August 19, 2016
Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner
Week of August 22, 2016
Welcome to this week’s starting pitcher planner. No, I’m not Greg. I’m not Wilson either, but we’ll get through this together. We are here to take a look at the pitchers slated for two turns in the upcoming week. The hope is that the planner can help guide lineup and FAAB decisions that need to be made over the weekend. Of course, my information isn’t perfect and I don’t have a crystal ball. Rain, injuries, and teams reshuffling between when I write and Monday’s first pitch will definitely happen. If new information comes to light after we publish, I’ll try to tackle it in the comments. Feel free to beat me to it if you have any info, and I’ll be glad to offer my opinion there if you want it.
Let’s get some ground rules out the way before getting started. The pitchers will be split by league and then by category. Here are some general thoughts about the categories:
Auto-Starts: You paid a big price for these guys, either with an early draft pick, high dollar auction bid, or significant haul of prospects or MLB talent. These are the top 20 or so starters in baseball, so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can pitch their way on to or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many notes associated with this group, unless a player has just moved up or is in imminent danger of moving down.
Starts: These are the pitchers I’m recommending you give the ball to this week. Some will be obvious, though not quite auto-start excellent. Others will be lesser talents who find themselves with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of.
Considers: These guys will be on the fence and your league settings and position in the standings will play a big role in your decision. A pitcher in this category can be an SP2 or SP3 with a tough week of matchups. Conversely, he could be a team’s number five who happens to be lined up against a couple basement dwellers. Your particular league context carries the day 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 smaller than 16 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.
The biggest question mark on the schedule this week lies in Los Angeles where Ross Stripling tries to play the role of place holder again while 8,000 Dodgers starters are on the mend.
Bumgarner picks up an extra two-start week after Matt Cain was gracefully placed on the disabled list yesterday. Yes, Strasburg’s last three starts have been poor. No, I am not particularly deterred.
Not a great crop this week in the senior circuit. Garcia gets a few favorable home matchups (though Oakland does have the current personnel to handle southpaws), and that’s enough to trump his up-and-down performance in 2016. Expect one very good start and one where he gives up four runs—that seems to be his trend recently. Taillon should easily be able to rack up double-digit strikeouts this week with a DH-less Houston team and a strikeout-prone Brewers team. In fact, 14 or 15 in aggregate might be in reach. Speaking of strikeouts, Bailey has been dynamic in the category since returning, bring owners 27 strikeouts in less than 20 innings of work. He’s had an easy schedule to date, which makes this is toughest stretch yet in his seemingly never-ending return from injury, but it’s time to see what he’s capable of. I really don’t like Cashner very much, and wanted any excuse to remove him from the Start bucket, but these matchups are pretty spectacular. My disdain has been noted for the public record.
The first thing that goes through your mind when you see a Rockies’ starter has two road starts is relief. Relief for them, relief for fantasy owners everywhere. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Bettis actually has a higher ERA on the road (5.40) than at home (5.20) this year—at least at first glance. Those numbers are skewed by interleague starts at Boston and at Texas, which are almost as unfriendly confines as Coors Field. Believe in the NL-road start power and throw him in there if you can handle some potentially mild ratio hits. If Kazmir had a second start that was as good of a matchup as his first, he’d be a start. If the opposite were true, he’d be a sit. This is called a hedge. Bradley has the unfortunate circumstance of pitching both of his games at home this week, where he has a 6.25 ERA—so even though he faces two bottom-barrel teams, this is not your typical “oooh Braves and Reds” situation. Gamble if you really need strikeouts or wins, but if you are trying to protect ratios at all, it’s likely going to be bad news. The talent of Lopez pushes him into the Consider class, but the performance and these matchups have not been ideal. If he didn’t have the power that is the Washington offense behind him, he’d be in the next section.
Whalen is not the long-lost non-musical brother of Kevin and Greg, although he’d have to swap the vowels in his name to do so anyway. This is almost as unfortunate as your pitching staff would have to be to play him this week. He was surprisingly competent against the Nationals on Thursday night, but the matchups aren’t in his favor this week anyway. There’s an outside chance that Stripling could turn into Rich Hill, if the rehabbing lefty ever rids himself of this super-blister issue. Friends don’t let friends Jon Niese. Finally, Jackson draws a two-start week against organizations he used to play for. If I had a nickel for every time this has happened, I’d probably be able to come up with a clever ending to this joke. However, just the fact he’s back and in a starting rotation warms my heart no end. #ImWithEJax.
There was really no consideration given to moving Salazar out of this group here after his truncated one-inning start last night. He clearly didn’t seem to be hurt as he threw in the bullpen to build up his pitch count after he came out of the game. Darvish becomes the beneficiary of the Rangers’ having just a brutal set of fifth starter options.
The strikeouts alone in a two-start week almost make Archer an Auto-start despite the less than glamorous ratios and poor win potential in Tampa. Though the counter argument to that is that these matchups are not good for him, and he’s still a hearty start recommendation. Wright returns from the DL on Tuesday in a matchup against Archer and the Rays, but keep your eye out for news over the weekend in case he needs to be pushed back. Wright has struggled a little since July started, but everything is relative—he’s still gone 5-0 with nearly a strikeout per inning, and his last start before going getting hurt was a complete game shutout of the Dodgers. Losing the heat and humidity of peak summer is only going to help him as he attempts to return to early season form.
There is probably no story in baseball over the second half that makes me happier than Bundy returning to form as a starter in Baltimore. The once super-heralded prospect struggled out of the gate in the bullpen before really finding his stride and his velocity in June. Since then, it’s been seven relief appearances and seven starts to the tune of a 2.83 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 54 innings. Joining him as an easy start this week is Gausman, who has shown crisper stuff over the his last 10 starts, striking out at least six batters in nine of them. The long ball has still been an issue, which is a mild concern both against Washington and in New York, but it’s not a deathknell.
Iwakuma and Fister keep winning games despite their unattractive strikeout rates, with the latter drawing two pretty solid matchups this week. You’d think Iwakuma on the road would be a potential landmine, especially in Chicago, but his home/road split has been muted this year and he’s pitched reasonably well (for him) in his toughest sledding. Dickey is probably the most questionable Start selection this week, but even with his struggles at home, two nice matchups against bad teams gives me just enough hope to roll him out there.
Ventura has been much improved recently, as he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since July 3. Unfortunately for him, he pairs a great opportunity in Miami with a potentially disasterous one in Boston, and we really should be treating the “@BOS” the same way we treat the “@COL”. Skaggs looked so good in his first two starts back form the DL, but has struggled with his command since (along with a few lineups that hit lefties pretty well). These next two matchups aren’t any different, as they both come on the road against teams with significant right-handed power; however, Skaggs showed against Boston that he could handle any lineup if his stuff is crisp enough and those risk seekers could throw him out there. It’s really a shame Sanchez hasn’t been good, as these two matchups are delightful. It’s also a shame that Pineda’s home and road starts this week aren’t flipped, as home vs Baltimore and at Seattle would be a much more palatable journey
Snell doesn’t deserve this fate based on talent, but this is just a brutal week for a left-hander without a ton of pitch efficiency. If you needed to look up who Triggs was when you saw his last name on the probable starter sheet, you’re not alone. Ranaudo was potentially ticketed to the minors after his poor showing this week, but the White Sox haven’t made a move yet and they don’t really have much in the way of other options. He looks likely to make both starts before Miguel Gonzalez returns, but it shouldn’t have any impact on you, unless you’re streaming hitters against him. All of the same can be said about Martin, though at least he has one start in a favorable location.
Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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