Fantasy First Pitch for Week 21
If you're looking for consistency and efficiency, Jason Vargas is your man. Our Al Melchior breaks down all of the viable options in his Week 21 edition of Fantasy First Pitch.
A light schedule in Fantasy Week 21 (Aug. 18-24) has created the smallest pool of two-start pitchers we have seen in awhile, but that doesn't mean there will be a scarcity of viable options on waivers. Few high-end, widely-owned pitchers populate this week's list, and there also aren't many options so far down on the low end that they're not worth your time.
As of Friday, there were 16 projected two-start pitchers available in at least 30 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, and nine of them are either must-start or borderline options for owners in standard mixed leagues. Kyle Hendricks, Jason Vargas and Trevor Bauer are worthwhile targets in those formats, but if they have already been snapped up, you can almost certainly add Kyle Gibson, Chase Anderson, Tsuyoshi Wada or Brett Oberholtzer to your rotation. All four are widely available, and each is capable of having a big week with their two starts.
The most sought-after pitcher heading into the weekend, Mike Fiers, is not currently on this list, but by Monday's update, he could be. Kyle Lohse's ankle injury could keep him from his scheduled start against the Blue Jays on Tuesday. With the Brewers having a day off on Monday, Fiers could step in for Lohse on regular rest. If Lohse is still out the next time his turn comes up, Fiers could keep his spot and inherit a two-start week.
The Blue Jays and Pirates are tough matchups, so with two starts, Fiers would still be just shy of must-start status, but he'd be highly-ranked among the borderline options for standard mixed leagues. Should Lohse make two starts instead, given his injury and recent struggles, he'd be more of a low-end borderline option.
Monday update: Fiers will start in Lohse's place on Tuesday, and that lines Fiers up for two starts this week, provided that Lohse doesn't return by Sunday. Because of the uncertainty of Lohse's status, I have not included Fiers among the lists of two-start pitchers, but I would still start him over Wada or any pitcher ranked below him this week, even knowing the risk of him making only one start.
With Hyun-Jin Ryu (glute) getting moved to the 15-day disabled list, Kevin Correia gets to make two starts (vs. SD, vs. NYM). Also, Charlie Morton's hip injury and subsequent placement on the DL keeps Vance Worley among this week's two-start pitchers, even though Gerrit Cole (lat) will come off the DL on Wednesday to face the Braves. The Yankees' shuffling of their rotation has made a two-start pitcher out of Chris Capuano (vs. HOU, vs. CHW), while Michael Pineda is now limited to just one start this week.
For the time being, Roenis Elias is still slated to face both the Phillies and Red Sox, but with a day off on Thursday, the Mariners could slot Hisashi Iwakuma in for Sunday's start on regular rest. The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that Elias is on a limit of 170-to-180 innings, so manager Lloyd McClendon could have an incentive to push him back and limit him to one start this week.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
11. Jason Vargas, KC (at MIN, at TEX)
|1. Max Scherzer||at TB, at MIN|
|2. Chris Sale||vs. BAL, at NYY|
|3. Stephen Strasburg||vs. ARI, vs. SF|
|4. Jordan Zimmermann||vs. ARI, vs. SF|
|5. Ian Kennedy||at LAD, at ARI|
|6. Ervin Santana||at PIT, at CIN|
|7. Jered Weaver||at BOS, at OAK|
|8. Chris Archer||vs. DET, at TOR|
|9. Bartolo Colon||vs. CHC, at LAD|
|10. Kyle Hendricks||at NYM, vs. BAL|
On the surface, Vargas appeared to get off to a slow start in returning from an early July appendectomy, as he failed to get past the fifth inning in either of his first two starts off the DL. A high hit rate contributed to those early exits, but over those 9 1/3 innings, he struck out 10 batters, walked none and allowed three extra-base hits (all doubles). If those starts don't convince you that Vargas can still pitch with control and efficiency, then Wednesday's 97-pitch complete-game shutout against the A's should. Toss in a pair of decent matchups, and Vargas should be able to build on Wednesday's success.
12. Trevor Bauer, CLE (at MIN, vs. HOU)
Bauer's control issues have re-emerged over the past month, though Wednesday's start against the Diamondbacks was mildly reassuring. Throwing 73 of his 111 pitches for strikes, Bauer limited himself to two walks over eight innings of two-run ball. Then again, the Diamondbacks lineup he faced owns the lowest walk rate in the National League, so owners shouldn't get too enthusiastic about the performance. What we do know about Bauer is that he can rack up Ks. Less obvious is his ability to limit extra-base hits despite a meager 35 percent ground ball rate. This week's foes -- the Twins and Astros -- take their share of walks, but they also strike out a lot. Bauer shouldn't be your top choice if you need to make a move in WHIP, but otherwise, he could be a nice addition for the week.
13. Kyle Gibson, MIN (vs. CLE, vs. DET)
This week's selection of borderline two-start pitchers offers a little something for everybody. Bauer and Chase Anderson (see below) present a tradeoff between ERA and WHIP, and Gibson could offer you both this week...but probably at the expense of strikeouts. For the most part, Gibson has been enormously helpful in both ERA and WHIP over his past dozen starts. Though overall he has compiled a 3.63 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over that 10-week period, those numbers would be much better if not for a pair of starts against the highly-selective lineups from Oakland and Tampa Bay. Gibson works out of the strike zone frequently, so teams with superb plate discipline (like the A's and Rays) can get to him, but the Indians and Tigers are merely good in that regard. As effective as Gibson has been in the bulk of his recent starts, he has collected just 44 strikeouts over his last 72 innings. This may not be Gibson's greatest week, but he should do a good enough job of inducing weak contact to be worth starting.
14. Vance Worley, PIT (vs. ATL, at MIL)
Worley has been moved up eight spots in these rankings, now that we know that Cole's return won't spoil his two-start week. Even with the Braves on the schedule, Worley is a liability for strikeouts, but that's the only thing that keeps him from being a must-start this week. He's an excellent control pitcher who can help with ERA, especially since he isn't likely to allow too many extra-base hits. Even against the Brewers, Worley is a strong candidate to deliver a win, as the Pirates have scored the most runs in the NL since the All-Star break.
15. Chase Anderson, ARI (at WAS, vs. SD)
With Thursday's solid outing at the Marlins, Anderson inched his consecutive quality start streak up to six games. He's been good at getting swings-and-misses all along, but they've been translating into a better strikeout rate during the streak. I wouldn't put it past Anderson to maintain something close to the 8.5 K/9 ratio and 3.2 K/BB ratio he has put up over these half-dozen starts, but the .375 slugging percentage he has allowed is another matter. Anderson's flyball tendencies could get him into trouble against the Nationals, and don't look now, but the Padres have been a middle-of-the-pack power-hitting team over the last month. Think of him as a poor man's Pineda, offering a low WHIP but possibly an inflated ERA, but with less run support.
16. Tsuyoshi Wada, CHC (vs. SF, vs. BAL)
Wada has thrown more than 100 pitches in only one of his six starts, but that shouldn't factor much into his value this week. He has been very efficient due to good control, and with two starts, he's hurt less in the event he makes earlier exits. Wada profiles similarly to Anderson in that he could help with strikeouts, has shown good control, but could be done in by the long ball. The low pitch counts and an extra-tough matchup against the Orioles, who lead the majors in home runs, are mostly what separates Wada from Anderson in these rankings.
17. Brett Oberholtzer, HOU (at NYY, at CLE)
|23. Justin Masterson||vs. CIN, at PHI|
|24. Aaron Harang||at PIT, at CIN|
|25. Bud Norris||at CHW, at CHC|
|26. Brandon Workman||vs. LAA, vs. SEA|
|27. Kevin Correia||vs. SD, vs. NYM|
|28. Vidal Nuno||at WAS, vs. SD|
|29. Roenis Elias||at PHI, at BOS|
|30. Trevor May||vs. KC, vs. DET|
|31. Allen Webster||vs. LAA, vs. SEA|
|32. Jerome Williams||vs. SEA, vs. STL|
Heading into the weekend with a 10 percent ownership rate, Oberholtzer is one of the most available two-start pitchers in CBSSports.com leagues, yet he may not finish the week very far behind the likes of Gibson, Anderson and Wada in terms of production. He's in the midst of a string of six consecutive quality starts and a longer string of nine out of his last 10 starts. Oberholtzer has pitched seven innings in each of his last three outings and in four of his last five, so what he lacks in strikeouts, he at least partially makes up for in innings. While he's a solid option this week, just don't take it as a given that Oberholtzer will match the 2.84 ERA and 1.17 WHIP he has compiled over this 10-start run. He has benefitted from a high strand rate, and as a flyball pitcher, he's been lucky to hold hitters to an .097 Isolated Power during this stretch.
18. C.J. Wilson, LAA (at BOS, at OAK)
Wilson had become a shaky Fantasy option well before he hit the DL with a sprained ankle, and since his Aug. 2 return, he hasn't given owners many reasons to be more confident in him. Tuesday's outing against the Phillies was a step in the right direction, as Wilson lasted 6 2/3 innings for a quality start, and he threw 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. Any signs of improved control from Wilson are welcome, but he still wasn't very deceptive, having induced only five swinging strikes. That was Wilson's seventh straight start with six whiffs or fewer. Because Wilson is just two months removed from being a reliable source of strikeouts and an owner of a mid-3.00s ERA, he still deserves consideration as a two-start pitcher.
19. Mike Leake, CIN (at STL, vs. ATL)
To judge Leake by his matchups, this should be a banner week for him, but I'm not especially eager to pick him up in standard mixed leagues. No matter how high his ground ball rate gets (and it's now at a lofty 56 percent), he remains a threat to get burned by extra-base hits. He has already allowed 11 home runs and 21 doubles in 86 road innings, and I'm not buying his 10.3 percent home run-to-flyball ratio at Great American Ball Park this season (per FanGraphs.com). His career mark there is 15.6 percent, and it's not as if Leake has stopped allowing hard contact, as BaseballHeatMaps.com data show he has allowed flyballs to travel an average distance of 282 feet. The Cardinals and Braves are certainly not dangerous opponents, but Leake has been hit hard at times by good and bad lineups alike. Aside from a hot month of May in which Leake escaped with a .292 slugging percentage allowed, he has a 4.06 ERA on the year. In fact, it's mainly these favorable matchups that earn him this high of a ranking this week.
20. Ryan Vogelsong, SF (at CHC, at WAS)
In each of his three good seasons with the Giants (excluding his awful 2013), Vogelsong has had a similar profile. He's been a near-average strikeout pitcher with near-average control, but he's produced better-than-average ERAs for a starter. Those low ERAs have been built on the results from the home portion of his schedule, and again this season, Vogelsong has benefitted from playing home games at AT&T Park. At home, Vogelsong has allowed only two home runs over 81 innings, posting a 3.00 ERA. He has his moments on the road, too, as recent starts at the Brewers (6 IP, 1 ER) and Mets (CG, 1 ER) have shown, but history suggests he could struggle against a good opponent like the Nationals. The Cubs' offense has scuffled lately, so that makes it a little easier to trust Vogelsong, even though he won't pitch at home this week.
21. Alfredo Simon, CIN (at STL, vs. ATL)
Simon spent all of the first half of the season building up expectations, and in six starts since the All-Star break, he's failed to live up to them. Only once has he exceeded five innings, and his ERA has risen from 2.70 to 3.28. Simon has been a little wilder since the break, though eight of his 13 walks came in just two starts. The biggest difference for Simon has been his strand rate, which was incredibly high (85 percent, per FanGraphs.com) before the break and notably low (65 percent) since. Just as Simon was probably not going to sustain the level of performance he established in the first half, he is unlikely to be as ineffective as he has been lately. Particularly in points leagues where Simon can be used in a relief slot, he has some value in a two-start week, especially against a pair of lesser opponents.
22. Chris Capuano, NYY (vs. HOU, vs. CHW)
Because Capuano had such a miserable tenure in the Red Sox's bullpen earlier this year, it's easy to forget that it hasn't been that long since he was relevant in Fantasy. Just two seasons ago, Capuano went 12-12 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.22 WHIP for the Dodgers. Even in some of the lefty's lesser seasons, he has shown a surprising ability to induce swings and misses, but it appeared he had lost that skill during his time with Boston. In four starts with the Yankees, though, he has compiled an 11 percent whiff rate that has enabled him to get 24 strikeouts in 25 innings. His control seems to be back, too, as he handed out only five walks over those starts. The limited sample size makes it risky to bank on this type of performance, but given what Capuano has been able to achieve in some past seasons, it's not unreasonable to expect a good week from him.
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