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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 15

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At the end of Fantasy Week 15 (July 7-13), all 30 major league teams will get to enjoy a nice four-day break, but until then, every team will be hard at work. Only two teams get a day off on Monday, and six get to rest on Thursday, so that makes for a crowded schedule. It also makes for a hefty list of two-start pitchers, which currently boasts 51 entries. (Note: The list actually increased to 52 over the weekend.)

With the All-Star break looming in just a week, teams are taking advantage of the hiatus to make sure their injured pitchers will be ready to return for the second half. If you were hoping that maybe Cliff Lee (elbow), Francisco Liriano (oblique) or Dillon Gee (lat) might give you a start this week, you'll have to look to the ample options on waivers instead for an injection of fresh blood into your rotation. While, of course, you won't find the likes of Lee available there, Jake Odorizzi, Ryan Vogelsong, Charlie Morton and Chris Young are all available in at least 35 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, and all should be able to help owners outside of the shallowest leagues this week.

Must start two-start options
1. Stephen Strasburg vs. BAL, at PHI
2. Masahiro Tanaka at CLE, at BAL
3. Adam Wainwright vs. PIT, at MIL
4. Madison Bumgarner at OAK, vs. ARI
5. Julio Teheran at NYM, at CHC
6. Johnny Cueto vs. CHC, vs. PIT
7. Cole Hamels at MIL, vs. WAS
8. Hisashi Iwakuma vs. MIN, vs. OAK
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu at DET, vs. SD
10. Justin Verlander vs. LAD, at KC
11. Sonny Gray vs. SF, at SEA
12. Jered Weaver vs. TOR, at TEX

If you're the risk-taking type or simply feel the need to make a bold move to make up some ground before the break, each of the top four pitchers on the must-sit list offers some upside to go along with considerable risk. All are also widely available in standard mixed leagues. Tyler Skaggs has been inconsistent and Jarred Cosart has been contact-prone, but both can shut teams down via the ground ball. Vance Worley has been freakishly efficient, but even a two-start week might not produce many Ks. The indicators have been mixed for Clay Buchholz in two starts since coming off the disabled list, but his track record suggests he can be much better.

However, with the mix of pitchers available on the "must-start" and "bubble" lists, you probably won't need to resort to some of the riskier two-start options. As is the norm in this space, I've ranked them all based on their expected productivity for the coming week.

Monday's update: With the Cubs shipping two-fifths of their rotation to the Athletics and the Diamondbacks and Yankees swapping a pair of pitchers, you may have braced for major changes to the two-start pitchers list this weekend, but by and large, the list has remained intact. Both Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez retained their status as two-start pitchers for the A's, as did Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood for the Cubs. In migrating from New York to Arizona, the movers apparently lost one of Vidal Nuno's starts, and callup Shane Greene inherits Nuno's spot in the Yankees' rotation and his two starts.

Elsewhere, a shuffling of the Orioles' rotation has led to Wei-Yin Chen getting one start instead of two, though it appears that Bud Norris (groin) will come off the disabled list to make two starts before the All-Star break. The Marlins' demotion of Andrew Heaney and subsequent transition to a four-man rotation will make Brad Hand a two-start pitcher this week.

Finally, it turns out that Gee will get activated this week after all and is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Braves. The Rays will also take Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) off the DL and give him his first start of the season on Tuesday versus the Royals.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

13. Mike Minor, ATL (at NYM, at CHC)

A shoulder injury delayed the start of Minor's season for a month, but once he came off the disabled list in early May, he appeared to be in typical form. More recently, things have gotten ugly for Minor, as he has registered only one quality start in his last five attempts, allowed at least one home run in each of those games and compiled a 7.52 ERA over that stretch. All has not been been lost, though, as Minor has continued to pitch with control and deception, but when hitters have connected, they have done so with authority. According to PitchFX data on BrooksBaseball.net, much of the damage has come on Minor's cutter, which he has been throwing a little harder of late. Maybe the relative lack of a velocity differential between his cutter and fastball is responsible for Minor's struggles, and if so, that's a fixable problem. The lack of a clear explanation for Minor's slump makes him something less than a must-start this week, but he's not far off. A pair of good matchups helps his cause, too.

Start Minor over the following one-start pitchers: Alex Cobb, Corey Kluber, Dallas Keuchel

14. Tyson Ross, SD (at COL, at LAD)

Ross has put his occasional struggles with control behind him for now, having issued only two walks over his last three starts while throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes. Owners can't get too comfortable with Ross' control, as he has already made four starts this season in which he has walked at least four batters. If you're tired of being worried about Ross' inconsistencies with strike-throwing, here's something new to think about: his first start of the coming week will be at Colorado. That's a risky proposition for just about any pitcher, but Ross may be more immune to the Coors Effect than most hurlers. He has a career 3.68 ERA at Coors Field, but that comes in only 7 1/3 innings. However, he has also posted a 1.29 ERA at Great American Ball Park (14 innings) and a 3.60 ERA at Chase Field (20 innings). These are small samples for just three hitter's parks, but that limited history plus a 61 percent ground ball rate and a 13 percent swinging strike rate should embolden most mixed league owners to give Ross a try this week.

Start Ross over the following one-start pitchers: Josh Beckett, Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer

15. Charlie Morton, PIT (at STL, at CIN)

Just on the basis of his well-established ground ball tendencies, Morton probably would have made this list anyway, but with a recent spike in his K-rate, he has inched closer to being a must-start option. Over his last eight starts, Morton has struck out 52 hitters over 49 innings, as he has been getting more whiffs on his curveball (per BrooksBaseball.net) and more called strikes in general. Maybe it's coincidence, but over that same period, according to TexasLeaguers.com, Morton has increased the spin on his curveball by 161 rpm as compared to his first nine starts of the season. Again, even if this is a short-lived phenomenon, Morton is worth starting this week, but the promise of a few extra strikeouts should give you more confidence in sliding him into a rotation spot.

Start Morton over the following one-start pitchers: Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey, C.J. Wilson

16. Wily Peralta, MIL (vs. PHI, vs. STL)

Though Peralta, like Morton and Ross, owes a certain amount of his success to a high ground ball rate, he has the misfortune of pitching home games at a venue that sometimes trumps his ability to keep the ball down. In 51 1/3 innings at Miller Park, Peralta has allowed eight home runs and has needed an 80 percent strand rate (per FanGraphs.com) to compensate for it. We can't count on Peralta to continue to strand four of every five baserunners going forward, but at least for this week, he should benefit greatly from his matchups. The Cardinals are challenging the Royals for the majors' lowest Isolated Power, while the Phillies rank in the bottom third of all teams in that stat. That's a nice break from the Blue Jays and Rockies, who pelted Peralta with four dingers that drove in nine runs over his last three starts.

Start Peralta over the following one-start pitchers: C.J. Wilson, Gerrit Cole, Jonathon Niese

17. Ian Kennedy, SD (at COL, at LAD)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
25. Tyler Skaggs vs. TOR, at TEX
26. Jarred Cosart at TEX, vs. BOS
27. Vance Worley at STL, at CIN
28. Clay Buchholz vs. CHW, at HOU
29. Trevor Bauer vs. NYY, vs. CHW
30. Jason Vargas at TB, vs. DET
31. Marco Estrada vs. PHI, vs. STL
32. Justin Masterson vs. NYY, vs. CHW
33. Mike Leake vs. CHC, vs. PIT
34. Carlos Martinez vs. PIT, at MIL
35. Tom Koehler at ARI, at NYM
36. Chase Anderson vs. MIA, at SF
37. Travis Wood at CIN, vs. ATL
38. Jacob deGrom vs. ATL, vs. MIA
39. Bud Norris at WAS, vs. NYY
40. Miles Mikolas vs. HOU, vs. LAA
41. Kyle Kendrick at MIL, vs. WAS
42. John Danks at BOS, at CLE
43. J.A. Happ at LAA, at TB
44. Chris Tillman at WAS, vs. NYY
45. Tyler Matzek vs. SD, vs. MIN
46. Edwin Jackson at CIN, vs. ATL
47. Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. ATL, vs. MIA
48. Shane Greene at CLE, at BAL
49. Kevin Correia at sEA, at COL
50. Nick Martinez vs. HOU, vs. LAA
51. Brad Hand at ARI, at NYM
52. Scott Carroll at BOS, at CLE

Though Kennedy doesn't have Ross' control issues, his visit to Coors Field is a greater source of concern, as he has induced grounders on only 43 percent of hit balls. Though it will take some nerve to do it, most standard mixed league owners would benefit from starting Kennedy this week. With a 9.5 K/9 ratio and 11 percent swinging strike rate, Kennedy is hard to hit, and he won't hurt himself with walks. Better yet, you can use the big, bad Rockies as part of a strategy to buy Kennedy at a bargain price. If not for the fluky .284 batting average on ground balls he has allowed, Kennedy's 3.87 ERA and 1.23 WHIP would be considerably lower. Find an owner who is not only put off by Kennedy's upcoming matchup but his pedestrian overall Fantasy stat line, and you could pull off a profitable deal.

Start Kennedy over the following one-start pitchers: Jonathon Niese, Lance Lynn, Yordano Ventura

18. Jake Odorizzi, TB (vs. KC, vs. TOR)

Just as Odorizzi had completed an encouraging month of June, he opens July by coughing up eight hits and three runs in just 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees. If we take a step back from that underwheling performance, we can see that Odorizzi's trends have generally been a positive going back to late May. He's been throwing more strikes, which has helped to limit him to 12 walks over 45 innings and register only one start with more than two free passes. Odorizzi has continued to get strikeouts, tallying a total of 49 over that period. He is still a liability on the road, and a 42 percent flyball rate has much to do with that. Extra-base hits should be less of an issue with two home starts, and even when he returns to the road, there's a good reason to expect further improvement. It's practically impossible to imagine that opponents will continue to hit anywhere close to .384 on grounders against Odorizzi from here on out.

Start Odorizzi over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn, Yordano Ventura, Matt Cain

19. Phil Hughes, MIN (at SEA, at COL)

Hughes has allowed five or more runs in three consecutive starts, and to their credit, owners on CBSSports.com are standing by him. Despite the mini-slump, Hughes' ownership and activation rates are holding steady, and once lineup-setting time comes, hopefully, the latter rate will get a bump. All that separates the recent version of Hughes and the resurgent version we've seen most of this season is the .410 BABIP he has put up in his last three outings. Well, that and a moderate ground ball rate, which is simply weird and has the smell of a small sample fluke, just like the BABIP rate. Hughes fails to be a must-start this week, not because he's in a rut, but because he's taking his 40 percent flyball rate to Coors Field for his second start. He emerged unscathed from starts at Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre last month, so Hughes just might be able to handle the Rockies, but you can't be too careful in this situation.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hughes: Jonathon Niese, Lance Lynn, Yordano Ventura

20. Ryan Vogelsong, SF (at OAK, vs. ARI)

In his four seasons as a Giant, Vogelsong has been a much better pitcher at AT&T Park than on the road, as the split in his ERA (3.13 at home vs. 4.41 away) attests. Some of that can be directly traced to AT&T Park's pitcher-friendly dimensions, which have been especially helpful to Vogelsong this season. He has a 3.06 home ERA -- more than two runs lower than his road mark -- with no home runs allowed. That clearly bodes well for Vogelsong's start against the Diamondbacks, but even though his visit to Oakland takes him to another favorable environment, there are two reasons to have some hesitation about starting him this week. First, the A's are no ordinary opponent, as they lead the majors in runs scored, and Vogelsong's road struggles aren't solely tied to park factors, as he has posted better K-to-BB ratios at home as well as lower HR/9 ratios.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Vogelsong: Lance Lynn, Yordano Ventura, Matt Cain

21. Doug Fister, WAS (vs. BAL, at PHI)

On the surface, it appears that Fister is on his way to possibly his best season yet, clocking in with a 7-2 record, 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP after 11 starts. He has certainly taken his already-pristine control to new heights, with an 0.8 BB/9 ratio and a 67 percent strikes-thrown rate. That can't be a bad thing, but Hughes, for example, has had similarly spotless control with more strikeouts and a lower home run rate (imagine that!), yet he has a much higher ERA and WHIP. Fister has been fortunate to have allowed 28 hits on 55 line drives in play (.509 BABIP), which is eight hits fewer than what the typical major league pitcher has allowed over the last couple of seasons. Those additional hits would not do too much damage to Fister's WHIP, raising it to 1.16. However, he's also benefitted from a 79 percent strand rate, so with some additional baserunners and a more typical strand rate, Fister's ERA would likely be in the mid-to-uppper 3.00s. That would be tolerable if not for the fact that he has struck out more than three batters only once in his last five starts. Because of great control, Fister still has some appeal, but he's far from an automatic two-start option.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Fister: Yordano Ventura, Matt Cain Jason Hammel

22. Chris Young, SEA (vs. MIN, vs. OAK)

MLB's schedule maker must really like Young. He has made 17 appearances this season, and only three times has he pitched in a park that is good or neutral for home run hitters. For the majors' most prolific flyball pitcher, that sort of thing matters a lot. Of course, Young helped himself by signing with the Mariners, and this week, he gets to make two more starts at Safeco Field, where he has compiled a 2.19 ERA and a not-so-terrifying 1.1 HR/9 ratio. The latter number is far from impressive, but Young has neutralized the impact of homers and a mediocre walk rate with popups galore -- 47 of them in 98 1/3 innings to be exact. The A's look to be the tougher of Young's two matchups, but he has already limited them to two runs on seven hits over 14 innings this season. Regardless of what the home/road splits suggest, Young is never an entirely safe option, but his risk is at an acceptable level this week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Young: Matt Cain, Jason Hammel, Tim Hudson

23. Jesse Chavez, OAK (vs. SF, at SEA)

Chavez hasn't been able to replicate his early-season success, as he has settled into being merely an average strikeout pitcher with some flyball tendencies. Up until recently, Chavez had remained reliable, as he continued to be a very good control pitcher, but that asset has abandoned him over his last three starts. In 17 innings, Chavez has walked 11 batters, and his two most recent starts were outright bad. Given how consistent Chavez's control had been prior to these starts, it's premature to rule out the possibility of a rebound. Better yet, with a start at home against the Giants followed by a start at Safeco Field, he could extend his streak of five straight starts without a home run allowed.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Chavez: Tim Hudson, Collin McHugh, Taijuan Walker

24. James Shields, KC (at TB, vs. DET)

Justin Verlander and Tim Lincecum have rescued themselves from "must-sit" status with their recent rebounds, and maybe Shields can do the same. There have yet to be any signs of Shields putting an end to his nine-game slide that has produced a 5.43 ERA, opponents' .557 slugging percentage and 36 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings. On Tuesday, Shields did get the Twins to swing and miss 11 times, which is hard to do against the major league team with the second-lowest swing rate, but he still allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings. If Shields is going to choose Week 15 to bust out, he is going to have to do it against the Tigers and Rays, who have been among the hottest offenses over the last two weeks. It only makes sense to start Shields as a last resort.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Shields: Taijuan Walker, Kyle Lohse, Dillon Gee

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
Mets P Jerry Blevins excited about chance with the team
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Mets pitcher Jerry Blevins is excited about his opportunity with the team, report ESPN.

"I see a huge opportunity with this organization," said Blevins, who is eligible for free agency next winter. "They've got a lot of talent and high expectations. I'm here to do my part. ... We have a chance to shock some people in the East. We've got such high talent. I'd put this rotation against anybody's, and this experience."

In eight innings pitched this spring, Blevins has an ERA of 9.00 with 11 strikeouts and two walks. He has given up eight earned runs and four home runs.


Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka doesn't impress scouts
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka was 1-1 with a 1.74 ERA this spring. More importantly, he remained healthy, despite the partially torn ligament in his elbow.

But scouts contacted by the Daily News weren't impressed with Tanaka's stuff. 

"I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt based on what he did last year," one Major League scout said. "But would I be worried based on what I’ve seen lately? Yeah, I’d have to be a little worried. ... He’s either saving himself for the season or he’s protecting that elbow a little bit, because his fastball has been around 89-90 (mph), with no life on it today. Two-seamer or four-seamer, it was flat and hittable."


Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt goes yard in win over Angels
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt homered in the team's 8-7 victory over the Angels on Tuesday, reports Rotoworld.

Goldschmidt, 27, also hit two singles, going 3 for 5 on the day. His performance raised his batting average to .255 this spring. The right-hander also has two home runs and five RBI this offseason.


Clint Barmes shaking off slow spring start
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Padres infielder Clint Barmes is heating up as spring training closes. 

After getting just four hits in his first 23 at bats, Barmes is four for his last 10. Barmes had no extra base hits in his first 23 at bats, he has a double and a solo homer in the last 10. 

"It's just continuing to work on timing and get my legs underneath me, especially early on in the spring," Barmes said, per U-T San Diego. "Once I felt like, a couple weeks in, I started to get my legs underneath me, then it's just been a process of getting the timing down, defensively as much as offensively."


Braves A.J. Pierzynski catches all nine innings, drives in two runs
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski caught all nine innings on Tuesday for the club, reports MLB.com.

Pierzynski went 2 for 5 from the plate, adding two RBI. For the spring, the 38-year-old is batting .344 on 11 hits with one double and one strikeout.


Rays pitchers Colome, McGee, Moore throw bullpen sessions
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Rays pitchers Alex Colome (illness), Jake McGee (elbow surgery) and Matt Moore (Tommy John surgery) were each able to throw bullpen sessions Tuesday as a part of their rehab, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

"(Colome) looks like he feels really good," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's exciting to see."

The trio has yet to see any action this spring as they recover from elbow injuries.


Report: Nationals will pay Rich Hill retention bonus
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) The Nationals will pay pitcher Rich Hill a $100,000 retention bonus if he doesn't make the team, according to a report by the Washington Post, citing a source. As part of the collective bargaining agreement, Hill will receive a June 1 opt-out date, if he isn't called up to the Nationals by that date. 

Report: Kelly Johnson will make Braves' Opening Day roster
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Kelly Johnson will make the Braves Opening Day roster, according to a report by Yahoo's Jeff Passan.

Johnson's versatility helped earn him the spot--he can play three infield positions as well as the outfield. The decision to keep Johnson could be a bad sign for Joey Terdoslavich, who was believed to be competing with him for a bench role. 


Mariners trade Erasmo Ramierez to Rays for Mike Montgomery
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) The Mariners have traded pitcher Erasmo Ramirez to the Rays in exchange for pitcher Mike Montgomery, the teams announced.

Ramirez posted a 1-2 record with a 6.23 ERA and seven strikeouts in five spring training appearances while Montgomery posted a 2.38 ERA with nine strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings pitched.


Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman fine after 'miscommunication'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman was believed to have suffered a slight hamstring injury in Tuesday's game against the Brewers, but manager Bryan Price may have misunderstood the pitcher, reports MLB.com.

"We went out there to check on him and the hamstring came up, and just with that history we were extra cautious," Price said. "And by the sounds of it, it may be a non-issue completely."

Chapman was visibly upset with Price when he decided to remove him from the game after facing just one batter.

"By the time the smoke cleared, Chappy was back in the dugout and Brayan got back in the dugout after the half-inning, I just think there might've been a misunderstanding," Price said. "So it's fine. It's frustrating for Chappy but in the big picture, nothing critical."


 
 
 
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