Welcome to this week’s two-start pitcher rankings!
My rankings have four tiers: Set and Forget, Probably Start, Questionable, and Avoid. Set and Forget starters are simply that; get them in your lineup and don’t think twice. The Probably Start tier includes players with the mix of skill and matchups that make them almost certainly two-start plays, but not without some elevated risk compared to the top tier. Questionable starters are those best-suited for daily lineup leagues where you can bench them against the tougher of their two opponents. Finally, we have the Avoid tier which includes two-start SPs who should remain on your bench or the wire.
As a friendly reminder, the projected starters are just that, projections, and subject to change.
Set and Forget
- The second full week of the season brings us a bevy of both high-end and intriguing two-start pitchers. Gerrit Cole, coming off a rough season opener and the victim of a Vlad Jr. homer barrage in his second start, has the looks of a cheat code this week. While the Tigers look much improved from last season, neither Detroit nor Cleveland should be much of a match for the Yankees’ ace.
- Clayton Kershaw was the center of debate across the sports world this week when he was pulled after seven perfect innings in his debut. There won’t, however, be any debate about whether Kershaw should be in your fantasy lineup. As long as he’s healthy, the lefty is an automatic start. With a 41% CSW against the Twins, we’ve officially been reminded just how dominant this all-time great is when he’s on the mound.
- In an opening week where fantasy managers were glued to velocity readings to see how their starters would be impacted by a shortened spring, Shane McClanahan was one of the bright spots. The 24-year-old Tampa starter was throwing his four-seamer a full MPH faster than last season’s average. The second-year pro doesn’t have the track record of a few of the names in the tier below him, but his potential is just about off the charts. There’s certainly some risk against a powerhouse Boston lineup, as McClanahan’s rookie season was a juxtaposition of sorts: he flashed a dominant 16% swinging-strike rate, but allowed an alarming amount of hard contact. Despite this, you’re not thinking twice about getting him in your lineup.
- The second tier features a group of arms that broadly fall into three categories: aces with early velocity concerns, spring training eye-openers, and steady (if unexciting) arms.
- Aces with early velo concerns: Shane Bieber and Robbie Ray likely have you holding your breath with their diminished velocity in the early going. You invested early draft capital in these two as aces, however, and it’s too early to consider benching either.
- Spring training eye-openers: Tylor Megill, Jesús Luzardo, and Alex Cobb far exceeded any buzz they were getting in the pre-season. All three have the looks of strikeout machines for anyone who was wise enough to speculate on them in the final rounds of their draft. One or two starts doesn’t necessarily tell us what a starter will be over the course of the season, but what they’ve shown in week one is more than enough to warrant confidence in starting them until they prove otherwise.
- Steady (if unexciting) arms: Sean Manaea, Nathan Eovaldi, and Eduardo Rodríguez all go about it in different ways, but each provides value to your fantasy lineup. E-Rod has struggled out of the gate and there’s a reasonable argument to be made to he belongs a tier below, but the pitcher-friendly dimensions of Comerica Park and his 3.13 ERA against the Yankees in 2021 provide a little reassurance in his first start of the week.
- As Aaron Nola’s homerun problem continues into 2022, a trip to Coors doesn’t seem to be the place to bank on Nola settling in. In daily lineup leagues, a trip to the bench is likely the best way to ensure your ratios aren’t cratered early in the week.
- Luis Garcia was fairly consistent across the board last year, but it’s tough to recommend him against the likes of Trout and Ohtani followed by a visit from the slugging Blue Jays.
- Merrill Kelly is off to a strong start this year, not allowing a run over 9.1 innings in starts against the Padres and Astros. An increase in velocity on his fastball and a healthy number of whiffs on his changeup makes Kelly an intriguing pickup, especially in a two-start week. He might not have the upside of the aforementioned Megill or Luzardo, but he’s worthy of adding to your team in the hopes of finding out if his early results are legit.
- Cole Irvin is an attractive streamer against the lowly Orioles and maybe even a two-start option in deeper leagues. Beware, however, as the new-look Rangers have come out swinging to start the season. Triston McKenzie and Nick Lodolo are extremely interesting rest of season starters, but outside of deeper leagues where innings are a premium they probably should not be trusted
- It remains unclear how many pitches Jordan Hicks will be built up to throw, but until we see if/when he has a starter’s pitch count, there are likely better options for your bench spots.
- A visit from the Pirates sounds tempting, but Kyle Hendricks‘ outing against the Buccos earlier this week provides a cautionary tale of the floor here. Hendricks’ 2021 was filled with ups and downs as well. There’s the potential he turns in at least one strong start, but there are likely one-start streamers who are better bets.
- Dallas Keuchel, Rich Hill, and Madison Bumgarner all boast strong resumes but are mostly afterthoughts at this stage in their careers from a fantasy perspective. They’ll turn in the occasional strong outing, but nothing quite worth adding off the wire.
Questions? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @AnthonyTucker81 and I’ll be happy to talk two-start SPs and more!
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)