Fantasy Baseball: What you need to know about Week 4 pitchers

Scott White's Hitter Matchups for Week 4

Best two-start pitchers for Week 4

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Now that we have nearly three weeks of action in the books, we're starting to get a better grasp of how matchups and venues could affect our pitching choices. For example, we have seen that the Rays have become the most aggressive lineup in the majors and the worst at making contact. That's been a great combination for opposing pitchers. We have also witnessed the resurgence of the Cardinals as an offensive force, due in part to some early power displays from Matt Holliday and Brandon Moss, as well as surprising contributions from Jeremy Hazelbaker and Aledmys Diaz.

It's still too early to determine what the impact of Coors Field's higher fences and Marlins Park's shorter fences and new dimensions are. In the first few games, though, the former venue is holding up as a hitter-friendly environment, while the latter is still a tough place to homer in.

We're learning more about the pitchers themselves, too, but not everything is as it seems so early in the schedule. Even with two starts, it probably seems like a bad idea to start Ubaldo Jimenez, but if there were ever a week to trust him and his 1.59 WHIP, this would be it. The same goes for Mike Fiers and his 6.48 ERA. At the other extreme, Adam Conley has looked like a must-start option, yet that perception could change after he faces the Brewers next weekend.

We will also learn a little more about Rays prospect Blake Snell, who will make his major league debut this Saturday against the Yankees. MLB.com ranks Snell as their No. 12 prospect overall, and he's a great pitcher to stash for this season's long haul. However, he probably won't be the solution to any of your pitching problems for Fantasy Week 4 (April 25-May 1), as this is likely to be a spot start.

The Two-Start Landscape

This is a week where you may be as likely to sit a two-start pitcher already on your roster as you are to pick one up. As of this writing, there are 13 pitchers with ownership rates in CBSSports.com leagues below 60 percent who are scheduled to make two starts. Of these, only Drew Pomeranz (57 percent owned) and Kendall Graveman (22 percent owned) look like reasonably safe bets to add to a standard mixed league rotation. For the risk-takers out there, Jimenez (52 percent owned) and Matt Wisler (20 percent owned) are also reasonable candidates for a waiver claim.

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Kendall Graveman OAK • SP • 49
2016 STATS
IP17
ERA2.04
Ks15
GB Rate67

If you are short on starts for the coming week, you are still probably better off to sit slumping Julio Teheran and Shelby Miller with two starts in favor of a more reliable one-start pitcher. Teheran gets the Red Sox and Cubs, while Miller will face the Cardinals and Rockies, so neither pitcher is getting the benefit of easy matchups.

Matchups that Matter

Owners who are familiar with Jimenez know that his walk-less debut against the Twins was too good to be true, and he proved it with four-walk outings against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. The only two-start week that makes Jimenez trustworthy is one in which he faces two opponents with highly questionable plate discipline. Jimenez owners, your wish has been granted. He will face the Rays on the road and the White Sox at home. They rank second and third in swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone.

If you're looking for an option that involves less implosion potential, a one-start Derek Holland is right up your alley. He will face the Angels, who own the lowest team Iso and wOBA in the American League. Rotisserie owners should just be warned that the Angels have been a tough bunch to strike out, but in points leagues -- or any format that rewards innings -- Holland could have a great week. Edinson Volquez will face the Angels as well, so his 56 percent start rate needs to rise for the coming week.

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Derek Holland SF • SP • 45
2016 STATS
IP16
ERA2.7
WHIP1.08
Ks14

The Orioles' lineup has been every bit as formidable as we expected going into the season as they lead the majors in wOBA and trail only the Rockies in Iso. That does not bode well for a bounceback from Carlos Rodon, who got only one out against the Angels on Monday, as the lefty is set to face the O's at Camden Yards. Mat Latos gets the same assignment, and even without the tough matchup, he appears to be due for some very unforgiving regression.

One situation to watch closely this weekend is that of Joe Ross. He left his last start at the Marlins early due to a blister, and that could cause him to skip Tuesday's series opener against the Phillies. Ross needs to make that start in order to be a safe option in Week 4, because his second outing comes at the Cardinals. While Ross has been solid, a lone start against a team that is slugging .500 against righties does not likely make for a good week.

Extreme Park Factors

Even after an unimpressive start against the Mets, you may not consider Vince Velasquez to be someone you might sit with two starts, but the extreme flyball pitcher could falter in tough parks against good power hitters. He does have a start at Citizens Bank Park against the Indians, but between that favorable matchup and a visit to a favorable venue in Washington, Velasquez is plenty safe this week.

So is Jake Odorizzi, who has a career 2.76 ERA and 0.7 HR/9 at Tropicana Field. Even though his home start is against the Orioles, he should fare well enough. In two home starts against Baltimore in 2015, he allowed four earned runs over 12 1/3 innings with one home run allowed.

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Jake Odorizzi MIN • SP •
CAREER HOME STATS
IP214
AVG.209
OBP.272
SLG.324

In standard mixed leagues, there is no reason to start Mike Fiers this week, but it could be an opportune time to stash him. He could also be a worthwhile start in deeper formats. All of his 2016 starts have been at hitter-friendly parks and his last two have come against teams -- the Yankees and Royals -- that don't strike out much. This week, he gets the Athletics, who are also averse to strikeouts, but O.co Coliseum should be much more to his liking. As an Astro and Brewer, Fiers has had to contend with homer-friendly home parks, but of the 57 home runs he has allowed in his career, only 18 have come on the road.

It remains to be seen whether Juan Nicasio will live up to the hype he generated with a dominant Grapefruit League performance, but we can know with certainty that this week is not the time to start him. Nicasio's lone start is at the Rockies, and that is no place to trust someone who has compiled a 36 percent ground ball rate so far this year.

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Juan Nicasio SEA • RP • 12
2016 STATS
IP15
ERA4.8
LD Rate30.8
FB Rate33.3

Starting Adam Conley at the Brewers might seem like an easy decision, given his surprising strikeout prowess and a Milwaukee lineup that leads the National League in strikeout rate. The problem is that Conley is also at the top of a leaderboard -- for lowest ground ball rate among National League pitchers with at least 10 innings. With Ryan Braun, Chris Carter and Domingo Santana, the Brewers have enough right-handed power to make Conley's outing an uncomfortable one.

Injury Update

Kevin Gausman (shoulder) is expected to make his season debut either on Monday or Tuesday at the Rays. That would also line him up to make a second Week 4 start against the White Sox. If Gausman returns as planned, that would limit Chris Tillman to just one start next week, instead of the two he is currently projected to start.

As mentioned above, Joe Ross (blister) may miss his next turn in the rotation, which would come at home against the Phillies.

Anthony DeSclafani (oblique), Homer Bailey (elbow) and John Lamb (back) won't be ready to join the Reds this coming week, but all three could be ready for activation by Week 5.

Daniel Norris (back) is on a Triple-A rehab assignment, and he is unlikely to return this week. However, if all goes well, he could rejoin the Tigers' rotation, possibly in place of Shane Greene, in Week 5.

Data Analyst

Al Melchior has been playing Fantasy Baseball since 1994, getting his start in the Southern Maryland Anthropomorphic Baseball League (SMABL). He has been writing about Fantasy Baseball since 2000, getting... Full Bio

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