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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 20

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For Fantasy Week 20 (Aug. 11-17), there will be no shortage of two-start pitchers on waivers in standard mixed leagues. With the season's finish line drawing ever closer, the challenge in choosing the best sources for extra starts will be a critical one to your title run.

There are plenty of two-start pitchers available who at one time or another have been worth using, but that doesn't mean they should start for you in this particular week. Jonathon Niese? He's been allowing a lot of hard contact lately. Chris Young? He's been reliable for most of this season, but a matchup against the Tigers at Comerica Park looks like an eruption waiting to happen. Joe Kelly? His successful Red Sox debut could make you overlook the potential damage to your WHIP, given his persistent wildness.

The two-start options shaping up to be the best ones on waivers aren't necessarily the obvious ones. Heading into the weekend, Collin McHugh, Jeff Locke and Kyle Hendricks are all still available in the majority of CBSSports.com leagues, and all three are worth streaming this week. To find out why, I'll provide the details just below.

As always, these are preliminary lists, and there are usually names added and subtracted in Monday's update. One situation to monitor over the weekend is the Orioles' rotation, which once again is in a state of flux. The activation of Ubaldo Jimenez opens up the possibility of a six-man rotation, and with a day off on Thursday, that would eliminate the possibility of a two-start pitcher on the staff. It also could mean that one of the current starters gets moved to the bullpen or the minors. Of the current starters, any one of Kevin Gausman, Bud Norris or Wei-Yin Chen could wind up with a two-start week, but someone would have to be removed from the rotation to make it happen. Gausman would be the only one worth starting in standard mixed leagues this week with two starts, but because he has been struggling with command, he's not a must-start option.

Monday update: The Orioles resolved their rotation situation on Saturday when they optioned Miguel Gonzalez to Triple-A Norfolk. Norris gets the start on Monday against the Yankees, lining him up for a two-start week. With Scott Carroll having his next turn skipped Chris Sale also inherits a two-start week for the White Sox. Tommy Milone also joins the two-start club, as he will be recalled by the Twins for Monday's series opener at the Astros. Sale is, as usual, a must-start option, while Milone and Norris are best reserved for deeper mixed leagues and AL-only formats for this week.

While the weekend trade that sent Kevin Correia from the Twins to the Dodgers opened up an opportunity for Milone in Minnesota, it wipes out a two-start week for Hyun-Jin Ryu. Correia's move also endangers his own two-start week, even though he will start for the Dodgers on Monday at the Braves. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com that the team's current six-man rotation could be temporary, so Correia could get moved to the bullpen after Monday's start.

Jacob deGrom will miss at least one start, as he will have his right shoulder examined, but there is a possibility he could return by this weekend. Gerrit Cole (lat) could come back from his disabled list stint this week, which would put Edinson Volquez's two-start week in jeopardy.

Must start two-start options
1. Felix Hernandez vs. TOR, at DET
2. Chris Sale at SF, vs. TOR
3. Adam Wainwright at MIA, vs. SD
4. Jon Lester at KC, at ATL
5. Julio Teheran vs. LAD, vs. OAK
6. Sonny Gray at KC, at ATL
7. Jake Arrieta vs. MIL, at NYM
8. Yordano Ventura vs. OAK, at MIN
9. Doug Fister at NYM, vs. PIT
10. Rick Porcello at PIT, vs. SEA

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

11. Collin McHugh, HOU (vs. MIN, at BOS)

McHugh just might be the most underappreciated strikeout pitcher in recent memory. He's averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings, yet his activation rate has yet to eclipse 48 percent. There are perfectly good reasons for this, namely that McHugh has been prone to allowing too many walks and extra-base hits. Over his last six starts, though, McHugh has improved his control, walking just 10 batters over 36 2/3 innings. Even if his control issues resurface, he can maintain his 1.08 WHIP by avoiding contact (13 percent swinging strike rate) and inducing popups (11 percent rate). McHugh still pays a price for having just a 43 percent ground ball rate, but that's all that prevents him from being on the must-start list.

Start McHugh over the following one-start pitchers: Johnny Cueto, Dallas Keuchel, Jimmy Nelson

12. Justin Verlander, DET (at PIT, vs. SEA)

Not long ago it would have been hard to believe that we could get excited about Verlander having a four-game quality start streak, but that's what it's come to. Other than cutting back on walks, Verlander isn't doing much lately that's different from what he has done for most of this disappointing season, and he's settled into being a pretty ordinary big league pitcher. The one thing that still stands out about Verlander is his ability to pitch deep into games. He may not do much for your team's ERA and WHIP, but with two starts, Verlander is still capable of helping with strikeouts and wins.

Start Verlander over the following one-start pitchers: Ian Kennedy, Ervin Santana, John Lackey

13. Kyle Hendricks, CHC (vs. MIL, at NYM)

Hendricks has come pretty much as advertised by his minor league track record: an above-average ground ball rate, excellent control and decent swing-and-miss stuff despite his middling velocity. Particularly over his last three starts, Hendricks hasn't been delivering many strikeouts, but his seven-K debut against the Reds, as well as a 9 percent swinging strike rate, shows that the potential is there for him to make a contribution to the category. To be sure, Hendricks will have a hard time maintaining a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.10 WHIP, as he has been fortunate enough to have stranded 82 percent of his baserunners and held opponents to a .125 batting average on grounders. Eventually, Hendricks will turn in some bad starts, but he has the skills to be a viable standard mixed league option.

Start Hendricks over the following one-start pitchers: Ervin Santana, John Lackey, Lance Lynn

14. Tom Koehler, MIA (vs. STL, vs. ARI)

All season long, Koehler has taken advantage of spacious Marlins Park, holding batters to a .288 slugging percentage there, but he's been fairly effective in general lately. Wednesday's outing at the Pirates was a letdown, as he allowed four runs in six innings with four walks, but over the preceding seven starts, he walked only nine batters over 40 innings and compiled a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Those may not be the most impressive numbers, but given that five of those starts came on the road, they're worth a second look. Especially since Koehler will make home starts against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks this week -- two teams that have struggled offensively of late -- he is worth using in standard mixed leagues.

Start Koehler over the following one-start pitchers: John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Zack Wheeler

15. Jeff Locke, PIT (vs. DET, at WAS)

Locke lost his groove over his final three starts in July, as his control showed signs of erosion and he allowed multiple home runs in each game. Four of the seven homers Locke yielded during that stretch were short-distance shots, according to ESPN Hit Tracker's criteria, and he came back strong in his latest start against the Marlins. Most encouraging for Locke were the 69 strikes that he threw out of 100 pitches versus Miami, as control has been his strong suit when things have gone well this season. The Tigers will provide a much tougher test of Locke's ability to minimize extra-base hits, but he'll face them at home where he has limited opponents to a .320 slugging percentage.

Start Locke over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn, Zack Wheeler, Chris Archer

16. Shelby Miller, STL (at MIA, vs. SD)

The old Shelby Miller -- the one who was nearly a strikeout-per-inning pitcher as a rookie last season -- hasn't returned yet, but we can make do with the recent version we've seen. He's still getting whiffs and Ks at a subpar rate, but over his last six outings (including a relief appearance), Miller walked seven batters in 30 innings. That's a welcome sight after he walked nearly a batter every other inning in his first 17 starts. Owners have to be cautious about when they start Miller, as he is still prone to flyballs and line drives. Pitching at Busch Stadium and other pitcher-friendly venues helps, and so do good matchups. Miller has both things going for him this week, so he should give owners a productive week.

Start Miller over the following one-start pitchers: Zack Wheeler, Chris Archer, Wade Miley

17. Drew Smyly, TB (at TEX, vs. NYY)

To judge by Smyly's results since late June, he should be resting quietly on the "pitchers to avoid" list instead of making noise here on the "bubble" list. Smyly is here because he's due for a breakout. Over his last seven starts, which have produced a 2-4 record, 5.54 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, Smyly has an 11 percent swinging strike rate and 11 percent popup rate, but he's been done in by a .388 BABIP. That's a high rate for just about any pitcher, much less a flyball-oriented one like Smyly. Oddly, home runs haven't been much of a problem during that stretch, as he has allowed four over 37 1/3 innings. Now that Smyly is a Ray, he should see his home run rate shrink, especially in his home starts. He gets one of those this week versus the Yankees, and his road start is against the power-deprived Rangers. Surprisingly, the Rangers have hit for even less power at Globe Life Park in Arlington than on the road, so while the venue could pose a challenge for Smyly, it's not as imposing as it may seem.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Smyly: John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Zack Wheeler

18. Jesse Hahn, SD (vs. COL, at STL)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
23. Tommy Milone at HOU, vs. KC
24. Chris Young vs. TOR, at DET
25. Colby Lewis vs. TB, vs. LAA
26. Jarred Cosart vs. STL, vs. ARI
27. Bud Norris vs. NYY, at CLE
28. Joe Kelly at CIN, vs. HOU
29. Chris Capuano at BAL, at TB
30. Edinson Volquez vs. DET, at WAS
31. Mike Minor vs. LAD, vs. OAK
32. Jonathon Niese at PHI, vs. CHC
33. Josh Collmenter at CLE, at MIA
34. Jeremy Guthrie vs. OAK, at MIN
35. T.J. House vs. ARI, vs. BAL
36. Dan Haren at ATL, vs. MIL
37. David Buchanan vs. NYM, at SF
38. Jeremy Hellickson at TEX, vs. NYY
39. Jordan Lyles at SD, vs. CIN
40. Odrisamer Despaigne vs. COL, at STL
41. Brad Peacock vs. MIN, at BOS
42. Nick Tepesch vs. TB, vs. LAA
43. Yohan Flande at SD, vs. CIN

Hahn threw so few innings in the minors that it was hard to know what to make of his initial starts in the majors. The 10.4 K/9 ratio he posted through his first seven starts was far out of line with his minor league numbers, but as we've seen with Jacob deGrom, occasionally a player takes a step forward when he gets promoted to the majors. More often, though, pitchers settle into a lower level of performance, and that's what we've seen with Hahn more recently. Over his last three starts, Hahn has struck out only 10 batters and he has walked nine over 18 2/3 innings. He has needed a .196 BABIP over that span to maintain the illusion of a low ERA and WHIP. Because Hahn has shown strong ground ball tendencies at every level, he remains a viable option in two-start weeks, but he is far from a must-start.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hahn: Lance Lynn, Zack Wheeler, Chris Archer

19. Mat Latos, CIN (vs. BOS, at COL)

Latos has been slow to round into form after missing the first two-and-a-half months of the season, but he is beginning to show signs of progress. Though his velocity has yet to rebound into the mid-90s, Latos has had more success at getting swings-and-misses over his last three starts, and he's notched 16 strikeouts over 20 2/3 innings. That's not a head-turning ratio, but it's a step up from the 5.1 K/9 ratio he sported in his first seven starts. Latos has yet to curb the strong flyball tendencies he's shown this season, but with a 13 percent popup rate and 0.5 HR/9 ratio, he's reaped the benefits of that trend without paying the price. The bill is likely to come when he visits Coors Field in his second start of the week. He just might be able to do enough damage against the Red Sox to make it worth starting him anyway.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Latos: Zack Wheeler, Chris Archer, Wade Miley

20. Yovani Gallardo, MIL (at CHC, at LAD)

Though Gallardo is throwing a little harder than he did a year ago, he has remade himself as a pitch-to-contact type. He has improved his control and ground ball tendencies just enough to make it work, and for the first time in three seasons, Gallardo has a sub-1.30 WHIP. While his current 1.25 mark is far from exceptional, it's a decided improvement over last season's 1.36 WHIP, and in holding opponents to a .119 Isolated Power, Gallardo has been able to prevent runs. Though his stats aren't spectacular, Gallardo should help just enough with ERA and strikeouts in a two-start week to be worth your while.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Gallardo: Chris Archer, Wade Miley, Danny Duffy

21. Wily Peralta, MIL (at CHC, at LAD)

On the surface, Peralta has been sensational over the last four weeks, but some troubling signs have been lurking beneath the surface. Peralta flat out dominated the Giants on Thursday, but their lineup has been punchless since the All-Star break. In the preceding four starts, Peralta posted a 1.71 ERA, but he threw just 61 percent of his pitches for strikes. He also failed to induce more than six swinging strikes in three of those starts. A .189 BABIP over that stretch hid Peralta's control issues and lack of dominance. With other pitchers, I might be inclined to overlook a brief downturn in control, but this is a problem that has dogged Peralta for much of his career. While he has produced the results of a must-start option, you should think twice before putting Peralta in your rotation this week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Peralta: Jose Quintana, Francisco Liriano, James Paxton

22. Drew Hutchison, TOR (at SEA, at CHW)

Hutchison has been so inconsistent that it's hard to trust him even in a two-start week. Then again, his peripherals are intriguing enough that he deserves some consideration. A 10 percent swinging strike rate and 8.2 K/9 ratio could mean a juicy strikeout total over two starts, especially with the White Sox being one of his opponents. Hutchison's 4.39 ERA doesn't look mixed-league appropriate, but a 68 percent strand rate hasn't done him any favors. Because his flyball tendencies might not play well at U.S. Cellular Field, starting Hutchison could backfire badly, but he offers enough upside to be worth a gamble.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hutchison: Francisco Liriano, James Paxton, Tim Hudson

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Player News
Twins' Glen Perkins feeling healthy heading into games
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Twins reliever Glen Perkins is feeling healthy heading into spring games, according to the Pioneer Press.

Perkins was shut down at the end of last season due to forearm and elbow issues. He hasn't experienced any of those issues this spring. "Really the barometer on how my arm feels is the bite on my slider," Perkins said. "If my slider is loopy, then my arm is probably tired, especially my forearm."

Perkins added that he threw a few sliders during a recent bullpen session, and was happy with how they looked. "I told them it was coming and they swung and missed at a few," he said. "It's got good movement right now. That means obviously I'm fresh, but also I'm strong and healthy."

Perkins is expected to pitch during an exhibition game on Wednesday. He posted a 3.65 ERA over 61 2/3 innings last season. 


Red Sox OFs Betts, Castillo to share time in CF this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday that outfielders Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will get equal playing time in center field this spring, MLB.com reports.

"Like we said at the outset of camp, we'll take all of camp to determine that," said Farrell. "They're going to get equal playing time. But I think it's important they both get comfortable with the combination of the guys on the flank because of communication, the responsibilities for balls in the gap, fly ball communication and those priorities."

While Betts had ample time to make an impression on the team during his rookie season, the Red Sox are still getting to know Castillo and his capabilities.

"With Rusney, I think it's a matter of frequent at-bats, more games played," Farrell said. "Particularly after our season concluded, he went to the [Arizona] Fall League and Puerto Rico, and through repetition, I think he's just gotten better timing and consistent routes in the outfield and he's looked very good here in camp so far."

Castillo went 12 for 36 in his short time with the Red Sox last season.


Report: Red Sox, Phillies haven't made progress on Hamels' deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) The Red Sox and Phillies have not made progress on a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Boston Herald. 

The Red Sox have been mentioned as a contender for Hamels in the past, but the club is hesitant to give up their top prospects for the pitcher. Though Phillies' special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld was spotted at Red Sox facilities on Monday, two sources told the Herald that no progress has been made on a deal. 

The Phillies are said to covet either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, but Boston has refused to include either player in a deal.

Hamels, 31, posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last year.


Cardinals' Carpenter seeks to balance aggressiveness, patience
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter hopes to combine the aggressiveness he displayed in 2013 with the patience he showed in 2014, MLB.com reports.

"I've had both extremes of it," Carpenter said. "I've had it where I've led the leagues in walks [2014], and I've had where I've led the league in hits [2013]. I'm trying to search for that perfect balance where you're aggressive, but you're still patient.

"In the postseason, I felt that I was more aggressive than I had been at any point in my career, but at the same time, I wasn't flailing at balls. I didn't lose anything. Now, it's finding the perfect balance to where I'm swinging the bat, I'm being aggressive, I'm trying to do damage, but at the same time, I'm a guy who can walk a lot, get on base and set the tone as a leadoff hitter. I think that's part of growing up as a baseball player. You learn and you adapt and you continue to try to figure out who you are as a hitter."

Carpenter homered four times during last year's postseason after hitting just eight home runs during the regular season, with his first two postseason blasts coming on the first pitch of his at-bats. He's looking to capture that approach more often this season.

"I think he's a smart enough guy to do it because he knows what he does really well," hitting coach John Mabry said. "That's what you take pride in -- those guys who put in all the work to get to where they are and then say, 'I'm not happy.' They want to put in the extra work to get to that next step, the next level."

Carpenter is looking to build off a 2014 season in which he hit .272/.375/.375 with eight home runs and 59 RBI in 595 at-bats.


Mariners' Dustin Ackley to get a lot of playing time this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley will get a ton of playing time this spring, according to MLB.com.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he wants Ackley to get off to a strong start, and will give the outfielder a lot of at-bats in March. Ackley seemed happy with the arrangement. "I think that's good," Ackley said. "The more at-bats you get, the better your timing gets and the more comfortable you feel. I think everybody wants to get at-bats and get ready."

Ackley had a tough first half of the season in 2014, but seemed to come on strong late. He stressed that being strong mentally should help in 2015. "I just need to stay consistent and don't start pressing if I don't get a hit for a couple games or don't do this or that," he said. "It's not being result-oriented and just going out there and playing and trusting in my swing and my mental standpoint."

The 27-year-old hit .245/.293/.398 over 502 at-bats last year. He's expected to open the season in a platoon role with Rickie Weeks. 


Nationals' Williams on Zimmerman: 'His athleticism is key for us'
(6:54 pm ET) After playing most of his career at third base, Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman is set to serve as the team's regular first baseman in 2015, and the team has continued to be impressed with how quickly he's learning the position, Comcast SportsNet reports.

"His athleticism is key for us," manager Matt Williams said. "He catches everything. He doesn’t miss a ball."

Zimmerman's Monday workouts had a new twist, as the team timed him to see how long he takes to get to first base after the point of contact with the ball. He also continued his work on throwing to second base, specifically gauging the positioning of shortstop Ian Desmond.

"It’s just comfort level for him," Williams said. "I’m always impressed by his athleticism and what he can do with his glove. The challenge is going to be him being comfortable over there, and the throws to second base, because it’s just backwards."

Zimmerman hit .280/.342/.449 with five home runs and 38 RBI in 214 at-bats last season.


Brewers' Taylor Jungmann taking new approach into this season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:44 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Taylor Jungmann is taking a new approach into this season, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Jungmann got off to a slow start last season, but a change in approach prompted him to reverse his fortunes. Triple-A pitching coach Fred Danby suggested Jungmann shift from the left side of the pitching rubber to the right side. Jungmann said he had always been told his stuff played better from the left side, but felt a change instantly after switching spots.

"I can’t explain it but I started throwing more strikes," he said. "My mechanics were a little more fluid. I didn’t change a whole lot; I just moved to the other side of the rubber. It felt natural. It made it a little easier to be consistent with my (pitching) motion. The biggest thing was getting my breaking ball back."

Jungmann comes into camp fighting for a spot in the team's rotation. He's already been listed as sixth on the starting pitching depth chart.


Angels' Scioscia: Kole Calhoun's 'intensity' a key strength
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Angels manager Mike Scioscia praised the intensity and enthusiasm of outfielder Kole Calhoun Monday as part of what makes him such a valuable part of the team's lineup, MLB.com reports.

"I think part of what makes Kole a good player is his intensity," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You need that focus, that intensity to know this is real and it's how you compete. With Kole, it's in him and it bubbles out. He pumps his teammates up and he does a great job setting the tone for us."

"It's how I was raised," Calhoun said. "I'm a pretty passionate person in most everything that I do. I think at this level, you've got to be. You've got to compete on every pitch because that's your livelihood. Everyone's fighting for the same thing and you want to come out on top."

Calhoun excelled as the team's leadoff batter in 2014, hitting .281/.336/.471 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI in 448 at-bats while slotted first.


Rangers' Lewis, Gallardo to throw on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:36 pm ET) The Rangers will throw both Colby Lewis and Yovani Gallardo on Wednesday, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The Rangers will take on the Royals during the contest. It's unclear how long either player will throw during the outing. Both players are expected to open the year in the team's rotation. 


Padres' Black on Morrow: 'We like what we've seen'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:26 pm ET) Padres manager Bud Black has been impressed by how pitcher Brandon Morrow has handled his various ailments as well as his overall approach to the mound, MLB.com reports.

"I like his delivery, I like his arm action, I like his stuff," Black said. "First of all, I think he's got a good head. We're still getting to know him. We've only known him less than two weeks. But we like what we've seen."

Morrow has made just 16 starts across the last two season while dealing with forearm and hand injuries. As a result, he says he's begun doing a "pre-hab" program, which is "basically doing what you're doing in rehab, but doing it before you get hurt."

Morrow is competing for a rotation spot, but he doesn't look at the early portion of camp as a competion.

"The last three starts are when it will be more competition mode, I guess," Morrow said. "Right now, I'm still trying to get my arm and body in shape and easing into that. I'm not going to try and go out and blow it out in live batting practice ... Rather than just trying to strike everybody out, I'm going out there and doing some pitching. It's still the same repertoire and still mostly the same approach. But it's taking some speed off here, adding it here."

Morrow posted ERAs of 5.63 and 5.67 in his last two seasons in Toronto while battling through injuries.


 
 
 
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