Allow me to paint a visual metaphor.  A vetaphor.  The entire league’s pitching is cornered on the grounds of a wildlife preserve.  A tiger, we’ll call him Blister, stalks towards the league’s pitching.  There’s no way out, but the league attempts to urinate on Blister to keep him away.  Then, out of nowhere, Nat Gio, dressed as Lord Beasley, a world famous butterfly collector from Gilligan’s Island, rides his Eddie Bauer jeep into Blister’s den, and befriends the beast, saying, “I slay pussy,” then off everyone’s look, “…cats.”  Yesterday, Gio Gonzalez had yet another great start — 6 IP, 0 ER, 5 baserunners, 4 Ks, ERA at 2.49.  I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Gio hears people talking about the new baseball and how offense is up.  Maybe he’s the one pitcher who likes a tightly-sewn baseball.  Up until this year, he must’ve been like, “Geez, is this ball going to unravel when I throw it?”  Of course, his outlook for 2018 fantasy doesn’t look anywhere near as optimistic.  Besides his ERA, there’s nothing promising in his peripherals.  He has left 85.7% of men on base.  That’s more than a wife with a headache.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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As the season rolls along, my choices for starters to profile should be wearing thin. Luckily for all of you, myself, and my relationship with anyone not in the Crab Army, spot starts and rookie callups give me the perfect intersect of my two worlds. Now as any good Seinfield fan knows, worlds colliding can be catastrophic. Just ask George Costanza. That however is not the case for your loyal and eccentric Prospector/Pitchspector. It’s all good on this end. Why? Because I’m more than happy to dig into the ratio roulette that is rookie starting pitchers. In the grand tradition of my messiah like activity on the prospect side, I’m here to observe these wild cards, provide my take, and lead you on the path to true fantasy salvation. This is a really long winded, and pompous, way to say I’m profiling Reynaldo Lopez’s White Sox debut today. I’ve been lower on Lopez than many other prospectors in the industry. For what feels like two years now, I’ve been constantly banging my shoe on the table of the United Prospect Nations, sternly proclaiming that “Lopez is a pen arm!” I’d make a joke of my followers storming the town square with Pier 1 style tiki torches, but the rest of the Lifshitz clan prolly wouldn’t appreciate that. Anywho, here’s what I saw.

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Last week’s slate of two-start starters was pretty light, so it is nice to see our list back to being robust for Week 20. A week after not having any two-start starters with a positive dollar value who were owned in less than 75% of RCLS according to Streamonator, we now have three. Streamonator likes two of the starters and like likes another one. Enough stalling and fluff, here are your three beloveds for this week:

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The Mets continue to move towards the future, promoting their top first base prospect, Dominic Smith.  They are cautiously optimistic.  Adverbly restrained because the last time they were unbridled in their enthusiasm, it was about this great deal Bernie Madoff was telling them about.  Okay, let’s think back to a less cynical time.  When the birds chirped, and they made you smile.  When your dad carried you on his shoulders, and you were on top of the world.  When you peed the bed, no one tried to commit you to rehab.  People pinched your cheeks without you having to pay some stranger on Craigslist $75.  A time of joy.  Wonder.  No Splenda.  So, what can we expect from Dominic Smith?  Did someone say ‘no Splenda?’  Well, it wasn’t my words (it was)!  Smith looks like a 17-20 homer guy with a solid average and even better OBP.  Might be a better real life player than a fantasy one.  I’d take a flyer everywhere to see what he does if you need average first, which was the original America First slogan.  Average First!  Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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There is a decent chance that the MLB Trade Deadline throws some wrenches into our list this week. Yu Darvish is currently on the list and could very well get traded. He got absolutely rocked his last time out, though, so some owners might be a little shy about throwing him out there for two starts this week. Depending on your team and league format, though, the chances are you should probably send Darvish out there for his two turns this week. He is going to start at least once even if he gets traded, and August is not the time to start second-guessing your squad.

Our focus for this week is Charlie Morton. He is only owned in 49% of RCLs, and Streamonator likes him for a $13.60 value that is partly due to favorable matchups against the Rays and Blue Jays, both of whom are in the bottom eight in team wOBA over the last couple weeks. In his last start out against the Phillies (who are surprisingly in the top eight for team wOBA over the last two weeks), he tossed seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts on just three hits and a walk.

The main difference in Morton this year that has increased his fantasy value is he is striking out batters at a much higher rate than he ever has in his career. His career K/9 is 6.66, but his K/9 in 2017 is up over 10/9:

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In his first game since being called up on Tuesday, Astros rookie Colin Moran had himself a 2017 debut going 2-for-4 with a triple and a home run and driving in two runs Friday night versus the Orioles. You can see how upset his teammates were with his performance here. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the Astros desperately need another young, extremely talented infielder, and Colin Moran could be that missing piece. Called up to to play while Carlos Correa misses the next month and a half with an injured thumb, Collin could see time at 3rd base, especially if he keeps having games like this one. Did you miss out on the Astros sweepstakes this year? Did you ignore the prophetic Sports Illustrated article that all but guaranteed a World Series victory for the Houston Astros in the year 2017? Are even the Yulieski Guerriel’s and Marwin Gonzalez’s owned already? Well my over-the-internet friends, this could be your last chance to get in on this action and add Moran. In 79 games (338 ABs) at AAA Fresno this season, Moran slashed .308/.373/.543 with 18 dingers and 63 RBI. With 18 homers and 15 doubles, he was having his best offensive season to date. Although part of that could be the hitter friendly PCL as the 55/31 K/BB rate isn’t really impressing. Still, the 24 year old left-handed rookie could see some serious playing time if he starts hot, and in a stacked line up like the Houston’s a player like Moran can really make some noise. He also has a really cool red beard. If you you missed out on Yoan Moncada and want a rookie with upside it’d be moronic not to take a chance and add Colin Moran in deeper mixed and AL-Only leagues. In shallower league its best to see how his playing time will shake out, but I’ll be watching him closer than the Game of Thrones premiere. Which judging by the ratings, you all watched. (Arya is BAE). So check out Moran, he’s Colin to you!

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Way back in April the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Commonwealth of Independent States, sent the notorious “Player To Be Named Later” to the Baltimore Orioles for Parker Bridwell. At the time Bridwell was an unheard of 25 year old righthander with less than 20 innings above AA. The move flew under the radar to most of the baseball world with the exception of the Bridwell family, and an eccentric dyslexic real estate agent named Shelly with a passion for anything bird related. See no one at the time, could have foreseen this unheralded pro in his 7th season in the minors helping a major league ball club. Fast forward 3 months, and here we sit about to breakdown Bridwell’s 6th major league start of 2017 against the contending Tampa Bay Rays. What a world!

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I really wanted to start this post with a quote, something like “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, or something like that. I figured that was a great way to offer hope and encouragement regarding the “second half” of the season. Let’s face it, with this whole “seamingly” out of nowhere spike in offense the last two seasons, there’s one inevitable conclusion. Pitching sucks!!! I mean we’ve been holding onto any shred of decency available. Look at Jason Vargas! Why am I ranking Jason Vargas? Does he have some sort of magnificent secret about these new Hi-C joints MLB is calling balls? Why the hell is he so much better than Justin Verlander? I have too many questions! I’m supposed to have answers! Here’s the truth, as if I’ve been lying to you before. There’s maybe 20 matchup proof starters in all of baseball, and then the rest of them you have to be careful with to varying degrees. Now, that’s not necessarily true for points formats, or deeper leagues with quality starts. Or even those with a greater emphasis on counting stats over ratios. But in our RCL formats, or any 5×5 roto with innings or starts limits, you must choose wisely. Around every corner lurks a roofie to your ratios. Just because Jordan Montgomery has been good more often than not, that doesn’t mean I’m up to a level of confidence that I’d start him in Colorado. Nah mean?  Nod along.  If you’re having trouble knowing which starts to avoid, check out Rudy’s Stream-O-Nator. It’s the perfect objective voice on those tough decisions you won’t get in your own head, or from your friends. That is, if you have friends with voices in your head and all. Anyway, be careful out there, and good luck in the second half.

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How many of you remember the watershed 1993 film Dazed and Confused? In this coming of age saga, a young righty, with the flowing locks of Sampson himself, embarks on a journey that will change his life forever. It is in that film where we first meet Mike Clevinger. I could go on a lengthy diatribe about the film with the Indians righty supplanted as the protagonist, but I already did that a year and a half ago when I first introduced you to Mr. Clevinger. It’s like I’m watching my kids grow up right before my eyes. Either way Clevinger is long haired and goofy just like Mitch from Dazed and Confused. Not to toot my own horn, but to totally toot my own horn, I called this developing breakout a year ago. The Indians acquired the former 2011 4th rounder from the Angels back in 2014 for pen arm Vinny Pestano. Since then it’s been a classic Cleveland starter story, as the organization focused on bringing Clevinger along first as a pen arm, and now as a starter. With a 14.1% SwStr, and a 28.5% K%, there’s some signs that Clevinger, in a season of disappointing starters, could be a diamond in the rough. Let’s look under the hood, and then go pitch by pitch through his Sunday start vs. the division rival Detroit Tigers.

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One of the things I love most about baseball, but particularly covering prospects, is when a guy I totally missed on pops up, and exceeds expectations. Sure, I could become obsessed with my own reputation, and shoot down any suggestion that I missed on a player. But what fun is that? So, when it comes to Nick Pivetta, I’m not ashamed to say I didn’t see this coming. Hell, I wrote up 15+ Phillies prospects, and name dropped another 7-8, and didn’t even mention Pivetta. Fangraphs covered 33 Phillies prospects, and Pivetta ranked in at 27! All this to say, that the “out of nowhere” label is somewhat appropriate when it comes to the Phil’s righthander. After an outstanding outing vs the Red Sox at home a few weeks ago, the strikeouts, and numbers in general seem to be trending in the right direction. So why not check him out, and see if we in fact have a breakout bubbling. Before we begin, big shouts to Oaktown Steve, who’s been hyping up Pivetta in the comments the past few weeks like a Sabermetrics Flavor Flav. Only he turned in his giant clock (read that fast), for an abacus, which I’ve heard can get a bit bulky when worn as a necklace. Anyway, let’s get into Pivetta’s last start vs the Cardinals at home, the second time he’s faced the Redbirds in four starts. He’s going today in Arizona, so maybe we’ll see if he’s worth rolling out… Actually no rookie pitcher with a heavy fly-ball approach should be started in Arizona, but that’s just common sense. On to the profile!

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