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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 22

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It's getting real in Fantasy leagues about this time of year, so you wouldn't want to do anything silly like start a pitcher who has been rejected by wide swaths of the Fantasy community, right?

Though there are many good two-start options in Fantasy Week 22 (Aug.25-31), many of them are already spoken for. Of the 35 pitchers projected for two starts heading into the weekend, 22 are currently owned in at least 60 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com. You could already have two or three on your roster, or maybe you're lacking in two-start options and the ones you covet are laying dormant on the roster of some owners whose season has already ended.

That's where Jarred Cosart, Roenis Elias or T.J. House could come in handy. All three are currently available in at least 60 percent of our leagues, and House has been sitting on the sidelines in all but 4 percent of our leagues. Each has performed well of late and should be more productive in their two-start weeks than slumping Jason Hammel, Dillon Gee or A.J. Burnett, who just might be burning up a spot on your roster.

If you don't want to dig quite that deep into the waiver wire for an extra start, you might be able to snag Matt Shoemaker or Jake Peavy. Both have done enough in recent weeks to deserve consideration.

If you need convincing as to why any of these more highly available options are worth your time during a critical stretch of the Fantasy season, I'll explain my reasons for why each is potentially worth picking up. And as is the norm in this space, I've included lists of pitchers to sit for or start over each candidate, because it's not roster-setting time without some juicy sit/start dilemmas to consider.

Monday update: No one on this week's must-start or bubble list lost their second start over the weekend, and there are no new entries to those lists, so in standard mixed leagues, you can likely go forward with your planned rotation.

Deep-league rotations might need some handiwork, however. With the temporary insertion of Drew Pomeranz into the Athletics' rotation, everyone from Wednesday forward gets pushed back a day. That cuts Jason Hammel's two-start week down to just one turn in the rotation. Travis Wood, Miles Mikolas and Nick Martinez have all gained two-start status over the weekend. Also, if Wade LeBlanc performs well against the Marlins on Monday, he may also get to start against the A's on Saturday.

Must start two-start options
1. Madison Bumgarner vs. COL, vs. MIL
2. Johnny Cueto vs. CHC, at PIT
3. James Shields vs. NYY, vs. CLE
4. Alex Wood at NYM, vs. MIA
5. Alex Cobb at BAL, vs. BOS
6. Jeff Samardzija at HOU, at LAA
7. Dallas Keuchel vs. OAK, vs. TEX
8. Jake Odorizzi at BAL, vs. BOS
9. Lance Lynn at PIT, vs. CHC
10. Danny Duffy vs. MIN, vs. CLE
11. John Lackey at PIT, vs. CHC
12. Kyle Lohse at SD, at SF
13. Tanner Roark at PHI, at SEA

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

14. Francisco Liriano, PIT (vs. STL, vs. CIN)

After a string of five consecutive quality starts with a combined total of nine walks, we might have thought that the Liriano Roller Coaster Express had given way to a smooth Sunday drive. Well, buckle up, because Liriano was crushed in his Tuesday start against the Braves, and poor control was at the core of his problems yet again. As inconsistent as Liriano's control is, he can almost always be counted on for strikeouts, and even in Tuesday's implosion, he managed to coax 14 swinging strikes in his 88 pitches. Frankly, if this were just about any other pitcher with a poor start in the midst of a solid month of sheer dominance, I would write it off and consider that pitcher a must-start. Because it's Liriano, who has a long history of inconsistency, I could see sitting him in the shallowest of leagues...but only in those.

Start Liriano over the following one-start pitchers: Ervin Santana, Gio Gonzalez, Yordano Ventura

15. Rick Porcello, DET (vs. NYY, at CHW)

Through his first dozen starts this season, Porcello was simply not himself. If Fantasy owners have been able to count on Porcello for anything over his career, it's been a high ground ball rate, but through early June, he had been a flyball pitcher. After allowing opponents to slug .441 against him during that early stretch, Porcello has clamped down on extra-base hits. Returning to his ground ball tendencies, Porcello has held opponents to a .230/.267/.316 slash line in his last 13 appearances (12 starts). That's allowed Porcello to post a 2.31 ERA since then. He still allows a lot of contact, so it's probably unreasonable to expect him to continue at this pace. Every once in a while, Porcello will allow hits in bundles -- he has allowed nine or more in three of his last eight starts -- so while he's a good option, he's not an entirely safe one.

Start Porcello over the following one-start pitchers: Yordano Ventura, Chris Archer, Zack Wheeler

16.Jose Quintana, CHW (vs. CLE, vs. DET)

Quintana offers a great example of why ERA doesn't always tell us much, especially over a small sample of innings. He hasn't posted a quality start in the month of August, and over his three most recent outings, Quintana sports a bloated 4.91 ERA. Lately, he has been doing the very same things he has done all season long: pitching with good control, getting whiffs at a rate close to the major league average and allowing soft contact. Quintana's 1.25 WHIP over those starts isn't out of the ordinary for him, but because he hasn't been stranding runners at his usual rate, his ERA has suffered. He is the same unspectacular but trustworthy two-start option he has been all along, despite what his recent stat line might suggest.

Start Quintana over the following one-start pitchers: Chris Archer, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom

17. Brandon McCarthy, NYY (at DET, at TOR)

Followers of advanced stats probably remember just a couple of months ago how xFIP was telling us that McCarthy was actually a good pitcher, even though his 5.00-plus ERA suggested otherwise. Other evidence tells us that McCarthy might not have deserved a better fate. Though he was getting grounders, the flyballs he was allowing were travelling great distances (291 feet on average) through his first 16 starts, according to the GameDay PitchFX data available on FanGraphs.com. His average flyball distance since then is only seven feet shorter, yet he has compiled a 1.95 ERA over those starts. McCarthy has taken his control game up a notch, having issued only nine walks over 64 2/3 innings, but I can't help thinking he could still be a little too vulnerable to hard contact. McCarthy is certainly better than he appeared to be earlier this season, and he's worth a gamble in standard mixed leagues. Given his recent run, though, he may now be getting overrated. It's too soon to call McCarthy a must-start.

Start McCarthy over the following one-start pitchers: Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole

18. Michael Pineda, NYY (at KC, at TOR)

The only complaint that owners can have about Pineda in his two starts since coming off the DL is that he is not throwing many pitches. Not that he needs to, as Pineda has been highly efficient in both starts, and he would have qualified for wins if he had received more help from the Yankees' bullpen. It's also encouraging that Pineda performed this well against the Orioles and Astros, two teams that have been producing runs since the All-Star break. If Pineda keeps this up, he just might be a must-start option before the season ends, but you can't read too much into 11 innings of work. He has a history of being flyball-prone, and that's more than a little worrisome for his start against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

Start Pineda over the following one-start pitchers: Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Andrew Cashner

19. Matt Shoemaker, LAA (vs. MIA, vs. OAK)

Ever since Shoemaker reached Double-A Arkansas in 2011, he's proven to be a very good control pitcher. Though his strikeout rates didn't reflect it, he's had swing-and-miss stuff, too. Both skills have been in evidence in his first real exposure to major league hitting, as Shoemaker has issued 19 walks in 103 2/3 innings and induced whiffs on 12 percent of his pitches. Despite moderate flyball rates, home runs bedeviled Shoemaker in the minors, and moving out of the Pacific Coast League and into Angel Stadium has only helped him so much. Actually, Shoemaker's 0.9 HR/9 at home is respectable, and it's been instrumental in keeping his home ERA at a svelte 2.72. Not every road start will go as well as Thursday's scoreless performance in Boston did, but with two home starts this week, it's hard to sit Shoemaker.

Start Shoemaker over the following one-start pitchers: Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Andrew Cashner

20. Jarred Cosart, MIA (at LAA, at ATL)

Cosart has been enjoying the spacious confines of Marlins Park, but now for the first time as a Marlin, he will take the mound as a visiting pitcher. An Adrian Beltre double is the only extra-base hit Cosart has allowed in his three games with Miami, but it's not as if he allowed much power when he was with the Astros. Hitters recorded an .099 Isolated Power against Cosart prior to his trade to the Marlins, as he turned his average opponent into the equivalent of Kurt Suzuki. As long as Cosart is pitching with control, he's generally been effective, if not dominant. After a wild July, Cosart has settled down. Neither the Angels nor Braves are loaded with hitters who are especially disciplined, and neither squad ranks in the top half of major league teams in batting average against ground ball pitchers (according to Baseball-Reference.com). Cosart won't be your best choice if you really need strikeouts, but you could do a lot worse if you want to lower your ERA and pick up wins.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Cosart: Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Andrew Cashner

21. Wei-Yin Chen, BAL (vs. TB, vs. MIN)

Chen has been useful at times as a two-start pitcher, but he's been much better at pitcher's parks like Tropicana Field and Target Field than at home. In the past, I would have avoided Chen with two home starts unless he was facing lineups with extremely little power. Chen has become a little more intriguing lately, as over his last seven starts, he has a 12 percent swinging strike rate, which has fueled a 7.9 K/9 ratio and 2.98 ERA. Batters are suddenly having a tougher time making contact with Chen's slider, and on the chance that he can continue the trend, the lefty is worth a pickup.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Chen: Marcus Stroman, Mike Fiers, Mat Latos

22. Chris Tillman, BAL (vs. TB, vs. MIN)

It's not easy to trim a run and a half off your ERA in just over two months, but Tillman has done that and then some. Over his last 14 starts, he has seen his ERA plunge from 5.20 to 3.55, and that's done wonders for Tillman's popularity in Fantasy. With an ownership rate approaching 90 percent, many owners now have the option of just plunking Tillman into their rotation for a two-start week, but the move should not be automatic. Tillman has probably been fortunate to have allowed only seven home runs during his 93 2/3-inning hot streak, and aside from a couple of recent starts against the White Sox (13 swinging strikes) and Cardinals (14 swinging strikes), hitters haven't struggled much to make contact. A .233 BABIP has gone a long way towards propping up Tillman's value, and sooner or later, he's bound to regress.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Tillman: Mat Latos, Collin McHugh, Danny Salazar

23. Jake Peavy, SF (vs. COL, vs. MIL)

Cosart isn't the only pitcher on this list who has seemingly benefitted from a change of scenery. While Peavy's season had started to turn the corner before his July trade from the Red Sox to the Giants, he has moved even closer to a return to form since the deal. Over five starts with his new club, Peavy has walked just eight batters in 32 2/3 innings and induced whiffs on 11 percent of his pitches. Moving to AT&T Park also figured to be a plus for Peavy, and he has registered quality starts in his two starts there. With two more home starts this week, Peavy is a reasonable choice to round out your standard mixed league rotation.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Peavy: Danny Salazar, Chris Young, Jered Weaver

24. T.J. House, CLE (at CHW, at KC)

If you're in a format that rewards quality starts, you probably shouldn't bother giving House a home in your rotation, as he rarely pitches deep into games. The sinkerballer has been helping owners with ERA in recent weeks, posting a 3.07 mark over his last eight starts and having allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of those games. House's strikeout and walk rates are nothing special, but a 63 percent ground ball rate makes him worth considering, and not just in deeper leagues. In fact, there's room for House to improve upon what he's accomplished so far this season, as he has allowed a .290 batting average on grounders, while the Indians' staff as a whole has held opponents to a .251 average on ground balls. He is not as risky of an option as his 1.49 WHIP might lead you to believe.

Start the following one-start pitchers over House: Chris Young, Jered Weaver, James Paxton

25. Roenis Elias, SEA (vs. TEX, vs. WAS)

Earlier this season, Elias was taking steady turns in the Mariners' rotation and throwing 100-plus pitches with some regularity, but lately he's been more limited. Due to a concern over his innings, Elias was recently optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, and possibly for the same reason, he has been lifted early from his big league starts. Even though Elias has been very effective over the past month, compiling a 2.10 ERA with 30 strikeouts over his last 25 2/3 innings, he is risky because of his usage patterns. He may not go very deep into Monday's start against the Rangers, and with the Mariners having Thursday off, Elias could theoretically be skipped for Sunday's start against the Nationals. Because of his strikeout potential, Elias is worth a flier, but after factoring in innings concerns and some wildness, you could just as easily pass him over.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Elias: James Paxton, Carlos Carrasco, Henderson Alvarez

Two-start pitchers to avoid
26. A.J. Burnett vs. WAS, at NYM
27. Scott Feldman vs. OAK, vs. TEX
28. Dillon Gee vs. ATL, vs. PHI
29. Jorge De La Rosa at SF, at ARI
30. Clay Buchholz at TOR, at TB
31. Eric Stults vs. MIL, vs. LAD
32. Travis Wood at CIN, at STL
33. Tyler Matzek at SF, at ARI
34. Ricky Nolasco at KC, at BAL
35. Miles Mikolas at SEA, at HOU
36. Nick Martinez at SEA, at HOU
37. J.A. Happ vs. BOS, vs. NYY

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
Red Sox looking at Brandon Workman as a reliever
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:12 am ET) The Red Sox are looking at pitcher Brandon Workman as a reliever this spring, according to the Boston Herald

Manager John Farrell seemed to think Workman would be more than adequate in the role. "His mentality is one that embraces those higher leverage type of innings," Farrell said. "In one-inning stints, his stuff plays up a little bit more with power, a little bit more swing-and-miss ability with his fastball."

Workman seems open to the change. "If John tells me that’s where I’m going to fit in, that’s where I’ll fit in," he said.

The 26-year-old Workman posted a 5.17 ERA over 87 innings last year. 


Twins' GM believes Kyle Gibson can get to the next level
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:44 am ET) Twins general manager Terry Ryan believes pitcher Kyle Gibson can get to the next level, according to the Star Tribune.

"The guy has too good of stuff not to be more consistent," Ryan said. "I don’t think it’s 'if' he makes another jump. He’s going to make a jump. It’s a matter of how high."

Gibson showed flashes of promise in 2014. While his overall numbers were just average, Gibson was solid during the first half of the year. He posted a 3.92 ERA over 101 innings to start the year, but struggled with a 5.17 ERA in the second half. Gibson said the reason for his success last year had to do with execution.

"The reason for the jump was my focus on executing pitches," Gibson said. "In 2013 I got caught up in all the information and the scouting reports instead of realizing this is the pitch I need to execute so let’s execute it."

Gibson said he's hoping to increase his strikeout rate this season, but wants to make sure he can still retain his strong ground ball rate. The 27-year-old posted a 4.47 ERA over 179 1/3 innings last season. 


Rays manager believes Grant Balfour will be ready for opening day
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Rays manager Kevin Cash believes pitcher Grant Balfour will be good to go by opening day, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Balfour is currently in Australia, tending to his sick father. Cash said Balfour was still working out, and expects the pitcher to be ready for the start of the regular season. The 37-year-old posted a 3.46 ERA over 62 1/3 innings last season. 


Rays' Alex Colome may miss the start of the season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Rays pitcher Alex Colome may not be ready for the start of the regular season, according to the Tampa Tribune

Colome has been delayed by visa issues thus far, though he's been able to throw at the Rays facility in the Dominican Republic. Colome is facing hitters, but manager Kevin Cash still expressed some doubt about his availability once the regular season begins. 

Colome, 26, posted a 2.66 ERA over 23 2/3 innings last year. 


Diamondbacks' Randall Delgado facing a roster crunch
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Randall Delgado is facing a roster crunch, according to azcentral.com.

Delgado had some success after adding a slider last season, but faces a lot of competition this spring. While the competition for the fifth starter spot contains a lot of players, Delgado's experience in the bullpen last year could help him make the club. On top of that, he's out of options, giving him a better chance of breaking camp on the 25-man roster. 

Bullpen coach Mel Stottlemyre said he believes Delgado could get the job done. "He can be a valuable piece in that bullpen, knowing that there might be some guys that are going to get protected," Stottlemyre said. "The fact that he can pitch in some different roles — he can give you some length, he can come in and strike a guy out. I saw this guy go through the middle of lineups on some good ballclubs and make the hitters look bad. It's there."

The 25-year-old Delgado posted a 4.87 ERA over 77 2/3 innings last season.


Nationals sign Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Nationals have signed outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal, the team announced. 

Gwynn will be invited to major-league camp with the deal. The 32-year-old hit .152 over 105 at-bats with the Phillies last season. 


Nationals' Matt Purke hoping to get on a mound soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Nationals pitcher Matt Purke is hoping to throw off a mound in a few weeks, according to MLB.com.

Purke had Tommy John surgery last May, and has struggled with injuries since being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft. Purke was actually released by the club during the offseason, but came back on a minor-league deal. 

Purke said he was frustrated by the injuries, but understands he has to take it all in stride. "It's just something you have to take in stride, keep moving forward," he explained. "I'm ready to keep progressing the best I can and really get myself out there and pitch and perform. When my number is called, I'll be able to help when I can."

Purke is currently in the middle of a throwing program. He's been able to long toss, and hopes to throw off a mound in a few weeks. The team is still unsure when Purke will be ready for game action.


Twins' Danny Santana learning to play multiple positions
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Danny Santana came to the Twins in 2007 playing primarily shortstop. Now, Santana is playing in the outfield and learning how to transition to a new position on the field.

"I didn't know how to play the outfield and I needed a lot of work," he said to MLB.com. "It wasn't hard, because I have the ability to play many positions. But the hard part was being in center field and throwing to the bases. At shortstop, you throw from different angles. In the outfield, you need to be on top to throw."

Santana hit .319 with 40 RBI and 70 runs scored in 405 plate appearances in 2014.

"There's a lot of people here who believed in Danny Santana's future for a long time. We were able to get a glimpse of that last year," manager Paul Molitor said. "I have a lot of confidence in that kid. He's going about his business very professionally. He's really a good listener and applier. Some guys listen well and have trouble taking it out there. He's pretty good at taking information and putting it into play."


Padres' Cameron Maybin to hit leadoff in first spring game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin will hit leadoff in the team's first spring game, according to MLB.com.

Manager Bud Black basically confirmed the news, though he wouldn't make it official as he prefers to let the player know before the media. Maybin is the forgotten man in the team's outfield heading into camp. While he's proven he can play center field, the club is expected to go with Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton when the regular season starts. 

Maybin, 27, hit .235/.290/.331 over 251 at-bats last season. 


Giants experimenting with Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Giants are experimenting with using outfielder Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Aoki will hit leadoff on Tuesday with Angel Pagan sidelined. While Pagan is expected to claim the role once the regular season begins, manager Bruce Bochy said he would consider using Aoki in the leadoff role occasionally. When that happens, Pagan would hit in the third spot in the order. 

Aoki, 33, hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. 


 
 
 
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