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. Make sure you double-check to verify these pitchers will receive a second start. Oftentimes at this juncture in the season, teams will afford their starters additional rest with the expanded rosters. With playoffs and championships on the line, I’ll help you determine which pitchers to throw into your lineup and which ones should be left on the bench. Let’s go!
Note: This article was written Friday morning, estimating probable starters through next week. These are subject to change.
Justin Verlander* (TEX, LAA)
Stephen Strasburg (@STL, @MIA)
Yu Darvish (CIN, STL)
Sonny Gray (@CHC, NYM)
Robbie Ray (MIA, @SD)
Dallas Keuchel (PHI, SF)
Matthew Boyd (@CLE, CHW)
- Obviously, if Verlander receives two starts, he’s the top option next week. Unfortunately, the Astros only have five games next week and will likely have the division locked up. Either way, you’re starting him, but you may not receive a two-step from him.
- Strasburg is healthy and a top-10 starter this year. You are starting him no matter what, but it’s a bonus when one of his opponents in the Marlins. Gray has a 2.80 ERA and 30.3% CSW on the season. If you believed in his turnaround, you have been rewarded with an ace. His matchups are tough as the Mets have been a top-three team offensively over the past two weeks. Fortunately, Gray is matchup-proof backed by five straight quality starts.
- Since the All-Star break, Darvish has walked six and struck out 85 batters across 60.1 innings. He’s at home with moderate matchups and should be one of the top starting pitching options down the stretch. Go ahead and lock and load. Ray isn’t quite on Darvish’s level, but he’s strapped with some tasty matchups. Ray was just shellacked by the Mets this week but still possesses an elite 23.1% K-BB rate and 31.9% CSW. The strikeouts are there, and his first-pitch-strike rate is up in the second half. Ride or die with Ray next week.
- I’ll lump Boyd in the Robbie Ray class. He’s clearly below the aces but has the ability to net double-digit strikeouts in any given outing. The Indians have fallen back down to earth since the loss of Jose Ramirez, and the White Sox love to be aggressive. Boyd has fanned 22 White Sox hitters in two starts against them this season.
- Keuchel isn’t going to give you the strikeout upside of the other starting pitching options in this tier but draws the underperforming Phillies and the Giants at home. I expect a ton of ground balls (61.5% on the season) and a strong follow up to his past six starts, where he’s given up just four earned runs. Oh, and he’s won five of those six starts. He’s a safe but solid upside option especially given the shallow nature of two-start options next week.
Dakota Hudson (WSH, @CHC)
Kyle Gibson (CHW, KC)
J.A. Happ (LAA, TOR)
John Means (@DET, SEA)
Cole Hamels (CIN, STL)
Tanner Roark (KC, TEX)
Steven Matz (@COL, @CIN)
Zach Plesac (DET, PHI)
Martin Perez (CHW, KC)
- Despite the less than appealing peripherals, Hudson has been great this season with a 3.38 ERA. He just tamed Coors Field and now has five quality starts in his past six outings. Over that stretch, he has a scant 1.41 ERA with a strikeout rate over seven per nine innings. It’s September. If you own him, you’re riding him.
- Gibson is walking into a couple of sweet matchups in his two-step next week. It will be his second and third starts after coming off the IL, so he should reach five innings in both outings. Given the strikeout upside and win potential, he’s in my lineups next week. Happ is getting right just before the playoffs with two scoreless outings in his past three starts. The Angels and Blue Jays are in the bottom 10 in terms of wRC+ over the past two weeks, so I’m Happ-y to slot Happ into my lineup next week.
- Yes, I have a Baltimore pitcher in the probably start tier. What of it? He’s been sneaky good this year with a 3.47 ERA and has consistently been going six to seven innings per start. He doesn’t get a ton of whiffs, but the Tigers and Mariners like to swing and miss so there’s some upside there. Hamels has been just OK over the past month, but his strikeouts appear to be back with 16 over his past 14 innings pitched. The division-leading Cardinals have been decent lately, but the Reds should go down easy. Lock and load it if you got him.
- Two home starts, check. Two weak opponents, check. Roark is a solid option in his two-step, especially if you need wins and quality starts. I know these two matchups are tough for Matz, but he’s on a roll. Since Aug. 7, his ERA is 1.94 with a 1.10 WHIP and just over a strikeout per inning. Ride the hot hand because it’s September after all.
- I’m lumping Plesac and Perez together at the bottom of this tier. To be clear, I prefer everyone ahead of them next week. These guys have easy matchups and are great streaming options but have the potential to blow up in your face. Kind of like Cherry Bombs. They really should fall somewhere between Probably Start and Questionable. Both should be available in 70% to 75% of leagues, so get them now if you need starts down the stretch.
Miles Mikolas (WSH, @CHC)
Reynaldo Lopez (@MIN, @DET)
Zach Davies (SD, PIT)
Pablo Lopez (@ARI, WSH)
Gio Gonzalez (SD, PIT)
Johnny Cueto (@BOS, @ATL)
Nathan Eovaldi (SF, @TB)
Trent Thornton (@BAL, @NYY)
Luis Severino* (LAA, TOR)
Mitch Keller (SEA, @MIL)
Marco Gonzales (@PIT, @BAL)
- Yikes, these are tough matchups for Mikolas next week. Mikolas is essentially the same guy he was last year without luck on his side and an increase in home run rate, thanks to the bouncy ball. But he’s only given up five earned runs in his past four starts. He’s a decent streamer, and the Cubs are without Javy Baez.
- Mr. extremely high-risk, extremely high-reward Lopez is up next. He could throw a gem with 11 strikeouts or give up eight earned runs and lose you your week. He’s got one great and one terrible matchup. Take a look at what you need. If you need strikeouts or need to make up ground with elite starts, take the risk; otherwise, steer clear.
- I don’t love Davies next week. Here are the number of batters he’s faced in his past four starts: 18, 19, 19, 19. He’s being yanked before the third time through the order. He has almost zero chance at a quality start and will likely be pulled after four innings. Same goes for Gonzalez. He might pile up a couple more strikeouts but has been extremely wild, so he’s a risk to your ratios.
- It was really nice to see Cueto back on the mound, and he looked good throwing five shutout innings against the Pirates. Next week, however, he’s staring against two opponents on the road with a high degree of difficulty. I’d only deploy him if you’re desperate.
- You can kiss quality starts goodbye if you’re starting Eovaldi. On the plus side, he could net you 12 to 13 strikeouts next week, but at what cost? Maybe he goes five and gets you a win against the Giants, but it’s highly unlikely against the Rays. Start him for the strikeouts, but don’t watch the games. Severino is scheduled for his first start of 2019 next Tuesday against the Angels. He’s not recommended there but could be useful in his weekend matchup against the Blue Jays.
- Thornton is coming off of five hitless innings against the Red Sox where he struck out seven. He’s not likely to go more than five, and I would not recommend him in New York. However, given his ceiling (which we just saw), he’s worth a flier in daily leagues against Baltimore.
- I hope Keller is healthy because the start at home against the Mariners could be money. I highlighted his skills here, and he’s sporting a sexy 21.9% K-BB rate this year. I’m not quite as excited about him visiting Milwaukee, but the Brewers are without the 2018 MVP, so he’s a deep league option. I like Gonzales in Pittsburgh, but weekly leaguers should steer clear because the upside isn’t great. The Orioles crush at home compared with the road, so there’s some risk with his two-step.
Jorge Lopez (@OAK, @MIN)
Vince Velasquez (@ATL, @CLE)
Ty Blach (@DET, SEA)
Ronald Bolanos (@MIL, ARI)
Logan Webb (@BOS, @ATL)
Glenn Sparkman (@OAK, @MIN)
Jose Suarez (@NYY, @HOU)
Antonio Senzatela (NYM, @LAD)
- The Athletics have a 120 wRC+ as a team over the past two weeks, which means they have been 20% better than league average. If I had to guess, I’d say Lopez is 20% below league average in terms of starting pitchers. Oh, and he draws the Twins on the road over the weekend, who lead the majors in home runs. You’d be wise to steer clear here.
- I’m done trying to navigate when Velasquez is useful and when he’s going to inflate your ratios. His 25% strikeout rate is tempting, but his home run rate is over two per nine innings. He draws two tough road starts and is averaging 4.7 innings per start. No thanks. Not many starters have better matchups than Blach, but he finds himself on the bench. Why? Let me lay it out for you. He has a disturbingly low 2.2% K-BB rate, 23.2% CSW, and serves up dingers at a clip of 2.33 per nine innings. Those are the types of numbers you want from an elite hitter, not your starter. Pass.
- Bolanos is a 23-year-old rookie with a 95 mph fastball, but I fear he will struggle to find the plate. He’s dealing with two difficult matchups and more than likely will ruin your ratios. He’s not a streaming option next week. Here’s a riddle for you: Sparkman is a tier below teammate Lopez, yet they have the same matchups. I’m sitting Lopez, so what do you think I’m doing with Sparkman next week?
- Suarez is just 21 years old and appears to have a potentially deep arsenal. His future looks bright, but like most young pitchers, he’s struggling to throw strikes consistently and giving up too many longballs. He also draws two of the top offenses in the league next week. Next!
- Poor Senzatela. He’s not a strikeout pitcher and walks too many batters. His 6.87 ERA and 1.75 WHIP is a direct result of his poor 2.2% K-BB rate combined with Coors Field as a home backdrop. Here’s a tip: Stream hitters for the Mets and Dodgers, especially lefties, who own a .414 wOBA against Senzatela, next week.
(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)