Note: FanDuel is hosting a one-day Fantasy Baseball league tonight. It's $5 to enter and pays out $100,000 in cash prizes. First place wins $10,000. Sign up now!
You know when you have reached Fantasy Week 20 (Aug. 17-23), things are starting to get intense, particularly if you are still in the hunt for a title. If only there some widely-available, safe pitchers scheduled for two starts in the coming week to give you a leg up on the competition...
Unfortunately, there is no one in the mold of steady-but-unspectacular Kyle Hendricks or Brett Anderson to rely on this week, but that doesn't mean your league's waiver wire will be completely devoid of reasonable two-start options. Five starters in particular stand out as worthy of consideration. Nathan Eovaldi full-season stat line still bears the scars of his earlier struggles, but he has been solid of late. Carlos Rodon has serious strikeout potential, but with six of his 16 starts having produced games scores below 40, there is more than a minimal risk of an implosion. Raisel Iglesias has similar feast-or-famine potential. Kevin Gausman and Kyle Gibson are less combustible but have milder strikeout appeal.
Each choice has his flaws, as is typical of pitchers who have been banished to waivers, but which one you favor could depend on where you are in the standings. If you're trying to protect a lead, you may want to go the safer route, but if going over the top with upside is your only chance to make a move, then you're probably choosing between Rodon and Iglesias.
I'll go over my preferences for each strategy, starting with the safe pick.
Top pitching target for standard and shallow mixed leagues: Nathan Eovaldi, Yankees (vs. MIN, vs. CLE, 67 percent owned)
I never imagined I would try to convince anyone that Eovaldi would be the safest option among any group of pitchers, but that's exactly how I view him for the coming week. His most recent start, in which he allowed four runs against the Indians, was the first time since his June 16 meltdown in Miami that Eovaldi allowed more than three runs in an outing. Over his most recent 10 starts, Eovaldi has gone 7-0 with a 3.22 ERA. Since the beginning of July, he has posted a ground ball rate greater than 50 percent in each start for a cumulative rate of 59 percent.
Despite an upper 90s fastball that occasionally tops 100 mph, Eovaldi is still not a strikeout pitcher. Even during his 10-start hot streak, he has recorded just 42 Ks in 58 2/3 innings, but in a two-start week, that rate is high enough. Eovaldi has fared well recently against good lineups, such as those of the Blue Jays, Orioles and White Sox. However, if you are still worried about matchups, the Twins and Indians haven't been world-beaters, particularly since the break.
High-risk, high-reward pitching target: Raisel Iglesias, Reds (vs. KC, vs. ARI, 23 percent owned)
As mentioned above, Iglesias and Rodon are the pitchers who have the greatest strikeout potential among those who are likely to be available, but both could conceivably ruin your title hopes with one bad start. Iglesias is a flyball-leaning pitcher who has given up bunches of extra-base hits during certain stretches while in the Reds' rotation. Rodon has been far stingier with extra bases, but his wildness (5.0 K/9, 60 percent strikes thrown) has been a hazard to his ERA (4.61) and WHIP (1.60).
Iglesias gets the edge here, because he has made notable improvement in his weakest area while generating better results in recent starts. In his three August outings, Iglesias has held opponents to a .281 slugging percentage while posting a 60 percent ground ball rate. It's not such a large sample that owners should ignore the risk that Iglesias still presents, but it's a hopeful sign that makes him a little more trustworthy than his White Sox's counterpart.
Reality check: Chris Tillman was my top pick for Week 18, but he failed to make either of his scheduled starts for the Orioles due to a sprained left ankle. When he finally returned to face the Mariners on Tuesday, Tillman bore little resemblance to the pitcher who had put up a 1.09 ERA in his previous six starts. He never recovered from a rocky first inning in which he gave up home runs to Nelson Cruz and Mark Trumbo and was out of the game by the third inning.
Despite the poor outing, Tillman continued to do the things that helped him to succeed prior to his injury. He exhibited strong control, throwing 47 of his 72 pitches for strikes and not issuing a single walk, and he induced seven grounders, as compared to three flies and three liners. Tillman also continued to throw a softer changeup, averaging 82.6 mph (per BrooksBaseball.net) and creating more than a 10 mph differential between his changeup and fastballs (both four-seam and sinker).
Once again, Tillman lines up for two starts, as he is scheduled to face the Athletics and Twins at home. He looks riskier now than he did two weeks ago, but he has favorable matchups, and his process in his most recent start appeared to be solid. If you missed out on Eovaldi and don't want to assume the risk of starting Iglesias or Rodon, Tillman could be a viable option, as he is currently available in 29 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com.