Week 25 Fantasy Pitching Planner

The Fantasy season winds down to a conclusion in Week 25 (Sept. 19-28), but it also comes full circle. Just as the first week of our Fantasy schedule lasted more than seven days, thanks to the regular season starting on a Thursday, we end the year with another super-sized scoring period. With a 10- day "week", two-start pitchers become the norm, while one-start pitchers are the rarity. With the vast majority of starting pitchers taking to the mound twice, most roster choices will be based on the quality of the pitchers in question and on matchups, as the one-start/two-start divide is mostly irrelevant. For many of this week's 40 one-start pitchers, being at a disadvantage won't make much of a difference. It's hard to sit elite hurlers like Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez in any circumstance, while low-end types like Brad Hand and Everett Teaford would be sitting out a normal one-start week in nearly every league anyway.

This is the one week in which owners need to be aware of the coming MLB playoffs. The top pitchers on contending teams need to be assured of getting rest for the first game or two of their teams' divisional series, so as a result, they may have their last starts of the year shortened or skipped altogether. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Cole Hamels and Tim Hudson all line up to make a start in one of their teams' last two games, so each is a candidate to get something less than two full starts in Week 25. Owners may also need to take a cautious approach with Johnny Cueto (strained lat) and Stephen Strasburg (tentative start on Sept. 28), and each is downgraded accordingly in this week's rankings.

To see the ratings for each pitcher scheduled to make a start or two this coming scoring period, look them up in the interactive tool just below. To see who cracked this week's top 70 and where they rank, those listings are a little further down the page, along with more detailed analysis of some of next week's borderline rotation options.

Important Note: Many leagues are using a seven-day scoring period in Week 25. To identify the one- and two-start pitchers for a seven-day period, deselect Sept. 26-28 in the tool's date filter.

Borderline Two-Start Pitchers

Trevor Cahill, Oakland: Cahill's value as a Fantasy pitcher continues its downward spiral. After a strong 2010 campaign, Cahill looked like someone who could start nearly every week, even in shallower formats. After some midseason struggles, the 23-year-old appeared to be safe to use in standard mixed leagues, but only when he was pitching at home or against a weak opponent. Now Cahill has five straight starts without exceeding six innings, and his ERA over that span is 6.75. For this final week of the year, standard mixed league owners should disregard Cahill, even though he winds up his season with a start at Seattle.

Bartolo Colon, N.Y. Yankees: Colon has experienced a mild rebound, posting two very good starts out of his last three. Granted, both starts came against lesser lineups (the Orioles and Angels), but even more important, they occurred away from Yankee Stadium. The homer-prone Colon has a 2.96 ERA in his road starts, as he has been allowing fewer dingers away from his home park's wind tunnel. He does get a home start in Week 25 against the Rays, but he also gets a second start at the Rays' pitcher- friendly park. That should help Colon to have a fairly productive week to end the season.

Al's Top 70 for Week 25
Pitcher Opponents
1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies STL, @NYM
2. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies WAS, @NYM
3. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants @LAD, @ARI
4. Ian Kennedy, SP, D'backs PIT, SF
5. Dan Haren, SP, Angels @TOR, TEX
6. Jered Weaver, SP, Angels OAK, TEX
7. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers SF, @SD
8. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies @NYM, @ATL
9. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees TB, @TB
10. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers BAL
11. Zack Greinke, SP, Brewers FLA
12. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox @NYY, @BAL
13. Daniel Hudson, SP, D'backs PIT, LAD
14. Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants @LAD, COL
15. Ricky Romero, SP, Blue Jays LAA, @TB
16. Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers FLA, PIT
17. David Price, SP, Rays TOR
18. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners @TEX
19. Vance Worley, SP/RP, Phillies WAS, @ATL
20. Javier Vazquez, SP, Marlins ATL, WAS
21. Gio Gonzalez, SP, Athletics @LAA, @SEA
22. Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Indians CHW, @DET
23. Matt Garza, SP, Cubs MIL, @SD
24. Doug Fister, SP, Tigers BAL, CLE
25. Ervin Santana, SP, Angels @TOR, TEX
26. Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves @WAS
27. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals CHC, @HOU
28. C.J. Wilson, SP, Rangers @OAK, @LAA
29. Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox BAL, @BAL
30. Ivan Nova, SP, Yankees TB, BOS
31. Shaun Marcum, SP, Brewers @CHC, PIT
32. Matt Cain, SP, Giants @ARI
33. Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals NYM, @HOU
34. Jeremy Hellickson, SP/RP, Rays @NYY, NYY
35. Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros @CIN, STL
36. Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies SD, @SF
37. R.A. Dickey, SP, Mets PHI, CIN
38. Mat Latos, SP, Padres @COL, CHC
39. Ryan Vogelsong, SP/RP, Giants @LAD, COL
40. Anibal Sanchez, SP, Marlins ATL, WAS
41. Jeff Niemann, SP, Rays @NYY, NYY
42. Mark Buehrle, SP, White Sox @CLE, TOR
43. James Shields, SP, Rays @NYY, NYY
44. Randy Wolf, SP, Brewers @CHC, PIT
45. Tim Hudson, SP, Braves @WAS, PHI
46. Derek Holland, SP, Rangers @OAK, SEA
47. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals ATL, @FLA
48. Colby Lewis, SP, Rangers @OAK, @LAA
49. Edwin Jackson, SP, Cardinals NYM, CHC
50. Phil Hughes, SP, Yankees TB, @TB
51. Justin Masterson, SP, Indians MIN, @DET
52. Ricky Nolasco, SP, Marlins ATL, @MIL
53. Josh Collmenter, SP, D'backs SF, LAD
54. Cory Luebke, SP/RP, Padres @COL, LAD
55. Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers @KC, CLE
56. Brandon McCarthy, SP, Athletics TEX, @SEA
57. Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox @CLE, KC
58. Ted Lilly, SP, Dodgers @SD, @ARI
59. Roy Oswalt, SP, Phillies WAS, @ATL
60. Matt Harrison, SP/RP, Rangers SEA, @LAA
61. Bud Norris, SP, Astros @CIN, COL
62. Philip Humber, SP/RP, White Sox @CLE, TOR
63. Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Dodgers SF, @ARI
64. Homer Bailey, SP, Reds HOU, @NYM
65. Alexi Ogando, SP/RP, Rangers SEA
66. Bartolo Colon, SP, Yankees TB, @TB
67. Mike Minor, SP, Braves @FLA, @WAS
68. Erik Bedard, SP, Red Sox BAL, @BAL
69. Jason Vargas, SP, Mariners @MIN, OAK
70. Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners @MIN

Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox: Like Colon, Floyd has had a tough time coping with pitching in his home park, and he does have a start at U.S. Cellular Field next week against the Royals. Though the Royals' offense has been surprisingly stout, they haven't been scoring that much via the long ball, as they rank 11th in the American League in homers. They may not be that much of a threat to Floyd in his one home start, and his other start comes at offense-squelching Progressive Field in Cleveland. This appears to be a week in which you can use the White Sox's righty in standard mixed leagues.

Rich Harden, Oakland: If not for the gopherball, Harden would be having an awfully good season. His 10.1 K/9 rate and 2.9 K/BB ratio would be the envy of most pitchers, but too many long balls have sent his ERA into the upper 4.00s. Not surprisingly, Harden has been much better when pitching in Oakland, as his 4.02 ERA and 1.19 WHIP show that he has been decent, if not especially good, at home. Owners shouldn't expect great things from Harden's Tuesday home start against the slugging Rangers, but if he can avoid a disaster there, he could turn in a productive week with a second start at the Angels. The latter start will provide Harden with another favorable venue and an underwhelming lineup to tackle.

Matt Harrison, Texas: For now, Harrison projects to be a two-start pitcher next week, but the Rangers have the option of flipping him behind Alexi Ogando in the rotation. That would rob Harrison of his second start of the week. At minimum, Harrison will get a matchup with the Mariners. The Seattle lineup has made lesser pitchers than Harrison look good, and the southpaw has allowed only three runs in the 14 2/3 innings he has tossed against the M's this year. Even with one start, Harrison is worth an active roster spot in standard mixed leagues.

Derek Holland, Texas: Holland has teased us before, but maybe he is finally leaving his inconsistency behind him. While he has had some spectacular moments throughout the season, this is by far Holland's longest stretch of solid performances. He has posted quality starts in four straight games and in six out of his last seven. Holland's strikeout rate, which has lagged for most of the season, has spiked over his seven-start streak, as he has fanned 44 batters over 45 1/3 innings. It also helps that he will face the A's and Mariners this week, so Holland could finish the year with a bang.

Hiroki Kuroda, L.A. Dodgers: After registering his third straight sub-quality start on Sunday, Kuroda acknowledged that he has been bothered by neck problems. The health issue is apparently not a serious one, so it's not clear how much of a role it had played in his recent slump. Kuroda has had some rough periods earlier in the season, and he has overcome them, and his strong start against the Pirates on Friday was a step in the right direction. He's a risky option to be sure, but the potential for a sustained rebound is still there, so he's edged his way into the top 70 this week. That makes him a last resort in standard mixed leagues.

Kyle Lohse, St. Louis: Lohse has been better in his two most recent starts, but those appearances were preceded by an awful pair of starts against the not-so-mighty Dodgers and Pirates. His first two months were so productive (7-2, 2.13 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) that they continue to bolster his overall season stat line. However, Lohse owed much of that early success to a fluky .233 BABIP, which has regressed to .298 in the three-and-a-half months since. Now that he's not benefitting from good luck or the elevated ground ball rate that he established over the early weeks, Lohse can't be trusted in most mixed league formats.

Mike Minor, Atlanta: Minor, much like Lohse, has been impacted by a recent BABIP correction, but in Minor's case, the change in fortune is good news. After allowing opposing batters to hit .375 against him on balls in play over his first eight starts, that rate has improved to .333 in his last five times out. Some of the improvement is due to a lower line drive rate, but either way, Minor is seeing much better results. The Marlins and Nationals are not very formidable opponents, so Minor is a viable option in standard mixed leagues this week, even though he is still not going very deep into games.

Brett Myers, Houston: The barrage of home runs that had battered Myers for most of the season has slowed to a relative trickle. Since his July 31 start at Milwaukee, hitters have gone yard against Myers five times in 64 innings, as he has increased his ground ball rate over those ten appearances. Myers has been on an especially good run lately, allowing only one earned run in each of his last four starts, but it seems a little too good to be true. After all, two of those starts were in pitcher- friendly San Francisco and Pittsburgh and a third was against the power-starved Cubs (11 home runs in September). There is no denying that Myers is pitching better than he did for most of the season, but he hasn't proven enough to be trusted in standard mixed leagues.

Drew Pomeranz, Colorado: Pomeranz's stock has risen sharply since his callup, and he rewarded owners right away with five innings of shutout ball in his major league debut. The former first- round pick has a world of potential, but he is extremely green. His Sunday start against the Reds was just his sixth above Class A ball. Even in his limited time in professional ball, Pomeranz has struggled with control at times, as was in evidence on Sunday, when he threw only 36 of 63 pitches for strikes. He was actually more impressive in his second start against the Giants, even though he coughed up a pair of runs. Pomeranz will continue to be on a pitch count, so owners looking for a sleeper to help them in Week 25 should look for someone more established, even in most deeper leagues.

Rick Porcello, Detroit: Porcello has been one of the most activated pitchers on CBSSports.com over the past week. The excitement over the 22-year-old is understandable, as he has racked up 49 Fantasy points over the last two weeks. Prior to Saturday's loss to the A's, Porcello had won three consecutive decisions, and while he has pitched well of late, he is also getting a huge amount of run support from the red-hot Tigers lineup. Even in the midst of his productive run, Porcello is striking out roughly a batter every other inning, just as he has done all year. With all of the contact he allows, Porcello is too reliant on his defense -- and his offense -- to earn him Ws. That's too much risk to take, even with a team as hot as the Tigers, when you're trying to seal a title in Fantasy's final week.

Stephen Strasburg, Washington: In his first three starts, Strasburg hasn't done anything to dissuade Fantasy owners from using him. The only concerns for Strasburg have to do with the decisions made by his team's management. Pitch counts will put a damper on Strasburg's value, and manager Davey Johnson may also opt to skip him on the last day of the season, when he is scheduled to face the Marlins. Assuming that Strasburg does get to make both of his starts, he could, at minimum, provide enough production in those appearances to equal a single great start of seven or eight innings. That's production that standard mixed league owners won't want to miss out on, even in this extended scoring period.

Jason Vargas, Seattle: It's been a second half to forget for Vargas, as his ERA has soared above 6.00 since the All-Star break. Earlier in the year, Vargas was viable in some two-start weeks, but he's been a forgotten man since he hit the skids. Part of the downturn is due to the schedule; Vargas hasn't faced many patsies in the second half. For the most part, though, he has handled his easier matchups well, and in Week 25, Vargas gets the Twins and A's. The lefty could be a surprisingly good back-of-the-rotation option in standard mixed leagues.

Randy Wells, Chicago Cubs: Owners started to notice Wells' resurgence a few weeks ago, and he has continued to roll in his recent starts. Coming into Thursday's tilt with the Reds, Wells had rolled off four straight quality starts, but owners should keep in mind that three of those came against the Giants, Pirates and a struggling Mets squad. Wells may not have any problems with the Padres, but his first start of Week 25 comes against the Brewers. That could be a very tough test, especially for a pitcher who has allowed too many home runs this year, including two on Thursday. Wells is a perfectly reasonable option in deeper mixed leagues, but standard mixed league owners can find a safer, more reliable option.

Randy Wolf, Milwaukee: Wolf has a reputation for being inconsistent, but he's been anything but during the second half of this season. He has failed to record a quality start only three times in 12 second-half starts, and two of those were against the hard-hitting Cardinals. Though Wolf has been missing bats less often, he isn't getting hit hard, as evidenced by improvement in his home run, line drive and popup rates. Wolf isn't issuing many free passes either, walking only 21 batters over his last 82 1/3 innings. Owners have been burned by Wolf in the past, so this may be hard to believe, but he's more than just a marginal option for standard mixed leagues this coming week.

Other Add/Activate Targets

Henderson Alvarez, Toronto: You wouldn't necessarily expect this from a 21-year-old promoted straight from Double-A, but Alvarez put up 30-plus Fantasy point weeks in each of the previous two scoring periods. The formula for success that worked so well in the minors -- pinpoint control and strong ground ball tendencies -- has carried over to the majors, and he used it to hold the Yankees in check on Saturday before yielding a three-run bomb to Alex Rodriguez in his sixth and final inning. Though Alvarez has exceeded expectations, he has turned in a couple of clunkers in his brief big league career, so it's premature to use him in standard mixed leagues. However, he is worth using in any format deeper than that, especially with decent matchups with the Angels and White Sox.

James McDonald, Pittsburgh: McDonald is one of our most-dropped pitchers this week. Some of that probably has to do with him getting cut after completing a two-start Week 23, and some of it surely has to do with two straight poor outings. Even though he'll get just one turn in the rotation in Week 25, he could actually be useful in deeper mixed leagues. His last home start against Florida was a flop, but McDonald has been very good at PNC Park overall this year. He's also been decent against next week's opponent, the Reds, with a 3.86 ERA in four starts in 2011. Given McDonald's sinking ownership rate, he could be available in many deeper leagues, and he's worth a pickup in those formats.

Michael Pineda, Seattle: Pineda hit a rough patch during the midseason, but he's recovered well. Only once in his last seven starts has the rookie failed to post a quality start, and he's improved an already-impressive strikeout rate while maintaining a lower-than-average walk rate. The only worry owners should have about Pineda is his long layoff, as he will have had 11 days between starts. It's hard to know how he will respond to his hiatus, but you could still do worse with your last standard mixed league rotation spot.

Other Drop/Stash Targets

Chad Billingsley, L.A. Dodgers: Billingsley has been so consistent from year to year that it seemed inevitable that, at some point, he would break out of his second-half funk. Time is running out, and it just hasn't happened. Billingsley's strikeout and walk rates have been trending in the wrong direction, and he and his owners have paid the price in the form of a 5.11 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in the second half, entering Sunday's start against the Pirates. Perhaps with two starts, owners could give Billingsley one more chance to show his usual form, but he's just not worth the risk outside of deeper leagues with one start.

John Danks, Chicago White Sox: Last week, I wrote about how Danks has been a hard-luck pitcher all season. Though that has been the case, at least in his last three starts heading into Sunday, Danks had created some of his own problems. He had not been getting many grounders, while he had put too many batters on with walks. Danks had a better day on Sunday against the Royals, getting 13 groundouts and issuing zero walks, but he still gave up 10 hits (and three earned runs) over six innings with no strikeouts. Danks has compiled better skill stats than Billingsley has this year, but like the Dodgers' righty, he has left us with too many question marks to trust him with a single start this week.

Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs: Dempster rounds out our trio of disappointing hurlers. He has actually performed decently over the last several weeks, as only one out of his last 11 starts has fallen short of the quality start criteria (6 IP, 3 ER). While he has avoided blowups, he has rarely excelled during his recent stretch. In fact, he has been a hazard in the WHIP category, posting a 1.42 mark over his last 11 starts. Dempster has simply allowed too many walks and too many line drive base hits. That's not what standard mixed league owners will be looking for from a one-start pitcher next week.

Might Not Start in Week 25

Most Added Pitchers
* as of Sept. 18
Player % increase
1. Jason Motte, RP, Cardinals 15
2. Brett Myers, SP, Astros 8
3. Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers 5
4. Drew Pomeranz, SP, Rockies 5
5. Jim Johnson, RP, Orioles 5
6. Javier Vazquez, SP, Marlins 4
7. Derek Holland, SP, Rangers 3
8. Doug Fister, SP, Tigers 3
9. Edwin Jackson, SP, Cardinals 3
10. A.J. Burnett, SP, Yankees 3

Johnny Cueto/Travis Wood, Cincinnati: Cueto left his start on Wednesday against the Cubs with a strained lat, and he has been scratched from his next start. There is some chance that Cueto will be shut down for the season, but at least for now, he will get one more start later in Week 25.

Jeanmar Gomez, Cleveland: Gomez left his start on Saturday against the Twins with a leg injury, and now he is at risk of possibly missing at least one of his two starts in Week 25.

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota: Liriano (shoulder) was activated from the DL on Friday, and he has already made an appearance out of the bullpen. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that he expects to start Liriano in one of the doubleheader games at Cleveland on Saturday, though he will be on a strict pitch count and may not exceed three innings.

Tim Stauffer, San Diego: Stauffer has tightness in his right forearm, so he will not make his next scheduled start, which falls on Wednesday at Colorado. His turn in the rotation will be taken by Anthony Bass. Stauffer is expected to return for his final scheduled start of the season against the Cubs.

Alex Torres, Tampa Bay: Torres was recalled from Triple-A Durham by the Rays on Wednesday. He will mainly be filling a relief role, but he is a leading candidate to make a spot start next week. The Rays will need a sixth starter due to their Wednesday doubleheader with the Yankees.

Dontrelle Willis/Travis Wood, Cincinnati: Willis missed Sunday's start against the Brewers with back spasms. There is a chance that he could start on Monday against the Astros, which would then make him a two-start pitcher for the coming week. If he returns in his normal spot in the rotation, he will have just one lone start in Week 25, though even that is in question for now. Wood will get the start on Monday if Willis isn't ready.

Injury Watch

Erik Bedard, Boston: Bedard (lat, knee) is scheduled to return to the Red Sox's rotation on Tuesday to face the Orioles. It will be his first start since Sept. 3.

Tommy Hanson, Atlanta: Hanson (shoulder) will pitch a simulated game on Monday. He may need to pitch a second sim game, with the ultimate goal being to make a start for the Braves before the end of the regular season.

Josh Tomlin, Cleveland: Tomin (elbow) threw a bullpen session on Saturday, and he will pitch a two-inning simulated game in between the games of Tuesday's doubleheader against the White Sox. If all goes well, Tomlin may start one of the Indians' doubleheader games against the Twins on Sept. 24.

Johan Santana, N.Y. Mets Santana pitched a simulated game on Sunday. However, the Mets' organization has decided that Santana (shoulder) will not pitch in a major league game this season. He is expected to be ready for opening day next season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyBB . You can also follow Al on Twitter ( @almelcbs ) and can e-mail us your questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Pitching Planner in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories
    CBS Sports Shop