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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 11

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Usually when sifting through the borderline two-start options for the coming week, there are at least a handful of highly enticing pickups. Whether they're pitchers quietly building a hot streak or primed to capitalize on favorable matchups or venues, this column normally features a variety of hurlers capable of inspiring dreams of a winning week ahead.

Fantasy Week 11 (June 9-15) is not shaping up to be one of those weeks. Of the 12 pitchers bridging the must-start and must-avoid options, only Ryan Vogelsong has a profile or a schedule that truly engenders confidence. Even the other pitchers who populate the upper half of the borderline list have either an upcoming start or a recent track record that is close to terrifying. Marco Estrada with a home start? Oof. Jesse Chavez against the slugging Angels? Yikes. Francisco Liriano versus the strike zone? Tell me when it's safe to look.

Must start two-start options
1. Masahiro Tanaka at SEA, at OAK
2. Stephen Strasburg at SF, at STL
3. David Price vs. SEA, at HOU
4. Madison Bumgarner vs. WAS, vs. COL
5. Hisashi Iwakuma vs. NYY, vs. TEX
6. Corey Kluber at KC, at BOS
7. Garrett Richards vs. OAK, at ATL
8. Doug Fister at SF, at STL
9. Mike Minor at COL, vs. LAA
10. Ian Kennedy at PHI, at NYM

Yet each of these pitchers has something going for him, so if you're the type of owner who likes to load up on starts, there's upside to be had here. If you prefer to play it safe, you just might want to stick with your one-start pitchers rather than pull one of this week's borderline options off your bench or your league's waiver wire.

A few lucky owners may be able to pluck a quality one-start pitcher from their DL slots. Gio Gonzalez (shoulder) could return as soon as Wednesday, while Mat Latos (forearm) and Taijuan Walker (shoulder) have a chance to rejoin their team's rotations next weekend. The chances for Latos at this point look much better than those for Walker, and unless he slides into Tony Cingrani's slot in the rotation, his return could mean one start for Mike Leake this week instead of two.

Deeper league owners may have a reason to active Zach McAllister (back), as he may need just one more rehab start before returning for the Indians. Should McAllister make the June 15 start at the Red Sox, it could rob Corey Kluber of a second start in Week 11.

Monday update: With the Pirates' loss of Gerrit Cole (shoulder) to the 15-day disabled list, Charlie Morton inherits a two-start week and extends this week's list of borderline two-start options to 13 pitchers. Christian Bergman is set to make his major league debut for the Rockies on Monday, and if he fares well against the Braves, he should earn a second Week 11 start at the Giants. That makes Bergman someone to consider in NL-only leagues.

Assuming all goes well for Latos in a Monday rehab start, he should make a start for the Reds this weekend at the Brewers. That means that, in all likelihood, Cingrani's days in the Reds' rotation are numbered. Specifically, that number is "one," as Monday's tilt against the Dodgers could be Cingrani's last start for the Reds for awhile. McAllister also appears primed to make a weekend start for the Indians, so Kluber owners should not count on a two-start week.

Walker could still be in play for a weekend start for the Mariners, though given the uncertainty, it's probably best to sit him this week. Gonzalez will make another rehab start Thursday, so he won't make an appearance for the Nationals this week and should be stashed for this scoring period.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

11. Ryan Vogelsong, SF (vs. WAS, vs. COL)

Vogelsong continued his recent hot streak with a nine-strikeout quality start at the Reds on Wednesday, and it was encouraging to see him fare well at his first visit to a hitter's park in a month and a half. Over his last eight starts, Vogelsong has put up great Fantasy stats (4-1, 2.05 ERA, 1,06 WHIP, 8.4 K/9), even though he hasn't been throwing strikes or getting ground balls at a high rate. Without better control and stronger ground ball tendencies, it seems unlikely that Vogelsong can keep this streak going for too much longer, but he should be able to extend it for one more week. He has compiled a sub-3.00 ERA at AT&T Park, just like he did in 2011 and 2012, so with two home starts, Vogelsong is worth using.

Start Vogelsong over the following one-start pitchers: Dallas Keuchel, Tim Hudson, Nathan Eovaldi

12. Francisco Liriano, PIT (vs. CHC, at MIA)

Liriano's struggles with control hit a new low on Wednesday, as he failed to throw even half of his 109 pitches against the Padres for strikes. He left that contest after five innings, having walked six batters, but he struck out seven and only allowed two earned runs on one hit. That line is a microcosm -- albeit an extreme one -- of Liriano's season. His control won't always be quite that bad, but then again, he has typically allowed more hits and earned runs. Facing the Cubs this week should take some of the angst out of starting Liriano, as owners should get plenty of strikeouts along with a better-than-usual ERA and WHIP.

Start Liriano over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson

13. Marco Estrada, MIL (at NYM, vs. CIN)

It's been an ugly four-game stretch for Estrada, as he has allowed eight home runs over 23 2/3 innings on his way to a 6.08 ERA. The long ball has long been a nemesis of Estrada's, and this season, he has allowed at least one home run in all but one of his 12 starts and multiple homers in five starts. Even in the worst-case scenario, Estrada can lower your team's WHIP, and with the Mets on the schedule, maybe Estrada can take a break from tossing gopher balls. Owning Estrada has been discouraging lately, but just remember as recently as mid-May, he was still an extreme flyball pitcher yet managed to own a 3.28 ERA.

Start Estrada over the following one-start pitchers: Collin McHugh, Chris Archer, Kyle Lohse

14. Jesse Chavez, OAK (at LAA, vs. NYY)

Chavez has cooled off considerably since his surprisingly strong April, as only once in his last six starts has he advanced beyond six innings. His control remains solid, but he has ceased to be an above-average strikeout pitcher, averaging 7.0 Ks per nine innings since the beginning of May. The relative lack of strikeouts is less important in a two-start week, but as he showed in recent starts against the Blue Jays and Tigers, good power hitting teams can knock him around. The Angels pose a similar challenge to Chavez this week, though he showed on Wednesday that he can handle the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury's three-run homer aside.

Start Chavez over the following one-start pitchers: Chris Archer, Kyle Lohse, Trevor Bauer

15. R.A. Dickey, TOR (vs. MIN, at BAL)

After rattling off a seven-game skein of quality starts, Dickey has run into trouble yet again. Owners could give Dickey a pass for yielding a dozen flyballs to the Tigers, but to do the same against the slap- hitting Royals raises some suspicions. D‪ickey's ground ball-to-flyball ratios have been inconsistent all season long, but he's been steady in his ability to get swings-and-misses on his knuckler. Though you can never be sure what Dickey will produce in a given start, he has been good enough at preventing hits in most starts to be worth a try.

Start Dickey over the following one-start pitchers: Trevor Bauer, Zack Wheeler, Wily Peralta

16. Tyler Skaggs, LAA (vs. OAK, at ATL)

Like Dickey, Skaggs has let owners down in his two most recent starts, as somehow he managed to walk eight batters over 11 innings, even though he'd thrown 64 percent of his pitches for strikes. He also allowed 12 hits, but only two were for extra bases. While Skaggs has yet to put together a string of several good starts in a row, he has been consistent as an inducer of ground balls, and since late April, his control has been reliable. If not for a matchup against the power-hitting A's, who have already roughed Skaggs up twice this year, he would rank at least a few spots higher in this week's rankings. Even so, his start against the Braves alone could make for a productive week.

Start Skaggs over the following one-start pitchers: Zack Wheeler, Wily Peralta, Hyun-Jin Ryu

17. Charlie Morton, PIT (vs. CHC, at MIA)

Morton's control has been shaky in three straight starts, over which he has walked 11 batters in 16 innings. Not only has that inflated Morton's WHIP, but it's contributed to a lack of efficiency that led to early exits in each contest. In a two-start week, owners can put up with a lot from Morton, as long as he continues to induce grounders, and in that regard, he hasn't slowed down one bit. That's how, despite all of the free passes, Morton posted a 2.81 ERA over those three starts and held opponents to a .298 slugging percentage. Unless you can't afford to lose ground in your league's WHIP standings, Morton is a reasonably safe play this week.

Start Morton over the following one-start pitchers: Zack Wheeler, Wily Peralta, Hyun-Jin Ryu

18. Justin Verlander, DET (at CHW, vs. MIN)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
24. Rick Porcello at CHW, vs. MIN
25. Dan Haren at CIN, vs. ARI
26. Jarred Cosart at ARI, vs. TB
27. Josh Collmenter vs. HOU, at LAD
28. Gavin Floyd at COL, vs. LAA
29. A.J. Burnett vs. SD, vs. CHC
30. Ricky Nolasco at TOR, at DET
31. Jake Peavy at BAL, vs. CLE
32. Brad Peacock at ARI, vs. TB
33. John Danks vs. DET, vs. KC
34. Edwin Jackson at PIT, at PHI
35. Chris Tillman vs. BOS, vs. TOR
36. Brandon Workman at BAL, vs. CLE
37. Juan Nicasio vs. ATL, at SF
38. Vidal Nuno at KC, at OAK
39. Bud Norris vs. BOS, vs. TOR
40. Nick Martinez vs. CLE, at SEA
41. Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. MIL, vs. SD
42. J.A. Happ vs. MIN, at BAL
43. Hector Noesi vs. DET, vs. KC
44. T.J. House at TEX, at BOS
45. Christian Bergman vs. ATL, at SF
46. Erasmo Ramirez at TB, vs. TEX

Through the first six weeks of the season, Verlander sported a 2.67 ERA, yet still frustrated owners with subpar strikeout and walk rates that contributed to a 1.31 WHIP. That early portion of the 2014 campaign is now what Verlander owners call "the good ole days." In five starts since then, Verlander has turned in only one quality start and a 6.75 ERA, as his command has deteriorated further. Part of his problem may be a slider that he is throwing with less horizontal movement and that is resulting in fewer strikes, according to PitchFX data on BrooksBaseball.net. Verlander has been working on his mechanics and claims that he is seeing improvement, but we have yet to see it in his results. Until Verlander's work starts to pay off, owners should strongly consider sitting him.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Verlander: Kyle Lohse, Trevor Bauer, Zack Wheeler

19. Josh Beckett, LAD (at CIN, vs. ARI)

By all outward appearances, Beckett is having a comeback season. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in eight of his 11 starts, so not only is Beckett helping owners with a 2.57 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, but he's offering consistency. His performance is among the most deceiving in the majors this season, though, as Beckett isn't really doing anything much differently than he had in recent seasons. He's getting strikeouts at an above- average rate, but that's nothing new, and meanwhile, he is still allowing a few too many home runs (1.4 HR/9) and walks (3.1 BB/9). The difference-maker for Beckett is the .133 batting average that he is allowing on grounders, which is 98 points lower than his career mark. The best infield defenses can't help a pitcher that much, and the Dodgers don't have one of the better ones. Beckett is due for serious regression, and a start against the Reds at Great American Ball Park (where they have posted a .167 Isolated Power) sounds like a likely place for that to begin.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Beckett: Trevor Bauer, Zack Wheeler, Wily Peralta

20. Bronson Arroyo, ARI (vs. HOU, at LAD)

For years, Arroyo has been all about efficiency and durability, and despite contending with a bulging disc during spring training, that hasn't changed this season. Arroyo has been in prime form since late April, making eight straight starts of six innings or more and averaging seven innings per start. Though, as usual, Arroyo hasn't filled those innings with strikeouts, those frames have hardly been empty. He has given owners a 2.89 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP during this stretch, as Arroyo has pitched with his trademark control as well as a newfound knack for getting grounders. Though he has had a few hiccups in his recent outings, Arroyo is still a worthwhile use of your last rotation spot in standard mixed leagues.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Arroyo: Zack Wheeler, Wily Peralta, Hyun-Jin Ryu

21. Mike Leake, CIN (vs. LAD, at MIL)

In many ways, Leake is like Arroyo's harder-throwing twin. Efficiency and pinpoint control are the keys to Leake's success, and like Arroyo, he has managed to hike up his ground ball rate this season. Leake has even turned in subpar starts in his last two outings, just like his former teammate has. Given their similar appeal, it was hard to determine whom to rank higher this week, so I used matchups and venues as a tiebreaker. Both pitchers face the Dodgers this week, but Leake has to do it at Great American Ball Park, and he gets the Brewers instead of the Astros for his other start.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Leake: Wily Peralta, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Drew Hutchison

22. Jason Vargas, KC (vs. NYY, at CHW)

Though Vargas' control isn't as sharp as Arroyo's or Leake's, he continues this string of effective finesse pitchers in this week's rankings. As a flyball pitcher, Vargas is a little more dangerous than his counterparts, as opponents can rack up substantial damage when they find the gaps or leave the park. Much in the way that Bartolo Colon has been, it's usually feast or famine for Vargas, who has 10 quality starts in 13 tries, but he has allowed a combined 19 earned runs on 29 hits over 16 innings in his three other starts. Because they play in a homer-friendly park, the White Sox could pose a difficult test for Vargas, but fortunately for him, they're one of the lineups most prone to hitting ground balls.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Vargas: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Drew Hutchison, Jason Hammel

23. Travis Wood, CHC (at PIT, at PHI)

Wood just might be having a breakout season, but his 5.04 ERA and 1.41 WHIP are helping to keep it a secret. According to BrooksBaseball.net's PitchFX data, the lefty has been getting much more vertical movement on his pitches, and he's been getting fewer swings on his sinker in particular. That could be contributing to Wood's 20 percent called strike rate and 7.9 K/9 rate, which are major upgrades from his previous norms. He is likely to improve on the .279 batting average he has allowed on grounders as well as on a 65 percent strand rate. Wood has had enough flyball-fueled poor starts to warrant caution, but with improving peripherals and two good matchups, he's worth considering this week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Wood: Drew Hutchison, Jason Hammel, Justin Masterson

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
Brewers' Khris Davis to work on being a patient hitter in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Brewers outfielder Khris Davis realizes he didn't show patience at the plate last year in his first full major-league season, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

"I built a reputation in the organization of being a patient hitter," Davis said. "I felt like I wasn't a patient hitter at all last year. I was a little eager, wanting to please too much, too early. I found out I'm human."

Davis drew just 32 walks in 549 plate appearances while posting a .299 OBP in 2014, a number far away from his career .392 OBP in the minors.

"He was different last year," manager Ron Roenicke said. "Everybody goes through different phases. Guys change. (His walk total) was too low. He's a guy I think should be fairly patient. He sees pitches well. When he starts getting anxious, he becomes more aggressive and chases more. He realizes it, which is the first step. If you don't realize it and don't listen to other people when they tell you that, then you have issues. You have to have good self-awareness to be a good player. Sometimes these players don't have good self-awareness. But if they had better self-awareness they'd be a better player."

Davis is determined to fulfill the potential that caused the organization to move Ryan Braun to right field before the 2014 season and plug Davis into the regular left-field role.

"I can't thank them enough for having patience with me," Davis said. "I'm going to work it out. When you get here, you want to stay. That's the toughest part at first. I don't think this league has seen the best of me yet. I'm ready to pull that out and prove it day by day. I learned so many lessons there are too many to name."

Davis hit .244/.299/.457 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 501 at-bats.


Indians' Francona keeping a close eye on Giovanny Urshela
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Indians manager Terry Francona has been keeping a close eye on third-base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who was only recently cleared for a full range of activities after tweaking his knee during winter ball, MLB.com reports.

"He has a tremendous reputation of being a really good defender," Francona said. "I think I've been more wanting to watch his gait, just to make sure he's not favoring that leg. He promised us that, if he was, he'd let us know, but I also know he's a young kid in his first major-league camp."

Urshela suffered the injury on Nov. 15 and has rehabbed the injured knee at the team's spring-training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

"He's worked really hard to get himself to where he can go through a normal spring," said Indians' director of player development Carter Hawkins. "We're very excited about the spot he's in right now, given the possible outcomes of the injury."

Urshela saw his first action at the Triple-A level in 2014, hitting .276/.331/.473 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI in 395 at-bats with Columbus.


Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


 
 
 
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