Two-Start Pitchers 2018: September 17-23: Ranking The Options & Finding Those Worthy (Keller, Gray & More)

by Ray Kuhn

We are now at that point in the season… Crunch Time. With just two weeks left in the regular season tensions are heightened as there are championships to win. We have to keep in mind that Major League teams don’t exactly have your best interests in mind and they could shuffle their rotation or give pitchers extra rest. The other issue is that with an increasing number of teams not concerned about the regular season we have more teams to target with opposing pitching.

With that being said, let’s take a look at the current options for those pitchers who are scheduled to take the mound twice in this week:

Tier One:

  1. Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians – vs. Chicago White Sox; vs. Boston
  2. Blake Snell – Tampa Bay Rays – at Texas; at Toronto
  3. Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals – at Miami; vs. NY Mets
  4. Aaron Nola – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. NY Mets; at Atlanta

Tier Two:

  1. Patrick Corbin – Arizona Diamondbacks – vs. Chicago Cubs; vs. Colorado
  2. Miles Mikolas – St. Louis Cardinals – at Atlanta; vs. San Francisco
  3. Zack Wheeler – New York Mets – at Philadelphia; at Washington
  4. Mike Foltynewicz – Atlanta Braves – vs. St. Louis; vs. Philadelphia

Tier Three:

  1. Kyle Hendricks – Chicago Cubs – at Arizona; at Chicago White Sox
  2. J.A. Happ – New York Yankees – vs. Boston; vs. Baltimore
  3. Jake Arrieta – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. NY Mets; at Atlanta

Tier Four:

  1. Hyun-Jin Ryu – LA Dodgers – vs. Colorado; vs. San Diego
  2. Anibal Sanchez – Atlanta Braves – vs. St. Louis; vs. Philadelphia
  3. Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies – at LA Dodgers; at Arizona
  4. Joe Musgrove – Pittsburgh Pirates – vs. Kansas City; vs. Milwaukee

Tier Five:

  1. Jordan Zimmermann – Detroit Tigers – vs. Minnesota; vs. Kansas City
  2. Wade Miley – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Cincinnati; at Pittsburgh
  3. Brad Keller – Kansas City Royals – at Pittsburgh; at Detroit
  4. Wade LeBlanc – Seattle Mariners – at Houston; at Texas
  5. Jake Odorizzi – Minnesota Twins – at Detroit; at Oakland
  6. Framber Valdez – Houston Astros – vs. Seattle; vs. LA Angels
  7. Andrew Suarez – San Francisco Giants – at San Diego; at St. Louis
  8. Carlos Rodon – Chicago White Sox – at Cleveland; vs. Chicago Cubs
  9. Aaron Sanchez – Toronto Blue Jays – at Baltimore; vs. Tampa Bay
  10. Felix Pena – LA Angels – at Oakland; at Houston
  11. Jason Vargas – New York Mets – at Philadelphia; at Washington
  12. Tyler Glasnow – Tampa Bay Rays – at Texas; at Toronto
  13. Nathan Eovaldi – Boston Red Sox – at NY Yankees; at Cleveland

Tier Six:

  1. Daniel Norris – Detroit Tigers – vs. Minnesota; vs. Kansas City
  2. Bryan Mitchell – San Diego Padres – vs. San Francisco; at LA Dodgers
  3. Adrian Sampson – Texas Rangers – vs. Tampa Bay; vs. Seattle
  4. Anthony DeSclafani – Cincinnati Reds – at Milwaukee; at Miami
  5. Sam Gaviglio – Toronto Blue Jays – at Baltimore; vs. Tampa Bay
  6. Trevor Richards – Miami Marlins – vs. Washington; vs. Cincinnati
  7. Andrew Cashner – Baltimore Orioles – vs. Toronto; at NY Yankees

Notes:

  • With just a few starts left in the season we officially can buy into Patrick Corbin’s breakout. In his last three outings he has a 2.08 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 17.2 innings as his ERA for the season has dropped to 3.05. After allowing five runs against the Mets on June 16th Corbin has just two starts in which he has allowed four earned runs, with all but two of his outings being a quality start. We have seen a big difference in the left-hander this season as his strikeouts per nine innings jumped from 8.45 to 11.13 while his walks dropped from 2.89 to 2.07. That helps to explain his 1.03 WHIP while his 2.40 FIP shows that there is still room for even more success. The one thing we have to note is that in facing the Cubs and Rockies (both at home), each of Corbin’s opponents have playoff implications.
  • It certainly has been a tale of two halves for Jon Gray, who after posting a 5.44 ERA in the first half of the season has improved to 3.77 in the second half. The stint in the minor leagues certainly helped, but the one thing that is surprising is the lack of disparity in his home (4.78) and road (4.81) ERA. While Gray has only made it through four innings in each of his last two starts, things have been going well of late. Overall he is striking out more than a batter per inning and makes both of his starts on the road. The potential strikeouts in a two start week could prove to be a valuable advantage.
  • We are apparently at that point where Wade LeBlanc could help people win fantasy leagues. It’s not ideal that he is slated to face the Astros in first start, but with a 1.00 ERA in his last three starts he hasn’t had an issue getting the job done. While his last two starts did come against the Orioles and Padres, he did shut out the A’s over seven innings in the start prior to that. The strikeouts are going to be a problem, 10 in his last 18 innings and 7.00 per nine innings, but it helps that he limits the walks to just 2.09 per nine innings. In 29 games, 24 starts, the southpaw has a 3.56 ERA with a FIP that warns of regression (4.37), but at the very worst should still give you a quality start.
  • This is also the time of year where we see young pitchers emerge from what is seemingly out of nowhere, and that has been the case with Brad Keller. For the most part fantasy owners haven’t paid much attention to the Royals, with the exception of Whit Merrifield, so it’s possible you have missed Keller. Over his last three starts the right-hander’s ERA is just 1.64 with 15 strikeouts and five walks in 22 innings of work. Since allowing four runs in a start against the Cubs over a month ago, Keller has allowed either one or two earned runs in each of his last six starts. The Rule 5 selection from Cincinnati has earned his keep in the big leagues. It isn’t ideal that he strikes out just 6.15 batters per nine innings, but with a 3.04 ERA he gets the job done. Yes, the 3.63 FIP and 4.23 xFIP might give you some concern, but the results have been there in the recent past and facing the Pirates and Tigers doesn’t exactly hurt this week. Just keep in mind that in going with Keller you really are just hoping for a victory, or quality start, since the strikeout upside is minimal.
  • While it’s not the same Jordan Zimmermann who received a contract exceeding $100 million from the Tigers, there is still something left in the right-hander’s tank. Of course pitching in AL Central helps, and this week fantasy owners should make sure to take advantage of that situation. He starts the week off by facing the Twins at home prior to the Royals coming to town. After allowing just one earned run over 11 innings in his two previous starts, the Astros got to him for four runs over five innings, but he shouldn’t have that problem this week. Zimmermann’s season marks of a 4.17 ERA and 1.22 WHIP could be worse, and there are also streaming options with a lot more risk. Plus there is a lot to like about the match-ups.
  • If you really want to roll the dice and take a risk, Bryan Mitchell is currently available in 98% of CBS leagues. Entering the season, there was some thought that he could be a sleeper option (I’ll raise my hand) as he was a hard thrower with some previous success who was now getting a real chance to show what he could do. It didn’t work out as planned as he bounced between the rotation and the bullpen. He has now made two starts, against the Diamondbacks and Mariners, and things are starting to look up. In five, and then six innings of work, the right-hander allowed one run in each. There is a lot of risk here, as Mitchell has struck out just 4.10 batters per nine innings while walking 6.07 batters. This is likely going to be the place this week where you see Mitchell mentioned as he faces the Giants and Dodgers, but his last two starts have gone well. So if you do a search among recent performances it is likely that Mitchell will appear, but you should be aware of the risks.

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