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It’s an incredibly shallow week for two-start options in this scoring period, particularly in the American League. There are only 13 (not a typo) starters scheduled to toe the rubber more than once this week, as no team plays more than six games (and the Yankees play only five) while the Red Sox are moving to a six-man rotation. The Mets will join Boston with a six-man look in the NL, and while there’s a greater quantity of options in the senior circuit, the quality leaves something to be desired. The NL-only landscape is riddled with mediocre starters and unpleasant choices, leaving a league-wide hole for pitching volume in Week 10. We’re still waiting on a second Milwaukee starter as of press time, but I’m happy to talk about him in the comments section once he’s listed.

As far as the nuts and bolts guidelines for what lies within, 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, 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 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.

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 Boston and Colorado. Or conversely if the Cincinnati Reds’ fifth starter is slated to face the Braves at home followed by a stop-over in Philadelphia, 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 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.

At the season’s outset the majority of these recommendations will come to pass as a combination of ADP/auction price and PECOTA projections for opponent strength. As the season rolls on and we get some more concrete data points for how both the pitchers themselves and their opponents are actually performing, the formula will gradually evolve into a performance-based projection.

As a general frame of reference, when I talk about “deep” leagues I’m talking very broadly about mixed leagues with at least 16 teams and –only leagues with at least 10. “Medium-depth” leagues refer to mixed 12- and 14-teams and –onlies with eight or nine. “Shallow leagues” will refer to mixed 10-teamers and –only leagues with less than eight teams.

As always the standard disclaimer applies to these match-up previews that all start schedules are subject to unfortunately frequent change on account of rainouts, injuries, managers arbitrarily shuffling their rotations, etc. And of course, if you have questions about any of the starters I don’t expand upon in the body of the article feel free to inquire in the comments.

With that, on to the Starting Pitcher Planner!

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Jon Lester

@DET, CIN

Cole Hamels

@CIN, @PIT

James Shields

@ATL, LAD

Max Scherzer

@NYY, @MIL

Notes:

We’re at the point where Jon Lester owners are coming face to face with the reality that no matter how you slice it, he’s been a disappointment so far in his first season wearing Cubbie blue. His topline numbers are skewed by a pair of bad starts, specifically his first and his most recent, and cFIP still sees a top-40 starter here. But he’s barely performed as a top-50 starter in standard mixed leagues thus far, and he’s teetering on the verge of losing his auto-start status at this point.

START

A.J. Burnett

MIL, PHI

Rubby De La Rosa

@LAD, @SFG

Shelby Miller

SDG, @NYM

Mike Bolsinger

ARI, @SDG

Notes:

A.J. Burnett has hit a couple of bumps in the road in his last two turns, but there’s nothing in the weeds to suggest anything other than standard regression at play. Managers employing his services shouldn’t get spooked this week given the matchups, as he’ll draw a pair of home dates with two pretty terrible offensive units.

After years of tantalizing with a big fastball and not much else, Rubby de la Rosa is almost there. The whiff rate for his pitches is up across the board, with a particularly dramatic spike in his slider’s performance. He’s generating swings and misses about two-and-a-half times as often with that pitch as he did last year. He’s throwing it a little harder and tighter, but perhaps more importantly he’s also been getting ahead earlier in counts and giving himself the chance to attack hitters better. He’s been done in by an unruly (and very probably unsustainable) amount of longballs so far, but his cFIP of 90 checks in 29th among all starters. The Dodgers’ bats finally got healthy at Coors and they’ve been very good at home all year, but I like the matchup at San Francisco a lot and I’ll trust the underlying performance here.

Mike Bolsinger has come a long way since my wait-and-see recommendation for his first two-start week of the season, including more or less surviving Coors Field in his last start. His cutter-curveball combo has been lethal in generating a prodigious amount of groundballs thus far, and while it’s by no means predictive it’s worth noting that he thoroughly owned the Padres a couple turns ago. The matchups are pretty solid here; the Diamondbacks offense is solid, but the Dodgers have been lethal at home, and a trip to Petco and a date with the aforementioned recently dominated Padres awaits on the back end. He should be started in most formats outside of the extremely shallow end of the pool.

CONSIDER

Mike Foltynewicz

SDG, @NYM

Carlos Frias

ARI, @SDG

Jimmy Nelson

@PIT, WAS

John Lackey

@COL, KCR

Chad Bettis

STL, @MIA

Chris Heston

@NYM, ARI

Anthony DeSclafani

PHI, @CHC

Mike Leake

PHI, @CHC

Ian Kennedy

@ATL, LAD

Dan Haren

@TOR, COL

Notes:

John Lackey’s been pitching some of the best ball of his career lately, giving up more than three earned in just one of his eleven starts to date while tallying strong ERA and WHIP numbers and a respectable amount of strikeouts to boot. Had he any Win karma to speak he could very well be knocking on the door of the top-30 starters in standard leagues right now. Unfortunately for him (and his fantasy managers) he draws a hellish two-start schedule this week with a trip to Coors followed by a visit from the pesky Royals. There aren’t any surprises here, and you know what you’re doing either way so it’s your call on this one. Lackey’s a tough guy to sit down for a week given the consistency and innings, but that schedule…

We did it! By the collective hair on our chiny-chin-chins we’ve got our first non-“sit” recommendation for a Colorado starter this year! While we pop the champagne corks it’s important to not get too crazy here, however. Bettis’ curveball has been an entirely different pitch this year, with significantly more two-plane break than the last time we saw him as a starter in 2013 and a nice corresponding jump in his whiff rate on the pitch as a result. With a marginally above-average fastball and Coors handicap, there isn’t a ton of margin for error here, and his first start of the week against St. Louis at home is downright ugly. But a back-end trip to Miami looks like a pretty groovy reward for those with the gall to take the Cardinals plunge in NL-only leagues.

By the numbers neither Anthony DeSclafani nor especially Mike Leake should have much in the way of a claim for consideration in a two-start weak outside of the deepest NL-only formats around. Despite easily his best start of the season in his last turn Leake still boasts one of the worst cFIP projections of any starter. And despite vastly superior topline results to date DeSclafani isn’t far behind. His below-average whiffs, poor walk rate, and modestly fortuitous BABIP results make him an unlikely candidate to continue his 60 percent quality start rate going forward. But despite the prospect for each of navigating The Kris Bryant Experience three or four times over the course of their work week, both have an excellent set of matchups lined up, at least on paper. The Cubs have performed as a bottom-third offense over the past couple of weeks, the Phillies have been one of the worst offenses in baseball all year, and both have been particularly poor against right-handed pitching. Neither starter is particularly attractive as a stream to get excited about, but in NL-only and deep mixed formats they each warrant consideration for matchup play.

Dan Haren’s been doing what Dan Haren does, and while it’s worked reasonably well as usual thus far, he’ll draw a pair of particularly nasty matchups for his skillset when he faces two of the better home-run-hitting teams in baseball. The return on investment has been solid for Haren owners thus far, and you’re probably best served benching him this week in order to keep that reality intact.

SIT

Jorge De La Rosa

STL, @MIA

Brad Hand

@TOR, COL

Notes:

Brad Hand actually hasn’t been terrible in his two turns in the rotation, giving up just two runs in eleven innings so far. He’s completed the transformation from a four-seam to a two-seam-dominant pitcher, and the results have yielded an odd all-or-nothing pattern of results where he’s yielded an outsized line drive rate while inducing one of the highest rates of soft contact in baseball. Those extremes will be tested with a trip north of the border this week followed by a visit from the Rockies, who, it should be noted, are tied for the most homeruns by any road team this year. NL-only leaguers should monitor Hand in case the new approach holds through this difficult week, but he doesn’t make for a particularly viable stream option just yet.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Chris Sale

HOU, @TAM

Corey Kluber

SEA, @DET

Sonny Gray

TEX, LAA

STARTS

Lance McCullers

@CHW, SEA

Nate Karns

LAA, CHW

Notes:

I saw Lance McCullers struggle with his command enough at High-A last summer to remain skeptical that the 21-year-old can continue to corral his high octane fastball and hammer curve consistently enough to thrive in a major-league rotation, but the raw stuff is awesome (as the Baltimore Orioles can now attest). There’s some solid whiff potential on the horizon here, as the Mariners’ addition of Mark Trumbo certainly isn’t going to do anything to stem the tide of their recent run as most strikeout-happy offense in baseball, while the White Sox are a middle-of-the-road outfit in their own right. Luckily for McCullers, both squads are relatively poor at taking free passes as well. Basically it’s a pretty strong schedule for a guy with McCullers’ profile, and while the standard potential for rookie catastrophe is certainly there it’s not a terrible week to gamble on the young upside.

I dig what Nate Karns has been up to these days, and DRA agrees in pointing out the 34th-best starter in baseball thus far. There are some warning signs in the profile, however. His swinging strike rate is down in spite of the uptick in strikeouts thus far, as hitters aren’t expanding the zone as frequently. He’s working a lot of deep counts, leading to bottom-tier efficiency and contributing to a poor walk rate. Still, the four-spot the Angels hung on him this week broke up a string of six consecutive starts yielding two or fewer runs, and he’ll back up another crack at Anaheim with a visit from the floundering White Sox. He’s on the riskier side of the “start” spectrum, but he’ll make for a decent play particularly in AL-onlies.

CONSIDER

Anibal Sanchez

CHC, CLE

Miguel Gonzalez

BOS, NYY

Marco Estrada

MIA, @BOS

Nick Martinez

@OAK, MIN

C.J. Wilson

@TAM, OAK

Phil Hughes

KCR, @TEX

Notes:

Anibal Sanchez looked like a nice play for his last two-start week in May, and responded by getting lit up for 14 runs over 9 1/3 to pretty much single-handedly torpedo any head-to-head matchup an owner had the misfortune of starting him for. After a nice rebound against the Angels he got knocked around a bit once again in his last start. The whiffs are still there and he’s controlling his walks for the most part. The bad news is that as he’s migrated to a more four-seam-heavy approach he’s lost all ability to generate grounders, and he’s been getting absolutely killed by the longball. He’s sporting a homerun-per-nine rate more than four times the size of his 2014 rate, and that’s feeding an xFIP more than two runs south of his ERA. His 88 cFIP is a top-30 mark among starters, and while he’ll be tested by a tough Cleveland lineup and a Chicago crew capable of playing off those homerun tendencies I’d still feel compelled to play the peripherals and run him in most formats where I owned him.

The seven-run drubbing at the hands of the White Sox Nick Martinez took in his last start was the first time all season he’d given up more than three earned, which is quite the claim given that cFIP has been projecting doom for a long time now. He’s lost some bite off his slider recently, which is unfortunate because it’s been one of the primary drivers of his average whiff rate. He’s actually something of a peculiarity in that he’s been able to get ahead and generate swings and misses at average rates thus far, but his strikeout rate has been abysmal. There’s no real standout skill here that’s been driving his success, and that would seem to lend credence to his poor projection. He’ll get a couple of solid matchups this week, so it may just be worth running him in hopes that the magic carpet ride doesn’t come to an end just yet.

After a nice little run to open the season in which he displayed virtually unprecedented control, C.J. Wilson has regressed handily towards the norm over his past three starts, walking 11 in 18 innings. He’s still generating a solid number of whiffs, but bad C.J. Wilson can be a death trap for your WHIP. I don’t love the matchups this week against a Rays offense that hits lefties really well and an A’s offense that takes a walk with the best of ‘em. The Angels’ offense has finally gotten up off the mat recently, so if you’re in a position where chasing whiffs and wins at the expense of your WHIP and possibly your ERA makes sense it’s okay to run Wilson. Otherwise, I’d pass.

I struggled with where to put Phil Hughes for a while, and while he ultimately nudged his way into the consider pile I’d really prefer not to run him this week if it can be avoided. He’s taken several steps back towards being the Phil Hughes of old, thanks most notably to a collapse of his whiff rate on his perpetually underachieving curveball. He’s been trying to work a two-seam into his arsenal lately, but the pitch has been getting knocked around pretty good to the tune of a near-30-percent line-drive rate. Kansas City and Texas both boast top-six offenses by TAv, and between his homerun liability against Texas and the possibility he’ll get shut out entirely in the strikeout category by Kansas City Hughes just doesn’t have a lot of things going for him this week.

SIT

Taijuan Walker

@CLE, @HOU

Jason Vargas

@MIN, @STL

Notes:

Taijuan Walker is coming off two impressive starts, including eight innings of shutout ball against the same Cleveland squad that’ll get another look at him this week. Both they and the Astros boast top-seven offenses by TAv, and given the extreme volatility and inconsistency Walker has demonstrated in the early going I’m not at a point where I’m going to trust him for two road starts just yet. A decent showing in this scoring period would go a long way for Walker’s value projection going forward.