The All-Star break is finally over. If you're planning on dealing with your baseball withdrawal by watching as many games as you can stand this weekend, you will get to watch a lot of aces, as teams have used the break to reset their rotations.
The downside to this embarrassment of weekend pitching riches, of course, is when Fantasy Week 17 (July 21 -27) rolls around, it's mostly the pitchers at the back of rotations who will open series on Monday and Tuesday. And that will make for some uninspiring two-start options, as those same hurlers will take the mound again next weekend.
|1. Chris Sale||vs. KC, at MIN|
|2. Adam Wainwright||vs. TB, at CHC|
|3. Julio Teheran||vs. MIA, vs. SD|
|4. Cliff Lee||vs. SF, vs. ARI|
|5. Scott Kazmir||vs. HOU, at TEX|
|6. Mat Latos||at MIL, vs. WAS|
|7. Hyun-Jin Ryu||at PIT, at SF|
|8. Mike Minor||vs. MIA, vs. SD|
|9. Doug Fister||at COL, at CIN|
Week 17 will not only be marked by a paucity of higher-end two-start pitchers, but by a great deal of uncertainty. By next weekend, the pre-waiver trade deadline will be just days away, and that could tangle some rotations. Also, some teams are still trying to figure out how to fill out the back of their rotations. Going into the break, many Fantasy owners assumed that Taijuan Walker would return to the Mariners' rotation right away, but now it is unclear when he will be recalled to make his next start. In fact, CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman has reported that the Rays have inquired about getting Walker in a trade, so for all we know, he could have already made his last start for Seattle.
And will Danny Salazar finally return to the Indians' rotation this week? He is a leading candidate to fill an opening in the rotation on Tuesday, but whether he could parlay that into a possible two-start week or a ticket back to Columbus remains to be seen. The Twins' back of the rotation is also in flux, so could prospects Trevor May and/or Alex Meyer finally get the call? Heading into the weekend, therer are far more questions than answers.
Cliff Lee (elbow), Jonathon Niese (shoulder) and Collin McHugh (finger) present their own form of uncertainty, as each is scheduled to return from the disabled list to make two starts this week. All are recommended starts to varying degrees, but each is riskier than usual after experiencing a layoff. C.J. Wilson (ankle) is eligible to return next weekend, and if he is ready to come off the DL, he could spoil a two-start week for either Matt Shoemaker or Hector Santiago.
With so many moving parts, this week's two-start pitcher rankings could get some refreshing between now and the lineup deadline, so be sure to check back for Monday's update. For now, though, here's how the 45 projected two-start pitchers stack up.
Monday update: As expected, some of the muddled rotation situations got clearer over the weekend, though others remain to be sorted out. Salazar will be recalled to start for the Indians on Tuesday at the Twins, but he will still have to duke it out with T.J. House, Zach McAllister and, eventually, Justin Masterson (knee), for one of the final two spots in the rotation. The Twins, however, have yet to name a starter to oppose Salazar, but given that May pitched for Triple-A Rochester on Saturday, he appears to be out of the picture.
Lee and Niese are both scheduled to return from the DL on Monday, so both line up for two starts as anticipated. McHugh will remain on the DL to make at least one rehab start, so a two-start week is no longer possible for him. Wilson has yet to throw off a mound, so his return this week looks unlikely, making the two-start weeks for Shoemaker and Santiago appear safe from preemption.
While McHugh gets removed from this week's list of two-start pitchers, Nick Martinez (side) gets added. He will come off the DL to start at the Yankees on Tuesday, which puts him in line to also start Sunday against the Athletics.
Two-Start Pitchers on the Bubble
10. Jake Odorizzi, TB (at STL, vs. BOS)
Odorizzi's streak of consecutive starts with three or fewer earned runs has reached seven, and over this stretch, he has compiled a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He's been getting more swings-and-misses lately than he was earlier in the season, but a bigger key to his recent success has been pitching mostly at home. Five out of those seven starts came at Tropicana Field, and Odorizzi gets another outing there next weekend. Before then, he will visit Busch Stadium, which is also partial to pitchers. The Cardinals are also very pitcher-friendly, as they have the lowest-scoring and least-powerful offense in the National League that is more than 30 miles from the Mexican border. With a 41 percent flyball rate, Odorizzi is never entirely safe, but he has a good chance of extending his hot streak in Week 17.
11. Jonathon Niese, NYM (at SEA, at MIL)
Niese enters the second half still on the 15-day disabled list, but all indications are that he will be ready to make a start at the Mariners, which would line him up for a second start at the Brewers. Only a two-and-a-half week layoff due to a shoulder strain keeps Niese from being a must-start option, given the meager two-start alternatives this week. Niese's reduced velocity and pitch-to-contact ways are less of an issue when he doubles up his innings, especially given that he typically goes deep into games. The lefty is averaging 3.59 pitches per plate appearance, which helped him to pitch seven-plus innings seven times in the first half. Niese also lasted six-plus innings in all but three of his 16 starts prior to his most recent appearance, when he was knocked out in the first inning by a line drive off his lower back. Perhaps with rest, Niese will throw harder and miss a few more bats, but even if he doesn't, his control, aversion to extra-base hits and efficiency are good enough to make him viable this week.
12. Rick Porcello, DET (at ARI, at LAA)
Porcello's greatest asset is his sinker, but over his first 12 starts of the season, it had betrayed him. Opponents put up a .187 Isolated Power on the pitch, as opposed to a .111 mark last season, but Porcello has found his groove again recently. Over his last six starts, his sinker has yielded an .053 Isolated Power, and overall Porcello has held hitters to a .223/.272/.299 slash line. Even though strikeouts continue to be scarce, Porcello has been so proficient at getting grounders that he can be trusted in two-start weeks. The Angels have been an above-average team at hitting for power against ground ball pitchers, posting a .141 Iso (as opposed to the major league average of .117), so that matchup does make Porcello something less than a must-start.
13. Jimmy Nelson, MIL (vs. CIN, vs. NYM)
After having dominated the Pacific Coast League, Nelson arrived in Milwaukee just before the break with much fanfare ... and then he delivered a dud of a start against the Cardinals. It was actually Nelson's second big league start of the year, and his first effort -- at the Marlins back in May -- went much better. Even in last week's outing, Nelson showed the ability to get whiffs, inducing 10 of them in 98 pitches, and based on his minor league track record, he should be able to do a better job of getting grounders and stranding runners going forward. Even highly talented pitchers don't always have an easy time transitioning to the majors, but Nelson's high ceiling makes him worth starting this week.
14. Matt Shoemaker, LAA (vs. BAL, vs. DET)
Shoemaker has been a swingman for the Angels, which has kept him from staying in the rotation for extended stretches. As we saw with Drew Smyly earlier this season, that can make it difficult for Shoemaker to actually deliver two starts, even when the schedule suggests that is what is in his future for the coming week. Fantasy owners can't control how Shoemaker will be used, but they can take comfort in knowing that he has actually been more effective as a starter than as a reliever. Though he sports a 4.15 ERA while in the rotation, Shoemaker has racked up 52 strikeouts and only 12 walks and four home runs in 52 innings as a starter this year. A .356 BABIP has held Shoemaker back from an impressive stat line, and it is likely the result of bad luck, especially since he has yielded a normal-looking 21 percent line drive rate as a starter (per StatCorner.com). Shoemaker has been too prone to allowing home runs on the road, but with two home starts, he could provide a nice return. In fact, he could be worth a rotation spot, even if he only makes one of his starts.
15. Jacob deGrom, NYM (at SEA, at MIL)
|21. Tom Koehler||at ATL, at HOU|
|22. Drew Hutchison||vs. BOS, at NYY|
|23. Jake Peavy||at TOR, at TB|
|24. Jeremy Guthrie||at CHW, vs. CLE|
|25. Miguel Gonzalez||at LAA, at SEA|
|26. Bud Norris||at LAA, at SEA|
|27. Hector Santiago||vs. BAL, vs. DET|
|28. Kyle Hendricks||vs. SD, vs. STL|
|29. Yusmeiro Petit||at PHI, vs. LAD|
|30. Roenis Elias||vs. NYM, vs. BAL|
|31. Edinson Volquez||vs. LAD, at COL|
|32. Shane Greene||vs. TEX, vs. TOR|
|33. Jacob Turner||at ATL, at HOU|
|34. Miles Mikolas||at NYY, vs. OAK|
|35. Roberto Hernandez||vs. SF, vs. ARI|
|36. J.A. Happ||vs. BOS, at NYY|
|37. Eric Stults||at CHC, at ATL|
|38. Bruce Chen||at CHW, vs. CLE|
|39. Chase Whitley||vs. TEX, vs. TOR|
|40. Scott Carroll||vs. KC, at MIN|
|41. Yohan Pino||vs. CLE, vs. DET|
|42. Vidal Nuno||vs. DET, at PHI|
|43. Nick Martinez||at NYY, vs. OAK|
|44. Kris Johnson||vs. CLE, vs. CHW|
|45. Franklin Morales||vs. WAS, vs. PIT|
Before deGrom embarked on a five-start run that has produced a 1.65 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 32 2/3 innings, he hadn't been showing much consistency with his whiff rate or control, and he had been all too consistent in allowing flyballs. Since then, he has thrown 65 percent of his pitches for strikes, 14 percent for whiffs and he has induced as many grounders as flies and line drives. It's hard to know how much to trust those results, though, as deGrom has faced both the Marlins and Braves twice over that five-start span, and his third opponent -- the Pirates -- are not great contact hitters either. The Mariners will be the best contact-hitting squad deGrom has seen in some time, and while the Brewers do their share of swinging-and-missing, they are the best offensive team he will have faced this year. In fact, the Brew Crew already whacked deGrom around for three runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings in an earlier start this season. Because he does have a history of good control and better ground ball tendencies than what he showed in his early starts this season, deGrom is worth a flier. He just may disappoint those looking for similar performances to those he has had recently.
16. Wily Peralta, MIL (vs. CIN, vs. NYM)
When Peralta got through the first two months of the season with suprisingly good control, owners had reason to be encouraged, but a 2.12 ERA through his first 10 starts seemed a bit much. Regression came swiftly and strongly for Peralta, as his ERA over his next eight starts was an unsightly 6.38. He was a less consistent strike-thrower over that span, but unfavorable BABIP and strand rates were largely responsible for the damage. Peralta never stopped being a good ground ball pitcher, and his control has generally been decent, if not stellar. Take away all of the white noise that that has created the appearance of inconsistency, and what you have is a pitcher much like Charlie Morton, but with a better lineup to back him. Morton is a pretty reliable two-start option, and Peralta is even more so.
17. Ryan Vogelsong, SF (at PHI, vs. LAD)
Matt Cain has gotten a boost over his career from making home starts at AT&T Park, but he isn't the only Giants pitcher to reap that benefit. While Vogelsong is carrying a 5.18 ERA on the road, he has a 3.04 home ERA, and it's the third time in four seasons that he has had an ERA under 3.10 at home. Both Cain and Vogelsong are fairly average when it comes to avoiding contact and pitching with control, but Vogelsong is a little harder to trust. Both this season and in the past, Cain has been more effective at getting outs on balls in play, while Vogelsong has been notably inefficient, averaging 3.92 pitches per plate appearance and fewer than six innings per start. That matters less in a two-start week, but it's part of what makes Vogelsong a less attractive option than the above pitchers on this list.
18. Justin Verlander, DET (at ARI, at LAA)
It's no longer realistic to expect Verlander to blow hitters away, but in late June, he seemed to have figured out a way to succeed with lesser stuff. Over a three-start span, Verlander pitched with pinpoint control, walking just two batters over 19 innings while garnering 20 strikeouts. In his final two starts before the break, Verlander continued to avoid walks, but according to BrooksBaseball.net, his average fastball velocity languished at 92.5 mph. as opposed to 94.0 mph in his prior starts. The results weren't pretty, as Verlander notched only seven Ks in 12 1/3 innings while allwoing nine runs, all earned. There's been more bad than good for Verlander this season, but he has shown signs of promise, like in his recent three-game rebound. It's probably best to sit him, but he's a reasonable last-resort choice.
19. John Lackey, BOS (at TOR, at TB)
Lackey is in the midst of a four-game slide of his own, and it may not be coincidental that three of those starts have come away from Fenway Park. Even though Lackey has experienced a renaissance in his two seasons since returning from Tommy John surgery, in both 2013 and 2014, he has struggled on the road. This season's 4.47 road ERA bests last season's mark by single point, and in both campaigns, he has been highly vulnerable to home runs in away games. The one start that Lackey has pitched at home during his slump came against the slugging Orioles, as a pair of homers neutralized the impact of 11 strikeouts. A road start against the Blue Jays is dangerous, even without Edwin Encarnacion, and the Rays' offense has found new life in recent weeks. Lackey owners can look forward to a home stand in Fantasy Week 18 (July 28-Aug. 3), but until then, they should first see if they can find a safer back-of-the-rotation option.
20. T.J. House, CLE (at MIN, at KC)
House's Fantasy stats -- a 1-2 record with a 4.40 ERA, 1.53 WHIP and 30 strikeouts over 45 innings -- are hardly noteworthy, at least in a good way. His supporting stats, including a 64 percent ground ball rate, 66 percent strikes thrown rate and 10 percent whiff rate, are actually pretty enticing. House has deserved better results, but he has been victimized by a .293 batting average on grounders that looks just plain unlucky, and by four short-distance home runs (according to ESPN Hit Tracker's criteria). With a 3.57 ERA over his last four starts, the turnaround has already begun for House, and with starts against the Twins and Royals this week, it could easily continue. Both teams are among the bottom third in the majors in batting average against ground ball pitchers.