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Week 23 Pitching Forecaster

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Each week in this space, in addition to ranking the top 70 pitchers for the coming week, I make my cases for and against using certain two-start pitchers in various formats. This time, I'm making a point to advise against using a particular one-start pitcher.

Since coming off the disabled list earlier this month, Yovani Gallardo has made three starts, each of which has been a resounding success. Digging beyond the 0.93 ERA and 1.03 WHIP he has produced in those starts, we see the same pitcher who struggled prior to his DL stint. As has been typical throughout his career, Gallardo has struggled to find the strike zone, getting strikes on 58 percent of his pitches over his last three outings. He is also having difficulty getting swings and misses and avoiding hard contact, as he has not improved on either his 7 percent whiff rate or 27 percent line drive rate. Gallardo has managed to succeed by somehow issuing only five walks over his last 19 1/3 innings and by stranding 91 percent of the runners he has allowed (per FanGraphs.com). His luck could run out when he faces the Pirates on Tuesday.

Because his results have been superb lately, Gallardo's activation rate has been slowly climbing, and owners in the hunt for a title might view him as a secret weapon down the stretch. However, I have left him off this week's top 70, as I see a bounty of options who should help you more this week than the Brewers' opening day starter.

You may not even need to go to your bench or waivers at all to set your rotation this week, as many of the top starters in the majors are set to make two starts in Fantasy Week 23 (Sept. 2-8). Should you need to add a two-start pitcher, though, Jason Vargas, Charlie Morton, Dan Straily, Erasmo Ramirez and Garrett Richards are all widely available and are good enough to take a chance on. Or if you are one of the many owners who has Matt Moore in a DL or bench slot, get ready to activate him, as he is scheduled to start against both the Angels and Mariners.

You may also have some last-minute options that can't be foreseen at this point, as major league rosters can expand up to 40 players on Sunday. Check back in Monday's update to see if any additions have been made from the minors or disabled list. Two such additions, for example, could be Tony Cingrani and Corey Kluber, who could return to their respective rotations next week if they are ready to come off the disabled list.

Monday update: So the chances for Cingrani and Kluber to make their returns this week look good. They're particularly robust for Cingrani, who according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, is set to face the Cardinals this week. The Reds' lefty is now in this week's rankings at No. 50.. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports Kluber could be back in the Indians' rotation for Friday's game against the Mets. The Plain Dealer also indicated the team may limit Kluber to roughly 60 pitches. Since he could knock either Danny Salazar or Scott Kazmir out of a starting role, none of the three figure to have much Fantasy value this week.

The Cardinals revealed the identity of their mystery starter for Tuesday against the Reds, and it's Michael Wacha. Should he fare well in Cincinnati, that would line him up for a second outing against the Pirates. With those two potential starts, Wacha now ranks 40th this week.

Just ahead of Wacha in the rankings is Wade Miley, but like Wacha, he's not an absolute lock to make both of his scheduled starts. The Arizona Republic reports the Diamondbacks are toying with the idea of moving to a six-man rotation, and that could bump Miley from Sunday's start at the Giants.

While Wacha and Miley have a chance at losing a second start, that fate has already befallen Henderson Alvarez and Yusmeiro Petit. Brian Flynn's spot start for the Marlins on Wednesday pushes every Marlins starter, including Alvarez, back a day, whereas the Giants flipped Petit with Barry Zito in their rotation, so now Zito inherits a two-start week.

My Top 70 Starting Pitchers for Week 23
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2
1 Clayton Kershaw @COL (Bettis) @CIN (Bailey)
2 Cole Hamels WAS (Strasburg) ATL (Maholm)
3 Adam Wainwright @CIN (Latos) PIT (Locke)
4 Chris Sale @NYY (Kuroda) @BAL (Tillman)
5 Felix Hernandez @KC (Duffy) TB (Archer)
6 Stephen Strasburg @PHI (Hamels) @MIA (Eovaldi)
7 Madison Bumgarner @SD (Erlin) ARI (Miley)
8 Mat Latos STL (Wainwright) LAD (Greinke)
9 Yu Darvish @OAK (Parker) N/A
10 Max Scherzer @BOS (Lester) N/A
11 David Price @LAA (Weaver) N/A
12 Justin Verlander @KC (Duffy) N/A
13 Patrick Corbin @SF (Petit) N/A
14 Anibal Sanchez @KC (Shields) N/A
15 Jose Fernandez WAS (Haren) N/A
16 Cliff Lee ATL (Minor) N/A
17 Derek Holland @OAK (Straily) @LAA (Vargas)
18 Francisco Liriano @MIL (Peralta) N/A
19 Zack Greinke @CIN (Latos) N/A
20 Doug Fister @BOS (Lackey) @KC (Chen)
21 Justin Masterson BAL (Norris) NYM (Matsuzaka)
22 John Lackey DET (Fister) @NYY (Hughes)
23 Homer Bailey STL (Wacha) LAD (Kershaw)
24 A.J. Burnett @STL (Kelly) N/A
25 Hiroki Kuroda CHW (Sale) BOS (Lester)
26 Mike Minor @PHI (Lee) N/A
27 Jered Weaver TB (Price) N/A
28 Julio Teheran NYM (Gee) N/A
29 Alex Wood @PHI (Kendrick) N/A
30 Ervin Santana SEA (Walker) N/A
31 Gio Gonzalez @PHI (Martin) N/A
32 Matt Moore @LAA (Vargas) @SEA (Ramirez)
33 C.J. Wilson TEX (Garza) N/A
34 Hisashi Iwakuma TB (Hernandez) N/A
35 James Shields DET (Sanchez) N/A
36 Chris Archer @LAA (Richards) @SEA (Hernandez)
37 Dan Haren @MIA (Fernandez) N/A
38 Jordan Zimmermann @PHI (Halladay) N/A
39 Wade Miley TOR (Redmond) @SF (Bumgarner)
40 Michael Wacha @CIN (Bailey) PIT (Morton)
41 Kris Medlen NYM (Torres) N/A
42 R.A. Dickey @MIN (Pelfrey) N/A
43 Marco Estrada @CHC (Rusin) N/A
44 Shelby Miller @CIN (Arroyo) N/A
45 Zack Wheeler @CLE (Kazmir) N/A
46 Jake Peavy @NYY (Nova) N/A
47 Bartolo Colon TEX (Perez) HOU (Clemens)
48 Jason Vargas TB (Moore) TEX (Holland)
49 Jon Lester DET (Scherzer) @NYY (Kuroda)
50 Tony Cingrani STL (Lynn) N/A
51 Jonathon Niese @CLE (Salazar) N/A
52 Lance Lynn @CIN (Cingrani) N/A
53 Hyun-Jin Ryu @COL (De La Rosa) N/A
54 Alex Cobb @LAA (Williams) N/A
55 Gerrit Cole @MIL (Gallardo) N/A
56 Travis Wood MIA (Alvarez) MIL (Thornburg)
57 Dillon Gee @ATL (Teheran) N/A
58 Dan Straily TEX (Holland) HOU (Oberholtzer)
59 Matt Garza @LAA (Wilson) N/A
60 Ivan Nova BOS (Peavy) N/A
61 Jeff Samardzija MIA (Flynn) N/A
62 Jarrod Parker TEX (Darvish) N/A
63 Jose Quintana @NYY (Hughes) @BAL (Norris)
64 Erasmo Ramirez @KC (Chen) TB (Moore)
65 Taijuan Walker @KC (Santana) N/A
66 Felix Doubront @NYY (Pettitte) N/A
67 Tyson Ross COL (Chatwood) N/A
68 Sonny Gray HOU (Peacock) N/A
69 Charlie Morton @MIL (Thornburg) @STL (Wacha)
70 Garrett Richards TB (Archer) TEX (Blackley)

Honorable mention: Martin Perez @OAK (Colon); Tim Lincecum @SD (Stults); Bronson Arroyo vs. STL (Miller); Danny Duffy vs SEA (Hernandez), vs. DET (Verlander); A.J. Griffin vs. HOU (Keuchel).

Two-Start Options to Consider

Michael Wacha, Cardinals (@CIN, PIT): Wacha had been reasonably effective as a starter earlier this year, both in the majors and the minors, but he has been flat-out unhittable during his time in the bullpen. As a reliever, Wacha has struck out 19 batters in 10 2/3 innings with a 20 percent whiff rate, and he's held opponents to a .205 batting average. He probably won't bring that level of dominance back to a starting role, but he could still be far better than average in each of his two starts...assuming he makes both of them.
This week's rank: 40
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Bartolo Colon, Athletics (TEX, HOU): Colon was back in prime form in his first start off the disabled list Thursday. He pitched only five innings against the Tigers, but he needed only 73 pitches and threw 50 of them for strikes. Colon also had one lone strikeout -- no big surprise there -- but he didn't walk a batter and limted the Tigers to one run. When Colon's control is at its best, his pitch-to-contact ways work for him, especially at home, though he may miss Josh Reddick's defense, now that the A's right fielder is on the DL.
This week's rank: 47
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Jason Vargas, Angels (TB, TEX): Vargas has pitched better in each successive start since getting activated from the DL in mid-August. His last two starts have been particularly impressive, and they fit into Vargas' long-term pattern of succeeding more consistently in pitcher's parks. Vargas has also performed well at Angel Stadium, compiling a 3.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP there, so a pair of home starts bodes well in Week 23.
This week's rank: 48
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Jon Lester, Red Sox (DET, @NYY): Though Lester has embarked on an eight-game run that has whittled more than half a run off his ERA, he still may not be the best choice for owners in shallower mixed leagues. He has been inconsistent in his strikeout totals of late, but the biggest warning sign has been the increase in his flyball rate. It's been climbing since June, but he's recovered from a midseason barrage of homers, having allowed only one in his last seven starts. That could change when he faces the Tigers and Yankees.
This week's rank: 49
My take: Solid standard mixed league start.

Travis Wood, Cubs (MIA, MIL): Up until his Tuesday start at the Dodgers, August had not been very kind to Wood. He had registered a 5.16 ERA over five starts, but it probably didn't help that four of those starts were at home and against lineups that have fared well this month. Though Wood gets two more starts at hitter-friendly Wrigley Field, he gets more of a break this time, facing the Marlins and Brewers. In getting to oppose the two most ground ball-prone teams in the majors. it can't get much better for Wood.
This week's rank: 56
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start.

Dan Straily, Athletics (TEX, HOU): Given that Straily has coaxed swinging strikes on 11 percent of his pitches this season, it's a bit of a letdown that he has just 98 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings. Even if Straily doesn't experience a strikeout surge over the season's final month, he could easily improve. Aside from a series at Texas, the Athletics will spend all of September in pitcher's parks. You can certainly expect Straily to improve upon his 4.38 home ERA, as he has stranded only 65 percent of his runners at O.co Coliseum this year (per FanGraphs.com). He gets two of those home starts this week, and if you don't already have a bevy of high-end two-start pitchers on your roster, this would be a very good time to start Straily.
This week's rank: 58
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start.

Jose Quintana, White Sox (@NYY, @BAL): Quintana has been mass-producing strikeouts over the last two months, as he has racked up 10 or more swinging strikes in eight of his last 11 starts. (Oddly enough, one of the exceptions was Tuesday's start against the Astros.) He had already been a good source of WHIP, and now that he is missing more bats, Quintana can lower your staff's WHIP even more and help with ERA, too. He's something of a home run risk given his venues this week, but Quintana is still a decent play in standard mixed leagues.
This week's rank: 63
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start.

Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners (@KC, TB): Ramirez's control was surprisingly shaky over his first month in the Mariners' rotation, but it's improved dramatically since then. Since Aug. 9, Ramirez has thrown 67 percent of his pitches for strikes and walked only six batters in 26 1/3 innings. He's still not pitching efficiently, at least not with any consistency, but that matters less in a two-start week. What does count is the 3.42 ERA he has compiled during that period, and he can maintain that level of run-prevention in his starts this week.
This week's rank: 64
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start.

Charlie Morton, Pirates (@MIL, @STL): Morton has been very good at inducing grounders for awhile now, but he's taken that skill to a new level lately. According to FanGraphs.com, 68 percent of his hit balls have been grounders since the All-Star Break, and during that span of eight starts, he has held opponents to a miniscule .066 Isolated Power and generated nine double play balls. Morton should continue to produce a lower-than-average ERA, but he allows too many hits to maintain a low WHIP. That's a reasonable price to pay to get everything else Morton can offer in a two-start week.
This week's rank: 69
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start.

Garrett Richards, Angels (TB, TEX): With a couple of poor starts in the last two weeks, Richards hasn't been as steady as Morton, but he has similar appeal. He gets plenty of grounders and double play balls and has the potential for a low ERA, but Richards will provide an average WHIP at best. I have Richards ranked just one spot behind Morton because his matchups are slightly tougher.
This week's rank: 70
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start.

Danny Duffy, Royals (SEA, DET): In his return from Tommy John surgery, Duffy has been as good as ever at avoiding contact, and it's hard to argue with the results from his first three starts with the Royals. Control had been an issue for him prior to his surgery, and though he's walked only five batters in 16 1/3 innings, it's still a concern. Duffy walked 4.2 batters per nine innings during his time at Triple-A Omaha this year, and he's thrown 62 percent of his pitches for strikes with the Royals. While that latter rate isn't terrible, it's not especially encouraging either. The safe route is to give him one more week before trusting him in standard mixed leagues.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start.

Paul Maholm, Braves (NYM, @PHI): When Maholm built on last season's late-year strikeout spike in the early weeks of this season, he looked like a solid standard mixed league option. Since mid-May, he's been back to his old contact-pitching ways, and in his two starts since coming off the DL, batters have swung and missed on only nine of his 194 offerings. Unless you have Bartolo Colon-like control -- and Maholm doesn't -- that's not going to work out very well.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start.

Bruce Chen, Royals (SEA, DET): Upon entering the Royals' rotation in July, Chen made a splash with a six-game run of quality starts that yielded a 0.93 ERA. While many owners picked Chen up at that point, others patiently restrained themselves and waited for the regression. Those owners were rewarded over the past three weekly scoring periods, as Chen went 0 for 3 in quality starts and provided a 8.59 ERA. These are the two sides of Chen. His strong flyball tendencies can translate into a low ERA and WHIP for a period of time, but sooner or later, he falls victim to extra-base hits. Deeper mixed league owners can give Chen a try in this two-start week, but in any format, you always do so at your own risk.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start.

Chris Tillman, Orioles (@CLE, CHW): Tillman is 15-4, but being among the best-supported starters in the majors (with 5.2 runs of support per nine innings) has much to do with that. He has a respectable 3.61 ERA, but without a 78 percent strand rate, Tillman would likely be on the north side of 4.00. He's not likely to maintain such high levels of run suport or stranding, especially this week. Tillman will face the lefty-heavy Indians at Progressive Field, a very good power-hitting park for lefties, and he'll return home, where he has allowed 20 homers in 90 1/3 innings, to face the White Sox.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start.

Brandon McCarthy, Diamondbacks (TOR, @SF): McCarthy has had a hard time getting whiffs this season, and that continued Monday against the Padres. Still, he had one of his best starts of the season, throwing seven innings without allowing an earned run. It was probably relevant that McCarthy was facing the Padres, who produced nine ground ball outs. In Week 23, McCarthy will face another offense -- the Giants -- that is among major league leaders in ground ball rate in addition to a depleted Blue Jays offense. A week ago, I categorized McCarthy as strictly an option for NL-only leagues, but this time around, he's worth a try in some deeper mixed league formats.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start.

Ian Kennedy, Padres (SF, COL): Mediocre control played a big role in Kennedy's disappointing run with the Diamondbacks this year, and it has actually gotten worse since coming over to the Padres. In five starts with San Diego, Kennedy has issued 18 walks in 29 2/3 innings and thrown 61 percent of his pitches for strikes. The change of scenery hasn't really helped him, so Kennedy remains someone who can only be trusted in deeper leagues.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start.

Phil Hughes, Yankees (CHW, BOS): While Hughes' last two starts at home haven't been bad, he's simply too much of a risk to use in most Fantasy leagues when pitching at Yankee Stadium. He has a 5.79 ERA and 2.0 HR/9 ratio there this year and a 4.84 ERA and 1.70 HR/9 there over his career. Factor in Hughes facing the Red Sox and their elite-level offense, and it's a week to be avoided outside of the deepest of leagues.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: AL-only start.

Bud Norris, Orioles (@CLE, CHW): Norris' first two starts with the Orioles went well enough, though the Padres and Astros were not the toughest of assignments. Since then, the level of difficulty of Norris' starts has gone up, and so have his ERA and WHIP. He could eke out a decent start against the White Sox, but then again, his command has been so poor lately that he's a risk to start against any opponent.
This week's rank : N/A
My take: AL-only start.

Andrew Albers, Twins (@HOU, TOR): With a 3.2 K/9 rate, Albers would seem to be one of those pitchers who might only catch on in a handful of AL-only leagues, but a 2.92 ERA and 0.86 WHIP have given him broader appeal. Opponents have batted .138 on ground balls against him, but unless he has a special way of motivating Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier defensively, he's bound to regress towards the .245 ground ball average that the Twins has been allowing as a staff. Once that happens, his contributions to teams in AL-only leagues will be limited.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: AL-only start.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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