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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
Red Sox closer Koji Uehara not utilizing fastball this season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has been throwing an unusual amount of offspeed pitches to start the season. Uehara has thrown fastballs on just 15 percent of his pitches this season, compared to 50 percent over the last three years, according to the Boston Herald.

Manager John Farrell isn't reading too much into it.

"He's going to go with what he feels," Farrell said. "Every 3 mph is about a foot distance in traveling to home plate. So there's a little bit different reaction time. But regardless of velocity there still needs to be the use of (the fastball) just to create separation between his fastball and his split."

Uehara is 1-1 so far this season with a 4.15 ERA and three saves in 4 1/3 innings.


White Sox send reliever Daniel Webb back to Triple-A
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) White Sox reliever Daniel Webb , who was called up Sunday as the 26th man for the team's doubleheader against the Royals, was sent back down to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. 

Webb pitched in 57 games last season for the White Sox but was one of the team's final cuts in spring training. 


Diamondbacks struggling to fill in void at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale knew his team wasn't going to go the entire season without an injury. But the skipper was hoping to avoid the issue he currently has at third base, according to AZCentral.com.

With Jake Lamb on the disabled list with a foot injury, Aaron Hill and Yasmany Tomas have struggled to put it together, combining for a .559 OPS in the last five games.

"Yeah, that's huge," Hale said. "You're going to have injuries all year. There's going to be a multitude of them for every team. If you can't make the adjustment — if guys can't come in and fill the void — then you're going to be in trouble as a club."

Tomas is hitting .286 in 14 at-bats this season while Hill is scuffling along at .156 in 45 at-bats.


Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allows seven runs in rehab start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Phillies pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed seven runs in five innings of work in his third rehab start in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, according to Philly.com.

Billingsley, who is currently on the 15-day DL with an elbow injury, added three strikeouts and two walks in the appearance. He has yet to appear in a major league game since 2013 while dealing with multiple elbow injuries.


Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez still working out of funk
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has yet to put things together at the plate so far this season. Gonzalez is hitting just .197 with two home runs in 66 at-bats and it's wearing on him a bit, according to the Denver Post.

"I'm not in a good place. I'm still hitting (.197)," he said. "But I'm happy that I'm healthy, and that I'm playing, and that we are winning. I think we are having a good month so far as a team."

Manager Walt Weiss thinks he's really close to seeing Gonzalez get all the pieces together and go on a run.

"I saw real good signs from CarGo, hitting the ball hard the opposite way," Weiss said. "It wasn't just the couple of hits he got. It was the way he got them. Those are things that he had been working on. Then, to get results like that, is always encouraging."

Report: Josh Hamilton trade expected to be completed Monday
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) The trade of outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Angels to the Rangers is expected to be completed Monday, with Hamilton then reporting to Texas' spring training site in Arizona to continue his rehab from offseason surgery, per MLB.com. 

The trade was rumored to have been completed Sunday, but complications arose in finalizing the deal. The Rangers are expected to hold a press conference announcing the trade on Monday. Hamilton is expected to play several games in Triple-A before being called up to the Rangers. 


Dodgers' Jimmy Rollins not concerned with early slump at the plate
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins isn't worrying just yet about his struggles at the plate, according to the Orange County Register.

"Well, some people like to panic. That has never been my MO," he said. "I have, what, 50, 60 at-bats, I'm not sure. So if these are my worst 50 at-bats this year – I'm glad they're happening now. (If they are his worst at-bats) it’s going to be a very good year."

Rollins is hitting just .186 in 70 at-bats so far this season. He believes he's still been taking good swings at the plate, just not finding the gaps in the defense.

"It's hard to compute if you just look at numbers," he said. "I'm getting myself in good counts, just not finishing it off. I know it's coming. I'm hitting some off the end, some are getting in just a little bit. But the swing path is right. It's just a click here, a click there.

"The process is good. You have to continue to trust in the process and believe in the process. You get oriented in just results – especially at times like this – then you're trying to make all these technical changes and that's when you go from one to two to 100. So the process is right. Executing it is about fine-tuning."


Angels OF Matt Joyce hopes hit signals end of slump
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce saw his eight-game hitless streak come to an end Sunday with an eighth-inning single that ended an 0-for-26 skid. The right fielder, who figures to be a fixture in Los Angeles' lineup with the expected departure of Josh Hamilton, said he hopes the small start will lead to bigger things, according to the Los Angeles Times

"Sometimes it's a tough game," Joyce said. "It seems like you try everything, and you put in so much time and effort and work, it gets to be frustrating. It gets to be hard to swallow and accept it, and hard to keep showing up and grinding it out."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he will continue to stick with Joyce, who is hitting just .140 on the season. 


Mets starter Jonathon Niese struggles vs. Yankees
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4/26/2015) Mets starter Jonathon Niese was not sharp Sunday in the finale of the Subway Series against the Yankees, lasting just five innings while allowing six runs and eight hits. Niese was betrayed somewhat by his defense, which committed four errors behind him, leading to two unearned runs. 

Niese was spotted a 2-0 first-inning lead, but he quickly gave it back, allowing a first-inning homer to Alex Rodriguez and then giving up four second-inning runs as the Yankees broke the game open. 

"You can't look into it too deeply," Niese said to MLB.com. "It's a loss. It's a tough loss. Obviously we want to win, but we've just got to get through it, learn from it, move on and play better."

Niese, who threw 86 pitches, saw his ERA rise to 2.74 in absorbing his first loss of the season. 

"I just wish I could have a couple pitches back," Niese said. "But I threw them. The results were what they were. I've just got to move on."

Niese will look to get back on track Saturday against the Nationals.


Nationals considering keeping Yunel Escobar at third base
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Nationals manager Matt Williams will have a decision to make when his regular third baseman Anthony Rendon comes back from injury. With Rendon on the shelf, Yunel Escobar has shifted to third and Williams is considering leaving him there even after Rendon returns, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The team is unsure yet what will happen when Rendon returns, but one theory has Escobar staying at third and Rendon shifting to second base, according to Heyman.

Escobar is hitting .292 with five RBI in 65 at-bats while slotted at third base.


 
 
 
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