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Well, the bad news if you’re an AL-only manager is that you’ve only got 13 two-start options on the board. The good news is that five of them are auto-start aces, with only two in the mix that I wouldn’t consider in any format. NL-only players have significantly more depth on their bench, but they’ll have to spend more time wading through some of the lower-end options. The sit list is long, and there are some tough choices to be made in the consider pile.

Cleveland is currently penciling in the return of Carlos Carrasco from the disabled list next weekend, so if all goes according to the apparent plan, they will not have a two-start option. Houston will also be working off a six-man, while the Rockies will play eight games in seven days but have just one two-start option confirmed. Any additional options would be staring down multiple Coors starts and are very unlikely to crack the boundaries for consideration.

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

Zack Greinke

SFG, @SDG

Madison Bumgarner

@LAD, @COL

Notes:

It’s an awfully tough draw for Madison Bumgarner owners this week, and a particular bummer for those heading into head-to-head playoffs. What’re you going to do though, sit your ace? Ugly business.

START

Brett Anderson

SFG, @SDG

Bartolo Colon

PHI, @MIA

Notes:

Brett Anderson continues to set the pace for groundballs induced in the majors, and he’ll draw a nice schedule in which to showcase his skills next week. The Giants are one of the most groundball-prone offenses around, checking in fifth in grounder rate since the All-Star break. And while San Diego is not particularly susceptible to burning worms, in an odd twist of fate, Anderson has never faced a single member of their starting lineup except for Melvin Upton, who is 0-for-8. The Padres have been terrible against left-handers all year as well, striking out at the second-highest clip of any team. We’re in somewhat-uncharted territory innings-wise with Anderson, especially given all the lost injury time on his ledger, but the velocity, movement, and results continue to be there for him. There’s some WHIP risk over two starts, but he’s a solid play across the board for ERA and win potential along with some helpful bulk strikeout accumulation.

I guarantee at least one of these Bartolo Colon starts will end in ruinous destruction, because that’s how homeboy rolls these days. That was an awesome pun because he’s round, get it? You can’t not want to start him this week, though, as the matchups are just too delicious to pass up and Colon is exactly the kind of seasoned pitcher that should be able to sink his teeth into a schedule like this and devou/ cut to commercial break.

CONSIDER

Tyson Ross

TEX, LAD

John Lackey

WAS, PIT

Kyle Hendricks

CIN, ARI

Shelby Miller

MIA, @WAS

Jimmy Nelson

PIT, @CIN

Joe Ross

@STL, ATL

Andrew Cashner

TEX, LAD

Mike Foltynewicz

MIA, @WAS

Jeff Locke

@MIL, @STL

Gio Gonzalez

@STL, ATL

Notes:

I’ll be honest: I have absolutely no idea what to do with either of the Padres starters getting the ball twice this period. Andrew Cashner has shown some really promising signs of progress with his secondaries this year, particularly of late, but those steps forward have come in sporadic bursts and coincided with regression in other areas to balance them out. There’s absolutely some poor win karma at play, but his performance this year checks in 104th overall in standard-league value, while his DRA- checks in 116th. And Tyson Ross, for his part, is a top-40 starter according to both DRA- and cFIP, but his standard-league value has been lower (52nd) on account of the significant WHIP liability he poses. Despite a schedule that leans into negative territory the two home starts this week give each guy significant boosts, and Ross is a borderline straight “start.” In leagues where you’re treading a thin WHIP line you may want to reconsider; otherwise, he’s a tough sit. Cashner’s more of a toss-up, though I’d still probably lean in favor of starting him in more leagues than not.

The shine has come off Kyle Hendicks a bit lately as his ERA has wandered north of 4.00, but man has he been a nice little asset for NL-only and deeper mixed-league managers this season. His 96 cFIP puts him inside the top 50 for starting pitchers this season, and he’s been particularly effective at home, where he’ll get both starts this week against mediocre-of-late offenses. There are some warning lights flashing above the recent performance, however. He’s drifted to a higher release point over the past couple months, sacrificing both velocity and movement on his trademark two-seamer. It’s not enough to where it’s time to run screaming for the hills, but it has corresponded with some diminished performance, and expectations should be lowered a bit off his season pace. It’s a solid schedule this week though, and he should still be run in more leagues than not.

After spending much of the season as a breakout darling, Shelby Miller’s peripherals have fallen on some hard times of late, even as his topline performance has remained decent enough. He’s walked 16 in his last five starts (33 innings), and while his ERA during the stretch is a perfectly reasonable 3.27, he’s by no means the trustworthy option that stat would have you believe. He has great numbers against both the Washington and Miami lineups, so there’s no reason to shy away from him as far as the schedule is concerned. He’s not throwing in a way that inspires much confidence in a two-start commitment right now, though, so buyers beware.

Speaking of walks, it’s not often I recommend considering a guy coming off a start in which he walked eight guys in less than four innings, but here we are. Jimmy Nelson’s control has arguably been the biggest thing holding him back from taking a bigger leap forward in fantasy-value terms, but his four-pitch mix has been tough enough to square this season that he’s managed to maintain an average WHIP in spite of a below-average walk rate. He’s made some interesting adjustments as the season has progressed, missing more bats with a tighter slider and boosting his overall strikeout rate by three-and-a-half percentage points in the second half. The matchups this week balance out around an even draw, making Nelson a solid play in NL-only and deeper mixed leagues. For those with a longer-term outlook at this stage of the season he’ll be an interesting guy to follow over the final month of the season, as there’s potential here for some helium this offseason.

SIT

Patrick Corbin

@COL, @CHC

David Holmberg

@CHC, MIL

Chad Bettis

ARI, SFG

Chris Narveson

@ATL, NYM

Jerad Eickhoff

@NYM, @BOS

Jake Peavy

@LAD, @COL

Notes:

I wrote about Patrick Corbin last week, as he was initially scheduled for two starts with a solid lineup this week. Unfortunately his two-start status got bumped back to next week instead, and that’s a big deal for his owners, as he’s now an unequivocal “sit” with impending matchups at Coors and Wrigley. It’s an unfortunate break, as I like him for NL-only and deep mixed-league homestretches when the matchups aren’t prohibitive.

Similarly, I kind of like Chad Bettis on paper, and he looked good in his return from the disabled list earlier in the week. But there’s just no way I’m going to run him for two home starts at Coors, and the opponent schedule is immaterial.

Jerad Eickhoff has had a nice little start to his MLB career, and he’ll be an interesting guy to watch over the course of his audition down the stretch for Philadelphia. The stuff isn’t overwhelming, however, and he’s a rookie pitcher with two very difficult road matchups this week. After serving as our house punching bag for the first half the Mets offense has improved dramatically since the All-Star break, while the Red Sox have been unparalleled in their (long overdue) mashing over the past few weeks. Eickhoff’s worth a speculative claim in deeper and –only formats, but I wouldn’t quite trust him for a two-start go in your active lineup just yet.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Chris Sale

@MIN, @KCR

Johnny Cueto

DET, CHW

Felix Hernandez

@HOU, @OAK

Chris Archer

@BAL, @NYY

David Price

CLE, BAL

Notes:

I mean, I guess we’re still starting Felix across the board. There’s something going on here, though, and it’s tough to pinpoint exactly. King’s release point has migrated around from start to start more than we’re accustomed to seeing, and he’s gotten particularly wide of late. His 6.26 ERA in the second half has been well earned on the strength of a .339/.382/.511 line against, and while his .407 BABIP during that stretch is likely inflated, his exit velocity has been significantly above average. He gets a longer rope than virtually anyone else given the track record, but we’re almost at the end of it.

STARTS

Notes:

None this week.

CONSIDER

Justin Verlander

@KCR, CLE

Wei-Yin Chen

TAM, @TOR

Chris Bassitt

LAA, SEA

Hector Santiago

@OAK, TEX

Colby Lewis

@SDG, @LAA

Tyler Duffey

CHW, @HOU

Notes:

The secret’s out now after his near no-hitter, but it’s worth reiterating that Justin Verlander has been pitching very, very good ball lately. Jeff Sullivan put together an outstanding piece on the subject earlier this week that’s worth a look, and the moral of the story is that he’s commanding better, working much more effectively off his fastball, and generally showing signs of executing sequences like he used to, albeit with moderately diminished raw stuff. Expecting 2009 Justin Verlander to walk through that door is folly, but he seems to have figured out a way to pitch effectively again, and fantasy managers should honor the development. The matchups this week are fairly neutral.

The @TOR start is the only reason Wei-Yin Chen isn’t mentioned with the “start” guys, as his performance this year certainly warrants that distinction. By both DRA and cFIP, Chen has been an almost exactly league-average starter all year long, and he’s the very best kind of league-average starter: the consistent one. He’s allowed more than three earned runs in a whopping two of his 24 turns on the bump this season, and has failed to make it through five innings just once since the beginning of May. Toronto at home is a doozy of a draw, especially for a left-hander, and it’s worth noting that the most prominent members of that lineup’s “murderer’s row” have put up stellar numbers against Chen in an extremely limited sample. Tread lightly if your ratios are in peril.

A five-walk, four-run stinker in Chris Bassitt’s last start broke up a streak of seven consecutive quality starts, but it shouldn’t be enough to deter owners from riding him as a hot hand in most formats going forward. His fly-ball tendencies are mitigated by his two home starts this week, and the Angels’ weaknesses as an offensive unit play right into Bassitt’s strengths. Seattle’s been swinging a collection of hot bats lately and pose the stronger challenge, but in AL-only and medium-depth mixed leagues it’s not enough to force a week on the bench.

In terms of sheer value created thus far in 2015, Hector Santiago checks in 27th among starting pitchers. That’s obviously not predictive in any way, but it’s worthwhile to recognize just how good he’s been all year. He’s been above-average by DRA- and projects to continue to be according to cFIP, and he’s a guy who has pretty consistently pitched above his underlying metrics; his career FIP, for example, sits a full run higher than his ERA across just north of 500 innings now. He’s been getting crushed in the second half, however. His command has taken a big step back resulting in a sharp uptick in walk rate, and his above-average homerun tendencies have spiraled out of control. He gets a couple of familiar foes this week, and there’s some danger here, Will Robinson.

Every year about this time guys like Tyler Duffey start to take on fantasy relevance by offering desperate owners a few more cracks at the kind of homeruns they need to get back into contention in important pitching categories. Duffey’s a rookie starter with the kind of arsenal that suggests high risk in a first tour of the league. And yet he’s shown surprising effectiveness in his last three starts despite a couple uncharacteristic bouts of wildness. His curve and change have both shown the ability to miss bats, though his homer-prone tendencies have translated from the high minors. That’s not great news for his prospects against an Astros team that leads the big leagues in dingers, but hey, no guts, no glory, right?

SIT

Rick Porcello

NYY, PHI

Ivan Nova

@BOS, TAM

Notes:

Honestly, I want absolutely nothing to do with Ivan Nova this week. I’m not a huge fan to begin with—despite above-average velocity Nova doesn’t generate great movement and induces a well-below-average amount of whiffs, particularly when he works in the zone. The Rays have been fairly hot lately and have hit Nova well in the past, while the Red Sox have absolutely abused him to the tune of a cumulative .368/.411/.647 line across nine career starts (10 appearances).