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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
Rockies 2B DJ LeMahieu breaks loose with three-hit game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) So much for the slump plaguing Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu. He ended that in style Saturday night with three hits in a loss to Arizona.

LeMahieu ripped three singles, including one that tallied a run in the third inning. He also scored a run and raised his average back to .300 in breaking a 3-for-30 slide.


Diamondbacks CF A.J. Pollock has strong effort Saturday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:52 am ET) Diamondbacks leadoff hitter A.J. Pollock did a nice job setting the table Saturday and allowed his team to feast on the Rockies.

Pollock slammed a double and single, drove in two runs and scored another. His double plated a pair in the fourth inning.

The center fielder now boasts a solid slash line of .304/.348/.465. He has nine hits in his last 19 at-bats.


Rockies SP David Hale ineffective in loss to Diamondbacks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:47 am ET) At least Rockies starter David Hale did not give up five runs Saturday against Arizona. However, four was bad enough.

Hale had allowed five runs in each of his previous three starts. But he wasn't much better in a loss to the Diamondbacks, his fourth straight. He surrendered three earned runs on five hits and three walks.

The right-hander yielded two runs in the first on a groundout and single, then two more in the fourth on a double by A.J. Pollock. Wildness caused him to throw 104 pitches - just 57 for strikes - through five.

Hale has given up 22 runs on 36 hits and 10 walks in his last 27 2/3 innings pitched to send his ERA soaring to 5.89.


Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler perfect in non-save situation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:40 am ET) A three-run Diamondbacks eighth inning wrecked a save opportunity for closer Brad Ziegler, but he didn't perform like he was affected by it Saturday night.

Ziegler retired Colorado in order in the ninth. His sinker was working - all three were groundouts.

He has been pretty much lights-out over the last month. He has not allowed a run over 11 innings during that time and has recorded eight saves.


Diamondbacks SP Patrick Corbin has triumphant return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:35 am ET) Mark the return of Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin a success. His first start after recovering from Tommy John surgery nearly two years ago resulted in a victory Saturday night.

Corbin allowed two runs on eight hits in five innings with no walks and three strikeouts against Colorado. He blanked the Rockies aside from the third, when RBI hits by Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu tied the game. He left after tossing 76 pitches.


Padres RP Dale Thayer makes first rehab appearance Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:32 am ET) Padres reliever Dale Thayer began his minor league rehab assignment on Saturday. Thayer made the start for Double-A San Antonio, allowing three runs on three hits in one inning of work. 

The right-hander has been on the disabled list since June 24--and hasn't pitched since June 16--due to a strained shoulder. It is not known when Thayer will be ready to return to the Padres' bullpen.


Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig not worrying manager over power outage
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:18 am ET) Don Mattingly claims to be unconcerned about the declining power numbers of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. But perhaps he should be.

The numbers are pronounced. Puig has just three home runs in 35 games this season. He has just seven in nearly 400 plate appearances since appearing in the Home Run Derby before the 2014 All-Star Game.

Puig missed 38 games this year due to a hamstring injury and four more when a blister opened on his left hand. Mattingly believes those setbacks have played a role in the power outage.

"Before he was hurt he already had two and that was in like 12 games," Mattingly explained to the Orange County Register. "So he was off to a decent start. Then he got hurt and that was an extended time. ... Home runs come in bunches. I don't really worry about home runs. I worry about at-bats and I think they've been OK."

Puig indeed owns a strong .287/.378/.457 slash line. But he hasn't blasted off in his last 20 games.


Rangers OF Josh Hamilton has groin strain, status uncertain
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:12 am ET) Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton did not play on Saturday in-part because of a groin strain. Hamilton had exited Friday's game in the seventh inning, and had an MRI on Saturday, though the results have not been made available as of yet.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister did say Saturday was a planned day off for Hamilton, but there does seem to be some concern in regards to Hamilton's health.

"Obviously, we’ll see where he is throughout the night," Banister said, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We’ll continue to try to manage how he feels. This is a guy we’d like to have for an extended period of time. I’m trying my best to figure this whole thing out with him and what is best for Josh."

Hamilton just returned on Tuesday from a stay on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. His status for Sunday's series-finale against the Angels is in question at this point. 


Cubs RF Jorge Soler (ankle) ready to return on Sunday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:01 am ET) The Cubs are set to activate right fielder Jorge Soler from the disabled list on Sunday. Soler has been out since June 3 with a sprained left ankle, but he has made four rehab outings.

Soler struggled though, going 2 for 13 in the four games. But manager Joe Maddon doesn't necessarily buy into those stats.

"I don't worry about that stuff," Maddon said, per MLB.com. "To me, it's a matter of, 'If he's healthy and he's seeing the ball, what does his timing look like?' Those are the kinds of things you're trying to get from the guys down there."

Soler is expected to be in the lineup for the series-finale against the Marlins on Sunday. He was batting .237 (9 for 38) with a homer and five RBI over his last 10 games prior to the injury.


Red Sox returning RF Shane Victorino gives encouraging effort
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) Red Sox veteran right fielder Shane Victorino didn't look like a guy Saturday that had not played for nearly seven weeks.

Victorino slammed two hits and scored twice batting eighth in a defeat of Houston after recovering from lower-body strains.

"He steps right back in with a couple of base hits," John Farrell exclaimed to the Boston Herald. "We all know the start and stop of his season. To have another guy in the bottom of the order right now with his base-stealing ability, the base-running ability, two base hits against a right-hander today, very encouraging."


 
 
 
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