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Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner! Normally, this is Wilson Karaman’s territory, but for this week only I’ll be running through next week’s two-start pitchers. You might say that I’m… spot starting for him.

(crickets chirping).

Anyway…

Every Friday this season, I’ll be taking you through all of the two-start options for the coming week to help you decide who to start and who to sit. Outside of the elites, two-start pitchers are often as much or more trouble than they’re worth, as rare is the week in which the stars align to offer your starters not just one but two consecutive tasty matchups. As a result, you’ll notice that sometimes the better starters will find themselves in the “Consider” category, because they might have one good matchup, but a second tough one. And similarly, less-talented hurlers might just meander their way into “Start” territory on account of a plum schedule. 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 or high dollar auction bid. 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. There will be accompanying notes supporting the decisions.

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 Cincinnati and Colorado. Or conversely if the Minnesota Twins fifth starter is slated to face the Astros at home followed by an interleague trip to San Diego, 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 larger than 10 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.

As always the standard disclaimer applies to these match-up previews that all start schedules are subject to change on account of rainouts, injuries, managers arbitrarily shuffling their rotations, etc.

And now, on to your Week Three two-start options:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Jake Arrieta

@PIT, @CIN

Francisco Liriano

CHC, @ARI

Notes
After a week in which six National League starting pitchers graced the auto-start list, the choices are understandably thinner in Week Three. Arrieta was the victim of some BABIP bad luck his last time out against the Reds and should be fine going forward. Liriano is not quite an elite pitcher, but getting the Cubs at home and the offensively challenged Diamondbacks makes him a no brainer this week.

START

Gio Gonzalez

STL, @MIA

Lance Lynn

@WAS, @MIL

A.J. Burnett

CHC, @ARI

Mike Fiers

CIN, STL

Brett Anderson

@SF, @SD

Anthony DeSclafani

@MIL, CHC

Dan Haren

@PHI, WAS

Jon Niese

ATL, @NYY

Notes
Pitchers on the “Start” table are listed in the order of how confident I am in each choice. Gonzalez and Lynn are no brainers unless you’re in an eight-team mixed format (silly you), and Burnett is quickly beginning to look like the pre-2014, Ray Searage, non-hernia injury pitcher that he was in his first go-round in Pittsburgh. On top of that, all of their matchups are fairly solid.

Anderson is the beneficiary of two particularly tasty matchups and venues, even with San Diego’s improved lineup. I’m buying in on DeSclafani, and with Carlos Gomez’ hamstring injury landing him on the DL, he’s an even stronger play against a thin Brewers team. Haren and Niese could arguably go into the “Consider” bin, but Haren has shown flashes of his elite self and gets the Phillies for his first start. Niese carries some risk, but I’m taking him because of a start in Citi Field and the belief that the Braves aren’t a juggernaut that we all incorrectly underrated in March.

CONSIDER

Trevor Cahill

@NYM, @PHI

Travis Wood

@PIT, @CIN

Wily Peralta

CIN, STL

Brandon Morrow

@COL, LAD

Notes
It’s a little early to push the panic button on Peralta, but in standard mixed facing two strong offenses in a hitters’ park coming off of a bad outing is enough to push him down into the Consider category. Cahill seems like he should be a Sit after last week’s debacle, but two starts against weak offenses and the David Wright-less Mets makes him worth considering in deeper mixed. The strikeout potential is still there and the confidence I had in the potential hasn’t eroded after one start. Morrow is a tough one. That Colorado start makes me nervous, but the high strikeout potential in a two-start week cannot be entirely ignored. My advice is to sit him in anything but only leagues unless you have an extremely strong staff and just want to play for the whiffs this week.

SIT

Jason Marquis

@MIL, CHC

Jorge De La Rosa

SD, SF

Tyler Matzek

SD, SF

Jerome Williams

MIA, ATL

Odrisamer Despaigne

@COL, LAD

Tim Lincecum

LAD, @COL

Notes
Even if you’re in an NL-only, these are all the kinds of pitchers you should simply keep off of your staffs. If I had to pick an arm off of this list, it would probably be Williams, but he feels like the kind of starter where the results are completely BABIP dependent. I suppose Despaigne could get by against the Rockies in his first start and put up positive value in NL-only, but that’s a pretty significant risk to take. The rest of these guys shouldn’t be on your roster if you have a choice in the matter. If you’re in an NL-only and have to either carry these guys or drop them, you’re going to have a bad time.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Hisashi Iwakuma

HOU, MIN

I’m going against the grain by picking a pitcher off to such a terrible start, but Iwakuma was a no-brainer top 10 AL starting pitcher coming into the season and started 2015 drawing two tough assignments against the Angels and Dodgers. Two home starts against the high-strikeout Astros and the weak-hitting Twins give Iwa a great chance at having a terrific week. If you drafted Iwakuma early, you didn’t do it to get cold feet now.

STARTS

Carlos Carrasco

@CHW, @DET

Edinson Volquez

MIN, @CHW

Matt Shoemaker

OAK, TEX

Drew Pomeranz

@LAA, HOU

Notes:
Carrasco was slated to be a two-start pitcher last week but a comebacker to the head pushed him back a little bit. Thankfully, he is fine, and he continues to be on the cusp of an auto start in all formats. It is a little early to say that Volquez’s turnaround under Searage last year will stick, but a sweet matchup against the Twins propels him to Start status, even if his second matchup at the White Sox is a little rough.

Shoemaker and Pomeranz both move into the Start category in part due to favorable venues and matchups but also because this is a soft week for the American League and somebody has to get the tab in fantasy. Shoemaker thrived last year at home and while he is not going to duplicate his 2.10 ERA in Angels Stadium from 2014, he should prove to be a nice streamer for his home starts again in 2015. Thus far, Pomeranz has picked up where he left off in 2014. Health was his biggest issue last year; if he can continue whiffing eight batters per nine innings or better, he’ll be a must-start every week. The Angels in their park and the high strikeout Astros in O.co make him a strong option.

CONSIDER

Alfredo Simon

NYY, CLE

Brad Peacock

@SEA, @OAK

Jason Vargas

MIN, @CHW

Hector Santiago

OAK, TEX

CC Sabathia

@DET, NYM

Nate Eovaldi

@DET, NYM

Kendall Graveman

@LAA, HOU

Mark Buehrle

BAL, @TB

Notes:
The AL thins out fast, and this week is particularly poor for two start options. In a 10 or 12-team mixed with start limits or innings caps, you’re not going to want to touch any of these guys. Simon gets a slight bump up because he has a hot hand, but you don’t need FIP to tell you that his ERA isn’t sustainable with that K/9. He gets two starts at home, though, and even facing the Indians in his second start may be worth using depending upon your circumstances

Peacock and Santiago both get bumps up from Sit to Consider due to positive park effects. There’s certainly some risk tied to Peacock against the Mariners, but if you’re going to roll with an extreme fly ball pitcher, Safeco and O.co are the places to do it. Santiago was down for so long in 2014 that he lost his sleeper sheen and was undrafted even in some AL-only leagues this year. He could be worth streaming at home if you have a need.

Eovaldi is a significant wild card. The fastball plays, but it seems that he will need some more refinement of his secondary stuff to do more than be a back end starting pitcher. Getting to pitch in Detroit and then against the Mets helps his cause in Week Three, and he could be a pretty good strikeout option. People were probably too high on Graveman coming out of Spring Training but then were too quick to write him off after one bad start. Favorable venues are the name of the game in this tier, and you have to dig Graveman in Anaheim and then home against the Astros.

Vargas, Sabathia, and Buehrle are all in the crafty veteran category. It never seems like you should start Vargas and Buehrle, but more often than not they are solid options who seldom if ever kill your staff. Sabathia still needs to adjust to pitching with diminished velocity/stuff, but he could be another pitcher who is a capable back end guy in deeper mixed and more than that in only formats.

SIT

Miguel Gonzalez

@BOS, BOS

Bud Norris

@TOR, BOS

Justin Masterson

BAL, @BAL

Wade Miley

@TB, @BAL

John Danks

CLE, KC

Hector Noesi

CLE, KC

Kyle Lobstein

NYY, CLE

Kyle Gibson

@KC, @SEA

Erasmo Ramirez

BOS, TOR

Notes:

Most of these guys you don’t want to use because of matchups, but most of them you wouldn’t want to use anyway. Gonzalez is the best pitcher on this list because of his strikeout potential, but a double dip with Boston is a hide your spouse, hide your neighbors kind of situation. Norris is in the same boat: he could be decent, but I don’t want to push him out there against two strong lineups in two hitters’ parks. Miley is a little better off than Gonzalez or Norris with Tampa Bay on the schedule, but the love for Miley after a pedestrian year for the Diamondbacks in a weaker NL West in 2014 eludes me.

The rest of these guys are barely worth mentioning. Gibson arguably has the most potential, but don’t start him solely based on potential just yet. If you just crawled out from under a rock, Ramirez has been bad and might not make it to those two starts next week. Noesi is another one who is probably a bad start or two away from being pulled… and Carlos Rodon is waiting in the wings for the White Sox.

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I75Titans
4/17
I would think that De La Rosa's track record for excelling at Coors Field, combined with the Rockies hot start, would push him up into the "Consider" category
bpars3
4/17
Mike, I believe Archer is scheduled for 2 next week - home v. Bal and Bos. What are your thoughts on him coming off of two good starts but facing two good lineups?
pauls121
4/18
So I start Chen, Colon, Kershaw, Sabathia, Sale, Teheran, Cahill and DeSiafani? I sit Hudson, Miley, Minor, and Weaver? Mixed league, 15 teams, 8-10 pitchers up, minimum of 6 starting pitchers, 2 RPs (DeSiafani and Cahill - I give up on Saves every year).
MikeGianella
4/18
I think that's OK
pauls121
4/18
Mike thanks. We chatted a lot about how league peculiarities such as the push for power or pitching would impact player values and require auction value adjustments back in the Alex Patton days.