We may be approaching Fantasy Week 10 (June 2-8), but this week's selection of two-start pitchers is far from a perfect "10." Unless your staff is led by Felix Hernandez or Clayton Kershaw, there's a good chance your ace won't be giving you a pair of starts this coming week.
The pool of two-start options has a larger selection of middle-of-the-rotation types like Jordan Zimmermann, Scott Kazmir and Alex Cobb, and you may have to be satisfied with letting them lead the way. It may be hard to compensate for the lack of quality with quantity, as there are likely to be few viable alternatives on waivers in standard mixed leagues. Of all the currently-scheduled two-start pitchers owned in fewer than 70 percent of the leagues on CBSSports.com, only Jaime Garcia, Henderson Alvarez, Bartolo Colon and Charlie Morton have avoided inclusion in this week's "pitchers to avoid" list.
|1. Felix Hernandez||at NYY, at TB|
|2. Clayton Kershaw||vs. CHW, at COL|
|3. Jordan Zimmermann||vs. PHI, at SD|
|4. Anibal Sanchez||vs. TOR, vs. BOS|
|5. Alex Cobb||at MIA, vs. SEA|
|6. James Shields||at STL, vs. NYY|
|7. Homer Bailey||vs. SF, vs. PHI|
|8. Scott Kazmir||at NYY, at BAL|
|9. C.J. Wilson||at HOU, vs. CHW|
|10. Gerrit Cole||at SD, vs. MIL|
If you feel like your current rotation just isn't complete heading into June's first scoring period, you are probably better off picking up a one-start Francisco Liriano (at SD) than pulling a two-start Shelby Miller, Matt Garza or Jorge De La Rosa into an active roster spot. (Side note on De La Rosa: don't buy into his 1.17 WHIP. No matter how good the Rockies' infield defense may be, he won't continue to hold hitters to a .163 batting average on grounders.)
If you are an Andrew Cashner (elbow) or Taijuan Walker (shoulder) owner, you may actually gain a start without having to pick anybody up. According to MLB.com, Cashner may be ready to re-enter the Padres' rotation after pitching a simulated game Monday. If you were counting on Tim Stauffer for two starts this week, Cashner's return could spoil that. The chances for Walker's return next weekend are more remote, but the possibility still looms, so his status is worth tracking.
This week doesn't offer the most attractive list of borderline two-start options, but even risky types like Justin Masterson, Yovani Gallardo and Bartolo Colon have their appeal, given the limited alternatives. As usual, I'll review them in rank order, along with a mention of the comparable one-start options.
Monday's update: The Orioles flipped Ubaldo Jimenez with Bud Norris in their rotation, so with Jimenez now drawing a start in Tuesday's series opener at the Rangers, he will get two starts in Week 10, with Norris getting only one.
With the demotions of Liam Hendriks and Brett Oberholtzer, respectively, the Blue Jays and Astros have opted to return to a five-man rotation, and those moves give Drew Hutchison and Collin McHugh two-start weeks. Hutchison was also skipped in the just-completed weekend series with the Royals, and his re-entry into Toronto's rotation spoils what would have been a two-start week for R.A. Dickey.
Cashner will pitch a simulated game Monday, and he could be in line to return to the Padres this weekend. The Seattle Times reports that the Mariners will have Walker make at least two more rehab starts, so owners can keep him stashed for Week 10.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
11. John Lackey, BOS (at CLE, at DET)
Lackey would normally be a cinch to use in a two-start week, earning a spot on the must-start list. He misses it this week, though not by much, as he will face a lefty-loaded Indians lineup at Progressive Field, which is a very good power park for left-handed hitters, as well as the Tigers, who are simply a good power- hitting team. Lackey's 3.51 road ERA suggests that he isn't too risky to start in away games, but the .202 Isolated Power he has allowed on the road shows that he is also not entirely safe, especially with these particular matchups. However, even if Lackey gives up some long drives, he can still offer enough in strikeouts and WHIP to be worth starting.
12. Ubaldo Jimenez, BAL (at TEX, vs. OAK)
Even with a pair of starts in which he failed to advance beyond five innings, Jimenez had a strong month of May. He struck out 38 batters over 34 2/3 innings and compiled a 58 percent ground ball rate (according to FanGraphs.com) on his way to a 3.12 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. While he has continued to be erratic in his ability to get swings and misses, Jimenez has developed some consistency in getting grounders, inducing nine or more in five of his last seven starts. He is once again safe to use in two-start weeks, at the very minimum.
13. Chris Archer, TB (at MIA, vs. SEA)
Archer started May off with a four-game stretch in which he seemingly forgot where the strike zone was, issuing 15 walks over 20 1/3 innings. Even during that slump, there was a scoreless 5 2/3-inning affair at the Angels and a five-inning start against the Orioles in which he threw 62 of 100 pitches for strikes and walked just one batter. In other words, the demise of Archer has been greatly exaggerated. He has bounced back with consecutive quality starts that produced 18 strikeouts and five unintentional walks in 12 innings. Even at his best, Archer's control hasn't been great this year, but given that he is getting strikeouts and avoiding extra-base hits (.091 Isolated Power allowed), you can live with a slightly-elevated walk rate.
14. Justin Masterson, CLE (vs. BOS, at TEX)
It would be hard to exaggerate how bad Masterson has been over his last five starts, yet here he is in the upper half of a list of borderline two-start pitchers. If not for this cold snap, Masterson would be an automatic start this week, and he has demonstrated enough upside -- even this season -- to deserve some benefit of the doubt. As of May 3, Masterson had 41 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings and an 11 percent whiff rate. He also had 16 walks at that point, which isn't such an impressive ratio, but it wasn't alarming either. Masterson's velocity has been down this year, but it didn't keep him from missing bats earlier in the season, so if he can pitch with better control, he should be effective enough to use. He has emerged from periods of poor control before, so in most mixed league formats, it's worth the gamble to start Masterson this week.
15. Jaime Garcia, STL (vs. KC, at TOR)
|24. Drew Hutchison||at DET, vs. STL|
|25. Matt Garza||vs. MIN, at PIT|
|26. Jake Arrieta||vs. NYM, vs. MIA|
|27. Shelby Miller||vs. KC, at TOR|
|28. Jorge De La Rosa||vs. ARI, vs. LAD|
|29. Tim Lincecum||at CIN, vs. NYM|
|30. Danny Duffy||at STL, vs. NYY|
|31. Kyle Gibson||at MIL, vs. HOU|
|32. Chase Anderson||at COL, vs. ATL|
|33. Jake Peavy||at CLE, at DET|
|34. Samuel Deduno||at MIL, vs. HOU|
|35. Tim Stauffer||vs. PIT, vs. WAS|
|36. David Phelps||vs. SEA, at KC|
|37. Roberto Hernandez||vs. NYM, at CIN|
|38. Joe Saunders||vs. BAL, vs. CLE|
|39. Randy Wolf||vs. TB, at CHC|
|40. David Buchanan||at WAS, at CIN|
Because of his chronic injury issues, many owners have grown weary of Garcia, but now that he is healthy and in the Carindals' rotation, he is looking like a solid Fantasy option again. Garcia has picked up where he left off, throwing strikes and getting ground balls. He is also throwing with his greatest velocity to date in his major league career, so just maybe, he can mainain the near-strikeout-per-inning pace (19 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings) he has established over his first three starts. Garcia has had double-digit whiff rates in each year of his career, so that's not an unthinkable scenario. Though the Blue Jays pose a threat to practically any starter, Garcia has enough going for him to be worth an active roster spot in his first two-start week in 2014.
16. Jose Quintana, CHW (at LAD, at LAA)
With Chris Sale getting pushed up to take Quintana's scheduled start on Sunday, Quintana loses his second start for Week 9, but gains a second start in Week 10. In gaining his ninth quality start in 11 tries earlier this week, Quintana continues to be a model of metronomic consistency. He rarely dominates, so with a pair of tough matchups, Quintana might appear vulnerable, but it's not as if he has benefitted from a favorable schedule. Among his quality starts are a pair of games against the Tigers and a visit to Coors Field. Quintana remains a safe, if unexciting, two-start option this week.
17. Henderson Alvarez, MIA (vs. TB, at CHC)
Because of his extreme pitch-to-contact ways, Alvarez isn't always viable in standard mixed leagues, even with two starts. But because he is such a reliable inducer of ground balls, Alvarez can be worth using in two-start weeks with the right matchups. Facing the Cubs, who rank among the majors' lowest-scoring teams, and the power-deprived Rays constitutes having "the right matchups." The biggest threat to Alvarez's value this week would be his health, as he was pulled early from his most recent outing with stiffness in his pitching elbow, but he doesn't appear to be in danger of getting skipped in the Marlins' rotation.
18. Hiroki Kuroda, NYY (vs. OAK, at KC)
Plenty of pitchers are prone to the gopher ball at Yankee Stadium, but prior to this season, Kuroda hadn't been one of them. After yielding 20 homers in 220 1/3 innnings over the last two years in the Bronx, Kuroda has already allowed seven home runs in just 35 1/3 home innings. Given that he is no less of a ground ball pitcher than he was a year ago, at some point Kuroda's home run rate and ERA are due to plummet. That will be good news for Fantasy owners, but not necessarily this week. While a visit to the Royals should result in a productive start for Kuroda, the slugging A's present a major challenge for any pitcher, much less one pitching at Yankee Stadium.
19. Zack Wheeler, NYM (at CHC, at SF)
Wheeler has started to dig out from under a six-start run in which he walked 22 batters over 32 2/3 innings, which put his season-to-date ERA at 4.53 and his WHIP at 1.60 on May 13. He has issued only one walk over his last two starts combined, and Wheeler's improved control actually dates back to three starts ago, when he threw 63 of 89 pitches for strikes against the Nationals. However, Wheeler's two most recent opponents, the Phillies and Diamondbacks, may not offer the best test of whether he has truly overcome his control issues. The Diamondbacks rarely take a walk, and the Phillies are generally prone to swing at pitches that would otherwise be balls. Throw a Giants lineup that has been one of the more potent ones this season onto Wheeler's Week 10 schedule, and it's not a given that he will continue his recent progress.
20. Charlie Morton, PIT (at SD, vs. MIL)
This is about as good as it gets for Morton, who has struggled mightily with control at times this season and has allowed a higher OBP (.340) than slugging percentage (.331). The Padres and Brewers don't walk much, and neither lineup is loaded with fearsome lefty threats. Morton has actually limited left-handed hitters to a .213 batting average this season, but should he revert to his prior form (career .309 batting average allowed to lefties), his matchups should be reassuring. He doesn't offer much upside, but Morton can usually help with ERA, and he shouldn't be a liability to your WHIP this week.
21. Collin McHugh, HOU (vs. LAA, at MIN)
McHugh continued his surprising run last week, tossing seven shutout innings against the Royals with nine strikeouts and no walks. He has had few problems getting whiffs, even against a superb contact-hitting team like the Royals, but that matchup wasn't a good test to see how much of a problem his flyball tendencies could be. So far, McHugh has held hitters to a .287 slugging percentage, but that seems far too good to last. The Twins shouldn't pose too much of a challenge, but even though McHugh held the Angels to three singles and an Albert Pujols solo home run in a start two weeks ago, he could fare much worse this time around.
22. Yovani Gallardo, MIL (vs. MIN, at PIT)
Gallardo overcame a 61 percent strikes thrown rate in April with a combination of good luck in the form of a 90 percent strand rate (per FanGraphs.com) and a .264 BABIP. Since then, his control has worsened, and his ERA has risen from 1.91 to 3.56. Though Gallardo hurts his own chances for success with too many walks and not enough swings-and-misses, he does have high ground ball and called strike rates going for him. In most weeks, that would not be enough to recommend Gallardo as a two-start option, but with a pair of opponents who rank in the lower half of all teams in runs scored, he could make it worth your while to sit one of your lesser one-start pitchers.
23. Bartolo Colon, NYM (at PHI, at SF)
Colon's overall stats (4.73 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) could be misleading, as he has registered quality starts in seven out of 10 tries. In those three sub-quality starts, Colon has allowed 22 earned runs on 32 hits over 15 1/3 innings. It just so happens that two of those three starts came against the teams who have arguably been his toughest opponents: the Rockies and Angels. The Giants also boast one of the majors' better lineups, so even though Colon will get to pitch at AT&T Park, that could be a difficult assignment for him this week. Colon just may have a very productive scoring period, but as his three bad starts have shown, there is significant downside here.