Esteemed prognosticator Greg Wellemeyer passed the Planner torch to me for this season, so hopefully we can adequately fill his shoes and provide some quality pitching assistance. Every Friday I’ll be previewing the hurlers scheduled for two starts in the upcoming week. Hopefully that will give enough insight to make educated lineup moves and FAAB decisions over the weekend. As the old wrestling promoters would always say “Card Subject to Change," because lots can happen between the time this goes up and first pitch. Unfortunately, weather, injuries, and tinkering managers make this less than a science. I’ll do my best, though, and should new information present itself after this posts, we can go over it in the comments. We’ll crowdsource this as well, so if you hear anything, feel free to comment and we all can offer our takes, hot or not.
Here’s how this works. The pitchers will be split by league using these categories:
Auto-Starts: These are your aces, your studs, and your guiding lights. You paid big to acquire these guys, whether via early draft pick, high-dollar auction bid, or hefty trade package. You’re likely starting these guys anywhere, anytime, on a train, and on a plane. You get it. The list is fluid, and guys can pitch their way into or out of this category. You know all about these guys, so there won’t be as many notes associated with this group.
Starts: As the name suggests, this group won’t quite be as much of a slam-dunk decision, but I’m still recommending you give them the ball. Some will still be easy decisions due to pedigree, but others will be based mostly on favorable matchups that you can take advantage of.
Considers: This category will be populated by guys that are really tweeners, and your league settings and position in the standings will be a key factor in your ultimate decision. These pitchers can range from an SP2 or SP3 with a week of tough matchups to No. 5 starters pitching against bad teams in good ballparks. Your league context will be important here; if you are in a shallow mixed league, you probably have better options, and don’t need to take the risk. However, in an AL- or NL-only league, these guys could provide a nice opportunity to log some innings at a cheaper price.
Sits: These are the guys I want no part of this week. This group will run the gamut from mid-rotation starters with tough matchups (or trips to Coors Field), to just flat-out uninspiring options.
At this point of the season, the majority of these recommendations will be based on a combination of ADP/auction price and PECOTA projections for opponent strength. As the season progresses and we get more concrete data points for how the pitchers themselves and their opponents are actually performing, the formula will gradually evolve into a performance-based projection.
Two pretty good matchups land deGrom into the Auto-Start category to kick off the season. The Miami lineup poses some threat, but he has the luxury of that outing coming at cavernous Marlins Park.
You probably spent a pretty penny on Arrieta, so you’re starting him. Having said that, his velocity was down four ticks from this time last year in his first start. He was obviously still good, so it might not be a cause for concern, but it’s a situation to keep an eye on.
Moore cruised early in his first start against the Diamondbacks, but an error and that vaunted third time through the order scrambled a pretty line. The good news: Moore sat above 94 mph, which was his best average velocity since 2012.
We’re approaching the point where Roark is just a solid, if unspectacular, must-start hurler. He’s getting two manageable offenses this week, both at home, where he produced a sparkling 2.72 ERA a season ago.
Hoping for a reemergence of the shining strikeout numbers from The Shark might be a lost cause, but he should still provide solid rates and innings, especially when pitching at AT&T Park.
Taillon went toe-to-toe with Chris Sale in his first start of the season and lived to tell the tale, tossing seven shutout innings. He’ll get a chance to test his mettle again this week against another stacked offense on the North Side (although Wrigley sneakily played really tough last year, especially against left-handed hitters). He’s also pitching against the Reds.
This category could very well house some of the week’s strongest starters, however there are very real questions lingering with each one. Eickhoff is good, not great. Finnegan looked awesome in his first start of the season, but it was against the Phillies and he’s had trouble limiting baserunners in his career.
The Curious Case of Matt Harvey. It’s hard to project what exactly he’ll be coming off thoracic outlet surgery, so the smart thing is to probably wait and see. If you can. If you can’t, Godspeed, at least the matchups are decent.
I think projecting the downfall of Adam Wainwright is greatly exaggerated, but he’s got two really tough matchups on the road this week, so let’s be careful out there.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Walker looked dominant in spring and this will be the year he breaks out and reaches his full potential. He’s been a yo-yo performer thus far in his career, which means he’ll probably give up seven runs against the Giants and then fan 10 Dodgers.
Cahill is a Padre starter going to pitch in Coors Field. No thanks. That said, he could rack up some whiffs in Atlanta.
Even though Chatwood and Senzatela will face a limited Padres lineup before going to San Francisco, neither inspires too much optimism this week.
Davis is still, um, a rookie (I must be the first one to make that joke) and he’s got two tough matchups this week.
Peralta looked great in his season debut against the Rockies, but Toronto and Cincinnati are tough places to pitch, especially for guys that have had homer issues.
I’ll pass on Straily, thanks.
(Editor's note: Rich Hill was listed as a "Start" in an earlier version of this post, but he has been placed on the disabled list because of a blister on his left middle finger. It's all part of the Rich Hill Experience.)
Carrasco hasn’t been great historically against these division foes, but he’s likely one of your aces, so you’re starting him.
Chris Sale is good at pitching. Start him always.
Hamels is about as consistent as it gets, and he’ll take the ball in two of the better pitcher’s parks in the American League.
At some point, we’re just going to have to come to terms with the fact that Happ is good now. I’m just as uncomfortable with it as you are. I don’t love his matchups this week, but his track record over the past couple of seasons keep him in this category.
I admit, it feels weird to recommend starting Kennedy, but he was under-the-radar pretty good last year, striking out a batter per inning en route to an ERA under 3.70. He’s getting two vulnerable offenses at home, where fly balls go to die.
Everyone’s favorite wide-awake sleeper heading into the season, Paxton did nothing in his first start to temper expectations. He ran his fastball up to 98 mph and got 16 swinging strikes against a tough Astro lineup.
Only matchups against two of the best offenses in the American League keep Verlander from the Auto-Start category.
Look, I’m here for the Bundy resurrection. He was filthy in his first start of the season, garnering 17 swinging strikes on his way to eight strikeouts in seven innings against the Jays. That said, he lost a couple ticks off his fastball by the end of the outing, a trend that will need to right itself before we start Bundy with supreme confidence in dangerous AL East environments.
Cotton wasn’t great against the Angels last week, but he still possesses the tools (that changeup though) to get major-league hitters out. He’s young and will probably need time to grow into his role, making him a tough one to advocate for this week.
Morton was throwing 95 mph sinkers in his first start of the season, but he’s still Charlie Morton, so there are inherent risks (mostly injury related) involved. Speaking of inherent risks, Pineda remains one of the more perplexing pitchers in the game. He’ll strike guys out, limit walks, and give up homers. Sometimes he’ll put it together, but sometimes he won’t.
Rodriguez dealt with injuries for much of last season, ultimately earning him a demotion to Triple-A. He was really good in the second half, though, posting a 3.24 ERA while striking out over a batter per inning. He’ll face tough competition this week, but he’s an interesting option for strikeouts and wins.
I’ll admit, I don’t always know what to do with Santiago. He always seems to walk more and strike out fewer than you’d like, but then still somehow posts decent starts. I would imagine this week will be no different.
Boyd was fine in his 18 starts with the big club last season, but I don’t envy his matchups next week.
Cobb looked pretty good embarking on his first full season back from Tommy John, but matchups at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park aren’t optimal for any pitcher. It’s also very likely that he will be kept on pitch count, putting quality starts in jeopardy.
Eschewing surgery looked to be agreeing with Richards (knocks on wood), as the righty touched 99 mph in his first start of the season. Then he left the game with bicep cramping. Ugh. He says everything is fine and isn’t going for an MRI, but I’d be nervous starting him this week.
Even though Shields looked ok in his start against the Tigers this week, he still walked way too many guys. I’m not sold yet. At this point, I’d have a hard time advocating for Shields in almost any situation. It’s a bummer.
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