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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.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Madison Bumgarner

@SD, CHC

Clayton Kershaw

LAA, @SD

Noah Syndergaard

WAS, MIL

START

Wei-Yin Chen

@PHI, WAS

Jerad Eickhoff

MIA, ATL

Kyle Hendricks

@MIL, @SF

Kenta Maeda

LAA, @SD

Joe Ross

@NYM, @MIA

Chen’s fastball velocity has been climbing back up after a down April, the likely culprit for an increase in quality of contact opponents have made to date. He’s coming off his finest outing of the year; Chen struck out 12 Brewers in 6 1/3 innings of work on Wednesday. An uptick in groundball rate is an encouraging sign for a pitcher who has always given up more than his fair share of dingers, and his current ERA of 4.40 misrepresents the underlying quality of his performance. Buy before he gets the Phillies, who struggle against lefties, and be careful against the Nats, who don’t.

Eickhoff has cooled off since a quick start, yielding 16 earned runs in his last 21 2/3 frames and tallying only eight strikeouts over his last 16 1/3. On the plus side, he’s only walked four batters in his last four outings and a cFIP of 97 indicates his 2016 season has been better than average on the whole. The Braves got to Eickhoff his last time out. I like his odds of evening the score the second time around.

Thanks to rainouts, this is the third time in the last four weeks that Hendricks has appeared in the column. No need to belabor what I’ve already said. He’s underrated and legitimately excellent. Start Hendricks with confidence.

It’s gotten a little bumpy for Maeda after the utterly dominant first four starts. He stranded all 22 baserunners in those four outings, in large part due to his ability to generate soft contact and a large volume of infield flies. Those have stuck around even as he’s otherwise struggled, perhaps indicating his propensity for soft contact is a true skill. The recent results are a good reminder that it’s important to observe how Maeda adjusts back as the league learns his tendencies. 43 innings in, it may also be time to wonder whether the adjustment from the Japanese schedule to the major league one is beginning to show for a pitcher with a slight build, heavy slider usage, and arm questions to begin with. I’m not trying to be alarmist here, only suggesting that if you were tentative for those reasons in March, four great April starts aren’t enough reason to write off your previous reservations. A two-start week against the Angels and Padres is a good way to get back on track.

Ross remains a tough pitcher for me to evaluate. He owns righties, sporting a .164/.202/.252 career line against them despite working exclusively with a sinker and a slider. That’s not lost on opposing managers, who go heavily left-handed against Ross, forcing him to work in a changeup that only has five miles per hour of velocity separation off the sinker. Nevertheless, he’s gotten dramatically improved results with his offspeed pitch this season, possibly because he’s throwing it harder and with more fade. Batters are whiffing more often and haven’t been able to square it up. Start Ross and hope that holds against two opponents who have the kind of left-handed bats to reverse that small-sample trend.

CONSIDER

Juan Nicasio

ATL, COL

Jaime Garcia

COL, ARI

Robbie Ray

NYY, @STL

Colin Rea

SF, LAD

Nicasio’s spring training performance already feels like a long time ago. He’s been adequate, though I’m sure his fantasy owners were hoping for something more than that. This is an extraordinarily tough draw for Garcia, who would normally reside squarely in the Start section. The strikeout surge may well continue, but both of next week’s opponents beat up southpaws. Ray recorded 14 outs against the Rockies on Wednesday, nine by way of strikeout. It’ll be tough to approach that next week against two clubs that don’t whiff very often. I’d probably have him as a Sit if it weren’t for cFIP’s optimism (91). I suppose it sees coming correction in his BABIP and HR/FB. Those walks, though. Robbie’s cousin, Colin, is a borderline call here. He’s worth a gamble in deep and mono leagues against one offense that has been poor all year (Dodgers) and another that is struggling presently (Giants).

SIT

Tim Adleman

@CLE, SEA

Chase Anderson

CHC, @NYM

Aaron Blair

@PIT, @PHI

Jon Niese

ATL, COL

Williams Perez

@PIT, @PHI

Chris Rusin

@STL, @PIT

Alfredo Simon

@CLE, SEA

Adleman is a 28-year-old rookie with no prospect pedigree. Good on him for the pair of solid starts to begin his major-league career, but I’m not buying it. If you like Justin Nicolino but wished he walked more guys and produced two thirds of the ground balls, Blair is your guy. I’m guessing Perez holds the rotation spot created when Atlanta traded Jhoulys Chacin for a bag of balls.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

I’m not sure how the A’s rotation is going to shake out next week. They have an open start on Tuesday and seven games next week, so they may have an additional double up. It sounds like Henderson Alvarez is getting close to a return, but not likely to be ready by Tuesday. I’m also not sure what’s going on in Houston. Lance McCullers is due to make his season debut today and I haven’t seen anything on who he’ll unseat in the rotation. Chris Devenski has been a revelation. We’ll see if it’s enough to bump Doug Fister or Mike Fiers. Someone I haven’t listed is getting a two-start week there too.

AUTO-START

Cole Hamels

@OAK, @HOU

David Price

@KC, CLE

Both of these guys are auto-starts if they are truly two-start pitchers (yes, still David Price), though it’s not clear that will be the case. Both the Rangers and Red Sox have days off next week and could pitch their aces on normal rest. For Texas, that will depend on whether they replace the disabled A.J. Griffin now or wait until they need to go to a five-man. For Boston, that will depend on whether they want to give Sean O’Sullivan another turn or if Eduardo Rodriguez and/or Joe Kelly are back to full strength.

START

Nathan Eovaldi

@ARI, @OAK

J.A. Happ

TB, @MIN

Rick Porcello

@KC, CLE

Carlos Rodon

HOU, KC

Danny Salazar

CIN, @BOS

Marcus Stroman

TB, @MIN

Jordan Zimmermann

MIN, TB

Eovaldi has, as usual, been all over the place, occasionally mixing in the kind of starts that keep us invested during the times he’s stringing together lackluster ones. His most recent outing was one of those. Eovaldi limited the best offense in the league to two runs on six hits and no walks. He’s finally delivering the kind of strikeout rate you might expect from his high-octane stuff, while walking fewer than two batters per nine innings. Once his home-run rate normalizes, we could be looking at an SP3.

Happ hasn’t been nearly as good as his 2.05 ERA and 1.16 WHIP suggests, but this week’s matchups make him a solid start. His swinging strike rate is the highest it’s been since 2012, when he struck out nearly a batter per inning. Facing two teams who whiff a ton against lefties should help bump up Happ’s uninspiring 15.7 percent strikeout rate, a career low.

Porcello continued his excellent start to the season by winning his sixth game in seven tries on Wednesday night. Like Eovaldi, Porcello is striking out batters at a clip that easily exceeds his previous career high, while managing to maintain the stellar walk rate he’s demonstrated for most of his professional career. Unlike Eovaldi, Porcello’s ratios are bound to worsen as soon as his BABIP and strand rates regress. Among qualifiers, he’s currently just outside the top-20 in both categories. Besides throwing to Christian Vazquez and using his sinker much more often, I don’t see much in the profile that suggests we should expect him to continue to beat luck to this extent.

I discussed Rodon last week and he appears again this week due to a rotation shift. Last week, I identified his inability to throw first pitch strikeouts. He didn’t have much issue with that on Tuesday, and he got battered anyways. I know it’s frustrating on a start-to-start basis, yet I can’t recommend wobbling on Rodon.

We got a textbook Salazar performance this week, as he gave up a long ball, struck out 10, and walked a half-dozen in only five innings. Performances like that one go to show that he’s not quite ready for a promotion to auto-start status, even as he maintains a sub-2.00 ERA and an elite strikeout rate. If you have the option for daily moves, sitting him down against the Red Sox isn’t the worst idea.

Stroman’s fantasy upside continues to be limited by a lack of strikeout upside. He does own the highest groundball rate among qualified starters, which provides a high floor and mitigates the risk of his home park. That kind of ratio stability can support a back-end SP2/high-end SP3 valuation, especially this week against two teams that rank near the bottom of the league in OPS against right-handers.

Zimmermann gets the same two opponents as Stroman and is also a ratio-first play. Zimmermann is utilizing a slider much more often than he has in previous years. While it’s garnering fewer swings and misses, more vertical movement is helping it generate more groundballs. That gain is being offset by the relatively fewer number of worm burners off his fastball. Opponents’ contact rate against Zimmermann is one of the five highest marks in the league, which doesn’t inspire great confidence going forward unless the matchups are strong, as they are this week.

CONSIDER

Chris Archer

@TOR, @DET

Jose Berrios

@DET, TOR

Wade Miley

@BAL, @CIN

Michael Pineda

@ARI, @OAK

Tyler Wilson

SEA, @LAA

Archer has continued to struggle with his control, and the strikeouts haven’t been plentiful enough in the past few starts to look past the subpar performance. Toronto and Detroit aren’t really who you want to see when you’re having a problem keeping the ball in the yard, either. All of what I just said about Archer is mostly true for Berrios too. At least he doesn’t have to pitch north of the border. As an owner of a couple Miley shares, I’m well aware of the self-loathing that accompanies slotting him into the lineup. There are multiple indicators that improvement is coming though, including a natural correction in his HR/FB rate and swing and contact rates that are career bests. Michael Pineda for Clay Buchholz: which fanbase says no? I’m not exactly sure how Wilson is getting by, but I’ll give him another shot in deep leagues against an awful Angels offense.

SIT

Cody Anderson

CIN, @BOS

Derek Holland

@OAK, @HOU

Phil Hughes

@DET, TOR

Sean Manaea

TEX, NYY

Matt Shoemaker

@LAD, BAL

Yordano Ventura

BOS, @CHW

Jered Weaver

@LAD, BAL

I’m still bullish on Manaea long term, but don’t see how you can play him right now. Yordano has been the worst pitcher in the league according to both cFIP and DRA-.

Thank you for reading

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mblthd
5/13
Has anyone ever gone back to look at how the "sits" did? E.g., Rubby was a "sit" last week, and on Monday he went into COL and 7.1 IP, W, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. I would have been bummed if I'd decided to "sit" that.

Like, maybe they could look at the collective performance of the "sits" versus the collective performance of the worse half of the "considers" to see if there's much of a difference. I'm wondering if the better rule might be to never "sit" a 2-start pitcher, notwithstanding his rank outside the top 60.
fbraconi
5/13
Love this suggestion.
gregwellemeyer
5/13
I wholeheartedly agree that accountability is important, and I've been thinking about ways to track my suggestions. Unfortunately, I haven't come up with a way that involves less time and manual effort than I have to give.

I'd encourage you to use use this column as a guide and make your own judgments in cases where you disagree with my assessment. I am by no means infallible, and while I'm striving to give you the best recommendations I can based on what I see when I watch games and dig into the data, I can't be an expert on every starter in the league. I'm going to miss things here and there.

If you want to start every two-start pitcher on the simple grounds that they're starting twice, you should. It's your team. I'm more than happy to sit a pitcher like RDLR in Coors and chalk up one solid outing against the contextual odds to the vagaries of trying to predict start-to-start performance. It's a results-driven game, so I understand the frustration when you make the wrong call, but ultimately you should be judging yourself by the process you use to make decisions. That will make you a better fantasy player in the long run.
mblthd
6/09
Agreed re: everything said here - my comment re: wondering whether anyone looks back at the "sits" versus the "considers" wasn't an accountability thing, like "Is Greg any good at this?" or whatever. I'm sure Greg's "considers" have outperformed Greg's sits in the aggregate, I was just wondering if anyone ever looked back at it to see how much the difference has been, which doesn't really have anything to do with Rubby, I guess I was just so happy for Rubby that I felt compelled to note his @ COL line in my comment.
bwright25
5/13
Joe Ross is scheduled to pitch Sunday. He wouldnt be a two starter next week. The Nationals have a doubleheader on sat.
gregwellemeyer
5/13
Thanks for highlighting this situation. There's still a bit of competing information out there about how the Nats will approach their doubleheader. Makes sense that Roark and Strasburg will go on Saturday on regular rest and have Ross throw Sunday. They only have six games next week, so can get caught up. If they go that route, Scherzer is a double up. You probably want to start him.
Gillogly
5/16
Nathan Evoldi is not a two start pitcher this week.
gregwellemeyer
5/16
Correct. Yanks shuffled up after the Severino injury and are giving Chad Green a spot start Monday. Pineda is now their only two-start guy this week.
BPKevin
5/13
John Lamb is set to go twice next week. @CLE and home vs. SEA.
gregwellemeyer
5/13
Yep, thanks for the correction. Looks like the Reds have reshuffled as a result of their rainout on Tuesday.
clintneff
5/13
George is Miley a hold in 12 team mixed leagues?
BPKevin
5/13
Tyler Wilson is getting more interesting for us deep leaguers. Do you see him with moderate success or do you think hitters and that ballpark catching up with him?
gregwellemeyer
5/16
Pretty sure this is going to go south for Wilson soon. The stuff just doesn't support sustained success. Still willing to consider him in deeper formats against bad opponents. Like the Angels, for example.
drdhr5y
5/16
Conley is a two-starter this week for MIA. Nationals at home. Phillies away. Thoughts?
gregwellemeyer
5/16
Right, the Marlins gave Kendry Flores a start over the weekend, so Conley gets the two-start week instead of Chen. It's been up and down for Conley, including a couple bad starts against Washington. I'm starting him anyhow.
Dazzleman
5/16
Is Dallas Keuchel a sit or start with two starts vs. TEX and @CWS?
gregwellemeyer
5/16
Man, I invested pretty heavily in Keuchel this season, so as much as I hate to say it, I can understand parking him if you truly have a better option. This week's opponents are both tough on LHP.
Dazzleman
5/16
I know. Can't believe I'm gonna bench him. Hopefully he turns it around. It's still early in the season.