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
- As most head-to-head leagues enter the playoffs, a two-start week from one of the above aces might be enough to swing the pendulum in your direction. Among them, Framber Valdez stands out above the rest. He’ll put his 22 straight quality start streak on the line against the Rangers and Angels. Few, if any, mid-round pitchers have elevated themselves this season quite like Valdez. He leads the league in groundball rate, fueling a microscopic 2.63 ERA.
- Zack Wheeler is tentatively on track to return from the IL on Tuesday. His IL stint was minimal and he’ll face two of the worst offenses in baseball. Any potential rust should be mitigated by the inability of the Marlins and Nats to push runs across the plate.
- Taijuan Walker has the best schedule of any pitcher slated for two appearances next week, facing two weak offenses in pitcher-friendly environments. He’d find himself in tier one, but has struggled to the tune of 6.98 ERA in August. His stuff is merely average, evidenced by an 18.3% strikeout rate, but there’s little reason to believe Walker can’t make easy work of the Pirates and Marlins.
- Jack Flaherty makes his long-awaited return to the bigs after his second extended stay on the injured list for a shoulder injury. Normally, Flaherty would be an easy choice to avoid in his first start back. He benefits from having a cakewalk schedule and one of the league’s best defenses behind him. Moreover, by all accounts, Flaherty looked sharp in his final rehab appearance. He threw 102 pitches, striking out nine for AA Springfield. Relying on Flaherty to return to form next week is by no means a sure thing, but he’s a calculated risk well worth taking.
- After showing reduced velocity in his last start against the Pirates, Freddy Peralta is an easy decision to bench at Colorado in daily leagues. A start against the Reds does hold enough upside to make the play worth consideration in a weekly league.
- You’ll notice few players readily available on waivers make this week’s Questionable tier. Justin Steele is the least rostered and is worthy of your attention. He’s safe to start against the Reds and is likely more of a toss-up against the Giants. San Francisco is one of the league’s better offenses against lefties. They’ve sputtered in August, however, to the tune of a .665 OPS as a team. Steele has proven adept at handling middling competition. If you’re on the fence, I’d lean towards adding Steele and letting it fly.
- Jordan Lyles and the rest of the Orioles staff has been keeping Baltimore in the thick of the Wild Card race. While Lyles has performed admirably down the stretch, it’s dubious it can last. Even during his 3-1 stretch over the last month, Lyles has a bloated 1.47 ERA. His inability to generate whiffs has him relying heavily on BABIP. He’s a clear arm to avoid against the Blue Jays and Red Sox.
- Luis Patiño might be the replacement for Shane McClanahan in the Rays’ rotation. He had some buzz in the preseason as a sleeper, but he’s not trustworthy in a potential return to the rotation against the Red Sox and Yankees.