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With Fantasy Week 16 (July 20-26), normality makes its return, as owners get to enjoy a full-week scoring period for the first time since before the All-Star break. The only remnants from the break are the holes in many of the rotations that still remain, as managers bide their time in fully setting their sequence of starters.
That means there are a few question marks heading into the coming week. However, given that most teams' aces are beginning the second half with a start this weekend, it will be middle- and back-of-the-rotation types who will be getting two starts in Week 16. More than in a typical week, it will pay to check our probable pitchers page right through Monday's lineup deadline. While there is no dilemma in starting your one-start studs, borderline options like Lance McCullers, Matt Shoemaker and Mat Latos may need a pair of starts to be worth your consideration.
Top pitching target: Kendall Graveman, SP/RP, Athletics (58 percent owned)
With so many rotations still unsettled going into the weekend, there aren't that many available pitchers who are definitely slated to make two starts and are viable in standard mixed leagues. Graveman is one of the few to fit these criteria. His first start against the Blue Jays could be a challenge, but the Toronto lineup is far less fearsome away from Rogers Center; they are only slightly more productive than the Angels or Twins when they play on the road (as measured by weighted on-base average). Then he and the A's will head across the bay to face the Giants, who do make a lot of contact against righties, but only with moderate power.
Barring matchups with a high degree of difficulty, Graveman has proven himself trustworthy as a two-start option. He has been consistent since returning to the A's rotation in late May, and what he lacks in terms of strikeout potential, he makes up for with his ability to go deep into games and avoid extra-base hits.
Start/Sit dilemma: Lance McCullers, SP, Astros (40 percent started)
McCullers is one of those starters still in limbo for Week 16. If he gets the nod to start on Tuesday against the Red Sox, then he lines up for a second start at the Royals. If held back until Wednesday, McCullers' start against Boston would be his only one of the week.
His ERA continues to sit in the mid-2.00s, and he is still averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings, so with stats like those, McCullers may seem safe to use even with one start. On the surface, McCullers has stayed the course over his last four starts with a 2.63 ERA, but he has gotten away with questionable control (61 percent strikes thrown, 11 walks over 24 innings) and a mediocre 8 percent whiff rate. McCullers had been much better prior to this pre-break stretch, so if you are lacking a reliable option for the back of your rotation, he is worth the gamble. However, there are sufficient reasons for concern that there is no need to cram him into your rotation at all costs.
Avoid Ian Kennedy, SP, Padres (22 percent started)
Kennedy has two scheduled starts at home, against the Giants and Marlins, but his 6.18 ERA at PETCO Park this season isn't the only reason to keep him on your bench or on waivers. In the months of June and July, Kennedy has produced better results with a 2.98 ERA over eight starts, and that could give him the appearance of being viable this week. However, he continued to be all too amenable to the long ball, allowing eight home runs over 45 1/3 innings and a .491 slugging percentage. Kennedy simply offers too much disaster potential to be trusted.
The kids are just alright: Early in the week, a pair of prospects are set to make their major league debuts. On Monday, Brian Johnson will toe the slab for the Red Sox against the Angels, and that lines him up for a weekend encore against the Tigers. Aaron Nola will make his much anticipated debut for the Phillies against the Rays on Tuesday. Both prospects have made their mark primarily by being good control pitchers, though both have taken their strikeout game up a notch after reaching Triple-A. Johnson, who is owned in 21 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, could be worth a flier, especially in deeper leagues, though his matchups aren't especially favorable. Nola does get a break in facing the Rays, but with only one start, he is also merely a deep-league option.
In the event that they perform at the level of their respective upsides, it's not a bad idea to stash Johnson and Nola in standard mixed leagues, but neither is a strong candidate for your starting rotation in the short run.