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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 16

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It's that weird week again ... the three-game stump of a Fantasy week following the All-Star break.

Of course, some leagues opt to combine Fantasy Weeks 16 (July 14-20) and 17 (July 21-27) into a week-and-a-half-long festival of two-start pitchers, but this column isn't for those owners. We're here to sort out the 92 pitchers set to make a single start in one of the series this weekend.

In standard mixed leagues, that means somewhere between roughly two-thirds and five-sixths of all pitchers making a start will be on an active roster. That makes this week's must-avoid list pretty short, but setting your rotation involves more than just plucking out the worst pitchers on the schedule. Some of the starters you typically use in a one-start week may not be available, as they won't take the mound until Week 17.

Be sure to bench Chris Sale, Jordan Zimmermann (biceps), Justin Verlander, Scott Kazmir, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Mike Minor, John Lackey, Rick Porcello and Matt Cain before hitting the "Set Lineup" button. Cliff Lee (elbow), Jonathon Niese (shoulder) and Collin McHugh (finger) are all close to coming back from the disabled list, but none will make his return until Week 17.

If you need a replacement for these pitchers, any one of the top 74 options listed below will do. For the most part, the must-start and middle- and back-of-the-rotation options aren't rated much differently than they would be in an average week. Based on his 75 percent activation rate in CBSSports.com leagues, some may question Phil Hughes being listed as a "must-start," but I have completely bought in. He has a walk rate that rivals Hisashi Iwakuma's but with an even higher K-rate. Hughes has generally handled tough opponents well, reduced his home run rate, and if not for a 68 percent strand rate and a .317 batting average allowed on ground balls (both of which should improve), he would have the ERA and WHIP of a must-start pitcher.

Due to matchups against the Padres, all three of the Mets' starters -- Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler -- rank a little higher than they would ordinarily. The same is true for A.J. Burnett, whose strikeout and walk rates could get some help from an aggressive Braves' lineup. Tim Lincecum gets a bump, too, more because he faces the contact-poor Marlins than because of his current hot streak.

Even though they face the Astros, neither Jose Quintana nor John Danks cracked the upper half of this week's rankings. Both entered the break on a high note, but both relied in large part on high called strike rates for their recent success. The Astros may be the majors' strikeout kings, but one thing they are not is passive. Quintana and Danks didn't fare especially when facing the Astros earlier this season, and they may not be able to take advantage of their collective tendency to swing and miss.

The biggest adjustment made to a pitcher's ranking this week was for Alex Cobb, and it was of the negative sort. If Cobb had enough innnigs to qualify, he would have the majors' lowest percentage of pitches seen in the strike zone this season. He has managed to succeed because he gets batters to frequently chase pitches out of the zone (36.6 percent O-Swing rate, per FanGraphs.com), but his opponent, the Twins, are one of the least prone teams to go after errant pitches. Cobb's matchup sinks him all the way down to No. 49 in this week's rankings.

I'm also not eager to start Chris Young, Wade Miley or Alfredo Simon this week, as each has the potential to get hurt by homers. That's still true for Young, even though he'll be pitching at Angel Stadium. The park may be tough on power hitters, but the Angels have had a potent offense even at home, and Young can be combustible against good lineups just about anywhere.

Finally, as of this writing, the Braves, Indians and Cardinals had yet to finalize their rotations, though all three teams have announced their starters for Friday. Alex Wood and Julio Teheran are almost certain to start the final two games of the Braves' series against the Phillies, though it's not clear in what order they will start. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, either Zach McAllister or Danny Salazar is likely to start the second game of the Indians' Saturday doubleheader at the Tigers, while Josh Tomlin is expected to start on Sunday. Adam Wainwright is almost certain to get a start this weekend, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has yet to announce who would join him and Lance Lynn as the team's starters against the Dodgers.

With those three teams' rotations being subject to change, here are the current rankings of starting pitchers for Week 16.

Must-start pitchers

1. Max Scherzer (vs. CLE)
2. Clayton Kershaw (at STL)
3. David Price (at MIN)
4. Felix Hernandez (at LAA)
5. Madison Bumgarner (at MIA)
6. Yu Darvish (at TOR)
7. Stephen Strasburg (vs. MIL)
8. Zack Greinke (at STL)
9. Adam Wainwright (vs. LAD)
10. Julio Teheran (vs. PHI)
11. Jake Arrieta (at ARI)
12. Cole Hamels (at ATL)
13. Johnny Cueto (at NYY)
14. Hisashi Iwakuma (at LAA)
15. Tyson Ross (vs. NYM)
16. Jon Lester (vs. KC)
17. Alex Wood (vs. PHI)
18. Ian Kennedy (vs. NYM)
19. Garrett Richards (vs. SEA)
20. Sonny Gray (vs. BAL)
21. Corey Kluber (at DET)
22. Jered Weaver (vs. SEA)
23. Jeff Samardzija (vs. BAL)
24. Gio Gonzalez (vs. MIL)
25. Phil Hughes (vs. TB)

Mid-to-back-of-the-rotation options

26. Anibal Sanchez (vs. CLE)
27. Marcus Stroman (vs. TEX)
28. Lance Lynn (vs. LAD)
29. Ervin Santana (vs. PHI)
30. Jason Hammel (vs. BAL)
31. Yordano Ventura (at BOS)
32. James Shields (at BOS)
33. Tim Hudson (at MIA)
34. Henderson Alvarez (vs. SF)
35. Chris Archer (at MIN)
36. Charlie Morton (vs. COL)
37. Doug Fister (vs. MIL)
38. Zack Wheeler (at SD)
39. Bartolo Colon (at SD)
40. Kyle Lohse (at WAS)
41. Kevin Gausman (at OAK)
42. Dallas Keuchel (at CHW)
43. Rubby De La Rosa (vs. KC)
44. Tim Lincecum (at MIA)
45. A.J. Burnett (at ATL)
46. Yovani Gallardo (at WAS)
47. Jeff Locke (vs. COL)
48. Dillon Gee (at SD)
49. Alex Cobb (at MIN)
50. Jose Quintana (vs. HOU)
51. Tyler Skaggs (vs. SEA)
52. Clay Buchholz (vs. KC)
53. Kyle Gibson (vs. TB)
54. Hiroki Kuroda (vs. CIN)
55. Mike Leake (at NYY)
56. Mark Buehrle (vs. TEX)
57. Trevor Bauer (at DET)
58. R.A. Dickey (vs. TEX)
59. Drew Smyly (vs. CLE)
60. Nathan Eovaldi (vs. SF)
61. Chris Young (at LAA)
62. Josh Tomlin (at DET)
63. Danny Duffy (at BOS)
64. Francisco Liriano (vs. COL)
65. John Danks (vs. HOU)
66. Alfredo Simon (at NYY)
67. Jarred Cosart (at CHW)
68. Wei-Yin Chen (at OAK)
69. Matt Garza (at WAS)
70. Wade Miley (vs. CHC)
71. Brandon McCarthy (vs. CIN)
72. Josh Collmenter (vs. CHC)
73. Scott Feldman (at CHW)
74. Dan Haren (at STL)

Must-avoid pitchers

75. Shelby Miller (vs. LAD)
76. Brett Anderson (at PIT)
77. Robbie Ray (vs. CLE)
78. Chris Tillman (at OAK)
79. Kyle Kendrick (at ATL)
80. Travis Wood (at ARI)
81. Odrisamer Despaigne (vs. NYM)
82. Zach McAllister (at DET)
83. David Phelps (vs. CIN)
84. Jorge De La Rosa (at PIT)
85. Colby Lewis (at TOR)
86. Tyler Matzek (at PIT)
87. Kevin Correia (vs. TB)
88. Edwin Jackson (at ARI)
89. Hector Noesi (vs. HOU)
90. Brad Hand (vs. SF)
91. Nick Tepesch (at TOR)
92. Trevor Cahill (vs. CHC)

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Player News
Report: Rockies considering Kendrick as back-of-the-rotation arm
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:28 am ET) The Rockies are looking at free agent Kyle Kendrick as a potential back-of-the-rotation arm, according to ESPN. Kendrick is 1-1 with a 5.26 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in seven career outings (six starts) at Coors Field.

Rangers' Daniels: Ryan Rua 'in a good position' to make roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:57 am ET) Ryan Rua received his first stint in the majors late last season and made such a strong impression in such a short period of time that the Rangers are looking to him to potentially be the starting left fielder in 2015, per MLB.com.

"He's in a spot where he if continues progressing at the rate he has, then I would expect that he's in a good position to make our club and get at-bats," general manager Jon Daniels said. "It's not going to be handed to him, but he has a strong chance to earn that spot."

The 24-year-old Rua hit .295 with two home runs, seven doubles and 14 RBI in 28 games with the Rangers in 2014. He had a .285/.365/.489/.854 slash line in 382 minor-league games before his promotion to the majors.

"He's not a guy that was off the radar screen and only produced for a month," Daniels said. "He's always hit from Day 1, and is an extremely hard worker that I think is going to have a good big league career."


Hart: Braves expecting Markakis to be 'full go' in spring training
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:29 am ET) Braves outfielder Nick Markakis underwent fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck Wednesday, per MLB.com. The team expects Markakis to resume baseball activities before the start of spring training. 

"We talked to (Dr.) Steve Wray after the surgery and he said it really went well," Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said. "He said [the procedure] really went well, and he thinks that this guy will be ready to go full go in spring training. The only thing is that there will be a little bit of a disruption for his normal routine getting ready for spring training."

Markakis is expected to be cleared for physical activities within the next month, and the hope is he will be fully cleared within six weeks. Markakis agreed to a four-year, $44 million deal with the Braves in early December.


Three teams showing interest in Norichika Aoki
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Orioles, Reds and Mariners are among the teams looking at outfielder Norichika Aoki, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The 32-year-old Aoki hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. With the Royals signing Alex Rios earlier in the week, Aoki will likely have to move on with a different club. 


Report: Athletics release Jorge De Leon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Athletics have released pitcher Jorge De Leon, according to SB Nation.

De Leon was designated for assignment by the club last week, and the team couldn't find a way to deal him. De Leon appeared in eight games last season, posting a 4.91 ERA over 7 1/3 innings. 


Report: Padres' Seth Smith popping up in trade talks
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Padres outfielder Seth Smith has come up in trade talks recently, according to ESPN.

If the Matt Kemp and Wil Myers trades go through, the team would have a surplus in the outfield. On top of those two players, San Diego would also have Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin and Smith. The 32-year-old Smith hit .266/.367/.440 over 443 at-bats last year. 


D-Backs, David Hernandez avoid arbitration
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Diamondbacks have reached an agreement with David Hernandez on a contract, according to the azcentral.com.

Hernandez was eligible for arbitration, but settled on a $2 million salary figure for next season. The 29-year-old posted a missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.


Report: Three teams showing interest in Jake Peavy
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Marlins, Braves and Giants are showing interest in pitcher Jake Peavy, according to FoxSports.com.

The 33-year-old Peavy is coming off a season in which he posted a 3.73 ERA over 202 2/3 innings. Peavy had some issues in Boston, posting a 4.72 ERA to start the season, but settled in once he joined the Giants. With San Francisco, Peavy had a 2.17 ERA over 78 2/3 innings. The Marlins interest in Peavy is dependent on whether Dan Haren decides to pitch. If Haren comes back, the team would not have interest in Peavy.


Padres, Rays and Nationals on the verge of three team deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Nationals, Padres and Rays are on the verge of a three-team deal which would send outfielder Wil Myers to San Diego, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

The deal would also send outfielder Steven Souza back to Tampa Bay and prospect Trea Turner to Washington. 

The deal is yet to be finalized, with a few key pieces to also be involved in the deal. 


Royals, Edinson Volquez agree to two year contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Royals and free agent pitcher Edinson Volquez have an agreement on a two-year deal, worth $20 million in the first two years, pending a physical, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. 

Volquez, who pitched for the Pirates in 2014, went 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA and 140 strikeouts. 


 
 
 
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