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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 21

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A light schedule in Fantasy Week 21 (Aug. 18-24) has created the smallest pool of two-start pitchers we have seen in awhile, but that doesn't mean there will be a scarcity of viable options on waivers. Few high-end, widely-owned pitchers populate this week's list, and there also aren't many options so far down on the low end that they're not worth your time.

As of Friday, there were 16 projected two-start pitchers available in at least 30 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, and nine of them are either must-start or borderline options for owners in standard mixed leagues. Kyle Hendricks, Jason Vargas and Trevor Bauer are worthwhile targets in those formats, but if they have already been snapped up, you can almost certainly add Kyle Gibson, Chase Anderson, Tsuyoshi Wada or Brett Oberholtzer to your rotation. All four are widely available, and each is capable of having a big week with their two starts.

The most sought-after pitcher heading into the weekend, Mike Fiers, is not currently on this list, but by Monday's update, he could be. Kyle Lohse's ankle injury could keep him from his scheduled start against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. With the Brewers having a day off on Monday, Fiers could step in for Lohse on regular rest. If Lohse is still out the next time his turn comes up, Fiers could keep his spot and inherit a two-start week.

The Blue Jays and Pirates are tough matchups, so with two starts, Fiers would still be just shy of must-start status, but he'd be highly-ranked among the borderline options for standard mixed leagues. Should Lohse make two starts instead, given his injury and recent struggles, he'd be more of a low-end borderline option.

Monday update: Fiers will start in Lohse's place on Tuesday, and that lines Fiers up for two starts this week, provided that Lohse doesn't return by Sunday. Because of the uncertainty of Lohse's status, I have not included Fiers among the lists of two-start pitchers, but I would still start him over Wada or any pitcher ranked below him this week, even knowing the risk of him making only one start.

With Hyun-Jin Ryu (glute) getting moved to the 15-day disabled list, Kevin Correia gets to make two starts (vs. SD, vs. NYM). Also, Charlie Morton's hip injury and subsequent placement on the DL keeps Vance Worley among this week's two-start pitchers, even though Gerrit Cole (lat) will come off the DL on Wednesday to face the Braves. The Yankees' shuffling of their rotation has made a two-start pitcher out of Chris Capuano (vs. HOU, vs. CHW), while Michael Pineda is now limited to just one start this week.

For the time being, Roenis Elias is still slated to face both the Phillies and Red Sox, but with a day off on Thursday, the Mariners could slot Hisashi Iwakuma in for Sunday's start on regular rest. The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that Elias is on a limit of 170-to-180 innings, so manager Lloyd McClendon could have an incentive to push him back and limit him to one start this week.

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

11. Jason Vargas, KC (at MIN, at TEX)

Must start two-start options
1. Max Scherzer at TB, at MIN
2. Chris Sale vs. BAL, at NYY
3. Stephen Strasburg vs. ARI, vs. SF
4. Jordan Zimmermann vs. ARI, vs. SF
5. Ian Kennedy at LAD, at ARI
6. Ervin Santana at PIT, at CIN
7. Jered Weaver at BOS, at OAK
8. Chris Archer vs. DET, at TOR
9. Bartolo Colon vs. CHC, at LAD
10. Kyle Hendricks at NYM, vs. BAL

On the surface, Vargas appeared to get off to a slow start in returning from an early July appendectomy, as he failed to get past the fifth inning in either of his first two starts off the DL. A high hit rate contributed to those early exits, but over those 9 1/3 innings, he struck out 10 batters, walked none and allowed three extra-base hits (all doubles). If those starts don't convince you that Vargas can still pitch with control and efficiency, then Wednesday's 97-pitch complete-game shutout against the A's should. Toss in a pair of decent matchups, and Vargas should be able to build on Wednesday's success.

Start Vargas over the following one-start pitchers: Phil Hughes, Jimmy Nelson, Francisco Liriano

12. Trevor Bauer, CLE (at MIN, vs. HOU)

Bauer's control issues have re-emerged over the past month, though Wednesday's start against the Diamondbacks was mildly reassuring. Throwing 73 of his 111 pitches for strikes, Bauer limited himself to two walks over eight innings of two-run ball. Then again, the Diamondbacks lineup he faced owns the lowest walk rate in the National League, so owners shouldn't get too enthusiastic about the performance. What we do know about Bauer is that he can rack up Ks. Less obvious is his ability to limit extra-base hits despite a meager 35 percent ground ball rate. This week's foes -- the Twins and Astros -- take their share of walks, but they also strike out a lot. Bauer shouldn't be your top choice if you need to make a move in WHIP, but otherwise, he could be a nice addition for the week.

Start Bauer over the following one-start pitchers: Francisco Liriano, Zack Wheeler, Yordano Ventura

13. Kyle Gibson, MIN (vs. CLE, vs. DET)

This week's selection of borderline two-start pitchers offers a little something for everybody. Bauer and Chase Anderson (see below) present a tradeoff between ERA and WHIP, and Gibson could offer you both this week...but probably at the expense of strikeouts. For the most part, Gibson has been enormously helpful in both ERA and WHIP over his past dozen starts. Though overall he has compiled a 3.63 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over that 10-week period, those numbers would be much better if not for a pair of starts against the highly-selective lineups from Oakland and Tampa Bay. Gibson works out of the strike zone frequently, so teams with superb plate discipline (like the A's and Rays) can get to him, but the Indians and Tigers are merely good in that regard. As effective as Gibson has been in the bulk of his recent starts, he has collected just 44 strikeouts over his last 72 innings. This may not be Gibson's greatest week, but he should do a good enough job of inducing weak contact to be worth starting.

Start Gibson over the following one-start pitchers: James Paxton, Lance Lynn, Mike Fiers

14. Vance Worley, PIT (vs. ATL, at MIL)

Worley has been moved up eight spots in these rankings, now that we know that Cole's return won't spoil his two-start week. Even with the Braves on the schedule, Worley is a liability for strikeouts, but that's the only thing that keeps him from being a must-start this week. He's an excellent control pitcher who can help with ERA, especially since he isn't likely to allow too many extra-base hits. Even against the Brewers, Worley is a strong candidate to deliver a win, as the Pirates have scored the most runs in the NL since the All-Star break.

Start Worley over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn, Mike Fiers, Mat Latos

15. Chase Anderson, ARI (at WAS, vs. SD)

With Thursday's solid outing at the Marlins, Anderson inched his consecutive quality start streak up to six games. He's been good at getting swings-and-misses all along, but they've been translating into a better strikeout rate during the streak. I wouldn't put it past Anderson to maintain something close to the 8.5 K/9 ratio and 3.2 K/BB ratio he has put up over these half-dozen starts, but the .375 slugging percentage he has allowed is another matter. Anderson's flyball tendencies could get him into trouble against the Nationals, and don't look now, but the Padres have been a middle-of-the-pack power-hitting team over the last month. Think of him as a poor man's Pineda, offering a low WHIP but possibly an inflated ERA, but with less run support.

Start Anderson over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn, Mike Fiers, Mat Latos

16. Tsuyoshi Wada, CHC (vs. SF, vs. BAL)

Wada has thrown more than 100 pitches in only one of his six starts, but that shouldn't factor much into his value this week. He has been very efficient due to good control, and with two starts, he's hurt less in the event he makes earlier exits. Wada profiles similarly to Anderson in that he could help with strikeouts, has shown good control, but could be done in by the long ball. The low pitch counts and an extra-tough matchup against the Orioles, who lead the majors in home runs, are mostly what separates Wada from Anderson in these rankings.

Start Wada over the following one-start pitchers: Mat Latos, Tim Hudson, Wade Miley

17. Brett Oberholtzer, HOU (at NYY, at CLE)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
23. Justin Masterson vs. CIN, at PHI
24. Aaron Harang at PIT, at CIN
25. Bud Norris at CHW, at CHC
26. Brandon Workman vs. LAA, vs. SEA
27. Kevin Correia vs. SD, vs. NYM
28. Vidal Nuno at WAS, vs. SD
29. Roenis Elias at PHI, at BOS
30. Trevor May vs. KC, vs. DET
31. Allen Webster vs. LAA, vs. SEA
32. Jerome Williams vs. SEA, vs. STL

Heading into the weekend with a 10 percent ownership rate, Oberholtzer is one of the most available two-start pitchers in CBSSports.com leagues, yet he may not finish the week very far behind the likes of Gibson, Anderson and Wada in terms of production. He's in the midst of a string of six consecutive quality starts and a longer string of nine out of his last 10 starts. Oberholtzer has pitched seven innings in each of his last three outings and in four of his last five, so what he lacks in strikeouts, he at least partially makes up for in innings. While he's a solid option this week, just don't take it as a given that Oberholtzer will match the 2.84 ERA and 1.17 WHIP he has compiled over this 10-start run. He has benefitted from a high strand rate, and as a flyball pitcher, he's been lucky to hold hitters to an .097 Isolated Power during this stretch.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Oberholtzer: Lance Lynn, Mike Fiers, Mat Latos

18. C.J. Wilson, LAA (at BOS, at OAK)

Wilson had become a shaky Fantasy option well before he hit the DL with a sprained ankle, and since his Aug. 2 return, he hasn't given owners many reasons to be more confident in him. Tuesday's outing against the Phillies was a step in the right direction, as Wilson lasted 6 2/3 innings for a quality start, and he threw 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. Any signs of improved control from Wilson are welcome, but he still wasn't very deceptive, having induced only five swinging strikes. That was Wilson's seventh straight start with six whiffs or fewer. Because Wilson is just two months removed from being a reliable source of strikeouts and an owner of a mid-3.00s ERA, he still deserves consideration as a two-start pitcher.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Wilson: Mike Fiers, Mat Latos, Tim Hudson

19. Mike Leake, CIN (at STL, vs. ATL)

To judge Leake by his matchups, this should be a banner week for him, but I'm not especially eager to pick him up in standard mixed leagues. No matter how high his ground ball rate gets (and it's now at a lofty 56 percent), he remains a threat to get burned by extra-base hits. He has already allowed 11 home runs and 21 doubles in 86 road innings, and I'm not buying his 10.3 percent home run-to-flyball ratio at Great American Ball Park this season (per FanGraphs.com). His career mark there is 15.6 percent, and it's not as if Leake has stopped allowing hard contact, as BaseballHeatMaps.com data show he has allowed flyballs to travel an average distance of 282 feet. The Cardinals and Braves are certainly not dangerous opponents, but Leake has been hit hard at times by good and bad lineups alike. Aside from a hot month of May in which Leake escaped with a .292 slugging percentage allowed, he has a 4.06 ERA on the year. In fact, it's mainly these favorable matchups that earn him this high of a ranking this week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Leake: Mat Latos, Tim Hudson, Wade Miley

20. Ryan Vogelsong, SF (at CHC, at WAS)

In each of his three good seasons with the Giants (excluding his awful 2013), Vogelsong has had a similar profile. He's been a near-average strikeout pitcher with near-average control, but he's produced better-than-average ERAs for a starter. Those low ERAs have been built on the results from the home portion of his schedule, and again this season, Vogelsong has benefitted from playing home games at AT&T Park. At home, Vogelsong has allowed only two home runs over 81 innings, posting a 3.00 ERA. He has his moments on the road, too, as recent starts at the Brewers (6 IP, 1 ER) and Mets (CG, 1 ER) have shown, but history suggests he could struggle against a good opponent like the Nationals. The Cubs' offense has scuffled lately, so that makes it a little easier to trust Vogelsong, even though he won't pitch at home this week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Vogelsong: Tim Hudson, Wade Miley, John Lackey

21. Alfredo Simon, CIN (at STL, vs. ATL)

Simon spent all of the first half of the season building up expectations, and in six starts since the All-Star break, he's failed to live up to them. Only once has he exceeded five innings, and his ERA has risen from 2.70 to 3.28. Simon has been a little wilder since the break, though eight of his 13 walks came in just two starts. The biggest difference for Simon has been his strand rate, which was incredibly high (85 percent, per FanGraphs.com) before the break and notably low (65 percent) since. Just as Simon was probably not going to sustain the level of performance he established in the first half, he is unlikely to be as ineffective as he has been lately. Particularly in points leagues where Simon can be used in a relief slot, he has some value in a two-start week, especially against a pair of lesser opponents.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Simon: Wade Miley, John Lackey, Michael Pineda

22. Chris Capuano, NYY (vs. HOU, vs. CHW)

Because Capuano had such a miserable tenure in the Red Sox's bullpen earlier this year, it's easy to forget that it hasn't been that long since he was relevant in Fantasy. Just two seasons ago, Capuano went 12-12 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.22 WHIP for the Dodgers. Even in some of the lefty's lesser seasons, he has shown a surprising ability to induce swings and misses, but it appeared he had lost that skill during his time with Boston. In four starts with the Yankees, though, he has compiled an 11 percent whiff rate that has enabled him to get 24 strikeouts in 25 innings. His control seems to be back, too, as he handed out only five walks over those starts. The limited sample size makes it risky to bank on this type of performance, but given what Capuano has been able to achieve in some past seasons, it's not unreasonable to expect a good week from him.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Capuano: Wade Miley, John Lackey, Michael Pineda

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Player News
Braves' Dian Toscano to start season in Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:09 pm ET) Braves outfielder Dian Toscano is expected to start the season in Triple-A, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The 25-year-old recently signed a four-year deal with the club. While he could have started the season in the majors, the team wants to get him more experience after not playing all that much last year. Toscano hit .356/.400/.452 in 86 plate appearances back in 2012-2013, his final season in Cuba. 


Angels avoid arbitration with David Freese
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:08 pm ET) The Angels have avoided arbitration with third baseman David Freese, the team announced. 

Freese signed a one-year deal worth $6.425 million, according to MLB.com. The 31-year-old Freese hit .260/.321/.383 over 462 at-bats last season. Freese is set to open the season as the team's starter at third. 


Dodgers announce minor-league deals with Bedard, Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4:57 pm ET) The Dodgers have signed pitchers Erik Bedard and Ben Rowen to minor-league contracts with invitations to spring training, the team announced Wednesday.

Bedard, 35, spent 2014 with the Rays, going 4-6 with a 4.76 ERA and 64:29 K:BB ratio in 75 2/3 innings. He has posted a career 3.99 ERA and 8.6 K/9 rate since making his major-league debut in 2002.

Rowen, 26, debuted with the Rangers last season, giving up four earned runs in 8 2/3 innings in eight appearances while striking out seven batters and walking four (three intentional). He posted a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock in 2014.


Braves designate OF Jose Constanza for assignment
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4:40 pm ET) The Braves have designated outfielder Jose Constanza for assignment, the team announced Wednesday.

The move clears a 40-man roster spot for Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano, with whom the team announced a four-year deal Wednesday. Constanza received just four at-bats with the Braves in 2014 while hitting .293/.344/.324 with no home runs, 36 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 447 at-bats with Triple-A Gwinnett.


Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts: 'Strongest I've ever felt'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:57 pm ET) Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has been working out at the EXOS performance institute in Arizona, the facility where second baseman Dustin Pedroia trains every offseason. ESPN.com says Bogaerts feels he's pushed himself more than ever before, "and the results are showing."

"This is probably the strongest I’ve ever felt going into a season -- and by far,” Bogaerts said, via the website. “I’m definitely real excited for the season.”

Bogaerts, 22, had an up-and-down 2014 season, his first full year in the majors. He finished at .240 with 12 homers and 46 RBI in 144 games.

He'll spend a few more weeks training in Arizona before reporting to spring training.

“I kind of never challenged my body to lift heavier weights because I’ve always tried to kind of maintain the same,” Bogaerts said. “Getting the knowledge from those kind of guys and just trusting the whole system that they have over there and just pushing your body, it’s really a difference than any years I’ve had in the past.

“It was mostly gym and conditioning and speed and stuff like that, power and speed. It was definitely something that I really enjoyed.”


Report: Pirates sign Wilkin Castillo to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2:24 pm ET) The Pirates signed catcher Wilkin Castillo to a minor-league contract Wednesday, sources told Fox Sports. The deal includes an invite to spring training.

Castillo is a career .314 hitter in 35 at-bats.


White Sox sign second baseman Gordon Beckham
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) The White Sox signed second baseman Gordon Beckham  to a one-year, $2 million contract, the team announced.

Beckham spent more than five seasons with the White Sox. He is a career .245 hitter and is expected to play in a utility role. To make room for Beckham, the team designated Dayan Viciedo for assignment.


Masahiro Tanaka says his elbow feels good
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:17 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka told the Japan Times that his elbow feels fine as he prepares for spring training, per The Star-Ledger. Tanaka has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament that could eventually require Tommy John surgery.

Tanaka missed more than two months last season due to the injury. After the layoff, he was able to make two starts toward the end of the season and finished 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA.

"So far, so good -- including that [elbow]," Tanaka said.

The Yankees signed Tanaka last offseason to a seven-year, $155 million contract.


Mariners sign catcher John Baker to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:51 am ET) The Mariners signed catcher John Baker to a minor-league contract Wednesday, reports CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

The deal includes an invite to spring training. Baker will be given an opportunity to compete for the backup catching position. In 2014, Baker hit .192 with no home runs and 15 RBI in 182 at-bats.


Indians 3B Giovanny Urshela expected to be ready for spring training
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:15 am ET) Indians third base prospect Giovanny Urshela, who sprained a knee ligament in a Venezuelan winter league game in November, should be ready for spring training, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Urshela, 23, is considered the most skilled defensive third baseman in the organization.

He likely will begin the season at Triple-A Columbus, but "could get a look" if Lonnie Chisenhall falters, the paper said.


 
 
 
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