Fantasy First Pitch for Week 20
With the Fantasy playoffs looming on the horizon, it's time for all the help we can get. Our Al Melchior breaks down your best options in his Week 20 edition of Fantasy First Pitch.
For Fantasy Week 20 (Aug. 11-17), there will be no shortage of two-start pitchers on waivers in standard mixed leagues. With the season's finish line drawing ever closer, the challenge in choosing the best sources for extra starts will be a critical one to your title run.
There are plenty of two-start pitchers available who at one time or another have been worth using, but that doesn't mean they should start for you in this particular week. Jonathon Niese ? He's been allowing a lot of hard contact lately. Chris Young ? He's been reliable for most of this season, but a matchup against the Tigers at Comerica Park looks like an eruption waiting to happen. Joe Kelly ? His successful Red Sox debut could make you overlook the potential damage to your WHIP, given his persistent wildness.
The two-start options shaping up to be the best ones on waivers aren't necessarily the obvious ones. Heading into the weekend, Collin McHugh , Jeff Locke and Kyle Hendricks are all still available in the majority of CBSSports.com leagues, and all three are worth streaming this week. To find out why, I'll provide the details just below.
As always, these are preliminary lists, and there are usually names added and subtracted in Monday's update. One situation to monitor over the weekend is the Orioles' rotation, which once again is in a state of flux. The activation of Ubaldo Jimenez opens up the possibility of a six-man rotation, and with a day off on Thursday, that would eliminate the possibility of a two-start pitcher on the staff. It also could mean that one of the current starters gets moved to the bullpen or the minors. Of the current starters, any one of Kevin Gausman , Bud Norris or Wei-Yin Chen could wind up with a two-start week, but someone would have to be removed from the rotation to make it happen. Gausman would be the only one worth starting in standard mixed leagues this week with two starts, but because he has been struggling with command, he's not a must-start option.
Monday update: The Orioles resolved their rotation situation on Saturday when they optioned Miguel Gonzalez to Triple-A Norfolk. Norris gets the start on Monday against the Yankees, lining him up for a two-start week. With Scott Carroll having his next turn skipped Chris Sale also inherits a two-start week for the White Sox. Tommy Milone also joins the two-start club, as he will be recalled by the Twins for Monday's series opener at the Astros. Sale is, as usual, a must-start option, while Milone and Norris are best reserved for deeper mixed leagues and AL-only formats for this week.
While the weekend trade that sent Kevin Correia from the Twins to the Dodgers opened up an opportunity for Milone in Minnesota, it wipes out a two-start week for Hyun-Jin Ryu . Correia's move also endangers his own two-start week, even though he will start for the Dodgers on Monday at the Braves. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com that the team's current six-man rotation could be temporary, so Correia could get moved to the bullpen after Monday's start.
Jacob deGrom will miss at least one start, as he will have his right shoulder examined, but there is a possibility he could return by this weekend. Gerrit Cole (lat) could come back from his disabled list stint this week, which would put Edinson Volquez 's two-start week in jeopardy.
|1. Felix Hernandez||vs. TOR, at DET|
|2. Chris Sale||at SF, vs. TOR|
|3. Adam Wainwright||at MIA, vs. SD|
|4. Jon Lester||at KC, at ATL|
|5. Julio Teheran||vs. LAD, vs. OAK|
|6. Sonny Gray||at KC, at ATL|
|7. Jake Arrieta||vs. MIL, at NYM|
|8. Yordano Ventura||vs. OAK, at MIN|
|9. Doug Fister||at NYM, vs. PIT|
|10. Rick Porcello||at PIT, vs. SEA|
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
11. Collin McHugh , HOU (vs. MIN, at BOS)
McHugh just might be the most underappreciated strikeout pitcher in recent memory. He's averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings, yet his activation rate has yet to eclipse 48 percent. There are perfectly good reasons for this, namely that McHugh has been prone to allowing too many walks and extra-base hits. Over his last six starts, though, McHugh has improved his control, walking just 10 batters over 36 2/3 innings. Even if his control issues resurface, he can maintain his 1.08 WHIP by avoiding contact (13 percent swinging strike rate) and inducing popups (11 percent rate). McHugh still pays a price for having just a 43 percent ground ball rate, but that's all that prevents him from being on the must-start list.
Start McHugh over the following one-start pitchers: Johnny Cueto , Dallas Keuchel , Jimmy Nelson
12. Justin Verlander , DET (at PIT, vs. SEA)
Not long ago it would have been hard to believe that we could get excited about Verlander having a four-game quality start streak, but that's what it's come to. Other than cutting back on walks, Verlander isn't doing much lately that's different from what he has done for most of this disappointing season, and he's settled into being a pretty ordinary big league pitcher. The one thing that still stands out about Verlander is his ability to pitch deep into games. He may not do much for your team's ERA and WHIP, but with two starts, Verlander is still capable of helping with strikeouts and wins.
Start Verlander over the following one-start pitchers: Ian Kennedy , Ervin Santana , John Lackey
13. Kyle Hendricks , CHC (vs. MIL, at NYM)
Hendricks has come pretty much as advertised by his minor league track record: an above-average ground ball rate, excellent control and decent swing-and-miss stuff despite his middling velocity. Particularly over his last three starts, Hendricks hasn't been delivering many strikeouts, but his seven-K debut against the Reds, as well as a 9 percent swinging strike rate, shows that the potential is there for him to make a contribution to the category. To be sure, Hendricks will have a hard time maintaining a sub-3.00 ERA and sub-1.10 WHIP, as he has been fortunate enough to have stranded 82 percent of his baserunners and held opponents to a .125 batting average on grounders. Eventually, Hendricks will turn in some bad starts, but he has the skills to be a viable standard mixed league option.
Start Hendricks over the following one-start pitchers: Ervin Santana , John Lackey , Lance Lynn
14. Tom Koehler , MIA (vs. STL, vs. ARI)
All season long, Koehler has taken advantage of spacious Marlins Park, holding batters to a .288 slugging percentage there, but he's been fairly effective in general lately. Wednesday's outing at the Pirates was a letdown, as he allowed four runs in six innings with four walks, but over the preceding seven starts, he walked only nine batters over 40 innings and compiled a 3.60 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Those may not be the most impressive numbers, but given that five of those starts came on the road, they're worth a second look. Especially since Koehler will make home starts against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks this week -- two teams that have struggled offensively of late -- he is worth using in standard mixed leagues.
Start Koehler over the following one-start pitchers: John Lackey , Lance Lynn , Zack Wheeler
15. Jeff Locke , PIT (vs. DET, at WAS)
Locke lost his groove over his final three starts in July, as his control showed signs of erosion and he allowed multiple home runs in each game. Four of the seven homers Locke yielded during that stretch were short-distance shots, according to ESPN Hit Tracker's criteria, and he came back strong in his latest start against the Marlins. Most encouraging for Locke were the 69 strikes that he threw out of 100 pitches versus Miami, as control has been his strong suit when things have gone well this season. The Tigers will provide a much tougher test of Locke's ability to minimize extra-base hits, but he'll face them at home where he has limited opponents to a .320 slugging percentage.
Start Locke over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn , Zack Wheeler , Chris Archer
16. Shelby Miller , STL (at MIA, vs. SD)
The old Shelby Miller -- the one who was nearly a strikeout-per-inning pitcher as a rookie last season -- hasn't returned yet, but we can make do with the recent version we've seen. He's still getting whiffs and Ks at a subpar rate, but over his last six outings (including a relief appearance), Miller walked seven batters in 30 innings. That's a welcome sight after he walked nearly a batter every other inning in his first 17 starts. Owners have to be cautious about when they start Miller, as he is still prone to flyballs and line drives. Pitching at Busch Stadium and other pitcher-friendly venues helps, and so do good matchups. Miller has both things going for him this week, so he should give owners a productive week.
Start Miller over the following one-start pitchers: Zack Wheeler , Chris Archer , Wade Miley
17. Drew Smyly , TB (at TEX, vs. NYY)
To judge by Smyly's results since late June, he should be resting quietly on the "pitchers to avoid" list instead of making noise here on the "bubble" list. Smyly is here because he's due for a breakout. Over his last seven starts, which have produced a 2-4 record, 5.54 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, Smyly has an 11 percent swinging strike rate and 11 percent popup rate, but he's been done in by a .388 BABIP. That's a high rate for just about any pitcher, much less a flyball-oriented one like Smyly. Oddly, home runs haven't been much of a problem during that stretch, as he has allowed four over 37 1/3 innings. Now that Smyly is a Ray, he should see his home run rate shrink, especially in his home starts. He gets one of those this week versus the Yankees, and his road start is against the power-deprived Rangers. Surprisingly, the Rangers have hit for even less power at Globe Life Park in Arlington than on the road, so while the venue could pose a challenge for Smyly, it's not as imposing as it may seem.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Smyly: John Lackey , Lance Lynn , Zack Wheeler
18. Jesse Hahn , SD (vs. COL, at STL)
|23. Tommy Milone||at HOU, vs. KC|
|24. Chris Young||vs. TOR, at DET|
|25. Colby Lewis||vs. TB, vs. LAA|
|26. Jarred Cosart||vs. STL, vs. ARI|
|27. Bud Norris||vs. NYY, at CLE|
|28. Joe Kelly||at CIN, vs. HOU|
|29. Chris Capuano||at BAL, at TB|
|30. Edinson Volquez||vs. DET, at WAS|
|31. Mike Minor||vs. LAD, vs. OAK|
|32. Jonathon Niese||at PHI, vs. CHC|
|33. Josh Collmenter||at CLE, at MIA|
|34. Jeremy Guthrie||vs. OAK, at MIN|
|35. T.J. House||vs. ARI, vs. BAL|
|36. Dan Haren||at ATL, vs. MIL|
|37. David Buchanan||vs. NYM, at SF|
|38. Jeremy Hellickson||at TEX, vs. NYY|
|39. Jordan Lyles||at SD, vs. CIN|
|40. Odrisamer Despaigne||vs. COL, at STL|
|41. Brad Peacock||vs. MIN, at BOS|
|42. Nick Tepesch||vs. TB, vs. LAA|
|43. Yohan Flande||at SD, vs. CIN|
Hahn threw so few innings in the minors that it was hard to know what to make of his initial starts in the majors. The 10.4 K/9 ratio he posted through his first seven starts was far out of line with his minor league numbers, but as we've seen with Jacob deGrom , occasionally a player takes a step forward when he gets promoted to the majors. More often, though, pitchers settle into a lower level of performance, and that's what we've seen with Hahn more recently. Over his last three starts, Hahn has struck out only 10 batters and he has walked nine over 18 2/3 innings. He has needed a .196 BABIP over that span to maintain the illusion of a low ERA and WHIP. Because Hahn has shown strong ground ball tendencies at every level, he remains a viable option in two-start weeks, but he is far from a must-start.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Hahn: Lance Lynn , Zack Wheeler , Chris Archer
19. Mat Latos , CIN (vs. BOS, at COL)
Latos has been slow to round into form after missing the first two-and-a-half months of the season, but he is beginning to show signs of progress. Though his velocity has yet to rebound into the mid-90s, Latos has had more success at getting swings-and-misses over his last three starts, and he's notched 16 strikeouts over 20 2/3 innings. That's not a head-turning ratio, but it's a step up from the 5.1 K/9 ratio he sported in his first seven starts. Latos has yet to curb the strong flyball tendencies he's shown this season, but with a 13 percent popup rate and 0.5 HR/9 ratio, he's reaped the benefits of that trend without paying the price. The bill is likely to come when he visits Coors Field in his second start of the week. He just might be able to do enough damage against the Red Sox to make it worth starting him anyway.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Latos: Zack Wheeler , Chris Archer , Wade Miley
20. Yovani Gallardo , MIL (at CHC, at LAD)
Though Gallardo is throwing a little harder than he did a year ago, he has remade himself as a pitch-to-contact type. He has improved his control and ground ball tendencies just enough to make it work, and for the first time in three seasons, Gallardo has a sub-1.30 WHIP. While his current 1.25 mark is far from exceptional, it's a decided improvement over last season's 1.36 WHIP, and in holding opponents to a .119 Isolated Power, Gallardo has been able to prevent runs. Though his stats aren't spectacular, Gallardo should help just enough with ERA and strikeouts in a two-start week to be worth your while.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Gallardo: Chris Archer , Wade Miley , Danny Duffy
21. Wily Peralta , MIL (at CHC, at LAD)
On the surface, Peralta has been sensational over the last four weeks, but some troubling signs have been lurking beneath the surface. Peralta flat out dominated the Giants on Thursday, but their lineup has been punchless since the All-Star break. In the preceding four starts, Peralta posted a 1.71 ERA, but he threw just 61 percent of his pitches for strikes. He also failed to induce more than six swinging strikes in three of those starts. A .189 BABIP over that stretch hid Peralta's control issues and lack of dominance. With other pitchers, I might be inclined to overlook a brief downturn in control, but this is a problem that has dogged Peralta for much of his career. While he has produced the results of a must-start option, you should think twice before putting Peralta in your rotation this week.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Peralta: Jose Quintana , Francisco Liriano , James Paxton
22. Drew Hutchison , TOR (at SEA, at CHW)
Hutchison has been so inconsistent that it's hard to trust him even in a two-start week. Then again, his peripherals are intriguing enough that he deserves some consideration. A 10 percent swinging strike rate and 8.2 K/9 ratio could mean a juicy strikeout total over two starts, especially with the White Sox being one of his opponents. Hutchison's 4.39 ERA doesn't look mixed-league appropriate, but a 68 percent strand rate hasn't done him any favors. Because his flyball tendencies might not play well at U.S. Cellular Field, starting Hutchison could backfire badly, but he offers enough upside to be worth a gamble.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Hutchison: Francisco Liriano , James Paxton , Tim Hudson