Welcome to this week’s edition of the 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 on the wire.
As a friendly reminder, the projected starters are just that, projections, and subject to change.
Set and Forget
- Zack Wheeler takes the top spot this week, facing the Nats, who were big sellers at the deadline, and his former team, the Mets. While Gerrit Cole has superior matchups, I couldn’t bring myself to have him at the top of the tier with his atrocious outing against the Rays. Cole has been an uneven performer since the enforcement on foreign substances, but he’s still an ace who you should feel confident in every time he takes the hill.
- It’s not unreasonable to question how Max Fried, owner of a 4.33 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, finds himself in the top tier. It really comes down to a pair of great matchups that give me faith he’ll make the most of the two-start week. After going seven innings his last time out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fried settle into a groove and make the most of advantageous scheduling.
- Anthony DeSclafani has been excellent all year against teams not named the Los Angeles Dodgers. Fortunately, he won’t be seeing the defending champs next week, so you can fire him up with some confidence.
- Kenta Maeda might have officially turned the corner after a disastrous first half. In the month of July, he tallied a 2.15 ERA. His command has looked sharper during this turnaround, evidenced by a 6:1 K:BB in the last month. If you’ve held on this long, you’re likely starting him in the hopes he can keep it going. While I’m cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the season, he has a tough set of opponents, lining up against the powerful Reds and Astros lineups. I can understand if you’re sitting him against the Astros, but I’d have him in my lineup in both, especially in a points league.
- Without Nelson Cruz (or a healthy Byron Buxton), the Minnesota Twins are no longer an offense pitchers need to fear. Tyler Mahle hasn’t quite lived up to some of the breakout hype from the preseason, but he has been a solid source of strikeouts with respectable ratios. He should be able to handle the last-place Twins and should feast on a weak Pirates lineup made even weaker without the presence of Adam Frazier.
- Yusei Kikuchi followed up an electric month of June with a series of struggles in July. Over 28 IP in the last month, opponents slugged a whopping .586 against the Seattle lefty. While this doesn’t instill confidence, there have been some recent signs of a turnaround. His four-seamer velocity has ticked back up to around 95 mph, a key proponent of his success earlier in the season. He also possesses a full repertoire of pitches that he’s comfortable utilizing. Both the Rays and the Yankees (especially now with Joey Gallo onboard) are feast or famine opponents. While they both have the potential to put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard, they also strike out well above the league average.
- We have one of the shallowest pools of potential two-start streamers that we’ve seen all season. If you can’t land Tylor Megill, it might be best to sit this week out and focus on stronger one-start streams. Megill has been tremendous for a Mets team that has needed players to step up as the team continues to battle injuries. He might not get enough whiffs to be anything more than a high-end streamer the rest of the way, but I’d start him with confidence at the Marlins and likely give him the nod in his second start against the Phillies as well.
- Zach Plesac hasn’t satisfied expectations this year and it’s very possible the 2020 shortened season was the best we’ll see of him. He’s a clear bench against the Blue Jays, but I wouldn’t hesitate to get him back in the lineup later in the week against the Tigers.
- Johnny Cueto is an incredibly risky two-start streaming choice, but he does have solid matchups. I’d be hesitant to add him outside of deeper leagues, but the Arizona Diamondbacks have made life pretty easy for opposing pitchers this year. Proceed with caution. It’s an option, but probably should be avoided.
- The bottom of this group finds its way into this tier due to the lack of other two-start options. Patrick Corbin and Steven Matz are both incredibly volatile and haven’t shown enough upside in recent outings to make the risk worth it. They’re only options in the deepest of leagues for those in need of a one-start stream. I’ve included Michael Wacha and Nestor Cortes here due to their dominant last starts. I don’t think there’s much to see here, but something to at least keep an eye on.
- More often than not, I’d like to avoid Michael Pineda due to his outsized reliance on one pitch, the slider. Fortunately, his two-start week comes against the Tigers and Cardinals, which makes him worthy of some careful consideration. There’s an opportunity for him to deliver a big week for your fantasy squad here, but it’s not as sure a thing as one might think.
- Andrew Heaney has a higher ceiling than anyone in the Questionable tier, but his volatility makes me want to avoid him completely. He’s a decent streaming option at Texas, but the potential for a disastrous hit to your ratios has me unwilling to add him to my team.
- Kyle Freeland has an excellent pair of opponents for a two-start week in the Cubs and Marlins. Unfortunately, he’s at Coors Field for both starts, which makes him an easy decision to leave on the wire. It’s worth noting that he’s managed to turn in back-to-back quality starts against the Dodgers. With a low swinging strike rate, it’s not enough to convince me he won’t come back down to earth at Coors Field, when we least expect it.
- Chris Flexen has had his moments as a streamer this season. His 15.5% strikeout rate, however, isn’t going to cut it in your standard 12-team leagues. I’d scour the wire for higher upside options instead.
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)