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April 4, 2014

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week Two

by Wilson Karaman

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Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner! Every Friday this season, I’ll be taking you through all of the two-start options for the coming week to help you decide who to start and who to sit. Outside of the elites, two-start pitchers are often as much or more trouble than they’re worth, as rare is the week in which the stars align to offer your starters not just one but two consecutive tasty matchups. As a result, you’ll notice that sometimes the better starters will find themselves in the “Consider” category, because they might have one good matchup, but a second tough one. And similarly, less-talented hurlers might just meander their way into “Start” territory on account of a plum schedule. 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 these guys, either with an early draft pick or high dollar auction bid. These are the top 20 or so starters in baseball, 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, unless a player has just moved up or is in imminent danger of moving down.

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 the decider here. A pitcher in this category can be your number two starter with a tough week of matchups in Cincinnati and Colorado. Or conversely 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 might not be. Your particular league settings will have a lot to say here; 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 staying away from this week. They will range in talent from solid to poor. With mixed leagues larger than 10 teams my default position for all two-start pitchers who rank outside of the top 60 or so is to sit them unless the matchups dictate otherwise. Additionally, mid-rotation starters who face a couple tough draws will find themselves in this category more often than not.

We begin with Week Two, which is, unfortunately, perhaps the toughest week of the entire season during which to find quality two-start options. For one thing, most of the elite arms in baseball just posted a two-start week in the season’s first scoring period. On top of that the second round of home-openers hits, with teams who opened on the road returning home. So there are a lot of wonky extra days off where teams are scheduled for two-game series with built-in rainout protections. It conspires for some frankly terrible two-start options in each league. Our top-rated option this week by ADP is Michael Wacha at 16, and there are just four total top-40 pitchers set to toe the rubber more than once.

With that disclaimer, on to Week Two…



Michael Wacha


Gio Gonzalez


Homer Bailey



I’ll just say that I’m somewhat on the fence with Bailey for this week. His ADP checks in at 21, and at that price he’s pretty well a must-start until proven otherwise. But he did not pitch well in three starts last year at St. Louis and owns a 5.54 career ERA and 1.58 career WHIP over eight starts in the city. The Tampa home matchup is better, but still no walk in the park. On a strictly match-up-based analysis, he’s a less-than-perfect play. Consider this the lowest rung of the auto-start ladder and a tepid recommendation.


Charlie Morton


Tim Hudson



  • I’m high on Morton this year, as his exceptional ground-ball rate is a perfect fit with Pittsburgh’s shift-happy defensive strategies. He looked great in his debut start, which also doesn’t hurt. The road trip assignments are not a best-case scenario, but the match-ups themselves are just right. Milwaukee hit the third-most groundballs of any team in baseball last year, while Morton threw two gems in Wrigley. I’ll roll with him in this situation.
  • Old Man Hudson has a couple strong match-ups at home, with two of the more middling road offenses rolling into town. He’s not likely to get you much in the way of whiffs, but you knew that already. He’s a strong three-category play next week.


Dan Haren


Tony Cingrani


Kyle Lohse


Bartolo Colon


Tyson Ross


Kyle Kendrick


Henderson Alvarez



  • I liked the Haren signing for the Dodgers, and he looked outstanding in his first start at Petco. His new home ballpark will at least do its part to help mitigate some of his chronic HR:FB ratio issues, which will be a nice bonus with Miguel Cabrera and company coming to town. He follows up Detroit’s visit with a trip to the worst ballpark in the division for homerun suppression, which is not an ideal set of matchups. Still, the WHIP and W potential will be here, and if either or both of those things appeal to you he’s worth a long look.
  • Cingrani gets a couple nice tests right out of the gate. He faced St. Louis twice last year, with one decent start and one decidedly mediocre one. His 14-to-8 K:BB ratio in those contests is a reminder that a good, patient offense like the Cardinals makes for a poor match-up play. Tampa’s never seen him, and a deception-oriented pitcher like Cingrani should benefit from that. If you need to get strikeouts he’s an option, otherwise there’s some danger lurking here, particularly to your WHIP aspirations.
  • Lohse always does the exact opposite of what I predict he’ll do, so I’m staying out of this one. Use your own best judgment.
  • Colon is similar, in that I’ve written him off 4,312 times now and he just keeps hanging around, throwing up quality start after quality start. Tough road matchups, might not strike out a single hitter on the entire trip, but always tough to bet against.
  • Ross’ strikeout potential and unfamiliarity to both opponents makes for a very attractive combination, but they’re also strong offensive opponents and Ross is still a largely unknown quantity. This one all comes down to how aggressive you want to be with the back of your rotation.
  • Kendrick is here strictly on account of his two favorable home matchups. For NL-only managers he’s a solid play, and if you’re a mixed leaguer who’s into gamblin’ on the matchups he’s a legitimate streaming option this week.
  • Alvarez was quite good on the road last year (3.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 5-to-1 K:BB over eight starts and 44 innings). And while Spring Training stats on the whole are largely ignorable, his 4-to-1 K:BB over four starts perked at least one of my eyebrows. I don’t love the Washington match-up, and while I’d be inclined to monitor only for now I can see the argument for considering him here in an NL-only or if you’re the streaming type.


Trevor Cahill


Edwin Jackson



  • Cahill and Jackson are two of the more frustrating pitchers around, and until either demonstrates some consistency, they should generally be avoided. Cahill against the Dodgers is a not fun proposition, and Jackson matching up against two of the better teams in the league fails to inspire much confidence.



None. Matt Moore (ranked 33rd by starting pitcher ADP) is the top-rated AL starter with multiple starts next week, and we’ll get to him below.


C.J. Wilson


Scott Kazmir


Corey Kluber



  • Wilson is perhaps the best mix of true talent and strong matchups for the week. He dominated the poor Astros over four starts last year to the tune of 11.5 K/9 and a 2.03 ERA, and the Mets batted Eric Young, Jr. and Juan Lagares one-two on Opening Day. Yes, please.
  • Kazmir, for his part, probably has the best on-paper set of match-ups of any starter this week. Sure the Mariners have looked frisky out of the gate, but if you drafted Kazmir you drafted him for weeks like this.
  • Despite looking poor in his first start of the year at Oakland, Kluber is still one of my favorite back-end plays for the season. The Padres make for a nice mark at home and he threw a couple solid if unspectacular games against Chicago last season. I’m willing to ride with him until he proves otherwise, which is high praise for a guy who went in the 15th round of NFBC drafts.


Matt Moore


Martin Perez


Ubaldo Jimenez


John Lackey


Hideki Kuroda


Ivan Nova


Kevin Correia


James Paxton


Zach McAllister


Jason Vargas


Mark Buehrle



  • I’m admittedly skeptical of Moore, and these matchups do not play to his strengths. Kansas City has a bunch of patient hitters dotting their lineup, and while Cincinnati lost Choo during the offseason they drew the second most walks in baseball last year. Joey Votto might as well start each at-bat against Moore with three balls in the count. I certainly get the impulse for a “start” demarcation on account of draft cost, breakout potential, and all that. But I’ve got Moore on “prove me wrong” ground to start the season and I advise caution here.
  • Perez has a tough draw at Fenway, followed by a much more inviting date with the Astros. What you do here all depends on how much risk you’re willing to take against Boston for the reward of that Houston visit.
  • Lackey was fantastic in his return from Tommy John surgery last season, and he picked up right where he left off in his inaugural turn this year. Still, that’s a pair of pretty brutal match-ups right there, and it’s enough to make even the staunchest of Lackey advocates pause. I’d avoid if possible.
  • Kuroda and Nova share similarly tough divisional matchups. Not quite Lackey levels of scheduling misconduct, but neither pitcher can be a considered a surefire option given opponent familiarity and general degree of difficulty.
  • Correia has a home-and-home week, and anytime that’s the case with a Twins pitcher in April it’s worth a gander, especially for AL-only leagues.
  • Paxton has quietly had a tremendous start to his MLB career, with his opening start against Anaheim (seven shutout innings with nine strikeouts) perhaps his best effort yet. He’ll go twice in the friendly confines of Safeco next week, though one of the starts is a return engagement against his friends from Orange County. He should be squarely in the cross-hairs for AL-only managers, and he’s a guy I like as a darkhorse to potentially move up into more routine appearances in the “Start” section moving forward.
  • McAllister is also worth a look, as the Padres present a favorable matchup and he’s pitched quite well in his career against the White Sox (2.72 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 33-to-11 K:BB over seven starts and 43 innings). He’s a roll of the dice given his inconsistency, but might just be worth the gamble. AL-only managers in particular should take notice.
  • Vargas and Buehrle are veteran streaming options best left for the deepest of AL-onlies.


Felix Doubront


Felipe Paulino


Jose Quintana


Jarred Cosart



  • While Lackey gets some rope in his two-start gauntlet, this is not the week to see how your Felix Doubront breakout hunch is coming along. Save your mojo, hero.
  • Paulino and Quintana both visit Coors and then pitch at U.S. Cellular, which very well may be the least appealing tandem of scheduled starts we’ll come across all year.
  • If you’re starting Cosart for these matchups in the second week of the season, you’re probably doing it wrong.

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

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