by Ray Kuhn
Here we are… In the majority of head-to-head leagues the playoffs are beginning, and each roster decision begins to take on greater emphasis. The same can be said in roto leagues and it’s time to be realistic. Can you truly gain meaningful points in strikeouts? Is chasing wins worth the risk? What will that do your ratios? Risk versus reward must be weighed… Let’s take a look at how our options rank for this week:
- Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians – at Tampa Bay; vs. Detroit
- Justin Verlander – Houston Astros – at Detroit; vs. Arizona
- Jon Lester – Chicago Cubs – vs. Milwaukee; vs. Cincinnati
- Zack Greinke – Arizona Diamondbacks – at Colorado; at Houston
- Alex Wood – Los Angeles Dodgers – at Cincinnati; at St. Louis
- Zack Wheeler – New York Mets – vs. Miami; at Boston
- J.A. Happ – New York Yankees – at Minnesota; vs. Toronto
- Miles Mikolas – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. Pittsburgh; vs. LA Dodgers
- Jake Arrieta – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. Washington; vs. Miami
- Chris Sale – Boston Red Sox – vs. Toronto; vs. New York Mets
- Jake Junis – Kansas City Royals – vs. Chicago White Sox; vs. Minnesota
- German Marquez – Colorado Rockies – vs. Arizona; at San Francisco
- Hyun-Jin Ryu – Los Angeles Dodgers – at Cincinnati; vs. St. Louis
- Dereck Rodriguez – San Francisco Giants – vs. Atlanta; vs. Colorado
- Mike Fiers – Oakland A’s – at Baltimore; at Tampa Bay
- Tanner Roark – Washington Nationals – at Philadelphia; at Atlanta
- Joe Musgrove – Pittsburgh Pirates – at St. Louis; at Milwaukee
- Alex Cobb – Baltimore Orioles – vs. Oakland; vs. Chicago White Sox
- Wade Miley – Milwaukee Brewers – at Chicago Cubs; vs. Pittsburgh
- Mike Minor – Texas Rangers – at LA Angels; at San Diego
- Jake Odorizzi – Minnesota Twins – vs. New York Yankees; at Kansas City
- Jamie Barria – Los Angeles Angels – vs. Texas; vs. Seattle
- Sandy Alcantara – Miami Marlins – at New York Mets; at Philadelphia
- Jason Vargas – New York Mets – vs. Miami; at Boston
- Sean Newcomb – Atlanta Braves – at San Francisco; vs. Washington
- Lucas Giolito – Chicago White Sox – at Kansas City; at Baltimore
- Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. Pittsburgh; vs. LA Dodgers
- Aaron Sanchez – Toronto Blue Jays – at Boston; at New York Yankees
- Trevor Richards – Miami Marlins – at New York Mets; at Philadelphia
- Antonio Senzatela – Colorado Rockies – vs. Arizona; at San Francisco
- Francisco Liriano – Detroit Tigers – vs. Houston; at Cleveland
- Cody Reed – Cincinnati Reds – vs. LA Dodgers; at Chicago Cubs
- Trevor May – Minnesota Twins – vs. NY Yankees; at Kansas City
- Yes Chris Sale is listed as taking the mound twice this week. There is also no disputing or debating the fact that he is one of the best pitcher’s in baseball. Going through his stats, track record and accomplishments is just repeating what we already know. The problem is that the Red Sox are no longer concerned about the regular season and you aren’t going to get length from the ace. Sale will start the week off by throwing two innings or 40 pitches on Tuesday and then he will conclude the week by throwing three innings. You aren’t going to get the same advantage from Sale as is typical, but five innings from the left-hander is still better than a lot of other options.
- Miles Mikolas was a bit of an unknown entering the season, but then he put a 2.79 ERA in the first half and became a legitimate fantasy asset. The right-hander is an efficient control artist, with just 1.40 walks per nine innings, but hw only has 119 strikeouts in 173.2 innings. If you are looking to gain ground that is just not enough value, but his 14 victories can also not be discounted. While he should be in your starting lineup every week, there might be a little more risk involved than we previously thought a few months ago. In fact he might be closer to being the reliable, innings eater we thought he might be in March. Mikolas has allowed four earned runs in three of his last five starts, and in the second half of the season his ERA has jumped to 3.64. That is a lot closer to his 3.74 xFIP, but there is still plenty of value to be had. Just adjust your expectations.
- No longer an elite option, there is still enough value to be found in Jon Lester. At this point in the season let’s just take his 3.53 ERA at face value, and not pay too much attention to his 4.63 FIP. While the southpaw did allow 17 earned runs over three starts, spanning 13.2 innings, he has sufficiently rebounded in his last four outings. Lester allowed just four runs 23.2 innings, and he will be taking the mound for the first time this week with a few days of additional rest. Facing the Brewers might be a little tough , but then he closes out the week against the Reds. With 15 wins he should once again be in the position to add to his victory total.
- We shouldn’t hide the fact that Zack Wheeler has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball in the past few months. This week it does get a little tough as he makes his second start in Fenway Park, but starting things off against the Marlins should work in his favor. In his last 21 innings, over three starts, Wheeler had 22 strikeouts and his stuff has truly looked unhittable at times. Since the All-Star break his ERA is just 1.51 and opponents are hitting .183 against him. Overall Wheeler’s ERA keeps improving after a 6.43 mark in May, and for the season it is 3.39 with a 3.27 FIP. If you want to talk about consistency, the right-hander hasn’t allowed more than four runs since July 14th against the Nationals. With a strikeout per inning he has finally found and harnessed his stuff while learning how to pitch.
- At this point in the season you have to look for starting pitching any place you can find it. With a 1.66 ERA in his last three starts, Jake Junis warrants some attention. Sure his 4.33 ERA and 1.25 WHIP might give you some pause, but over the past two seasons he has shown enough flashes of success. Junis followed up a complete game victory against Detroit, in which he allowed two runs, by throwing seven strong innings against a tough Indians’ team to pick up his eighth victory of the season. With 8.47 strikeouts per nine innings against 2.34 walks per nine innings, Junis has proven to have some value as a back end of the rotation option, and with his match-ups this week that will likely continue. That is what facing the White Sox and Twins can do for a pitcher.
- Yes, we are at the point in the season where Wade Miley has true value. The southpaw is owned in 30% of CBS leagues, and in his last three starts his ERA is just 1.96. You are taking on some risk, as despite his 2.12 ERA through 12 starts the left-hander’s FIP is 3.56 with a 4.23 xFIP. Even still, that is a quality start as the worst case scenario from Miley. The problem is that he is really just an option if you are chasing victories as he strikes out just 6.11 batters per nine innings.