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April 5, 2013

Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner

Week Two

by Paul Sporer

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Welcome to the 2013 debut of the Weekly Pitching Planner. Each week, I will cover the pitchers who are slated to make two starts and help you decide who you should start and who you should sit. Sometimes, such as when a pitcher has have one good matchup and one difficult assignment, pitchers will be in the “consider” category; your league settings might then determine whether or not that pitcher should find a spot in your lineup. 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 them either with an early draft pick or a 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. They are, as the name says, automatic starts.

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 residents blessed 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 make the decisions 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, even though he isn’t. If you are in a 10-team mixed league, you probably don’t need to take the risk, but a 10-team AL-only -eaguer 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 a pair of assignments in unfriendly locales, such as Coors Field and the Rogers Centre. Speaking of the fateful “@ 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 two slate…

American League

Auto-Starts: Jake Peavy

Starts:

Pitcher

Opponents

C.J. Wilson

vs. OAK, vs. HOU

Brandon Morrow

at DET, at KC

Anibal Sanchez

vs. TOR, at OAK

Alexi Ogando

vs. TB, at SEA

Hiroki Kuroda

at CLE, vs. BAL

Jarrod Parker

at LAA, vs. DET

Jeremy Hellickson

at TEX, at BOS

Andy Pettitte

at CLE, vs. BAL

Clay Buchholz

vs. BAL, vs. TB

Notes:

  • Wilson earns his spot atop this list thanks to a pair of home games in his fortuitous park; he has logged a 3.01 ERA in 77 2/3 innings against the A’s since being converted into a starter, and his second outing will come against the lowly Astros.
  • Morrow has auto-start talent and he’s flashed it in spurts, but we still haven’t seen a full season of dominance from the righty. You likely paid a handsome price for him at your auction or in your draft, so keep him in the lineup despite a potentially difficult trip to Detroit.
  • Ogando got some gifts from the scheduling gods, kicking his year off in Houston, and getting to follow that cakewalk with the Rays and Mariners coming next week. Neither Tampa Bay nor Seattle is as poor offensively as the Astros, but they don’t scare you either, and Ogando has the stuff to shut them down.
  • It’s a tough slate for Parker this week, but he dominated the Angels last year with a 2.60 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 27 2/3 innings, and his start against the Tigers is at the Coliseum, where he was excellent in 2012 with a 2.61 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 100 frames.
  • While it came against an unquestionably muted Yankees lineup, Buchholz had a strong debut and he continues the divisional tour with a pair of familiar foes, both of which he has been mostly successful against. He’s far from my favorite pitcher, but I can see using him for this two-start week.

Considers:

Pitcher

Opponents

Wei-Yen Chen

at BOS, at NYY

Lucas Harrell

at SEA, at LAA

Joe Saunders

vs. HOU, vs. TEX

Brandon Maurer

vs. HOU, vs. TEX

Notes:

  • Chen’s only real issue from 2012 was a 1.4 HR/9, and while neither of his former-powerhouse divisional foes have the scary lineups of yesteryear, both venues are still prone to balls leaving the yard; I’d rather play it cautiously with him.
  • Both Mariners find themselves on here because of their Houston starts. The Astros are appealing enough that you would take a mediocre-at-best talent that also has to face Texas just for the upside of a start against them. Hey, at least the Texas starts are in Safeco, too.

Sits:

Pitcher

Opponents

Ubaldo Jimenez

vs. NYY, vs. CHW

Brett Myers

vs. NYY, vs. CHW

Nicholas Tepesch

vs. TB, at SEA

Kevin Correia

at KC, vs. NYM

Notes:

  • Myers is a guy I see as having some value at times this year, but I want to let him ease his way back into starting. In other words, I want to see some starts first. His debut was rough, but that was against the Blue Jays, who have a better lineup than the Yankees or White Sox. Still, let’s play it safe for now. Meanwhile, Jimenez smoked the Jays, but do you really have any added confidence in him? Didn’t think so.
  • Tepesch will be making his major-league debut after a half-season at Double-A and one start at Triple-A (which I saw live on Thursday night!). I would be wary of even a top prospect making his debut, so sitting a lower-upside talent like Tepesch is an easy decision.

National League

Auto-Starts: Gio Gonzalez and Madison Bumgarner

Starts:

Pitcher

Opponents

Paul Maholm

at MIA, at WAS

Mat Latos

at STL, at PIT

Matt Harvey

at PHI, at MIN

Edwin Jackson

vs. MIL, vs. SF

Trevor Cahill

vs. PIT, vs. LAD

Josh Beckett

at SD, at ARI

Roy Halladay

vs. NYM, at MIA

Tim Lincecum

vs. COL, at CHC

Jaime Garcia

vs. CIN, vs. MIL

Marco Estrada

at CHC, at STL

Jorge de la Rosa

at SF, at SD

Notes:

  • I’m as surprised as you are that we saw a quality start out of Latos in April. He is a chronic slow starter, but he handled a strong lineup in the Angels and collected eight punchouts. I’m not exactly psyched about the St. Louis start, but his overall talent and a trip to PNC Park mitigates the worry.
  • Harvey gets a nice pair of matchups to try and build off of his excellent debut against the Padres, during which he fanned 10 in seven shutout, one-hit innings. He struck out 13 Phillies in 13 1/3 innings across two starts last year, so even heading to Citizens Bank isn’t a terrifying proposition.
  • Jackson, Cahill, and Beckett are three guys likely to have some duds mixed into their seasons, but they have the talent to thwart even strong competition, so trying to cherry pick where they might falter is too maddening to bother. In the end, I feel all three will have more good starts than bad, so I’m sticking with them in almost any matchup outside eight- and 10-team mixers, where they are likely the last pitchers on your staff.
  • Two of the biggest topics of spring discussion, LIncecum and Halladay, get a pair of starts this week. Both had mixed openers that were mostly bad, but their draft prices plus strong matchups make them must-starts this week. If you can’t start ‘em here, then you should just cut them. Now, if they fall on their faces next week, we can start to discuss potential exit strategies.
  • If Estrada was your hot sleeper for 2013 (as he was for just about everyone), then you have to stay the course after the rough debut. His biggest issue—homers—crept up and bit him in the start against Colorado, as he allowed a pair in five innings. It was one start. Relax.
  • De la Rosa has the best pair of starts all week, so while he was drilled in his opener, this is an ideal setting for a rebound. If he is on your reserve roster and you’re not starting him next week, then what is the point of having him? Meanwhile, he is nice streaming target.

Considers:

Pitcher

Opponents

Travis Wood

vs. MIL, vs. SF

Kevin Slowey

vs. ATL, vs. PHI

Notes:

  • Wood impressed in his debut at Pittsburgh, a nice setting for anyone. While I am nervous about the Milwaukee start because of their lineup, he does have a 3.40 ERA and 0.83 WHIP against them in 39 2/3 innings spanning six starts and a relief appearance.
  • In his opener, Slowey did something we totally expected (gave up a homer) and something completely out of character (walked three), but in the end, he escaped with just one run allowed in 5 1/3 against a really strong Nationals team. I’m taking a shot this week; won’t you join me?

Sits:

Pitcher

Opponents

Wandy Rodriguez

at ARI, vs. CIN

Notes:

  • Rodriguez has been poor in his career against both of these clubs and your cost of acquisition was low that it’s worth picking your spots carefully. If you can make daily changes, the home start against Cincinnati might not be too bad. Despite posting a composite 4.91 ERA against the Reds in six starts last year, he had five quality starts at PNC Park and held Dusty Baker’s lineup to two runs over six innings there in his 2012 finale. 

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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