over McHugh: Marco Estrada, Wily Peralta, Danny Duffy

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
Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt hopes to earn starting role
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:27 pm ET) Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt knows manager Fredi Gonzalez has tough decisions to make. One of those decisions has been slotting veteran A.J. Pierzynski in the starting lineup more often this season than originally expected. Bethancourt is rolling with the punches and still thinks he can earn a starting role, according to MLB.com.

"You've got to respect the manager's decision," Bethancourt said. "He puts whoever he wants in the lineup. So, I've just got to be ready and wait for my opportunity. If he says I have to earn it, I will do my best to earn it. I have no problem with that."

Gonzalez has an idea of what he wants to do with Bethancourt.

"We want to give [Bethancourt] an opportunity, but the other guy, you put him in there every single time, and he just keeps hitting," Gonzalez said.

Bethancourt is hitting just .147 with two RBI in 34 at-bats this season.


Phillies 1B Ryan Howard taking power surge in stride
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
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Howard is hitting .235 (4-for-17) with three home runs, seven RBIs, two walks, three strikeouts and a 1.080 OPS in his last five games, numbers much better than the ones he posted at the start of the season. 

"That's baseball," Howard said. "You just continue to go out there and swing. I feel like I've been swinging it well. The results may not necessarily show, but it's all about how you are feeling with the swings. Eventually, they will drop."


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Feliz threw 38 pitches in one of his longer outings of the year, and though he struck out four batters, he did allow a run in the 11th inning. He was able to get out of a bases-loaded jam, however, to preserve the win. 


Angels reliever Joe Smith blows save in loss
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(8:33 pm ET) Angels reliever Joe Smith had been nearly perfect in eight appearances this season, but called upon to pick up the save in Sunday's game against the Rangers, he allowed his first run of the season and picked up a blown save in Los Angeles' 5-4, 11-inning defeat. 

Coming on in the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead, Smith registered the first two outs of the inning before allowing a single to Prince Fielder. Adrian Beltre followed with an infield single before Mitch Moreland drove in pinch-runner Delino DeShields Jr. with a single.

Smith's ERA moved to 1.13 after the appearance. 


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by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(8:23 pm ET) Nick Martinez delivered his fourth straight strong start to open the season, but once again had a no-decision on his ledger as the Rangers rallied in the 11th inning to pull out a 5-4 win Sunday over the Angels. 

Martinez went six innings without giving up a run, scattering seven hits while striking out two and walking a pair. In four starts this season, Martinez has given up one earned run. His ERA is 0.35. 

Martinez has picked up no-decisions in his last two starts despite allowing just 12 hits and one run in 12 innings. 


Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick smacks second home run
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:20 pm ET) Astros center fielder Jake Marisnick went 2 for 4 at the plate in Houston's 7-6 win over the Athletics Sunday. 

Marisnick, who missed the last two games with a leg injury, connected on an 0-2 pitch from Drew Pomeranz over the left center field wall in the fourth inning for a two-run blast, his second of the season.

Marisnick boosted his average to .364 with eight RBI in 44 at-bats this season.


Mariners DH Seth Smith connects on first homer of the year Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) Mariners designated hitter Seth Smith went 2 for 3 at the plate in Seattle's 4-2 loss to the Twins Sunday.

Smith did his damage in the fourth inning when he cracked a 1-1 pitch from Kyle Gibson over the right field wall for a solo home run, his first of the season. Smith boosted his average to .263 with five RBI in 38 at-bats this season.


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(8:16 pm ET) Angels slugger Mike Trout connected for his fourth home run of the season, a two-run shot that drew his team even in the seventh inning of what would be an eventual 5-4 loss to the Rangers in extra innings Sunday. 

Trout was 1-for-4 with a pair of walks in the loss, connecting to straightaway center off Texas reliever Anthony Bass as Los Angeles erased a 2-0 deficit. Trout is now hitting .318 and has 11 RBIs on the season. 


Twins closer Glen Perkins picks up second consecutive save
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:13 pm ET) Twins closer Glen Perkins worked a perfect 11th inning Sunday in Minnesota's 4-2 win over the Mariners in 11 innings, picking up his second saves in as many days.

Perkins needed just nine pitches to finish off Seattle, wrapping things up with a three-pitch strikeout of Willie Bloomquist. Perkins now has five saves on the year with eight strikeouts in eight innings of work with a 1.13 ERA.


Mariners pitcher Roenis Elias strikes out six in no decision
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:10 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Roenis Elias allowed two runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings Sunday in his first start of the season in Seattle's 4-2 loss to the Twins.

Elias allowed an RBI single to Trevor Plouffe in the first, scoring Shane Robinson. Then in the third, Elias allowed a double to Joe Mauer to bring Robinson home again. Elias worked into the sixth inning but was pulled with two outs after walking Chris Hermann after an 11-pitch battle. Elias, who now boasts a 3.18 ERA, tossed 105 pitches during the start.

It is unclear when Elias will make his next start.


 
 
 
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