Two Start Pitchers for Week 1 (4/1 – 4/11)

A ranking of all two-start pitchers for the upcoming week.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the long winter to Opening Day. With the fantasy baseball season upon us, it’s once again time to search the waiver wire each weekend for next week’s two-start pitchers. I’ll be here to guide you along the way each week with rankings of every projected two-start pitcher. 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 on the wire.

Before we begin, I’d like to present a short disclaimer. The two-start pitcher landscape will be more of a moving target than ever this season. With the shorter workloads coming off 2020, we’ll likely see more bullpen days, six-man rotations, and skipped starts than in prior years. The projected starters are just that, projections, and likely to change. In addition, I’d recommend focusing more on a player’s tier status than their exact rank.

We’ve got a smorgasbord of two-start SPs in this extended opening matchup period. Without further ado, let’s jump in!

 

Set and Forget

 

 

  • With Opening Day and an extended matchup period, starters in the top half of five-man rotations should all get two turns on the bump. This should allow you to be a little more selective in setting your lineup and who to grab off the wire.
  • Jacob deGrom is my top-ranked pitcher for the season, but two tantalizing matchups for Shane Bieber against the Tigers and one for Gerrit Cole against the Orioles give them the edge this week.
  • If you drafted the newest frontline members of the Padres rotation, you couldn’t have found a softer landing spot to start the year. Yu Darvish and Blake Snell ended the spring on different notes. Darvish struggled with command while Snell looked tuned-up for the regular season. Both, however, should be primed for excellent outings at Petco against Arizona and San Francisco. Chris Paddack and Joe Musgrove are both brimming with potential, but have had uneven careers thus far. They find themselves ripe with opportunity to start the season on a high note against two weaker offenses in the D-Backs and Rangers.
  • Kenta Maeda, Luis Castillo, and Jack Flaherty are all aces who start the year with matchups against offenses that finished in the bottom half of the league in 2020 by wRC+.
  • Kyle Hendricks may not bring high-end strikeout upside, but he’ll be a rock-solid anchor for your ratios with two strong home starts. “The Professor” started against Pittsburgh and Milwaukee four times in the truncated 2020 season. How did he do? He turned in four quality starts with a 1.50 ERA. Not bad, not bad at all.
  • There are very few pitchers qualified enough to fall in the “Set and Forget” tier with one start coming in Colorado. We have a few exceptions this week, with a trio of Dodgers in Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, and Walker Buehler. Coors can befuddle even the best pitchers in the game, but you invested high draft capital to make these guys your SP1. Keep them in your lineup and don’t think twice about it.
  • Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale were two of the more polarizing pitchers this draft season. I personally didn’t find myself drafting either Cleveland pitcher, as there was always at least one person willing to take them above their ADP. If they are on your roster, a pair of games against the Tigers should provide the opportunity to get 2021 off on the right foot.

 

 

Probably Start

 

 

  • A few of these starters could have reasonably found their way into tier one. With all of the two-start options on the table, it made sense to be a little more selective for the top grouping than I would be in most weeks. In short, you’re starting these guys unless you are in a shallow league and possess an embarrassment of riches at starting pitcher.
  • Ian Anderson and Zack Wheeler both have the skills to stifle an above-average offense on a given day, but two games against the same division foe dropped them into the second tier for me.
  • Tyler Mahle was a popular breakout candidate entering the season. If he can keep the ball in the yard and avoid walks, last season’s 29.9% strikeout rate suggests he could be in store for better things. There are scarier offenses out there than the Cardinals and his away start against the Diamondbacks is even more promising.
  • We know that Zach Davies won’t get you many strikeouts, but he’s got plus command with a complete arsenal that he can use against 2020’s worst offense. The Pirates offense might be even worse than last year’s 73 wRC+ and make for a perfect schedule to hold Davies on your roster through at least the first week and a half of the season. Brad Keller has a similar path to early season success against two weak lineups that make him an ideal early season streaming candidate if you’re looking for innings, especially in his first start against Texas.
  • Stephen Strasburg was one of the toughest players to rank. He’s coming off carpal tunnel neuritis from 2020 and suffered a calf injury this spring. While this was concerning enough, there were reports his velocity was down in his final spring start. He did, however, build up to 98 pitches and has shown the ability to adapt over the course of his career. Am I convinced he’s fully right? Not really, but I’m willing to roll the dice for both matchups unless he shows serious cause for panic in his first start against the Mets.
  • Dylan Bundy, Shohei Ohtani, Frankie Montas, and Jesus Luzardo all have less than ideal early season schedules. This early in the season, I’m hesitant to overcomplicate things and bench guys who I believed in enough to use a mid-round pick on. I’m comfortable getting them in my lineup due to their potential, but wouldn’t judge those who take the more cautious approach.
  • Michael Pineda relies almost solely on his fastball-slider combo, so he’s not a guy I’d expect to go deep into games very often. Despite his limitations, he limits walks and has a couple of above-average matchups at the Brewers and home against Seattle. With a strong supporting cast behind him, I’d get him in my lineup.
  • Logan Webb became the talk of the closing days of Spring Training. His changeup, in particular, has received rave reviews during a dominant spring where he struck out 22 against just 2 walks. If he’s on your wire, scoop him up for two plus matchups and see if he can translate the success into the regular season.

 

Questionable

 

 

  • I wouldn’t roll the dice with Kevin Gausman in his second start against San Diego’s buzzsaw of a lineup.
  • Facing the Dodgers at Coors Field is perhaps the worst case scenario for any starting pitcher. Don’t take the risk of German Marquez against the defending champs, but I would give it a shot at home against Arizona.
  • You could make the case for Marcus Stroman, who returned to the Mets with a new split-changeup in his repertoire, to be in the Probably Start tier. I slotted him a bit lower due to the risk of an elevated WHIP. The Nationals’ offense won’t be at full strength, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to start him for both if you’re searching for a starter who can earn a win or two.
  • Patrick Corbin is a personal favorite of mine, but we haven’t seen the velocity return this spring. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach after last year’s disappointing performance. Corey Kluber is in a similar boat. He looked fine in the Grapefruit League, but not like his old self. I’ll be proceeding with caution with the newest Yankee starter against two above-average divisional opponents.
  • Jake Arrieta, J.A. Happ, Mike Minor, and Brady Singer will all toe the rubber in their first start against weak offenses. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of them collect a W to start the year. Be sure to avoid Minor and Singer in their second matchup against the White Sox.
  • Daniel Ponce de Leon brings some strikeout upside and is projected to start against two manageable offenses. He has some streamer appeal in deeper leagues.
  • Marco Gonzales is a steady, albeit boring, presence who can help keep your ratios in check. I especially like his first start against the Giants, who I believe overperformed offensively in 2020. I’d remove him from the lineup for his second appearance, which is slated to come against La Bomba Squad (Minnesota).
  • James Paxton was originally slated for a two-start week against San Francisco and Minnesota, but was pushed back to the fifth game. Yusei Kikuchi will be taking the mound for the Mariners’ second game of the season and is lined up for two starts, but it’s unclear how the team will structure their six-man rotation. I’m okay with taking a risk on Kikuchi against San Francisco if you’re in a deep league.

 

Avoid

 

 

  • The top of this grouping, from John Means through Dylan Cease, have all shown potential either this spring or in the past. Despite that, I’d prefer them on my bench either due to tough matchups or wanting to see them replicate success in the regular season (for example, I’d like additional evidence to show Cease may have made improvements in his command).
  • Martin Perez and Garrett Richards are lined up twice to start the year against the Orioles. That sounds promising, but you likely have better options on your bench than just taking a dart throw against a below-average offense.
  • Carlos Rodon has a decent early season schedule against the Mariners and Royals, but I’m not quite ready to consider him after just a few strong innings in the Grapefruit League.
  • Chris Archer will be tandem-starting with Rich Hill in the first start of the season, so that makes him an easy bench. It’s highly possible Michael Wacha has an opener in front of him and likely won’t go many innings for Tampa Bay.
  • Daulton Jefferies turned some heads this spring training, but I’m not ready to start him or Sean Manaea in their starts against Houston.
  • Pitcher List’s own Kevin O’Brien made the case for Madison Bumgarner early this week. Unfortunately, MadBum goes on the road against the Padres and Rockies to start the season. No need to pick him up now for a nightmarish early season stretch, but monitor his velocity to see if he makes sense as a streamer in more favorable conditions down the road.

 

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!

 

Photo by Nick Wosika/Carrie Giordano/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Anthony Tucker

Anthony Tucker is a lifelong Yankees fan in his first year writing for Pitcher List. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame and convinces himself each fall that this is the year that ND Football ends their title drought.

  • Avatar Thom says:

    Does anything change in your mind with G. Marquez possible making a third start @SF in the week with a 4 man rotation at the moment? Does he move up to probably or stay in questionable because of the LA start?

    • Anthony Tucker Anthony Tucker says:

      Hey Thom! Thanks for reading! I noticed there was a possibility for Marquez to get a third start, but didn’t want to project it with the assumption the Rockies could bullpen a game or add a fifth starter. I’d say if there’s a high likelihood he’ll get that start @SF, it would change my mind and move him up a tier. You’ll probably take your lumps today home against the Dodgers, but a start against Arizona and an away start against the Giants would have me willing to roll the dice in weekly lineup leagues (obviously still a higher risk play with two starts at Coors though). Hope this helps!

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