Ranking Every Two-Start Pitcher for Week 21 (8/26-9/1)
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. Next week, several aces are slatted for just one start but there is quite a bit of depth in the middle tiers. Be wise in your streaming choices next week, I discuss several useful options below.
Note: This article was written Friday morning, estimating probable starters through next week. These are subject to change.
Justin Verlander (TBR, @TOR)
Walker Buehler (@SDP, @ARI)
Lucas Giolito (MIN, @ATL)
Sonny Gray (@MIA, @STL)
Luis Castillo (@MIA, @STL)
Charlie Morton (@HOU, CLE)
- The ageless wonder Verlander has an outside chance at reaching 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career. He’s 36 years old, for crying out loud! He’s essentially a lock to strike out 20 batters next week; the only question for JV is home runs. Here’s an interesting fact: Verlander has given up 33 home runs and only 34 walks this year. So what, he’s a monster, gimme the strikeouts.
- Anyone who didn’t believe Buehler was an ace coming into the season seems to have disappeared. He’s improved his strikeout and walk rates and is approaching 25% K-BB rate. His matchups look pretty tasty next week, and owners don’t need to think twice about starting him.
- Despite difficult matchups, Giolito continues his dominant 2019 breakout. He’s coming off a 12-strikeout performance in Minnesota to cap off three straight double-digit punch-out performances adding to his impressive 32.6% CSW. Lock and load, PL community!
- I am loving these matchups for Castillo and Gray next week. Not only will they get out of Great American “Small” Park, but they will face two teams in the bottom 10 in the league offensively over the past month. Would you believe me if I told you that Gray has given up only one earned run over his past four starts? Well, it’s true. The Cardinals tagged Castillo the last time they faced off, but he’s curbed his walks, issuing just two free passes in his past five outings. Luis is straight nasty.
- This tier is short next week. I even had to think twice about Morton thanks to one difficult matchup against his former team, the Astros. He faced them way back in March and struck out eight across five innings. I can’t discount Morton; he’s been a stud this year, and he’s faced the Yankees, Red Sox, or Twins in seven of his past 16 starts. He’s equipped to handle the Astros and Indians next week.
Mike Minor (@LAA, SEA)
Caleb Smith (CIN, @WSH)
Michael Pineda (@CWS, @DET)
Yu Darvish (@NYM, MIL)
Kenta Maeda (@SDP, @ARI)
Brad Keller (OAK, BAL)
Mike Montgomery (OAK, BAL)
- I’ve been calling for negative regression to set in on Minor for nearly a month now. He had proven me wrong up until his last start, when he gave up six runs in fewer than six innings. He’s giving up a lot more contact recently, which is a bad sign. Over the past month, his contact rate is 78.8%, which is worse than league average. That’s a lot of negative talk about a pitcher who I still think is borderline top-30 going forward. I don’t love the matchup in Los Angeles, but the Mariners like to whiff, so I’m sticking with Minor for one more week.
- What happened to Smith? His strikeout rate remains strong, but he seems to be struggling lately with walks and home runs. His velocity is down nearly a full tick over his past five starts. I’m wondering if the oft-injured left-hander is starting to wear down. Outside of the aces, it’s unlikely you have many options more talented than Smith next week, so given moderate matchups, I’d still give him a go.
- I’ll be rolling with Pineda next week as squares off against the White Sox and Tigers, who are both in the bottom five in strikeout rate this year. His CSW is on the rise, averaging just over 30% in his past four outings.
- Prior to his most recent start, Darvish compiled 90 strikeouts while allowing only seven walks in 72.2 innings pitched. He struggled mightily with the home run ball in his recent outing but continued to limit walks. Both the Mets and Brewers can make him pay with the long ball, but I’ll take my chances with a guy who carries a nearly 30% K-BB rate over the past three months.
- Do you realize that Maeda has a 1.12 WHIP and a 22.5% soft-contact rate against this year? He’s very good but is prone to very short outings. He rarely sees a batting order three times. He gets a slight downgrade in quality start leagues, but otherwise, he draws two solid matchups in next week’s two-step.
- Throwing more cutters and fewer sinkers may have improved Montgomery’s arsenal, but it clearly didn’t work in Baltimore last week. Camden Yards is arguably the worst park for pitchers in terms of home runs in the summer months. Luckily, Monty gets the Orioles and Athletics in Kansas City next week. He’s a decent streamer in his two-step. Wait, two Royals in this tier?! Kauffman Stadium is a great park in which to pitch, and while Keller is a boring option, he should help with ratios next week.
Mike Fiers (@KCR, @NYY)
German Marquez (BOS, PIT)
Marcus Stroman (CHC, @PHI)
Cal Quantrill (LAD, @SFG)
Jason Vargas (PIT, NYM)
Gio Gonzalez (STL, @CHC)
Eric Lauer (LAD, @SFG)
Adam Wainwright (@MIL, CIN)
Julio Teheran (@COL, CWS)
J.A. Happ (@SEA, OAK)
Mike Leake (@SFG, LAD)
Adam Plutko (@DET, @TBR)
Homer Bailey (@KCR, @NYY)
- Fiers ranks relatively high in fantasy leagues for starting pitchers thanks to 12 wins, a 3.46 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP. Do I trust it? Nope. At some point, his 5.24 SIERA will catch up with him, but he’s only given up more than three earned runs once since the start of May. He’s a decent option in his two-step thanks to a soft matchup against the Royals.
- Let’s talk Marquez and Stroman: While Marquez has difficult matchups in Coors Field, he also provides significant strikeout upside. He’s been much better at home over his past two starts, giving up just two earned runs across 11 innings with 18 strikeouts. Stroman is a safer play but without the strikeout upside. He’s also struggled to reach the sixth inning in three of his past four outings. Give me Marquez over Stroman for the ceiling next week.
- Speaking of boring veteran starters, let’s talk Vargas, who throws anything but gas. He averages 84.5 mph on his fastball, which is slower than many pitchers’ changeups. His walk rate is up thanks to a low zone rate, and I don’t blame him for avoiding the heart of the plate. An 8.9% K-BB rate isn’t going to get it done. The Mets have been pretty good lately, but the Pirates have a wRC+ of just 80 over the past month. Daily leagues can feel free to deploy him against the Pirates but sit him versus the Mets.
- Call me crazy, but Lauer seems to be a decent streaming option next week. The Dodgers are not the juggernaut we know and love against left-handed pitchers, with a 104 wRC+ as a team. Lauer has a very solid 2.65 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this year. Then, he draws the Giants in Oracle Park. He’s a sneaky stream next week and available in 90% of leagues.
- A few great streaming options for daily moves leagues include Quantrill against the Giants, Teheran at home versus the White Sox, Leake in San Fransisco, Plutko in Detroit, and Bailey against his former club, the Royals. The only option of that group I’d risk in a weekly league is Plutko. His two-step includes the Tigers, who are ranked 29th in wRC+ with a 27.1% strikeout rate over the past month. The Rays are a good team but have been essentially league-average offensively this month.
Joe Musgrove (@PHI, @COL)
Rick Porcello (@COL, @LAA)
Tyler Beede (ARI, SDP)
Tommy Milone (NYY, @TEX)
Steven Brault (@PHI, @COL)
Daniel Norris (CLE, MIN)
Sandy Alcantara (CIN, @WSH)
Wade LeBlanc (NYY, @TEX)
Tim Melville (ATL, PIT)
- It pains me to downgrade Musgrove, but he’s just been far too inconsistent. His two road starts are downright scary, and slotting him in your lineup could ruin your ratios. Don’t do this to yourself. How about Beede? Great ballpark, decent matchups, and I’m still passing. Rookie pitchers are ratio killers in waiting. Beede has talent, but I won’t be trusting him at all this year.
- I don’t care where Norris is pitching. His two-step next week scares the hell out of me. I can’t recommend him next week; there’s just no upside to be had.
- Alcantara sports a 5.2% K-BB rate. Sure, he averages near 96 mph on his four-seam fastball but generates a swinging-strike rate of just 6.5% on the pitch. He also lacks a great secondary pitch that generates whiffs. Go ahead and keep Sandy on the bench next week.
- Let’s see here. Two below-average starting pitchers going up against the Yankees and Rangers (in Arlington) in their two-steps next week. I’d rather drink a hard seltzer than throw these guys in my lineup. Hard pass on both Milone and LeBlanc.
- At the bottom of our list, we have Coors Field’s future victim Melville. He’s 29 years old and had a very solid first start, albeit away from Coors Field. He lacks swing-and-miss stuff, and his velocity was way down in his first outing (below 90 mph). There’s nothing interesting to see here unless you like lots and lots of offense.
(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)