With the trade deadline approaching, several major league rotations are bound to get shuffled over the next couple of weeks. That will provide an opportunity for some minor leaguers to get a callup and claim a rotation spot, providing some fresh arms to insert into your deeper league Fantasy rotations.
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Until those reinforcements come, there are some more familiar names who are available on waivers who deserve a start for Fantasy Week 17 (July 23-29). This week's Plumbing the Depths highlights 10 starters who need to be claimed and/or activated in deeper mixed leagues and league-specific formats, as their recent trends and upcoming matchups make the coming week look like a productive one in Fantasy. Ubaldo Jimenez's presence among this week's group may look odd, as he is owned in many standard mixed leagues, but even in a two-start week he probably shouldn't be. Too often, Jimenez allows too many walks and homers to be useful, even in many deeper formats, but this time around he's worth a shot in some of the deeper mixed leagues in which he is currently benched.
Here is the lowdown on Jimenez and some of the other underused pitching options for deeper leagues, starting with those slated for two starts. All stats are current for games through Wednesday, July 18.
Deeper league two-start options
Ubaldo Jimenez, Indians:
Projected matchups: DET (Fister), @MIN (DeVries)
2012 stats: 8-8, 5.09 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 79 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 77/43
Outlook: Now that Jimenez is no longer a ground ball or a strikeout pitcher, he is far less effective, but he still has his uses depending on the matchup and venue. Jimenez sports a 3.66 ERA at pitcher-friendly Progressive Field, where he has allowed just four doubles (but also eight homers) all season. He could fare well at home against the Tigers, and Target Field might be a good venue for him as well. However, Jimenez is still having serious enough issues with control that he should not be made active in standard mixed leagues, even with a two-start week.
Lucas Harrell, Astros:
Projected matchups: CIN (Leake), PIT (McDonald)
2012 stats: 7-6, 4.43 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 69 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 26/19
Outlook: Among RP-eligible starting pitchers, Harrell has the fifth-most points in standard Head-to-Head leagues, so for points league owners, he may be more than just a deep league option in Week 17. Thanks in part to a series of favorable matchups, Harrell has shaved more than half a run off his ERA over his last four starts, and he can continue to help owners over his two starts next week. The Reds are a mediocre offensive team on the road and the Pirates are the majors' third-worst team at getting on base. Harrell has shown himself to be vulnerable against good lineups, but he rarely gets hit hard when faced with a favorable matchup. He is safe to start outside of standard and shallow mixed leagues for the coming scoring period.
Drew Pomeranz, Rockies:
Projected matchups: @ARI (Saunders), CIN (Latos)
2012 stats: 1-4, 3.79 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 32 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 25/12
Outlook: He is still not going very deep into games, but in his three starts since his recall from Triple-A, Pomeranz has been more efficient. In getting more whiffs and inducing more grounders when hitters do make contact, the one-time Ole Miss hurler has held batters to a .136 average in his last three turns. He has been helped by a six percent line drive rate in those starts, which he is highly unlikely to sustain, but the upturn in his skill ratios is a welcome sign. With a pair of potentially challenging matchups (yes, Cincy is weaker on the road, but this is Coors Field), Pomeranz is too risky to use in standard mixed leagues, but he is worth activating in just about any format deeper than that.
Joe Kelly, Cardinals:
Projected matchups: LAD (Billingsley), @CHC (Wood)
2012 stats: 1-2, 2.75 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 25 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 16/9
Outlook: If you guessed that the gap between Kelly's high WHIP and low ERA suggests that he has gotten out of his fair share of jams, then you guessed right. He has allowed hitters to amass a .272 batting average overall, but that marks drops to .222 over the 27 at-bats in which he has had two men or more on base. Even though Kelly's ERA is currently below 3.00, he is nowhere close to viable in standard mixed leagues, but he is also far from a last resort option in deeper leagues. His 51 percent ground ball rate should make him immune to the whims of the Wrigley Field climate zone, and he should master the Dodgers, who continue to have trouble scoring. Kelly is a must-start this coming week in all NL-only leagues as well as in some deeper mixed leagues.
Tommy Hunter, Orioles:
Projected matchups: @CLE (Masterson), OAK (Colon)
2012 stats: 4-4, 5.71 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 46 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 3/1
Outlook: It's easy to overlook Hunter, as home runs have left him with some ugly Fantasy stats. The move to the AL East, with its souped-up lineups and hitter's parks, has not done Hunter any favors, but he has turned in some gems when he has pitched outside of the division. One of his better starts came back in April against the A's at home, and he'll get to face Oakland in Charm City once again next week. A trip to Cleveland also bodes well for Hunter, as he had not allowed a homer there in either of his previous starts there as a Ranger. Hunter is too volatile to trust outside of AL-only leagues, but he's widely available in those formats and worth starting for this two-start week.
Waiver wire targets
Carlos Villanueva, Blue Jays:
Projected matchups: DET (Porcello)
2012 stats: 4-0, 2.68 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 57 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 36/15
Outlook: Last season, Villanueva made 13 starts for Toronto, and it didn't go well. He posted a 5.15 ERA in those appearances, as he allowed too much contact and yielded a .284 batting average to opposing hitters. This time around, Villanueva is proving much tougher to hit, as he has maintained a 13 percent swinging strike rate, as opposed to the seven percent rate that he compiled in his 2011 starts. Granted, he has made only three starts so far, but it's impressive that he has achieved the feat against the Angels, Royals and Indians, three of the four best contact-hitting teams in the American League. Villanueva is still a little too wild to trust in shallower formats, but he needs to be active in far more than 15 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com going forward.
Henderson Alvarez, Blue Jays:
Projected matchups: DET (Turner)
2012 stats: 5-7, 4.29 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 42 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 22/9
Outlook: Villanueva isn't the only Blue Jays pitcher who has been increasing his whiffs lately. After a contact-heavy start to the season, Alvarez has induced whiffs on seven percent of his pitches over his last six starts. That's still a bit below the major league average, but it's progress, as Alvarez's rate was just four percent over his first dozen starts. He is also getting more grounders, as his rate has inched up to 58 percent. Having posted quality starts against the Angels and Yankees over the past three weeks, Alvarez is starting to bear the fruits of his improving skill set. Alvarez's ownership and activation rates continue to be on the wane, but it's time for owners in deeper mixed leagues to start rostering and starting Alvarez once again.
Josh Collmenter, Diamondbacks:
Projected matchups: NYM (Niese)
2012 stats: 1-2, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 57 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 9/3
Outlook: Collmenter's on-again, off-again relationship with the Arizona rotation is back on again. After being supplanted by Trevor Bauer, Collmenter reclaimed his starting gig with the demotion of Bauer back to Triple-A. To look at Collmenter's 2012 stats, you would think he was a radically different pitcher, getting more swinging strikes and ground balls, but those improvements were achieved during his stints as a reliever. Owners should expect the Collmenter they saw last year, which wasn't all that bad. He probably won't provide many strikeouts, but with few walks and a high popup rate, Collmenter should put up a good ERA and WHIP, even if he turns in the occasional clunker.
Luis Mendoza, Royals:
Projected matchups: @SEA (Vargas)
2012 stats: 3-6, 4.32 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 50 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 5/3
Outlook: None of Mendoza's first five starts this year were quality starts, but ever since notching his first one on June 12 against the Brewers, he has been notably reliable. Having recorded five quality starts in his last six tries, Mendoza has lowered his ERA by more than a run. Improved control has the been the key, as he has been throwing his two-seamer for strikes more often, and he has walked just 10 batters over his last 37 2/3 innings. Given that he pitches to contact, Mendoza can't afford to issue too many free passes if he is to succeed. Between his recent improvement and a favorable upcoming matchup -- the Mariners don't hit much or draw a lot of walks -- Mendoza is a solid start for owners in AL-only leagues this coming week.
Ross Ohlendorf, Padres:
Projected matchups: @MIA (Sanchez)
2012 stats: 3-0, 5.87 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 20 Ks
Ownership/activation rates: 1/0
Outlook: For the better part of the last year and a half, Ohlendorf has either been hurt or ineffective. However, his strong performance against the Astros on Tuesday was a reminder of what he can be: a decent starting option for owners in league-specific formats. Strong flyball tendencies can be a liability for Ohlendorf, but he couldn't have landed in a better rotation than the Padres', as he gets to make his home starts at PETCO Park. Marlins Park isn't a bad spot either, and that's where Ohlendorf will ply his craft in Week 17. He is worth a flyer, especially with a start against a struggling Marlins squad.
Vulnerable rotation spots
Mets: The Matt Harvey Era in Flushing will have to wait, as the Mets will send Miguel Batista to the mound on Saturday to face the Dodgers, filling the vacancy left by Dillon Gee (shoulder). However, the team considered calling up Harvey for the start, and the New York Post reported that Harvey could be recalled as soon as next week. If Batista does not fare well this weekend, there is a chance Harvey will make his big league debut on July 26 at Arizona. The 23-year-old prospect is still availale in more than four-fifths of our leagues, but the time is now to pick him up for your deeper mixed league and NL-only rosters.
White Sox: The Pale Hose will need a starter for Monday's game against the Twins, but it's not yet clear who will fill the vacancy. Dylan Axelrod is the most likely candidate, but he is currently in the bullpen. Should Axelrod be sufficiently rested to get the call on Monday, he would be worth using in AL-only leagues. However, because the White Sox have a day off on Thursday, he would likely be skipped for his next turn, precluding a two-start week.
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