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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

Brock Stewart will get Monday’s start for the Dodgers, but it’s unclear whether he’ll keep his spot long enough to get a double dip next week. With Kershaw hitting the disabled list yesterday, the Dodgers rotation is up in the air.

AUTO-START

Zack Greinke

SD, @SF

Kyle Hendricks

CIN, @PIT

Max Scherzer

MIL, @NYM

START

John Lackey

CIN, @PIT

Kenta Maeda

BAL, SD

Carlos Martinez

PIT, @MIL

Steven Matz

MIA, WAS

I covered Lackey in some depth a couple weeks ago. Despite the fact that he got touched up by the Cardinals and tagged by the Marlins in his last two outings, much of what I said then remains true. Lackey is still running a career best contact rate and his entire repertoire has exhibited improvement by whiffs per swing.

As if the excellent ratios weren’t enough, Maeda has been padding his strikeout total lately, punching out 9.7 batters per nine innings in June after recording an 8.0 mark over the season’s first two months. I’ve noted Maeda’s ability to generate soft contact in the form of infield flies several times previously, and he’s been skewing even further that direction in recent contests, including a start against the Diamondbacks where a full half of the batted balls fit that description. Until opponents figure out how to barrel up the multitude of pitches Maeda throws on the outer half, there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue this run.

Martinez’s strikeouts have dried up a bit as he’s pitched to contact in the zone more than he has in the past, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea for a guy who can induce groundballs at a top-five rate. I won’t complain as long as he can maintain a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.20 WHIP, though some natural batted-ball and strand-rate regression likely contribute to PECOTA’s 3.59 ERA and 1.25 WHIP projections for the rest of the season. Some of that slippage may happen against a tough pair of matchups next week, though Martinez has handled both of the inter-division opponents well in 2016.

I bumped Matz up to auto-start status last time he had a two-start week and I’m already backpedaling based on news about a bone spur in his elbow that will eventually require to surgery. Whether the bone spur is contributing to some recent struggles is anyone’s guess. Perhaps the Braves beat him up a little bit last week because they were seeing him for the fourth time already this season. Despite the downgrade, I’m still generally bullish based on the fact that Matz continues to strike out batters at a healthy clip even though he’s had considerable trouble keeping them off the basepaths in June.

CONSIDER

Tyler Anderson

@SF, PHI

Jerad Eickhoff

ATL, @COL

Mike Foltynewicz

@PHI, @CHW

Gio Gonzalez

MIL, @NYM

Junior Guerra

@WAS, STL

Matt Harvey

MIA, WAS

Tom Koehler

@NYM, CIN

Jameson Taillon

@STL, CHC

Anderson is an interesting no-cost play next week, as he’ll get a road start in a pitcher-friendly environment and as soft a Coors Field opponent as you could hope for. Anderson’s cFIP of 86 suggests there might be something to his solid four-start stint with the big league club, after ascending from High-A to the majors in little more than a month’s time.

It’s been a rough go for Gio over the past month and change, including a seven-run blitz at the hands of the Brewers last weekend. After running a .226 BABIP and 80.3 percent strand rate through his first eight starts, Gonzalez has found the opposite extreme in his past seven, posting .417 and 54.5 percent marks. The real thing is somewhere in the middle, of course. Chase the strikeouts, but be prepared for some potential ratio damage.

I discussed Guerra last week and while he got pushed off his two-start week, his fantasy owners surely aren’t griping about eight innings of two-hit, shutout ball against the Dodgers this Wednesday. Guerra has earned more confidence than his placement in this tier suggests. I’ll wait for the context to lighten up before I make the plunge.

Harvey’s track record and Taillon’s pedigree and impressive debut suggest they should be Starts most weeks, and indeed they are in deep leagues. In shallower formats, there are valid reasons for conservatism with each. In Harvey’s case, the Nationals have bludgeoned him for 15 runs in 11.1 innings this season. For Taillon, it’s fair to wonder how his arm will respond to crossing the 100-inning mark after missing the entirety of 2014 and 2015. He’ll cross that threshold in his first taste of Cardinals devil magic, then add to it against a Chicago team that hit three bombs against him two weeks ago.

SIT

Eddie Butler

@SF, PHI

Joel De La Cruz

@PHI, @CHW

Zach Eflin

ATL, @COL

Christian Friedrich

@ARI, @LAD

Erik Johnson

@ARI, @LAD

Mike Leake

PIT, @MIL

Jon Niese

@STL, CHC

Jake Peavy

COL, ARI

Cody Reed

@CHC, @MIA

I’m still a big fan of Reed in the long run, but he has to find a way to keep the ball in the yard. He’s given up six taters in his first three major-league starts.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Carlos Carrasco

DET, NYY

Danny Salazar

DET, NYY

Masahiro Tanaka

@CHW, @CLE

START

Rick Porcello

TEX, TB

Aaron Sanchez

KC, DET

Porcello gets a pair of starts at Fenway, where he can take advantage of the favorable home/road split he’s shown throughout his Red Sox career. The Rangers are nobody’s idea of an ideal matchup, but the Rays struggle against right-handers and Porcello just registered a quality start against them this week, striking out eight over six innings. He’s pitched into the seventh inning with less frequency lately, something he’ll need to rectify if he wants to keep his position among the winningest starters of 2016.

Sanchez has rebounded nicely since a start on June 12th where he gave up four long balls in five innings. He’s only yielded four runs in his last three outings, one of which was against the Orioles, the club that smashed those four homers back in mid-June. If there’s a quibble during that 20-inning stretch, it’s that Sanchez has only struck out 13. On the whole, I’m still not sure the average fan knows how impressive and steady Sanchez has been in 2016. 13 of his 16 starts have been of the quality variety, both by the textbook definition and the intuitive one. He’s pitched at least seven innings in eight of those, and his 58.6 percent groundball rate is only two-10ths off the league lead. Sanchez is a rock solid SP2 for as long as stays in the rotation. The Jays have said publicly that he’ll move to the bullpen eventually to keep his innings count down, so enjoy the ride while you can.

CONSIDER

A.J. Griffin

@BOS, MIN

Dallas Keuchel

SEA, OAK

Sean Manaea

@MIN, @HOU

Lance McCullers

SEA, OAK

Matt Moore

LAA, @BOS

Jake Odorizzi

LAA, @BOS

Michael Pineda

@CHW, @CLE

James Shields

NYY, ATL

Edinson Volquez

@TOR, SEA

Taijuan Walker

@HOU, @KC

A trip to Fenway is an automatic relegation to Consider status, if not worse. For the pair of Rays, the risk is mitigated by an engagement at the Trop against the Angels. For Griffin, it’s the knowledge that he tamed the Red Sox offense just this week in his first start back from a month-and-a-half stint on the disabled list.

Manaea and Walker are two youngsters who are fresh off injuries. Manaea’s landed him on the disabled list for a minimum stay. He came back in fine form, shutting out the Giants over five and two thirds. Walker stayed active, skipping a couple turns. Both are in search of some start-to-start consistency.

I’d really like to move McCullers higher, but I can’t abide a 14 percent walk rate (5.7 per nine innings) no matter how many strikeouts come with it. I’m assuming the blister that cost him a start this week will be healed by Monday. Pineda comes with similar strikeout upside and ratio risk.

How ballsy are you feeling? Shields gets a favorable schedule but he’s only two decent starts removed from giving up 31 runs in 11 1/3 innings. Clayton Kershaw has given up 31 runs in his past 21 regular season starts. Jake Arrieta? 29. 29! Volquez is a week removed from giving up 11 runs in the first inning. Clayton Kershaw hasn’t given up… okay, you get the point.

SIT

R.A. Dickey

KC, DET

Yovani Gallardo

@LAD, LAA

Kendall Graveman

@MIN, @HOU

Tim Lincecum

@TB, @BAL

Nick Martinez

@BOS, MIN

Tommy Milone

OAK, @TEX

Ricky Nolasco

OAK, @TEX

Daniel Norris

@CLE, @TOR

Jered Weaver

@TB, @BAL

Chris Young

@TOR, SEA

Jordan Zimmermann

@CLE, @TOR

Have no pride and in search of cheap innings in a deep or mono league? Ricky Nolasco’s DRA is more than a run-and-a-half better than his ERA and his cFIP of 91 is better than Julio Teheran, Steven Wright, and so on.

Thank you for reading

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benrosenberg02
7/01
Should Wade Miley be listed? Looks like he's got @Hou and @KC.
gregwellemeyer
7/01
Yep, you're right. He's a Sit.
BPKevin
7/01
Greinke's two start in major jeopardy. Oblique injuries are ominous.
gregwellemeyer
7/01
Good point, I forgot to bring that up. The Monday start seems highly unlikely at this point. Not sure who gets Grienke's spot if he misses, perhaps Zack Godley comes back up. Regardless of who it is, I'm staying away.
buzzspice
7/02
C.C.?
sonsofslam
7/03
Tropeano getting two starts?
GoNatinals
7/04
I think David Price is getting two starts too.
mattstupp
7/07
How about Giolito and Paxton for today? I'm on the fence about both.