Fantasy First Pitch for Week 7
Which starters should find a way into your Fantasy rotations for Fantasy Week 7? Our Al Melchior runs through all of your two-start options and examines all of the matchups.
The ranks of two-start pitchers for Fantasy Week 7 (May 12-18) aren't brimming with low-risk, high-end talent. It's also shrinking. As we enter the weekend, the pool of two-start options is already getting pruned, as Aaron Harang looks primed to have his Monday start moved up to Sunday to accommodate another start for Gavin Floyd, who will remain in the Braves' rotation for now. Hector Santiago also departed the list of two-start pitchers, as he was demoted to the bullpen, though his replacement could inherit both starts.
|1. Adam Wainwright||vs. CHC, vs. ATL|
|2. Felix Hernandez||vs. TB, at MIN|
|3. David Price||at SEA, at LAA|
|4. James Shields||vs. COL, vs. BAL|
|5. Jordan Zimmermann||at ARI, vs. NYM|
|6. Gerrit Cole||at MIL, at NYY|
|7. Dan Haren||vs. MIA, at ARI|
|8. C.J. Wilson||at TOR, vs. TB|
|9. Hiroki Kuroda||vs. NYM, vs. PIT|
In the initial draft of this week's two-start pitcher rankings, Harang had been relegated to the "avoid" list, and Santiago was the lowest-ranked starter, so these recent developments aren't the most impactful. However, the biggest changes may be yet to come, as the potential returns of Anibal Sanchez (finger) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) could cost Drew Smyly and Dan Haren their second starts, respectively, in Week 7. Haren would still be a recommended start in most formats if left with only Monday's outing against the Marlins, but a one-start Smyly at the Orioles should be reserved for leagues with RP slots and deeper Rotisserie leagues.
Even with two starts, Tyler Lyons is strictly a deep-league option, but the potential return of Jaime Garcia (shoulder, elbow) could limit him to only one start. Also, the current and potential owners of Mike Leake can rest easy, as he is not likely to get pushed back should Tony Cingrani (shoulder) re-enter the Reds' rotation in Week 7. This is a good thing, as Leake is the best of the two-start options who are currently owned in fewer than 70 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.
There are several two-start pitchers who are still free agents in the majority of our leagues, but only Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo are even worth considering as borderline options in standard mixed leagues. You are probably better off with a one-start Ian Kennedy or Drew Hutchison than most of this week's two-start pitchers, so it's a good week to focus on quality over quantity.
Monday update: The only certain change in the pool of two-start pitchers over the weekend occurred when the Indians pushed Danny Salazar's next start back from Tuesday to Thursday. The relegates him to one-start status, while Justin Masterson now gains a second start.
Sanchez looks poised to re-enter the Tigers' rotation this Sunday, so barring a setback, Smyly will get only one start this week, and he's been removed from this week's two-start pitcher rankings. Haren, on the other hand, appears safe to make both of his scheduled starts, as Ryu looks like an extreme long shot to get activated this week. Lyons is still a risky bet to make his second start, given the imminent return of Garcia.
Given how effective Chase Anderson was in his major league debut Sunday, he could keep his place in the rotation, and that could endanger a two-start week for either Josh Collmenter or Bronson Arroyo. Matt Shoemaker appears to be in line to replace Santiago in the Angels' rotation, and his potential for a two-start week makes him worth considering in AL-only leagues.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
10. Marco Estrada, MIL (vs. PIT, at CHC)
Estrada has been something of a caricature version of himself so far this season. He's always been vulnerable to home runs but has made up for it with good walk rates and lots of flyball outs. In 43 1/3 innings, Estrada has already allowed nine home runs, but he has also limited opponents to a .231 BABIP and 1.06 WHIP. Particularly if Estrada were facing a couple of power-laden lineups, this could be a scary week to trust him, but alas, he will pitch against the Pirates and Cubs. Estrada should do a better job of keeping the ball in the park going forward anyway, but these matchups should assuage any fears you might have about starting him.
11. Justin Masterson, CLE (at TOR, vs. OAK)
Masterson has been true to his 2013 form, hovering around a strikeout per inning and ranking among the elite ground ball pitchers. He has also been too wild at times and maddeningly inconsistent in general. Masterson's history of high walk rates means that he may not whittle down his 1.35 WHIP, but he should be able to shrink his 3.86 ERA if he can strand a few more runners. Based on his skill set alone, Masterson should be a must-start this week, but given that he has struggled with stranding runners for much of his career and that he has two tough matchups, he earns a spot on this week's "bubble list."
12. Zack Wheeler, NYM (at NYY, at WAS)
Five of Wheeler's seven starts have been of the quality variety, and he's lived up to the billing of a strikeout pitcher, notching 39 Ks in 39 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old also appears to be valdating his reputation for wildness, throwing just 61 percent of his pitches for strikes and issuing 4.1 walks per nine innings, but those ratios were skewed by Wednesday's five-walk performance against the Marlins. For the most part, Wheeler has shown decent control, and he's avoided extra-base hits, holding hitters to a .102 Isolated Power. Though he faces a couple of good opponents, Wheeler is close to being a must-start in two-start weeks.
13. Andrew Cashner, SD (at CIN, at COL)
With a knack for efficiency, Cashner emerged as a reliable source of quality starts last season, providing 19 of them in 26 starts, and he reeled off four more to begin this season. In four starts since then, quality is not the word one would use to describe Cashner's efforts. He has gone 0-4 with a 4.91 ERA and 1.59 WHIP, as he has been getting fewer strikeouts. In fact, Cashner has been all too amenable to contact all season long, getting swings and misses on 7 percent of his pitches, and that could be a dangerous thing against the Reds and Rockies in their hitter-friendly parks. Fortunately, Cashner is a good ground ball pitcher in addition to being a control artist. With the fourth-lowest level of run support in the majors, Cashner could have a hard time adding to his win total, but he can still help to lower your staff's ERA and WHIP.
14. Mike Leake, CIN (vs. SD, at PHI)
|22. Ryan Vogelsong||vs. ATL, vs. MIA|
|23. Josh Collmenter||vs. WAS, vs. LAD|
|24. Tom Koehler||at LAD, at SF|
|25. Tim Lincecum||vs. ATL, vs. MIA|
|26. R.A. Dickey||vs. CLE, at TEX|
|27. Colby Lewis||at HOU, vs. TOR|
|28. Ricky Nolasco||vs. BOS, vs. SEA|
|29. Tyler Lyons||vs. CHC, vs. ATL|
|30. Brad Peacock||vs. TEX, vs. CHW|
|31. Vidal Nuno||vs. NYM, vs. PIT|
|32. Bud Norris||vs. DET, at KC|
|33. Cesar Ramos||at SEA, at LAA|
|34. John Danks||at OAK, at HOU|
|35. Jacob Turner||at LAD, at SF|
|36. Jake Arrieta||at STL, vs. MIL|
|37. Felix Doubront||at MIN, vs. DET|
Unlike Cashner, Leake has never shown the ability to be even an average strikeout pitcher, but he's been his Padres' counterpart's equal when it comes to inducing grounders. Leake doesn't have Cashner's advantage of pitching home games at PETCO Park (though neither does Cashner this week), but he does get a pair of advantageous matchups. His lone home start comes against the punchless Padres, while his road start has him facing the Phillies, who are also loitering in the lower reaches of the runs-scored rankings. Leake should also be well-served by his stinginess with walks (1.8 BB/9), so he's a reasonably safe start this week.
15. Rick Porcello, DET (at BAL, at BOS)
Going back to last season, Porcello has strung together nine straight starts with no more than two walks (in addition to 2 1/3 relief innings with no walks), which has helped him to produce a 1.02 WHIP over that period. It's a good thing that Porcello has become elite as a control pitcher, because he hasn't been as good at inducing grounders as he has been in the past. He is throwing his sinker less often and his four-seamer more often this season, and according to TexasLeaguers.com, Porcello is throwing the latter pitch with less velocity and more spin. All of that adds up to fewer strikeouts and grounders. That combination, along with tougher matchups, makes him a less attractive option than Leake this scoring period, but he's still effective enough to use in a two-start week.
16. Mark Buehrle, CHW (vs. LAA, at TEX)
Because he racks up innings, Buehrle has long had his uses for points-league owners in his two-start weeks. So far this year, he has paid off for owners in all formats, due to his 1.91 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 6-1 record. It's unlikely that Buehrle can maintain an 83 percent strand rate and even more unlikely he will keep up a 0 percent home run-to-flyball ratio (the lone homer Buehrle has allowed was a line drive). The Blue Jays have done their part to help the veteran southpaw, chipping in 6.0 runs of support per nine innings, but that is also too good to last. Even if regression starts this week, Buehrle is a reasonable use of an active roster spot, but highly-available types like Smyly and Leake are even better choices.
17. Jesse Chavez, OAK (vs. CHW, at CLE)
Through his first three starts, Chavez looked like a completely different pitcher than he had been as a reliever, getting more strikeouts and grounders than we had been accustomed to seeing from him. Though he has coaxed six swinging strikes or fewer in three of his last four starts, Chavez continues to pile up Ks, as he has been proficient at getting called strikes. His foray into ground ball pitching may have been short-lived, as Chavez's grounder rate has plummeted over his last four starts. The Astros, Rangers and Mariners didn't make Chavez pay a high price for his creeping flyball rate (though he wasn't especially effective in two of his last three starts), but the White Sox will offer the best lineup he has seen in awhile. Also, the Indians are highly averse to striking out, so that could be a tough matchup as well.
18. Travis Wood, CHC (at STL, vs. MIL)
Owners might see Wood's 8.6 K/9 ratio and think he is a changed pitcher, but this 27-year-old isn't showing any real signs of a breakout. Since blasting the Phillies and Pirates for a combined 17 strikeouts and 30 swinging strikes in his first two starts, Wood has compiled a more typical 7.1 K/9, inducing whiffs on only 5 percent of his pitches. He has never been adept at getting grounders, but unless Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Matt Adams break out of their respective power funks, Wood just might get away with that against the Cardinals. When Wood faced the Brewers last month, they handed him one of his worst starts this season, and he could suffer the same fate against their slugging lineup, which will likely include Ryan Braun by the time he faces them..
19. Bronson Arroyo, ARI (vs. WAS, vs. LAD)
Just as it looked like Arroyo might cease to be Fantasy-relevant, he has recovered from a terrible beginning to the season. In posting three consecutive quality starts, Arroyo compiled a typically low walk rate, issuing four free passes over 20 2/3 innings, and held opponents to a .216 slugging percentage. Matchups certainly played a role, as he faced the Phillies, Padres and a Brewers starting lineup that was without Ryan Braun, Khris Davis and Aramis Ramirez. Still, Arroyo got clocked by the Mets and Cubs earlier in the season, so he is clearly making progress. Given that he missed much of spring training with a bulging disc, we probably shouldn't be surprised that it has taken Arroyo awhile to get back on track. Now it looks like he is once again a viable two-start pitcher, though still a borderline one.
20. Bartolo Colon, NYM (at NYY, at WAS)
To look at Colon's 5.36 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, it's not apparent that he has actually been fairly reliable this season. The only of his seven outings in which he has failed to record a quality start were when he faced the Angels and Rockies (at Coors Field). Those two teams, which both rank among the top-scoring squads in the majors, combined for 16 earned runs on 21 hits over 9 2/3 innings. Otherwise, he has posted a 2.65 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Colon has succeeded in the bulk of his starts, as he continues to be a strike-thrower extraordinaire, but he has also shown himself to be a risky play when facing tougher lineups. He already has a quality start against the Nationals this year, and the Yankees are a middle-of-the-pack offense. Facing the Bombers in the Bronx could be hazardous, though, as Colon has allowed 1.1 home runs per nine innings on the road since 2012, and Yankee Stadium isn't just any ballpark. Taking a flier on Colon could work in your favor, but given how bad his two worst starts were, it's not a move for the risk-averse.
21. Ubaldo Jimenez, BAL (vs. DET, at KC)
Jimenez has been on a slow, steady path to recovery after emerging from his first three starts of the season with a 7.31 ERA. He has lowered that mark after each of his last four starts, but he's still a long way from being a solid two-week option. Jimenez is still not getting batters to swing and miss (well, batters who don't play for the Twins, whom he frustrated with 17 whiffs on 118 pitches), but he has notched 21 strikeouts in his last 24 innings due to a high called strike rate. His control has also been sharper, particularly over his two most recent starts. There is little evidence that Jimenez is back to being dominant, like has was in the second half of last season, but he is worth a try in standard mixed leagues, barring better alternatives.
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