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Welcome to the starting pitcher planner, where every Friday I’ll be taking a look at the pitchers slated for two turns in the upcoming week. The hope is that the planner can help guide lineup and FAAB decisions that need to be made over the weekend. Of course, my information isn’t perfect and I don’t have a crystal ball. Rain, injuries, and teams reshuffling between when I write and Monday’s first pitch will definitely happen. If new information comes to light after we publish, I’ll try to tackle it in the comments. Feel free to beat me to it if you have any info, and I’ll be glad to offer my opinion there if you want it.

Let’s get some ground rules out the way before getting started. The pitchers will be split by league and then by category. Here are some general thoughts about the categories:

Auto-Starts: You paid a big price 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 pitch their way on to or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many notes associated with this group, unless a player has just moved up or is in imminent danger of moving down.

Starts: These are the pitchers I’m recommending you give the ball to this week. Some will be obvious, though not quite auto-start excellent. Others will be lesser talents who find themselves with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of.

Considers: These guys will be on the fence and your league settings and position in the standings will play a big role in your decision. A pitcher in this category can be an SP2 or SP3 with a tough week of matchups. Conversely, he could be a team’s number five who happens to be lined up against a couple basement dwellers. Your particular league context carries the day 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.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Before we get started, it’s worth making it clear that these are generalized recommendations. As we approach the last week of the season, you should be making decisions based on categorical need. Play the strikeout guys regardless of matchup if your ratio position is safe, chase wins against poor opponents, go for pure volume across the board if you need it, and so on. You probably don’t need me to tell you this.

Keep an eye on the Rockies, Brewers, and Padres who all look they will go with a six-man to close out the season.

AUTO-START

Kyle Hendricks

@PIT, @CIN

Max Scherzer

ARI, MIA

START

Bartolo Colon

@MIA, @PHI

John Lackey

@PIT, @CIN

Kenta Maeda

@SD, @SF

Tanner Roark

ARI, MIA

Colon’s 3.12 ERA and 1.19 WHIP are second and third lowest of his 19-year career. His 5.19 DRA and 111 cFIP are the highest. I should advocate for some measure of caution but this is fantasy baseball and it’s the last week of the season. Go have some fun out there. (Also, Colon gets the Phillies). Lackey’s been his usual solid self since returning from injury on September 4. In four turns since, he’s posted a 3.24 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. He’s a pretty straightforward call even though his ERA is nearly two runs higher on the road than it is at home. Maeda hasn’t exactly piled up the innings—he’s sitting on 169 currently—but he’s finishing strong following a couple months that re-raised questions about his endurance after he crossed the century mark. Maeda registered a 4.33 ERA in 10 July and August starts. He’s righted the ship with a 2.01 mark in 22.1 September frames, while mostly retaining the strikeout boost he found over the summer. Roark is a top-15 starter according to ESPN’s Player Rater. He owns a 2.97 ERA in more than 500 big league innings, so it’s probably time for me to start believing a little more than I do.

CONSIDER

Archie Bradley

@WAS, SD

Jerad Eickhoff

@ATL, NYM

Zack Greinke

@WAS, SD

Adam Wainwright

CIN, PIT

Luke Weaver

CIN, PIT

Bradley is here purely for the strikeout upside. You better be able to absorb some potentially nasty ratios if you play him. Eickhoff’s working on a string of six consecutive quality starts despite the fact that he’s given up eight dingers in those half-dozen contests. The strikeouts have faded but I like him as a ratio play, even against an suddenly and unexpectedly potent Braves offense. Greinke owners must be ready for this season to end. He’s walked a quartet in each of his past three turns, something he hadn’t done a single time since August of 2014,adding a new wrinkle to his forgettable 2016. Your guess is as good as mine with the Cardinals pair. I’ve been impressed with Weaver’s ability to generate whiffs without much of a breaker, though his last two outings have been gnarly.

SIT

Tim Adleman

@STL, CHC

Tom Koehler

NYM, @WAS

Chad Kuhl

CHC, @STL

Robert Stephenson

@STL, CHC

Ryan Vogelsong

CHC, @STL

Ryan Weber

PHI, DET

I like Kuhl a little more than this placement suggests. I do not like these matchups.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

As in the National League, there are three clubs who appear to be using a six-man rotation next week. Watch for news on the Orioles, Athletics, and Rays in case that changes.

AUTO-START

Corey Kluber

@DET, @KC

Chris Sale

TB, MIN

Masahiro Tanaka

@TOR, BAL

Justin Verlander

CLE, @ATL

START

Clay Buchholz

@NYY, TOR

Ian Kennedy

MIN, CLE

Collin McHugh

SEA, @LAA

As the season began with an ill-advised Buchholz recommendation, so too shall it end. Kennedy has a 3.27 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in Kauffman this season, which makes him a fairly easy call even though he’s generally volatile and the Indians have eaten him up. McHugh also enjoys a favorable home-road split and if you have to put him out there on the road, Anaheim is as good a place as any. It’s been an up and down season, but a cFIP of 96 fancies McHugh something like a league-average pitcher on the whole and he’s won five of his last six starts. Ride it.

CONSIDER

Mike Clevinger

@DET, @KC

Hisahsi Iwakuma

@HOU, OAK

Felix Hernandez

@HOU, OAK

Aaron Sanchez

BAL, @BOS

Consider Clevinger the junior circuit version of Archie Bradley. He’s here for the strikeouts alone. He won’t pitch deep enough to qualify for a win and your ratios are likely to suffer. Activate accordingly. Iwakuma was much better in the summer months after a poor spring. The Astros are the kind of team that can make him pay for his propensity to yield big flies. Felix has two scoreless outings over his past five. He yielded five or more earned runs in the other three. I really, really wish it weren’t so, but I just don’t trust him at this point. Sanchez hasn’t been the same since the Jays began stretching out the time between starts in late August. He had absolutely nothing against the Mariners on Tuesday, yet escaped with relatively minimal damage. I won’t bet on a similar fate against these two divisional foes jockeying for playoff position.

SIT

Jose Berrios

@KC, @CHW

Luis Cessa

BOS, BAL

Ross Detwiler

@LAA, @SEA

A.J. Griffin

MIL, TB

James Shields

TB, MIN

Jered Weaver

OAK, HOU

Jordan Zimmermann

CLE, @ATL