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Ahhhh, that’s more like it. A week after the two-start apocalypse, we’re back down to the low end of the normal range for options this week. The NL will feature a nice roster of strong plays at the top, while AL-only managers will be knee-deep in quality options for consideration. Every team’s rotation is represented this week except for the Brewers, who are poised to go six deep for the time being.

Every team’s rotation is represented this week except for the Brewers, who are poised to go six-deep for the time being. We’re also waiting on word from the Indians about who will replace Shaun Marcum in the rotation after the veteran was summarily DFA’d yesterday following an ugly pasting at the hands of the Cubs. There’s some early indication it may be prospect Cody Anderson getting the call, and he’d be an interesting name. He’s made significant strides in honing his pesky command and missing more bats at Double-A and Triple-A this summer, and he works off a promising low-90s sinker. He won’t be a season-saver, but if he is the guy, his debut will be worth keeping an eye on in AL-only formats.

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

Johnny Cueto

@PIT,@NYM

Clayton Kershaw

@CHC, @MIA

Zack Greinke

@CHC, @MIA

Madison Bumgarner

SDG, COL

START

Carlos Martinez

@MIA, CHC

Jason Hammel

LAD, @STL

Jordan Zimmermann

ATL, @PHI

Notes:

Carlos Martinez sees his planned two-start docket of yester-week shift to this scoring period. It’s not quite as plum a draw as he previously had lined up, but it’s still not too bad at all. As expected he handled the Twins without issue last week, and he’s a borderline auto-start option at this point.

Jason Hammel is really close to auto-start status at this point. He’s been the 16th-best starting pitcher in standard formats this year, and according to cFIP, he projects to continue producing top-20 results going forward. On paper, it’s not an ideal set of matchups, most notably the date with the Dodgers, who own the best offense in the National League. They’ve struggled a bit of late, though, and with the way Hammel’s been throwing, I’d just as soon trust him in any scenario in which he doesn’t face a decidedly ugly slate.

I waved the caution flag about Jordan Zimmermann earlier this week, noting that his combination of a lost tick of velocity, poorer control early in counts, and contact rates suggest his inconsistency to date has been earned. Still, while I’m bearish on him becoming a top-25 starter again overnight, he’ll run into a nice set of opponents to go to work on this week. Outside of Freddie Freeman, no Brave has really done much against JZ, and the Phillies… are the Phillies. Zimmermann’s worth a run this week despite the long-term uncertainty in his profile.

CONSIDER

Jon Niese

@MIL, CIN

Alex Wood

@WAS, @PIT

Tsuyoshi Wada

LAD, @STL

Odrisamer Despaigne

@SFG, ARI

Jeff Locke

CIN, ATL

Chase Anderson

@COL, @SDG

Notes:

Alex Wood got back on track in his last turn after falling off the wagon in his prior effort, and he’ll find himself in an advantageous position to keep building his value back up this week. The Nationals have been mediocre against lefties, the Pirates poor, and both have been below-average offenses in their own buildings. And for what it’s worth (probably not much), Wood has drawn significantly more road starts thus far in 2015 than he has home starts, and he’s pitched much better not in the state of Georgia. I’m a fan of his potential to rack up some whiffs and produce solid ratios this week.

Jeff Locke’s put together back-to-back strong starts, but before we get too excited about him as a potential streaming option, it’s important to emphasize that those performances came against the two worst offenses in the majors. Locke’s been a well-below-average start this year, and that doesn’t project to change. He’s on the radar still in NL-only leagues, as the schedule is manageable if not downright desirable, but expectations should remain in check.

Chase Anderson really probably deserves to be in the “sit” section, but I put him here to highlight that outside of a really obnoxious stinker against the Brewers he’s been really good lately. He’s a top-40 starter by DRA, and has given up more than two runs just that one time over his last nine starts. These match-ups are brutal though, with Coors followed by a Padre offense that’s roughed him up a little bit in the past. I’d really strongly favor a vacation for him this week unless you’re desperate.

SIT

Kyle Kendrick

ARI, @SFG

Jose Urena

STL, LAD

Kevin Correia

@NYY, WAS

Notes:

I know Jose Urena has cobbled together four consecutive quality starts, but nothing in the underlying metrics suggests he should be trusted going forward. He’s generating a healthy chunk of groundballs, but he’s not getting much at all in the way of swings-and-misses. I’m just not willing to take the plunge and trust a rookie with an 11 percent strikeout rate against two of the better offenses in the National League.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

David Price

@CLE, CHW

Michael Pineda

PHI, @HOU

Felix Hernandez

KCR, @LAA

STARTS

Hector Santiago

HOU, SEA

Tommy Milone

CHW, @MIL

Notes:

Hector Santiago has been a nice surprise this season, with his production currently checking in 33rd among starting pitchers. And while he’s struggled to work late into games recently, he’s continued to return value without any massive blowups on his ledger. He’s generating greater extension to his release point this year, and it’s helped both his cutter and change-up take significant steps forward in generating swings and misses. That’ll be a helpful skillset this week, as the Astros continue to lead the world in whiffs, and the Mariners haven’t been far behind lately.

Frankly, I still don’t trust Tommy Milone any farther than I can throw him, but he’ll draw pretty much the dream schedule for any two-start pitcher in 2015 this week when he matches up against the offenses currently ranked 28th and 30th in team TAv. Milone’s been getting burned by the longball, but he’s generally been able to keep barrels from finding his pitches since returning to the rotation. In 10-team mixed leagues maybe you still avoid the risk, but everywhere else, he makes for a swell streaming option.

CONSIDER

Jesse Chavez

@TEX, KCR

Chi Chi Gonzalez

OAK, @TOR

C.C. Sabathia

PHI, @HOU

Collin McHugh

@LAA, NYY

Jeff Samardzija

@MIN, DET

Ubaldo Jimenez

@BOS, CLE

Drew Hutchison

@TAM, TEX

Brett Oberholtzer

@LAA, NYY

Matt Andriese

TOR, BOS

Notes:

The only thing keeping Jesse Chavez from a straight start recommendation is that pesky @TEX start, which is an annoying blight on any pitcher’s schedule these days. He’s turned in quality efforts in six of his past seven starts, though, and boasts a 2.49 ERA and 1.15 WHIP across that stretch. cFIP sees a top-30 starter moving forward, and there doesn’t seem to be a ton in the profile that screams impending regression. I’d approach cautiously on account of the match-ups, but the performance has been legit and he should be a trusted in more leagues than not this week.

So far, so good for Chi Chi Gonzalez, at least results-wise. He’s shown impressive efficiency and the polish to mix pitches and induce weak contact in his four starts thus far. What he hasn’t done is miss bats, however, and he’s not going to continue rocking a .183 BABIP forever. There’s more than a three-run difference between his ERA and FIP thus far, and general rules about rookie volatility apply here on top of those regression warning clouds. Toronto will pose a stiff challenge, and for all their inconsistencies the A’s have handled right-handed pitching well this season.

I wrote up Sabathia this week as an intriguing mid-rotation option going forward in spite of a propensity to see his pitches end up soaring majestically over outfield walls, and he’ll have himself a nice little week of matchups. The Astros offer nice potential to pile up some strikeouts, while the terrible Philadelphia offense offers the opportunity to pile up every other good fantasy stat.

Jeff Samardzija remains a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped occasionally in bacon. His slider has continued to elude him this season; he’s throwing it with less bite and generating about four percentage points fewer whiffs to drive his overall loss of a point and a half off his swinging strike rate. To compensate he’s been working much more heavily off a cutter that’s been getting absolutely smoked to the tune of a 40 percent line-drive rate, though it’s worth noting he’s actually been getting fairly “lucky” with those liners finding gloves at a helpful clip. By cFIP he’s a slightly better-than-average starter going forward, and he’s stuck in the middle this week with one solid match-ups against Minnesota and one very difficult one against a Tigers team that recently throttled him. I’d stay away in mixed leagues, but in AL-onlies it depends on how lucky you’re feeling, punk.

I want to offer an apology to the Collin McHugh owners out there, as ever since I talked him up in an earlier version of this column a month and change ago, he’s been an awfully variable play. His slider’s been failing to miss bats and getting hit, and he’s responded by moving dramatically away from it recently. Problem is, he hasn’t figured out quite how to replace its previous production in his pitch mix. He’s posted just three quality starts in his last seven turns as his ERA has risen by nearly two runs, and while cFIP projects improvement off his below-board 125 DRA- to date, it still sees a below-average pitcher moving forward. The matchups grade out fairly neutral this week, but I’d be careful with him outside of AL-only formats where you’re probably stuck sinking or swinging with him as your SP3.

SIT

Joe Kelly

BAL, @TAM

John Danks

@MIN, DET

Justin Verlander

@CLE, CHW

Joe Blanton

@SEA, @OAK

Notes:

Joe Kelly continues to mix in flashes of the nasty with maddening inconsistency, and the bottom line fantasy-wise is that it’s just not possible to trust him with two starts in a scoring period, especially when one of them will be against a high-powered offense that’s been crushing the ball lately.

If you’re in a daily league, Justin Verlander’s second start against the White Sox is a fine-looking specimen, but I need to see a few more starts from him before I’m willing to commit to two in a weekly. The meat of Cleveland’s order has had their way with latter-day Verlander, and even in AL-onlies I think the recent body of work demands a conservative approach until we see what we’re dealing with.

Joe Blant-… wait, what?!