by Ray Kuhn
As we embark on the fifth full week of the fantasy baseball season we turn the calendar towards May. At this point teams and standings, both in MLB and in fantasy, are beginning to take shape. There is an increasing body of work to consider when making your lineup choices. Conversely, some of your decision making may be hamstrung due to injuries. Highlighted below are just some of the possibilities as you set your roster for the upcoming week. The categorization of the below starters is based on multiple factors including past performance, performance this season, expectations entering this season and the opponents the pitcher is facing.
Studs that should never be benched:
Brandon Beachy – vs. Philadelphia and @ Colorado
Matt Cain – vs. Miami and vs. Milwaukee
Yu Darvish – @ Toronto and @ Cleveland
Cole Hamels – @ Atlanta and @ Washington
Felix Hernandez – @ Tampa Bay and vs. Minnesota
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
Mark Buehrle – vs. Arizona and @ San Diego. As I’m sure you have been able to tell based on past columns, I tend to be partial to pitchers pitching in San Diego during the upcoming week. Granted he is not a strikeout pitcher, but thus far this season Buehrle has issued 3 walks, total, and in every start has given up 3 ER or less. Most likely you will not be disappointed.
R.A Dickey – @ Houston and vs. Arizona. Again another steady, soft tossing hurler with not a lot of potential but not too much downside. Dickey has one stinker thus far this, year but each of his other starts have yielded 1 or 2 ER and he actually has two outings with 7 strikeouts. Neither outing should pose too much of a threat and at least Dickey should provide two quality starts.
Matt Moore – vs. Seattle and vs. Oakland. It could be debated that Moore belongs in the stud category, especially with two home matchups against middling offenses. So far he has not gone incredibly deep into games and has had some control problems, but his ERA of 4.68 could be misleading as he only has one outing of more than 3 earned runs. Moore should be started without hesitation.
Adam Wainwright – vs. Pittsburgh and @ Houston. We know the talent is there, and Wainwright says that he is healthy. The cause for optimism is there as he just turned in his best start in every facet – innings, earned runs and strikeouts. I would judge that start as foreshadowing to what can be expected from him going forward. After missing all of last season due to injury, he was allowed a few starts to work the kinks out.
Jordan Zimmerman – vs. Arizona and vs. Philadelphia. Despite the pitch count imposed on him, he has three outings of 7 innings and one of 6 this season. That shows that he is attacking hitters and not making too many, if any, mistakes. The fact there was only one start in which he walked a batter, 2 that game, and he has given up 1 earned run in each of his starts thus far proves that theory. Zimmerman is fast becoming a top starting pitcher.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation:
Jason Hammel – @ New York Yankees and @ Boston. With his 1.73 ERA Hammel is proving to be a wise addition by the Orioles. Thus far Toronto is the best offense he has faced, so he will have to step up the effort based on the opponents. Prior to this season Hammel would be benched for sure against these two teams. He is only being considered based on his fast start. I would be conservative and leave him on the bench this week if there are better options available to you.
Ubaldo Jimenez – @ Chicago White Sox and vs. Texas. Although he has not been able to fully recreate his sensation first half of two years ago, there are still flashes of skill and talent here. He has been giving up lots of base runners and has not been overpowering in the strikeout department. It doesn’t seem that there is much value here and two ugly performances could do some damage to your WHIP. Based on the first start of the week, he would not be a horrible play but the Texas start is questionable. Most likely there are not too many better options out there, so he will likely be starting in most leagues.
Hiroki Kuroda – vs. Baltimore and @ Kansas City. These are two matchups the Yankees should win, giving Kuroda a good chance to earn two wins for your squad. He is a solid starter capable of pitching deep into the game and, even in his bad outing against Minnesota this year, he did not walk anybody. Kuroda should be started this week.
Mike Minor- vs. Pittsburgh and @ Colorado. There is always some hesitation about starting a pitcher in Coors Field, but not as much as in years past. Aside from 4 walks in his first outing of the season, Minor has been avoiding giving batters free passes. He has also shown the ability to strike batters out. He is a smart pitcher and one of the top young pitchers in baseball. I would start Minor without much hesitation.
Bud Norris – vs. New York Mets and vs. St. Louis. Norris started out the season well but has regressed some in his last two starts. The start against Washington was just a mess for Norris, but manager Brad Mills showed patience in letting Norris pitch out of trouble (which he was able to do well enough to earn a win). In his other poor start, Norris was good for most of it until he issued 3 HR over his two innings. He has the ability to strike batters out and work around trouble. Depending on your options, Norris is worth a start.
Three for Thought:
Clay Buchholz – vs. Oakland and vs. Baltimore. Following in injury plagued 2011 there was some optimism for him entering this season. So far this season has been, to be kind, a disaster in the ERA and WHIP departments though he has earned two wins. Against two subpar offenses, those hunting some wins might want to start Buchholz, but be aware of what he can do your ratios. Just keep in mind that none of his four starts have shown signs of optimism.
Tom Milone – @ Boston and @ Tampa Bay. After Milone’s 8 inning outing this week, optimism was abound. But as a soft tosser against these two opponents, the prospect for trouble looms. Milone is best served on your bench, at least until he proves that he can pitch with these two mammoth offenses.
Juan Nicasio – vs. Los Angeles Dodgers and vs. Atlanta. As Nicasio works his way back from last year’s injury, his performance has been up and down with two good and two average starts, at best. Aside from one outing, he has not appeared to have control issues and is still a young, potential filled pitcher. I would start Nicasio for two outings this week.
What do you think of these options? Are there others who you are looking to start that were not listed?