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March 29, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week One

by Paul Sporer

Welcome to the 2013 debut of the Weekly Pitching Planner. Each week, I will cover the pitchers who are slated to make two starts and help you decide who you should start and who you should sit. Sometimes, such as when a pitcher has have one good matchup and one difficult assignment, pitchers will be in the “consider” category; your league settings might then determine whether or not that pitcher should find a spot in your lineup. The pitchers will be split by league, and then by categories:

Auto-Starts – These are your surefire fantasy aces. You paid a handsome sum for them either with an early draft pick or a high-dollar auction bid, so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can emerge onto or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many—if any—notes associated with these groupings each week. They are, as the name says, automatic starts.

Starts – These are the guys I’m recommending you put into your lineup this week. Some will be obvious, but not quite auto-start excellent, while others will be waiver-wire residents blessed with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of in your league. There will be accompanying notes supporting the decisions.

Considers – As mentioned earlier, these guys will be on the fence, and your league settings and position in the standings will really make the decisions here. If the Minnesota Twins’ fifth starter is slated to face the Astros at home, followed by an interleague trip to San Diego, he will appear on this list because the matchups are great, even though he isn’t. If you are in a 10-team mixed league, you probably don’t need to take the risk, but a 10-team AL-only -eaguer might see it as a nice opportunity to log some quality innings from a freely available resource.

Sits – These are the guys I’m getting away from this week. They will range in talent from solid to poor. Rarely will you see a really good pitcher here unless he gets a pair of assignments in unfriendly locales, such as Coors Field and the Rogers Centre. Speaking of the fateful “@ COL,” any mediocre talent with a trip to Coors Field will be a “sit” until further notice. If they turn the humidor back on, I’ll reconsider, but after last year, there is just no reason to throw any non-stud in that park.

And, with that, here is our week one slate..

American League

Auto-Starts: Justin Verlander, David Price, Felix Hernandez, R.A. Dickey, CC Sabathia, James Shields, Chris Sale, and Jered Weaver




Jarrod Parker

vs. SEA, @ HOU

Brett Anderson

vs. SEA, @ HOU

Jason Hammel

@ TB, vs. MIN

Jon Lester

@ NYY, @ TOR

Hisashi Iwakuma

@ OAK, @ CHW

Matt Harrison

@ HOU, vs. LAA

  • Anderson and Parker get a cushy opening week. The Mariners look to have improved their offense, but getting them at home is nice, and of course everyone will be picking on Houston all year long. I like both of these guys this year, though Anderson’s inability to stay healthy does worry me.
  • Hammel has been a bit overlooked in drafts this spring, as his breakout season was cut short by a knee injury. Throw in the fact that most are pointing to major regression from the O’s, and all of a sudden you have an undervalued team ace.
  • Plenty are pro-rebound for Lester, myself included, and while he gets a tough draw out of the gate, I’m still on board. Remember, this is a guy who used to be an auto-start, and that is still his ultimate upside. Getting a muted Yankees lineup helps, too.
  • Iwakuma is a guy I have been touting all offseason, and I’m excited to see him get a pair of starts in the opening week.
  • Opposite ends of the spectrum for Harrison as he opens with the Astros, but then hosts the Angels in Arlington. If he wasn’t a proven commodity in Arlington, this might’ve been pushed down to a “consider.” If you can make daily moves, you may want to stay away from the “vs. LAA” assignment if you are nervous.




Justin Masterson

@ TOR, @ TB

Vance Worley

vs. DET, @ BAL

Bud Norris

vs. TEX, vs. OAK


  • Masterson gets a pair of clubs who, between natural lefties and switch-hitters, could line up as many as six guys apiece from the left side. In case you’re unaware, he has a 606/799 righty/lefty OPS split for his career, and his 825 OPS allowed to lefties last year was the second-worst of his career.
  • Worley is a guy I actually like, but I want to wait-and-see with him. He struggled a bit down the stretch last year, he’s shifting to the American League, and he opens with a tough draw against two strong lineups. The same rationale goes for Norris.

National League

Auto-Starts: Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, Stephen Strasburg, Adam Wainwright, Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, and Yovani Gallardo




Jon Niese

vs. SD, vs. MIA

Jeff Samardzija

@ PIT, @ ATL

Ian Kennedy

vs. STL, @ MIL

A.J. Burnett

vs. CHC, @ LAD

Tim Hudson

vs. PHI, vs. CHC


  • The first three guys are all capable of pushing themselves into the auto-starts category this season, but they need to take the projected step forward to do so. Thus, they remain in this pool for now. Niese gets the cushiest run of the trio, inviting both the Padres and Marlins to town. With Chase Headley out, there aren’t too many scary bats in the Padres lineup outside of Carlos Quentin. Meanwhile, Miami is a Triple-A lineup and Giancarlo Stanton. Don’t let Stanton beat you, and you are fine.
  • Samardzija gets an excellent opener in the very pitcher-friendly PNC Park, and while the Braves lineup looks like it can mash, it is also insanely strikeout-prone, which bodes extremely well for him.
  • Kennedy has lived in the auto-start pool as recently as 2011 and he was there for a lot of 2012, but his homer issues returned last year, pushing him down a peg and into the group of pitchers whose matchups you need to review. Nonetheless, I still believed in his talent enough to start him almost anywhere but Coors Field, and he only had one outing there down the stretch. He is a better home-run rate away from being a fantasy ace again, but we'll need to see if it returns to 2011 levels before moving him back into the auto-start group.
  • Even a huge bounce-back season couldn’t earn Burnett much love this spring, as he remained one of the more underrated arms in the pitching pool. He is up there in age at 36 years old, but I’m still fully invested.
  • The ol’ venerable Hudson toes the slab for his 15th season, and while there will likely be spots where I back off on him, it’s unlikely to happen much early in the season. It's fair to worry about Hudson getting fatigued down the stretch, but he should be the reliable starter we are accustomed to seeing early on.





Ricky Nolasco

@ WAS, @ NYM

Jhoulys Chacin

@ MIL, vs. SD

Edinson Volquez

@ NYM, @ COL


You could consider starting Nolasco if you really wanted to, but he is just not a particularly appealing option to me. His consistently tumbling strikeout rate has now bottomed out at 15 percent, and this once-promising arm is now struggling to even be mediocre.

All Rockies arms are on a wait-and-see approach until further notice, and that obviously applies to Chacin.

Two road starts for Volquez, including one in Coors Field? Do not want; do not like.



























Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

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