Fantasy First Pitch for Week 5
A light schedule in Fantasy Week 5 will have an impact on your Fantasy rotations. Our Al Melchior sifts through the very shallow pool of two-start options.
Editor's note: The was originally written on Thursday, April 24 with an update containing the latest information and matchups on Monday, April 28.
The Monday and Thursday schedules are light in Fantasy Week 5 (April 28-May 4), and therefore, so is the selection of two-start pitchers for the scoring period. It actually took the disabling of Chris Sale (elbow) and the suspension of Michael Pineda to grow the list to 31, as Jose Quintana and CC Sabathia are now primed to take the hill twice in the coming week.
Both Quintana and Sabathia make this week's list of "bubble pitchers" who are at least worth considering for active roster spots in standard mixed leagues. Owners do need to keep in mind that there is still a slight chance that Sale could return this weekend, and that could rob either Quintana or Andre Rienzo of a second start. A couple of high-end hurlers may be about to enter the ranks of one-start pitchers, so as of now, it appears that owners in virtually all formats need to get Mike Minor (shoulder) and Hisashi Iwakuma (finger) into their rotations for Week 5, as each looks almost certain to be activated. Don't bother to move Clayton Kershaw from your DL spot just yet, though, as he will make another rehab start this week.
The possible returns of Jake Arrieta (shoulder) and Jhoulys Chacin (shoulder) won't directly impact owners outside of deeper leagues, but the domino effect of their insertion into their respective teams' rotations could. Arrieta could push Jeff Samardzija out of a second start, while Chacin's arrival could mean a one-start week for Tyler Chatwood . Also, should Jacob Turner (shoulder) come off the DL in Week 5, Jose Fernandez might be relegated to one-start status, but he is clearly a must-start in all formats, but you already knew that.
There aren't many automatic starts among this week's crop of two-start pitchers, so this is one week in which you may want to comb through the "bubble" options a little more carefully. Here's the lowdown on a dozen such pitchers for you to consider.
Monday update: With Anibal Sanchez (finger) placed on the disabled list, the Tigers will use a four-man rotation this week, which will land Justin Verlander a second start this scoring period. If you're looking ahead to Week 6, MLive.com reports that Robbie Ray is a top candidate to take Sanchez's spot when the Tigers need a fifth starter again on May 6. Verlander will be joined by Kyle Gibson and, most likely, Cole Hamels on the two-start pitchers list, as the Phillies have pushed Roberto Hernandez 's next start back.
Losing two-start status over the weekend were Charlie Morton and Mike Pelfrey . Dustin McGowan remains on our list of two-start pitchers for now, but according to Sportsnet.ca, that could change. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons has not committed to keeping McGowan in the rotation beyond his Tuesday start at the Royals, and if he struggles, Marcus Stroman could get called up to take his place for Sunday's series finale at the Pirates.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
12. Sonny Gray , OAK (at TEX, at BOS)
Gray had possibly his toughest assignment of the season on Wednesday when he faced the Rangers. Shaky control was an issue, as it periodically can be for Gray, and though he only allowed three runs, he still absorbed the loss. It was enough to extend Gray's streak of five straight quality starts, but that string could reach its end in Week 5, as he gets the Rangers again, along with the Red Sox. Both outings will be on the road, and Globe Life and Fenway Parks represent the most hostile environments for pitchers that Gray will have seen so far this year. Because he's good at getting strikeouts and grounders, Gray is still worth using in most leagues, but the increased risk makes him less than a sure thing in very shallow leagues.
Start Gray over the following one-start pitchers: Homer Bailey , Gerrit Cole , Hyun-Jin Ryu
13. John Lackey , BOS (vs. TB, vs. OAK)
|1. Yu Darvish||vs. OAK, at LAA|
|2. Jose Fernandez||vs. ATL, vs. LAD|
|3. Justin Verlander||at CHW, at KC|
|4. Madison Bumgarner||vs. SD, at ATL|
|5. Cole Hamels||vs. NYM, vs. WAS|
|6. Michael Wacha||vs. MIL, at CHC|
|7. Alex Wood||at MIA, vs. SF|
|8. Zack Greinke||at MIN, at MIA|
|9. Justin Masterson||at LAA, vs. CHW|
|10. Tony Cingrani||vs. CHC, vs. MIL|
|11. Tyson Ross||at SF, vs. ARI|
Lackey has deserved a better fate than his 4.22 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, as he has allowed a .345 BABIP. Aside from Dustin Pedroia and Jackie Bradley , the Red Sox don't have the most stout defenders, which might explain why their staff collectively has a .330 BABIP, which is the second-highest in the majors. The return of Shane Victorino should help somewhat, but even if the defense is a liability, Lackey should bring his ERA closer to his current FIP of 3.58. That makes Lackey good enough to use in two-start weeks, though the contact-hitting Rays and A's lineups could prevent Lackey from providing a bounty of strikeouts.
Start Lackey over the following one-start pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu , Ervin Santana , Andrew Cashner
14. Jeff Samardzija , CHC (at CIN, vs. STL)
Samardzija is giving the outward appearance of a breakout with a 1.53 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, but it's still premature to assume he's reached another level. He's getting whiffs on just 8.0 percent of his pitches and 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Samardzija has been throwing more strikes, so his 2.3 BB/9 ratio and low WHIP could be legitimate, but owners shouldn't assume he will continue to strand 87 percent of his baserunners. Given that he has induced six whiffs or fewer in three of his five starts, it can't be taken for granted that Samardzija will return to his swing-and-miss ways. Should he continue forward with a pedestrian strikeout rate, an ERA that is likely to be on the rise and a low level of run support (2.4 runs per nine innings to date), Samardzija has less appeal than Lackey. That said, he is still worth using for most owners in standard mixed leagues this week.
Start Samardzija over the following one-start pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu , Ervin Santana , Andrew Cashner
15. Jose Quintana , CHW (vs. DET, at CLE)
With a day off on Thursday, the White Sox shouldn't need a fifth starter to fill Chris Sale rotation spot during Week 5, so as long as they go with a four-man crew, Quintana will get two starts. Boucing back from a poor outing against the Rangers, Quintana posted his fourth quality start in five tries when he faced the Tigers on Thursday. So far this year, Quintana has not built on -- or even sustained -- the strikeout surge he experienced in the second half of last season, and his fastball has lost some movement, according to the PitchFX data on BrooksBaseball.net. This is something to watch, but the decline has not been dramatic enough to downgrade Quintana from being a viable two-start option, just as he was toward the end of last season.
Start Quintana over the following one-start pitchers: C.J. Wilson , Hiroki Kuroda , Dan Haren
16. Kyle Lohse , MIL (at STL, at CIN)
Through five starts, Lohse is sporting a very un-Lohse-like 8.2 K/9 ratio, but after watching him for 13 seasons, we know not to expect him to help much with strikeouts. Not surprisingly, Lohse's strikeout count got a boost from facing the whiff-happy Braves and a Pirates lineup that featured Travis Ishikawa (11 Ks in 34 AB) and Charlie Morton (5 Ks in 8 ABs). We can still count on Lohse to keep walks to a minimum, making his pitch-to-contact ways profitable for owners in two-start weeks.
Start Lohse over the following one-start pitchers: Hiroki Kuroda , Dan Haren , Lance Lynn
17. Jason Vargas , KC (vs. TOR, vs. DET)
Vargas is doing what he does best: throwing strikes and letting his outfielders do the heavy lifting. The lefty shouldn't be confused with an extreme contact pitcher, and in fact, he has induced eight or more swinging strikes in three of his five starts. Though Vargas has only 18 strikeouts in 35 innings, it's reasonable to expect him to miss a few more bats going forward, and he will do a good enough job of keeping runners off the bases to succeed. Also, with two starts at Kauffman Stadium, he should be able to keep the ball in the park.
Start Vargas over the following one-start pitchers: Chris Archer , Marco Estrada , Nathan Eovaldi
18. Jonathon Niese , NYM (at PHI, at COL)
If Niese had gotten one more out in his season debut against the Reds, he would be 4 for 4 in quality starts this season. However, only once -- against the aforementioned Braves -- has he coaxed more than four swinging strikes in a start. That's an alarming amount of contact, but like Lohse, Niese limits his damage by staying away from free passes. A start at Coors Field makes Niese riskier than Lohse, though he fared well enough in his lone start there last season, when he allowed three runs in six innings despite getting only three strikeouts. Still, there's enough downside to Niese's week to make it worthwhile sitting him for a one-start pitcher.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Niese: Marco Estrada , Nathan Eovaldi , Chris Tillman
19. Tyler Skaggs , LAA (vs. CLE, vs. TEX)
|24. Kyle Gibson||vs. LAD, vs. BAL|
|25. Jake Odorizzi||at CHW, at NYY|
|26. Wade Miley||vs. COL, at SD|
|27. Franklin Morales||at ARI, vs. NYM|
|28. Andre Rienzo||vs. TB, at CLE|
|29. Chris Young||at NYY, at HOU|
|30. Erik Bedard||at BOS, at NYY|
|31. Dustin McGowan||at KC, at PIT|
Skaggs has rediscovered his ability to hit the mid-90s with his fastball, but his newfound heat has reaped an unexpected benefit. Though Skaggs has not been getting many strikeouts, he has been using a heavy sinker to get frequent grounders. In fact, more than two-thirds of Skaggs' sinkers that have been put in play have resulted in ground balls, according to BrooksBaseball.net. Even though he's allowing more contact than is optimal, Skaggs would be a highly-recommended start if not for his recent struggles with command, as he has thrown only 110 strikes out of 189 pitches over his last two starts. He's not a bad option, but he's not one of the safer alternatives on this "bubble" list.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Skaggs: Nathan Eovaldi , Chris Tillman , A.J. Burnett
20. Yovani Gallardo , MIL (at STL, at CIN)
As I noted in a recent blog post, Gallardo may be able to maintain a decent ERA and WHIP, thanks to the framing skills of Jonathan Lucroy . Though Gallardo isn't the strikeout pitcher he once was, he hasn't been hurting himself with walks, and he could maintain that regardless of who his catcher is, as both Lucroy and Martin Maldonado have been proficient at gettng called strikes on questionable pitches. Also, a 55 percent ground ball rate has partly responsible for opponents slugging just .307 against him. Regression signs abound for Gallardo (.267 BABIP, 88 percent strand rate, 0.3 HR/9), but even using his 3.55 xFIP as an indicator of what to expect in the weeks ahead, Gallardo looks reasonably safe to use as a two-start pitcher if you really need an extra start.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Gallardo: A.J. Burnett , Shelby Miller , Dan Straily
21. Alfredo Simon , CIN (vs. CHC, vs. MIL)
Take away back-to-back-to-back walks from the first inning of Simon's last start at the Pirates, and suddenly, he looks like a near-elite control artist. Without those walks, Simon would own a 2.0 BB/9 ratio. Once known for being on the wild side, Simon has made strides with his command, and he's also a pretty fair ground ball pitcher as well. Despite being a hard thrower, owners shouldn't look to Simon for strikeouts, but he will provide enough of them in a two-start week to be worth considering. A start against the punchless Cubs is another plus for Simon this week.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Simon: Shelby Miller , Dan Straily , Clay Buchholz
22. CC Sabathia , NYY (vs. SEA, vs. TB)
With Michael Pineda serving a 10-game pine tar suspension that knocks him out of Week 5, Sabathia is practically assured of a two-start week now. Even with his quality start in Boston Thursday night, Sabathia is sporting an inflated 4.78 ERA, but he has shown improvement in each start and went seven innings against both the Rays and Red Sox recently. He gets the Rays again along with the scuffling Mariners, so the matchups bode well for Sabathia to stay in a groove. It's also encouraging to see Sabathia getting more than a strikeout per inning to date while throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes. Even if his K-rate regresses. Sabathia's sharp control and favorable matchups could make for a winning week. Only Sabathia's penchant for allowing homers makes him a risky choice at this point.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Sabathia: Shelby Miller , Dan Straily , Clay Buchholz
23. Tyler Chatwood , COL (at ARI, vs. NYM)
Chatwood has had a strange season so far. He has had two starts against the Giants (one at AT&T Park, one at Coors Field) that produced four home runs and a mere 12 ground balls combined. That's hardly what we've come to expect from Chatwood, who allowed four home runs over 61 2/3 innings at Coors Field all of last season. On the other hand, he looked like last year's version of himself in a home start against the Phillies, in which he induced 15 grounders and allowed only two singles over seven innings. This early in the season, it's hard to know what to read into Chatwood's outings against the Giants, but at least he gets a couple of good matchups in facing the Diamondbacks and Mets. You could easily get burned starting Chatwood, but there's enough promise here to at least consider him as a last resort option in standard mixed leagues.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Chatwood: Dan Straily , Clay Buchholz , Corey Kluber