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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
Marcus Stroman serving reduced suspension
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(3:05 pm ET) MLB.com reports that Marcus Stroman dropped his appeal of a suspension for throwing near the head of Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph in a Sept. 15 start. The suspension was reduced from six games to five games, and he began serving it on Sunday.

Stroman will miss his next scheduled start on Thursday against the Mariners, but he will be able to start one of the games in the Blue Jays' weekend series against the Orioles.


Mets may shut down Jacob deGrom after Sunday start
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(2:55 pm ET) According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Sunday's start at the Braves could be the last of the season for the Mets' Jacob deGrom. Coming into Sunday's game, deGrom had made 21 starts totalling 134 1/3 innings. Adding in his work at Triple-A Las Vegas, deGrom has pitched 172 2/3 innings this season, which is 25 1/3 innings more than his previous high.

Manager Terry Collins told the Star-Ledger the team would make a decision regarding deGrom's status after Sunday's game.


Red Sox shuffle rotation for final week
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(2:25 pm ET) WEEI.com reports that Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa have been removed from the Red Sox's rotation for the final week of the season. Clay Buchholz, Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster are set to make starts against the Rays, and then Joe Kelly and Buchholz will start the last two games of the team's season-ending series against the Yankees.

Friday's starter in the series opener against the Yankees is still to be named, but Steven Wright is a candidate to get the nod. Wright has posted a 3.38 ERA in five relief appearances this season.


Angel Pagan, Michael Morse could miss next series
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(2:12 pm ET) According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants may have to do without Angel Pagan and Michael Morse for their upcoming three-game series against the Dodgers, which begins on Monday.

Pagan missed Saturday's game -- his fourth absence over the last five games -- with a back injury, and he was out of the starting lineup again for Sunday's game at the Padres. Morse was out for Saturday and Sunday as well, as he hurt his oblique in Friday's game. That was Morse's only appearance since Aug. 31, as an oblique injury had kept him out all month.


Chris Dominguez set to make first start
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(1:59 pm ET) For the first time in his major league career, Chris Dominguez is in the Giants' starting lineup. He is listed as the team's left fielder, as Gregor Blanco was shifted to center field to fill in for the injured Angel Pagan (back).

Dominguez has already appeared in three games for the Giants, and he batted .274 with 21 home runs and 21 stolen bases for Triple-A Fresno.


Alex Rios' season is over
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(1:39 pm ET) The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Rangers outfielder Alex Rios has been shut down for the remainder of the season. Rios has been out since Sept. 4 with an infected thumb.

Rios played 131 games for Texas this season and hit .280 with four home runs, 54 RBI, 54 runs and 17 stolen bases.


Domonic Brown still out of the lineup
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(1:32 pm ET) Domonic Brown was not in the Phillies' starting lineup for Sunday's game at the Athletics, as Grady Sizemore got the start in left field. Brown had missed the previous two games with a right wrist injury.

Juan Uribe makes speedy return
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(1:08 pm ET) After missing Saturday's game with a minor side injury, Juan Uribe was back in the Dodgers' starting lineup for Sunday's series finale at the Cubs. He was penciled in as the team's third baseman, hitting in the seventh spot in the order.

Collin McHugh ready to make Sunday start
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(12:58 pm ET) Collin McHugh was listed as the Astros' starting pitcher for Sunday's series finale against the Mariners. He left his most recent start, which was on Monday against the Indians, after sustaining a contusion to his left forearm.

Jason Kipnis to return from two-game absence
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(12:46 pm ET) Jason Kipnis was in the Indians' starting lineup as the team's designated hitter for Sunday's game at the Twins. He missed the last two games due to a hamstring injury.

 
 
 
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