Top 70 starters for Week 25

Which pitchers have been hot down the stretch? Which have turned ice cold? In many cases, it doesn't matter for Fantasy, because it's the longer-term trends that are our best guide to future performance, but some late-season trends are just too strong to ignore. For most of the year, Ryan Vogelsong and Jordan Zimmermann have been among the most reliable pitching options, but both have been mere shadows of themselves lately. Meanwhile, Zach Britton and Derek Holland have emerged as pitchers who need to be noticed -- and used -- in standard mixed leagues.

To gauge the relevance of recent trends for your Fantasy rotation, the focus of the analysis in this week's rankings will be on indicators from the last month. With just a few exceptions, we'll look at stats from August 15 through September 14, and see what difference they make for the assessment of your pitching options.

Of course, not every pitcher who has caught fire over the past month is worthy of starting in a standard mixed league. For example, Ervin Santana has posted a 2.70 ERA since mid-August, but he failed to make the cut in this week's top 70. While his results have been good, his persistent high home run rate and reliance on an unsustainable .181 BABIP and 89 percent strand rate don't bode well for him going forward. But while owners should avoid Santana, even with two starts on tap, there are other waiver options to consider, especially in the lower portions of this week's top 70.

Note: Ground ball and strand rate data, as well as home run per flyball (HR/FB) ratios and xFIPs, are from FanGraphs.

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 25
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Cliff Lee @NYM (Dickey) ATL (Hudson) Last six starts: 0.7 HR/9
Lee has not allowed a home run in five straight starts, and as his HR/FB ratio has normalized, his ERA has been sliding back towards his recent norms.
2 Madison Bumgarner COL (Chacin) SD (Kelly) Last five starts: .370 BABIP
There's been nothing wrong with Bumgarner's peripherals, but with a high proportion of balls in play becoming hits, his ERA and opponents' batting average have soared. Ignore his recent Fantasy stats, as he is one of the safest starts this week.
3 Max Scherzer OAK (Griffin) MIN (De Vries) Last six starts: 1.5 BB/9
For Scherzer, the strikeouts just keep coming, and his control keeps getting better and better, too.
4 Felix Hernandez BAL (Chen) N/A Last six starts: 2.99 xFIP
A 68 percent strand rate gives Hernandez the appearance of a mini-slump over his last half-dozen starts, but the strong command and ground ball tendencies have been there all along.
5 Matt Cain COL (Chatwood) N/A Last six starts: 10 percent swinging strike rate
Cain's K-rate is not where it was earlier in the year, but he is doing just as well when it comes to avoiding contact on swings.
6 David Price BOS (Matuszaka) N/A Last five starts: 8.3 K/9
Price was in a brief strikeout lull in early August, but he has recovered, and his Friday performance against the Yankees should allay any concerns about his cranky shoulder.
7 Justin Verlander OAK (Anderson) N/A Last six starts: .327 BABIP
Verlander has had a couple of poor starts within the last month, but his supporting stats look as good as ever. Some bad luck on balls in play may have been a factor in the bloating of his ERA.
8 Kris Medlen @MIA (Johnson) N/A Last six starts: 72 percent strikes thrown
When your command of the strike zone is as good as Medlen's, that's how you wind up with 50 strikeouts, four walks and a 0.59 ERA over a month's time.
9 Cole Hamels @NYM (McHugh) N/A Last five starts: 15 percent swinging strike rate
Hamels has been getting strikeouts consistently for most of the season, but he's been even more reliable lately. It helps that only Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer have been getting more whiffs over the past month.
10 R.A. Dickey PHI (Lee) N/A Last six starts: 6.5 K/9
Dickey's recent K-rate looks unimpressive, but that figure is weighed down by just two starts, and overall, he is still getting swings-and-misses at a high rate.
11 Clayton Kershaw @CIN (Latos) N/A Last six starts: 10.0 K/9
Assuming Kershaw is ready to go next week, he has a chance to continue his recent string of high strikeout totals.
12 Gio Gonzalez MIL (Peralta) N/A Last five starts: 93 percent strand rate
Gonzalez has been lucky to put up a 1.34 ERA over a five-start span, but he hasn't done anything to lose his must-start status.
13 Yovani Gallardo @PIT (Gallardo) N/A Last six starts: 23 percent called strike rate
Gallardo hasn't been getting many whiffs in his latest starts, but the Ks have been plentiful, as he is making up for it with an abundance of called strikes.
14 Jered Weaver TEX (Holland) N/A Last five starts: Seven percent popup rate
With fewer infield flies than normal, Weaver has allowed a .281 batting average since mid-August, but in tossing seven shutout innings against the A's on Thursday, he showed he is capable of turning things around.
15 Roy Halladay ATL (Minor) N/A Last six starts: 26 percent line drive rate
A high liner rate can be a sign of trouble, but since Halladay is doing a good job of inducing whiffs and avoiding walks, there's reason to continue to have faith in him.
16 Johnny Cueto LAD (Blanton) N/A Last five starts: 3.01 xFIP
With a 4.06 ERA and 1.2 HR/9 over the last month, Cueto's performance has tailed off, but his skills haven't. He is still getting grounders, and he is actually getting Ks at a much higher rate lately.
17 Ryan Dempster @LAA (Santana) @SEA (Millwood) Last five starts: 9.8 K/9
Dempster has cleared the quality start hurdle each of the last five times out, and he has racked up at least seven strikeouts in every one of his last four starts.
18 Adam Wainwright @CHC (Wood) N/A Last six starts: .364 BABIP
Walks have hurt Wainwright in his three most recent starts, but so has an outrageous .467 BABIP that can only get better.
19 Zack Greinke CHW (Peavy) N/A Last five starts: 8.1 K/9
Greinke had trouble missing bats when he first returned to the American League, but he has rung up at least seven strikeouts in three of his last five starts.
20 CC Sabathia TOR (Laffey) N/A Last five starts: 18 percent HR/FB ratio
Sabathia's last two starts have been lackluster, but aside from a three-homer explosion at Camden Yards, there's not much in his stat profile that raises concern.
21 Kyle Lohse HOU (Abad) @CHC (Germano) Last six starts: 37 percent ground ball rate
The slippage in Lohse's ground ball rate makes him a potential home run risk, but as long as he continues to avoid free passes, he can continue to help owners with ERA and WHIP.
22 Jake Peavy @LAA (Greinke) N/A Last five starts: 1.8 HR/9
The long ball has not been a friend to Peavy lately, but even if he can't keep the ball in Angel Stadium, he should continue to be a good source of strikeouts and WHIP.
23 James Shields BOS (Buchholz) N/A Last five starts: .207 BABIP
Shields has reeled off eight consecutive quality starts with some BABIP help, but with his trademark command, he should be able to extend the streak, even if he regresses.
24 A.J. Burnett MIL (Estrada) @HOU (Lyles) Last six starts: .115 Isolated Power
Burnett has had uneven luck with balls in play, but his avoidance of extra-base hits has been fairly constant over the past month.
25 Doug Fister @CHW (Quintana) MIN (Deduno) Last four starts: 61 percent strikes thrown
Fister was unusually wild in his final two starts of August, but he appeared to have turned the corner in his two most recent starts, throwing 64 percent of his pitches for strikes.
26 C.J. Wilson TEX (Darvish) N/A Last six starts: 56 percent strand rate
Wilson has gotten his walk rate under control, but a fluky-low strand rate has created the appearance of continued struggles for the lefty.
27 A.J. Griffin @DET (Scherzer) @NYY (Pettitte) Last three starts: 2.63 xFIP
Since coming off the disabled list, Griffin has been as sharp as ever, getting called strikes and popups at impressive rates.
28 Brett Anderson @DET (Verlander) N/A Last five starts: 1.1 BB/9
Anderson has always had good control, but having thrown nearly two-thirds of his pitches for strikes this year, he has raised the bar even higher.
29 Andy Pettitte TOR (Romero) OAK (Griffin) 16 percent HR/FB (full season)
As good as Pettitte had been before getting shelved, his ERA could have been even lower, as his HR/FB ratio was more than 50 percent above his career average.
30 Chris Sale @KC (Mendoza) N/A Last six starts: 10.2 K/9
Sale is not going as deep into games now, but he continues to give owners what they need in terms of strikeouts, ERA and wins.
31 Yu Darvish @LAA (Wilson) N/A Last five starts: 2.0 BB/9
Darvish as control artist? It's a trend, as he has gone five straight games with no more than two walks.
32 Matt Moore TOR (Villanueva) N/A Last five starts: .342 BABIP
Moore has slacked in the ERA and WHIP categories in recent starts, but especially with a 12 percent popup rate over the past month, it seems that he has been getting a raw deal on balls in play.
33 Marco Estrada @PIT (Burnett) @WAS (Zimmermann) Last six starts: 0.3 HR/9
It's not clear how the flyball-prone righty has avoided homers during his recent stretch, but with a pair of starts away from Miller Park, Estrada could manage stay on a roll.
34 Jeremy Hellickson BOS (Doubront) TOR (Romero) Last six starts: 1.8 BB/9
Hellickson is finishing the season strong, and it hasn't hurt that he is throwing strikes at a higher rate and giving out far fewer walks.
35 Hiroki Kuroda OAK (Straily) N/A Last five starts: 56 percent ground ball rate
Kuroda's grounder rate has been moving northward, so it seems like he deserved a better fate than to allow at least one home run in each of his last five starts. He is safe to start for his matchup against the A's.
36 Josh Johnson ATL (Medlen) N/A Last five starts: 3.7 BB/9
Johnson has been steady, if not spectacular, in recent weeks, but his wildness is enough of a concern that he is more of a midrange option this week, especially with a tough matchup against Kris Medlen and the Braves.
37 Mat Latos LAD (Kershaw) N/A Last five starts: 46 percent ground ball rate
Ever since the All-Star break, the deluge of homers has slowed for Latos, and this promising trend has been supported by stronger ground ball tendencies.
38 Brandon Morrow @TB (Cobb) N/A Last four starts: .379 BABIP
Morrow is sporting a 1.55 WHIP since returning from the DL, but owners should be encouraged by his strikeout-per-inning pace. He's more likely to keep that up than his recent sky-high BABIP rate.
39 Clay Buchholz @TB (Shields) N/A Last five starts: 11 percent swinging strike rate
Buchholz's home run and ground ball rates have underlied some subpar performances of late, but even if that trend doesn't reverse itself, owners can look for some unexpected help in the strikeout category.
40 Dan Haren CHW (Quintana) N/A Last five starts: 7.7 K/BB
Haren is too prone to giving up homers to rank higher, but as long as he keeps throwing strikes like he has lately, he will help with WHIP.
41 Miguel Gonzalez @SEA (Millwood) @BOS (Doubront) Last five starts: 0.6 HR/9
It's an upset for Gonzalez to have given up so few gopher balls when he has been pitching in some of the majors' most notorious home run parks, but he gets a break this week with visits to homer-squelching Safeco Field and homer-neutral Fenway Park.
42 Mike Minor @PHI (Halladay) N/A Last five starts: .081 Isolated Power
Minor's recent hot streak has been underpinned by a strong command of the strike zone and a dearth of extra-base hits. While owners can count on the former to continue, the latter trend is bound to end sooner than later.
43 Tim Hudson @MIA (LeBlanc) @PHI (Lee) Last five starts: 58 percent ground ball rate
Hudson's recent inconsistency and lack of strikeouts would make him a questionable choice as a one-start pitcher, but he's still one of the best at inducing grounders. That makes him viable with a pair of starts.
44 Phil Hughes TOR (Alvarez) N/A Last six starts: .234 BABIP
Most pitchers with a BABIP that low would appear to be regression candidates, but if Hughes' production drops off, it won't be by much. His miniscule BABIP -- and ERA and WHIP -- over the past month have been backed up by a 15 percent popup rate.
45 Ryan Vogelsong SD (Cashner) N/A Last five starts: 2.3 HR/9
Vogelsong has been attacking the strike zone in his recent starts...maybe too much. He's been highly hittable, but his longer track record as a Giant should earn him a reprieve in standard mixed leagues, if not shallower ones.
46 Jonathon Niese MIA (Turner) N/A Last five starts: 83 percent strand rate
Niese's strand rate shows he has overperformed a bit recently, though other solid rate stats show that he is still a reliable option. Then again, with a 1.18 WHIP over his last five starts, it's not as if Niese is putting on a lot of baserunners in the first place.
47 Anibal Sanchez OAK (Milone) N/A Last four starts: 81 percent strand rate
With a 1.69 ERA over the past month, Sanchez may appear to be settling in with the Tigers, but his strand rate is masking mediocre strikeout and ground ball rates. He should be avoided in shallower leagues.
48 Zach Britton @BOS (Lester) N/A Last five starts: 8.7 K/9
It's exciting, though not entirely surprising, that Britton has clamped down on extra-base hits (.043 Isolated Power) this past month, but his contributions to the strikeout category have been an unexpected bonus.
49 Ian Kennedy SD (Stults) @COL (Francis) Last five starts: 9.1 K/9
Kennedy's strikeout resurgence makes him worth starting, albeit as a lower-end option in standard mixed leagues, but his start at Coors Field prevents him from being anything more.
50 Matt Harvey PHI (Cloyd) N/A Last five starts: 36 percent ground ball rate
Sure, Harvey is providing Ks by the truckload, but his low ground ball rate makes him something less than a slam dunk against a Phillies offense that has perked up.
51 Jon Lester BAL (Britton) N/A Last five starts: 1.2 K/BB
On the surface, Lester's past month hasn't looked so bad, but poor command makes him a risky start. If not for his continued ability to get ground balls, he would probably not be a recommended start this week.
52 Jhoulys Chacin @SF (Bumgarner) ARI (Corbin) Last five starts: 2.49 ERA
Chacin has pitched six innings or more only twice in his last five starts, but with two starts, he's a safe option for one of the last two spots in your rotation.
53 Wade Miley @COL (White) N/A Last five starts: 34 percent ground ball rate
Maybe Miley can continue to avoid the home run, but between his sagging ground ball rate and a visit to Coors Field, he is certainly riskier than usual this week.
54 Matt Harrison @SEA (Beavan) N/A Last five starts: 7.4 K/9
Harrison's favorable walk and ground ball rates have taken him a long way this year, but if he can maintain the recent uptick in strikeouts, he becomes all the more valuable.
55 Derek Holland @LAA (Weaver) N/A Last six starts: 4.6 K/BB
Holland has now gone eight straight starts without issuing more than two walks, and meanwhile, he has been amping up his strikeout rate as well.
56 Dan Straily @NYY (Kuroda) N/A 66 percent strikes thrown in four starts
As a flyball pitcher, Straily could get schooled at Yankee Stadium, but with a high strikeout rate and a low walk rate, any homers he allows could be solo jobs.
57 Mike Fiers @PIT (Rodriguez) N/A Last six starts: 4.5 BB/9
Fiers' normally strong command has been spotty down the stretch, but he has shown some improvement over his two most recent starts, throwing 65 percent of his pitches for strikes.
58 Hisashi Iwakuma BAL (Saunders) N/A Last six starts: 0.8 HR/9
Iwakuma's strikeout and walk rates are fine, though they don't seem to add up to the 1.80 ERA he has compiled over the past month. His ability to prevent home runs, though, makes him good enough to start.
59 Tim Lincecum COL (Francis) SD (Werner) Last six starts: 57 percent ground ball rate
Lincecum is still walking too many batters, but he's been getting more grounders for awhile now, so at least his recent homer binge should come to an end soon.
60 Jordan Zimmermann LAD (Harang) MIL (Estrada) Last five starts: 34 percent line drive rate
Zimmermann has been getting clobbered for a solid month, but the fact that he only allowed one extra-base hit against the Mets on Tuesday offers some hope for a late turnaround.
61 Jason Vargas TEX (Feldman) N/A Last five starts: 1.8 HR/9
Vargas' recent homer rate is ugly, but it reflects his usual pattern. Over the past month, he has allowed only one homer in three home games, but in two road games, batters left the building five times. Welcome back to Safeco Field, Jason.
62 Jaime Garcia @CHC (Volstad) N/A Last five starts: 17 percent HR/FB ratio
The good news is that Garcia's HR/FB ratio is primed to drop eventually, especially when he pitches at Busch Stadium. The bad news is that he visits Wrigley Field instead this week, and over the past month, all of the homers he has allowed have been on the road.
63 Alex Cobb BOS (Cook) TOR (Morrow) Last five starts: 3.31 xFIP
Cobb hasn't been a reliable producer lately, but he's doing just about everything right. According to xFIP, with better luck and defense, he could have had an ERA well under 3.50 over the past month.
64 Wandy Rodriguez MIL (Fiers) N/A Last six appearances (five starts): 0.3 HR/9
Rodriguez has been better lately, and it's helped that he's been pitching more often at PNC Park. He gets another home start in Week 25.
65 Ross Detwiler LAD (Capuano) N/A Last six starts: 3.09 ERA
Detwiler doesn't do anything flashy, but he is just efficient and effective enough to be worth a try in standard mixed leagues.
66 Paul Maholm @MIA (Eovaldi) N/A Last six starts: 3.64 xFIP
Maholm's mid-summer hot streak is well behind him now, but he's still good enough at keeping the ball down to be useful as a back-of-the-rotation option.
67 Bronson Arroyo @CHC (Berken) N/A Last six starts, 45 percent ground ball rate
Arroyo's low walk rate and WHIP are reasons enough to start him, but the recent rise is his ground ball rate could give you extra incentive if you needed it.
68 Mike Leake @CHC (Germano) LAD (Harang) Last six starts: 23 percent HR/FB
Leake continues his tour of ballparks geared towards offense, which so far has lifted his home run rate to stratospheric heights. However, he had not allowed a homer at Wrigley Field in two prior starts this year, and the Cubs have not hit for much power lately.
69 Joe Kelly HOU (Norris) N/A Last six appearances (four starts): 6.9 K/9
Kelly has been a good ground ball pitcher, but the recent uptick in his K-rate, plus a choice matchup, make him an intriguing option to fill out your rotation this week.
70 Wei-Yin Chen @SEA (Hernandez) N/A Last five starts: 8.2 K/9
Two trends point in Chen's favor this week: he's been striking out close to a batter per inning since the All-Star break, and he is less prone to homers on the road.

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Data Analyst

Al Melchior has been playing Fantasy Baseball since 1994, getting his start in the Southern Maryland Anthropomorphic Baseball League (SMABL). He has been writing about Fantasy Baseball since 2000, getting... Full Bio

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