September 2, 2016
Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner
Welcome to the starting pitcher planner, where every Friday we’ll be taking 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 we write and Monday’s first pitch will definitely happen. If new information comes to light after we publish, we’ll try to tackle it in the comments. Feel free to beat us to it if you have any info, and we’ll be glad to offer our 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.
It looks like three teams in the senior circuit will go with six-man rotations this week: the Brewers, the Dodgers, and the Rockies. For Milwaukee and Colorado, this means that they’ll have only one two-start starter despite having seven games on the calendar this week. For Los Angeles, this means that they won’t have any two-start starters despite having six games on the calendar this week. And while these teams zig, the Mets are zagging, going with a four-man rotation over their six games, giving them two two-start starters.
Gio Gonzalez and Lucas Giolito wouldn’t normally appear in the auto-start category, but their matchups against the two lowest scoring teams in baseball, Atlanta and Philadelphia, couldn’t be any more favorable. Jacob deGrom and Adam Wainwright would probably be in the Start category most weeks, too, but deGrom has a couple of good road matchups against the Reds and the Braves while Wainwright has a road game against the Pirates and a home game against the Brewers. Kyle Hendricks might officially be the Cubs fifth starter, but he’s also in the running for the NL ERA title, making him an auto-start nearly every week.
The 2015 version of Zack Greinke was an auto-start most weeks, but the 2016 version is not as good as the 2015 version, and his matchups this week against the Dodgers and the Giants could be problematic. Brandon Finnegan, Homer Bailey, Bartolo Colon, and Luke Weaver would be in the Consider category most weeks, but their matchups this week moved them up a level. Finnegan and Bailey draw the injury-ravaged Mets at home and the Pirates in their pitcher-friendly home park while Colon has two road starts against the Reds and the Braves and Weaver faces the Pirates in Pittsburgh before facing the Brewers at home. Chad Kuhl’s numbers are getting hard to argue with, and he has two starts in his spacious home park. Jon Gray has one nice matchup on the road against the Padres and one less appealing matchup at home in Denver against the Giants. Neither of Matt Moore’s upcoming starts are all that attractive, but the way he’s been pitching lately merits inclusion in this group.
Jake Esch doesn’t have enough of a track record or prospect pedigree, but he does make one of his starts this week against the Phillies. Matt Wisler and Mike Foltynewicz both get a decent start against the Mets along with a tough matchup against the Nationals. Jerad Eickhoff draws the Nationals, too, but his other start against the Stanton-less Marlins is a little more favorable. Lastly, Ryan Vogelsong barely made it into the Consider category, and if either of his starts were against slightly better offenses, he would have landed in the Sit category.
Matchups aren’t the problem for any of these guys. None of them would have ended up in any category other than this one regardless of their matchups.
Six-man rotations might be even more popular in the American League than they are in the National League. Four teams in the junior circuit look like they’ll be using them this week. Cleveland, Texas, and Tampa Bay have seven games each, translating into a single two-start starter each. Toronto will roll out six starters across their six games, meaning no Blue Jays will be making two starts this week.
These four made their way into the auto-start category on their own merits, not due to favorable matchups. Justin Verlander might not have made it into this group early in the season, but he has performed well enough for long enough to deserve his spot here.
Edinson Volquez would normally be featured in the Consider category but has two extremely favorable matchups, one on the road against the Twins and one at home against the White Sox. The Mariners landed two pitchers in this category due to their attractive starts against the A’s in Oakland. Masahiro Tanaka’s numbers this year are great and his start against the Rays is pretty appealing, but his start against the Blue Jays is scary.
The two Astros in this group, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, face the surprisingly effective Indians offense in their first starts of the week and the unsurprisingly terrifying Cubs offense in their second starts of the week, making them risky plays. Drew Pomeranz has two road starts, an attractive one against the Padres at Petco Park and an ugly one against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Stay away from Pomeranz unless you’re comfortable assuming a decent amount of risk.
Jered Weaver and Ubaldo Jimenez made their way into this group through years of poor performance. In his last five starts, Matt Andriese has allowed three, six, five, three, and seven earned runs, making himself unplayable. Luis Cessa and Pat Dean don’t miss many bats, and batters haven’t been missing any opportunities to hit them hard, either. Ross Detwiler was great in his last start, allowing only one earned run in seven innings while striking out seven and walking two. Of course, he gave up fourteen runs combined in his three starts before that good one, and he has the kind of track record that makes that one good start look like an aberration.