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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
Tsuyoshi Wada to throw simulated game for Cubs on Saturday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(11:07 am ET) Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada will throw a simulated game on Saturday, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.

Wada has been out for more than two weeks with groin and leg problems. 


Rays place Alex Colome on DL
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:51 am ET) The Rays placed pitcher Alex Colome on the disabled list, retroactive to March 27, with pneumonia, the team announced on Saturday. 

Colome would be eligible to return to the active roster on April 11, but according to the Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin, he won't be ready for another week or two after that. 


Cubs' Jake Arrieta changing diet, workout routine
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:40 am ET) Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta revamped his offseason program, and he hopes the changes will pay off this season. 

Arrieta cut back on weight training in favor of Pilates. He does the yoga workouts six days a week, which will improve his range of motion and stamina. 

"A lot of guys are starting to get way from trying to jerk these heavy weights and throw all these heavy weights around," Arrieta said, per the Baltimore Sun. "Building strength is very important, but there are many ways to do that. That's why I got into Pilates because I can reduce the stress and impact in my joints while still being able to increase strength and flexibility, and it's going to pay dividends."

Arrieta also cut back on red meat and added a high concentration of fruits and vegetables, including kale juice. 

"The first thing you have to do is understand the nutrients your body needs," Arrieta said. "The best way to get those sources of nutrition is from vegetables, nuts, beans and things that aren't processed."

Arrieta has a 2-1 record with a 5.40 ERA this spring.


Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph should start on Opening Day
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:35 am ET) Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph is the likely starter on Opening Day, which will not only be a first for him, but the first time he's ever broken camp with a Major League team. 

Joseph locked up a roster spot, and a likely start in the opener, when it became clear Matt Wieters wouldn't be ready by the start of the season. 

"Things happen in this game that nobody really expects and just like we've had to do in years' past the next guy has got to step up," Joseph said, per the Baltimore Sun. "Hopefully, we get Matt back really soon but, as long as he is out, I'm going to try and step up and do my best and try to continue what I did last year."

Joseph is hitting .333 this spring with five RBI. 


Rays remain undecided on No. 2 catcher
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Rays manager Kevin Cash said the race for the backup catcher job between Curt Casali or Bobby Wilson has "been made difficult simply because the guys have performed well," according to the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday.

Casali has a .190 batting average with a .217 on-base percentage in 10 Grapefruit League games. Wilson owns a .143/.250/.143 slash line through 12 games this spring.


Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson still battling for Dodgers' CF job
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:31 am ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly still hasn't awarded the center field job to anyone. 

With a week to go in spring training, Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson are still vying for the starting role. Mattingly said he hasn't made a decision, "Because I don't have to yet," per MLB.com's Ken Gurnick

Pederson is hitting .375 with nine RBI this spring. Ethier is at .333, also with nine RBI. 


Twins could use trio of Schafer, Robinson, Escobar at CF
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:27 am ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor told reporters that he'll use a blend of Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson at center field, but wouldn't describe the position as a straight platoon, according to the Star Tribune. With Danny Santana named the starting shortstop, Molitor added that Eduardo Escobar would also see some time in the outfield.

Danny Santana named Twins' starting shortstop
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) As expected, Twins manager Paul Molitor announced that Danny Santana will be Minnesota's Opening Day starting shortstop, according to MLB.com on Saturday. Santana beat out Eduardo Escobar for the job, who started a team-high 86 games at shortstop in 2014 for Minnesota. Santana made only 32 appearances at shortstop.

Santana hit .319 with 40 RBI and 70 runs scored in 405 plate appearances in 2014. He has a .341 batting average this spring.


Tigers release Luke Putkonen
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:17 am ET) The Tigers released pitcher Luke Putkonen on Saturday. 

Putkonen missed most of last season with an elbow injury, and the team outrighed him to Triple-A in January, removing him from the 40-man roster. He had a non-roster invitation to Major League camp, but he had a 7.36 ERA in four games. 


Twins' Molitor: Josmil Pinto failed his concussion test
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:15 am ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor told reporters that catcher Josmil Pinto did not pass his concussion test, and has not been cleared to play in games. Pinto, who suffered concussion-like symptoms after he was hit on the back of the head three times by an Adam Jones backswing last week, was limited to working out on Saturday.

Molitor hopes to have Pinto play games by Monday, and added that the backup catcher decision is "still in flux," per the Pioneer Press.


 
 
 
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