Two-Start Pitchers 2019: July 29 – August 4: Ranking The Options & Finding Those Worthy (Rodrigo Lopez, Sonny Gray, Marcus Stroman & More)

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Speculation is abound this week, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the action on the field. Instead it is all about the impending trade deadline, remember there is just one this year, and until pens are down it is unclear to see what exactly will transpire. What we do know is that it will be exciting and there will be ramifications to digest. Until that point let’s take a look at how the two start options line up, at least based on what we currently know:

Tier One:

  1. Justin Verlander – Houston Astros – at Cleveland; vs. Seattle
  2. Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals – vs. Atlanta; at Arizona
  3. Patrick Corbin – Washington Nationals – vs. Atlanta; at Arizona
  4. Noah Syndergaard – NY Mets – at Chicago White Sox; at Pittsburgh

Tier Two:

  1. Shane Bieber – Cleveland Indians – vs. Houston; vs. LA Angels
  2. Charlie Morton – Tampa Bay Rays – at Boston; vs. Miami
  3. Marcus Stroman – Toronto Blue Jays – at Kansas City; at Baltimore

Tier Three:

  1. David Price – Boston Red Sox – vs. Tampa Bay; at NY Yankees
  2. Yu Darvish – Chicago Cubs – at St. Louis; vs. Milwaukee
  3. Sonny Gray – Cincinnati Reds – vs. Pittsburgh; at Atlanta
  4. Julio Teheran – Atlanta Braves – at Washington; vs. Cincinnati
  5. Dallas Keuchel – Atlanta Braves – at Washington; vs. Cincinnati

Tier Four:

  1. Caleb Smith – Miami Marlins – vs. Arizona; at Tampa Bay
  2. Jake Odorizzi – Minnesota Twins – at Miami; vs. Kansas City
  3. Kenta Maeda – LA Dodgers – at Colorado; vs. San Diego
  4. Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies – vs. LA Dodgers; vs. San Francisco

Tier Five:

  1. Brad Keller – Kansas City Royals – vs. Toronto; at Minnesota
  2. Rick Porcello – Boston Red Sox – vs. Tampa Bay; at NY Yankees
  3. Tanner Roark – Cincinnati Reds – vs. Pittsburgh; at Atlanta
  4. Reynaldo Lopez – Chicago White Sox – vs. NY Mets; at Philadelphia
  5. Mike Leake – Seattle Mariners – at Texas; at Houston
  6. J.A. Happ – NY Yankees – vs. Arizona; vs. Boston
  7. Merrill Kelly – Arizona Diamondbacks – at Miami; vs. Washington
  8. Vince Velasquez – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. San Francisco; vs. Chicago White Sox
  9. Jamie Barria – LA Angels – vs. Detroit; at Cleveland
  10. Jordan Lyles – Pittsburgh Pirates – at Cincinnati; vs. NY Mets
  11. Dinelson Lamet – San Diego Padres – vs. Baltimore; at LA Dodgers
  12. Tyler Beede – San Francisco Giants – at Philadelphia; at Colorado

Tier Six:

  1. Kyle Freeland – Colorado Rockies – vs. LA Dodgers; vs. San Francisco
  2. Jordan Zimmermann – Detroit Tigers – at LA Angels; at Texas
  3. Thomas Pannone – Toronto Blue Jays – at Kansas City; at Baltimore

Notes:

  • Starting the season late hasn’t appeared to really impact Dallas Keuchel. The left-hander slotted right into the Braves’ rotation without missing a beat and he is one of the better options available to us this week. He isn’t an overpowering option, seven strikeouts per nine innings, but when he takes the mound twice in a week that is no longer an issue. More importantly, with a 3-3 record in seven starts Keuchel seems likely to factor into the decision. Through 43.2 innings he is the same pitcher we have become accustomed to seeing (58% ground ball rate), and the risk of home runs (1.44 per nine innings) just come with the territory of pitchers these days. The sample size is still small, but it’s hard to argue with a 3.50 ERA either.
  • Keuchel’s second start of the week will come against Sonny Gray, and he is another free agent acquisition that has gone well. Gray benefits from an extra day of rest and that is how he ended up taking the mound twice. In his last three starts Gray’s ERA is just 1.89 as he has 24 strikeouts in 19 innings against five walks. For the most part that is how his season has gone with a 3.29 ERA. In what might qualify as a statistical oddity in this day and age of advanced statistics, his FIP (3.30) and xFIP (3.34) really can’t get any closer. Add in a resurgence in the strikeout department, 10.45 per nine innings, improved control (his walk rate dropped from 3.94 to 3.13), and Gray is a legitimate fantasy option. The main difference, from a pitch mix standpoint, is the fact that he is using his fastball (14% increase) a lot more than last year.
  • Based on these match-ups the hope is that Marcus Stroman does not get traded, as he is lined up to face the Royals and Orioles. With a 1.80 ERA in his last three starts he has put his best foot forward prior to the trade deadline, and in fact he has done so all season. His ERA is just 2.96 to go along with a respectable WHIP of 1.23. Despite the lack of strikeouts, 7.15 per nine innings, Stroman has found success in what has been his best season to date. You can’t hold his record, 6-11, against him as it’s more indicative of the Blue Jays than anything else, and his 56.3% ground ball rate has gone a long way towards his success along with his ability to avoid the home run deluge we have seen; just 0.72 per nine innings.
  • A quick look at Jake Odorizzi shows that he has an 8.16 ERA in his last three starts. In reality it really was just one bad start as the Yankees put up nine runs against him as part of what turned out to be a simply wild game. Every once in a while that is going to happen, and while it doesn’t make looking at the standings any better his body of work is still pretty solid . Despite that implosion his ERA is 3.84 (it was 3.06 before that start), and he has been a solid option. He has been striking out a batter per inning, and while another rough start is possible Odorizzi should continue to be a reliable option for most starts. Facing the Marlins and Royals this week certainly qualifies as such.
  • When Reynaldo Lopez is rolling it is very easy to jump aboard. Over his last three starts he is 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA while striking out 25 batters in 21 innings. We know he has the strikeout ability, so that part isn’t exactly surprising, but seeing Lopez walk just four batters over that stretch was a positive sign. The problem now is that he needs to just do it more consistently, as after getting 21 swinging strikes against the Marlins we know what he is capable of. With a 5.52 ERA and 1.45 WHIP he clearly doesn’t do it often enough. While Lopez is striking out close to a batter an inning, he is also allowing 1.82 home runs per nine innings. There certainly is risk with Lopez as he faces the Mets and the Phillies, but if there ever was a week to use him, this would be it.
  • If you are looking at the waiver wire for an option Jamie Barria might be worth an add. Owned in just 12% of CBS leagues, the Angels’ hurler has had a recent string of success. Facing the Tigers to start the week should agree with him, and while the Indians have begun to find their groove they still aren’t a lineup that generates too much fear. Based on his 6.63 ERA he is not going to come up in many searches, and when he starts the game he generally has done well, as it is just the 10 runs he allowed in his most recent relief outing that we need to get past. In his last three starts Barria’s ERA is 2.40, and that is what we are buying.

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