by Ray Kuhn
This week there are not too many great options for pitchers making 2 starts. Instead of going overboard in looking for options, it might be better to exercise a little more. Let’s take a look at some of the options to determine who may be worth the risk and who should be avoided:
Studs that never should be benched:
- Johnny Cueto – vs. Philadelphia and vs. Houston.
- CC Sabathia – @ Tampa Bay and @ Baltimore.
- James Shields – vs. New York Yankees and vs. Texas.
- C.J. Wilson – @ Oakland vs. Baltimore.
Five Pitchers that should be starting in every format:
Matt Harrison – @ Kansas City and @ Tampa Bay. Harrison has been a pleasant surprise for the Rangers this season with 15 wins and a 3.30 ERA. Despite giving up 7 runs and 12 hits in his worst outing since April this week against Tampa Bay, Harrison still should not lose his starting spot. Even with that outing, his ERA for the month of August was 3.69. He is pitching deep into games, with 174.1 innings, but until he starts to limit base runners and decrease his WHIP of 1.26, he will not be an elite option. With only 106 strikeouts, he does not over power hitters, but by starting twice this week he will not be a liability there. Regardless of his flaws and the fact that he is facing Tampa Bay again this week, Harrison should be starting.
Kris Medlen – vs. Colorado and @ New York Mets. It looks like the Braves made the right decision by elevating Medlen to the starting rotation. Since he joined the rotation Medlen has 0.66 ERA and a 5-0 record. He is also in the midst of a 28.1 scoreless streak and has 38 strikeouts in 40.2 IP. Those numbers are staggering and while it would be foolhardy to expect him to continue at this high level (and anything can happens in Coors Field), it is clear that Medlen needs to be started. Just as he is playing a vital role in the Braves playoff push, he could do the same for your squad.
Yu Darvish – @ Kansas City and @ Tampa Bay. At the start of the season it looked like Darvish would have been in the above category. He started off well, then dipped a little bit and had some uneven performances. Based on his last 3 outings (20.2 innings, 6 runs, and 2 wins) it looks like he is back on track. Granted in one of those outings he walked 5 batters so that is still a concern, but he followed it up with starts of 1 and 2 walks respectively while striking out 28 batters over the 3 starts. Darvish has the talent and he should be starting in all lineups this week as he makes 2 starts. Despite the rough outings, his ERA is only 4.31 so it is not too troublesome, but his WHIP of 1.41 should cause some concern (although it looks like it might be trending downward). His 182 strikeouts in 154.2 certainly help to ease some risk and pain.
Shaun Marcum – @ Miami and @ St. Louis. Owners might have forgotten about Marcum as he spent a few months on the DL. In his first start back he pitched 5 innings, striking out 5, giving up no runs and allowing 6 base runners. Before he got hurt Marcum was pitching well (3.20 ERA and 1.17 WHIP) and it looks like he will continue that. With a fresh arm and a proven track record, Marcum could be a nice addition to your starting lineup.
Edwin Jackson – vs. Chicago Cubs and vs. Miami. Jackson has been consistently good this season for the Nationals and for fantasy owners as well. The only black mark on Jackson has been his lack of run support leading to his 7-9 record, but that is one category that is always difficult to forecast. With an ERA of 3.72 and WHIP of 1.19 you do not have to worry about your ratios, plus his opponents this week help. Additionally both starts come at home where he has a 3.39 ERA this season.
Five That Must be Debated Based on Your Situation:
Jason Vargas – vs. Boston and vs. Oakland. Vargas has been a pleasant surprise for owners this season and the fact that he is making two starts at home is a huge plus. The problem is in his last two starts he could not get out of the 5th inning in either, giving up 6 and 5 runs respectively. Those starts raised his ERA to a still respectable 3.90 from 3.53. The potential remains for another start or two like that, but his ERA in his 10 starts before that was 1.95. It is also comforting that both of those starts came on the road and both his next starts come at home, where he has a 2.63 ERA this season. With 184.2 innings he is pitching deep into games and the only negative is his lack of strikeouts (116). Regardless, I am not sure there are many better options than Vargas this week with 2 starts.
Mike Fiers – @ Miami and @ St. Louis. His season ERA of 2.85 and WHIP of 1.10 indicate that he should be starting, but his ERA over 6 August starts was 4.89 (although he did strike out a batter an inning). However the bulk of his ERA can be attributed to a 2 inning, 9 run outing in Coors Field. That and the fact that he strikes out a batter an inning makes him someone I would start with little hesitation for this week if I was looking for some help in strikeouts and wins (he is 8-6 this season in 16 starts). He will not walk many batters, and 5 of his last 7 starts have been quality starts.
Tommy Hanson – vs. Colorado and @ New York Mets. This is not a category Hanson belongs in. Since the All-Star break Hanson has spent some time on the DL and has managed to compile a 6.69 ERA over 35 innings with 23 walks. He has 1 quality start out of his last 7 starts and is doing some serious damage to owners WHIPs. The one bright spot is that he has been at about a strikeout an inning, but he just is not pitching many innings. Neither of his matchups this week are too imposing, but he has not shown many signs of righting the ship and his health is still a question mark. I would tread carefully here.
Wandy Rodriquez – vs. Houston and vs. Chicago Cubs. Rodriquez makes two starts this week against the bottom 2 teams in the NL Central. For the season Rodriquez has been pitching pretty well overall with a 3.87 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, but it has been rough for him so for in Pittsburgh. In his first five starts after the trade he was 0-4 with a 5.17 ERA prior to throwing 6 shutout innings against the Cardinals in his last start. He had a quality start in the outing prior so he was starting to right the ship. His 9-13 record is more of a product of pitching for the Astros and his rough stretch with Pittsburgh, but aside from his 1.31 WHIP, he is a pretty reliable starter. Also with 110 strikeouts in 170 innings he is not providing value in an area where he usually does. Other than that, I would still probably start him this week as based on his opponents alone there is value to be had.
Jose Quintana – vs. Minnesota and vs. Kansas City. Quintana has been a pretty good pitcher for the White Sox with a 3.17 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in his 17 starts. He won’t strike many batters out (63 over 113.2 innings) and lately he has not been pitching that deep into games. His last 2 starts have not been great and he only lasted 3.2 innings in his last start against the Orioles. This week the matchups are on his side and for the most part you can say that he has been reliable with only 5 starts out of 17 where he gave up 3 or more runs. Aside from not pitching deep into games or striking batters out, I think this week he could be a decent option.
Three for Thought:
Jacob Turner – vs. Milwaukee and @ Washington. Turner has loads of potential and now he is getting the opportunity to pitch in the rotation for the Marlins. In his first NL outing, he had a quality start pitching 6 innings and giving up 3 runs. He followed that up by giving up 5 runs over 5 innings in his next start. With a young pitcher, some volatility can be expected and there is clearly some risk involved in starting Turner. For those optimistic owners, he does have 11 strikeouts compared to 1 walk in his last 2 starts so at least he is not putting too many unnecessary runners on base. For those of you in keeper leagues he should be an option for next year, but for those competing for this season there might be a little too much risk involved.
Zach Britton – @ Toronto and vs. New York Yankees. Britton probably pitches in the toughest division in baseball and after a tough start to the season, he looks like he is finding his groove. Do not pay as much attention to his 4.80 ERA and 1.53 WHIP, but more to his talent level and his last 3 starts as to what he is capable of. He has pitched 21.2 innings and only given up 3 runs. Britton has also struck out 21 batters in that span while only walking 5 over that span. The Blue Jays have not been doing well this season and with all of their injuries the Yankees are not as intimidating as usual, but both teams could be dangerous. In deeper leagues, and for those looking for strikeouts, Britton could be an option this week. There is still some risk involved, but this could be a risk worth taking if he is your best option.
Joe Kelly – vs. New York Mets and @ Milwaukee. Over his 13 starts this season Kelly has done the job and shown some promise, but at the same time he might be a better real life pitcher than fantasy. He has a 3.61 ERA, though his WHIP of 1.47 is not helpful for fantasy owners and is worrisome in general for the damage it could cause. In his last 6 starts the deepest he pitched into a game was 6.1 innings and for a pitcher that does not strike many batters out, that limits his value. Kelly has only 4 wins on the year so there is not much projected value there. In deeper leagues Kelly could be an option, but he does not jump off the page to me as a rewarding fantasy option.
What are your thoughts on these options? Anybody else you have your eye on that could be a sneaky play this week?