Youth is well-represented among the borderline two-start candidates for Fantasy Week 12 (June 16-22). Trevor Bauer, Jake Odorizzi, Marcus Stroman, Drew Pomeranz and Rubby De La Rosa may not be proven, but each is brimming with upside. Each has also cracked this week's list of viable two-start alternatives in standard mixed leagues. With veteran options like Justin Verlander and Ervin Santana having been anything but reliable, this might be the time to throw in your lot with a young pitcher or two on the rise.
|1. Max Scherzer||vs. KC, at CLE|
|2. Masahiro Tanaka||vs. TOR, vs. BAL|
|3. Julio Teheran||vs. PHI, at WAS|
|4. Cole Hamels||at ATL, at STL|
|5. Johnny Cueto||at PIT, vs. TOR|
|6. Jon Lester||vs. MIN, at OAK|
|7. Michael Wacha||vs. NYM, vs. PHI|
|8. Dallas Keuchel||at WAS, at TB|
|9. Hyun-Jin Ryu||vs. COL, at SD|
|10. Tyson Ross||at SEA, vs. LAD|
|11. Phil Hughes||at BOS, vs. CHW|
|12. Yordano Ventura||at DET, vs. SEA|
|13. Jered Weaver||at CLE, vs. TEX|
Also to be avoided is Kyle Lohse, aka Mr. Reliabiilty, and fellow Brewer Wily Peralta, as both have the misfortune of making one of their starts at Coors Field. The Rockies have laid waste to countless starters at home this season, with Mike Minor and Julio Teheran being among the most recent victims. In this topsy-turvy week, both Chris Young and Josh Tomlin actually make the cut among recommended two-start pitchers -- a distinction they may not receive again all season. Unlike Lohse and Peralta, this pair of pitchers should benefit from matchups that fit their strengths.
While Odorizzi, Stroman, De La Rosa, Young and Tomlin are still available in many mixed leagues, owners will have more to do than just scan their leagues' waiver wires this weekend. Whether Adam Wainwright (elbow) will make his next scheduled start is still unknown, as is the status of Kevin Gausman, who has made his bid to stay in the Orioles' rotation while Miguel Gonzalez (side) has been on the 15-day disabled list. Gio Gonzalez (shoulder) is set to return from his DL stint, but whether he or Tanner Roark get the nod for the Nationals' series opener against the Astros on Tuesday will determine which one will get added to this week's list of two-start pitchers.
Monday's update: The three major sources of uncertainty heading into the weekend have all been resolved. Wainwright has been replaced by Carlos Martinez for Monday's start versus the Mets, though the Cardinals' ace is expected to return this weekend against the Phillies. Gausman will remain in the Orioles' rotation, though it is not yet clear who could be the odd man out. Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris could be candidates to go to the bullpen, and the latter has options remaining and could potentially be demoted. If either exits the rotation this week, Wei-Yin Chen would likely make two starts.
As expected, Gonzalez will re-enter the Nationals' rotation, but it won't be until Wednesday, so Roark lines up to get a two-start week. There is more on Roark's value this week below, as he has been added to the list of borderline two-start pitchers.
The statuses of Gerrit Cole (shoulder), Hellickson and Doubront are still uncertain, though all could still return this weekend. If so, Brandon Cumpton, Erik Bedard and Rubby De La Rosa could all be relegated to one-start status.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
14. Trevor Bauer, CLE (vs. LAA, vs. DET)
Based on Bauer's seven starts with Triple-A Columbus this season, I figured his owners would have to sacrifice strikeouts in order to enjoy his newfound control. Instead, Bauer has cranked up his strikeout (9.5 K/9) and swinging strike (11.9 percent) rates, while maintaining above-average control (64 percent strikes thrown, no starts with more than three walks). While that display of skill makes Bauer an attractive two-start option, so do his matchups, even though he is facing two of five best power-hitting teams in the majors. The Angels and Tigers may not have their usual thump playing at Progressive Field, which has played as the worst home run park in the American League for right-handed hitters in recent seasons. Both lineups rely heavily on righties, so this could be an especially good week for Bauer.
15. Jake Odorizzi, TB (vs. BAL, vs. HOU)
Odorizzi is yet another pitcher who benefits greatly from a pair of home starts. As one would expect for a flyball pitcher, Odorizzi has been much better at offense-squelching Tropicana Field (3.13 ERA) than on the road (7.16 ERA), and better yet, the Astros have been a lesser power-hitting team in their away games. The Orioles pose the bigger threat, but given Odorizzi's mastery at home so far, holding opponents to a .217/.297/.321 slash line, he appears to be a sufficiently safe play to trust in standard mixed leagues.
16. Marcus Stroman, TOR (at NYY, at CIN)
While Stroman had been less than imposing during a brief stint in the Blue Jays' bullpen last month, as a starter, he has looked every bit as effective as he was as a minor leaguer. In moving up from Double-A to Triple-A this season, Stroman appeared unfazed by the more advanced competition, increasing his strikes-thrown and ground ball rates while continuing to post an above-average swinging strike rate. That success has carried over in each of his first three major league starts, as evidenced by 17 strikeouts, two walks and a 2.50 ERA over 18 innings. At some point, Stroman is likely to hit a snag, but his combination of high velocity, sharp control and strong ground ball tendencies makes him too good to pass up.
17. Jason Hammel, CHC (at MIA, vs. PIT)
|27. Jason Vargas||at DET, vs. SEA|
|28. Tom Koehler||vs. CHC, vs. NYM|
|29. Wily Peralta||at ARI, at COL|
|30. Roenis Elias||vs. SD, at KC|
|31. Colby Lewis||at OAK, at LAA|
|32. Erik Bedard||vs. BAL, vs. HOU|
|33. Ervin Santana||vs. PHI. at WAS|
|34. Wade Miley||vs. MIL, vs. SF|
|35. John Danks||vs. SF, at MIN|
|36. Jacob deGrom||at STL, at MIA|
|37. Kyle Kendrick||at ATL, at STL|
|38. Brandon McCarthy||vs. MIL, vs. SF|
|39. Matt Shoemaker||at CLE, vs. TEX|
|40. Eric Stults||at SEA, vs. LAD|
|41. Jacob Turner||vs. CHC, vs. NYM|
|42. Tyler Matzek||at LAD, vs. MIL|
|43. Brandon Cumpton||vs. CIN, at CHC|
|44. Kevin Correia||at BOS, vs. CHW|
Hammel has seemingly been a different kind of pitcher every year, and usually his varieties have been of the sort that aren't all that useful to standard mixed league owners. More so than any previous version, Hammel 9.0 has been about getting batters to chase and miss on pitches out of the strike zone, and it's enabled him to register a career-low 1.9 BB/9 ratio and a career-high 12.1 percent whiff rate. Because Hammel has been so inconsistent over his career, owners can be excused for not trusing him. However, he has been steady enough over this year's 13 starts to have earned more than his current 68 percent start rate for the coming week.
18. Drew Pomeranz, OAK (vs. TEX, vs. BOS)
Though Pomeranz began his tenure in the A's rotation with three straight scoreless starts, his supporting stats weren't as dazzling as Stroman's have been, raising doubts about his long-term viability. Two sources of frustration stemming from those early outings were low pitch counts and questionable control, but Pomeranz has allayed owners' fears in recent starts. He has exceeded 95 pitches in two of his last three starts and pitched seven innings in back-to-back games. In those last two starts, he has thrown 65 percent of his pitches for strikes. It's a step in the right direction for a pitcher who was already getting called strikes (if not swinging strikes) at a high rate while avoiding extra-base hits. Toss in a couple of starts at pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum, and it's shaping up to be a good week for the lefty.
19. Tanner Roark, WAS (vs. HOU, vs. ATL)
Roark is not overpowering; in fact, his average fastball velocity is nearly 2 mph lower than it was last year. As in 2013, Roark is getting called strikes at an above average (20 percent) rate, which allows him to be a decent strikeout pitcher. His control has remained immaculate, so even in one-start weeks, Roark offers owners a chance to lower their staff's WHIP. In normal two-start weeks, he could easily provide double-digit strikeouts, but against the Astros and Braves, 10-plus Ks is practcally a lock. Though Roark will rarely be viable in standard mixed leagues as a one-start pitcher, he is a very safe option for Week 12.
20. Jonathon Niese (at STL, at MIA)
Niese has been pitching so deep into games that you could call his starts Jon-a-thons. He is averaging 6.5 innings per start and has pitched at least seven innings in seven of his 13 outings. Aside from good, but not great, control, there is nothing else that really stands out about Niese's skill set, but especially in points leagues, his efficiency makes him a very useful option in two-start weeks. While an 80 percent strand rate has allowed Niese to overperform with a 2.54 ERA, his low WHIP and high innings count makes him worth using, even with a healthy number of two-start options from which to choose this week.
21. Rubby De La Rosa, BOS (vs. MIN, at OAK)
After tossing seven shutout innings in his season debut, De La Rosa has been less impressive in two successive starts. Even in losing to the Tigers and Orioles, De La Rosa has shown why he is so promising, racking up 12 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings and throwing 132 of his 201 pitches for strikes. The latter is especially encouraging, as control has typically been De La Rosa's main weakness. He could regresses in that area, especially with the patient A's and Twins lineups on his schedule this week, so there are reasons to hesitate in using him. If you're looking for a reason to start De La Rosa, keep in mind he still has a history of double-digit whiff rates and high ground ball rates to fall back on, should his control fail him.
22. Tommy Milone, OAK (vs. TEX, vs. BOS)
Milone has been gaining popularity in CBSSports.com leagues, as he has gone 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over his last seven starts. An ultra-high strand rate has helped to lower his ERA, but Milone's low WHIP tells us he's doing something right. That something is cutting back on walks, as he has issued only nine over his last 45 innings, and getting frequent popups, which he has done at a 13.1 percent rate this season. Those were keys to Milone's success two seasons ago, as was a good track record in home starts. He had a 2.74 ERA in Oakland in 2012, and he's improved that mark to 1.93 this year. Milone won't miss many bats, but between his return to form and his two home starts, he could help many owners this week.
23. Kyle Lohse, MIL (at ARI, at COL)
Since Lohse became a reliable Fantasy option three seasons ago, he has made only two visits to Coors Field. A 2011 quality start was followed by a five-run, nine-hit disaster the following season, but you can throw that limited track record out the window. In those seasons, the Rockies had a good offense, but they were not the juggernaut they have been this season. With any other matchup for his second start of the week, at worst Lohse would rank in the upper half of this list of borderline two-start candidates. That, sadly for Lohse's owners, is not the case, and the Rockies' season-long assault on major league pitching simply makes him too risky to use in standard mixed leagues unless you are fairly desperate to get an extra two-start pitcher into your rotation.
24. Justin Verlander (vs. KC, at CLE)
Speaking of desperate, that's what you would have to be to start Verlander this week. His control has abandoned him, and hitters have learned to lay off his offerings. When batters have swung at Verlander's pitches, they have been connecting more frequently than in the past. Over his last six starts, Verlander has gotten called strikes at a puny 13.3 percent rate while getting whiffs on only 8.5 percent of his pitches. If you're waiting for a velocity increase to fix the problem, don't bother. Verlander has averaged over 95 mph on his fastball in each of his last three starts, according to BrooksBaseball.net, yet the carnage has continued. Because he had been so good over the previous five seasons, you may want to start Verlander in the hopes that he can overcome the struggles that have defined these mere past two-and-a-half months. At this point, that is the only reason to start him.
25. Chris Young, SEA (vs. SD, at KC)
There may never be another pitcher who has walked almost as many batters (32) as he has struck out (35) to appear on this list, but Young is not an ordinary pitcher. He's a 35-year-old with a mid-80s fastball and control issues, but he laps the pool of major league starting pitchers in flyball rate. Having batters loft 51 percent of all hit balls isn't always a bad thing. Young gets popups at an outrageoius 16.2 percent rate, which has helped him to hold opponents to a .222 batting average, but of course, the downside is a .404 slugging percentage. At Safeco Field, that latter number shrinks to .304, and it will likely fall even further after facing the Padres this week. Young's start at the Royals promises to be just as fruitful, as their .109 Isolated Power is the lowest in the majors. There is always substantial risk in starting Young, but there may never be another week in which the reward promises to be so great.
26. Josh Tomlin, CLE (vs. LAA, vs. DET)
Like Young, Tomlin is known for being an extreme contact pitcher, though 46 innings into this season, he is posting a respectable 7.4 K/9 ratio. However, that's not the reason to start Tomlin, as a decent srikeout rate is just gravy for him. His low walk rate (career 1.7 BB/9) and flyball tendencies make him a good source of low WHIP, and against certain lineups at home, he can avoid getting hurt by the long ball. More often than not, Tomlin is a huge home run risk, but he has held right-handed hitters to a 1.1 HR/9 ratio at home. While that's not especially good, it's good enough for him to succeed, given his strengths. As mentioned above, Progressive Field is very tough on right-handed power hitters, and the Angels and Tigers are largely reliant on right-handed power for their production. A week in which one faces Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez can be dangerous for any pitcher, but Tomlin could do enough to keep the righties in the Angels' and Tigers' lineups in check to escape with a good week.