Fantasy First Pitch for Week 8
Trevor Bauer makes his much anticipated return to Cleveland in time for two scheduled starts. Our Al Melchior helps you make sense of your rotation options for the week ahead.
This week's two-start pitchers run the gamut from Madison (Bumgarner) to Franklin (Morales), but there are enough quality options who are likely to be available either on your bench or waivers that you could revolutionize your rotation.
Ian Kennedy and Francisco Liriano both make this week's "must-start" list, even though both hurlers are benched in at least 25 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.
|1. Adam Wainwright||vs. ARI, at CIN|
|2. Masahiro Tanaka||at CHC, at CHW|
|3. Stephen Strasburg||vs. CIN, at PIT|
|4. Julio Teheran||vs. MIL, vs. COL|
|5. Justin Verlander||at CLE, vs. TEX|
|6. Hisashi Iwakuma||at TEX, vs. HOU|
|7. Mike Minor||vs. MIL, vs. COL|
|8. Madison Bumgarner||at COL, vs. MIN|
|9. Ian Kennedy||vs. MIN, vs. CHC|
|10. Francisco Liriano||vs. BAL, vs. WAS|
|11. Garrett Richards||vs. HOU, vs. KC|
Of the 12 pitchers on this week's "bubble" list, only Corey Kluber and Wily Peralta are activated in more than 70 percent of our leagues, and four of these borderline options are still available as free agents in at least 20 percent of our leagues. This week looks like it could be an especially good one for switching things up a little more than usual in your rotation.
Heading into the weekend, it also appears that none of the must-start or bubble pitchers are in danger of losing their two-start status. A couple of prospects -- the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman and the Marlins' Anthony DeSclafani -- could actually join the ranks of two-start pitchers. While neither is the safest choice for standard mixed league owners, each could benefit owners in deeper leagues, so owners in those formats should watch the developments in Toronto and Miami over the weekend.
Alex Cobb (oblique) is on course to return this week against the Athletics, so his Saturday rehab start bears watching. Not only do Cobb's owners need to monitor this situation, but so do Jake Odorizzi , as he could lose his second start should Cobb return. Chris Sale (elbow) is not likely to return in Fantasy Week 8 (May 19-25), but should he be ready after Friday's rehab start, he would likely knock Andre Rienzo off the two-start pitchers list.
Each of the dozen borderline two-start options has some value for owners in standard mixed leagues, but some are more trustworthy than others. With one-quarter of the season in the books, some interesting trends have developed for most of these pitchers, and I'll review them and explain what they mean for each pitcher's value for the week ahead.
Monday update: The weekend's events created some turnover on the this week's two-start pitchers list. Miguel Gonzalez , Anthony DeSclafani and J.A. Happ are now slated for two starts, while Yordano Ventura , Drew Smyly and Wei-Yin Chen are now scheduled to make only one start. Smyly's removal from the list is particularly worth noting, as many owners had already claimed and activated him for his apparent two- start week. However, with Rick Porcello getting moved back due to a side injury (and Robbie Ray getting re- inserted into the rotation to spot start for him), Smyly got his second start bumped to Fantasy Week 9 (May 26-June 1). With just a single start at the Indians, Smyly is now just a last-resort option in standard mixed leagues.
Cobb appears due to return to make one start this week, though the Rays have yet to announce when that will happen. It seems likely that Cesar Ramos will lose his spot in the rotation, but if not, Jake Odorizzi could lose his second start for Week 8. Sale will make at least one more rehab start, according to the Chicago Tribune, so he won't be making an appearance for the White Sox this week. Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to return Wednesday at the Mets, so he is a recommended start in standard mixed leagues. Stroman, who was optioned to Triple-A Buffalo on Sunday, obviously won't be making a start, much less two, so he needs to be stashed.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
12. Corey Kluber , CLE (vs. DET, at BAL)
With his nine-strikeout performance at the Blue Jays on Wednesday, Kluber racked up at least eight Ks for the fourth time in his last five starts and for the fifth time this season. Given that Kluber rarely hands out walks, he would seem to have emerged as a must-start pitcher, whether with one start or two. However, he sports a very ordinary 1.28 WHIP, and that's not necessarily the result of bad luck. Kluber has a fluky- looking .364 BABIP, but it may not regress as much as you might expect, as he has been prone to allowing line drives at a high rate in each of his three seasons as a starter. The pattern has persisted long enough for me to keep Kluber off the must-start list -- though just by a little -- for the coming week.
Start Kluber over the following one-start pitchers: Andrew Cashner , Tony Cingrani , Marco Estrada
13. Doug Fister , WAS (vs. CIN, at PIT)
Following up on a shaky season debut at the Athletics, Fister looked more like his old self on Wednesday at the Diamondbacks, limiting the Snakes to one run on five hits and no walks in seven innings. It was classic Fister, as he got plenty of called strikes and got grounders when his opponents swung and connected. That formula worked well for Fister in each of the previous three seasons, but in case you think he may have benefitted from a favorable matchup, he does draw two teams this week who rank in the lower third in runs scored. Most likely, he doesn't need the help, and he'll be useful to start in every two-start week.
Start Fister over the following one-start pitchers: John Lackey , Scott Kazmir , Tyson Ross
14. Dallas Keuchel , HOU (at LAA, at SEA)
If you had put me in a time machine and sent me back to mid-April, then told me I would soon be recommending Keuchel as a two-start pitcher, I wouldn't have believed you. Just eight starts into the season, Keuchel has made a believer out of me. He has been solid or better in each of his last seven starts and backed up his Fantasy stats with a 12.1 percent whiff rate, 1.9 BB/9 ratio and a 66 percent ground ball rate. If you took the best parts of Marco Estrada and Charlie Morton and transplanted them into a lefty, this is what you'd get. It's a combination that makes Keuchel worth starting almost every week, as long as he keeps this going.
Start Keuchel over the following one-start pitchers: Lance Lynn , Nathan Eovaldi , Gerrit Cole
15. Trevor Bauer , CLE (vs. DET, at BAL)
Bauer is finally up for more than a spot start, and better yet, his first week as a regular member of the Indians' rotation this season provides him with two starts. With a 63 percent strikes thrown rate at Triple-A Columbus (according to StatCorner.com), it would appear that Bauer has ironed out his control issues at last, though he has posted a less-than-impressive 9.2 percent whiff rate and 8.6 K/9. If Bauer has to sacrifice some strikeouts in order to have control, it's a bargain that's worth striking, but owners shouldn't expect a humungous strikeout total, now that he is facing major leaguers. Though he has two opportunities to collect Ks, he will face the Tigers and Orioles, and neither team strikes out much.
Start Bauer over the following one-start pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi , Gerrit Cole , Jeff Samardzija
16. Wily Peralta , MIL (at ATL, at MIA)
|24. Jake Odorizzi||vs. NYY, at SD|
|25. Yovani Gallardo||at ATL, at MIA|
|26. Anthony DeSclafani||vs. PHI, vs. MIL|
|27. Mike Leake||at WAS, vs. STL|
|28. Jason Vargas||vs. CHW, at LAA|
|29. Colby Lewis||vs. SEA, at DET|
|30. Scott Feldman||at LAA, at SEA|
|31. Andre Rienzo||at KC, vs. NYY|
|32. J.A. Happ||at BOS, vs. OAK|
|33. Scott Carroll||at KC, vs. NYY|
|34. Franklin Morales||vs. SF, at ATL|
|35. Felix Doubront||vs. TOR, at TB|
With just one walk over 13 innings in his last two starts, Peralta's makeover as a control pitcher is showing some staying power, but his ability to induce whiffs and grounders has abandoned him. Peralta got only two swinging strikes off his slider in his most recent start and none in his prior start, and according to BrooksBaseball.net, he got very little horizontal movement on the pitch in his most recent outing. It's a minor red flag, and with the whiff-happy Braves and Marlins on his plate this week, Peralta could get his K-rate moving in the right direction again.
Start Peralta over the following one-start pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi , Gerrit Cole , Jeff Samardzija
17. Drew Pomeranz , OAK (at TB, at TOR)
Since replacing Dan Straily in the A's rotation just over a week ago, the only thing that Fantasy owners can fault Pomeranz for is not going beyond five innings in either of his starts. He has yet to allow a run or an extra-base hit as a starter, and he has struck out 13 batters while walking just two. Pomeranz had also been effective over his nine relief appearances, but over those outings, we could see some of the potential pitfalls of relying on him. He threw only 61 percent of his pitches for strikes and had allowed a couple of homers over 13 2/3 innings. That's not a big sample, but poor control and moderate ground ball tendencies were hallmarks of his Rockies career. The latter shouldn't hurt Pomeranz much in his home starts (or at pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field this week), but his visit to Toronto could bring back some bad memories from his time in the Mile High City.
Start Pomeranz over the following one-start pitchers: Jeff Samardzija , Hyun-Jin Ryu , Justin Masterson
18. Josh Beckett , LAD (at NYM, at PHI)
After failing to go deep into games earlier in the season, Beckett has been both effective and durable over his last four starts, posting a 2.28 ERA over 27 2/3 innings. Beckett has been both good and lucky over that stretch, notching 24 strikeouts and a 10 percent whiff rate, but he has also benefitted from a .233 BABIP. Even with more hits likely to fall in future starts, Beckett might not hurt your team's WHIP, but he can be vulnerable to extra-base hits, as a .200 opponents' Isolated Power over his recent stretch shows. If either the Mets or Phillies were good power-hitting teams, Beckett might not have made the cut for this week's bubble list, but he just might get away with middling ground ball tendenies and mediocre control this week.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Beckett: Jeff Samardzija , Hyun-Jin Ryu , Justin Masterson
19. Bronson Arroyo , ARI (at STL, at NYM)
Arroyo's rebound from an early-season slump just keeps getting better, as he has pitched successively deeper into each of his last five starts. That trend is about to reverse, as Arroyo tossed a complete game in his last start against the Nationals, but with three straight starts of seven innings or more, he appears back to being the efficient innings-eater he was with the Reds. Arroyo's finesse only takes him so far in Fantasy; he is still too much of a contact pitcher to use in most one-start weeks. In a two-start week that includes the National League's two worst power-hitting teams, Arroyo is a safe, if unspectacular, option.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Arroyo: Hyun-Jin Ryu , Justin Masterson , C.J. Wilson
20. Rafael Montero , NYM (vs. LAD, vs. ARI)
Montero walked away from Wednesday's major league debut against the Yankees with a quality start, and his prospect status and minor league track record would seem to recommend him as a solid choice for Fantasy owners in his first-ever two-start week. Control has never been a major issue for Montero, and during brief stints in the Eastern and Florida State Leagues, he showed promise as a strikeout pitcher. His strikeout rate dipped once advancing to the Pacific Coast League, and throughout his minor league career, Montero had never shown much of a knack for inducing grounders. That's what makes his five swinging strikes and 14 flyballs against the Yankees concerning. There's enough upside here to make Montero an intriguing two-start option, but his inexperience and uneven profile make him a risky one as well.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Montero: C.J. Wilson , Robbie Erlin , Jesse Chavez
21. Jason Hammel , CHC (vs. NYY, at SD)
Hammel is no stranger to inconsistency, but his most recent start ended a string of strong outings that dates all the way back to his season debut. He has walked more than two batters in a start only once (and that was a three-walk game) and has gotten at least nine swinging strikes in six of his eight starts. A lack of foul balls has probably cost Hammel some strikeouts, but he is once again showing the potential to be an above-average strikeout pitcher. Hammel is still not getting grounders like he did in his 2012 career year with the Orioles, but at least for his upcoming start against the Padres, that shouldn't hurt him too much. He is nowhere near as good as his 0.91 WHIP would suggest, but Hammel is showing enough encouraging signs to be worth using as a last-resort option in standard mixed leagues.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Hammel: C.J. Wilson , Robbie Erlin , Jesse Chavez
22. A.J. Burnett , PHI (at MIA, vs. LAD)
Though we are only seven weeks into the season, Burnett has already gone through three distinct phases. He began the year miserably, pitching with no signs of control. Then Burnett ran off a string of four consecutive quality starts in which he walked two or fewer batters in each outing while striking out close to a batter per inning. In his last two starts, Burnett's control has gone missing yet again, though he has continued to miss bats. As with Hammel, inconsistency is nothing new to Burnett, but there has been enough good so far to earn him a spot on this list, if just barely. If you're looking for an encouraging sign, the Dodgers are among the teams most prone to swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Burnett: Jesse Chavez , Dan Haren , Tyler Skaggs
23. Miguel Gonzalez , BAL (at PIT, vs. CLE)
With a 4.76 ERA, Gonzalez might not look like a viable two-start pitcher, but if not for the seven home runs he has allowed in 39 2/3 innings, he would appear to be much more intriguing. Over his career, Gonzalez has been far more prone to allowing homers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards than on the road, as one would expect. His first start of the week will be against the Pirates at pitcher-friendly PNC Park, so owners will be able to enjoy the benefits of Gonzalez's enhanced strikeout rate (7.9 K/9) without the usual home run risk. His second start is at home, but against an Indians lineup that lacks home run thump. Especially since Gonzalez is a relatively late addition to this list, he is highly available and could provide a nice return as a last-second free agent pickup.
Start the following one-start pitchers over Gonzalez: Dan Haren , Tyler Skaggs , Jonathon Niese