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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 14

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We have now officially reached the halfway point of the season, and the weeks ahead will have much to say about how fondly you will look back on your 2014 Fantasy campaign. If you want to get off on the right foot in the second half, and in Fantasy Week 14 (June 30-July 6) specifically, you may have to look somewhere besides the selection of two-start pitchers to give you an edge. There are currently 36 starting pitchers scheduled to take the mound twice in the coming week, and out of that relatively modest number, there are several whom you probably shouldn't trust even in deeper leagues.

However, there are 11 solid must-start options and a dozen intriguing borderline candidates for owners in standard mixed leagues. One of those borderline options -- Jeff Locke -- is not yet technically a two-start pitcher, but sometime this weekend, the Pirates are expected to morph from a six-man rotation to a five-man unit. It's pretty safe to assume that Locke will get to follow up Tuesday's start against the Diamondbacks with a start on regular rest on Sunday versus the Phillies, so he has been included in this column.

Must start two-start options
1. David Price at NYY, at DET
2. Jordan Zimmermann vs. COL, vs. CHC
3. Mat Latos at SD, vs. MIL
4. Garrett Richards at CHW, vs. HOU
5. Anibal Sanchez vs. OAK, vs. TB
6. Corey Kluber at LAD, vs. KC
7. Alex Wood vs. NYM, vs. ARI
8. Scott Kazmir at DET, vs. TOR
9. Jake Arrieta at BOS, at WAS
10. Jered Weaver at CHW, vs. HOU
11. Chris Archer at NYY, at DET

Taijuan Walker is not officially scheduled for any starts in Week 14, but the Mariners have openings on Monday at the Astros and on Sunday at the White Sox, and it's almost inconceivable that anybody other than Walker would fill those vacancies. Since Walker has not yet been recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, he is not included among the initial list of two-start pitchers, but he is a very likely addition in Monday's update. For now, plan on claiming or activating Walker, as he has similar appeal to several of the pitchers in the upper half of this week's "bubble" list.

For now Jake Peavy will be a two-start pitcher, but depending on what the Red Sox decide to do with Rubby De La Rosa, that status may not survive the weekend. In any event, Peavy is recommended only for owners in deeper leagues. The same is true for Marco Gonzales, who should get at least one start for the Cardinals this week, but could be replaced by the time their weekend series with the Marlins arrives.

Monday update: There were no unanticipated changes to rotations over the weekend. As expected, Walker was recalled, so he is now scheduled to be a two-start pitcher. Gonzales has remained with the Cardinals and is scheduled to start Tuesday at the Giants. Barring a demotion, he will get a second start against the Marlins. Both he and Walker have been added to the two-start pitchers list, though only Walker has been included among the viable starters for standard mixed leagues, clocking in at No. 17.

The Pirates and Red Sox respectively optioned Brandon Cumpton and De La Rosa, so Locke and Peavy have solidified their status as members of this week's two-start list. With Walker and Gonzales added as two-start pitchers and Locke having secured his second start, there are now a total of 39 two-start options for this week.

Kevin Gausman had been included as a one-start pitcher who could be started over some of the two-start pitchers on the "bubble" list, but now that Orioles manager Buck Showalter has yet to commit to him as a current member of the rotation, he has been removed from the lists of one-start alternatives.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

12. Josh Beckett, LAD (vs. CLE, at COL)

As recently as a few weeks ago, I had reservations about using Beckett, even though his ERA sat in the mid-2.00s, as he wasn't throwing strikes with consistency, was a home run risk and had a good, but not great, swinging strike rate. In five June starts, Beckett has been dominant, as opponents have swung and missed on 12 percent of his pitches. Beckett's control has also improved, as he has not issued more than two walks in any of his last six starts. He still leans towards being a flyball pitcher, but you can live with that given how little contact he is allowing. If not for a start at Colorado, Beckett would be a must-start option this week. Even so, he's very likely to pay off in standard mixed leagues.

Start Beckett over the following one-start pitchers: Hisashi Iwakuma, Justin Verlander, C.J. Wilson

13. Collin McHugh, HOU (vs. SEA, at LAA)

McHugh has shown the same weaknesses that Beckett demonstrated earlier this year, though to an even greater degree. His flyball tendencies are more distinct, and he has walked at least three batters in five of his 12 starts. Then again, McHugh has been even more reliable as a whiff inducer, getting nine or more swinging strikes in all but two starts and at least 11 in all but four starts. If he were facing the slugging Angels at Minute Maid Park, McHugh would probably rank at least a couple of spots lower on this list, but at Angel Stadium, owners can expect fewer extra-base hits and more flyball outs. Though these aren't dream matchups, McHugh looks like a safe option this week.

Start McHugh over the following one-start pitchers: Justin Verlander, C.J. Wilson, Alex Cobb

14. Zack Wheeler, NYM (at ATL, vs. TEX)

Wheeler's battles with consistency are far from over, as he followed up his first-ever complete game (and a shutout, no less) with a two-inning, six-run mess against the A's. Even though Wheeler has turned in clunkers in three of his last four starts, there are several positives to take away from his recent outings. Going back roughly a month, Wheeler has struck out 45 batters while walking just 11 in 39 1/3 innings, and he's held opponents to a .310 slugging percentage. He has been much more proficient at avoiding contact and inducing ground balls, and once he starts stranding runners at a normal rate, the results will show in his ERA. Though Wheeler's 4.45 ERA doesn't give him the appearance of a viable two-start pitcher, he is very much so, and it helps that he gets a couple of favorable matchups.

Start Wheeler over the following one-start pitchers: Doug Fister, Dallas Keuchel, Sonny Gray

15. Wade Miley, ARI (at PIT, at ATL)

Miley is yet another pitcher with a Fantasy-unfriendly ERA (4.78), and the long ball is largely to blame. Though the lefty has already allowed 17 home runs, only five of those have occurred on the road. Not only does Miley get a pair of road starts in Week 14, but he gets them at decent pitcher's venues against teams that don't hit for a lot of power. Miley's 3.63 road ERA is low enough to make him viable in two-start weeks, and he can help with strikeouts, too. This season, Miley has been throwing his slider -- his best whiff pitch -- harder and more often, and he has also been getting more whiffs on his sinker, according to BrooksBaseball.net. Miley's increased strikeout rate, up to 8.2 K/9 from last year's 6.5 K/9, along with his venues and matchups make him worth using in standard mixed leagues.

Start Miley over the following one-start pitchers: John Lackey, Gerrit Cole, Lance Lynn

16. Henderson Alvarez, MIA (vs. PHI, at STL)

While the first four pitchers on this list are all ones that can help greatly with strikeouts in a two-start week, Alvarez is the first of several pitchers highlighted here who are worthy pickups despite a low K-rate. His recent stretch of seven starts, over which he has allowed a total of four earned runs, illustrates well why Alvarez is one of the most valuable contact pitchers in Fantasy. Alvarez's combination of elite-level control and strong ground ball tendencies make him to tough to score upon, even if he isn't especially tough to hit. Not surprisingly, he has been stellar at Marlins Park, where he boasts a 1.44 ERA this season. A start there against the Phillies along with a visit to pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium should make for a very good week.

Start Alvarez over the following one-start pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Lance Lynn, Hyun-Jin Ryu

17. Taijuan Walker, SEA (at HOU, at CHW)

Those who drafted Walker are finally being rewarded for their patience, as he will make his season debut this week after missing three months, first with a shoulder injury and then a minor league stint. After all of the missed time, we should probably give Walker a pass on some of the inconsistencies he endured while at Triple-A Tacoma. Still, mild control issues and a notably high flyball rate were part of the problem, and those have been red flags for Walker at times in the past. Especially with visits to Minute Maid Park and U.S. Cellular Field, Walker could yield a few long drives, but there's no reason to sit a pitcher with his promise outside of shallower leagues.

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

18. Jesse Hahn, SD (vs. CIN, vs. SF)

In less than a month, Hahn has gone from being a Padres' spot starter to becoming a highly-sought Fantasy hurler. Hahn's credentials as a ground ball pitcher are legitimate: according to StatCorner.com, he posted a ground ball rate in excess of 60 percent at each level of the minors he visited. So far, Hahn has also done a great job of avoiding contact, getting 27 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings, but he could have a hard time coming close to that rate going forward. He wasn't getting many swings-and-misses when he was at Double-A San Antonio, and he's relying heavily on a 22 percent called strike rate that will be difficult to maintain. Factor in the lack of run support that Hahn is likely to get, and he's far from being a safe option. At minimum, Hahn should keep the ball in the park, and on the chance that he is developing into a strikeout pitcher right before our eyes, he's not a bad use of a rotation spot this week.

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

19. Jarred Cosart, HOU (vs. SEA, vs. LAA)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
25. Rick Porcello vs. OAK, vs. TB
26. A.J. Burnett at MIA, at PIT
27. David Phelps vs. TB, at MIN
28. Marco Gonzales at SF, vs. MIA
29. Brad Mills at DET, vs. TOR
30. Dan Haren vs. CLE, at COL
31. Ricky Nolasco vs. KC, vs. NYY
32. Ubaldo Jimenez vs. TEX, at BOS
33. Jake Peavy vs. CHC, vs. BAL
34. Yohan Pino vs. KC, vs. NYY
35. Nick Martinez at BAL, at NYM
36. Hector Noesi vs. LAA, vs. SEA
37. Joe Saunders at BAL, at NYM
38. Yohan Flande at WAS, vs. LAD
39. Christian Friedrich at WAS, vs. LAD

Fantasy owners have little reason to be confused about Cosart's chances to become a strikeout pitcher, as the bulk of his track record suggests it's highly unlikely. Like Alvarez, he is in the midst of a productive stretch, even though he has allowed contact at a high rate. Up until recent weeks, Cosart seemed to be firmly on the Jake Westbrook path, reliably getting ground balls but not having good enough control to matter in Fantasy. If Cosart can build on his last five starts, in which he has issued seven total walks and thrown 64 percent of his pitches for strikes, he will be far more than a curiosity. The Angels could be a tough test for Cosart, but he actually began his current five-game string of quality starts against them, so it wouldn't be an upset for him to keep the streak going.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Cosart: Lance Lynn, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Drew Smyly

20. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY (vs. TB, at MIN)

Kuroda has never been a pitcher you start for help with Ks, but when he recently rattled off five straight starts with three or fewer strikeouts, he was appearing to lose his Fantasy viability. He has rebounded in his last two outings, collecting 10 strikeouts over 12 1/3 innings and inducing double-digit whiffs in both starts. Whether or not Kuroda will settle back in to being a close-to-average strikeout pitcher remains to be seen, but he can still be counted on to minimize his walks. That alone doesn't make Kuroda worth starting in standard mixed leagues, but a start against the Rays along with a visit to the Twins, whose offense has taken a step backwards the last couple of weeks, gives him a chance to make a contribution.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Kuroda: Jason Hammel, Tyson Ross, Tim Hudson

21. Danny Duffy, KC (at MIN, at CLE)

As a hard-throwing lefty, Duffy made Fantasy owners drool at the prospect of his strikeout potential, but he always struggled enough with control to be a source of frustration. Even in returning from Tommy John surgery last year, Duffy had the same M.O., but lately, we're seeing an entirely different version of him. In the month of June, Duffy is among the top 20 qualifying starters in percentage of pitches in the strike zone and in contact rate allowed (per FanGraphs.com). The increased contact has made him less of a strikeout pitcher, but the improved control has made him a better pitcher. While he has benefitted from favorable strand and BABIP rates during his recent stretch, Duffy has shown the potential to help with WHIP, as he has been stingy with walks and generous in allowing flyball outs. That formula should work well for him at Target Field against the Twins, while his mastery of lefties (.095 batting average, no extra base hits) could come in handy against the Indians.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Duffy: Jason Hammel, Tyson Ross, Tim Hudson

22. Jeff Locke, PIT (vs. ARI, vs. PHI)

Since returning to the Pirates' rotation earlier this month, Locke hasn't just been better than he was during a miserable second half last season; he has been better than he was during the first half when he earned a berth on the National League All-Star team. Last year, when Locke succeeded, he did it in spite of poor control, but he has done nothing but throw strikes over his five starts in 2014. As effective as Locke has been, he could possibly be even better, as he has a 6.1 K/9 ratio despite an 11 percent whiff rate and a 21 percent called strike rate. Locke had been a good control pitcher for much of his minor league career, so it's not unthinkable that he could be breaking out. If he sustains this progress, Locke will likely rank higher in future weeks, but he will need to keep building on his consistency first.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Locke: Tyson Ross, Tim Hudson, Ian Kennedy

23. Drew Hutchison, TOR (vs. MIL, at OAK)

Hutchison is yet another pitcher who has become more prone to allowing contact, but the change hasn't hurt him. Through his first eight starts, he was blowing hitters away with a 12 percent whiff rate and a 9.7 K/9 ratio, but that didn't keep them from getting nearly a hit per inning against him (44 hits in 45 1/3 innings). He was an apparent victim of bad luck on balls in play, allowing a .331 BABIP, which is especially high for a flyball pitcher. Rather than shying away from allowing balls in play, Hutchison has been throwing strikes on roughly two-thirds of his pitches since then (as opposed to his earlier rate of 63 percent), and while only 7 percent of his pitches have resulted in whiffs, he has been allowing hits at a slightly lower rate, thanks to a .257 BABIP. This trend is all of eight games old, so it may not stick, but throwing more strikes is usually a good thing. Maybe Hutchison will go all Yankees-version Phil Hughes on us, but a combination of good control and flyball outs could just as easily make him a productive pitcher in Week 14.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hutchison: Tim Hudson, Ian Kennedy, Jonathon Niese

24. Tim Lincecum, SF (vs. STL, at SD)

Lincecum's inclusion in this list is owed solely to a rematch with the Padres, against whom he tossed a no-hitter on Wednesday. The Friars make many opposing pitchers look far more imposing than they do against other lineups, and Lincecum has enough going for him to make another strong performance seem plausible. Expectations for Lincecum should still be tempered, even though he now has a 3.00 ERA over his last four starts with just four walks. He threw only 62 percent of his pitches for strikes over that span, so it's not as if Lincecum has solved his control issues for once and for all. The Cardinals are a fairly selective bunch at the plate, so they could put a dent in an already tarnished K-to-BB ratio, but the Padres could still manage to help Lincecum have a decent week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Lincecum: Jonathon Niese, Kyle Lohse, Ervin Santana

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
Rays manager believes Grant Balfour will be ready for opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Rays manager Kevin Cash believes pitcher Grant Balfour will be good to go by opening day, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Balfour is currently in Australia, tending to his sick father. Cash said Balfour was still working out, and expects the pitcher to be ready for the start of the regular season. The 37-year-old posted a 3.46 ERA over 62 1/3 innings last season. 


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(3/2/2015) Rays pitcher Alex Colome may not be ready for the start of the regular season, according to the Tampa Tribune

Colome has been delayed by visa issues thus far, though he's been able to throw at the Rays facility in the Dominican Republic. Colome is facing hitters, but manager Kevin Cash still expressed some doubt about his availability once the regular season begins. 

Colome, 26, posted a 2.66 ERA over 23 2/3 innings last year. 


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Delgado had some success after adding a slider last season, but faces a lot of competition this spring. While the competition for the fifth starter spot contains a lot of players, Delgado's experience in the bullpen last year could help him make the club. On top of that, he's out of options, giving him a better chance of breaking camp on the 25-man roster. 

Bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre said he believes Delgado could get the job done. "He can be a valuable piece in that bullpen, knowing that there might be some guys that are going to get protected," Stottlemyre said. "The fact that he can pitch in some different roles — he can give you some length, he can come in and strike a guy out. I saw this guy go through the middle of lineups on some good ballclubs and make the hitters look bad. It's there."

The 25-year-old Delgado posted a 4.87 ERA over 77 2/3 innings last season.


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Gwynn will be invited to major-league camp with the deal. The 32-year-old hit .152 over 105 at-bats with the Phillies last season. 


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(3/2/2015) Nationals pitcher Matt Purke is hoping to throw off a mound in a few weeks, according to MLB.com.

Purke had Tommy John surgery last May, and has struggled with injuries since being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft. Purke was actually released by the club during the offseason, but came back on a minor-league deal. 

Purke said he was frustrated by the injuries, but understands he has to take it all in stride. "It's just something you have to take in stride, keep moving forward," he explained. "I'm ready to keep progressing the best I can and really get myself out there and pitch and perform. When my number is called, I'll be able to help when I can."

Purke is currently in the middle of a throwing program. He's been able to long toss, and hopes to throw off a mound in a few weeks. The team is still unsure when Purke will be ready for game action.


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(3/2/2015) Danny Santana came to the Twins in 2007 playing primarily shortstop. Now, Santana is playing in the outfield and learning how to transition to a new position on the field.

"I didn't know how to play the outfield and I needed a lot of work," he said to MLB.com. "It wasn't hard, because I have the ability to play many positions. But the hard part was being in center field and throwing to the bases. At shortstop, you throw from different angles. In the outfield, you need to be on top to throw."

Santana hit .319 with 40 RBI and 70 runs scored in 405 plate appearances in 2014.

"There's a lot of people here who believed in Danny Santana's future for a long time. We were able to get a glimpse of that last year," manager Paul Molitor said. "I have a lot of confidence in that kid. He's going about his business very professionally. He's really a good listener and applier. Some guys listen well and have trouble taking it out there. He's pretty good at taking information and putting it into play."


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Maybin, 27, hit .235/.290/.331 over 251 at-bats last season. 


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Aoki, 33, hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. 


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Perkins added that he threw a few sliders during a recent bullpen session, and was happy with how they looked. "I told them it was coming and they swung and missed at a few," he said. "It's got good movement right now. That means obviously I'm fresh, but also I'm strong and healthy."

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"Like we said at the outset of camp, we'll take all of camp to determine that," said Farrell. "They're going to get equal playing time. But I think it's important they both get comfortable with the combination of the guys on the flank because of communication, the responsibilities for balls in the gap, fly ball communication and those priorities."

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