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After two weeks of sparse offerings on the waiver wire, we are seeing the best selection of available two-start pitchers to date heading into Fantasy Week 3 (April 20-26). Doing your weekly shopping for pitching should be a little more enjoyable -- and profitable -- this week, but there are plenty of clunkers to avoid in addition to some hidden gems.
You can feel comfortable relying on the likes of Brett Anderson, Kendall Graveman and Dan Haren for two starts, even though none of this trio is currently owned in even half of the leagues on CBSSports.com. In some cases, these waiver pitchers appear to be more reliable for the coming week than two-start pitchers who may already be on your bench. Wily Peralta, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Wei-Yin Chen, Brandon Morrow and Justin Masterson are all sporting ownership rates of 55 percent or higher, but none should be started this week outside of deeper leagues. There are simply better options out there.
The bounty of viable two-start options on waivers means you can be a little flexible in your definition of a must-start pitcher this week. That's a tag you might be comfortable applying to James Shields and Tyson Ross, but with the Padres paying a visit to Coors Field this week with their top two starters in line to start there, you can give these normally-reliable studs a rest. Michael Pineda, Collin McHugh and Shane Greene are also among the one-start pitchers you could consider giving a rest to make room for an extra start or two in your rotation.
Recommended starters for standard mixed leagues
A.J. Burnett, Pirates (vs. CHC, at ARI): Very rarely will I make a 360 on a player after just two weeks, but at this point, I'm all in on Burnett. It's not only that he has some nice results through his first two starts, including a 2.25 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 15-to-3 K/BB ratio. Burnett has pitched with good control and has been getting grounders at a 67% rate. The latter trend in particular looks sustainable, as he is throwing his sinker more often and with far less spin. That would explain the increased sink that he's been getting. I not only plan on starting Burnett this week, but I hope to keep him on my roster once he goes back to being a one-start pitcher.
Mike Fiers, Brewers (vs. CIN, vs. STL): Fiers' velocity is up, as is his swinging strike rate, and his control has been sharp as always. So what gives with his 5.91 ERA and 1.50 WHIP? A hittable pitcher with a porous infield behind him would be hard pressed to allow a .364 batting average on ground balls, but that's what has befallen Fiers. While the Brewers aren't endowed with the most airtight infield defense, the .341 overall batting average that opponents have racked up against him is clearly a fluke. Fiers is doing the things that are under his control as well as ever, and that means he is a must-start as a two-start pitcher.
Drew Pomeranz, Athletics (at LAA, vs. HOU): Even though Pomeranz put up a 2.58 ERA as a starter last season and dominated the Mariners in his 2015 season debut, I have some doubts about him even as a two-start pitcher. Though he made strides with his control last season, it still wasn't especially good, and he's not a swing-and-miss type. As a starter, both last season and this, Pomeranz has been just short of getting a strikeout per inning, but in 2014 especially, he was reliant on a high called strikes rate. Not many pitchers sustain that, and I fear that going forward, Pomeranz will be a contact-prone starter whose walks make him a WHIP liability.
All that said, I'm fine with starting Pomeranz this week. The Angels' offense has been lackluster, and given the lack of firepower in the latter portion of their lineup, it could continue to struggle. The Astros, of course, are the Astros, so strikeouts shouldn't be a problem for Pomeranz in this scoring period.
Brett Anderson, Dodgers (at SF, at SD): It's understandable that Anderson would be stigmatized in Fantasy circles for his long history of health issues, and I suspect his 29 percent ownership rate in CBSSports.com leagues has more to do with fear of injury than with his performance. Still, he is healthy now, and as we saw over his eight starts with the Rockies last year, Anderson can be very effective if he's not ailing. Because he is not a reliable source of strikeouts, you will rarely see fit to use Anderson in a one-start week, but there is really no reason to avoid him with two starts. If you need an incentive, though, the Giants and their punchless lineup present a particularly good matchup for Anderson's first start.
Scott Kazmir, Athletics (vs. HOU): After having a mildly disappointing 2014 in terms of strikeouts (164 in 190 1/3 innings), Kazmir has ripped through his first two starts with 18 Ks in 13 innings. Granted, his most recent opponent were those whiffin' Astros, but he actually rang up 10 of his strikeouts against the Rangers, who have been a decent contact-hitting team. After just these two starts, I'm still not all that confident Kazmir will be the strikeout pitcher he was two seasons ago with the Indians, but that is neither my worry nor yours this week. The southpaw gets the Astros again, against whom he has a 2.16 ERA with 34 strikeouts in five starts going back to last year. It's the only start he has, and it's the only one he needs.
Kendall Graveman, Athletics (at LAA, vs. HOU): It has not been the smoothest ride for Graveman and his owners so far. It's easier to dismiss his season debut, now that we know he was sick at the time, but his second start had its warts as well. Even though he didn't allow a run, Graveman didn't survive the sixth inning, and he issued four walks. Despite the underwhelming stat line to date, you don't need to take a wait-and-see approach to Graveman this week. He lived up to his billing as a ground ball inducer in his last start, which was against the Astros, as 11 of the 16 balls hit against him went on the ground. Graveman is enough of a contact pitcher that you can't rely on getting strikeouts, even though he faces the Astros again, but his ground ball tendencies should allow him to get through the week with a minimum of runs scored.
Strictly deep league options
Brandon Morrow, Padres (at COL, vs. LAD): On the surface, Morrow's first two starts look like a good omen for his near-term viability in Fantasy. He lasted seven innings against both the Giants and Diamondbacks, posting a 1.29 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in the process. It's hard to find fault with his performance versus the Giants, but his more recent outing was less impressive. Morrow coaxed just seven swings and misses from Arizona's hitters, and he allowed 13 flyballs. While not exactly catastrophic numbers, they're not the kind you want to see from a pitcher whose next assignment is at Coors Field. The Dodgers, his second opponent, aren't an easy assignment either; they enter the weekend as the major league leaders in Isolated Power.
Anthony DeSclafani, Reds (at MIL, vs. CHC): Because DeSclafani opened his Reds career with a pair of quality starts and now heads into a two-start week, he is now owned in a majority of our leagues. He is still available in most standard and shallow mixed leagues, but if you're looking to use him in those formats, you should resist the temptation. While DeSclafani has done a good job of getting whiffs, doing so at a 12 percent rate, he has been less successful at getting grounders. With a pair of upcoming starts at hitter's parks (Miller Park and Great American Ball Park), his .068 Isolated Power is due to expand, and regardless of his upcoming opponents and venues, he's poised for some regression to his .188 BABIP.
Nick Martinez, Rangers (at ARI, at LAA): So how is it that Martinez barely squeezed into a moribund Rangers rotation out of spring training, only to start off the year with 14 scoreless innings? Improved control provides part of the explanation, as he has gone from being one of the worst control pitchers in the majors to being average in that regard through his first two starts. Martinez is also adept at getting popups, and he put that skill on display in Tuesday's start against the Angels, when he induced five infield flies. However, Martinez's ground ball rate is a meager 31 percent, although so far that has translated into just two extra-base hits, both of which were doubles. If Martinez doesn't temper his flyball tendencies, he's bound to get clobbered sooner than later.
Wily Peralta, Brewers (vs. CIN, vs. STL): Peralta is currently owned in 73 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, though he's starting in only 41 percent of them. Despite his two-start status, there's no reason to be part of a movement to increase his activation rate. According to BrooksBaseball.net, Peralta's average fastball velocity is 2 mph lower than where it was last April, and batters have been taking advantage. Only Jon Lester and Jeremy Hellickson have been inducing swings at pitches in the strike zone at a higher rate (per FanGraphs), but Peralta has been far easier to hit on those pitches than Lester or Hellickson. It's best to reserve Peralta for your NL-only leagues until he becomes more deceptive.