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As we enter the season's second month, we can be a little less forgiving of those starting pitchers who have frustrated us with consistently poor outings.
As it is getting harder and harder to overlook the wildness of Francisco Liriano or Edinson Volquez, the lack of strikeouts for Yovani Gallardo, or the gopheritis of Ryan Dempster, owners should strongly consider stashing each of these hurlers in standard mixed leagues. Similarly, the suddenly-dependable Kyle Lohse and Jeremy Guthrie deserve some play in shallower leagues. Even Aaron Harang, one of my least favorite options coming into 2011, can be considered an advisable start with good matchups against the Pirates and Diamondbacks.
More details on these pitchers and others follow, along with our interactive tool that provides the lowdown on every pitcher likely to make at least one start this week.
Advisable Two-Start Pitchers (Standard Mixed Leagues)
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco: Bumgarner's advisable-start status has much more to do with his Week 5 matchup against the Nats than his bounceback outing versus the Pirates on Wednesday. It is something of a leap of faith to think that he won't do so poorly against the Rockies in his second start as to ruin his week, but he would have to really implode to make it worth benching him.
Fausto Carmona, Cleveland: Nearly all of Carmona's rate stats are similar to those he posted in his two best seasons, which were 2007 and 2010. All that is keeping his ERA from dipping below 4.00 is a 61 percent strand rate. Look for the Cleveland ace to follow up a solid outing against the Royals with strong starts against the A's and Angels.
Wade Davis, Tampa Bay: Despite diminished velocity and strikeout totals, Davis has given his owners four consecutive quality starts. Week 5's matchups against the Jays and O's could easily be Nos. 5 and 6.
Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado: De La Rosa became a two-start pitcher once manager Jim Tracy decided to skip Esmil Rogers' turn in the rotation. Credit him with improved control, but don't expect De La Rosa to be as successful over the long haul as he's been so far. He's unlikely to keep up a 12 percent pop-up rate or a 3 percent home run per fly ball rate. Opposing Arizona's Joe Saunders and San Francisco's Ryan Vogelsong in Week 5, owners can trust De La Rosa in shallower formats for at least one more scoring period.
Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore: Owners have been going all gaga over Josh Tomlin, but Guthrie has been doing Tomlin's act for years now. Ironically, Tomlin is currently more popular than Guthrie, but the elder control artist can show his younger counterpart how it's done with matchups against the White Sox and Rays -- both lineups that have scuffled at times this year.
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia: With Roy Oswalt having his start moved back, Hamels earned a second start against the Braves, in addition to his scheduled date with the Nationals. The extra appearance is a nice bonus, but Hamels is a must-start option regardless of how many starts he gets or whom he faces.
Tommy Hanson, Atlanta: With 26 strikeouts over his last three starts, Hanson is really heating up. That's a very scary thought for any team -- real or Fantasy -- that has to oppose him.
Aaron Harang, San Diego: It took five starts to happen, but Harang finally got clobbered, giving up eight earned runs in six innings against Atlanta. Overall, though, he really has been an improved pitcher this year, and the Pirates and Diamondbacks shouldn't be too much of a challenge.
Dan Haren, L.A. Angels: We've been seeing the vintage Haren this year, except even better, since he has allowed only one home run in 44 innings to date. Even with the inevitable regression, Haren is back to being a must-start option.
Edwin Jackson, Chicago White Sox: Jackson has been sharp over his last four outings, and he has really struggled to throw strikes consistently. Still, he is capable of much better, and if he can't show us that with starts against the Twins and Mariners, there's not much point in owning him at all in standard mixed leagues. If you trust him enough to roster him, get Jackson active for Week 5.
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta: Jurrjens hasn't had this much of a knack for inducing grounders since his rookie season. It's every encouraging to see. That trend makes him safe to start this week, even with a trip to Philadelphia.
Clayton Kershaw, L.A. Dodgers: After breezing through his first three starts, Kershaw has struggled in two out of his last three. Even with the resurgent Mets on his schedule this coming week, Kershaw remains a must-start option. If you need reassuring, he also gets the Cubs, who rank 12th in the NL in scoring.
Jon Lester, Boston: Lester has been a slow starter in the past, but not this year. He has blanked opponents in two of his last five starts, and all five have been quality starts.
Kyle Lohse, St. Louis: Lohse's .204 BABIP is highly suspect, but as long as he keeps avoiding the long ball and free passes, he can be good enough to use in standard mixed leagues. A pair of starts at pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium will help with the former.
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland: After Tuesday's outing in which McCarthy was shelled for seven runs on 14 hits in 5 1/3 innings, he appears to be a bit unlucky in having a 3.57 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, neither of which sounds all that bad. Those 14 hits raised McCarthy's BABIP to .351, which should recede over his next several starts. Even in that disastrous start, McCarthy did a good job of getting ground balls, but more than half of them found the gaps. That's a feat he probably won't repeat too many times.
Kyle McClellan, St. Louis: McClellan, yet another ground ball pitcher, has not shown the same kind of command that Lohse and McCarthy have, but he does have an edge that those other two don't: you can still use him in your RP slot in Head-to-Head leagues.
James McDonald, Pittsburgh: McDonald has yet to find consistency, but more often than not, he can be trusted with favorable matchups. He has two of them in Week 5: at the Padres and at home against the Astros.
Alexi Ogando, Texas: While he is no sure thing to succeed against the Yankees in his second start of the week, Ogando should do well enough against the M's to make up for it.
CC Sabathia, N.Y. Yankees: Like fellow lefty Lester, Sabathia seems to be shedding the slow-starter tag. Not that it matters; you need to start the Yanks' ace every week.
Anibal Sanchez, Florida: If you were concerned about Sanchez's 123 pitches from his one-hitter two starts ago, you had to like the fact that Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez cut him off at 74 pitches the last time out. Anything to keep Sanchez healthy is a good thing, as he is really getting in a groove.
Justin Verlander, Detroit: Despite six home runs in 42 innings, Verlander is 6 for 6 in quality starts. Even with tough assignments against the Yankees and Blue Jays, Verlander could have that count up to eight by the end of Week 5.
Jered Weaver, L.A. Angels: Weaver was scratched from his scheduled Sunday start at Tampa Bay with a stomach virus. He should be ready to return on Monday, giving him a two-start week. Weaver is arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball right now, and a stomach bug is no reason to pull him from your rotation.
Other Add/Activate Targets
Scott Baker, Minnesota: Baker has been in top form, but he's not getting enough attention in deeper mixed leagues, much less standard ones. Owners in just about all formats could use his strikeouts and his 1.18 WHIP, not to mention a decent his 3.16 ERA.
|1.||Ryan Madson, RP, Phillies||28|
|2.||Bartolo Colon, SP, Yankees||24|
|3.||Josh Tomlin, SP, Indians||21|
|4.||Mike Leake, SP, Reds||20|
|5.||Kyle Lohse, SP, Cardinals||18|
|6.||Randy Wolf, SP, Brewers||17|
|7.||Sergio Santos, RP, White Sox||17|
|8.||Jason Marquis, SP, Nationals||15|
|9.||Alex White, SP, Indians||14|
|10.||Fernando Salas, RP, Cardinals||12|
Zack Greinke, Milwaukee: Greinke (ribs) will be activated from the DL to start on May 4 at Atlanta. While he could be rusty in his first start back, his ace potential means he should be active in all formats.
Charlie Morton, Pittsburgh: After a horrible 2010 season, owners were rightfully skeptical about Morton coming into this year. Prior to Sunday, he had 12 strikeouts over his last two starts to go along with a ground-ball rate that even Tim Hudson could envy. Morton should be earning more consideration in deeper mixed leagues. A Week 5 start against the tepid Astros should make it easier to take a risk on the fourth-year starter.
Chris Narveson, Milwaukee: Over the past few weeks, there's been a growing love for Narveson among Fantasy owners, but with just one bad start, that fondness is proving to be fleeting. In the past week, he has been dropped from 15 percent of leagues and benched in 22 percent. The Reds hit him around on Monday, but Narveson looked better at Houston on Sunday. He is still enough of a bat-misser to be trusted with most matchups. Narveson deserves another chance, even with an upcoming start against his former team, the Cardinals.
Jonathon Niese, N.Y. Mets: Niese has not performed at his best so far this year, but why he is owned in fewer leagues than Javier Vazquez or Kevin Correia is a bit perplexing. Going forward, he should strand more than 67 percent of his base runners and get his ERA closer to 4.00, making him viable in deeper mixed leagues.
Bud Norris, Houston: Norris has been a disappointment in his first two seasons, but from here on out you ignore him at your own risk. He trails only Matt Garza, Jonathan Sanchez and Cliff Lee in strikeout rate, and he hasn't been walking many batters. Grab Norris now before he becomes scarce in shallower formats. Amazingly, he is still available in just over half of all leagues.
Joel Pineiro, L.A. Angels: Pineiro was sharp in his first start of the season at Tampa Bay. Though he looked good his first time out, he is still a fringe option in shallower leagues, so only consider him in deeper mixed leagues and AL-only leagues as he comes back from an extended layoff.
Clayton Richard, San Diego: Richard hasn't really been all that impressive this year, but even with fewer-than-normal strikeouts, he has managed a sub-4.00 ERA. He should perform even better going forward, and a Week 5 date with Pittsburgh gives him a chance to begin improving right away. Especially with this matchup, he can be trusted in standard mixed leagues.
Chris Tillman, Baltimore: With a 5.25 ERA, Tillman looks like anything but a mixed-league option, but he's an improved strand rate away from helping owners in most formats. And with a lower-than-average 64 percent rate, improvement has to be just around the corner. Owners in deeper mixed leagues should give Tillman a try before he becomes harder to get.
Jason Vargas, Seattle: Vargas is another early-season strand rate victim. To look at his mid- 5.00s ERA, you would never guess that he has nearly the same strikeout and walk rates as Oswalt. This is not to say that he will be Oswalt-good over the long term, but with an ownership rate under 20 percent, Vargas is much better than many owners think.
Alex White, Cleveland: White has replaced Carlos Carrasco (elbow) in the Indians' rotation and is slated to make a Week 5 start on Friday at the Angels after making his big-league debut on Saturday. The rookie call-up made a good first impression in his debut and had been doing exceedingly well in Triple-A. At minimum, he is an advisable start in AL-only leagues.
Vance Worley, Philadelphia: Worley has stepped in for Joe Blanton, who went on the DL on Thursday with an elbow injury. He will inherit Blanton's scheduled start against Washington in Week 5. While Worley may get fewer strikeouts than Blanton would have, he is a skilled control pitcher who will fare well enough to be used in NL-only leagues.
Inadvisable Two-Start Pitchers (Standard Mixed Leagues)
Erik Bedard, Seattle: It took him until the fifth try, but Bedard finally posted a quality start on Wednesday at Detroit. Maybe by July Bedard's poor start to the season will be a dim memory, but there is still too much risk involved for standard mixed league owners to use him.
Brad Bergesen, Baltimore: Bergesen just hasn't been able to get ground balls consistently this year, and without that going for him, there's not much to recommend him outside of AL-only leagues.
Clay Buchholz, Boston: Buchholz has yet to get it going this season, and with an escalating fly-ball rate, he may be fortunate that things haven't gone worse for him. After just five starts, it's still too early to cut Buchholz in standard mixed leagues, but it's not too early to bench him. Facing off against Jered Weaver and Brian Duensing won't make it any easier to trust him this coming week.
Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox: Buehrle had one of his two best starts of the year on Wednesday against the Yankees, but he still picked up his third straight loss. He is still capable of tossing the occasional gem, but you have to put up with a lot of duds if you keep him active. Only AL-only owners should be bothering with the crafty southpaw.
Bartolo Colon, N.Y. Yankees: I have to admit that I very nearly included Colon among the advisable two-start pitchers list. Despite his superb stats so far, at the moment of truth, I wasn't about to claim Colon for any of my standard mixed league rosters. Though his ownership rate is rising quickly, he's still available in more than half of all leagues, so other owners are still not ready to commit yet either. If he can outduel Verlander in Motown and tame the Texas lineup this coming week, there will be little reason to hesitate to add Colon to your rotation for Week 6.
Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs: In case you weren't already convinced that there is something seriously amiss with Dempster, his Thursday night performance against Arizona, lasting just one-third of an inning, should confirm your suspicions. He allowed seven earned runs, including a Stephen Drew grand slam.
R.A. Dickey, N.Y. Mets: The Dickey of 2010 resurfaced in his last two starts, but the Astros and Nats are not exactly the toughest opponents. Especially with him opposing Kershaw in one of his Week 5 starts, Dickey is probably best saved for deeper mixed leagues for now. However, if he succeeds over his next two starts, it will be time to look at Dickey again in shallower leagues.
Jeff Francis, Kansas City: It initially looked as if Francis and the Royals were going to be a good match, but with four strikeouts over his last three starts, Kansas City will have to look elsewhere for a team ace. He is still owned in some deeper mixed leagues, but owners in those formats should start looking at other options.
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee: Many owners probably drafted Gallardo as a potential No. 2 starter in standard mixed leagues, but after a solid month of low strikeout totals and persistent high line drive rates, it's too taxing to keep running him out there. It would be advisable to sit Gallardo no matter what this week, with either one start or two. However, with matchups against the Braves and Cardinals, there is even more risk associated with giving him another chance.
Tom Gorzelanny, Washington: Gorzelanny's strikeouts are tempting, but his walks will hurt your WHIP, while the homers will do in your ERA. He's just not worth the tradeoffs in shallower leagues.
J.A. Happ, Houston: Happ's results on Wednesday against the Cards -- two runs over five innings with five Ks -- were better, but he's still having a difficult time finding the strike zone. There are many safer options for two-start pitchers out there in standard mixed leagues, so there's no need to gamble on the inconsistent Happ.
Livan Hernandez, Washington: Hernandez has been getting a little more vertical break on his sinker, according to PitchF/X data, and it may have helped him to get more grounders in a few of his outings this year. Even if he can continue to avoid homers, his upside is as an option for deeper mixed leagues.
Derek Holland, Texas: Holland teased us with two quality starts to begin the year, and then followed up with three straight games with five runs allowed. Remember that he is still just 24, so a breakthrough could still be in store. Just don't bank on it happening in Week 5, especially with one start coming against the Yankees.
Mike Leake, Cincinnati: Leake has had good overall results lately, but he has become a bit homer-prone. With better options most likely available in standard mixed leagues, don't take a chance on him giving up some long balls in his second start this week, which is at Wrigley Field.
Brad Penny, Detroit: Penny has yet to string two good starts together, even though he had a prime opportunity on Thursday with a matchup against the Mariners. When you can't trust Penny against the likes of Seattle and Oakland, it's time to cut bait outside of AL-only leagues.
Jo-Jo Reyes, Toronto: Reyes is striking out batters at a good clip, but he is still getting smacked around on balls in play. He matches up pretty well against the aforementioned Penny, but there is not enough upside here to use Reyes in mixed league formats.
Tyson Ross, Oakland: Ross blanked the Angels for seven innings on Wednesday, showing the potential for future Fantasy viability. However, when Ross has struggled with control, he has struggled with it big time. He is just too volatile to trust as anything other than a last-resort AL-only option.
Joe Saunders, Arizona: Anytime a pitcher faces the Padres, you have to consider starting him. In Saunders' case that's the only reason to think about using him next week, and even so, you may get saddled with some nasty stats from his face-off against the Rockies.
Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco: For someone who hadn't started a major league game in seven years, Vogelsong looked awfully sharp on Thursday in beating the Pirates. He could have a much tougher time against the Mets and Rockies, so even in NL-only formats, you should first look at your other available alternatives.
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Chris Volstad, Florida: Volstad's sinker hasn't been working over his last three starts. He hasn't exactly been pounding the strike zone either, so there's not very much to like about the tall righty right now.
Other Drop/Stash Targets
A.J. Burnett, N.Y. Yankees: Burnett's supporters may point to his 4-1 record and 3.93 ERA and see improvement. However, both of those marks have been helped by a .286 BABIP that is too low for all of the line drives that he has allowed. Burnett's velocity continues to drop, and his K-rate is right where it was last year. There are no signs of genuine progress.
Kyle Drabek, Toronto: The rookie is walking too many batters, and it's already catching up with him. In a couple of years, he could be where Trevor Cahill is now, but just like it took the A's phenom awhile to become reliable, you can expect that Drabek will be frustrating at times this year.
Freddy Garcia, N.Y. Yankees: An 2.00 ERA has turned some heads, but Garcia has pitched just 18 innings. Owners in deeper mixed leagues will eventually feel the need to toss Garcia back on waivers, so why not beat the rush and look for a better arm right now?
Colby Lewis, Texas: Lewis' downturn has been downright staggering, though he did make it through eight innings against Oakland on Saturday. He showed enough promise last season that he is worth a reserve slot if you have one. Under no circumstances, though, should he be starting in standard mixed leagues at this point.
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota: What goes for Lewis is exactly what goes for Liriano. There is only so long that you can stick with a pitcher who is throwing so few strikes.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston: Matsuzaka's recent string of 15 shutout innings over two starts was impressive, but his record of inconsistency goes far beyond his first month of starts this year. Also, his Thursday start is at risk due to a stiff elbow. Use Dice-K in deeper mixed leagues while he is hot, but trying him out in standard mixed leagues may be asking for trouble.
Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay: Niemann has had two good starts this year, and both have come against Minnesota. The Twins have made a lot of pitchers look like world-beaters this year, so before trusting Niemann in shallower leagues, let's see how he does against Toronto in Week 5. Until then, keep him stashed in shallower formats.
Aneury Rodriguez, Houston: Fewer than one percent of owners have picked up Rodriguez, who will replace Nelson Figueroa in the Astros' rotation. Rodriguez could provide strikeouts, so he is worth claiming in NL-only leagues, but owners should be selective about when they start him. The fly-ball pitcher is slated to make his debut in homer-happy Cincinnati, so this would be a good week to stash the Rule 5 pick.
Ervin Santana, L.A. Angels: Santana hasn't really been all that bad, no matter what his 4.89 ERA might say. For no apparent reason, opponents are batting .330 when they put the ball in play off Santana. Even if that trend corrects itself, Santana is still a threat to allow homers, so standard mixed-league owners would be best served by a wait-and-see approach.
Edinson Volquez, Cincinnati: Volquez's early performance has a few more redeeming qualities than, say, Liriano's or Gallardo's, as he has posted impressive strikeout and ground ball rates. Still, walks and homers are derailing what should be a resurgent season. While Volquez is far from a lost cause, there are not enough encouraging signs to feel confident about him in shallower leagues for now.
Randy Wolf, Milwaukee: Since it wasn't long ago that Wolf was a reliable option in standard mixed leagues, his string of three starts with one total run allowed has encouraged owners to pick him up again. I'm not quite ready to hop on this bandwagon. His recent pattern of inconsistency is a factor, but most concerning is a persistent high flyball rate that suggests that he is still vulnerable to homers. He may be able to get away with keeping the ball up against the Pirates and Astros, but I shudder to think what the Cardinals might do next week.
Travis Wood, Cincinnati: With Cueto and Bailey soon to rejoin the Reds' rotation, many have assumed that Sam LeCure and Mike Leake would be most vulnerable to losing their jobs. However, Wood just might be pitching himself towards a ticket to Triple-A. He has done a good job of pitching in the strike zone, just as he did last year, but he may finding opposing hitters' wheelhouses a little too often, as high BABIP and line-drive rates would suggest. It's time to sit Wood in most mixed leagues.
Chris Young, N.Y. Mets: Young has regularly defied the major league norm of a BABIP around .300, typically settling in with a rate around .250. Still, his current mark of .167 -- and the 26 percent popup rate that supports it -- is pretty extreme, even for Young. He's due for an ERA and WHIP increase, and when those come, he won't be too welcome on standard mixed league rosters.
Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs: Here's a case where an overall stat line can be deceiving early in the season. His K/9 and BB/9 rates of 7.1 and 3.2, respectively, are decent, so you would think that some is amiss with his near-5.00 ERA. The problem is that those rates have been highly skewed by a single excellent start -- eight shutout innings with 10 strikeouts and a walk -- against the lowly Padres. Against stiffer competition, Big Z has been a big stiff. Let him sit against the Dodgers next week.
Jordan Zimmermann, Washington: Zimmermann has shown strong command, but he's been lacking K-power of late. Without more whiffs, there's not much to separate him from any number of fringe options. While Zimmermann may be just fine for the coming week, it's worth seeing if you can find a more proven arm to use in shallower leagues.
Home Run Alerts
Phil Coke, Detroit: Coke hadn't given up a homer in a start until Tuesday, when he allowed a pair to the Mariners. Then again, two of his previous three starts were in pitcher-friendly Oakand and Seattle. Flyball-leaning Coke could be in trouble making his first trip this year to Toronto.
Barry Enright, Arizona: Enright had a nice outing against the Cubs on Thursday, though he did yield his sixth homer of the season. Look for more of the same, with possibly much worse overall results, when he faces the Rockies next time out.
James Russell, Chicago Cubs: Russell will get his fourth crack at a starting assignment on Monday at the Dodgers. Even though he will be plying his craft in a pitcher-friendly environment, Russell is far too homer-prone to be trusted in nearly any park.
Joe Blanton, Philadelphia: Blanton was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday evening with an impingement of the right elbow. He will not require surgery and could be ready to return for Fantasy Week 6 (May 9-15).
Homer Bailey, Cincinnati: Bailey made a successful Triple-A rehab start on Saturday. He is tentatively scheduled to return to the Reds' rotation on May 10 at Houston, so you can stash him for one more week.
Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati: It was initially thought that Cueto, who like Bailey is recovering from a shoulder injury, might return next weekend. Now he trails Bailey in the recovery process, so he will not be back anytime during Week 5.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox: Peavy will be making another start for Triple-A Charlotte on Wednesday. He would then likely be activated to pitch for the White Sox during Fantasy Week 6 (May 9-15), with his return tentatively slated for May 10 at the Angels.
Phil Hughes, N.Y. Yankees: Hughes went for a series of tests on Wednesday after being pulled from a bullpen session after experiencing a setback two days earlier. The tests were inconclusive, but one possibility is that Hughes has Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Until Hughes undergoes further testing, there is no timetable for his return, though there is some chance that he could miss the remainder of the season.
Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland: Carrasco was placed on the DL on Thursday with right elbow inflammation. An MRI revealed no structural damage, and if he heals quickly, Carrasco could return to the rotation for Fantasy Week 6 (May 9-15).
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