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There is not exactly a shortage of two-start pitchers on waivers for Fantasy Week 12 (June 22-28), as there are currently 18 pitchers who are both owned in fewer than 70 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com and projected to take two turns in their teams' rotations. The bounty even extends to deeper leagues, as 14 of them are owned in no more than 25 percent of our leagues.
As you might expect, given the low ownership rates for most of these pitchers, none are safe bets to help you more than they might hurt you for the coming week. Even the four most-owned in this group -- Chi Chi Gonzalez, Mike Fiers, Chase Anderson and CC Sabathia -- don't inspire much confidence. That's especially true when you consider that Gonzalez has to face the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre and Anderson begins his week with a start against the Rockies at Coors Field.
Even several of the more highly-owned two-start pitchers, like Collin McHugh, Ubaldo Jimenez, Drew Hutchison and Jesse Chavez, are riddled with risk. More popular doesn't necessarily mean safer or more productive. Tsuyoshi Wada, Tommy Milone and Brett Oberholtzer look primed for good weeks, even though each has an ownership percentage at least 50 points lower than Chavez's.
Recommended starters for standard mixed leagues
Hector Santiago, Angels (vs. HOU, vs. SEA): Most of the borderline two-start pitchers featured this week are flyball pitchers who are difficult to trust in hitter's parks, and Santiago is probably the one who is most dependent on favorable venues for good results. He sports a measly 31 percent ground ball rate, and not surprisingly, he is allowing a bloated .213 Isolated Power away from Angel Stadium. His home park does a good job of masking his extreme flyball tendencies, and has been doing so in form of a .127 Iso.
Of course, the Mariners are a great matchup anywhere these days, but even the Astros pose a minimal threat in Anaheim. Santiago is 85 percent owned, so he is unlikely to be on waivers, but if you own him, you need to start him this week.
Tsuyoshi Wada, Cubs (vs. LAD, at STL): Wada has moderated his flyball tendencies since last season, but that's not to say that he's been avoiding hard contact. That has led Wada to cough up four home runs and seven doubles in only 29 1/3 innings. His seven-inning scoreless stint at the Indians aside, he has not been able to work deep into games, as batters have been fouling off his pitches at a high rate and pumping up his pitch count.
The upside of all those foul balls has been a 9.2 K/9 ratio, and by week's end, that ratio could grow even larger. The Dodgers and Cardinals have been striking out frequently against lefties, so even though he is scheduled to go up against Clayton Kershaw and Michael Wacha, it could be a productive week for Wada.
Note: The ever-popular and much-anticipated Wada-Wacha matchup is scheduled for June 27. Mark your calendars.
Brett Oberholtzer, Astros (at LAA, vs. NYY): Injuries have limited Oberholtzer to just five starts this season, but he is quietly gaining traction as a viable Fantasy option. The lefty has reeled off back-to-back quality starts, including one at Colorado. Not only has he been a good control pitcher, just as he has been in the past, but he has been extremely stingy with extra-base hits. Oberholtzer has yet to allow a homer and has yielded just five doubles and a triple through 26 1/3 innings.
Improved fastball location has been the key to Oberholtzer's improvement. He has grooved just 1.9 percent of his four-seamers, and he has increased his ground ball rate on that pitch from 30 to 51 percent (per BrooksBaseball.net). Even when he has allowed flyballs, they have traveled just 228 feet on average, according to BaseballHeatMaps.com. As long as Oberholtzer continues to locate his pitches well, he shouldn't see too much growth in his 2.73 ERA.
Tommy Milone, Twins (vs. CHW, at MIL): As Tommy Milone's control goes, so goes Tommy Milone. He's a pitch- to-contact type who doesn't get many grounders, so he absolutely needs to throw strikes with good command in order to succeed. He did that during his brief minor league demotion and has continued to do that since his callup earlier this month. Over his three starts in June, Milone has issued just two walks over 19 innings and thrown 65 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Because Milone works with a small margin for error, it helps when he has good matchups. They don't get any better than the ones he has for Week 12. The White Sox and Brewers have the lowest team weighted on-base average (wOBA) against left-handed pitchers this season, and they are well behind the rest of the pack. You won't often have legitimate opportunities to use Milone in a standard mixed league, but this is one of them.
Mike Fiers, Brewers (vs. NYM, vs. MIN): Prior to his most recent start, a five-inning, six-run beatdown at the hands of the Royals, Fiers had been in a little bit of a groove. While he hadn't been dominating opponents, he ran off a string of seven straight starts in which he allowed no more than three runs, and he compiled a 2.97 ERA over that span. He even started to make some progress on his hard contact rate, which has been the highest in the majors. That mark has been on the rise again over his last three starts and now stands at 42.5 percent, per FanGraphs.
In most weeks, that would be a concern. The schedule gives Fiers a break this week, as the Mets and Twins are among the majors' worst-hitting teams against right-handed pitchers. Fiers' matchups aren't quite as favorable as Milone's, but then again, he offers greater strikeout potential than his Twins' counterpart. Despite the risks, he is worth a try this week.
Deeper league options
Jesse Chavez, Athletics (at TEX, vs. KC): Chavez is on quite a nice run, having turned in quality starts in four of his last five tries, and each of his quality starts has been either seven or eight innings. It's notable that three of the quality starts were at home and a fourth was at Angel Stadium. The one sub-quality start? That was at Fenway Park, where the Red Sox smacked Chavez around for four runs on 10 hits over five innings.
In fact, Chavez's impressive tenure as a starter (2.75 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) has probably been fueled by him having pitched almost exclusively in favorable venues. He is not necessarily doomed in harsher environments, but his first start of the week against the Rangers has danger written all over it. Not only has Globe Life Park played as a good park for left-handed power hitters over the past few years, but the Rangers have a pretty nice collection of lefty hitters, especially with the recent additions of Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor. Neither of his matchups are especially easy ones, so this looks like a good week to sit Chavez, especially in Rotisserie leagues (or any format in which he can't be used in a relief slot).
Collin McHugh, Astros (at LAA, vs. NYY): McHugh gave owners disappointed in his recent strikeout production a gift on Thursday, as he notched eight Ks at Colorado. That was his highest total in more than a month, and any time you can turn in a quality start at Coors Field, you build some positive Fantasy karma. Yet for all of the angst owners were having about McHugh's strikeouts, he has not really struggled to get swings-and-misses, other than in the two starts (11 whiffs combined) just preceding his outing against the Rockies.
As his 5.04 ERA would suggest, strikeouts have been the least of McHugh's problems. He has simply allowed too much hard contact. According to the PitchFX data on BaseballSavant.com, McHugh is tied for eighth in the majors for most flyballs hit at least 300 feet. For all of their offensive woes, the Angels have hit for decent power (.146 Iso) against righties, and the Yankees have blasted righties for a .169 Iso. This doesn't look like the week to take a chance on McHugh.
Drew Hutchison, Blue Jays (at TB, vs. TEX): Hutchison has made substantial progress in taming lefty batters, but the net result has been a negative one this season. He is allowing more frequent contact, is struggling mightily against righties, and still allows too many homers. Hutchison has a 5.33 ERA to show for all of that.
The Rays lineup doesn't hit right-handed pitching all that well, but until the 24-year-old Hutchison can deliver consistently on his considerable potential, he is beyond worrying about matchups. He is owned in 76 percent of our leagues, yet just over half of his owners have been stashing him. Even with a two-start week on hand, stashing Hutchison continues to be the right move.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Orioles (at BOS, vs. CLE): Like Hutchison, Jimenez is highly owned, though a larger proportion of his owners are starting him. Despite the outward appearances of having a bounceback season, it would be a mistake to start Jimenez this week. He did seem to be on to something back in April when he was posting a 67 percent ground ball rate, but that mark plunged to 43 percent in May and 32 percent in June (per FanGraphs). His control has also been shaky lately, as he has thrown 59 percent of his pitches for strikes in June. An 82 percent strand rate has been Jimenez's savior this month, allowing him to post a 3.57 ERA over four starts. You may not see Jimenez's decline in his Fantasy stats yet, but that could change a week from now.
Chi Chi Gonzalez, Rangers (vs. OAK, at TOR): Gonzalez is currently being started in roughly half of the leagues on CBSSports.com, and with a two-start week coming up, that proportion figures to rise. With an 0.90 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, he might appear to be up to the unenviable task of cooling off the Blue Jays next weekend, but I wouldn't bet on it. Gonzalez's low WHIP has been aided by a .180 batting average allowed on grounders. The Rangers as a staff have allowed the sixth-highest batting average on ground balls (.258), so it's unlikely that Gonzalez is getting a huge assist from his defense.
If you're still unconvinced that Gonzalez has been possibly the luckiest pitcher on earth, consider that he has stranded 93 percent of his baserunners, when a rate of 80 percent is generally considered to be unsustainable. Regression could happen at any time, so be sure not to have Gonzalez in your rotation when it happens.