Each week I will take a look at all the two-start fantasy pitchers and give recommendations on who is “safe” to start. At this point in the season the weather plays less of a factor than earlier in the year. In April and May it’s easy to postpone a game to a later date. With less than one month to play teams won’t be as quick to cancel, and a next day doubleheader is all but assured if they do. This now gives fantasy owners an advantage since their two-start pitchers are basically guaranteed two starts.
All H2H leagues are, or should be, in playoff mode this week. I don’t have to tell you how important your pitching decisions are this week. One bad start or unnecessary stream could be all that stands in your way of moving to the next round. Play things safe, but don’t be afraid to take a risk or two – especially those with weekly lineups. If your two-start pitcher is listed under questionable or lower, consider the risk of starting them over your one-start options. Good luck to you all.
This week’s notes
– The San Diego Padres are off Monday and Thursday, so no two-start pitchers here. Also, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still running with a six-man rotation, so no two- start pitchers this week.
– The Chicago White Sox have no starter listed for Tuesday after placing Carlos Rodon on the DL. Whoever gets the call will draw two road starts against the Royals and Tigers. Both teams have come out of the gate strong in September and are solid at home, lowering my expectations for streaming purposes. If the starter is a lefty I would completely ignore this game.
– The series between the Yankees and Rays will be played at Citi Field due to Hurricane Irma. Since we don’t know how this storm will affect the state of Florida, don’t be surprised if the weekend series between the Marlins and Brewers is moved to a neutral site as well.
- Corey Kluber vs DET, vs KC
- Stephen Strasburg vs ATL, vs LAD
- Zack Greinke vs COL, @SF
- Justin Verlander @LAA, vs SEA
- Lance Lynn vs CIN, @CHC
- Carlos Carrasco vs DET, vs KC
- Taijuan Walker vs COL, @SF
It’s playoff time which means you throw your best foot forward. The above players are top-tier pitchers and got you where you are today. Their seasonal numbers, recent performance, and in some cases record against their opponent make them the best starting options this week. Granted, even an ace can have a bad game. You can’t kick yourself when this happens, but you will beat yourself for the next three months if said player pitches a gem on your bench.
- Sonny Gray vs TB, vs BAL
- Cole Hamels vs SEA, @LAA
- Gerrit Cole @MIL, @CIN
- Jose Quintana vs NYM, vs STL
- Eduardo Rodriguez vs OAK, @TB
- C. Sabathia vs TB, vs BAL
- Sean Manaea @BOS, @PHI
- Jon Gray @ARZ, vs SD
- Kyle Freeland @ARZ, vs SD
The move to the Yankees did little to interrupt the rhythm Gray had going in Oakland. Plus, Baltimore has gone ice-cold after a hot August. Despite getting beaten by the Angels last week, Hamels owns a 2.36 ERA against them this season. He is also a better pitcher at home and has held his own against the Mariners. I’ll forgive the recent hiccups. Cole did not fare well against the Reds and Brewers when they last met. He did hold them to a combined five runs over five starts (34 innings) prior to that and has been relatively dependable all season.
I realize Quintana has a home ERA of 5.00 and had a few rough outings in August. I just can’t see him being listed any lower even with a few flaws, especially when I see the Mets on tap. Rodriguez has been up and down all season, rarely viewed as more than questionable. He gets a boost this week playing two of the worst teams against lefties. I’m hesitant to list Sabathia as solid, given his record against Baltimore this season and his home numbers. The Tampa start should neutralize much of the damage, though, giving you a combined quality start.
Manaea is on the low end of the solid start spectrum. I love the Philly matchup, but the Red Sox have me worried. As with Sabathia, his combined numbers should be serviceable. Gray and Freeland have similar numbers, for the season and home and away. They both have a higher but acceptable road ERA and give up more home runs on the road. They have both had success against Arizona this season. Gray is the safer of the two and will get you more strikeouts. Freeland, despite the similar numbers, is more of a fringe solid start – someone I might bench for a better one-start option.
- Marco Estrada vs BAL, @MIN
- Jason Hammel vs CHW, @CLE
- Robert Gsellman @CHC, @ATL
- Brandon Woodruff vs PIT, @MIA
Estrada is a borderline solid start and maybe one of the safest questionable starts. He has the track record against both teams dating back to last season, has quality start potential, and is good for strikeouts. The downside is a potentially bad WHIP and random big game. Hammel generally goes six innings and has not allowed more than four runs in a game since July 1. Unfortunately he doesn’t get many strikeouts, the WHIP is average, and wins are questionable. He will not help you, but he will not hurt you much either.
Gsellman allowed two or fewer runs in his last four starts, and the Cubs and Braves lost their offensive momentum from August. The 7.44 road ERA hints you should stay clear. There is a chance he has figured things out; he was a popular sleeper this preseason if you remember. Woodruff has made four spot starts and looked good — a little too good if you ask me. His ERA and WHIP in Triple-A (4.30, 1.37) are not impressive and somewhat lucky. His major league numbers, while impressive, were also lucky judging by his BABIP and strand rate. The matchups are right, though, if you are feeling froggy.
PROSPECT WILD CARDS
- Dillon Peters @PHI, vs MIL
- Artie Lewicki @CLE, vs CHW
- Aaron Slegers vs SD, vs TOR
- Luiz Gohara @WSH, vs NYM
The September roster expansion creates a new wrinkle: Some teams will be trying out a few of their new toys this month. They should all be considered risky options. Rookies don’t always follow what they did in the minors, and with the playoffs on the line you can’t afford any mistakes.
That being said, I do like Peters this week. He had an ERA below 2.50 and WHIP below 1.10 at almost every stop and is an extreme ground-ball pitcher. His first two starts went well, and if this wasn’t playoff time he would easily fit between questionable and solid. I still might consider streaming him – remember I did say take a risk or two.
Lewicki might be someone I would monitor, maybe even take a chance on if he did well in his first few starts. Since he bombed during his debut I think he should be avoided for now. Slegers would really have to impress me to even be considered for my watch list, let alone add. His debut in August went well, but Tampa Bay slapped reality back into him. Gohara is the most impressive name on this list, cruising through three levels of minor league ball before making his debut. Unfortunately, Texas squashed him, and Washington is not a team to start an inexperienced lefty against.
- Kevin Gausman @TOR, @NYY
In five starts against the Blue Jays, Gausman compiled a 1.57 ERA over 28 2/3 innings. That trend is reversed with the Yankees, posting a 9.27 over 22 1/3 innings through five starts. A best-case scenario would be to break even with both starts, so bench him against the Yankees if you have that option.
START AT OWN RISK
- Garrett Richards vs HOU, vs TEX
- Reynaldo Lopez @KC, @DET
- Robert Stephenson @STL, vs PIT
- Nick Pivetta vs MIA, vs OAK
- Jake Odorizzi vs @NYY, vs BOS
If this were 2015 Richards would be a solid start. Now, fresh off the DL, facing one of the hottest hitting teams in the league? I wouldn’t risk it, but I might be willing to stream him against Texas if he looks good in Tuesday’s start. Outside of a few more strikeouts (which won’t help much against the Royals), Lopez doesn’t look any better this year than he did last. The neutral matchups are the only reason to consider him.
Stephenson‘s ERA has become a little more trustworthy, but he is still a WHIP killer. Despite the improvements of late, he is still a risk regardless of the opponent. Pivetta avoids the sit column with a game against Oakland and a Miami team that has been pumping the breaks offensively. His propensity to implode makes him a low-end option. Between the short outings, control issues and home runs, I can’t see a good reason to start Odorizzi. As bad as he has been, the ERA is just over 4.50, so he does have his moments.
- Ubaldo Jimenez @TOR, @NYY
- Ariel Miranda @TEX, @HOU
- Andrew Moore @TEX, @HOU
- Matthew Boyd @CLE, vs CHW
- Ty Blach vs LAD, vs ARZ
- Joe Biagini vs BAL, @MIN
- Sam Gaviglio vs CHW, @CLE
As with the must-start pitchers, the players here should be avoided at all costs. There is no reason to go into details about why they should not be started. A quick look at their seasonal numbers, recent production, matchups, and in some cases ownership rate, should tell you all you need to know. Even if you think the matchup looks good – don’t do it! Given the fact that less than half the teams in your league are active, there will be less competition for waiver wire additions. I’m confident you can find better options, or at least ones with far less risk.