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April 12, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week Three

by Paul Sporer

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Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner. Each week I will cover the pitchers are who slated to make two starts and help you decide who you should start and who you should sit. Sometimes guys will be in the “consider” where they might have one good start, but a second tough one and then your league settings might determine whether or not you should go forward with him. The pitchers will be split by league 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 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. We are starting them automatically so why do I need to expound on how awesome they are and will be in the coming week?

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 fodder who find themselves 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 be a decider 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 though he isn’t and if you are in a 10-team mixed league you probably don’t need to take the risk, but a 10-team AL-only leaguer 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 an “at COL, at TOR” slate. Speaking of the fateful “at 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 three slate, starting with the NL…

Auto-Starts: Cliff Lee, Jordan Zimmermann, and Kris Medlen

Start:

Start

Opp.

Lance Lynn

at PIT, at PHI

Homer Bailey

vs. PHI, vs. MIA

Chad Billingsley

vs. SD, at BAL

Barry Zito

at MIL, vs. SD

Jake Westbrook

at PIT, at PHI

Notes:
  • Lynn and Bailey have each had a good and a bad start, with Lynn’s good and Bailey’s bad coming against each other’s teams (though not in the same outing) as they work their way into regular season form. Both guys did some great things in 2012, setting up expectations for a big 2013. They were two of my favorite targets, and while I missed out on Bailey everywhere, I have several shares of Lynn. Both have a pair of favorable outings for this week; the Pirates and Marlins have been two of baseball’s worst offenses, while the Phillies are merely okay and definitely beatable for talented pitchers.
  • Zito and Westbrook are a pair of veterans off to amazing starts, and while I don’t really believe in either of them staying anywhere near this elite level going forward, they each get a pair of outings to help them stay hot for at least another week. Ride the hot streaks here, especially against San Diego and Pittsburgh.

Sit:

Sit

Opp.

Brandon McCarthy

at NYY, at COL

Eric Stults

at LAD, at SF

James McDonald

vs. STL, vs. ATL

Travis Wood

vs. TEX, at MIL

Kyle Kendrick

at CIN, vs. STL

Bronson Arroyo

vs. PHI, vs. MIA

Alex Sanabia

vs. WAS, at CIN

Wade LeBlanc

vs. WAS, at CIN

Jonathan Sanchez

vs. STL, vs. ATL

Jeremy Hefner

at COL, vs. WAS

Aaron Laffey

at COL, vs. WAS

Juan Nicasio

vs. NYM, vs. ARI

Jeff Francis

vs. NYM, vs. ARI

Notes:

  • The trip to Colorado is enough to pass on McCarthy, but throw in the facts that he has been a bit wobbly early on and the Yankees bats seem to have woken up, and the choice becomes easy.
  • I could see starting Stults in a more desperate situation, as neither venue is terrifying and he could give you some passable innings, but there is no way you should be in a desperate situation before Tax Day.
  • Even the borderline guys talent-wise have at least one tough matchup and in some cases two, which makes these decisions rather easy. McDonald gets the Cards and Braves, Wood has the Rangers and a trip to Miller Park, Kendrick has the Reds and Cards, and I flat-out don’t trust Arroyo. That start in Miami could be useful, but if you’re locked into both, then pass altogether.
  • How much would someone have to pay you to purposely start one of the Mets in Colorado and against the Nats at home, or one of the Rockies with two home starts? $20? $100?

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Auto-Starts: Matt Moore and Josh Johnson

Start:

Start

Opp.

Tommy Milone

vs. HOU, at TB

Ryan Dempster

vs. TB, vs. KC

Derek Holland

at CHC, vs. SEA

Gavin Floyd

at TOR, vs. MIN

Ivan Nova

vs. ARI, at TOR

Notes:
  • This week is a perfect setup for Milone, who gets the Astros at home and a Rays team that can’t hit lefties in a friendly park down in St. Petersburg. Having Houston come to Oakland is just icing on the cake, because Milone rolled just about anyone in Oakland last year. Perfect stream week for Milone.
  • Dempster hasn’t been too bad in his first pair of outings with the Red Sox, but a lot of strikeouts and too many walks have elevated his pitch counts, cutting him off after five innings in each them.
  • Floyd is catching the Blue Jays at a great time, as they’ve stumbled out of the gate with their new high-powered offense, and then he backs that up with a start against the Twins. The Twins have ripped him in his career, but this is a different, much-worse iteration of the club.

Consider:

Consider

Opp.

Jake Arrieta

vs. TB, vs. LAD

Notes:

  • This might be a spot for Arrieta to right his ship, as the Rays just aren’t hitting right now and the Dodgers have only been okay. He hasn’t allowed a homer yet, an issue that plagued him in 2011-2012, but he is walking too many guys and not striking out as many. The results to date have been terrible, so you should tread cautiously.

Sit:

Sit

Opp.

Roberto Hernandez

at BOS, vs. OAK

Rick Porcello

at SEA, at LAA

Erik Bedard

at OAK, vs. CLE

Jeremy Guthrie

at ATL, at BOS

Joe Blanton

at MIN, vs. DET

Mark Buehrle

vs. CWS, vs. NYY

Brett Myers

vs. BOS, at HOU

Alfredo Aceves

at CLE, vs. KC

Dylan Axelrod

at TOR, vs. MIN

Mike Pelfrey

vs. LAA, at CWS

Blake Beavan

vs. DET, at TEX

Notes:

  • Hernandez’s skills early on look great (18 percent strikeout rate, seven percent walk rate), but the results haven’t followed just yet. The Red Sox and A’s are tearing the cover off the ball, so I’d still be cautious with him.
  • Guthrie is an auto-start against the White Sox, but almost an auto-sit against everyone else. He has a 0.50 ERA in 35 2/3 innings versus Robin Ventura’s squad since joining the Royals, but a 4.73 ERA in 66 2/3 innings against all other opponents.
  • Blanton has taken his home-run issues to another level two starts into the year, and I’m terrified of running him out there in all three leagues where I have him. The trip to Minnesota isn’t nearly enough to offset the potential terror of facing that Tigers lineup.
  • Beavan and Brandon Maurer showed the danger of blindly starting guys against the Astros, and Myers has struggled so much that not even a trip to Houston is enough to inspire confidence. 

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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