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 the wire.
As a friendly reminder, the projected starters are just that, projections, and subject to change.
Set and Forget
- Luis Castillo has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last two months as he’s held a 1.91 ERA with 26.5 K% and a minuscule 0.9 HR/9 over 75.1 IP and I see no reason to imagine that changes this week. He gets a very juicy matchup against a Cleveland team that is starting a ton of young players trying to figure things out and while the Phillies have been one of the best offenses in baseball recently but they are a groundball heavy team which plays right into Castillo’s strengths.
- While the strikeouts haven’t exactly come around for Casey Mize yet this season he’s quietly had a solid rookie season putting up a 3.57 ERA over 116.0 IP and he gets two pretty poor offenses in Baltimore and Cleveland. His real weakness this season has been the home run ball but neither of these two teams truly excel there so things look really nice for him this week.
- Mad Max is Mad Max, you start him and revel in his awesomeness.
- I really like what Zach Thompson has been doing for Miami and I like his matchups this week as well. Over nine starts this season he has yet to give up more than three runs in a game, holds solid 24.3 K%, and gets a Padres lineup that is missing Fernando Tatis Jr. and has really struggled without him. He follows that up with a date with the Cubs which at this point are basically a AAA team so I think he’s a must-start this week.
- Over his last nine starts, Jameson Taillon has been a whole new pitcher with a 2.35 ERA and a 23.0 K% over that time frame. We know it can take a pitcher coming off Tommy John around half a season to regain his command and stuff and you have to wonder if it is all falling back into place. He gets a good matchup against Kansas City and then follows it up with a White Sox team that has been slumping over the last couple of weeks so I like him here well enough to put him in the Set and Forget category this week.
- Frankie Montas has seemingly regained his form over the past month pitching his way to a 2.65 ERA with a 32.0 K% over 37.1 IP and this is the pitcher from last year that we got so excited about. He gets two great matchups in Cleveland and Texas so he should be a shoo-in to keep it going this week.
- Finally, Kevin Gausman has been ace-like all season and I see no reason why facing the Diamondbacks and Rockies at home should change that this week.
- It’s hard to trust Gallen based on the injuries he’s fighting through and how much he has struggled this season—but he is coming off back to back solid starts against the Dodgers and Giants that reminded us of just how talented he is even when he is hurt. So, I understand if you wanted to start him here—especially since he gets the depleted Padres lineup in that first start. I mostly put him in this category based on not feeling all that comfortable with the Giants start, given they just saw him so recently.
- While seeing him pitch again this season is the most important thing given everything he went through last year, Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t doing much this season outside of striking people out at a career-high rate. Unfortunately, he’s also putting up career highs in ERA and WHIP. There are some signs that bad luck (or bad defense) has taken its toll on ERod’s season as evidenced by his .367 BABIP and 3.49 SIERA, so there may be some regression coming at some point—but I’m going to need to see it first I think. He does have good matchups especially if you need the strikeouts, as Tampa has the highest K% in the league and Baltimore is 12th, and neither is lighting the world on fire on offense. I think I’d lean towards starting him but wanted to make clear I still have my concerns, especially since he still hasn’t shown he can keep hitters off the basepaths.
- Alec Mills‘ overall numbers (4.41 ERA, 16.5 K%) belay the fact that he’s secretly been pitching pretty well for about two months now. He started the year pitching out of the bullpen and it did not agree with him, as he posted a 4.50 ERA in April and a godawful 11.57 ERA in May. In June he was moved back to the starting rotation and has been really solid throwing 46.2 IP over nine starts with a 3.66 ERA. What gives me pause is the 1.44 WHIP with just a 16.4 K% he’s also posted during this time period. That’s a really tough tightrope to toe and he’s managed to do it by limiting the long ball with a 0.58 HR/9, a launch angle of just 6.7 degrees, and 87.5 MPH Exit Velocity. He’s got great matchups this week in the Brewers and the Marlins, so I think he could absolutely help your ratios this week—but I bumped him down here because the lack of strikeouts and high WHIP means he can’t have an off day in either start and still contribute like ERod. Keep that in mind when choosing to start him or not.
- Michael Ajeto speculated back in May about what is going wrong for Lucas Giolito this season, pointing out that his release point and pitch movements have been all over the place, but it does look like he might be getting a handle on it after posting a 3.16 ERA in July even if it isn’t reflected in his overall numbers yet. The reason I have him here in this category as opposed to a sure thing is that he posted his lowest K% of the year in July and the fact that it took an unsustainable HR/9 of 0.28 to get his numbers down that low so I’m not exactly sure he’s fully gotten back on track yet. He has pretty decent matchups in the Twins and the Yankees but I worry about that Minnesota start as they have the third-highest HR count of any team on the season hence why he’s here.
- I feel the same way about Sonny Gray as I do about Eduardo Rodriguez this week, except Gray doesn’t have quite the easy matchups that ERod does as he faces an Atlanta squad who is greatly improved after the trade deadline and looks to be getting it together a bit and Philly is a pretty good offense. A lot of Gray’s problems do seem to stem from Cincinnati’s awful defense, but that’s not changing anytime soon so I think I’m only starting him if I need the high strikeout potential just be aware of the ratio risk will carry with it.
- Carlos Hernandez carries a ton of strikeout potential and has two really great matchups here. The Yankees are amongst the worst hitting teams on the road and Kauffman Stadium is a pitcher’s park, so I like that matchup—the Cardinals are a pretty fantastic opponent to pitch against right now no matter where you face them. I knock him down here just because he is a rookie pitcher and has gotten hit hard in some of his starts, so this allows you to go into the start with open eyes. I lean towards starting him.
- I went back and forth between putting Ross Stripling here or in the Questionable category but I think he makes sense here. The hard part about starting Stripling is that he lives in the extremes. Either he pitches fantastic or gets absolutely shelled. In 12 of his 17 starts he’s given up three runs or fewer. On the other hand, he’s given up four runs three times and six runs twice so he carries a bit more blowup risk than the others I’ve listed here. That being said I think he has pretty good matchups with the Angels and the Mariners so I think if you need the ratio upside I’d probably start him.
- I don’t know what to make of Matt Harvey. Over his last four starts, he’s given up just two earned runs and it has some people running to pick him up for this two-start week—especially since he’s facing a Tigers team he just shut down but I’m just not buying. For one thing, in those starts, he faced Kansas City, the Nationals, Detroit, and the Yankees so it wasn’t exactly against a murder’s row and he did it without really striking anyone out. I get it if people want to take a shot on it in deep leagues where the pickings are slim, especially since the Red Sox are slumping right now offensively but I think I’m staying away.
- I’m cautiously intrigued by Triston McKenzie this week. On June 13th he was sent down to the Minors after walking four in the first inning of start to regain confidence and get his mechanics right. After coming back on July 9th the results haven’t quite shown themselves yet but he’s cut way down on his walks and seems more in control of himself during games. He pitched last night, tossing seven innings while giving up just three runs and striking out four against the formidable Blue Jays lineup. If nothing else he is definitely going to get you strikeouts and he has pretty good matchups this week, as the Tigers are one of the worst offenses in baseball, and the A’s have been slumping pretty much the entire month of July. Perhaps, more importantly, both teams strike out quite a bit and neither are very proficient at hitting the long ball. That’s McKenzie’s biggest bugaboo, so I can definitely see chasing the upside this week but understand it could also very easily blow up in your face as well.
- I love Carlos Carrasco and his stuff and think he will be very good for the Mets at some point this season, but he’s still building up his pitch count and probably won’t go more than a couple of innings in either game. Add in the game against the Dodgers and I’m avoiding starting him this week.
- I can see Steven Brault being an option in deeper leagues if you’re really desperate as he’s got really good matchups in St. Louis and Milwaukee. He’s not going to get you many strikeouts but he could be useful in a pinch. Maybe.
- I see Steven Matz the same way I do Stripling as he has the same nice matchups but he has much much more volatility in his skillset and carries a much bigger risk of an implosion. Deep, Deep leagues only.
- Jon Gray has been largely terrible on the road this year and faces two great offenses in the Astros and Giants. That’s a stay away for me.
- The only other real avoid for me here that is noteworthy or needs explanation is Luis Patiño. I love his stuff and I love his potential and expect great things for him… next year. He hasn’t quite put it all together yet, so even though his matchups aren’t terrible I just don’t trust him yet to be consistent, which is less a commentary on his skills and more on the idea that he is a rookie still learning the ropes.
Questions? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @DanielJPort and I’ll be happy to talk two-start SPs and more!
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)