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For the last two weeks, I have groused in this space about the lack of enticing two-start options on waivers. There is a full 15-game slate every day during Fantasy Week 11 (June 15-21), and you know what that means. Every team will play seven games and have two pitchers taking two turns in the rotation. Only the Mets, who have temporarily gone back to a six-man rotation, could ruin this scenario.
Even in standard mixed leagues, the waiver wire should be rife with viable two-start options. Heading into the weekend, no fewer than 36 pitchers with ownership rates below 60 percent in CBSSports.com leagues were projected for two starts. The vast majority are more suitable for deeper leagues, but that still leaves plenty of options for owners in shallower formats.
Shaky one-start options... move aside. It's time to make way for some of the higher-quality free agent two-start pitchers, including some of those featured just below.
Recommended starters for standard mixed leagues
Trevor May, Twins (at STL, vs. CHC): May's arrival as a control pitcher actually began late last season, but his progress was overlooked by most Fantasy owners, as he failed to make substantial headway on his ERA and WHIP. He was hurt by unfavorable BABIP and strand rates, which are often (but not necessarily) the hallmarks of bad luck. Big innings had precluded May from going deep into games, but that is starting to change. He has lasted at least six innings in each of his last five starts, and four of those were quality starts. Over that span, May has compiled a 3.03 ERA and 1.01 WHIP to go along with 31 strikeouts and four walks over 32 2/3 innings.
If we can find a reason, other than luck, for the improvement, May has increased his soft contact rate (per FanGraphs) in each successive month this season, and he is getting more grounders than he did earlier in the year. While the Cardinals have struggled offensively of late, those additional ground balls will come in handy against the Cubs. Facing them at Target Field helps, too.
Lance McCullers, Astros (at SEA): If you're a fan of high swinging strike rates and were disappointed by McCullers' low ratios from his first two starts, he has probably won you over with his 14 percent whiff rate from his last three starts. Two of those outings were against the White Sox, and while they are not a good offensive team, they are not prone to the swing-and-miss.
But you know who is fond of whiffing? The Mariners. That's who McCullers gets to face this week, making him a must-start option with his one and only start.
Vincent Velasquez, Astros (vs. COL, at SEA): Velasquez was held to 89 pitches in Wednesday's major league debut, so he only lasted five innings, though averaging 4.45 pitches per batter played a role in his early exit as well. With a pair of starts, inefficiency will be much less of a concern, and he draws two highly favorable matchups. The Rockies are getting on base at a .286 clip away from Coors Field, and the Mariners just aren't scoring much. Velasquez's flyball tendencies could make him a hazard in a future weeks, but despite his lack of a major league track record, he appears to be a safe start in his first ever two-start scoring period.
Charlie Morton, Pirates (vs. CHW, at WAS): Morton has been an extreme ground ball pitcher for a long time, but standard mixed league owners haven't always been his biggest fans. He's been consistently subpar at stranding runners, and because he's a ground ball pitcher who has had occasional control issues and put on a few too many baserunners in the first place.
Through his first four starts of the season, Morton has not only been an even greater inducer of grounders with a 70 percent rate, but he has been a strike-throwing machine as well, with a 66 percent strikes-thrown rate. He almost certainly won't sustain his 82 percent strand rate, but if he continue to keep the bases clear, who cares? Morton has even been good against lefties so far (.243/.317/.324). A lack of strikeouts makes him easy to avoid in one-start weeks, but with just about any set of matchups, he needs to be used when he has two starts.
J.A. Happ, Mariners (at SF, vs. HOU): Happ had been on a nice run until getting roughed up Thursday in Cleveland. The Indians have been tough on lefties, but this week, he will face the Giants and Astros, who have been much easier on southpaws. Happ has also been aided in his home starts by Safeco Field, posting a 1.88 ERA there, and he will make his second start of the week in Seattle after paying a visit to pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. This is not to say that Happ is without risk -- he can still be vulnerable to contact at times -- but as a two-start pitcher, he is likely to produce more than your borderline one-start options.
Deeper league options
Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (at MIN): Garcia's season has followed a similar path to that of Morton, as he has been extremely adept at inducing grounders but not swings-and-misses. As with his Pirates counterpart, he should be a reliable option in most two-start weeks, but with a little greater potential for strikeouts, he could be viable in some one-start weeks. This, however, won't be one of them. With the Cardinals' recent offensive struggles, owners can't assume he will get run support, and in facing the Twins, Garcia will go up against a squad that has been productive against lefties.
Anibal Sanchez, Tigers (vs. CIN, at NYY): Though Sanchez entered this season with the reputation of being a must-start pitcher (or close to it), by late May, you couldn't afford to put him in your rotation. His first 10 starts produced an ERA of 6.12 with 11 home runs allowed over 60 1/3 innings. The swell of extra-base hits has slowed over his last three starts, though with a .139 Isolated Power allowed, he has not been totally immune to them either. Sanchez's most recent start against the Cubs, in which he tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings, was one of his best this season. However, that came on the heels of a 104-pitch effort against the Athletics in which he got only three swings-and-misses. Sanchez is going to have to demonstrate greater consistency before I'm ready to trust him again.
Erasmo Ramirez, SP, Rays (vs. WAS, at CLE): Fantasy owners have been waiting for Ramirez to break out for a few years now, and just maybe, we are currently witnessing the beginning of it. Over his last three starts, he has registered a 1.56 ERA and an 18 percent whiff rate. To put that in perspective, he is getting swings-and-misses on a rate similar to that of Koji Uehara, but over stretches of several innings at a time. In the two-week period encompassing these starts, only Chris Sale has allowed less frequent contact on pitches in the strike zone.
Three starts is still a small sample, and given that Ramirez faced the Angels, Mariners and Orioles in succession, perhaps we can conclude that his success has been driven by his matchups. Still, it's hard to imagine just any pitcher dominating those lineups in succession the way that Ramirez has. The jarring increase in his whiff rate coincides perfectly with his abandonment of his sinker, so he may truly be on to something. In the event that he is, even owners in standard mixed leagues should consider picking Ramirez up. In the event that this is just some cruel joke perpetuated on us by the Fantasy gods, owners in all but deeper formats should stash Ramirez for the coming week to see how he fares.
Chris Young, SP, Royals (at MIL, vs. BOS): Young continues to be every bit as much of the flyball pitcher he has has been for years, so he is still someone to start in pitcher's parks against weaker opponents and someone to avoid in most other situations. The Red Sox -- Young's second opponent of the week -- are not an especially fearsome foe, but the Brewers could ruin his week even before he faces Boston. Miller Park is definitely not a venue to Young's liking, and while the Brewers haven't been all that productive against righties, their issues have stemmed more from a high strikeout rate than from a lack of power. Young is not a big strikeout pitcher, and he could be in real trouble against the Brew Crew. This is a good week to sit the crafty veteran.
Chi Chi Gonzalez, SP, Rangers (vs. LAD, at CHW): Three starts into his major league career, Gonzalez finally allowed a run, and one run was all he yielded to the Athletics on Thursday. In terms of ERA and WHIP, he is on a par with fellow rookie sensations Lance McCullers and Eduardo Rodriguez, but his peripheral stats don't come close to theirs. Gonzalez has been allowing plenty of contact (3.3 K/9, 7 percent whiff rate), and his control has been questionable as well (4.2 BB/9, 62 percent strikes thrown). Maybe he can get away with mediocre supporting stats against the White Sox, but the Dodgers could administer a heavy dose of regression.