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When it comes to pitching rotations, what goes around, comes around. If a glance at this week's list of two-start pitchers reminds you of the opening week of the season, there's a reason for that. Many of the same aces are back for double duty, but if you recall the waiver selection from three weeks ago, well, it was sparse.
If you pressed your luck and decided to grab Yovani Gallardo, Josh Collmenter or Kyle Kendrick for the extra start, to make room for them, you may have missed out on some superior one-start options. The potential to make a similar mistake in Fantasy Week 4 (April 27-May 3) looms large, but there is an even greater risk of making a bad start/sit decision with the players who are already on your roster. It's not all that tempting to go after someone like Aaron Sanchez, Tommy Milone or Kendrick (again) on waivers, but you may give some thought to getting Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey or Joe Kelly off your bench. As I'll explain below, you should leave their them and their two starts off your active roster.
You won't necessarily have to settle for a one-start pitcher in their stead. Though they are inferior options to Odorizzi, Bailey and Kelly in most weeks, this is the time to give the widely-available Chase Anderson, Jarred Cosart and J.A. Happ a try.
Hard to believe? I know many owners will need convincing, so I'll make the case for each just below.
Recommended starters for standard mixed leagues
Jason Hammel, Cubs (vs. PIT, vs. MIL): With Hammel sporting a 63 percent ownership rate, he's likely universally owned in deeper formats, but despite some mediocre stats, he's worth using in standard mixed leagues this week. In his better seasons (i.e., 2012, 2014), Hammel has been good at getting called strikes, and with a 21 percent rate, he's at it again. He has also carried over the gains he made in control last season, as he has thrown 66 percent of his pitches for strikes and walked only one batter across his three starts. Hammel's two biggest problems to date have been things largely beyond his control, namely a .353 BABIP and a 63 percent strand rate. His matchups aren't bad either, so he seems like one of the best waiver options this week.
J.A. Happ, Mariners (at TEX, at HOU): Week in and week out, there is at least one contact pitcher I tout as a good two-start option, because he does enough to compensate for a lack of strikeouts. Skills, such as control, command and ground ball tendencies, have even more appeal when a low-K pitcher doubles up his innings, potentially matching the strikeouts of a good one-start pitcher. Happ fits this mold for Week 4, as he done a superb job of hitting the strike zone and freezing batters for called strikes. While he is not a ground ball pitcher, he has done a better job of working in the lower part of the zone than he has in the past. Barring a week in which he makes a pair of starts at extreme hitter's parks against good lineups, I expect Happ will be reliable in two-start weeks with most matchups.
Jarred Cosart, Marlins (vs. NYM, vs. PHI): Cosart is in the same mold as Happ. His lack of strikeouts makes him unusable in one-start weeks, but he can do enough with ERA and wins to be worth trying with two turns in the rotation. What separates him from Happ is inconsistent control. For most of his tenure with the Marlins, Cosart has been very good at keeping walks to a minimum, but given that he has thrown only 61 percent of his pitches for strikes this year, it's hard to have complete confidence that this trend will continue. At least there is no disputing Cosart's strong ground ball tendencies, and those paired with two starts at Marlins Park make him a worthy pickup.
Chase Anderson, Diamondbacks (vs. COL, at LAD): Even though he followed up a strong start against the high-scoring Padres with an even better performance versus the Rangers, not many owners are seeing fit to chase Anderson. He remains on waivers in more than 80 percent of our leagues. There are some reasons to hesitate making a claim, and a weekend face-off against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers is tops among them. Still, Anderson has been an excellent control pitcher over his last 13 starts, going back to last July, and with two starts, he can be an asset for strikeouts. He has also moderated his flyball tendencies this season, and that will come in handy against the powerful Rockies and Dodgers lineups.
Hisashi Iwakuma (at HOU): Based on his results so far this season, there seems to be little reason to consider Iwakuma with two starts, much less just one. Yet if his three subpar starts were sprinkled at random points throughout the season and not stacked together at the start of the schedule, owners might not think much of them. Beneath Iwakuma's 6.61 ERA and 1.41 WHP are some decent peripheral stats. His whiff and strikeout rates are down, though not dramatically, and meanwhile Iwakuma has been doing a reasonable job of throwing strikes (65 percent) and getting grounders (49 percent). What has hurt him the most are the five home runs he has allowed and the 61 percent strand rate he has compiled. There are no signs in terms of location or velocity to suggest that these numbers are anything other than a small sample fluke. I wouldn't be looking to bench him for just any two-start option. He could actually have a nice outing against the Astros.
Strictly deep league options
Jake Odorizzi, Rays (at NYY, at BAL): By all outward appearances, it's a great week to start Odorizzi. He is already being started in 73 percent of our leagues, has kicked off the year with four consecutive quality starts and makes two more appearances in the Rays' rotation this week. The knock on Odorizzi last season was that he was reliable at Tropicana Field (2.62 ERA, 0.36 HR/9) but a train wreck on the road (6.32 ERA, 2.11 HR/9). This was not an unexpected turn of events for an extreme flyball pitcher. Odorizzi passed his first road test of 2015, holding the Blue Jays to one run over eight innings, and he induced 13 grounders from that power-hitting lineup. In each of Odorizzi's other starts -- all at home -- he failed to notch double-digit ground balls, and his combined ground ball rate was a mere 36.7 percent. It feels premature to start a new "safe to start on the road" protocol with Odorizzi, especially with him travelling to Yankee Stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Joe Kelly, Red Sox (vs. TOR, vs. NYY): We may have to discard our notion of Kelly as a hard-thrower who doesn't get strikeouts. This season he has been pitching with even greater velocity, and aided by the increased use of a slider, he has been averaging just over a strikeout per inning (18 Ks in 17 2/3 innings). Kelly may have struck a Faustian bargain, though, as he has de-emphasized his sinker, contributing to a flyball rate that has risen from last season's 20 percent to 35 percent. Despite heightened strikeout and whiff rates, Kelly hasn't been great his last two times out, and with two of the majors' highest-scoring teams coming to Boston, I worry that his slump will deepen.
Alex Wood, Braves (vs. WAS): Wood has been so effective in his young career that I figured he would be a must-start option all season. Yet here we are in late April, and I'm prepared to sit him. Hitters are rarely getting fooled by his pitches outside of the strike zone; in fact, only four starters have lower O-Swing rates, according to FanGraphs. When hitters do swing at those offerings, they are making frequent contact, and that's hurting his walk and strikeout rates. With a total of just 12 swings-and-misses over his first three starts, Wood is too hazardous to trust for now.
Homer Bailey, Reds (vs. MIL, at ATL): Even though Bailey has been far from his best since returning from the disabled list, he is still owned in 77 percent of CBSSports.com leagues. Those owners deserve credit for giving Bailey a chance to round into form in the aftermath of surgery to repair a torn flexor mass. After all, Jonathan Broxton eventually recovered from the procedure, and his injury was worse than Bailey's. The majority of Bailey's owners who are benching him also deserve credit, because it could be awhile before he is worth starting again. The signs from his first two starts are not encouraging; reduced velocity, a high contact rate and a lack of control are the biggest red flags.
Taijuan Walker, Mariners (at TEX, at HOU): Just like Kelly, Walker has been providing strikeouts, but not without considerable downside. When Walker has allowed contact, it has been the hard kind, and his control has been lacking as well, having issued 10 walks in 12 2/3 innings. Walker has struggled to find consistency with control and ground ball tendencies over his major and minor league careers, so even though he gets a pair of favorable matchups, he's hard to trust. Until he approaches his upside -- and does so with consistency -- Walker can be stashed in the vast majority of mixed leagues.