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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
Phil Hughes agrees to three-year, $42 million extension with Twins
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:11 am ET) Phil Hughes has agreed to a three-year, $42 million extension with the Twins on Monday, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman confirms.

Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News first reported the extension.

The extension supersedes the final two years of his contract, essentially giving the right-handed hurler a new five-year extension. He is slated to earn $9.2 million in each of the next two seasons, then make $13.2 million in each of the following three seasons between 2017-19.

Hughes made 32 starts last season and went 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 186:16 K:BB ratio over 209 2/3 innings.


Report: Padres have discussed Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) The Padres have discussed a trade for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Daily News

Newly-acquired outfielder Wil Myers would be used as the centerpiece in the deal. By bringing in Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, San Diego has a glut of talent in the outfield. While it seems strange that the team would turn around and deal Myers, he would be the type of talent the Phillies are said to be seeking for Hamels. Philadelphia reportedly wants two or three "premium" prospects for Hamels. 

The 30-year-old Hamels posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last season. He's owed $90 million over the next four seasons. 


Scott Boras: Matt Wieters will be ready by opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be ready by opening day, according to his agent, Scott Boras. 

Wieters underwent Tommy John surgery is June, and is working his way back from the injury. It's unclear if Wieters will be able to catch full-time at the beginning of the year, or if he'll have to be worked in slowly. Manager Buck Showalter recently told reporters he wasn't sure Wieters would be ready by opening day, but he expected him to good shortly after. Wieters hit .308/.339/.500 over 104 at-bats before having surgery. 


Report: James Shields seeking $110 million
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/21/2014) Free-agent pitcher James Shields is reportedly seeking a contract worth about $110 million, according to the Boston Globe

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Chase Utley staying put in Philly
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(12/21/2014) The Phillies will enter the season with Chase Utley, according to the Daily News. 

With Jimmy Rollins gone, some have expected the team to entertain dealing Utley. As of right now, that's not going to happen. "I've had some dialogue with Wolfie [agent Joel Wolfe] but frankly, he doesn't want to go anywhere," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He wants to honor his contract and that's how we have to perceive it." 

Amaro admitted that the team needs to listen to any offer for the 36-year-old Utley, but doesn't perceive Utley changing his mind at this time. Utley hit .270/.339/.407 in 589 at-bats last season.


Giants' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

Scherzer is the biggest name on the pitching market and could be seeking a deal north of the $155-million pact signed by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. His price tag may not be feasible for the Giants' budget. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252:63 K:BB ratio in 220 1/3 innings with the Tigers in 2014.


Report: Nick Hundley has two-year offer, unlikely to rejoin Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

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Report: Phillies could join Asdrubal Cabrera market
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(12/20/2014) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

The Phillies traded their longtime starter at shortstop to the Dodgers this offseason and will be looking to fill that hole in the infield. However, the team will have to shed some additional payroll in order to make a run at the infielder, according to the report. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 553 at-bats between Cleveland and Washington in 2014.


Rangers release Ben Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

Minicozzi, 31, hit .298/.400/.470 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 315 at-bats with Triple-A San Jose in 2014. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game in the majors.


 
 
 
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