by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Next week is the final one prior to the All-Star Break, meaning fantasy owners in the middle of the pack are starting to run out of time. Are you positioned to make a run towards the top? Do you not really stand a chance? It’s not always easy to make that decision, but this may be the time that you have to take a risk. Lucky for owners, there are plenty of risks worth taking.
Let’s take a look at how this weeks two start pitchers shake out:
Tier 1 – The Elite
- Masahiro Tanaka – New York Yankees – at Cle, at Bal
- Johnny Cueto – Cincinnati Reds – vs. CHC, vs. Pit
- Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. Pit, at Mil
Tier 2 – Not Quite Elite
- Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals – vs. Bal, at Phi
- Sonny Gray – Oakland A’s – vs. SF, at Sea
- Julio Teheran – Atlanta Braves – at NYM, at CHC
- Madison Bumgarner – San Francisco Giants – at Oak, vs. Ari
Tier 3 – More Risk, But Among The Better Options
- Cole Hamels – Philadelphia Phillies – at Mil, vs. Was
- Hyun-Jin Ryu – Los Angeles Dodgers – at Det, vs. SD
- Hisashi Iwakuma – Seattle Mariners – vs. Min, vs. Oak
- James Shields – Kansas City Royals – at TB, vs. Det
- Doug Fister – Washington Nationals – vs. Bal, at Phi
- Jered Weaver – Los Angeles Angels – vs. Tor, at Tex
- Mike Minor – Atlanta Braves – at NYM, at CHC
- Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers – vs. LAD, at KC
Tier 4 – Solid Options
- Jesse Chavez – Oakland A’s – vs. SF, at Sea
- Mike Leake – Cincinnati Reds – vs. CHC, vs. Pit
- Wily Peralta – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Phi, vs. Stl
- Ian Kennedy – San Diego Padres – at Col, at LAD
- Tyson Ross – San Diego Padres – at Col, at LAD
- Jason Vargas – Kansas City Chiefs – at TB, vs. Det
Tier 5 – Maybe?
- Charlie Morton – Pittsburgh Pirates – at Stl, at Cin
- Clay Buchholz – Boston Red Sox – vs. CWS, at Hou
- Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians – vs. NYY, vs. CWS
- Phil Hughes – Minnesota Twins – at Sea, at Col
- Jake Odorizzi – Tampa Bay Rays – vs. KC, vs. Tor
- Marco Estrada – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Phi, vs. Stl
- Tyler Skaggs – Los Angeles Angels – vs. Tor, at Tex
- Chris Tillman – Baltimore Orioles – at Was, vs. NYY
- Tom Koehler – Miami Marlins – at Ari, at NYM
- Jacob deGrom – New York Mets – vs. Atl, vs. Mia
- John Danks – Chicago White Sox – at Bos, at Cle
- Ryan Vogelsong – San Francisco Giants – at Oak, vs. Ari
- Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. Pit, at Mil
- Wei-Yin Chen – Baltimore Orioles – at Was, vs. NYY
- Chris Young – Seattle Mariners – vs. Min, vs. Oak
- Chase Anderson – Arizona Diamondbacks – vs. Mia, at SF
- Edwin Jackson – Chicago Cubs – at Cin, vs. Atl
- Jarred Cosart – Houston Astros – at Tex, vs. Bos
- Travis Wood – Chicago Cubs – at Cin, vs. Atl
- J.A. Happ – Toronto Blue Jays – at LAA, at TB
- Kyle Kendrick – Philadelphia Phillies – at Mil, vs. Was
- Justin Masterson – Cleveland Indians – vs. NYY, vs. CWS
- Vance Worley – Minnesota Twins – at Stl, at Cin
Tier 6 – Not A Chance
- Daisuke Matsuzaka – New York Mets – vs. Atl, vs. Mia
- Tyler Matzek – Colorado Rockies – vs. SD, vs. Min
- Kevin Correia – Minnesota Twins – at Sea, at Col
- Vidal Nuno – New York Yankees – at Cle, at Bal
- Nick Martinez – Texas Rangers – vs. Hou, vs. LAA
- Miles Mikolas – Texas Rangers – vs. Hou, vs. LAA
- Scott Carroll – Chicago White Sox – at Bos, at Cle
- The Detroit matchup is a tough one for Hyun-Jin Ryu, as they are one of the best hitting teams against southpaws. On the flipside, the Padres are an anemic offense in general but even worse against lefties. If it wasn’t for the first matchup he’d slot into Tier 2, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worth the risk.
- There was a time when considering Justin Verlander anything but one of the elite starters was blasphemous. Now it should be standard operating procedure. His strikeouts are down, partly due to the continued loss of velocity, and neither of his matchups are particularly promising this week. He’s obviously viable, but I’d keep my fingers crossed.
- For his career at Safeco Field Hisashi Iwakuma owns a 2.84 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Yes there’s a tough matchup there against Oakland, but it’s still hard not to like his potential upside for the coming week (especially coming off an impressive start against the Astros).
- Tyson Ross is a very good pitcher, there’s no arguing that, but he also owns a 4.18 ERA on the road in 2014. As is the case with many Padres’ starters, he’s always going to be a much better option at home. With two starts on the road, including one at Coors Field, he has to be pushed down the rankings a bit.
- On the flipside, Ian Kennedy’s performance has been consistent regardless of where he’s pitched. That’s certainly going to help his cause, despite a pair of tough matchups. His upside isn’t that of Ross, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he ends up outpitching him this week.
- Don’t be misled by Mike Minor’s poor numbers overall, as a lot of his issues have been due to home runs (and those have manifested themselves more at home, where he owns a 2.27 HR/9). Taking his show on the road against two questionable offenses, there’s a lot to like about his upside. He’s well worth the risk.
- Phil Hughes has actually been a better pitcher on the road this season, but we all know his past home run issues and he makes a start in Coors Field. He’s also started to struggle a bit lately (4.10 ERA in June and 7 ER allowed in his first July start), which drags him down even more. While he had a nice run, don’t overvalue him.
- Charlie Morton has been fantastic at home (2.13 ERA), but mediocre on the road (4.37 ERA). Couple that with two difficult opponents (even if the Cardinals’ offense has been lackluster) and there’s no reason to consider him a must use option. At the same time, his road numbers are due to poor luck (63.4% strand rate) more than anything. There’s risk, but also potential reward.
- Thinking of streaming Trevor Bauer? While the name value could catch your eye, the fact that he’s also making a pair of starts at home helps significantly (3.48 ERA, 9.29 K/9, 3.48 BB/9). That doesn’t mean that there isn’t risk, but depending on your situation he’s probably worth rolling the dice on.
- Marco Estrada has consistently had HR issues this season, but at least he gets two opponents who have struggled to hit the long ball this season. At the same time, would you trust him?
- Carlos Martinez is still stretching out as a starter, but at this point there shouldn’t be many (if any) restrictions on him. Of course, he draws two difficult matchups in the Pirates and Brewers and has not done a good job consistently throwing strikes. If he’s going to continue walking the ballpark, both of his starts could ultimately turn into disasters.
*** Make sure to pre-order Rotoprofessor’s 2014 Fantasy Football Draft Guide!! The guide comes complete with projections of over 350 players, expended rankings, sleepers, and so much more (including constant updates up until opening day). For just $6 you will get everything you need to dominate your fantasy league and one lucky subscriber will win a free autographed Brett Favre 8×10! For more information and to place your order, click here. ***