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This Week In Streaming Strategy, August 20-26

I've been playing in a fantasy league with my old friends from my hometown since 1999, and in that time, one guy (let's call him "Brent" since...well, that's his name) has never won a title. He's the Chicago Cubs of our league, usually finishing in the lower half of the standings. Well, 2012 looked like it might finally be Brent's year, as he's been battling two other managers for the top spot all season long. Brent avoided the injury bug, snatched Mike Trout off the waiver wire in April and drafted very well, led by his mid-round pickup of Melky Cabrera ...uh oh.  Yeah, needless to say, the dream might be dead.

Before Brent makes a Melky/Steve Bartman photo collage, let's help him out with a few streaming picks to snatch him (and you) a few extra points this week. Why am I being so magnanimous in helping out my fellow manager? I am WELL back in this league. That's what happens when Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria are your first two draft picks.

* Mike Leake.  The Reds right-hander is coming off his best start of the season, a complete-game, four-hit, one-run gem against the Mets last Wednesday.  Leake has been a sneaky-good (snleaky?) fourth or fifth starter option for fantasy owners this year, posting a respectable 4.29 ERA (3.71 xFIP) with a 3.06 K/BB rate.  Those numbers get even better if you ignore Leake's 6.65 ERA in four April starts.  He won't strike out a ton of batters (just a 6.1 K/9) but his peripherals are pretty strong, and he is a good play for Monday's start in Philadelphia since Leake is a decidedly better pitcher on the road than he is at home.  The righty has a 3.13 ERA in 10 road starts, as opposed to a 5.40 ERA in 13 starts at the Great American Ballpark.  For this reason I'd use caution before Leake's second start this week when he's back in Cincy facing the Cardinals, but I'd definitely give Leake a start against the Phillies.  Leake is owned in just 10 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues so he's almost surely available for a streaming pickup.

* Juan Pierre.  Following the trades of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, the Phillies waved the white flag on the 2012 season and shifted into full-scale "play the kids" mode.  This has meant lots of Domonic Brown and John Mayberry and less of veteran Pierre, though this could change with the news that Nate Schierholtz will miss a month with a broken toe.  Schierholtz's absence removes one more left-handed bat from the mix and with the Phils set to face right-handed starters in six of seven games this week, Pierre (.328/.368/.405) should see an uptick in playing time.  You know what this means, fantasy owners --- sound the CHEAP STEALS ALARM!

* Brett Wallace.  In a way, the Astros are a perfect team for streaming purposes since you know that virtually the entire roster will be available on a fantasy waiver wire.  That's a pretty dark bright side if you're a Houston fan but hey, I'll give one of your guys some dap this week.  Wallace has been seeing time at both first and third against right-handed pitching, hitting them hard to the tune of a 1.027 OPS in 79 plate appearances.  The Astros are scheduled to face righties in five of six games this week and with Wallace owned in a measly 2% of Yahoo fantasy league, now is a good time to buy subterrean-low on the 2008 first-round pick.

* Ubaldo Jimenez, Roberto Hernandez, Zach McAllister.  None of these guys are exactly great fantasy options  --- Jimenez has been a bust, Hernandez has made just one start in his return to the majors since his "Fausto Carmona" identity was revealed as false and McAllister has had a few bumpy start since his stellar July.  Still, the three Indians right-handers get the streaming nods this week since they're scheduled to start against the Mariners at Safeco Field.  The last Cleveland no-hitter was Len Barker's perfect game on May 15, 1981 and if you think I'm nuts for bringing that statistic up, is it really that far-fetched given everything else we've seen at Safeco this season?!

* Francisco Liriano.  I'll confess, I recently committed one of the cardinal fantasy sins -- I streamed Francisco Liriano.  I bought into the "huh, he's pitched well in his first two starts with the White Sox, maybe Don Cooper straightened him out" hype.  Liriano proceeded to then get bombed for six runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Athletics, causing me to cut him from my roster and then slap my forehead for about ten minutes straight.  Liriano then pitched well against the Blue Jays in his next outing, so if you subtract the Oakland start, Liriano has a 2.60 ERA with a 3:1 K/BB ratio in three quality starts since coming to Chicago.  Don't be fooled.  Given that Liriano is set to face the Yankees on Tuesday, let me pass on this advice from Joey Tribbiani if you're thinking of biting the apple and streaming Liriano: DON'T DO IT.

* Josh Rutledge.  Congrats to you if you've been riding the Rutledge train for the last month.  Called up from Double-A on July 13, Rutledge has hit a whopping .328/.346/.607 in 127 plate appearances since, making him a godsend for fantasy owners looking for a midseason boost at shortstop.  It wasn't totally out of nowhere (Rutledge has an .870 OPS in 947 minor league PAs, albeit none above the Double-A level) and with five hits in his last 11 at-bats, Rutledge isn't exactly slowing down.  Heck, I'm not even saying he's an outright bad play this week, since there are certainly worse options for a middle infield spot than riding a hot hand.  I will note, however, that Colorado is set to face right-handed starters in six of seven games this week so the right-handed hitting Rutledge should, on paper, be in tough.  Of course, Rutledge has a .967 OPS against righties this season, so might well be eating these words by this time next week, but I'll advise you to exercise some caution with Rutledge.  If you have another decent shortstop option to insert on the days when the Rockies face, say, R.A. Dickey or Matt Harvey, I might put Rutledge on the bench.


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