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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
Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:01 pm ET) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:00 pm ET) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


Nationals sign pitcher Rich Hill to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Nationals signed pitcher Rich Hill to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Friday night

Hill spent time with the Angels and Yankees in 2014 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances. 

His career ERA is 4.72 over 10 years, which includes additional stops with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox and Indians. 


Tim Melville, Kyle Lobstein to start Monday and Tuesday for Tigers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:18 pm ET) Tigers coach Brad Ausmus announced that pitchers Tim Melville and Kyle Lobstein, respectively, will get starts in upcoming games on Monday and Tuesday, according to MLB.com

Melville will start in an exhibition between the Tigers and college team Florida Southern. Lobstein will start in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. 


Diamondbacks' Mark Trumbo more comfortable in right field
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:55 pm ET) Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart decided after last season that Mark Trumbo would be better in right field than left, where he started the 2014 season, MLB.com reports.

"From what I understood from talking to [Trumbo's former manager] Mike Scioscia, he's a much better right fielder than he is in left," Stewart said.

Trumbo indicated that he feels more comfortable in right field.

"Just reads off the bat, what I feel more comfortable with," Trumbo said. "Being right-handed I've just found right field, especially with some of those balls coming in, it's much easier for me with that angle as opposed to the one in left."

Trumbo has seen most of his defensive work in his five-year career at first base but has made 65 appearances in right field. He hit .235/.293/.415 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI in 328 at-bats last season.


Padres, Tyson Gillies agree to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) The Padres have agreed to a minor-league deal with outfielder Tyson Gillies, ESPN.com reports.

Gillies has spent time in the Seattle and Philadelphia organizations since being selected in the 25th round of the 2006 draft. He hit .214/.270/.289 with two home runs, 10 RBI and three stolen bases in 159 at-bats with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2014.


Pirates' Hurdle: Jose Tabata 'worked very hard' on swing leverage
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata drove three balls over the left-field fence and onto the roof of the indoor batting cages, and manager Clint Hurdle said Friday that the team wants the outfielder to mash longer drives, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.

"We've talked to Jose about putting more leverage in his swing,” Hurdle said. “He worked very hard with that through the winter. He's shown a liking for it. It's something that takes time."

Tabata recreated his swing during a stint in the Mexican League and increased his power production. He had a conversation with Marlon Byrd about it this past offseason.

"He's always had a forward-down strike and a lot of ground balls have come off his bat," Hurdle said of Tabata. "We talked to him about hooking up with Marlon Byrd."

Tabata hit .282/.314/.333 with no home runs in 174 at-bats with the Pirates in 2014.


White Sox SP Jose Quintana ready to go after Friday session
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) White Sox starting pitcher Jose Quintana began his throwing program later than normal at the team's request but said Friday after throwing two simulated innings that he's ready to go, CSNChicago.com reports.

"I feel really good, my arm is good and I’m ready for the first day against the Dodgers," Quintana said. "I’m excited for opening day. It’s spring training, but it’s Opening Day, you know?"

The White Sox asked Quintana to delay his throwing program in the hopes of having him stronger and fresher if the team makes the postseason. After throwing 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, he hopes to feel strong long after he has in the past.

"It’s good for your arm because here you throw a lot, eight months throwing and you need a good rest," Quintana said. "I feel really good, better than last year. I hope this year I’m better."

Quintana went 9-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 178:52 K:BB ratio in 200 1/3 innings in 2014.


Rangers' Banister talks about Choo's move to right field
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:27 pm ET) Rangers manager Jeff Banister spoke about moving Shin-Soo Choo from left field to right field for the first time Friday, MLB.com reports.

"We think he'll be more comfortable in right field," Banister said.

Choo spent six years in right field with the Indians but played center field with the Reds in 2013 and left field in most of his first season with the Rangers. He'll have less ground to cover in right field than left during Rangers home games.

"It doesn't matter to me where they put me. I can play all three positions," Choo said.

Choo is returning from elbow and ankle surgeries. He hit .242/.340/.374 with 13 home runs,40 RBI and just three steals in 455 at-bats last season.


 
 
 
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