Welcome back, Pitcher List community! 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 who 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. Now that the trade deadline has come and gone, we are about to enter our first full week of August. You know what that means, it’s time for the stretch run, so every move you make to your roster is important. Let’s get to it!
Note: This article was written Friday morning, estimating probable starters through next week. These are subject to change.
Jacob deGrom (MIA, WSH)
Luis Castillo (LAA, CHC)
Charlie Morton (TOR, @SEA)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (STL, ARI)
Lucas Giolito (@DET, OAK)
Jose Berrios (ATL, CLE)
Mike Soroka (@MIN, @MIA)
Kyle Hendricks (OAK, @CIN)
- The top four starters are no-doubters. You’ve been starting deGrom since day one but Castillo, Morton, and Ryu, while not auto-starts on day one, have been evergreen since mid- to late April.
- Let’s talk Giolito. The Cubs seem to have his number, smoking him for 12 earned runs over 8.1 innings pitched. He’s not facing the Cubs next week, so why am I telling you this? Well, against all other opponents, he’s sporting a sterling 2.71 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. He’s essentially reached must-start status and does draw one easy target in the Tigers.
- The Braves are tough, and the Indians are no longer the pushover they were through the first two months of the season. That being said, Berrios has a minuscule 2.10 ERA at home this year. While he doesn’t have the strikeout upside of other aces, he’s a must-start next week. Soroka will turn 22 years old on Sunday, enjoys inducing ground balls (55.7% clip) with a power sinker and long walks on the beach. OK, I made up that last one. The juggernaut that is the Minnesota Twins could pose an issue, but the Marlins are a cake walk. I’ll take my chances with Soroka’s ability to keep the ball in the yard, limiting damage against the Twins.
- Hendricks is a must-start when he’s pitching in the Friendly Confines, and the Reds will be sans Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett. I’m not afraid to deploy Hendricks against either opponent next week.
*German Marquez (@HOU, @SDP)
Jon Lester (OAK, @CIN)
Joe Musgrove (MIL, @STL)
Vince Velasquez (@ARI, @SFG)
Michael Pineda (ATL, CLE)
Dinelson Lamet (@SEA, COL)
Griffin Canning (@CIN, @BOS)
Max Fried (@MIN, @MIA)
- *Make sure you check the status of Marquez who left his last start with full-body cramps. It didn’t look great, but he was absolutely cruising against the vaunted Dodgers in Coors Field. Late-July is when Marquez turned it on last year, and his potential draw has him on the bump for two road starts.
- Old Reliable Lester just keeps outperforming his ERA estimators, and maybe his ability to tunnel his pitches has something to do with it. His matchups are not all that difficult, so I will be deploying Lester next week.
- Musgrove has been a mystery this year, and while his velocity has been down recently, I like his matchups. The Cardinals are 10% below league average offensively, and the Brewers away from Miller Park have managed just a 92 wRC+. How much are we trusting Velasquez? I think he is becoming a Cherry Bomb because his skills are on the rise but could blow up at any time. His successful outings have been against the lower-tier clubs. The good news for his owners is that he draws two weak opponents in his two-step next week. I’m rolling with VV.
- Pineda has looked great recently, but his fastball velocity has me concerned. It’s down around 92 mph over his past three starts despite the success. After his lengthy year and a half absence, he may be nearing his innings limit, as he’s currently at 117. With both starts next week at home, I’m willing to ride this hot stretch but then look to bail at the first sign of fatigue.
- Speaking of Cherry Bombs, enter Dinelson Lamet. The Mariners have a 26.3% strikeout rate over the past month and have fallen way off their April pace. The Rockies away from Coors Field rank 29th with a 72 wRC+. The upside is so high for Lamet, I’m starting him especially given the matchups—just know what the floor looks like.
- This tier closes with two talented rookies with moderate matchups. Yes, I prefer Fried’s opponents but believe Canning is the better pitcher with more strikeout potential. If you like Fried over Canning, I ain’t mad at cha. It’s like splitting hairs.
Masahiro Tanaka (@BAL, @TOR)
Dylan Cease (@DET, OAK)
Danny Salazar (TEX, @MIN)
Andrew Cashner (KCR, LAA)
Jakob Junis (@BOS, @DET)
Adam Wainwright (@LAD, PIT)
Rick Porcello (KCR, LAA)
Jordan Lyles (@PIT, TEX)
Jeff Samardzija (WSH, PHI)
Jake Arrieta (@ARI, @SFG)
Erick Fedde (@SFG, @NYM)
Mike Montgomery (@BOS, @DET)
Chris Bassitt (@CHC, @CHW)
Zach Plesac (TEX, @MIN)
Daniel Norris (CHW, KCR)
- Tanaka is not a fan of the MLB baseballs this year, and his results are similar to what they were in 2017 except he isn’t getting as many whiffs. His signature splitter is the reason why. After a swinging-strike rate of 21.7% in 2018, it’s down to just 10.2% this year, and the strikeout rate on the pitch is down nearly 20%! Start with caution next week.
- Talk about some high-risk, high-reward options in Salazar and Cease. In daily leagues, I think it would be wise to sit them against the Twins and Athletics, respectively. The Rangers have a 27.7% strikeout rate on the road, so I like the chances for Salazar to pile up strikeouts in that outing. Cease gets the Tigers for the second time, and he’s looked better in almost every start since the call up. I feel confident with him in Comerica Park but not at home against the Athletics.
- Which starts do you prefer for Junis and Wainwright in their two-steps? It’s pretty obvious but the Dodgers and Red Sox are both top-five offensive clubs this year, so please sit them in those outings if you can.
- I’ve never been a Porcello guy, and he’s been awful this year. The Red Sox seem to give him 10-plus runs of support every time he’s on the hill, so you can roll the dice against the Royals. I can’t recommend him against the LA Trouts, however.
- The rest of this deep tier seems pretty self explanatory. If you’re desperate for a two-start option, I have them ranked in the order I’d start them. Of this group, I want to touch on Samardzija. He’s has been good lately, giving up just one earned run in his past two outings. He’s even managed a respectable 3.75 ERA on the season, and while the matchups are difficult next week, they are in spacious Oracle Park. He’s a nice streamer in weekly leagues.
- In deep leagues, and I mean extremely deep leagues—like, AL-only—you may want to try Norris. He’s certainly not exciting and his metrics are all right around league-average, but he draws the White Sox and Royals at home next week. The Royals and White Sox are ranked 25th and 26th, respectively, in wRC+ on the road this year. This is very likely the easiest two-step he will have all year. It’s the one and only time I might, sort of, recommend him is super deep leagues.
Ariel Jurado (@CLE, @MIL)
Michael Wacha (@LAD, PIT)
John Means (NYY, HOU)
Jose Suarez (@CIN, @BOS)
Taylor Clarke (PHI, @LAD)
Jacob Waguespack (@TBR, NYY)
Peter Lambert (@HOU, @SDP)
Trent Thornton (@TBR, NYY)
Tom Eshelman (NYY, HOU)
- You know the rules here: Stay away. I don’t blame you if you look at a couple of these names and have no idea who they are. Jurado gets out of Arlington next week to face the resurgent Indians and the Brew Crew in Miller Park. Since the middle of June, he’s sporting an ugly 6.70 ERA with a 1.58 WHIP. Ouch, bro.
- Wacha appears to be getting another shot at the Cardinals rotation. Just please make sure he’s not in your lineup. His CSW rate is a paltry 23.9%, which is among the lowest in the league, and while his velocity is back up a bit, I need to see him perform well for more than two outings. Means has been great at limiting hard contact thanks in part an 11 mph difference between his fastball and changeup, but I want not part of him next week. He’s Still ILL, and I can’t see him limiting hard contact against the Yank and Astros.
- Suarez has a solid 23.1% strikeout rate, so that’s good. However, it’s not likely enough to fend off the Red Sox given the depth of their lineup. The Reds, as I discussed earlier, are not a difficult matchup, but Suarez hasn’t gone more than 4.1 innings since June 20. He virtually has no shot at win unless he’s given an opener.
- Clarke essentially throws four pitchers (per FanGraphs), and every single one of them has a negative pitch value. That’s not a great recipe for success with the Phillies coming to town followed by the Dodgers in LA.
- Now we get to the names you may not know: Waguespack and Eshleman. Waguespack is a 25-year-old rookie with the Blue Jays who struggled to keep the ball in the yard at Triple-A. His two-step includes the Yankee mashers and the Rays, who rank inside the top six offensively over the past month. Eshleman, also 25 but with the Orioles, has an even tougher draw with the aforementioned Yankees and the Astros, who are No. 1 in terms of wRC+ over the past month. It would be wise to continue to forget about these guys for next week.
- Thornton finally posted a decent outing this week against the Orioles but also gets the Rays and Yankees next week. Thornton has proven to be untrustworthy and doesn’t provide the strikeout upside. He’s simply not a streaming option next week.
(Photo by Juan Salas/Icon Sportswire)