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After our annual respite for the shortened All-Star-break period, we’re back, baby! This is always one of the more frustrating weeks of the schedule from a planning perspective, as many teams take their sweet time announcing a second-half rotation beyond the first couple of starts. So this list is as complete as I could make it, even after pushing our normal deadline a bit, but as of press time we’re still waiting on schedule confirmations from a litany of teams including Philadelphia and Washington from the NL, and Boston, Detroit, Houston, the Orange County Angels, and Toronto from the AL. I’ll happily address questions about additional guys from those teams in the comments as more information becomes available this weekend.

As far as the nuts-and-bolts guidelines for what lies within, the pitchers will be split by league and then by categories:

Auto-Starts – These are your surefire fantasy aces. You paid a handsome sum 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 emerge onto or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many—if any—notes associated with these groupings each week, unless a player has just moved up or is in imminent danger of moving down.

Starts – These are the guys I’m recommending you put into your lineup this week. Some will be obvious, but not quite auto-start excellent, while others will be waiver-wire fodder who find themselves with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of in your league.

Considers – As mentioned earlier, these guys will be on the fence and your league settings and position in the standings will really be the decider here. A pitcher in this category can be your number two starter with a tough week of matchups in Boston and Colorado. Or conversely if the Cincinnati Reds’ fifth starter is slated to face the Braves at home followed by a stop-over in Philadelphia, he will appear on this list because the matchups are great even though he might not be. Your particular league settings will have a lot to say 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 the season’s outset the majority of these recommendations will come to pass as a combination of ADP/auction price and PECOTA projections for opponent strength. As the season rolls on 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.

As a general frame of reference, when I talk about “deep” leagues I’m talking very broadly about mixed leagues with at least 16 teams and –only leagues with at least 10. “Medium-depth” leagues refer to mixed 12- and 14-teams and –onlies with eight or nine. “Shallow leagues” will refer to mixed 10-teamers and –only leagues with less than eight teams.

As always the standard disclaimer applies to these match-up previews that all start schedules are subject to unfortunately frequent change on account of rainouts, injuries, managers arbitrarily shuffling their rotations, etc. And of course, if you have questions about any of the starters I don’t expand upon in the body of the article feel free to inquire in the comments.

With that, on to the Starting Pitcher Planner!

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Matt Harvey

@WAS, LAD

Jacob deGrom

@WAS, LAD

A.J. Burnett

@KCR, WAS

Gerrit Cole

@KCR, WAS

START

Carlos Martinez

@CHW, ATL

Brett Anderson

@ATL, @NYM

Ian Kennedy

SFG, MIA

Notes:

Brett Anderson has flown along under the radar this year as a consistent NL-only and deep mixed-league play. He posted quality starts in eight of his final 10 first-half games, and he continues to lead the majors in ground-ball rate among starters. If you could draw up an opponent on paper for him to face in a must-win scenario, you wouldn’t be able to come up with a much better one than the Braves. They struggle mightily against left-handed pitching in general, and they’re a top-five unit at burning worms against southpaws. The Mets are no American Dreams against fairer-handed starters either, and the tandem makes for a mighty fine schedule for an above-average pitcher. If you’ve got him, he’s a go this week.

The good news for Ian Kennedy owners is that, per cFIP, he doesn’t project to be anywhere near as bad as he was in the first half going forward. And at least in terms of earned runs, we care about for fantasy purposes, he’s pitched much better since the beginning of June. Over his last eight starts of the first half (45 and a third innings), he put together a 2.98 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and almost 8.0 K/9. Kennedy’s big pre-break bugaboo was the home-run ball, and that was oddly an even-greater liability at Petco than on the road. He gave up an absurd 2.75 long-balls-per-nine in eight home starts, a trend that seems unlikely to continue for the rest of the year. The Giants are an excellent road offense, but they don’t hit ‘em over the fence very often, and the two home starts for Kennedy are enough to push him into solid “start” territory across pretty much all formats.

CONSIDER

Chris Heston

@SDG, OAK

Rubby De La Rosa

MIL, MIA

Mat Latos

@ARI, @SDG

David Phelps

@ARI, @SDG

Jeremy Hellickson

MIL, MIA

Brandon Beachy

@ATL, @NYM

Notes:

Rubby De La Rosa posted one of the biggest splits of any starting pitcher in the first half, holding righties to a .605 OPS while left-handers tattooed him to the tune of a .958 mark in almost 250 plate appearances. He’s tried to adjust by working much more heavily off the sinker against lefties recently, but the pitch has gotten crushed, and he likely starts the second half back at the drawing board looking for a solution somewhere else. Luckily for him, neither of these squads can put together a particularly impressive southpaw stack, and the Marlins in particular are among the worst teams in the league against right-handed pitching. Milwaukee’s offense has sneakily evolved into one of the more effective ones in the senior circuit over the past month, but I wouldn’t let that scare me off in most formats. De la Rosa’s inherent volatility given the extreme splits is enough to make him an untenable proposition in most shallower formats, but in deeper leagues and –onlies, Id lean toward starting him this week.

Mat Latos continues to be something of an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in tattoos. He looked better in June and his one July start, putting together a 3.31 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 31 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings. He started throwing his splitter more often and saw a nice leap in the pitch’s effectiveness in generating whiffs and grounders. Then he went and injured his foot, and now it’ll be a full two weeks since his last start when he takes the ball again on Monday. The matchups grade out in his favor, and provided you don’t mind trusting his health, he makes for a reasonable play in most formats.

Brandon Beachy represents one of the longer long-shot steaming options, as he’s all of one (mediocre) start removed from a lengthy Tommy John surgery-induced absence. The schedule is really the only reason for his inclusion here, and I’d only bother considering him as a flyer in the deepest of NL-onlies.

SIT

Matt Wisler

LAD, @STL

Clayton Richard

@CIN, PHI

Michael Lorenzen

CHC, @COL

Matt Garza

CLE, @ARI

Odrisamer Despaigne

SFG, MIA

Chris Rusin

TEX, CIN

Notes:

I’m not quite there with Matt Wisler just yet, though I’m getting there. Be it via a mechanical tweak or Roger McDowell’s aura more generally, he managed to add a tick to his fastball over his last couple of starts and two extra mph to his slider. The latter pitch has seen an explosion in its whiff rate as he’s thrown it harder and more often, and it has helped his four-seamer play up as well. It’s an intriguing combination, and if it translates into more efficient outings, Wisler’s a guy who can move up the ladder pretty quickly for second-half NL-only options. This is a tough two-start draw, though, and Wisler should be monitored closely as he attempts to work his way through it.

Matt Garza has had himself a doozy of a year, and that includes a stretch of allowing 21 runs on 41 hits over his last four starts (24 innings) before his recent DL stint. I need to see a couple of starts in which he executes for six innings before he’s in the conversation for two-start consideration again.

Chris Rusin hasn’t pitched terribly for Colorado, technically sporting a modest streak of four consecutive quality starts before a scoreless two-inning relief appearance last Sunday ahead of the break. Still, he doesn’t get a ton of whiffs and he’s susceptible to the long ball. Both opponents this week were top-10 teams in teams in hitting dingers in the first half, and the home-and-home pair at Coors is disqualifying in pretty much any circumstance.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

None.

STARTS

Danny Salazar

@MIL, CHW

Notes:

The upgrade that Cleveland’s infield defense has undergone with the promotions of Giovanny Urshela and Francisco Lindor (recommended reading: R.J. Anderson’s excellent piece on the transformation) is significant, and for a guy like Salazar, who’s made leaps and bounds improvement in raising his ground-ball rate this year, that’s a big deal. He still is and likely always will be home-run-prone on account of a relatively straight fastball that can leak up in the zone, but everything else is all systems go for him. He draws two weak opponents this week and should be started across all formats.

CONSIDER

Taijuan Walker

@DET, TOR

Wei-Yin Chen

@NYY, @TAM

Yordano Ventura

PIT, HOU

Kyle Gibson

@LAA, NYY

Kendall Graveman

TOR, @SFG

Carlos Rodon

STL, @CLE

Nathan Eovaldi

BAL, @MIN

Notes:

Taijuan Walker was making a strong push for auto-start status as the first half came to a close, and he remains quite close. This is a brutal-schedule week, however, with two of the top four offenses in baseball by TAv on tap, including the best of the bunch over the past month. He’s a worthwhile play on his own merits in most circumstances, but it’s understandable to be a little gun shy if you’re in a tenuous spot ratio-wise.

According to the surface numbers, Wei-Yin Chen is having himself quite the breakout campaign, and yet fantasy-value-wise he’s really not all that far off from what he’s produced in either of the past two seasons. The difference this year has been poor win karma, however. Where it counts, the whiffs are up, the hits are down, and he appears to have developed into a legitimately better pitcher. He ran his streak to five consecutive quality starts heading into the break, and he hasn’t given up more than three runs in a game since the middle of May. He’ll run into an ugly-on-paper draw this week, as both the Yankees and Rays are strong against left-handed pitching, but it should be noted that he’s handled each squad reasonably well across five combined starts this year (3.26 ERA, 1.05 WHIP in 30 1/3 innings), so managers shouldn’t overreact. The danger is enough to keep Chen in the “consider” pile, but I’d lean toward starting him in most formats.

Ventura scrapped the cutter cold-turkey after his punching bag April performance, and has steadily evolved into a four-seam/changeup guy. Neither opponent this week has seen much of Ventura in the past, so there’s some built-in advantage of unfamiliarity for Yordano. And there’s opportunity for strikeouts aplenty against two of the whiff-happier units around. It’s a pretty even-up set of circumstances and matchups all around; Ventura’s pretty close to a 50-50 proposition for me in any given two-start week, and nothing in the numbers really tilts the scale either way from there. In shallow formats, he probably rides the pine; otherwise, he’s worth your while for the strikeout potential.

Kyle Gibson’s been pretty tremendous this season, particularly of late, as he’s posted a win in four of his last six starts while putting up a 2.09 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, and striking out 33 in 38 and 2/3. PECOTA projects fairly significant regression, however, and his 106 cFIP is good for just 84th among starters with at least 50 first-half innings under their belts. The matchups aren’t ideal, particularly the date with a recently surging Yankees unit that doesn’t hit the ball on the ground very often. He’s an AL-only option to be sure, but mixed leaguers will need to weigh the pros and cons of his innings.

Carlos Rodon remains exactly the kind of rookie starter who seems like he was built in a factory somewhere solely to torment managers in re-draft leagues. For all the promise and potential, he’s just not there yet as a reliable fantasy asset, and a week like this is a case-in-point example. The Cardinals are a strong matchup for him on paper, as they struggle terribly against left-handed starters and strike out at a particularly high clip versus southpaws. His second start, however, sees him roll into Cleveland, which just so happens to house the offense with the best K:BB rate against left-handed pitching. He held his own in an earlier start against them, posting a quality start despite walking five. He’s worth considering in deeper formats, but between the extreme WHIP liability and limited win potential with that terrible offense working for him, he should be on he “sit” end of the spectrum in most formats.

SIT

J.A. Happ

@DET, TOR

Matt Moore

@PHI, BAL

Wandy Rodriguez

@COL, @LAA

Notes:

Managers who drafted J.A. Happ late have gotten some nice mileage out of him as a relatively consistent back-end arm this year, but it’s important not to get greedy with guys like him. In addition to all of the nasty numbers I threw out about Toronto and Detroit in the Walker blurb above, those two teams also happen to be the best two offenses in the league at handling left-handed pitching. I like Happ in general, but specifically for this week, I’ll pass.

Matt Moore pretty much has to be a “sit” until further notice right now. His first three starts back have not gone well, and he’s currently sitting almost a full three mph below where he sat back in the halcyon days of fantasy relevance. He’s a guy who even at his best will be a dangerous play for your WHIP, and the whiffs haven’t reemerged to hedge that risk. Both opponents are middle-of-the-road offenses against lefties. Chances are, if you drafted Moore, you did so understanding he was a long-term project for the end of the year, and we’re not there yet.