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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.

At this point of the season, the majority of these recommendations will be based on a combination of ADP/auction price and PECOTA projections for opponent strength. As the season progresses 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.



Madison Bumgarner


Gerrit Cole


Zack Greinke


Clayton Kershaw


Noah Syndergaard



Wei Yin Chen


Jamie Garcia


Kyle Hendricks


Raisel Iglesias


Carlos Martinez


Joe Ross


Ross Stripling


Vince Velasquez


It’s a rich week in the senior circuit, with five no-brainers and a host of solid secondary options. Chen is probably the least exciting among them and carries some contextual risk given one tough opponent and one tough park. Nevertheless, the Brewers strike out at a top-five rate and should help pad an early-season bump in Chen’s whiff rate, which looks nice when paired with his continued ability to limit free passes.

This is a tough draw for the Cardinals duo but I can’t knock them down. Garcia is a plug and play when healthy. Martinez showed well against the Cubs in his last outing, his first against quality competition after getting the Braves and Reds in his first two. Coming off the late-2015 shoulder injury, I was conservative on Martinez this offseason and own no shares. With the velocity most of the way back, I regret that now, even as we wait for the strikeouts to reappear.

Hendricks remains one of the most underrated starters in fantasy, likely because we have a 200 inning sample of his ERA misrepresenting the underlying performance. I like his chances of improving the run prevention numbers in two choice matchups.

Owners who paid up for Iglesias might have a mild complaint about the number of hits allowed to date. The extent to which that corrects probably depends on whether he can find some missing velocity. A 22-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio limits my concern, though I am keeping an eye on it.

Joe Ross left Wednesday’s start after two innings because of a blister. Make sure you monitor that situation if you’re counting on him for a two-start week. I don’t like the velocity separation between his fastball and changeup, but he’s making it work as a ratios-over-strikeouts guy for the time being.

It would be easy to relegate Stripling to a trivial fun fact territory after he was yanked from his major league debut in the middle of throwing a no-hitter. Sure, he was the Dodgers’ 137th option and pitched sparingly in 2015 after missing all of 2014. Dwelling on that ignores the fact that Stripling was once a prospect who you could reasonably project for the back of a major-league rotation, and who breezed through every level before Tommy John. I like him at home against these two mediocre squads even though he got knocked around a little in his last start.

Velasquez got hammered against the Mets this week but the grace period after a 16-strikeout complete game shutout is at least a month.


Tom Koehler


Jimmy Nelson


Drew Pomeranz


Koehler’s not quite as bad as you think he is, though he’s walking a fine line with all those walks. Nelson is borderline here. I can’t quit him. Pomeranz has been a bit of a revelation, striking out 12.7 batters per nine innings. The Dodgers and Giants are two of the least strikeout prone teams in baseball.


Chad Bettis


Jorge De La Rosa


Jeff Locke


Shelby Miller


Julio Teheran


Matt Wisler


Miller and Teheran are the two big names here. You’re surely well aware of Miller’s struggles so far. I’m not going anywhere near him until I see a rebound and even then we’re talking about a back-end option in standard mixed leagues because of his propensity to give up the long ball. I’ve never been a Teheran fan and I’d certainly never advise you to start him against these two foes.



Cole Hamels


David Price


Chris Sale



Rich Hill


Ian Kennedy


Rick Porcello


Garrett Richards


Danny Salazar


Taijuan Walker


Jordan Zimmermann


I admit to still being tentative on Hill, even as the strikeouts keep coming. If there’s a team in the league that can help him tally yet another double-digit strikeout outing, it’s the Astros. They’re striking out a league-leading 27.1 percent of the time. The Tigers are worse than league average in that department too.

Check out what an outfield that catches fly balls can do for Kennedy. He’s always been a solid source of strikeouts; the question has been how much ratio damage he’ll do. If he can continue to keep the walks to a minimum and rely on the defense behind him, he’ll be a mainstay in this space.

Read Bret’s sales pitch on Porcello from earlier this week. I’m on board.

Signs are pointing towards a return to 2014’s form for Richards. He’s mixing in a handful of changeups in each start—a new addition to his repertoire—and they’re garnering a whiff rate that would be among the league’s best, assuming he can keep it up over a meaningful sample.

Salazar is edging towards auto-start status. That splitter is the best in the league not just because it gets a ton of whiffs. Hitters can’t lay off it, offering almost 70 percent of the time in 2016. That’s up significantly from his league-leading 63.7 percent mark in 2015. Given the matchups, I like Salazar more than any other option in the American League next week.

Speaking of nasty splitters, Walker has one too and it’s fueling the breakout we’ve all been waiting for. There is so much to like here and even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he won’t turn 24 until a few months from now. He’ll be a monster once he learns how to work deeper into games.

Zimmermann is up to 19 1/3 scoreless innings to begin 2016 after a subpar 2015. Hopefully you saw through the velocity dip last season and bought low on a player whose game was never predicated on throwing hard in the first place. Zimmermann had always been about commanding a fourseamer that he used liberally. There’s been a different formula so far in 2016, with Zimmermann leaning heavily on a slider that’s showing more bite and generating more groundballs.


Chris Archer


R.A. Dickey


Nate Eovaldi


Doug Fister


Kevin Gausman


Kendall Graveman


Ubaldo Jimenez


It’s been ugly enough for Archer that I’m cautious about recommending him against these two offenses. The strikeouts are still there and this is probably only a one-week demotion. Dickey’s knuckleball is believed to be at its best when he’s throwing it hard. He’s off nearly two miles per hour from where he was in September of last season, but has gotten positive results anyhow. Eovaldi has 22 strikeouts and three walks in his first three starts, while his ERA sits at 6.11. In other words, this looks like another year of the hard-throwing righty under-performing relative to what the advanced stats suggest he should be. Facing the White Sox and Rays will be a nice way for Gausman to ease into his season. Before hitting the disabled list in late March, I was beginning to convince myself (again) that this was the year he delivers on all that promise. I want to see it on the field over a few starts before I buy in fully. This is the third straight week Ubaldo has made the column, after the Orioles have had weekend rainouts in each of the past two weeks. I’m hoping the promotion to Consider status means I get next week off of Ubaldo watch.


John Danks


Tom Milone


Mike Pelfrey


Thank you for reading

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I'm a little skeptical of Gausman due to past history. Anyway, whose season's future is brighter - Derek Holland, Martin Perez or Gausman?
Gausman and it's not particularly close for me.
How about Chacin for ATL
Only scheduled to go once next week, at Boston. Sit.