May 16, 2014
Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner
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.
As always the standard disclaimer applies to these match-up previews that all start schedules are subject to change on account of rainouts, injuries, managers arbitrarily shuffling their rotations, etc. This week the Twins will play the short stack schedule of five games and feature no two-start options.
And with that, on to our Week Eight pitching planner.
The Rockies lineup is so terrifying right now that I reflexively considered downgrading Bumgarner on the strength of that matchup alone. You can’t sit him because he’s your guy, but I’d recommend sheepishly checking the box score after this start instead of putting yourself through the ringer watching it.
Be careful about getting too excited for the schedule shared by Gallardo and Peralta this week. The Braves offense is a tire fire right now, ranking dead last in baseball over the last two weeks and checking in 29th overall in year-to-date TAv. But that Marlin offense somehow continues to be very good. Even more alarmingly, it has been very, very good at home. I still like both pitchers this week, as they’ve both performed consistently from the jump this year. It won’t be a cakewalk, but each should provide you ample opportunity for return on investment this week.
I wrote a bit about Beckett in the comments of last week’s planner, and the punchline is that I don’t buy too much into his hot start to the season. Still, these match-ups are ripe for the picking, particularly for NL-only leagues. The Mets offense has shown minimal signs of life in beating up on the soft underbelly of the Yankees’ replacement-level arms, but it’s still a poor, poor offense. And Philly is a bottom-of-the-barrel offense any way you slice it right now.
The Braves hurlers are both one meeting with COL away from a “start” recommendation. Minor’s two for three since his return from a season-opening stint on the DL. His velocity looks fine, and if he’s right he’s a guy with auto-start capability. Still, it’s unclear just yet if he is indeed all the way right, and caution is probably warranted. Teheran’s got his own question marks, as the shiny ERA is masking a decidedly more pedestrian slate of peripherals. I’d probably lean towards running both in all but the shallowest of leagues, but if you’ve got the depth on your staff to allow I can see turning elsewhere.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Liriano right now. He’s been battling little injuries and general bouts of his former inconsistency pretty much from the jump this year. I’ll take some of the credit for that, as I drafted him in a couple leagues this year and heaven forbid he ever actually performs well for one of my squads. The Nats have been able to hit lefties a bit despite their general vulnerabilities right now, but neither of these offenses has shown themselves to be particularly adept at waiting out wilder southpaws. So whether either will be able to seize on Liriano’s greatest liability remains to be seen. But he’s a shaky investment at best right now, and I can’t imagine many scenarios in which I’d feel too comfortable committing to two starts from him.
DeSclafani held his own in his major-league debut, and he’s an intriguing little arm the Marlins acquired from Toronto in the Great Miami Dump of 2012. He’s shown a consistent ability to keep walks in check, as well as both strike guys out and induce grounders at solid-if-unspectacular rates. The match-ups are intriguing, with a struggling Brewers offense and pretty terrible Philadelphia crew coming to town. He’s a fun streaming option for the week.
Cingrani may or may not be a two-start option, as his balky shoulder and a rainout Wednesday have left the Reds’ rotation plans somewhat in flux. As of this writing he’s slated to go Monday and line up for a two-start week. The matchups are sound; Washington’s Harper-less offense has been abysmal lately, and while St. Louis has improved marginally against southpaws lately they still rate as the fourth worst offense in baseball. Cingrani’s injury concerns, general inefficiency and control issues, and the uncertainty of when he’ll actually start make him a risky play despite the match-ups, however.
I’d probably avoid Montero this week, as his second and third big league starts will come against an always-dangerous Dodger team and a kind of, sort of improving Arizona squad. But both are home starts, and if you’ve had him on your farm for a while and want to ride the excitement of a young gun with no big league scouting report written on him yet, by all means fire away.
Morales has given up 17 runs in 21 innings over his past four starts, and outside of the inherent win potential that comes with having Colorado’s offense behind you, I don’t see any reason to bother with him right now.
The Angels rotation is currently in flux for next week. Currently Jered Weaver is listed as a short-rest two-start pitcher for a home-and-home with Houston and Wednesday and Kansas City on Sunday. If that holds, he’s a “Start.” The other likely two-start option is Garrett Richards. The Angels haven’t named a starter for Saturday, which would be Richards’ second theoretical turn of the week. He’d be in line for the same Houston/Kansas City schedule, and would also make for an unequivocal “Start” recommendation.
The Orioles haven’t officially named a replacement for the demoted Kevin Gausman, but it looks likely than Miguel Gonzalez will reclaim the slot for dates at Pittsburgh and at home against Cleveland. Aside from a first-start disaster against the Tigers, Gonzalez had actually been a fairly decent, consistent option for AL-only leagues before getting bumped. The Detroit massacre was the only start in seven in which Gonzalez gave up more than three earned runs, and he struck out a batter per inning in those starts. I’d consider him a strong “Consider” for AL-only leagues if he does indeed get the nod.
Iwakuma has been straight-up awesome since returning from a dangerous pre-season finger injury. I say dangerous because it involved one of the more critical ligaments needed for throwing his signature splitter. The pitch has been as devastating as ever in his first couple starts, though, and if he keeps it up he’ll return right quick to the “Auto-start” standing he earned for nigh on all of last year.
Speaking of straight-up awesome, Corey Kluber. Corey Kluber. Yeah…Corey Kluber. Even including a clunker against the tough Angels’ lineup his last five starts have produced this: three wins, 47 strikeouts, seven walks, 2.04 ERA, 0.99 WHIP. Like Iwakuma, he’s not far removed from achieving “Auto-start” status.
Pomeranz has looked tremendous in two starts since a rotation spot dropped into his lap, and he makes for a strong consider this week against two middle-of-the-pack offenses against left-handed pitching. Toronto’s an awfully tough place to pitch, and that draw plus a likely still-limited pitch limit that eats in to his Win potential is enough to give me pause in recommending him for shallower leagues. In deeper leagues and AL-onlies though I’d be thoroughly tempted to run him out there and see if he can’t just continue doing what he’s been doing.
Salazar was slated for two last week but got bumped to this coming week instead. On balance the shift in match-ups helps a little, as did the extra opportunity for his owners to watch him pitch against a decent offense. Salazar struggled just a little, tiny bit with his efficiency again in Toronto, requiring a whopping 98 pitches to stagger through four innings. I’m still not really sure what to make of him. His results have been trending slightly better, but his process in achieving them has not installed any confidence whatsoever. He’s a true toss-up depending on your team and league requirements, though I’d probably prefer to avoid where possible.
Keuchel has been very sneaky in his ascent into the top 25 among starting pitchers, and yet there he sits at number 25 through eight seasons. He’s put together six quality starts in those eight turns, and his ERA is fully supported by his peripherals – highlighted by more than four batters for every walk thus far. I want so desperately to offer a full “start” recommendation, but the trip to Orange County makes it tough. You’ll get paid off on the back end with a trip to Safeco if you have the stones to run him this week, and in AL-only leagues especially I’m thoroughly tempted to go for the glory.
For his part Keuchel’s rotation-mate Scott Feldman has pitched perfectly reasonable baseball, as is his want. He’s doing so with some help from the fog machine and more than a few mirrors, though. His FIP sits almost a full two runs above his ERA, driven in large part by a pathetic strikeout rate under five-per-nine. I don’t trust him at all in Anaheim, and I’d try pretty hard to keep him on my bench this week if I were you.
I always like to take a moment to appreciate guys like Scott Carroll. After 630-some-odd innings over parts of eight seasons in the minor leagues Carroll finally made his Major League debut this year at age 29. He’s pitched pretty poorly in four starts since, and his time in the Chicago rotation is entirely dependent on Chris Sale’s rehab progression. It’s unclear if he’ll actually make both of these starts, but it should be pretty immaterial for fantasy purposes if he does.