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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 17

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The All-Star break is finally over. If you're planning on dealing with your baseball withdrawal by watching as many games as you can stand this weekend, you will get to watch a lot of aces, as teams have used the break to reset their rotations.

The downside to this embarrassment of weekend pitching riches, of course, is when Fantasy Week 17 (July 21 -27) rolls around, it's mostly the pitchers at the back of rotations who will open series on Monday and Tuesday. And that will make for some uninspiring two-start options, as those same hurlers will take the mound again next weekend.

Must start two-start options
1. Chris Sale vs. KC, at MIN
2. Adam Wainwright vs. TB, at CHC
3. Julio Teheran vs. MIA, vs. SD
4. Cliff Lee vs. SF, vs. ARI
5. Scott Kazmir vs. HOU, at TEX
6. Mat Latos at MIL, vs. WAS
7. Hyun-Jin Ryu at PIT, at SF
8. Mike Minor vs. MIA, vs. SD
9. Doug Fister at COL, at CIN

Week 17 will not only be marked by a paucity of higher-end two-start pitchers, but by a great deal of uncertainty. By next weekend, the pre-waiver trade deadline will be just days away, and that could tangle some rotations. Also, some teams are still trying to figure out how to fill out the back of their rotations. Going into the break, many Fantasy owners assumed that Taijuan Walker would return to the Mariners' rotation right away, but now it is unclear when he will be recalled to make his next start. In fact, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman has reported that the Rays have inquired about getting Walker in a trade, so for all we know, he could have already made his last start for Seattle.

And will Danny Salazar finally return to the Indians' rotation this week? He is a leading candidate to fill an opening in the rotation on Tuesday, but whether he could parlay that into a possible two-start week or a ticket back to Columbus remains to be seen. The Twins' back of the rotation is also in flux, so could prospects Trevor May and/or Alex Meyer finally get the call? Heading into the weekend, therer are far more questions than answers.

Cliff Lee (elbow), Jonathon Niese (shoulder) and Collin McHugh (finger) present their own form of uncertainty, as each is scheduled to return from the disabled list to make two starts this week. All are recommended starts to varying degrees, but each is riskier than usual after experiencing a layoff. C.J. Wilson (ankle) is eligible to return next weekend, and if he is ready to come off the DL, he could spoil a two-start week for either Matt Shoemaker or Hector Santiago.

With so many moving parts, this week's two-start pitcher rankings could get some refreshing between now and the lineup deadline, so be sure to check back for Monday's update. For now, though, here's how the 45 projected two-start pitchers stack up.

Monday update: As expected, some of the muddled rotation situations got clearer over the weekend, though others remain to be sorted out. Salazar will be recalled to start for the Indians on Tuesday at the Twins, but he will still have to duke it out with T.J. House, Zach McAllister and, eventually, Justin Masterson (knee), for one of the final two spots in the rotation. The Twins, however, have yet to name a starter to oppose Salazar, but given that May pitched for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday, he appears to be out of the picture.

Lee and Niese are both scheduled to return from the DL on Monday, so both line up for two starts as anticipated. McHugh will remain on the DL to make at least one rehab start, so a two-start week is no longer possible for him. Wilson has yet to throw off a mound, so his return this week looks unlikely, making the two-start weeks for Shoemaker and Santiago appear safe from preemption.

While McHugh gets removed from this week's list of two-start pitchers, Nick Martinez (side) gets added. He will come off the DL to start at the Yankees on Tuesday, which puts him in line to also start Sunday against the Athletics.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

10. Jake Odorizzi, TB (at STL, vs. BOS)

Odorizzi's streak of consecutive starts with three or fewer earned runs has reached seven, and over this stretch, he has compiled a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He's been getting more swings-and-misses lately than he was earlier in the season, but a bigger key to his recent success has been pitching mostly at home. Five out of those seven starts came at Tropicana Field, and Odorizzi gets another outing there next weekend. Before then, he will visit Busch Stadium, which is also partial to pitchers. The Cardinals are also very pitcher-friendly, as they have the lowest-scoring and least-powerful offense in the National League that is more than 30 miles from the Mexican border. With a 41 percent flyball rate, Odorizzi is never entirely safe, but he has a good chance of extending his hot streak in Week 17.

Start Odorizzi over the following one-start pitchers: Alex Cobb, Homer Bailey, Anibal Sanchez

11. Jonathon Niese, NYM (at SEA, at MIL)

Niese enters the second half still on the 15-day disabled list, but all indications are that he will be ready to make a start at the Mariners, which would line him up for a second start at the Brewers. Only a two-and-a-half week layoff due to a shoulder strain keeps Niese from being a must-start option, given the meager two-start alternatives this week. Niese's reduced velocity and pitch-to-contact ways are less of an issue when he doubles up his innings, especially given that he typically goes deep into games. The lefty is averaging 3.59 pitches per plate appearance, which helped him to pitch seven-plus innings seven times in the first half. Niese also lasted six-plus innings in all but three of his 16 starts prior to his most recent appearance, when he was knocked out in the first inning by a line drive off his lower back. Perhaps with rest, Niese will throw harder and miss a few more bats, but even if he doesn't, his control, aversion to extra-base hits and efficiency are good enough to make him viable this week.

Start Niese over the following one-start pitchers: Anibal Sanchez, James Shields, Chris Archer

12. Rick Porcello, DET (at ARI, at LAA)

Porcello's greatest asset is his sinker, but over his first 12 starts of the season, it had betrayed him. Opponents put up a .187 Isolated Power on the pitch, as opposed to a .111 mark last season, but Porcello has found his groove again recently. Over his last six starts, his sinker has yielded an .053 Isolated Power, and overall Porcello has held hitters to a .223/.272/.299 slash line. Even though strikeouts continue to be scarce, Porcello has been so proficient at getting grounders that he can be trusted in two-start weeks. The Angels have been an above-average team at hitting for power against ground ball pitchers, posting a .141 Iso (as opposed to the major league average of .117), so that matchup does make Porcello something less than a must-start.

Start Porcello over the following one-start pitchers: James Shields, Chris Archer, Ervin Santana

13. Jimmy Nelson, MIL (vs. CIN, vs. NYM)

After having dominated the Pacific Coast League, Nelson arrived in Milwaukee just before the break with much fanfare ... and then he delivered a dud of a start against the Cardinals. It was actually Nelson's second big league start of the year, and his first effort -- at the Marlins back in May -- went much better. Even in last week's outing, Nelson showed the ability to get whiffs, inducing 10 of them in 98 pitches, and based on his minor league track record, he should be able to do a better job of getting grounders and stranding runners going forward. Even highly talented pitchers don't always have an easy time transitioning to the majors, but Nelson's high ceiling makes him worth starting this week.

Start Nelson over the following one-start pitchers: Chris Archer, Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson

14. Matt Shoemaker, LAA (vs. BAL, vs. DET)

Shoemaker has been a swingman for the Angels, which has kept him from staying in the rotation for extended stretches. As we saw with Drew Smyly earlier this season, that can make it difficult for Shoemaker to actually deliver two starts, even when the schedule suggests that is what is in his future for the coming week. Fantasy owners can't control how Shoemaker will be used, but they can take comfort in knowing that he has actually been more effective as a starter than as a reliever. Though he sports a 4.15 ERA while in the rotation, Shoemaker has racked up 52 strikeouts and only 12 walks and four home runs in 52 innings as a starter this year. A .356 BABIP has held Shoemaker back from an impressive stat line, and it is likely the result of bad luck, especially since he has yielded a normal-looking 21 percent line drive rate as a starter (per StatCorner.com). Shoemaker has been too prone to allowing home runs on the road, but with two home starts, he could provide a nice return. In fact, he could be worth a rotation spot, even if he only makes one of his starts.

Start Shoemaker over the following one-start pitchers: Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson, Jason Hammel

15. Jacob deGrom, NYM (at SEA, at MIL)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
21. Tom Koehler at ATL, at HOU
22. Drew Hutchison vs. BOS, at NYY
23. Jake Peavy at TOR, at TB
24. Jeremy Guthrie at CHW, vs. CLE
25. Miguel Gonzalez at LAA, at SEA
26. Bud Norris at LAA, at SEA
27. Hector Santiago vs. BAL, vs. DET
28. Kyle Hendricks vs. SD, vs. STL
29. Yusmeiro Petit at PHI, vs. LAD
30. Roenis Elias vs. NYM, vs. BAL
31. Edinson Volquez vs. LAD, at COL
32. Shane Greene vs. TEX, vs. TOR
33. Jacob Turner at ATL, at HOU
34. Miles Mikolas at NYY, vs. OAK
35. Roberto Hernandez vs. SF, vs. ARI
36. J.A. Happ vs. BOS, at NYY
37. Eric Stults at CHC, at ATL
38. Bruce Chen at CHW, vs. CLE
39. Chase Whitley vs. TEX, vs. TOR
40. Scott Carroll vs. KC, at MIN
41. Yohan Pino vs. CLE, vs. DET
42. Vidal Nuno vs. DET, at PHI
43. Nick Martinez at NYY, vs. OAK
44. Kris Johnson vs. CLE, vs. CHW
45. Franklin Morales vs. WAS, vs. PIT

Before deGrom embarked on a five-start run that has produced a 1.65 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings, he hadn't been showing much consistency with his whiff rate or control, and he had been all too consistent in allowing flyballs. Since then, he has thrown 65 percent of his pitches for strikes, 14 percent for whiffs and he has induced as many grounders as flies and line drives. It's hard to know how much to trust those results, though, as deGrom has faced both the Marlins and Braves twice over that five-start span, and his third opponent -- the Pirates -- are not great contact hitters either. The Mariners will be the best contact-hitting squad deGrom has seen in some time, and while the Brewers do their share of swinging-and-missing, they are the best offensive team he will have faced this year. In fact, the Brew Crew already whacked deGrom around for three runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings in an earlier start this season. Because he does have a history of good control and better ground ball tendencies than what he showed in his early starts this season, deGrom is worth a flier. He just may disappoint those looking for similar performances to those he has had recently.

Start the following one-start pitchers over deGrom: James Shields, Chris Archer, Ervin Santana

16. Wily Peralta, MIL (vs. CIN, vs. NYM)

When Peralta got through the first two months of the season with suprisingly good control, owners had reason to be encouraged, but a 2.12 ERA through his first 10 starts seemed a bit much. Regression came swiftly and strongly for Peralta, as his ERA over his next eight starts was an unsightly 6.38. He was a less consistent strike-thrower over that span, but unfavorable BABIP and strand rates were largely responsible for the damage. Peralta never stopped being a good ground ball pitcher, and his control has generally been decent, if not stellar. Take away all of the white noise that that has created the appearance of inconsistency, and what you have is a pitcher much like Charlie Morton, but with a better lineup to back him. Morton is a pretty reliable two-start option, and Peralta is even more so.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Peralta: Chris Archer, Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson

17. Ryan Vogelsong, SF (at PHI, vs. LAD)

Matt Cain has gotten a boost over his career from making home starts at AT&T Park, but he isn't the only Giants pitcher to reap that benefit. While Vogelsong is carrying a 5.18 ERA on the road, he has a 3.04 home ERA, and it's the third time in four seasons that he has had an ERA under 3.10 at home. Both Cain and Vogelsong are fairly average when it comes to avoiding contact and pitching with control, but Vogelsong is a little harder to trust. Both this season and in the past, Cain has been more effective at getting outs on balls in play, while Vogelsong has been notably inefficient, averaging 3.92 pitches per plate appearance and fewer than six innings per start. That matters less in a two-start week, but it's part of what makes Vogelsong a less attractive option than the above pitchers on this list.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Vogelsong: Ervin Santana, Tim Hudson, Jason Hammel

18. Justin Verlander, DET (at ARI, at LAA)

It's no longer realistic to expect Verlander to blow hitters away, but in late June, he seemed to have figured out a way to succeed with lesser stuff. Over a three-start span, Verlander pitched with pinpoint control, walking just two batters over 19 innings while garnering 20 strikeouts. In his final two starts before the break, Verlander continued to avoid walks, but according to BrooksBaseball.net, his average fastball velocity languished at 92.5 mph. as opposed to 94.0 mph in his prior starts. The results weren't pretty, as Verlander notched only seven Ks in 12 1/3 innings while allwoing nine runs, all earned. There's been more bad than good for Verlander this season, but he has shown signs of promise, like in his recent three-game rebound. It's probably best to sit him, but he's a reasonable last-resort choice.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Verlander: Tim Hudson, Jason Hammel, Lance Lynn

19. John Lackey, BOS (at TOR, at TB)

Lackey is in the midst of a four-game slide of his own, and it may not be coincidental that three of those starts have come away from Fenway Park. Even though Lackey has experienced a renaissance in his two seasons since returning from Tommy John surgery, in both 2013 and 2014, he has struggled on the road. This season's 4.47 road ERA bests last season's mark by single point, and in both campaigns, he has been highly vulnerable to home runs in away games. The one start that Lackey has pitched at home during his slump came against the slugging Orioles, as a pair of homers neutralized the impact of 11 strikeouts. A road start against the Blue Jays is dangerous, even without Edwin Encarnacion, and the Rays' offense has found new life in recent weeks. Lackey owners can look forward to a home stand in Fantasy Week 18 (July 28-Aug. 3), but until then, they should first see if they can find a safer back-of-the-rotation option.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Lackey: Jason Hammel, Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmermann

20. T.J. House, CLE (at MIN, at KC)

House's Fantasy stats -- a 1-2 record with a 4.40 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and 30 strikeouts over 45 innings -- are hardly noteworthy, at least in a good way. His supporting stats, including a 64 percent ground ball rate, 66 percent strikes thrown rate and 10 percent whiff rate, are actually pretty enticing. House has deserved better results, but he has been victimized by a .293 batting average on grounders that looks just plain unlucky, and by four short-distance home runs (according to ESPN Hit Tracker's criteria). With a 3.57 ERA over his last four starts, the turnaround has already begun for House, and with starts against the Twins and Royals this week, it could easily continue. Both teams are among the bottom third in the majors in batting average against ground ball pitchers.

Start the following one-start pitchers over House: Lance Lynn, Jordan Zimmermann, Danny Salazar

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Player News
Jason Kipnis not "at full speed"
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(2:54 pm ET) One day after serving as the Indians' designated hitter, Jason Kipnis was left out of the Indians' starting lineup for Monday's game at the Royals. Indians manager Terry Francona told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he had Kipnis batting seventh on Sunday, "because I don't think he's going to be at full speed," as he continues to deal with a hamstring injury.

Kipnis has now started just twice in the last six games.


Wilfredo Tovar getting the call
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:47 pm ET) According to NJ.com, the Mets will call up Wilfredo Tovar for Tuesday's game at Washington. They need an extra infielder with Dilson Herrera sidelined by a strained right quadriceps.

Tovar has spent most of 2014 at Double-A Binghamton, hitting .282 with a .690 OPS in 255 at-bats there.


Danny Duffy set for Monday start
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(2:43 pm ET) Danny Duffy was in the Royals' starting lineup for Monday's game versus the Indians, as expected. He had his last two turns in the rotation skipped, as he recovered from inflammation in his left shoulder.

Mark Trumbo aiming to elevate ball
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:43 pm ET) Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Trumbo homered twice Sunday at Colorado, giving him 11 in 305 at-bats this year. According to the Arizona Republic, he's been looking to improve his home run total by hitting the ball in the air.

"There's no money for me on the ground," Trumbo said. "I need to drive the ball. I need to hit the ball in the air. It's frustrating when you're not doing it, but fortunately today I was able to get a few out there, and that's kind of what I need to do."

According to FanGraphs.com, Trumbo's fly-ball rate is actually a bit higher than it was last season, but fewer of those fly balls are resulting in home runs. The former Angels slugger missed 71 games earlier this season with a stress fracture in his foot.

"Looking at my numbers, if I'm a 30-home run guy, maybe I'm not that far off pace for missing half the year," said Trumbo. "But it feels like this year it's been more frustrating. The balls I've hit hard have been lower for outs. You look around the league, and the guys who are in my same mold probably are getting the ball up in the air. That's what I've got to do, too."


John Jaso, Craig Gentry likely done
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:36 pm ET) Athletics manager Bob Melvin acknowledged Sunday that catcher John Jaso and outfielder Craig Gentry are running out of time to return from their concussions and could miss the rest of the season, according to MLB.com.

"With eight games left," Melvin said, "there's always that possibility."

Craig suffered his concussion Sept. 9 after suffering one previously in 2011. Jaso's came way back in August. He was expected to return as a pinch-hitter and part-time DH at one point, but a visit with a concussion specialist Sept. 10 pushed back his timetable.


Jurickson Profar's shoulder still not feeling right
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:27 pm ET) Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar, who has spent all of 2014 rehabbing a torn muscle in the back of his armpit, won't play in the Arizona Fall League as hoped, according to the Dallas Morning News, and will instead visit with sports medicine specialists across the country to try and find a resolution to an injury that should have healed long ago.

"He's worked extremely hard, but he hasn't bounced back," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We need to get him right, so we are gathering additional opinions from a number of the best doctors out there. It's been a frustrating case."

Profar was named the top prospect according to Baseball America prior to 2013. His availability for the start of 2015 is at this point unknown.


Orioles shuffle starting rotation
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:19 pm ET) The Orioles will start right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez at the Yankees on Tuesday, allowing them to stick to their plan of giving each of their starting pitchers an extra day of rest heading into the postseason.

"There's a fine line between not having enough rest and having too much rest, so we're trying to have every guy that pitches get one extra day before the start," manager Buck Showalter told the Baltimore Sun. “We're going to try to give everybody, so you're not too far away from the ball but you get a little extra rest. They all seem to respond well to that."

While left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will start Monday at the Yankees, right-hander Chris Tillman won't start again until Friday at Toronto. Miguel Gonzalez will start the team's final game Sunday at Toronto.

As of now, Bud Norris and Kevin Gausman are scheduled to start Wednesday's and Thursday's games at the Yankees, but that could change. Jimenez could end up making a second start before season's end.


Derek Jeter will play final seven games
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:05 pm ET) Manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News that he intends to have retiring shortstop Derek Jeter in the starting lineup for each of the Yankees' final seven games.

"Obviously, some of those days are going to be DH days to keep him going," Girardi said.

Jeter has begun his final homestand with four straight multi-hit games, batting .471 (8 for 17) with a home run and two doubles during that stretch.

"He's hit the ball with more authority," Girardi said. "That's the ups and downs of a hitter. A lot of times, when a guy is older and they're going through it, everyone's ready to write him off. That's what happens. That's the nature of the business. But he's swung the bat extremely well."


Marcell Ozuna's ankle injury does him in
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:54 pm ET) According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the ankle sprain Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna suffered Sunday against the Nationals is in fact a high ankle sprain that will sideline him for the final week of the regular season.

First baseman Justin Bour could get more playing time with Ozuna sidelined, with Garrett Jones shifting to the outfield.


Domonic Brown looks good for Tuesday
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:28 pm ET) Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown was out of the starting lineup for a third straight game Sunday at Oakland, but his right hand had healed enough for him to pinch hit. He struck out in his only at-bat.

According to MLB.com, he expects to return Tuesday at Miami.

"It's just a bruise," Brown said. "We took the X-ray and everything came back negative. I'm all good to go."


 
 
 
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