Fantasy First Pitch for Week 13
Which pitching options should owners strongly consider for Fantasy Week 13? Our Al Melchior helps you set your optimal pitching rotations.
There's nothing like the arrival of a highly-touted prospect to capture the imagination of a Fantasy owner. The Marlins created a loud buzz in the Fantasy community on Monday when they recalled Andrew Heaney, whom MLB.com named as the top left-handed pitching prospect in the minors. Heaney kept that buzz going on Thursday when he had a successful (if not winning) debut against the Mets. Heading into the weekend, the 23-year-old will continue to draw attention, as he will be one of 39 pitchers scheduled to make two starts in Fantasy Week 13 (June 23-29).
For many owners in CBSSports.com leagues, it's already too late to pick up Heaney as a free agent, as he is already spoken for in 84 percent of leagues. While Heaney should be a solid producer for this week and the season ahead, it won't pay to spend too much time regretting your late arrival to the party or figuring out how to pry him from his current owner.
|1. Clayton Kershaw||at KC, vs. STL|
|2. Felix Hernandez||vs. BOS, vs. CLE|
|3. Chris Sale||at BAL, at TOR|
|4. Zack Greinke||at KC, vs. STL|
|5. Alex Cobb||vs. PIT, at BAL|
|6. Gio Gonzalez||at MIL, at CHC|
|7. Homer Bailey||at CHC, at SF|
|8. Jeff Samardzija||vs. CIN, vs. WAS|
|9. Marcus Stroman||vs. NYY, vs. CHW|
|10. Matt Cain||vs. SD, vs. CIN|
|11. Tim Hudson||vs. SD, vs. CIN|
|12. John Lackey||at SEA, at NYY|
|13. C.J. Wilson||vs. MIN, at KC|
There are several viable two-start options who are still available in at least 28 percent of our leagues. Namely, Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly and Bartolo Colon are all within that ownership threshold, and Stroman even makes this week's "must-start" list. Kyle Gibson and Jeff Locke are also worth starting in standard mixed leagues, and both are currently available in more than 45 percent of our leagues.
As in most weeks, not everyone who projects to make two starts as of the beginning of the weekend will get to keep that status by the time lineups lock on Monday. Two of the most vulnerable two-start candidates are Locke and Edinson Volquez, one of whom could lose his second start -- or potentially his rotation spot -- if Gerrit Cole (shoulder) returns as planned next weekend. Matt Shoemaker is in the same position for the Angels as Locke and Volquez are for the Pirates, as the possible activation of Tyler Skaggs (hamstring) could, at best, push back his second start, and at worst, send him to the bullpen or minors.
Monday update: While the statuses of Locke and Volquez are still up in the air, Shoemaker has in fact lost his second start of the week. He will remain in the Angels' rotation, even with this weekend's likely return of Skaggs, as Hector Santiago has been moved to the bullpen. More impactful for most mixed league owners is Monday's scratch of Andrew Cashner (elbow), which will limit him to one start this week at most. If he is unable to go this weekend against the Diamondbacks, either Jesse Hahn or Odrisamer Despaigne could inherit a second start.
The shuffling of the Angels' rotation now means that C.J. Wilson is scheduled to make two starts, and he has been added to this week's "must-start" list. Justin Masterson has also been added to the ranks of two-start pitchers, but he has earned a spot on the "must-avoid" list.
Both Wilson (59 percent strikes thrown, 3.6 BB/9) and Masterson (61 percent strikes thrown, 4.7 BB/9) have displayed poor control, so why is Wilson a viable start while Masterson is not? Not only can Wilson better compensate by getting more strikeouts, thanks to a higher called strike rate, but the matchups work more in his favor. Wilson has allowed only one home run and a 2.45 ERA at Angel Stadium, and he gets to face the Twins there, in addition to getting a start at homer-dousing Kauffman Stadium against the Royals. Masterson, on the other hand, will take his 6.20 road ERA into starts at Arizona and Seattle this week.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
14. Chris Archer, TB (vs. PIT, at BAL)
Last season when Archer broke out in the second half, he was nowhere near the strikeout pitcher he had been in the minor leagues, but he had far better control. Archer is riding an even hotter streak over the last five weeks, but he's back to his old formula from his prospect days. Over his last seven starts, Archer has walked 19 batters over 40 2/3 innings but struck out 43. Because he hasn't allowed any home runs, Archer hasn't been hurt by the free passes, putting up an 0.89 ERA and 1.16 WHIP during his streak. The uptick in strikeouts has helped Archer, but an increased reliance on his sinker has helped even more, and during his seven-game run, opponents have slugged a mere .219. While occasional wildness could mean quick exits in some of his starts, Archer remains a safe two-start option.
15. Andrew Heaney, MIA (at PHI, vs. OAK)
After some minor first-inning jitters, Heaney was sharp in Thursday's major league debut against the Mets. Though he recorded only three strikeouts over six innings, owners can be encouraged by the nine swinging strikes Heaney induced. That's actually quite a feat against the Mets, who swing at pitches at the lowest rate of any team in the National League, and it puts some teeth behind the 9.3 K/9 ratio he compiled in the minors this season. Especially with a Week 13 start against the patient A's, Heaney may not be a huge strikeout contributor this time around, but at the very least, he should help owners with ERA and WHIP.
16. Nathan Eovaldi, MIA (at PHI, vs. OAK)
Particularly since he has been allowing more flyballs over the past six weeks, Eovaldi has been resembling Phil Hughes more and more, as no other pitchers work inside the strike zone as frequently as these two. Whereas Hughes has recovered from a difficult April, Eovaldi's season has taken a downward turn, with an acceleration over his last seven starts. During that time, Eovaldi's ERA has risen from 2.86 to 3.76, and what has separated him from Hughes is his relative inability to get batters to chase pitches out of the zone. That's a big reason why he has struck out only 26 batters during his recent 43-inning slump. No longer a reliable source of Ks, Eovaldi is not an automatic play in two-start weeks. However, the first five games of his slump did produce four quality starts, and his control is still superb. Eovaldi still offers enough upside to be considered in standard mixed leagues.
17. Mark Buehrle, TOR (vs. NYY, vs. CHW)
Buehrle's dream season has yet to hit any major speed bumps, but it seems like only a matter of time before he gets jolted. Even though his 0.4 HR/9 and 18 percent double play rate look too good to be true, the version of Buehrle we have come to know in the past is still good enough to use in two-start weeks. He is still extremely efficient and durable with above-average control. The odds are high that he will deliver at least a dozen innings across his two starts, and with the backing of the Blue Jays' potent offense, Buehrle could present his owners with two more wins this week. Let the other pitchers on your staff worry about the strikeouts; Buehrle can help you with everything else.
18. Kyle Gibson, MIN (at LAA, at TEX)
Gibson is on an incredible run, having made three consecutive scoreless starts of seven innings, giving him four scoreless outings out of his last five. He had several strong performances earlier in the season, too, but Gibson has been a remarkably better pitcher over his current seven-start run. Not only has he posted a 2.00 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over this stretch, but he has increased his ground ball-to-flyball ratio by 73 percent and his whiff rate has roughly doubled from 5.7 percent to 11.3 percent. Because Gibson isn't getting many called strikes, he still isn't racking up many strikeouts, but in avoiding walks and extra-base hits, he's been highly productive. If he keeps this up, Gibson will soon be on the must-start list, but the suddenness of his transformation makes him hard to trust completely. That said, Gibson is worth a try in most mixed leagues, and yet somehow, he is still owned in only 51 percent of our leagues, though that mark has risen from 33 percent at the start of the weekend.
19. Alfredo Simon, CIN (at CHC, at SF)
In what is shaping up to be his first full season as a starter, Simon is profiling very much like Buehrle's harder-throwing, right-handed cousin. He has very good control and has been efficient enough to last six innings or more in 12 of his 14 starts. Like Buehrle, Simon falls short of being a must-start option -- even in two-start weeks -- because he doesn't get many strikeouts and is potentially vulnerable to home runs in his home ballpark. Simon has, in fact, allowed eight of his 11 home runs at Great American Ball Park. Though he is taking a little trip this week, visiting the Cubs and Giants, both teams have been fairly good at hitting for power in their home parks. You may be surprised to learn (as I was) that the Cubs have the majors' eighth-highest Isolated Power in home games this season. It should still be a relatively good week for Simon, but not one completely without risk.
20. Drew Smyly, DET (at TEX, at HOU)
|26. Chase Whitley||at TOR, vs. BOS|
|27. Justin Masterson||at ARI, at SEA|
|28. Jeremy Guthrie||vs. LAD, vs. LAA|
|29. Lance Lynn||at COL, at LAD|
|30. Shelby Miller||at COL, at LAD|
|31. Colby Lewis||vs. DET, vs. MIN|
|32. Wei-Yin Chen||vs. CHW, vs. TB|
|33. Edinson Volquez||at TB, vs. NYM|
|34. Scott Feldman||vs. ATL, vs. DET|
|35. Jhoulys Chacin||vs. STL, at MIL|
|36. Jorge De La Rosa||VS. STL, at MIL|
|37. Aaron Harang||at HOU, at PHI|
|38. Roberto Hernandez||vs. MIA, vs. ATL|
|39. David Buchanan||vs. MIA, vs. ATL|
Starting Smyly offers the promise of greater reward than starting Simon, but it also entails a much higher degree of risk. On the plus side, Smyly is on an encouraging run of three straight quality starts, and he has induced at least nine swinging strikes in seven of his 11 starts. He has also allowed opponents to slug .422 against him, which is not at all surprising given his 40 percent flyball rate. Smyly has been especially prone to flyballs since the beginning of May, and the suddenly powerful Astros could make him pay. Then again, the Astros could struggle to make contact and allow Smyly to have a huge game. Even in the worst case scenario, the Rangers should salvage Smyly's week, as they have not mustered much power this season.
21. Yovani Gallardo, MIL (vs. WAS, vs. COL)
To judge by his 3.34 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, Gallardo is having his finest season to date, but that hasn't kept him from being a source of frustration for his Fantasy owners. He doesn't throw with the same velocity as he did just two seasons ago, and he hasn't been the same strikeout pitcher since. Though his overall stats look good, Gallardo has essentially had three different seasons already: an early stretch in which he was effective, followed by a seven-game skid marked by abysmal command and a 6.23 ERA, and a recent three-game string of dominant performances. To assess Gallardo by his most recent starts, owners would have to use him in nearly all formats, but he's been too inconsistent to trust on that level.
22. Bartolo Colon, NYM (vs. OAK, at PIT)
Over the first month-and-a-half of this season, it was feast or famine for Colon, as he balanced five quality starts with three utter disasters in which he allowed six earned runs or more. Since then, Colon has establshed some consistency -- of the good kind. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last six starts, compiling a 1.66 ERA and 0.92 WHIP along the way. The script isn't much different from that of Colon's last two seasons; he has been among the best control pitchers in the game, but he has also allowed contact at an almost freakishly high rate. While an ultra-low walk rate makes Colon worth considering in two-start weeks, he's far from a lock, as he has overperformed during his recent streak. Colon is probably very fortunate to have allowed hitters to bat just .230 on balls in play during this stretch, and the .294 slugging percentage against him also looks due to rise dramatically.
23. Jose Quintana, CHW (at BAL, at TOR)
Quintana has been so reliable that it was noticeable when he posted back-to-back sub-quality starts earlier this month. He got back on track in his most recent outing, holding the Twins to two runs over seven innings in another tough-luck loss, but he broke his streak of nine straight starts without allowing a home run. That's remarkable for a pitcher with only mild ground ball tendencies, especially one who pitched four of those games at U.S. Cellular Field. Quintana won't go back to his hitter-friendly home park this week, but he will face two power-hitting lineups at inhospitable venues. Though Quintana rarely turns in an awful performance, it wouldn't be an upset to see him do it at least once this week.
24. Jeff Locke, PIT (at TB, vs. NYM)
If nothing else, this week will be an interesting test for Locke. During his time in the minors this year, he hadn't appeared to solve the serious control problems that overtook him in 2013, yet since his recall two weeks ago, Locke has done nothing but throw strikes. It would be easy to attribute his lack of walks -- two over his last 21 innings -- to having faced the Brewers and Reds as two of his three opponents, as neither team walks much. The fact remains that Locke is working more frequently in the strike zone, locating 46 percent of his pitches there over his last three starts, according to FanGraphs.com. This week's opponents, the Rays and Mets, are not good offensive teams, but they do walk a lot. The matchups could be good ones for Locke, but they will offer a better indication of whether his improvements in control are for real.
25. Matt Garza, MIL (vs. WAS, vs. COL)
Garza's first month with the Brewers was highly disappointing, as he ended April with a 1-3 record and a 5.00 ERA, but he has settled into being the NL's version of Jose Quintana. Over his last nine starts, Garza has had only one that could truly be classified as dominant, but he has been steady, failing only twice to register a quality start. His K/9 ratio has fallen for the third straight season, but with a rebounding ground ball rate, Garza hasn't been as susceptible to extra-base hits, especially during his recent month-and-a-half run. If he can maintain his rate of production from the last few weeks, he will be a worthwhile use of your last rotation spot.
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