Rotation Roundup for Week 9
It's a thin crop of two-start pitchers for the coming week, but Al Melchior identifies a few one- and two-start pitchers worth claiming.
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Your weekly visit to the waiver wire to find two-start pitchers for streaming will likely be a quick one this time. Heading into the weekend, there were only a dozen pitchers owned in fewer than 60 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com populating the two-start pitchers list for Fantasy Week 9 (June 1-7).
With high-risk options like Colby Lewis, R.A. Dickey and Josh Collmenter filling the meager ranks, there are only a handful of two-start pitchers worth considering in standard mixed leagues. One of the more intriguing possibilities on waivers is Jaime Garcia, who has turned in a pair of quality starts since getting a late start to his 2015 season. Not everyone in the Cardinals' rotation is as enticing, however, due to their matchups against the Brewers and Dodgers. The latter of these in particular could be problematic for two-start Lance Lynn and one-start Michael Wacha.
Lynn isn't the only highly-owned two-start pitcher worth a bench spot, as the recent struggles of Ubaldo Jimenez, Phil Hughes and Rick Porcello further thin the field. You may have to get sneaky with some claims for one-start pitchers. A mystery one-start pitcher, featured just below, is a particular favorite of mine for the coming week, and he's available in more than 60 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.
Recommended starters for standard mixed leagues
Kyle Hendricks, Cubs (at MIA, at WAS): Hendricks' current 3.76 ERA looks a lot more trustworthy than last season's 2.46 mark, but his 1.14 WHIP looks legit, too. He is too contact-prone to use in one-start weeks, but unless his matchups are especially tough, Hendricks will get enough strikeouts and not too many walks to be useful with two starts. Particularly given that his first start comes against the anemic Marlins, there is no reason to leave Hendricks on waivers. With a 57 percent ownership rate on CBSSports.com, there is a good chance you'll find him there.
Mike Fiers, Cardinals (at STL, at MIN): Not so long ago, Fiers looked risky even for a two-start week, but he has rounded into form lately. Though he is not typically going deep into games, Fiers is preventing runs, albeit in an inefficient fashion. He has allowed no more than two runs in five of his six May starts, racking up 41 strikeouts in 33 innings along the way. The lack of innings makes Fiers hard to start in points leagues when he takes a single turn in the rotation, but in all formats, he is worth an active roster spot with two starts. Facing the Twins, who rank 27th in weighted on-base average (wOBA) against righties, helps as well.
Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (vs. MIL, at LAD): In his two starts back from the disabled list, Garcia hasn't been missing bats or pitching with pristine control, but he has emerged with a respectable 3.46 ERA over 13 innings of work. Of the 39 hit balls allowed by Garcia, 25 have been grounders, which has gone a long way towards helping him work around a 1.39 WHIP. Garcia stands a good chance of lowering both his WHIP and ERA this week in facing the Brewers and Dodgers. The latter of these matchups might look scary on the surface, but both teams rank in the bottom third in the majors in wOBA against left-handed pitchers.
Mike Foltynewicz, Braves (at ARI): Owners looking to pick up Foltynewicz might think they have a Faustian bargain on their hands. The hard-throwing righty has come through with strikeouts, notching 30 of them in 29 2/3 innings, but his 1.42 WHIP is seemingly indicative of his history of control issues. However, Foltynewicz has been throwing strikes at a higher rate this season, both in the minors and the majors. He is finally seeing the fruits of it with just two walks over his last two starts, covering 12 2/3 innings. At least in one-start weeks, Foltynewicz is a hazard when facing lefty-heavy lineups, but that's not what he will encounter in Arizona this week. If you don't find what you want among the meager two-start options on waivers, add Foltynewicz to your rotation, and enjoy the strikeouts.
Ryan Vogelsong (vs. PIT, at PHI): Early-decade Vogelsong -- the one who routinely outperformed his advanced stats -- has been dormant for a while, but over the past month, he's been making a return engagement. In five May starts, Vogelsong has seen his modest strikeout rate fall and his mediocre ground ball rate rise only slightly, yet he has lowered his ERA from 9.31 to 4.24 and his WHIP from 2.02 to 1.35. In his defense, Vogelsong has overcome some early control issues, and he has walked only nine batters over 31 2/3 innings this month. Much of his improvement can still be chalked up to a .217 BABIP and 91 percent strand rate in May, and those rates are clearly unsustainable.
I don't anticipate starting Vogelsong in the vast majority of weeks going forward, but this is a unique opportunity to give him a try. He has a 3.29 career ERA at AT&T Park, but just in case he isn't lights-out against the Pirates at home, he also gets a road start against the woeful Phillies.
Deeper league options
Michael Wacha, Cardinals (at LAD): I plan on sitting Wacha about as often as I expect to start Vogelsong, which is almost never. The Cardinals' righty -- he of the .239 BABIP and 86 percent strand rate -- is a strong regression candidate, to be sure, but even with lesser luck, he should be safe to use most weeks. Some owners fret at his 5.5 K/9 ratio, but I'm more concerned about his ground ball rate, which has been plummeting over his last three starts. He's been getting grounders at a miniscule 37 percent rate over those outings.
Three starts comprises a small enough sample that it's too early to panic on Wacha, but with a road start at the Dodgers on his docket, I'd have no problem with resting him this week. The Dodgers crush right-handed pitching like no other team, with a .358 wOBA this is 29 points higher than that of the second-ranked Rockies.
Lance Lynn, Cardinals (vs. MIL, at LAD): Lynn gets that same rough matchup against the Dodgers that Wacha does, and it could actually go far worse for him than it does for his teammate. Though Lynn has been extremely tough at home over his career, he has been volatile away from Busch Stadium, with a 4.12 ERA and .415 slugging percentage allowed. He should benefit from a home start against the Brewers, but his disaster potential is so high for his second start that I'm even less inclined to start him this week than Wacha.
Mike Wright, Orioles (at HOU, at CLE): Wright's Thursday start against the White Sox didn't go quite as well as his first two outings, but he has yet to have a bad start in three tries since his callup. Things could go downhill quickly for Wright, given his track record of low whiff rates and high flyball rates. He coughed up a pair of homers against the White Sox, and the Astros and Indians are far greater power threats. There is also the chance that Wright doesn't even make both starts, should Bud Norris re-enter the Orioles' rotation this week, but in any event, Wright is not worth gamble, even in a week where waiver options are limited.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Orioles (at HOU, at CLE): It seems that Jimenez is capable of achieving just about anything, provided a reasonably small sample size. Eventually, though, he always winds up where he started, putting up numbers that do more harm than good. As recently as two starts ago, Jimenez sported a 2.43 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, thanks to an early barrage of ground balls, an otherworldly 24 percent called strikes rate and a .257 BABIP. By early May, the ground balls had ceased to come, and the BABIP and called strikes regression has started with a vengeance in his last two outings. Jimenez's season-to-date stat line is still appealing, but the signs of decline are very much present.
Mike Pelfrey, Twins (at BOS, vs. MIL): With a 22 percent ownership rate in CBSSports.com leagues, Pelfrey is still highly available, but his two-start week, 4-1 record and 2.77 ERA have gained him some traction on our Most Added Players list. For a pitcher who only made the Twins' rotation because of Ervin Santana's PED suspension, he has been remarkably consistent, allowing more than two runs in only two of his nine starts. It's no surprise to see Pelfrey among the major league leaders in contact rate, but he has achieved his success by holding opponents to a .335 slugging percentage. Given that he is getting grounders at a 57 percent rate and allowing flyballs to travel 260 feet on average (per BaseballHeatMaps.com), it's plausible he can continue to limit extra bases.
Still, he's been helped by a 79 percent strand rate, and with regression, his ERA will likely inch towards 4.00. Pelfrey may stave off implosion for another week, but there's not enough upside here to make him worth a pickup in standard mixed leagues.
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