Welcome back, Pitcher List community! I hope this segment helps you formulate your pitching staff each week. Each Friday, I look at every projected two-start pitcher for the week ahead and summarize my thoughts to help you set your rosters. You know the rules, there are four tiers: Definitely, Probably, Questionable, and Bench. Definitely Start features starters that are no-doubters for the week ahead, followed by Probably Start, which includes pitchers who look like good plays but may create a hesitation or two. Players labeled as Questionable are for deeper leagues or have one of two outings that should be skipped. Pitchers under Bench should be avoided despite their two starts. Unless certain rotations are shuffled between this morning and Monday morning, our top tier two-start options next week are limited. We are going to have to work the waiver in tier three next week.
Note: This article was written Friday morning, estimating probable starters through next week. These are subject to change.
Max Scherzer (MIA, @CIN)
Gerrit Cole (CHC, @OAK)
Jacob deGrom (@LAD, @ARI)
Clayton Kershaw (NYM, PHI)
Zack Greinke (@COL, NYM)
Masahiro Tanaka (SDP, BOS)
Rich Hill (NYM, PHI)
Lucas Giolito (KCR, CLE)
- To the surprise of no one, the top three include Scherzer, Cole, and deGrom. They are all absolute no-brainers. I know Cole just got hit around by the White Sox, but he also is the first pitcher to reach 100 strikeouts this year. It’s May 24, for crying out loud! Besides, he’s not a 4-plus ERA pitcher; I expect his ERA to drop a full run before the season comes to a close.
- The best pitcher in baseball from 2011 through 2015 looks part of the way back to his elite self. Kershaw is throwing fastballs just 40% of the time, and it’s working. I like Kershaw next week in two home starts even though the Mets and Phils can blast the longball.
- Greinke in a start at Coors Field? He’s actually pitched relatively well there in recent history. This season, he’s been pitching great, he’s not walking anyone, and keeping the ball in the yard. Start your studs fellas.
- Maybe you’re surprised to see the last three pitchers in this tier, but let me explain. Tanaka’s been fantastic of late, allowing just two earned runs and walking only one in his past three starts. Most importantly, he’s allowed just one homer in that stretch. You know the drill with Hill. When he’s healthy, he’s a top-20 starter. It’s amazing what he’s doing at age 39, and at some point, the wheels are coming off but hopefully not just yet.
- Lucas Giolito has really impressed over the first two months of the season. I mentioned his CSW rate two weeks ago, and he’s sporting a 31.8% rate on the year, which is among the top tier in the league. Remember, he’s just 24 years old and was a former top prospect. He just dismantled the Astros in Houston. Owners should feel confident rolling him out there for both starts next week.
Cole Hamels (@HOU, @STL)
Matt Strahm (@NYY, MIA)
Chris Bassitt (LAA, HOU)
Sonny Gray (PIT, WSH)
Trevor Richards (SFG, @SDP)
Gio Gonzalez (@MIN, @PIT)
Lance Lynn (@SEA, KCR)
- Ugh, I wanted very badly to put Hamels in the top tier for next week. That start in Houston has me worried though. I like that he’s increased his ground-ball rate, and while the Astros are somewhat familiar with Hamels, he’s a different pitcher throwing more fastballs and fewer sinkers.
- Bassitt has been a pleasant surprise this year, and a 30% CSW rate backs up his success. I love that he has two starts at home next week, especially the first one against the Angels. I don’t love that one of them is against the Astros. Oakland Coliseum should help him keep the ball in the yard, but I’m concerned about his 99.3% strand rate and .213 BABIP.
- It might appear like gray skies abound when looking at Gray’s 1-4 record, but I’m thinking sunny days are ahead for the Reds starting pitcher. He’s been sneaky good this year with three plus-pitches that have helped him improve his strikeout rate. He’s a solid option next week with matchups against the Pirates and Nationals. The changeup is essentially a Money Pitch for Richards, but that’s about all he’s got. His fastball has been decent, but a .231 BABIP against the pitch won’t last. That being said, his matchups are cake next week. I’d expect Richards to handle the Giants and fair well against the Padres.
- Every time I think Lynn can be forgotten, he lures us back in. He’s throwing his sinker less and increased the usage of his cutter. He struck out 11 Mariners this week, and I’m no longer afraid of their hot start. He’s a nice two-start option next week both in Seattle and potentially at home versus the Royals. I don’t love him as the weather heats up, but he’s available in over 85% of FantasyPros Consensus leagues, so go get him.
Jordan Lyles (@CIN, MIL)
Jeff Samardzija (@MIA, @BAL)
Steven Matz (@LAD, @ARI)
Marco Gonzales (TEX, LAA)
Aaron Sanchez (@TBR, @COL)
Rick Porcello (CLE, @NYY)
Jose Urena (@WSH, @SDP)
Trevor Cahill (@OAK, @SEA)
Adrian Sampson (@SEA, KCR)
Michael Pineda (MIL, @TBR)
- Lyles got a reality check this week against the Rockies at home. Lyles has been good this year, but I’m not buying his 26% strikeout rate given his league-average CSW rate. I don’t love either start next week but would give him a whirl at home against the Brew Crew. How many home runs will be hit when Samardzija visits the Orioles in Baltimore? Over/under 4.5? I don’t like Shark in Camden Yards, but the first start in Miami has “start me” written all over it.
- The Dodgers and Diamondbacks can both handle left-handed pitchers, so I’m not a huge fan of Matz next week. If I had to pick one, I’d lean toward rolling Matz out there against the D-Backs and stay away from the Dodgers. Don’t start Gonzales against the Rangers, and you know not the deploy Sanchez or Porcello in their second starts next week.
- Urena is somewhat intriguing next week. The Nationals offense has not been great over the past two weeks, but it’s still a difficult start on the road nonetheless. The matchup in San Diego looks pretty nice though. The Padres have just a .282 wOBA and a 28.7% strikeout rate over the past 14 days. Urena is far from a swing-and-miss guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a handful of punch outs against a team like the Padres.
- It kind of looks like I’m picking on the Mariners a little bit next week. Cahill has pitched well in two of his past three outings, so while he’s far from a sure thing, he’s a decent deep-league option against two divisional opponents. Sampson has managed two-straight solid starts allowing just two earned runs over that stretch. One of those starts was against the Mariners (of course), but the home start versus the Royals has me looking the other way.
Daniel Norris (@BAL, @ATL)
Jon Gray (ARI, TOR)
Jefry Rodriguez (@BOS, @CHW)
Tommy Milone (TEX, LAA)
Adam Plutko (@BOS, @CHW)
Brad Keller (@CHW, @TEX)
Cole Irvin (STL, @LAD)
Matt Harvey (@OAK, @SEA)
Merrill Kelly (@COL, NYM)
Dan Straily (DET, SFG)
Michael Wacha (@PHI, CHC)
Ivan Nova (KCR, CLE)
Antonio Senzatela (ARI, TOR)
Homer Bailey (@CHW, @TEX)
- Unfortunately, we have another deep group in the basement tier. Why does this tier seem to get larger and larger every week? If you feel like living on the edge, give Gray a chance with two starts at home against the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. He should give you a fair number of strikeouts, but your ratios will take a beating. Straily has the easiest matchups of this group, but man, has he been bad this year. Straily’s unable to induce swings and misses and is serving up dingers at an alarming rate (3.63 HR/9!). Ouch.
- Norris has looked better of late, but I can’t trust him on the road in Camden Yards. The more difficult matchup is against the Braves, who have looked very dangerous recently. Outside of your ace, you’re probably not starting anyone against the Red Sox in Fenway, and the pale hose are getting healthy with rookie Eloy Jimenez getting hot. Don’t try to get cute next week with Rodriguez.
- You’ll notice this group is not only full of low-quality starters but also guys who struggle to get strikeouts. I typically try to find a dark horse with some upside potential in this group and this time, it’s veteran lefty Milone. He’s a soft-tosser but in his first start stuck out six while throwing “junk” 60% of the time. Both the Rangers and Mariners are prone to strikeouts, so in AL-only leagues, he’s a flier.
- Boy, the Dark Knight has really gotten lit up recently. Here is a snapshot of his outing yesterday against the Twins. No, no, no. Kelly lured me in after a scoreless start in San Francisco but couldn’t get out of the second against the Padres. So much for a bounce-back for the 27-year-old Michael Walk-A. He’s sporting a 13.5% walk rate and simply can’t find the zone. Next week’s starts are nightmare matchups against two of the most patient teams in the league in the Phillies and Cubs.
- Let me rank my Novas. Supernova, Aldo Nova, Nova (PBS series), then Ivan Nova. He’s been very uninspiring, I won’t even give him a look. Not even in next week’s favorable matchups. Do you remember when Bailey had a couple of decent starts early in the season? No, really he did, I swear! Well, he now has a 6.13 ERA with 10 earned runs over his past six innings pitched. Just no.
Photo credit Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire