Fantasy First Pitch for Week 9
Jose Quintana might not be flashy, but he gets the job done. Get more insights as Al Melchior breaks down the best two-start pitching options for Week 9.
A full slate of games on Memorial Day contributes heavily to what is shaping up to be an overload of two-start pitchers for Fantasy Week 9 (May 26-June 1). No fewer than 50 pitchers are currently slated to finish up the second month of the season with a two-start week.
|1. Max Scherzer||at OAK, at SEA|
|2. Yu Darvish||at MIN, at WAS|
|3. Jered Weaver||at SEA, at OAk|
|4. Cole Hamels||vs. COL, vs. NYM|
|5. Johnny Cueto||at LAD, at ARI|
|6. Zack Greinke||vs. CIN, vs. PIT|
|7. Tyson Ross||at ARI, at CHW|
|8. Sonny Gray||vs. DET, vs. LAA|
|9. Jon Lester||at ATL, vs. TB|
|10. Michael Wacha||vs. NYY, vs. SF|
|11. Tim Hudson||vs. CHC, at STL|
|12. Lance Lynn||vs. NYY, vs. SF|
|13. Hyun-Jin Ryu||vs. CIN, vs. PIT|
|14. Jeff Samardzija||at SF, at MIL|
|15. Ervin Santana||vs. BOS, at MIA|
|16. Yordano Ventura||vs. HOU, at TOR|
|17. Drew Hutchison||vs. TB, vs. KC|
|18. Kyle Lohse||vs. BAL, vs. CHC|
Almost assuredly, Brandon Cumpton will extend the list of two-start pitchers, as he appears to be all but a lock to replace Wandy Rodriguez in the Pirates' rotation. However, there are several pitchers who could shrink the list by Monday's lineup deadline. Matt Cain (hamstring) and Michael Wacha (elbow) are questionable to make their next starts, so their two-start weeks could be in jeopardy. Deep league owners may be looking forward to two-start weeks from Eric Stults and Nick Tepesch, but if Andrew Cashner (elbow) and Joe Saunders (foot, ankle) make their respective returns this week, Stults and Tepesch could be limited to a single start.
While there are many good two-start pitchers, not many of them are highly available in standard mixed leagues. Brandon McCarthy and Collin McHugh stand out as waiver options who could help mixed league owners, but while both are intriguing possibilities, neither is without significant risk. There's more on that, along with an analysis of 10 other borderline options, just below.
Monday update: Not much has changed in the starting pitcher landscape over the weekend. Wacha has been confirmed to make his Monday start against the Yankees, so he remains among the two-start options for the week. Cain, however, will be skipped in favor of Yusmeiro Petit on Monday versus the Cubs. He could make a start later in the week, though, but with so many two-start pitchers available, he is best saved for deeper leagues.
Astros manager Bo Porter used Saturday's spot start by Brett Oberholtzer to push everyone back a day, so now Scott Feldman gains a second start this week, while Jarred Cosart loses his. And as expected, Cumpton has replaced Rodriguez in the Pirates' rotation, so he does in fact inherit a two-start week.
MLB.com reports that Cashner is probably "several weeks" away from returning, so owners should plan to move on without him for Week 9, though Stults' owners can feel confident about him drawing two starts this week. Tepesch also appears safe to make both of his scheduled starts, even though the Rangers have put Saunders back in the rotation. The lefty will slide right into Scott Baker's turn on Wednesday at the Twins, keeping the rest of the rotation intact.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
19. Jonathon Niese, NYM (vs. PIT, at PHI)
After a fast beginning to the season that produced a 1.82 ERA over his six initial starts, Niese has regressed by allowing 20 hits and nine earned runs over his last 17 innings. Aside from his most recent start in which he threw only 56 of his 97 pitches for strikes, Niese has continued to do what he does best, which is to avoid walks and extra-base hits. Niese has already notched two quality starts against the Phillies this season, and like their cross-state counterparts, the Pirates shouldn't pose much of a threat to Niese's Week 9 stat line. Neither lineup has been exceptionally good at drawing walks or hitting for power.
20. Aaron Harang, ATL (vs. BOS, at MIA)
Harang, too, has fallen off from a hot early-season pace, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a Fantasy owner who wasn't expecting that. He finished April with a disastrous nine-run thrashing at the hands (fins?) of the Marlins, and in May, Harang has a compiled a 3.86 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Between those stats and a six- year run of mediocrity that preceeded this season, owners may decide they've had enough of the 36-year-old, but even during his recent slide, Harang has pitched more like the mid-2000s version of himself. He has induced swinging strikes at a 10 percent rate or higher in six of his 10 starts, and he missed that threshold by one whiff in a seventh start. Harang has also shown excellent control, and his 1.22 WHIP would be even lower if not for a .366 batting average on grounders allowed. The Ks should keep coming against the Red Sox and Marlins, who both rank among the upper one-third of teams in strikeout-per-plate appearance ratio.
21. Jose Quintana, CHW (vs. CLE, vs. SD)
For the last few season, Hiroki Kuroda has epitomized the type of pitcher who goes underappreciated in Fantasy because he's steady, but not spectacular. Quintana is making a strong bid to be the new Kuroda. He has made only one start this season that was a head-turner -- a 10-strikeout affair against the Tigers -- and a five-inning, five-run outing at the Rangers was his only stinker. His consistency is reflected in his eight quality starts, which ties him for eighth-most in the majors. Quintana's average-across-the-board ratios render him as a deeper league option in the vast majority of his one-start weeks but useful in standard mixed leagues in two-start weeks like this one.
22. Nathan Eovaldi, MIA (at WAS, vs. ATL)
Last week's six-run start at the Giants aside, Eovaldi has continued to do his part in preventing earned runs, but strikeouts have suddenly become scarce for him. If that perists, that is not necessarily a bad thing, as a pitcher with good control and ground ball tendencies can be useful in Fantasy, even if he pitches to contact. Eovaldi has had both of those qualities in most of his starts this season, and with the majors' third-highest swing rate (per FanGraphs.com) and upper-90s heat, there is still some strikeout potential there. Owners may also note that the last time Eovaldi faced the Braves, he got seven strikeouts and 21 whiffs over six innings.
23. Tanner Roark, WAS (vs. MIA, vs. TEX)
Roark is the anti-Eovaldi in that batters have been loathe to swing at his offerings, but his control is good enough to make that work. He doesn't walk many batters, as he has yet to issue more than three bases on balls in any of his 14 major league starts, and he gets enough called strikes to be a decent strikeout pitcher. Roark should be a pretty safe bet in most two-start weeks, but in getting the Marlins, who have struggled offensively on the road, and the snake-bitten Rangers, he looks like an especially trustworthy option this time.
24. Tyler Skaggs, LAA (at SEA, at OAK)
Skaggs has yet to develop consistency, at least in his game-to-game results, but he is emerging as a viable Fantasy option in the Niese mold. The Southern California native has walked only 14 batters in 58 2/3 innings and induced grounders on 53 percent of his pitches. Skaggs owes his .652 opponents' OPS to more than just a high ground ball rate and low walk rate, as he has made six of his nine starts at pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium, but then again, he visits similarly favorable Safeco Field and O.co Coliseum this week.
25. Brandon McCarthy, ARI (vs. SD, vs. CIN)
|31. Clay Buchholz||at ATL, vs. TB|
|32. Nick Tepesch||at MIN, at WAS|
|33. Wade Miley||vs. SD, vs. CIN|
|34. Scott Feldman||at KC, vs. BAL|
|35. Chris Tillman||at MIL, at HOU|
|36. Chris Young||vs. LAA, vs. DET|
|37. Wei-Yin Chen||at MIL, at HOU|
|38. Chase Whitley||at STL, vs. MIN|
|39. Tommy Milone||vs. DET, vs. LAA|
|40. Kyle Kendrick||vs. COL, vs. NYM|
|41. Jhoulys Chacin||at PHI, at CLE|
|42. Brandon Cumpton||at NYM, at LAD|
|43. Jeremy Guthrie||vs. HOU, at TOR|
|44. Roenis Elias||vs. LAA, vs. DET|
|45. Jacob deGrom||vs. PIT, at PHI|
|46. Edinson Volquez||at NYM, at LAD|
|47. Erik Bedard||at TOR, at BOS|
|48. Josh Tomlin||at CHW, vs. COL|
|49. Kevin Correia||vs. TEX, at NYY|
|50. Eric Stults||at ARI, at CHW|
Like several of the pitchers on this list, McCarthy has demonstrated superb control, as he has thrown 68 percent of his pitches for strikes. He has been too hittable at times, and specifically, those times have occurred when he has faced his toughest opponents. McCarthy allowed five earned runs or more against the Giants, Rockies, Dodgers and White Sox and no more than three earned runs against the Mets, Cubs, Phillies, Padres, Nationals and Cardinals. Maybe that pattern is coincidental, but if you're nervous about starting McCarthy in Week 9, you can be encouraged by matchups that pit him against two of the lowest-scoring offenses in the majors. On his own merits, McCarthy is close in value to the similarly-inconsistent Skaggs, but with a lesser chance for run support, I have ranked him just below the ex-Diamondback.
26. Mark Buehrle, TOR (vs. TB, vs. KC)
In Thursday's start at the Red Sox, Buehrle did what he had already done eight times in nine previous outings: dispatch an opponent with no more than two runs allowed. With an 8-1 record and 2.16 ERA, Buehrle is on an extraordinary run, even though he is putting up his usual supporting stats. Buehrle has long been an efficient innings-eater with good control, but he has needed an 82 percent strand rate and a 1.8 percent home run-to-flyball ratio to prevent runs at an unlikely rate. Two starts at Rogers Centre practically invites a regression -- especially in Buehrle's home run rate. When the power-poor Rays and Royals are the Blue Jays' guests, Buehrle stands a better chance to keep his streak going.
27. Drew Smyly, DET (at OAK, at SEA)
Smyly's owners know all too well that he's been lined up for two-start weeks before, only to see him put in the bullpen or pushed back, losing a scheduled start in the process. However, the Tigers do not have a day off this week, and there are no foreseeable needs for spot starter to be inserted into the rotation, so maybe this week is the week. Smyly has enough strikeout potential to merit inclusion on this list, and two favorable venues should minimize the risk posed by his flyball tendencies. Because Smyly hasn't been allowed to settle into a role, he may not be in top form yet, so he's still not close to being a must-start option.
28. Phil Hughes, MIN (vs. TEX, at NYY)
Those familiar with Hughes' history know very well why he doesn't rank higher this week, despite his 3.15 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Two words: Yankee Stadium. When Hughes called the Bronx home, he compiled a 4.82 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 1.8 HR/9 there. Maybe Hughes is an improved pitcher this season, but it's hard to know how he will respond to a hitter-friendly environment. He's been to one once in 2014 -- his season debut at U.S. Cellular Field -- and he allowed four runs in five innings with two home runs. Hughes should be fine at home versus the Rangers, but weekly leagues owners will have to start him at their own risk.
29. Alfredo Simon, CIN (at LAD, at ARI)
Just as Simon was starting to look shaky, he bounced back with strong back-to-back outings at the Phillies and Nationals. He has shown a penchant for pitching deep into games, and Simon lasted seven innings or more in both of those starts, as well as in five of his nine starts this season. While Simon can chalk some of his success up to good control, he also has to credit some incredibly good luck. He has allowed very few baserunners in large part because opponents have hit .145 against him on ground balls, and then he has allowed a mere 14 percent of the baserunners he has allowed to score, which is roughly half the typical rate for a starting pitcher. Though Simon isn't the flyball pitcher Hughes is, he's every bit as risky, as he is less of a strikeout pitcher and has a tough matchup of his own with the Dodgers.
30. Collin McHugh, HOU (at KC, vs. BAL)
McHugh has yet to match the dominance of his first two starts in the Astros' rotation, but even though he's been inconsistent, he has kept the strikeouts coming. With an eye-popping 13.5 percent swinging strike rate, McHugh has had at least as many strikeouts as innings in four of his six starts, and that, along with a 12 percent popup rate, has allowed him to hold opponents to a .196 batting average. Half a dozen starts represents a small enough sample to warrant suspicion of a breakout season for a journeyman pitcher, but there's another reason to view McHugh as a low-end option in standard mixed leagues. Even if McHugh proves to be a legitimate strikeout pitcher, his flyball tendencies could still lead to him getting hit around.
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