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
- We have a who’s who of NL Cy Young candidates at the top of tier one this week. Zack Wheeler enters September with a soft schedule and is in prime position to continue solidifying his status as one of the game’s elite. Wheeler has truly put it all together this season, registering career bests in K% and BB%. When hitters are putting the ball in play, the Phillies’ ace has the best soft contact rate of all qualified pitchers. Wheeler should make easy work of the Nats and Marlins.
- While Luis Castillo’s inconsistencies this season haven’t allowed him to make good on his lofty ADP this draft season, he’s mostly looked like the pitcher we’ve expected as of late. I can’t envision a scenario where you would think twice about getting him in your lineup against the Cardinals or Tigers. Both opponents have been about league-average offensively in the second half, but Castillo has the opportunity to thrive.
- Chris Sale has looked solid in his first two starts off the IL, but it would not be surprising to see some hiccups as he continues to acclimate himself to the big leagues after about two years on the shelf. Sale belongs in your lineup next week, but it is important to note that the Rays have flipped the script after some early-season struggles against lefties. Tampa held just a 91 wRC+ against lefties during the first half of the season, but the emergence of Wander Franco and acquisition of Nelson Cruz have clearly helped. In the second half, the Rays have been a top-five offense against LHP. It’s not enough reason to overthink starting Sale, but something to be aware of.
- Germán Márquez is one of the most polarizing pitchers in fantasy baseball given his home park and the occasional disastrous outing (his last start against a Triple-A quality Cubs lineup, for example). While it’s certainly reasonable to shy away from the home start against the Braves, I’m likely going to trust him in both starts. Curiously enough, Márquez has pitched worse on the road this year, but that shouldn’t be an issue against the Rangers. Since the calendar turned to June, the Rockies’ ace has pitched to a 3.73 ERA with a 19.6% K-BB%. Possessing a pair of plus off-speed offerings, I’m gambling he can navigate the Braves offense at Coors.
- Taijuan Walker has outperformed his peripherals this season, but the Marlins and Nationals don’t provide enough firepower to consider benching Walker.
- Rookies Luis Garcia and Josiah Gray have both proven they belong in your lineup during the home stretch of the season. You might have a touch of hesitation against the Padres, but San Diego’s offense has collapsed in August. They’ve posted a .684 OPS this month with an 8-13 record going into Thursday evening. While the Padres have the ability to turn it around at a moment’s notice, I trust Garcia can meet the challenge.
- Edward Cabrera had an interesting debut and is now slated for two turns in the rotation next week. It was a pleasant surprise to see his command remain in check, but only four whiffs on the evening was underwhelming. If he remains available in your league, he might make for an interesting pickup as both the Mets and Phillies continue to struggle offensively.
- Tarik Skubal (OAK), Austin Gomber (@TEX), and Alex Wood (MIL) all have one matchup where they are relatively easy decisions to start. They should be on your bench for their more difficult matchup. If you play in weekly lineup leagues and need to add one of them, Skubal feels like the safest play.
- Huascar Ynoa was perhaps the toughest player to rank this week. He’s been absolutely electric this season, emerging from relative anonymity in April to one of the best waiver wire finds of the season. Despite this, it’s probably in your best interest to bench him against the Dodgers and at Coors Field as the ratio risk is prohibitive. His upside is what lands him in the Questionable Tier, even if he has the worst matchups for any two-start pitcher this week. Even if you decide to bench, hold onto Ynoa as he could pay dividends for your team in the playoffs.
- Corey Kluber is scheduled to come off the IL on Monday against the Angels. You shouldn’t risk him in your lineup in his return as he’s not built up to a full workload and he hasn’t faced major league hitting since May. If all goes well against the Angels, he could be a good option against the lowly Orioles over the weekend.
- Chris Flexen (@ARI) and Tyler Gilbert (SEA) may face each other in their second start next week. They are potential options as streamers, but I’d prefer to leave them for only deeper leagues.
- You can likely make the argument that Zach Plesac belongs in tier three alongside Flexen and Gilbert. His inconsistency, however, has me uncertain that he’s a safe enough play against the Royals. While his first start is more of a toss-up than a clear bench, I’d likely be in search of other options.
- Johnny Cueto has been serviceable as a streamer in certain spots this season, but he didn’t show enough against the Mets in his return off the IL to make me want to add him for a stream against the Brewers.
- Brady Singer and Zach Davies each have one matchup against a poor offense, but neither generates enough whiffs for me to want to pick them up as a streamer. Cole Irvin is a potential streamer against the Tigers, but I’d prefer to avoid him. He’s had a few strong outings in the right matchups this season, but his 25% CSW has led to minimal strikeouts and upside.
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)