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.


As you surely know by now, Vince Velasquez left Wednesday’s start after throwing two pitches in the mid-80s. It’s not yet clear who is going to take his spot in the Phillies rotation. Whoever it is, you probably don’t want to start him next week against the Jays and Diamondbacks.


Jacob deGrom


Zach Greinke


Kyle Hendricks


Max Scherzer


Congrats to Hendricks on the promotion. It’s not just his numbers, which are impressive in their own right, but his start-to-start consistency that make him a plug-and-play option. He’s given up more than three runs just twice and walked more than two batters only once in 11 starts. Hendricks is a borderline top-25 starter as is. If he continues to pitch deep into games, as he has in two of the last three, he’ll put himself in line for a healthy win total, the proverbial cherry on top of a solid all-around fantasy profile.


Wei-Yin Chen


Kenta Maeda


Jimmy Nelson


Drew Pomeranz


Julio Teheran


Chen has been up and down and is coming off one of his worst performances of the year, yielding five earned runs to the Twins on three bombs. He’s given back some early-season improvements to his groundball rate and now looks like essentially the same pitcher he’s always been, less a tick on the fastball. A homer-prone, low walk vet is still useful when the context is right. Petco isn’t as pitcher-friendly as it once was, but the Padres still play there.

Last time I covered Maeda in this space, he was coming off a string of shaky outings and I wondered if it was time to worry about his effectiveness moving forward, given the preseason injury concerns and the every-fifth-day schedule. Turns out the answer is no. Maeda’s given up just a pair of earned runs over his past 18 innings and his last turn was his best yet, striking out nine over six and two-thirds. He’s still generating a boatload of soft contact, much of it in the form of infield flies. I don’t love next week’s schedule, but he’s been too good to sit.

Nelson has been in the zone with roughly half his pitches, which should produce favorable counts since hitters are swinging in the zone at a bottom-20 rate. When they do swing, however, they’re having no trouble making contact. His 90.2 percent zone contact rate is one of the 20 highest in the league and the rest of that list is a who’s who of bad and/or underperforming pitchers. I’m sure hitters’ reluctance to cut is born out of Nelson’s control problems, but this is the kind of trend I expect to even out soon. When that happens, Nelson’s surface stats should begin to resemble the advanced metrics that suggest he’s below-average option (105 DRA-, 110 cFIP). I like him okay this week in these parks and against these opponents, though I’d be looking to sell.

Some regression was easy to see coming for Pomeranz, as he maintained wholly unsustainable batted ball and strand rate luck for the better part of the season’s first third. We’ve seen just that over the past couple of weeks, with Pomeranz mixing in a seven-inning masterpiece that showed his line isn’t entirely, or even primarily, luck driven. The strikeouts will be there when the ratios aren’t ideal, which makes him a Start even in weeks where he faces a team like Nationals, who pound southpaws.

Teheran has a history of pitching to low BABIPs and high strand rates. With those marks currently sitting at .228 and 82.9 percent, he’s really testing the limits of luck, even by his own standards. Meanwhile, he is striking out batters at a career high 23.3 percent rate. The Reds and Mets both strike out at a top ten clip against right-handers. With Teheran working on a string of ten consecutive starts of three or fewer earned runs, this is a pretty straightforward decision.


Aaron Blair


Mike Bolsinger


Jerad Eickhoff


Brandon Finnegan


Gio Gonzalez


I’m not a Blair fan but the matchups are soft enough that I could see using him in a deep league or an injury pinch next week. If you’re playing Bolsinger, you’re accepting some serious ratio risk and hoping for a pile of whiffs against two squads that have a propensity to oblige. The same more or less goes for Eickhoff, who has been solid all year and deserves better than to be compared to Mike Bolsinger. His strikeouts have a tendency to come and go, though, so I’m content to stay away from the risk this time around. Finnegan’s strikeouts have dried up in recent weeks. He’s only punched out eight over his last 20 2/3 frames. The walks, on the other hand, have not dried up, and he’s doing those things in as close to equal measure as you’ll see from a major league starter. It was obvious that some correction was coming for Gonzalez, though I didn’t think it would all happen at once. He’s given up more runs than he’s pitched innings over his past three starts.


Chase Anderson


Juan Nicasio


Colin Rea


Alfredo Simon


Albert Suarez




Carlos Carrasco


Yu Darvish


David Price


After coming out of Wednesday’s start with shoulder soreness, it seemed for a night that we’d all be deprived of watching Darvish pitch for another potentially long stretch. He is reportedly fine and on track to throw his scheduled bullpen on Friday and make his next start. Keep an eye on it.


Jake Odorizzi


Taijuan Walker


Odorizzi has rediscovered some of his strikeout form recently, whiffing 27 over his past 22 innings. He’ll need to hold the gains if he’s going to return the kind of value we expected on draft day, because he’s still struggling with run prevention and rarely makes it more than six innings. The underlying metrics and the amount of quality contact he’s yielding suggest it might not get much better in the near term. I’m still using him at home without thinking too hard about it; his 2016 ERA at the Trop is 2.52, compared to 4.28 on the road, a split that’s been true for his entire career.

Walker was masterful on Wednesday night, hurling eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball and punching out 11 Indians in the process. That came on the heels of a long string of uninspiring performances; he hadn’t allowed fewer than four runs since the first week of May. Most of the issue has been his continued struggles with the gopher ball, a problem that has followed him around for the past two-plus seasons. Many, myself included, though an increased reliance on his curveball was responsible for the positive early results and could help fuel a full-fledged breakout. He’s barely using it now, perhaps because he was in the zone with it too often in mid-May and opponents teed off on it. Recommending a start at Fenway is probably dumb, but I’ll cross my fingers and bet on the talent and the favorable tilt in Tampa to balance it out.


Matt Boyd


Nate Eovaldi


Ricky Nolasco


Martin Perez


Ervin Santana


Marcus Stroman


Chris Tillman


Edinson Volquez


Jered Weaver


Jordan Zimmermann


There aren’t many good Start recommendations in the junior circuit this week, which means there’s a whole pile of Considers, starting with the newest member of the Tigers rotation. Boyd was dominant in eight Triple-A starts and has been acceptable in four big-league turns. The White Sox are struggling and Kauffman is a good place for a fly ball pitcher to throw. If you listened to this week’s Flags Fly Forever, you know I’m high on Eovaldi, but even I’m not delusional enough to give him the ball in Coors. The Twins duo gets as favorable a pair of matchups as you can get, but I can’t quite recommend either as a solid start. Santana has pitched poorly of late and Nolasco is still Nolasco, even if the underlying numbers suggest something far better than that.

I’m fine being the low guy on Perez. I like the velocity from the left-hand side and he’s issued fewer free passes recently, but I just don’t there’s enough strikeout stuff to transcend the poor home park and mediocre picture painted by the advanced metrics. As is well-documented, Stroman took classes at Duke while rehabbing his knee injury last year. He came to campus to officially receive his diploma at graduation on May 15, which is pretty damn cool. It would be cooler still if he hadn’t pitched like a senior sign since. Tillman got his breakout back on track with 7.1 innings of shutout ball after a couple consecutive poor outings. As a former Tillman non-believer, I’ll play this one conservatively in the face of tough competition. Cleveland has seen Volquez twice this season and beaten him up both times. Watching Weaver junkball off an 83 MPH fastball is one of my favorite things in baseball. It’s not often I’ll give him a quasi-recommendation, but I can work with these two parks and opponents in some settings. This might be too harsh on Zimmermann since neither of the opponents is overly worrisome, but we’ve seen the non-luck-aided version in two of the past four starts and, as with Perez, there’s not enough strikeout projection to take the ratio risk that the advanced measures see.


R.A. Dickey


Jesse Hahn


James Shields


Yordano Ventura


Apologies, White Sox fans.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Dickey has been very good since May 1, Stroman has been very bad since May 1. I'd flip those two recommendations.
Any insight on Collin McHugh? Drop him now or any chance he turns it around? Thanks!!!