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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
Rangers 1B Mitch Moreland won't play spring games until next week
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:36 pm ET) Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland will run the bases on Tuesday, and won't seen any spring games until next week, according to the Star-Telegram. Texas is taking a cautious approach with Moreland in camp after he underwent ankle surgery last June.

The 29-year-old Moreland hit .246/.297/.347 over 167 at-bats last year.


Blue Jays' Gibbons yet to settle on closer, could use committee
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:34 pm ET) Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday that while Brett Cecil has the ability to close, he might not serve as the team's closer, the National Post reports.

"He could do it. He might not. It might be somebody else," Gibbons said.

The manager also raised the possibility of using multiple closers.

"It could be one of those deals where one night he might be closing, the other night he might have to come in at the end of the seventh or eighth inning," Gibbons said.

Despite the face that Gibbons hasn't deemed Cecil his closer, he did praise his pitching ability Tuesday.

"He’s got some overpowering stuff," Gibbons said. "He’s a lefty and I don’t think there’s a better curveball out there. He can throw it for strikes, he can bring it down low in the zone and bounce it for a strikeout. That’s kind of his go-to pitch. He doesn’t rattle. He’s pretty confident and calm when he’s out there."

Cecil went 2-3 with a 2.70 ERA, 76:27 K:BB ratio and five saves in 53 1/3 innings in 2014. He owns a 11.1 career K/9 rate in relief.


White Sox's Geovany Soto feeling good at the start of spring games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) White Sox catcher Geovany Soto said he is feeling good after being limited to 78 games the last two seasons due to injuries. He missed time in 2014 because of arthroscopic surgery on his left foot and a torn meniscus in his right knee.

"I love where I'm at," Soto said, per The Chicago Tribune. "My legs feel great. My whole body feels great. I'm just anxious to get started and show these guys what I can do, hopefully stay healthy and break camp."


Dodgers' Mattingly: Hyun-Jin Ryu's (back) next step will be BP
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:22 pm ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters that starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu came out of Monday's bullpen session "fine," and that his next step will likely be throwing batting practice, according to SB Nation.

Ryu is dealing with a back injury, but has been throwing the last couple of days without pain. At this point, Ryu remains without a timetable for his first spring game. He went 14-7 in 2014 with a 3.38 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 152 innings pitched last season.


Hinch: Astros 'likely' to use seven-man bullpen in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Astros manager A.J. Hinch indicated that the team is likely to use a seven-man bullpen this season, leaving two spots open for competition this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"Likely," Hinch said of a seven-man bullpen. "There’s always a chance that (changes) depending on how the schedule plays out, and there’s always a debate on how many pitchers to carry during interleague. Now interleague is pretty much year round, so I mean, in a perfect world with our roster, it’s likely to carry a seven-man ‘pen. If we feel like we need an extra pitcher or injury happens, there’s different ways to shape our roster, then we will, but likely 12."

The two open spots will likely be filled by a left-handed pitcher and a long reliever. The competition for the second lefty in the pen likely comes down to Kevin Chapman and nonroster invitees Joe Thatcher and Darin Downs. The long relief role has a broader list of candidates, including Alex White and Asher Wojciechowski, who will prepare both as starters and relievers.

"We’re going to stretch out a lot of our guys," Hinch said. "Some of them are because they’re competing in that fifth starter spot, some of them are bullpen guys. Will Harris is going to throw multiple innings. Obviously (Sam) Deduno has been a starter in the past, he’s in a competition for the fifth man spot. Wojo, White, those guys are going to need to, going to plan for the season on both fronts, whether it’s a starter or reliever. But we’re preaching multiple innings. It’s important if you have a seven-man bullpen that you have a couple of guys that can get four, five, six outs if needed and be a bridge to the rest of the bullpen."


Rangers' Tolleson: 'I'd like to be that bridge' between starters, closers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Shawn Tolleson told reporters he would like to become the link between the starting rotation and back-end relievers Tanner Scheppers and Neftali Feliz this season, according to the Dallas Morning News.

"I would like to be that bridge," Tolleson said.

Tolleson led the club with 71 2/3 innings of relief last season. He pitched more than one inning 20 times and held left-handed hitters to a .282 on-base percentage.

"He's got the skill set to be one of those that we use in the latter portions of the game," manager Jeff Banister said. "He seems to love the competition."


Nationals faced with tough decision regarding Michael Taylor
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:10 pm ET) The Nationals are faced with a tough decision when it comes to outfield prospect Michael Taylor, who appears to be on the cusp of being ready for a regular role at the major-league level.

A major issue is playing time since the Nationals have a starting outfield of Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper and Denard Span. Taylor would be a solid fourth outfielder, but having him coming off the bench is not ideal for his development.

“It’s the same age-old decision that must be made regarding guys that are just on the cusp of being big-league ready and everyday players,” manager Matt Williams said, per NatsInsider.com. “And a question of depth on your team, too. … It’s a question of depth on your team, it’s a question of how much playing time they’re really going to get, and are they better served staying in the minor leagues and getting those at-bats until their opportunity arises. But Mike’s close. He’s really close.”


Nationals' Aaron Barrett: 'I'm ready for a full season'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Aaron Barrett worked on strengthening his shoulder and legs in the offseason to improve his longevity throughout the entire season. Barrett admitted he wasn't used to a full major-league schedule, which contributed to him feeling "tired" in the middle of his rookie season.

"I'm ready for a full season," Barrett said. "Last year was a long season for me. It was my first year up. I had a lot of appearances, a lot of warm-ups and stuff like that. I think that is part of the process of coming up and working on that. I did as much training as I possibly could for this year."


Daniel Descalso brings versatility, playoff experience to Rockies
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:06 pm ET) Rockies infielder Daniel Descalso is ready to fill the role of versatile veteran who can play second base, third base or shortstop as needed, the Denver Post reports.

"I'll be ready for whatever comes my way," Descalso said Monday. "It's been a while since I've played just one position for any length of time, so I've worked hard to reach a comfort level at all three spots. I have an idea of what it takes to stay sharp."

Another factor that piqued the interest of the Rockies this offseason was his postseason experience, as he has played in 44 postseason games and won one championship.

"All of that factored in quite a bit," manager Walt Weiss said. "I think we sometimes underestimate the value of that — guys that have played in big games, pennant races, and have won a World Series. Those types of players are valuable, and that's a big reason why we brought Danny in here."

Descalso has made 110 starts at second base, 91 at third base and 88 at shortstop in his five-year career, seeing at least 100 appearances at all three poitions. He hit .242/.333/.311 in 161 at-bats last year with the Cardinals.


Francona: Jason Kipnis likely to make spring debut this weekend
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:02 pm ET) Indians manager Terry Francona said Tuesday second baseman Jason Kipnis (hand) will likely make his spring debut this weekend, per MLB.com.

 
 
 
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