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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

AUTO-START

Madison Bumgarner

@PHI, @WAS

Jacob deGrom

NYY, @DET

Stephen Strasburg

@ARI, SF

START

Jaime Garcia

@CIN, ATL

Jason Hammel

MIA, @OAK

I don’t love Garcia on the road in Cincinnati, and both of these teams already touched him up this year. Still, the Reds and Braves are two of the worst offenses in the league against southpaws, making this a fairly straightforward call.

Hammel lacks the kind of stuff it takes to ascend to auto-start status, but his start-to-start consistency makes him a mainstay in this section. Hammel has given up more than three earned runs in just three of 20 starts, and the defense behind him provides reason to believe he can continue to escape some of the regression you’d expect if you’re only looking at the advanced metrics (109 cFIP, 106 DRA-). Hammel’s .244 BABIP and 82.1 percent strand rate remain among the bottom- and top-five, respectively, among qualified starters. That would give me more pause if the Cubs staff didn’t lead the league in both categories. Their BABIP is 19 points better than the next best team (Dodgers), which is particularly incredible.

CONSIDER

Archie Bradley

WAS, MIL

Andrew Cashner

MIL, PHI

Jon Gray

LAD, MIA

Brandon McCarthy

@COL, BOS

Jimmy Nelson

@SD, @ARI

Bradley is showing some signs of growth this summer, relying on his fastball a little less while leaning on an effective curveball more. The control still has a ways to go, inviting serious ratio risk, but he’s striking out nearly a batter per inning. I left Cashner for dead long ago. He’ll probably be on another team and lose this two-start week, so I’ll wait to see more before passing judgment on the sustainability of his recent useable streak. Gray’s cFIP of 85 and DRA- of 90 illustrate just how impressive he’s been on raw skill. Unfortunately, he still pitches for the Rockies and both of next week’s contests are in Coors. With the exception of innings volume, McCarthy has given the Dodgers more than they could have hoped for upon his return from a year off. He won’t continue to strike out a full third of all comers, but I’m buying for the rest of 2016 even if I’m passing on next week’s slate. An ugly outing against the Diamondbacks interrupted a solid six-start stretch for Nelson. That he’ll face Arizona again should make you hesitate, and the Padres haven’t been as soft as you might guess over the past month. He’s borderline here.

SIT

Adam Conley

@CHC, @COL

Zach Eflin

SF, @SD

Mike Foltynewicz

PIT, @STL

Cody Reed

STL, @PIT

Logan Verrett

NYY, @DET

Ryan Vogelsong

@ATL, CIN

Next week definitely tests the limits of my love for Conley. I like some of what I’ve seen from Folty. He makes for a nice target in dynasty leagues, but remains too inconsistent to rely on for 2016 production, especially against offenses of this quality. Over/under on number of home runs given up by Reed next week is 3.5. Congrats to Vogelsong for making it all the way back after a terrifying injury.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Carlos Carrasco

MIN, @NYY

Yu Darvish

@BAL, @HOU

David Price

@SEA, @LAD

Danny Salazar

MIN, @NYY

Masahiro Tanaka

@NYM, CLE

START

Danny Duffy

@TB, TOR

Michael Fulmer

CHW, NYM

Lance McCullers

TOR, TEX

Matt Shoemaker

OAK, @SEA

It’s a hell of a week for pitching in the junior circuit. Duffy has been unreal since joining the rotation, posting a 3.27 ERA 1.05 WHIP, and 89-to-17 K:BB ratio over 14 starts and 82.2 innings. Any concerns about his ability to get stretched out are gone. He’s averaging seven innings per start over his past six turns. I’m disinclined to call any rookie with fewer than 100 major-league innings an auto-start option, but Fulmer is close. The recent downturn in strikeout rate makes him merely an easy Start call. Maybe he could borrow some whiffs from McCullers, who is sporting an 11.8 K/9 that would trail only Jose Fernandez if he had enough innings to qualify. The flip side of that is his 5.2 BB/9, which would trail only Francisco Liriano. It’s difficult for walks to hurt if hitters can’t put wood on the ball, but that’s a dangerous game to play. Shoemaker has been a little up and down in July, mixing in a 13-strikeout complete game among some of the least impressive outings he’s made since his rebirth. I’m still rolling with him without reservations.

CONSIDER

Chris Archer

KC, MIN

Dylan Bundy

TEX, @CHW

Kyle Gibson

@CLE, @TB

Sonny Gray

@LAA, CHC

Matt Moore

KC, MIN

James Paxton

BOS, LAA

Marcus Stroman

@HOU, @KC

Yordano Ventura

@TB, TOR

The walks have calmed down a little for Archer. Unfortunately, the giving up runs has not. Don’t look now, but Bundy’s fastball velocity is up to 96 miles per hour and it’s generating an extraordinary amount of whiffs. Gibson has been a sneaky deep-league play since returning in early June. He’s sitting on a 91 FIP- in those eight starts. Gray has given up seven earned runs four times this season. Will the Cubs make it five? Moore has turned into a bit of a low-risk, low-reward proposition, which makes him a fine play in weeks like this where the opponents are particularly poor. Paxton is still not walking people and more importantly, still not hurt. If you just accept that the lack of strikeouts makes Stroman an SP3 in a best-case scenario, it’s much easier to not be disappointed with the results. A cFIP of 89 indicates there are much better ratios lurking in there somewhere. I’m cautiously optimistic about what I’ve seen from Ventura since the All-Star break. With a weekend tilt against the Blue Jays, I’d prefer to sit him down if you have other viable options, but the Rays offense has been putrid of late. I can see the case for rolling the dice.

SIT

R.A. Dickey

@HOU, @KC

Tyler Duffey

@CLE, @TB

Doug Fister

TOR, TEX

Wade LeBlanc

BOS, LAA

Anthony Ranaudo

@DET, BAL

Eduardo Rodriguez

@SEA, @LAD

CC Sabathia

@NYM, CLE

Thank you for reading

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Swingingbunts
7/29
Garcia is starting on short rest this Saturday, I don't think he'll be getting 2 starts next week.
drdhr5y
8/01
Manaea has @Angels and home vs Cubs. Thoughts? Current slate is a group of strong single starters:

Fernandez @ Cubs
Lester @ As
Quintana @ Tigers
Velasquez vs Giants