Two-Start Pitchers 2018: August 20-26: Ranking The Options & Finding Those Worthy (Berrios, Gausman & More)

by Ray Kuhn

As we make our way through the month of August the emphasis on maximizing your starts, if you are hunting wins and strikeouts that is, only grows. You don’t want to leave potential innings on the table, but at the same time don’t forget your ratios as managing them remains equally as important. With that being said let’s take a look at how our two-start options rank for this week:

Tier One:

  1. Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians – at Boston; at Kansas City
  2. Gerrit Cole – Houston Astros – at Seattle; at LA Angels

Tier Two:

  1. Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays – vs. Kansas City; vs. Boston
  2. Rick Porcello – Boston Red Sox – vs. Cleveland; at Tampa Bay
  3. Chris Archer – Pittsburgh Pirates – vs. Atlanta; at Milwaukee
  4. Kyle Hendricks – Chicago Cubs – at Detroit; vs. Cincinnati

Tier Three:

  1. Zack Wheeler – New York Mets – vs. San Francisco; vs. Washington
  2. Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins – vs. Chicago White Sox; vs. Oakland
  3. Alex Wood – LA Dodgers – vs. St. Louis; vs. San Diego
  4. Nathan Eovaldi – Boston Red Sox – vs. Cleveland; at Tampa Bay
  5. Julio Teheran – Atlanta Braves – at Pittsburgh; at Miami

Tier Four:

  1. Mike Fiers – Oakland A’s – vs. Texas; at Minnesota
  2. Carlos Rodon – Chicago White Sox – vs. Minnesota; at Detroit
  3. Kevin Gausman – Atlanta Braves – at Pittsburgh; at Miami
  4. Derek Holland – San Francisco Giants – at NY Mets; vs. Texas
  5. Vincent Velasquez – Philadelphia Phillies – at Washington; at Toronto
  6. Chase Anderson – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Cincinnati; vs. Pittsburgh

Tier Five:

  1. Shane Bieber – Cleveland Indians – at Boston; at Kansas City
  2. Pablo Lopez – Miami Marlins – vs. NY Yankees; vs. Atlanta
  3. Marco Estrada – Toronto Blue Jays – vs. Baltimore; vs. Philadelphia
  4. Brett Anderson – Oakland A’s – vs. Texas; at Minnesota
  5. Tyler Anderson – Colorado Rockies – vs. San Diego; vs. St. Louis
  6. Robbie Erlin – San Diego Padres – at Colorado; at LA Dodgers
  7. Ervin Santana – Minnesota Twins – at Chicago White Sox; vs. Oakland
  8. Dylan Bundy – Baltimore Orioles – at Toronto; vs. NY Yankees
  9. Jordan Zimmermann – Detroit Tigers – vs. Chicago White Sox; vs. Chicago Cubs
  10. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners – vs. Houston; at Arizona
  11. Austin Gomber – St. Louis Cardinals – at LA Dodgers; at Colorado
  12. Lucas Giolito – Chicago White Sox – at Minnesota; at Detroit

Tier Six:

  1. Andrew Cashner – Baltimore Orioles – at Toronto; vs. NY Yankees
  2. Homer Bailey – Cincinnati Reds – at Milwaukee; at Chicago Cubs
  3. Burch Smith – Kansas City Royals – at Tampa Bay; vs. Cleveland
  4. Glenn Sparkman – Kansas City Royals – at Tampa Bay; vs. Cleveland

Notes:

  • Don’t look now but Zack Wheeler is truly developing into a viable major league pitcher and fulfilling the potential he had as a former top prospect. The right-hander is currently in the midst of six straight victories, and in his last three starts is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA. In that stretch he has 19 K vs. 4 BB in 20 innings pitched, and for the season sports a 3.75 ERA along with a 1.23 WHIP. However, if you remove the 6.43 ERA that Wheeler had in May his numbers would look even that much better, and his 3.43 FIP supports further improvement. For the season Wheeler has 136 K in 139.1 innings of work, and his hard contact rate (per Fangraphs) is down from 32.8% in 2017 to 26.1%. Additionally he has picked up 1.2 miles per hour in velocity on his fastball. Perhaps the biggest change we have seen is the increased use, via Pitch Info, of his four seam-fastball (37.2% to 57.9%).
  • With Wheeler on the ascension, Jose Berrios is a young pitcher going in the opposite direction. In his last three starts Berrios has a 5.32 ERA and has only made it through 14.2 innings (he hasn’t gotten out of the fifth inning of three of his last four starts), but at least he has 15 K in that span. The problem is that Berrios’ control has escaped him with 11 BB in those three starts. Overall he has shown better control, 2.58 per nine innings, while striking out just over nine batters. At times he has been a frustrating starter, but the good outings have more than outweighed the bad with a 3.75 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.At worst, things should be a mixed bag for Berrios this week as he starts it off by facing the White Sox prior to taking on the surging A’s. Look at the overall picture here and try not to overreact to the recent struggles.
  • Keep the walks down… So far this season we have seen a big improvement in that department from Kevin Gausman, and the right-hander has developed into a dependable starter. After walking 3.42 batters per nine innings last season he is down to 2.27 in 2018, and his ERA has followed suit (4.68 to 4.22). That is more like the Gausman we saw in 2016, and his 4.07 xFIP shows that there is still a little more room to go. If he continues to pitch the way he did in his first three starts with Atlanta, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him inch closer towards the 3.61 ERA he posted in 2016. It’s just three starts, but he is reunited with coaches he previously succeeded with in Baltimore and he has posted a 2.84 ERA while picking up two victories since the trade. The one issue is his problem with the long ball; 1.38 per nine innings so far this season. This week he gets to make both of his starts on the road in favorable situations, in Pittsburgh and Miami, as he looks to continue his success.
  • So this is what it looks like when Carlos Rodon is healthy? Through 12 starts the left-hander has a 2.69 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, averaging 6.2 innings per start. In each of his last two starts he has made it through eight innings, and it’s hard to argue with his success. Fantasy owners would like him to strike out more than 64 batters in 80.1 innings, but he is holding his own in the back end of fantasy rotations. This week Rodon benefits from the opposition, as he gets to face the Twins at home and the Tigers on the road. That means he should be in your lineup no matter what, and his 4.17 FIP and 4.84 xFIP should be ignored (the only place for Rodon’s .210 BABIP to go, unfortunately, is up).
  • After he posted a 6.20 ERA in 2017, which he certainly earned, you are forgiven for ignoring Derek Holland. Based on the solid and dependable body of work we have seen this season, that is not exactly fair. While he is owned in 35% of CBS leagues as of Saturday night, Holland has a 3.83 ERA in 27 games, 23 starts. You would like to see a WHIP better than 1.31, but with a 3.91 FIP what you see is what you get, and the 132 strikeouts he has in 129.1 innings so far this season certainly help. Holland’s opponents for this week, the Mets and Rangers, also help.
  • Pitching mostly out of bullpen this season, 27 appearances, while making five starts, Robbie Erlin has been solid and with a 3.33 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, he warrants your attention. In his last three starts he has a 2.81 ERA, but with just nine strikeouts. Erlin should be owned in more than 4% of leagues, but with his first appearance coming in Coors Field I would keep my distance.

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