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While Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto and Matt Harvey are slated for two starts in Fantasy Week 7 (May 18-24), it is not a star-studded week on the two-start pitchers list. There are likely to be few enticing options on active rosters in standard mixed leagues, and even fewer on waivers.
As I personally got reminded in Week 6, a good two-start week on paper can often turn disastrous once the games start. Josh Collmenter appeared to have good matchups, but in less than two innings against the Nationals, his entire week went up in smoke. As you peruse this week's two-start options, you will see the likes of Trevor Bauer, Mike Fiers and Drew Pomeranz, and you may think there is no way any of them could be as risky as Collmenter. While each is certainly a better strikeout pitcher, they have their own shortcomings.
It's uncomfortable to look at, say, a five-man Head-to-Head rotation and see only five or six starts there, but you just might be better off sticking with that than pressing your luck with an extra start from Fiers or Pomeranz. I have included Bauer at the bottom of this week's list of borderline standard mixed league options, because after all, you have to take risks sometimes.
Even though this could be one of the worst weeks of the season for finding two-start options, the cupboard isn't entirely bare. Rubby De La Rosa and Carlos Frias are still widely available, and both are reasonably safe to start this week. Jimmy Nelson and Dan Haren haven't inspired confidence in their latest outings, but both should be brought off the bench for their upcoming matchups.
Recommended starters for standard mixed leagues
Rubby De La Rosa, Diamondbacks (at MIA, vs. CHC): With a 4.50 ERA and four quality starts in seven tries, De La Rosa has the appearance of a two-start pitcher you'd rather avoid if you could, but he's my favorite borderline option this week. He's been a consistent bat-misser, posting a swing-and-miss rate of at least 9.8 percent in all but one start, and has thrown 66 percent of his pitches for strikes. Extra-base hits have been an issue, but that's only even a mild concern in his start against the Cubs. The Marlins rank 29th in Isolated Power, and facing them at Marlins Park just helps De La Rosa even further.
Jimmy Nelson, Brewers (at DET, at ATL): Out of the gate this season, Nelson was bringing the strikeout/ground ball/control combination that he showed during his 2014 breakout season in Triple-A, but in retrospect, he was just benefitting from good matchups. Both of his first two starts were against the Pirates, a team that lacks left-handed thump. Last season, lefties clobbered Nelson for a .194 Isolated Power, and with the Pirates' in his rear view mirror, he is getting victimized by lefties yet again. While righties have posted a .107 Iso against Nelson, lefties have scorched him for a .242 rate. In Week 7, however, Nelson has a good opportunity to repeat his early-season success, as Freddie Freeman is the only power-hitting lefty he will face. Even during his recent difficulties, Nelson has been throwing strikes and getting Ks. This coming week, he could send his ground ball rate back northward.
Noah Syndergaard, Mets (at PIT): Though Syndergaard cruised along for most of his major league debut against the Cubs, there were some danger signs. Most notably, he walked four batters in just 5 1/3 innings, and induced only four grounders and seven swinging strikes in 103 pitches. Nonetheless, he turned in a decent outing against a middle-of-the-road offense, and this week, he faces a much easier opponent in his lone start versus the Pirates. He also gets to visit a venue (PNC Park) that will do a better job of hiding strong flyball tendencies, should those emerge again. However, if his minor league track record is any indication, he should do a much better job of getting grounders, as well as throwing strikes, going forward.
Carlos Frias, Dodgers (at SF, vs. SD): Frias' three-start tenure in the Dodgers' rotation has been an unqualified success, as he has gone 2-0 with a 3.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Behind the surface stats are some impressive skill indicators: a 67 percent strikes-thrown rate, a 62 percent ground ball rate and an 11 percent whiff rate. None of these marks is terribly out of line with what Frias has done in the minors, though his 7.7 K/9 ratio is higher than those numbers would lead us to expect. Even without strikeouts, though, Frias is a safe two-start play, especially with the light-hitting Giants on the schedule. As a relief-eligible starter, Frias needs to be used in Head-to-Head formats, but he's a reasonable use of a rotation spot in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues as well.
Dan Haren, Marlins (vs. ARI, vs. BAL): Haren has failed just twice in seven starts to record a quality start, and those outings just happened to take place at the only hitter-friendly parks -- Citizens Bank Park and Dodger Stadium -- he has visited this year. Given a 36 percent ground ball rate, which is puny even by Haren's standards, the trend is not too surprising. Back at home for two starts, owners can be comforted by Haren's .122 Isolated Power allowed at spacious Marlins Park. Only a matchup against the Orioles, who own the majors' third-highest Iso, makes this a slightly risky week.
Trevor Bauer, Indians (at CHW, vs. CIN): Bauer has overcome a two-game strikeout slump, as he has racked up 15 Ks over 12 1/3 innings against the Cardinals and Twins in his two most recent starts. Aside from that, there is an awful lot on Bauer's stat page to make owners nervous. He is averaging 4.1 walks per nine innings, and an already low ground ball rate has dropped further after Bauer induced them at a 27 percent rate over his last two starts. In a week in which quality two-start options are scarce on waivers, there is some appeal in taking a chance with Bauer, especially since he faces the power-deprived White Sox. The Pale Hose could still be a threat at U.S. Cellular Field, and the Reds have been one of the majors' best power-hitting teams.
Strictly deep league options
Mike Fiers, Brewers (at DET, at ATL): Fiers doesn't possess Bauer's velocity, but he poses a similar conundrum. He has actually been a far better and more consistent strikeout pitcher than Bauer, ranking second in the majors with a 12.3 K/9 ratio. He has also been a much bigger threat to give up the long ball, having allowed six home runs in 36 innings, and uncharacteristically, Fiers has walked 15 batters over those innings. He's actually a shakier play than Bauer. Whereas both pitchers have been flyball-prone, only Fiers has been allowing flies to travel great distances, and he is allowing hard contact at the highest rate in the majors (48 percent rate, per FanGraphs). If this distinction makes Bauer a reasonable last-resort option, it also makes Fiers someone to sit in order to play it safe.
Drew Pomeranz, Athletics (at HOU, at TB): On Tuesday, Pomeranz turned in a solid quality start against the Red Sox, but it was his first since his season debut against the Mariners. In the month-plus in between, Pomeranz was pummeled with a 6.57 ERA and 1.70 WHIP over five starts. To be fair, he probably deserved better than those stats and the .342 BABIP that undergirded them, but he didn't help matters by allowing too many walks (11 in 24 2/3 innings) and extra-base hits (.204 Iso). If Pomeranz were a big-time strikeout artist, we might forgive those flaws, especially with the Astros starting off his week. Given that Houston has the American League's highest team Iso entering the weekend, that matchup presents a lot more risk than reward for the lefty, and that start alone could ruin his week -- and yours, if you start him.
Hector Santiago, Angels (at TOR, at BOS): 2015 is looking like a breakout season for Santiago so far, but while he has made improvements, he is also proving that small samples can be deceiving. He is pitching with better control, having thrown 63 percent of his pitches for strikes and issuing no more than two walks in four of his seven starts. By inducing more swings at pitches outside the strike zone, Santiago has also enhanced his strikeout rate, totaling 39 Ks in 41 innings. He is still every bit as much of a flyball pitcher as he has been in the past, though, as his measly 32 percent ground ball rate indicates. Santiago hasn't been hurt by those tendencies yet, but the schedule has helped him out, providing five starts at Angel Stadium and another at AT&T Park. With trips to Rogers Centre and Fenway Park this week, Santiago's season could be on the verge of taking an ugly turn.
Nathan Karns, Rays (at ATL, vs. OAK): A 3.77 ERA makes Karns look like a possible candidate to use in a two-start week, and a 1.17 WHIP may give you reason to give him a closer look. Upon inspection, you'll find that Karns is better left for your deeper league teams, or more likely, on waivers or your bench. On the positive side, he could continue to provide roughly a strikeout for each inning he pitches, but even across a pair of starts, he may not throw that many frames. As has been his wont at times, Karns is having control issues (4.2 BB/9), and allowing too much hard contact (1.2 HR/9, 34 percent hard contact rate). A .230 BABIP has saved Karns from a worse fate, but if his luck runs out this week, owners should be prepared for some Karn-age.