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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 19

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The post-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, big names have moved, and yet the feeling that mixed league owners will have in setting their rotations won't be much different than it was before. David Price and Jon Lester have new teams, but they remain as must-start options. John Lackey and Justin Masterson crossed over from the American League to fill out the Cardinals' rotation, but both can be treated in much the same way as they have been all season.

Of the big-name pitchers who were traded, Lackey gains the most value, moving from the doubles magnet that is Fenway Park to pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium. This week, though, Lackey is scheduled to make a single start at Baltimore, so he is a borderline option in standard mixed leagues. There are several high-end pitchers scheduled to make two starts in Fantasy Week 19 (Aug. 4-10), but finding one on waivers to replace Lackey or other one-start pitchers of similar value for this scoring period may not be easy. John Danks, Rubby De La Rosa, Brett Anderson and Hector Santiago are all available in at least 30 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, but all carry enough risk to be inferior options to the likes of Lackey, Bartolo Colon and Jesse Hahn, all of whom are scheduled to make one start.

Of the two-start pitchers likely to be available in standard mixed leagues, Charlie Morton, Brandon McCarthy and Kevin Gausman have the best chance to make benching a solid one-start pitcher worth your while. All possess considerable downside, too, so your best two-start options may ultimately be the ones already on your team.

One potential two-start option not included in this week's initial rankings is Jimmy Nelson. He has been scratched from his Saturday start at the Cardinals with a blister, but if he is ready to return to the Brewers' rotation on Tuesday to face the Giants, Nelson would line up for two starts this week. If Nelson doesn't draw the series opener against the Giants and next Sunday's finale versus the Dodgers, Yovani Gallardo would likely inherit those assignments. Nelson would be a must-start as a two-start option, while Gallardo would make this week's "bubble" list.

Monday update: Nelson has sufficiently recovered from his blister in order to make Tuesday's start, so barring further problems, he will give owners two starts this week. In Nelson's last two starts, it's the hitters who have gotten blistered, striking out 11 times, walking just three times and hitting 23 ground balls over 13 innings. Having followed up on his dominant performance in the Pacific Coast League, Nelson can be considered a must-start option for Week 19.

So can Alex Wood, who gained a second start over the weekend. The Braves' temporary demotion of Mike Minor to the bullpen plus a day off on Thursday made that possible. Josh Tomlin and Nick Martinez are also new additions to the ranks of two-start pitchers, though both have been relegated to the "pitchers to avoid" list.

Must start two-start options
1. Clayton Kershaw vs. LAA, at MIL
2. Felix Hernandez vs. ATL, vs. CHW
3. Zack Greinke vs. LAA, at MIL
4. David Price at NYY, at TOR
5. Max Scherzer at NYY, at TOR
6. Johnny Cueto at CLE, vs. MIA
7. Corey Kluber vs. CIN, at NYY
8. Garrett Richards at LAD, vs. BOS
9. Alex Wood at SEA, vs. WAS
10. Jeff Samardzija vs. TB, vs. MIN
11. Alex Cobb at OAK, at CHC
12. Gio Gonzalez vs. NYM, at ATL
13. Zack Wheeler at WAS, at PHI
14. Jimmy Nelson vs. SF, vs. LAD
15. Tim Hudson at NYM, at KC
16. Dallas Keuchel at PHI, vs. TEX
17. Tanner Roark vs. BAL, at ATL

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

18. Phil Hughes, MIN (vs. SD, at OAK)

Hughes' ownership rate hasn't fallen much over a month-and-a-half-long slump during which he has gone 3-5 with a 6.08 ERA, but close to half of his owners are benching him. Outside of shallow leagues, it's time to get Hughes back on the virtual mound, as his recent slide isn't entirely of his own doing. The Twins have given him little run support, and it's probably not all Hughes' fault that he hasn't stranded many baserunners. Pitchers with a ratio of 40 strikeouts to five walks and a .117 Isolated Power over a 47 1/3-inning span are usually far better than average at preventing runs, and these are the ratios that Hughes has put up during his cold snap. Even if the Twins' offense doesn't do its part to help Hughes to rebound, he looks due for a major uptick in Fantasy production.

Start Hughes over the following one-start pitchers: Anibal Sanchez, Ian Kennedy, Ervin Santana

19. Danny Duffy, KC (at ARI, vs. SF)

Duffy has a history of control issues, but Wednesday's six-walk performance against the Twins has been an aberration this season. Over the last two months, Duffy has been downright stingy with free passes, issuing just 23 of them over 68 2/3 innings. In the absence of a high strikeout rate, recent improvements in control have helped Duffy to compile a 2.42 ERA and 1.12 WHIP this season, but that's not the whole story -- or even the main plot. Because Duffy has been spared the potential dangers of hitter's parks for most of this season, he has enjoyed the benefits of a high flyball rate (i.e., a 12.5 percent popup rate and .235 BABIP) without suffering the detriments. Duffy is probably due for some regression, but especially with a start against the ice-cold Giants, the downturn will probably happen some other week.

Start Duffy over the following one-start pitchers: Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, Jake Odorizzi

20. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY (vs. DET, vs. CLE)

Kuroda had been allowing too many home runs earlier in the season, and with an ERA stubbornly clinging to the mid-4.00s in the middle of June, it looked as if Kuroda may have slipped from Fantasy relevance. In his eight most recent starts, Kuroda has yielded only five long balls and a .128 Isolated Power -- and voila! -- he has produced a 3.44 ERA during that time. Kuroda hasn't become a better ground ball pitcher, but he has been better at avoiding contact, putting up an 11 percent whiff rate during this relative hot streak. He's still not overpowering, but then again, Kuroda never has been. He's just a solid pitcher who is a safe play in two-start weeks.

Start Kuroda over the following one-start pitchers: Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta

21. Lance Lynn, STL (vs. BOS, at BAL)

The Cardinals' acquisition of Lackey ruined Lynn's two-start week for Week 18, as Lackey took over Lynn's scheduled start against the Brewers on Sunday. That just pushes Lynn's next start to Tuesday, which gives him two turns in the rotation for Week 19. Like Lackey, Lynn has benefitted from playing home games in a stadium that is tough on home run hitters, and that makes Tuesday's start against the Red Sox at Busch Stadium an attractive one for Fantasy owners. Though he has been less effective and more homer-prone on the road, Lynn has fared well this season in starts at Milwaukee and Colorado and avoided disasters in Cincinnati and Toronto. That makes it easier to start Lynn this week knowing he will finish it in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Start Lynn over the following one-start pitchers: Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, Doug Fister

22. Mark Buehrle, TOR (vs. BAL, vs. DET)

July wasn't Buehrle's most enjoyable month, as he exited with a 5.74 ERA and no starts of seven innings or more. His trademark control was as good as ever, but he was unusually amenable to allowing flyballs. That contribued to a .496 slugging percentage for the month, as batters have been clobbering his changeup. According to BrooksBaseball.net, that pitch lost some movement over the past month. Buehrle has had some good starts recently, including Wednesday's victory over the Red Sox, despite his growing flyball rate. His velocity and control have remained intact, so despite some recent struggles, Buehrle is still trustworthy as a two-start option.

Start Buehrle over the following one-start pitchers: Jake Arrieta, Doug Fister, Francisco Liriano

23. Charlie Morton, PIT (vs. MIA, vs. SD)

Morton's midseason run of high strikeout counts has come to an end, as he has notched only eight Ks over his last three starts. His ERA has inched upwards over his last four starts, but pitching to contact is only part of Morton's problem. He has been merely average in inducing grounders over that period, and while his sinker has continued to be effective, he is getting fewer ground balls on his curve, according to BrooksBaseball.net. Morton has lost some velocity on all his pitches over the four-start stretch, and his curveball has lost some of its break. While Morton benefits from good matchups this week, he has raised enough red flags to warrant caution. He is not as safe of a two-start option now as he was just a few weeks back.

Start Morton over the following one-start pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Bartolo Colon, John Lackey

24. Brandon McCarthy, NYY (vs. DET, vs. CLE)

McCarthy's backers who watched him put up career-best strikeout and ground ball rates through the season's first three months might feel vindicated, now that he has started to turn his season around. Through his first 16 starts, McCarthy was saddled with a 1-10 record and 5.38 ERA he didn't seem to deserve, but over his last six outings (two with the Diamondbacks and four with the Yankees), he's enjoying the good life with a 5-0 record and 2.41 ERA. In terms of ERA, McCarthy might not be overperforming by all that much, but he is still scuffling with a 1.29 WHIP. That might be as good as it gets for McCarthy, who has registered a line drive rate in excess of 25 percent for the second year in a row. According to BaseballHeatMaps.com, McCarthy owns one of the majors' highest average distances for flyballs allowed, so there is more evidence to show that when he's getting hit, he's getting hit hard. There's much to like about McCarthy's recent trends, but the power-hitting Tigers and Indians could easily bring a halt to his hot streak.

Start the following one-start pitchers over McCarthy: Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, Doug Fister

25. Kevin Gausman, BAL (at WAS, vs. STL)

Just as McCarthy had posted peripherals that seemed too good for a 5.00-plus ERA, the 3.12 ERA Gausman has put up since his early June recall seems like it could be much higher, given his mediocre 5.9 K/9 ratio, 3.4 BB/9 ratio and 44 percent ground ball rate. The only thing in Gausman's stat line that stands out is the .092 Isolated Power he's allowed. Like Julio Teheran and Phil Hughes, the former LSU star hasn't allowed much hard contact on flyballs. According to BaseballHeatMaps.com, flyballs hit off Gausman this season have travelled an average of 268 feet, putting him not far behind Hughes and Teheran in the rankings. Even if he keeps this up, Gausman hasn't shown the command that Teheran and Hughes have, so he's not a must-start by any means

Start the following one-start pitchers over Gausman: Chris Archer, Jake Arrieta, Doug Fister

26. Alfredo Simon, CIN (at CLE, vs. MIA)

Simon doesn't get many strikeouts, and he gives up too many homers, yet his regression just refuses to come. He hasn't been going deep into games as consistently as he did earlier this season, but he has not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 27, and he has done so only twice all season. Because the Reds have a good defensive infield, I'm willing to entertain the notion that the .172 batting average Simon is allowing on grounders might not be as fluky as it looks. That said, I still expect that average to rise somewhat, while his 80 percent strand rate should shrink. If you need another reason to be bearish on Simon, he will visit the Indians, who have been a good power-hitting team at home. Then he will face the Marlins at home, where he has allowed 11 home runs over 63 1/3 innings.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Simon: Jake Arrieta, Doug Fister, Francisco Liriano

27. Brett Anderson, COL (vs. CHC, at ARI)

Over seven starts this season, Anderson has not been consistent with his control or his aversion to contact, but it's hard not to take notice of his last three outings. In facing the Pirates twice and the Cubs once, Anderson has allowed three runs over 20 1/3 innings, while striking out 18 batters and walking five. He also allowed just four extra-base hits, all of which were doubles. It's highly encouraging that two of those starts came at Coors Field, and this week's home start is another tilt with the Cubs. They might not make much contact, but the Cubs are a decent power-hitting team. Then there's a visit to Chase Field, where the Diamondbacks have racked up a .149 Isolated Power, mostly without Mark Trumbo. This will be an interesting test of the limits of Anderson's ground ball prowess, but there's enough promise here to try him out this week in standard mixed leagues.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Anderson: Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Jesse Hahn

28. Tim Lincecum, SF (at MIL, at KC)

The incredible six-game joyride, which started with Lincecum's late June no-no, has ended abruptly. After allowing just four runs over those half-dozen appearances (which included a save), Lincecum has allowed an eruption of 11 runs -- all earned -- over 7 2/3 innings in his two most recent outings. Good control was key to his earlier run, but so was an unusually high ground ball rate. Lincecum has continued to throw strikes, but he has induced only five grounders in each of his last two starts. If this is the beginning of a new trend, then Lincecum could be in real trouble when he faces the Brewers. Then again, Lincecum's general pattern of inconsistency is reason enough to shy away from him, but until his control abandons him, he is still worth a second look.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Lincecum: John Lackey, Jesse Hahn, Danny Salazar

29. Jason Hammel, OAK (vs. TB, vs. MIN)

Hammel's first three starts with the A's weren't good, but after three-plus highly successful months with the Cubs, it seemed appropriate to cut him some slack. He hadn't had as much success with inducing whiffs since getting traded, but when he couldn't keep the contact-challenged Astros from making contact in his most recent start, Hammel's struggles started to look more serious. Hammel did get four strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings at Houston, but the Astros swung and missed only five times on 92 pitches. Because Hammel had been so effective and hard to make contact against during his extended stretch with the Cubs, he still deserves another chance...if you are truly desperate. Otherwise, this would be a good week to sit Hammel and watch for signs of a rebound.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hammel: Jesse Hahn, Danny Salazar, Mat Latos

Two-start pitchers to avoid
30. Bud Norris at TOR, vs. STL
31. Dillon Gee vs. SF, at PHI
32. Hector Santiago at LAD, vs. BOS
33. Josh Tomlin vs. CIN, at NYY
34. Wade Miley vs. KC, vs. COL
35. Brad Hand at PIT, at CIN
36. Rubby De La Rosa at STL, at LAA
37. John Danks vs. TEX, at SEA
38. Kyle Kendrick vs. HOU, vs. NYM
39. Travis Wood at COL, vs. TB
40. Hector Noesi vs. TEX, at SEA
41. Nick Martinez at CHW, at HOU

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Angels, Huston Street haven't talked extension yet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) The Angels and closer Huston Street have not talked about an extension yet, according to MLB.com.

Both sides are reportedly interested in a deal, but Street wanted to wait a week in order to settle in to camp. Once that happens, the two sides are expected to start negotiating a new deal. Street is entering the final year of his contract, and will make $7 million in 2015.

Street, 31, posted a 1.37 ERA over 59 1/3 innings last year.


Phillies' Ryan Howard working on his swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:20 am ET) Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is working on his swing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer

Howard has spent time working with Charlie Manuel during camp. Manuel was brought in as spring training hitting instructor. Manager Ryan Sandberg has noticed the change in Howard's approach already. "As far as making some adjustments there, to really zone in to something that can really be productive for him and a little bit more consistent," Sandberg said. "I think there has been a little tweaking going on there."

Howard apparently has looked different at the plate. His stance has been described as "looser" and his hands are much lower when he starts his swing. 

The 35-year-old hit .223/.310/.380 over 569 at-bats last year. 


Dodgers unsure how Grandal, Ellis will split time
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Dodgers aren't sure how they'll platoon their two catchers, according to the Orange County Register.

A.J. Ellis has been the team's primary option the past few seasons, but the club brought in Yasmani Grandal during the offseason. While Grandal has a much higher offensive upside, it's unclear how much he'll play once the regular season begins. 

"There’s nothing going to come out of this camp where we’re going to say, ‘OK, this guy is going to start 72 percent of the time’" general manager Andrew Friedman said. "It’s going to be much more about Donnie (Mattingly) writing the lineup each and every day for what gives us the best chance to win that day."

Mattingly admitted that Grandal has "tremendous upside offensively," so it's possible he could lead that way more often. While Mattingly has indicated that he doesn't want to assign any personal catchers yet, there's a sense Ellis could be used when Clayton Kershaw is on the mound. 

Grandal hit .225/.327/.401 over 377 at-bats last year. Ellis hit .191/.323/.254 over 283 at-bats. 


Giants sign Ronny Cedeno to minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Giants have signed infielder Ronny Cedeno to a minor-league deal, according to the PCL transactions page.

Cedeno, 32, spent most of the year in the minors. He hit .313/.368/.431 over 281 at-bats in Triple-A. Cedeno received nine at-bats with the Phillies, but failed to record a hit. 


Brewers' Scooter Gennett glad to have full-time role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Brewers infielder Scooter Gennett is glad to have a full-time role heading into 2015, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Gennett spent last season in a platoon with Rickie Weeks, but with Weeks gone, he'll assume the full-time role. Gennett said he feels far less stressed about his position on the team this spring. "Seeing as I'm pretty much the everyday guy, that eliminated the stress, or whatever you want to call it, off my back," he said. 

"Just not having to worry about stuff out of my control. I've put myself in this position where I've earned the job, I've shown them what I can do, and now it's about consistently doing it," he added. 

Manager Ron Roenicke has already said he'll give Gennett plenty of opportunities to prove himself against left-handers. 

Gennett, 24, hit .289/.320/.434 over 440 at-bats last season. 


Cubs' Arismendy Alcantara will play all over the place
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Cubs utility man Arismendy Alcantara is going to play a lot of positions this season, according to ESPN.

Alcantara saw time in center last season, but the team's trade for Dexter Fowler will alter his role. Alcantara says he's ready for the challenge. "Mentally you have to be ready for that," Alcantara said. "They want me to play second base and the outfield." He's also expected to see some time at third base. 

Manager Joe Maddon is glad to have such a versatile player on the team. "When you get a guy like that and you want to give someone a rest, you don't feel like you're losing anything," Joe Maddon said. "And the big attraction there is also in-game. It's like having an extra guy on the bench."

The 23-year-old Alcantara hit .205/.254/.367 over 278 at-bats last year. 


Rockies ask Corey Dickerson to be more patient
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Rockies want Corey Dickerson to be a little more patient at the plate, according to MLB.com.

Dickerson had a breakout season in 2014, hitting .312/.364/.567 over 436 at-bats. He walked in 7.7 percent of his plate appearances, which was actually just above the league average. Still, the team wants Dickerson to be slightly less of a free-swinging this year.

"I talked to Corey about adding this much discipline to his game," manager Walt Weiss said. "We don't want that much, because then he wouldn't be Corey Dickerson." Weiss explained that it's difficult to deliver this type of message, as Dickerson's aggressiveness makes him effective. 

Dickerson said he would work harder to study pitchers and work on his approach during games. 

The 25-year-old is expected to open the year as the team's starter in left.


Marlins unlikely to add reliever now
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Marlins are unlikely to add a reliever now that Francisco Rodriguez is off the market, according to MLB.com.

The Marlins were involved in negotiations for K-Rod through at least Wednesday, and were reportedly willing to offer $10 million over two years. The club has been looking for a veteran reliever for some time, but may pass now that Rodriguez has signed with the Brewers.

Both Rafael Soriano and Phil Coke have been connected to Miami, but the team would likely only sign those players to minor-league contracts.


Diamondbacks' Chase Anderson a favorite for the rotation
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) The Diamondbacks consider Chase Anderson a favorite to break camp in the rotation, according to azcentral.com.

The club wants to create a lot of competition for the rotation, and it was initially believed Anderson would be competing for a spot. General manager Dave Stewart sort of quashed those rumors, saying he perceives Anderson as a strong favorite right now. "Chase Anderson won nine games for us last year; you have to strongly consider him as part of our rotation," Stewart said. 

Anderson is expected to pair with Josh Collmenter and Jeremy Hellickson for now. The club will determine the final two spots in the rotation during camp.

Anderson, 27, posted a 4.01 ERA over 114 1/3 innings last year.


Indians' Francona: Swisher 'swinging the bat really well'
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(2/26/2015) Indians manager Terry Francona has been satisfied with Nick Swisher's performance during batting practice, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

"He's swinging the bat really well," Francona said. "He's under control and he probably has to be (because of his knees). But he's using the whole field. He really looks good." 

Swisher has been working with the team's hitting coaches on trying to go up the middle more often. Francona said that strategy has already translated to his batting practice sessions. 

Running still remains an issue for Swisher, however. He was able to do some drills on Thursday, but reportedly looked uncomfortable during the session. The club expects he'll be ready for games in mid-March.

Swisher, 34, hit .208/.278/.331 over 360 at-bats last year. 


 
 
 
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