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With just eight games on Monday and nine on Thursday, Fantasy Week 10 (June 8-14) is yet another week in which your two-start pitching options on waivers will be sparse. It also doesn't help that several stud pitchers, namely Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Cole Hamels, James Shields, Jon Lester and Sonny Gray, are going early in the week and lining up for two starts.
While that means you might only be able to add one two-start pitcher off waivers -- if you're lucky -- it doesn't mean that you won't have to make any other changes to your rotation heading into Monday. Plenty of owners are benching Hector Santiago, Mike Bolsinger, Nick Martinez, Taijuan Walker and Mike Foltynewicz, and all are worth using in their two-start weeks. A one-start Eduardo Rodriguez and a two-start Lance McCullers are among the Most Added starting pitchers in CBSSports.com leagues, and their new owners may wonder whether it's safe to use their new toys right away. Spoiler alert: it is.
Incidentally, if the Red Sox move forward with their plan to revert to a five-man rotation this week, Rodriguez will actually make a second start on Sunday at home against the Blue Jays. Bear in mind that the Jays have punished lefties far more than any other team has this season, but unless you are highly risk-averse, that should not be a deterrent to using the 22-year-old.
Recommended starters for standard mixed leagues
Lance McCullers, Astros (at CHW, vs. SEA): Here's what we know about McCullers so far after four major league starts: he's good enough to handle teams, like the Athletics and Tigers, that hit righties well, and he can full-out dominate a team (i.e., Orioles) that has trouble making contact against righties. Aside from his Orioles start, McCullers has not been terribly efficient, but in a two-start week, we can let that slide. He'll get some help from his matchups, too, which are comprised of a start against the power-deprived White Sox and whiff-happy Mariners.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox (at BAL): Rodriguez's pinpoint control has been on display over his first two major league starts, and amazingly, he has allowed only one more hit (five) than walks (four). There is no question that Rodriguez is good, but he is probably not quite this good. With a very small sample size at hand, standard mixed league owners will now have to figure out if Rodriguez is worth using as a one-start pitcher (though he may actually go twice, as discussed above). His Tuesday opponent, the Orioles, will make that decision easy, as they play right into his main strength. The O's have the major's lowest walk rate against left-handed pitchers. When they connect, they are only a mild power threat against southpaws. It appears to be a safe week to add -- or keep -- Rodriguez in your rotation.
Nick Martinez, Rangers (at OAK, vs. MIN): Coming off his worst start of the season, a seven-run drubbing at the hands of the White Sox, it's not as easy to put Martinez in your rotation for the coming week. If you recall, Martinez's surprising early-season run began in Oakland, where he twirled seven scoreless innings. It was no accident that he enjoyed a high level of success there. His 2.04 career ERA at O.co Coliseum (over three starts) reflects the good fit between that spacious venue and Martinez's high flyball and popup rates. His second start looks promising, too, as he will face the Twins, whose hitters have the American League's lowest weighted on-base average (wOBA) against right-handed pitchers.
Mike Bolsinger, Dodgers (vs. ARI, at SD): Bolsinger is a 27-year-old journeyman whose fastball sits in the mid-80s, but here he is with a sub-2.00 ERA after six starts. Given that Bolsinger is currently started in only 51 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, it's clear that many owners aren't buying his performance to date. An 84 percent strand rate and .255 BABIP confirm the suspicions that Bolsinger has benefitted from some good luck. Yet xFIP, which accounts for the impact of luck and defense, estimates that Bolsinger's ERA would be 3.67 if you controlled for those factors.
That's an ERA you could live with from a two-start pitcher if you could trust it. Much of Bolsinger's success so far has been built on a 58 percent ground ball rate, which is a little out of line with his prior major and minor league numbers. That rate has been bumped up due to particularly good starts against the Marlins and Padres -- two teams that hit a lot of ground balls. Then again, Bolsinger faces the Padres again this week, and he will also square off against the Diamondbacks, whose offense has compiled the majors' third-highest ground ball rate. Bolsinger is only available in roughly one-fifth of our leagues, but for those who already own him, it's time to get him off your bench and into your rotation.
Taijuan Walker, Mariners (at CLE, at HOU): It's incredible what improved control can do for one's overall game. Up until his two most recent starts, Walker was having all sorts of control issues, and when he fell behind in the count, opponents were putting up a .310/.512/.690 slash line against him. In a dramatic turnaround, Walker has issued just one base on balls against his last two foes combined, throwing 72 percent of his pitches for strikes. The overall result was a pair of eight-inning quality starts.
Especially with his track record of inconsistency and two potentially difficult matchups on the schedule, it's not a wise move to trust Walker simply because of two strong starts. However, Walker is demonstrating his considerable upside, and if you need to make a bold move to try to gain some traction in the standings, using him this week is not a bad way to go.
Deeper league options
Chad Bettis, Rockies (vs. STL, at MIA): Bettis has now run off four consecutive quality starts, and while two of them have come against the hapless Phillies, his latest was against the Dodgers -- at Coors Field, no less. Bettis has gotten the job done by avoiding walks (issuing only five over a 28 1/3 inning span), getting whiffs at an 11 percent rate and holding opponents to an .087 Isolated Power over this stretch. There's no question that Bettis has a great matchup against the Marlins in Miami, but success against the Cardinals at home will require him to prevent extra-base hits.
To be clear, the Cardinals are not a good power-hitting team against righties (.126 Iso), but as the Padres have shown this season (.180 Iso at Colorado), you don't have to be an offensive juggernaut to hit for power at Coors Field. The lack of a sustained track record for success makes Bettis a little too risky to trust in standard mixed leagues when he is making at least one home start.
Nathan Karns, Rays (vs. LAA, vs. CHW): Karns hasn't been going deep into most of his starts, but he's been on a nice run of late. Wednesday's start at the Angels, in which he allowed four runs in just five innings, was the first instance of him allowing more than two runs since April 22. During that seven-start stretch, Karns had limited hitters to a .206 batting average with a .277 slugging percentage. With an upcoming week that features the Angels and White Sox at home, what's not to like?
Given the type of pitcher Karns is, those matchups aren't as good as they appear to be. Both teams are in the bottom third of the wOBA rankings against right-handed pitchers, but Karns has had reverse splits, not only across his 86 major league innings, but also during his time in the upper minors. The White Sox still don't appear to be a menacing matchup, but the combination of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and David Freese looks like a dangerous one for Karns. Heck, even Johnny Giavotella homered off Karns when he faced the Angels on Wednesday. Let Karns sit this one out.
Chris Heston, Giants (at NYM, vs. ARI): Heston was a popular pickup earlier this season and rightfully so. He posted a 2.51 ERA and four quality starts through his first five outings, and having relief-eligibility for Head-to-Head leagues was a bonus. Since then, merely adequate control has turned bad and a high ground ball rate has come back to earth. The result over his last six starts is a 6.06 ERA with just two quality starts. The Diamondbacks and Mets present decent enough matchups, but unless Heston can rediscover his earlier form, he's not to be trusted in standard mixed leagues in the vast majority of circumstances.
Scott Kazmir, Athletics (vs. TEX): Kazmir's return from a nine-day layoff did not go well, as he coughed up nine hits and four runs (three earned) in 4 2/3 innings at Boston. Even before experiencing the shoulder tightness that led to having his start pushed back, Kazmir had been enduring a difficult month of May. In six starts, the lefty registered a 4.65 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, and the main culprit was a 4.6 BB/9 ratio. In Friday's return, he issued only one walk, but according to FanGraphs, only one of the 18 hit balls he allowed was met with soft contact.
If Kazmir can continue to pitch with better control, there is no reason why he can't pull himself out of this slump, and in seasonal formats, he is a good buy-low target. If you do acquire Kazmir, though, this would be a great week to sit him. His lone opponent, the Rangers, ranks fifth in the majors in wOBA against lefties.
Mike Leake, Reds (vs. PHI, at CHC): In the past, Leake has been an occasionally reliable option as a two-start pitcher, but there is no getting around the simple fact that he is having a bad season. Leake's already modest strikeout and whiff rates are down, his walks are up, and he is among the major league "leaders" in longest average flyball distance allowed. There is only one reason to consider Leake this week, but it is a seemingly compelling one. In facing the Phillies and Cubs, he will oppose, respectively, the teams with the lowest wOBA and highest strikeout rate against righties.
In light of Leake's strong outing against the Phillies on Wednesday, the temptation to start him may be strong. Resist it, though, as the potential for a meltdown is simply too high.