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Fantasy First Pitch for Week 23

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There's just a month left in the season and we are very aware that you are working overtime trying to secure your Fantasy championship. It's just a shame Major League Baseball can't be a little more cooperative this time of year.

As the weekend winds up and we head into Fantasy Week 23 (Sept. 1-7), a couple of key dates on MLB's calendar could converge to throw big league rotations into disarray. Playoff contenders have until Sunday to make trades involving players who have passed through waivers and can be eligible to be on their postseason rosters. Bartolo Colon remains the target of trade rumors, and his departure from the Mets could potentially create a two-start week for Jonathon Niese. Wherever Colon might go -- and the New York Daily News reports that the Angels, Dodgers and Royals could all be in play -- his arrival could result in a rotation shakeup for his new team.

Even after Sunday's deadline passes, rotations could still get jumbled, as major league rosters expand to a maximum of 40 players on Monday. The Padres and Mariners have plans to add at least one starter from the minors. It's hard to imagine Tyson Ross would lose his second start, currently scheduled for Saturday at the Rockies, but additions to those teams' respective rotations could mess with two-start weeks for Odrisamer Despaigne, James Paxton or Roenis Elias.

The expansion of rosters could also mean some disabled list moves, as well as minor league callups. Matt Garza (oblique) and Derek Holland (knee) both stand a good chance of returning in Week 23, and Garza's potential inclusion in the Brewers' rotation is the only reason why Jimmy Nelson is on the "pitchers to avoid" list. He is currently slated for starts against the Cubs and Cardinals, but he could lose his rotation spot altogether if Garza returns this week.

Certainly, many of these moving parts will be settled in time for the Monday update of this column, so be sure to check back to see how your Fantasy rotation might be impacted.

Monday update: Colon is still a Met, but there were plenty of other changes over the weekend that affected rotations. Both Garza and Holland were scheduled for starts this week, and in fact, Holland is now slated for two of them (at KC, vs. SEA). His return spoils a two start week for Nick Tepesch, while Garza's return and Brewers manager Ron Roenicke's openness to a six-man rotation (according to an MLB.com report) means that neither Nelson nor Yovani Gallardo is assured of a two-start week. Nelson is still tentatively scheduled for one, though. Even with the chance that he gets bumped from Sunday's start against the Cardinals, I moved Nelson back onto the "bubble" list (more on that below).

Though the Angels didn't add a starter over the weekend, they tweaked their rotation anyway. In moving Hector Santiago behind C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver in the rotation, he loses a two-start week. In getting his next start moved up a day, Wilson inherits Santiago's two starts for Week 23, which are at the Astros and at the Twins. Though he has been allowing fewer runs lately, Wilson's 1.54 WHIP over his last four starts shows that he's still not ready to be trusted with a two-start week.

The Mariners also tinkered with their rotation, so now Chris Young gets two starts (at OAK, at TEX), while for a second week in a row, Elias gets his second start snatched away from him.

In AL-only leagues, Rubby De La Rosa and Kyle Lobstein are worth using for the potential of a two-start week, but both are at some risk of losing their second starts. The Red Sox are going with six starters, but even though De La Rosa is currently ahead of Joe Kelly in the rotation, he is more at risk of getting skipped or having a start pushed back. Lobstein is the Tigers' probable starter for Tuesday's tilt at the Indians, but should he falter, it could be Kyle Ryan who gets the nod for the weekend series against the Giants.

Must start two-start options
1. David Price at CLE, vs. SF
2. Cole Hamels at ATL, at WAS
3. Julio Teheran vs. PHI, at MIA
4. Corey Kluber vs. DET, vs. CHW
5. Gio Gonzalez at LAD, vs. PHI
6. Phil Hughes at BAL, vs. LAA
7. Tyson Ross vs. ARI, at COL
8. Gerrit Cole at STL, at CHC
9. Adam Wainwright vs. PIT, at MIL
10. Henderson Alvarez vs. NYM, vs. ATL
11. Zack Wheeler at MIA, at CIN
12. Yordano Ventura vs. TEX, at NYY
13. James Paxton at OAK, at TEX
14. Carlos Carrasco vs. DET, vs. CHW

Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble

15. Drew Smyly, TB (vs. BOS, vs. BAL)

Smyly's career has already been full of ups and downs, but his four-game run that began shortly after getting dealt to the Rays has been his most impressive stretch yet as a starter. There's really no arguing with the results from those starts: an 0.88 ERA and 0.52 WHIP largely backed up by high strikes thrown (66 percent) and swinging strike (10 percent) rates and a ridiculous 18 percent popup rate. Three of the starts were in good hitter's parks, so we can't even give credit to the Trop Effect. Smyly does get two home starts, but I can't completely trust a pitcher who has not only been inconsistent, but is just two months removed from a stretch with the Tigers where he was clobbered in succession by the Astros, Rays and Royals. In most instances, I'd find a way to start Smyly, but if I were totally loaded with pitching, the tiny shred of doubt I have could lead me to sit him.

Start Smyly over the following one-start pitchers: Dallas Keuchel, Alex Cobb, Doug Fister

16. Lance Lynn, STL (vs. PIT, at MIL)

Lynn has been on a notable run of his own and for much longer than Smyly. Over 10 starts going back to Independence Day, Lynn is 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA. However, a 1.22 WHIP and a 56 strikeout-to-23 walk ratio over 63 1/3 innings doesn't seems to match up with the record and ERA. Stranding more than four out of every five runners and allowing just two home runs has prevented Lynn from getting penalized for the number of batters he has allowed to reach base over this span. It's helped that Lynn has made seven of those 10 starts at home in addition to starts at pitcher-friendly PETCO and PNC Parks. It's almost impossible not to trust Lynn at Busch Stadium, where he has a 2.76 career ERA over 290 innings, but he's more suspect on the road. Though Lynn has fared well at Miller Park in the past (1.85 ERA over 34 innings), the potency of the Brewers makes him more of a borderline option this week.

Start Lynn over the following one-start pitchers: Alex Cobb, Doug Fister, Ervin Santana

17. Wade Miley, ARI (at SD, at LAD)

Miley has made this list before in 2014, and it's been with the same situation he is facing in Week 23: two road starts. He has been miserable at Chase Field, compiling a 6.08 ERA and allowing fewer than three earned runs only once over 14 starts there. The road has been friendly to Miley, as his 2.65 ERA and 0.5 HR/9 ratio attest. The Padres are scraping for runs once again, so that start alone should make this a productive week for Miley. The biggest concern for his owners is what he could do to your WHIP, as he seems to be having one of his random walk binges again. Miley has walked a total of 10 batters and thrown 54 percent of his pitches for strikes over his last two starts combined.

Start Miley over the following one-start pitchers: Doug Fister, Ervin Santana, Mike Fiers

18. Mat Latos, CIN (at BAL, vs. NYM)

With Latos struggling to get strikeouts, Wednesday's 11-K effort against the Cubs might have been welcomed by Fantasy owners, but let's not get too excited just yet. He did allow four runs over seven innings, two of which came on solo homers, and there could be more long balls in Latos' future. With a 42 percent ground ball rate, Latos seems fortunate to have allowed five home runs over his first 13 starts. The Cubs, meanwhile, have the highest strikeout rate and third-lowest contact rate in the majors, so Latos' high strikeout count has to be taken into context. Latos has good enough control to be worth considering in a two-start week, but especially with a start against the Orioles, he's no sure thing to help with ERA or match those 11 strikeouts, even over a pair of starts.

Start Latos over the following one-start pitchers: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Rick Porcello

19. Shane Greene, NYY (vs. BOS, vs. KC)

It might be a little hard to buy into what Greene has accomplished in nine starts, since he had lesser strikeout and walk rates in Triple-A than what he has produced for the Yankees. As Greene builds consistency, it's getting increasingly difficult to ignore his success. He has induced at least nine swinging strikes in six of his starts, and he has notched seven or more strikeouts in three straight outings. Greene has also walked no more than three batters in any start, and he has issued three walks just once. Toss in a 54 percent ground ball rate -- similar to what he posted in the minors -- and Greene looks trustworthy in a two-start week.

Start Greene over the following one-start pitchers: Jake Odorizzi, Rick Porcello, Jered Weaver

20. Chris Young, SEA (at OAK, at TEX)

Starting Young when he is on the road isn't normally a good idea, as he has posted a 4.11 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 1.7 HR/9 in away games. However, O.co Coliseum is a favorable venue for him, and the A's offense is really sputtering. Young's start at Texas might look a little more dangerous, but even though Globe Life Park in Arlington is a potential danger to an extreme flyball pitcher, the Rangers have the majors' third-lowest Isolated Power at home. This probably won't be Young's best two-start week, but it should be good enough for you to make him active.

Start Young over the following one-start pitchers: Rick Porcello, Jered Weaver, Danny Salazar

21. Jeremy Hellickson, TB (vs. TOR, vs. BAL)

Despite a strong recent stretch against a schedule that included some good lineups, I had been a little apprehensive about Hellickson's upcoming week. Thursday's 4 1/3-inning outing at the Orioles showed why. Strong flyball tendencies and questionable command have been issues for Hellickson in the past, and it was the latter that got him into trouble on Thursday. Though Hellickson did allow 10 flyballs, he allowed only two extra-base hits, but he may not be so fortunate going forward. Though there are enough concerns to prevent Hellickson from being an automatic start, there are also reasons to be enticed by his two-start week. Primary among those are getting both starts at Tropicana Field, where he has built a career 3.43 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, and a string of four straight games with 11 or more swinging strikes.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hellickson: Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Rick Porcello

22. Kevin Gausman, BAL (vs. MIN, at TB)

Gausman hasn't been issuing that many walks, but difficulties in throwing strikes are still hurting his value. He made it through the month of August without going deeper than six innings in any start, and on the season, he's averaging 4.17 pitches per plate appearance. Gausman's lack of efficiency makes him difficult to use in any one-start week, and against the super-selective Twins and Rays lineups, it could mean too many walks and not enough innings in a two-start week. While these matchups in particular limit Gausman's value this week, his potential for strikeouts (8.6 K/9, 11 percent whiff rate over his last four starts) and aversion to hard contact (.110 opponents' Isolated Power this season) makes him worth considering.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Gausman: Rick Porcello, Jered Weaver, Danny Salazar

23. Jason Hammel, OAK (vs. SEA, vs. HOU)

Two-start pitchers to avoid
27. Derek Holland at KC, vs. SEA
28. Tim Hudson at COL, at DET
29. C.J. Wilson at HOU, at MIN
30. Rubby De La Rosa at TB, vs. TOR
31. R.A. Dickey at TB, at BOS
32. Joe Kelly at NYY, vs. TOR
33. Colby Lewis at KC, vs. SEA
34. Tommy Milone vs. CHW, vs. LAA
35. Trevor Cahill at SD, at LAD
36. Odrisamer Despaigne vs. ARI, at COL
37. Kyle Lobstein at CLE, vs. SF
38. Jacob Turner vs. MIL, vs. PIT
39. Franklin Morales vs. SF, vs. S

Hammel's first four starts with the A's were nothing short of miserable. Though the subsequent four starts produced much better results, including a 2.86 ERA and a pair of quality starts, the problems that plagued his earlier outings have yet to vanish. Hammel is still not getting swings and misses like he did during his Cubs tenure, and aside from his most recent start against the Astros, he is not throwing many strikes. Fortunately, Hammel will see the Astros again this week, and better yet, he will face them at O.co Coliseum, which is a friendlier environment than Minute Maid Park. Still, I wouldn't recommend starting Hammel, unless he's your best option to pick up an extra start and you are trying to overcome a serious deficit.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hammel: Danny Salazar, Mike Minor, Brandon McCarthy

24. Roberto Hernandez, LAD (vs. WAS, vs. ARI)

For seven years, we've been waiting for Hernandez to rediscover the form that made him look like a pitcher on the rise, and just maybe we are finally seeing it happen. (Yes, I know nearly all of us stopped waiting years ago, but just play along here.). Of course, now we know that the former Fausto Carmona was already in his peak years during his 2007 breakout, but over the past month and a half, he's pitching as if we've turned back the clock. At the very least, he is on hiatus from his chronically poor control, throwing 63 percent of his pitches for strikes and posting a 2.4 BB/9 ratio over his last eight starts. Hernandez has helped himself to a 2.61 ERA and 0.99 WHIP over that stretch. The WHIP in particular is probably too good to be true, but if he can avoid extra-base hits and continue to minimize his walks, Hernandez could do more good than harm in this two-start week.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Hernandez: Collin McHugh, Marcus Stroman, Michael Pineda

25. Bud Norris, BAL (vs. CIN, at TB)

Norris didn't impress in his last two starts, so this may seem like an odd time to be recommending him to standard mixed league owners in a critical part of the Fantasy season. To be sure, Norris should be your last resort among two-start pitchers in those formats, but he is at least worth a look. Even in those recent subpar outings against the Cubs and Rays, Norris showed the improved control that has been on display all season long, and since early June, he has been a much-better ground ball pitcher. According to the PitchFX data on TexasLeaguers.com, Norris has been throwing his two-seamer and four-seamer with less spin, and that could easily account for a 48 percent ground ball rate over his last 12 starts (according to game log data on Baseball-Reference.com). At least for Norris, that's not a bad rate, and combined with a decent walk rate, it could be enough for him to be useful with starts against the Reds and Rays.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Norris: Michael Pineda, Matt Shoemaker, Ian Kennedy

26. Jimmy Nelson, MIL (at CHC, vs. STL)

Especially if Nelson struggles against the Cubs on Monday, it's possible he could get yanked from the rotation or at least have his next start pushed to Week 24, but I think it's worth the risk to start him. His last two starts haven't gone all that well, having allowed four runs in each of them over fewer than six innings, but Nelson continues to throw stikes and get strikeouts at a reasonable rate. Strangely, he induced only three grounders against the Padres, but that looks like an aberration. Even if he only faces the Cubs, starting Nelson could pay off, but for now, there appears to be a good chance he'll make two starts.

Start the following one-start pitchers over Nelson: Matt Shoemaker, Ian Kennedy, Tanner Roark

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Player News
C.J. Cron to DH in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) Angels first baseman C.J. Cron will serve as the designated hitter in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, MLB.com reports.

After a sold start to his season in May and June, Cron has slowed down considerably in the second half, hitting just .209/.261/.395 with two home runs in 43 at-bats in September. He wrapped up his first major-league season with a .256/.289/.450 line along with 11 home runs and 37 RBI in 242 at-bats.


Josh Hamilton to start in left field in Game 1 of ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will bat seventh and play left field in Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Royals Thursday, the Orange County Register reports.

Hamilton has been out of action for two weeks with a shoulder injury, and he's played just one game since Sept. 4. He hit .263/.331/.414 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI in 338 at-bats during the regular season.


Angels to call upon Matt Shoemaker, C.J. Wilson in ALDS
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) The Angels announced the team's rotation plans for the American League Division Series Wednesday, with Matt Shoemaker drawing the start in Friday's Game 2 and C.J. Wilson taking the mound for Game 3 Sunday.

Shoemaker hasn't made an appearance since Sept. 15 while recovering from an oblique injury. He went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 124:24 K:BB ratio in 136 innings. Wilson finished the regular season with a 4.51 ERA and 151:85 K:BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.


Nick Punto's club option vests
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(6:09 pm ET) Athletics infielder Nick Punto said Wednesday that his club option, which was dependent on non-DL days on the active roster, vested, putting him back with the team in 2015, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Punto will make $2.75 million in 2015 according to the terms of the contract he signed last offseason. He hit .207/.296/.293 with two home runs, 14 RBI and three stolen bases in 198 at-bats while spending most of his playing time at second base and shortstop.


White Sox outright Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) The White Sox outrighted pitcher Frank De Los Santos to Triple-A Charlotte, the team announced Wednesday.

De Los Santos spent most of his time at Charlotte this season, posting a 5.75 ERA and 17:17 K:BB ratio in 36 innings. The move opens up a 40-man roster spot for the White Sox.


Michael Morse expected to return if Giants advance
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(6:03 pm ET) Giants outfielder Michael Morse, who is inactive for Wednesday's wild-card game against the Pirates, will be activated at some point if the Giants advance, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Morse hasn't played since Sept. 20 due to an oblique injury.

Jed Lowrie open to returning to A's
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) Upcoming free-agent shortstop Jed Lowrie is willing to listen to the Athletics regarding a potential return next season but admitted that money will be a factor in his decision, MLB.com reports.

After two years of hitting at least 15 home runs, Lowrie saw his power fall in 2014, hitting .249/.321/.355 with just six home runs and 50 RBI in 502 at-bats. He enters free agency with a career .261/.330/.411 line along with 56 home runs and 284 RBI in 2,253 career at-bats.


Rajai Davis runs, plays catch Wednesday
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(5:52 pm ET) Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis ran and played catch at Camden Yards Wednesday and seemed upbeat, MLB.com reports.

Davis dealt with a strained groin over the last weekend of the regular season. His availability for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles won't be known until Thursday.


Lyle Overbay expected to retire
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(5:43 pm ET) Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay said Wednesday that he's "99.9 percent sure" he'll retire this offseason, MLB Network Radio reports.

Overbay wrapped up his 2014 season with a .233/.328/.333 line along with four home runs and 35 RBI in 258 at-bats while playing with the Brewers for the first time since 2005. If this is the end, he'll finish his career with a .266/.347/.429 line along with 151 home runs, 675 RBI and 19 stolen bases in 5,102 at-bats over 14 years with six different teams.


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(5:26 pm ET) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura will start Game 2 of the American League Division Series Friday against the Angels, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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