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
- If you’re still in contention for a fantasy title this season, selecting Sandy Alcantara in the middle rounds of your draft is likely a big reason why. The Marlins’ righty has solidified himself as one of the game’s emerging young pitchers and has shown glimpses of an ability to reach another level into the future. Why does Alcantara find himself at the top of this week’s rankings? Is it a heater that sits upper-90s and a slider that he’s shown increasing confidence in? A 36% chase rate and a career-low BB/9? Or maybe a 3.24 ERA and 1.10 WHIP? How about all of the above. The fledgling Nats and Pirates look to be overmatched next week.
- Frankie Montas has been on fire since the All-Star break with a 2.24 ERA. This is perhaps the best stretch we’ve seen from Montas, rivaling his 2019 performance before his PED suspension. He’s an easy decision to start against anyone right now, much less the Royals and Angels. As long as his splitter is working, don’t think twice about getting Montas into your lineup.
- Clayton Kershaw is slated to return from the IL on Monday after a lengthy stay for an elbow issue. Normally, it’s best to remain on the safe side in a pitcher’s first big league appearance after injury. Kershaw, one of most dominant lefties in baseball history, against a bottom-five Diamondbacks lineup is an easy exception to the rule. You’ll certainly have him in your lineup, but don’t be surprised if the Dodgers limit his pitch count. Gerrit Cole, on the other hand, is coming off what appears to be a minor hamstring injury in his last start. He’d be at the top of these rankings if not for the possibility his next outing is pushed back. Until there’s a guarantee he’ll pitch on Monday or Tuesday, he slots in at the bottom of tier one.
- Yu Darvish has struggled mightily in the second half, likely shaking your confidence if he’s on your fantasy roster. A 6.15 ERA in the second half is not what you expected out of a fantasy ace. He was able to get back on track a bit against the Angels and, while it doesn’t totally ease concern against a tough Giants lineup, has me willing to start him at San Francisco.
- Alek Manoah hasn’t been at his best in either of his last two starts. Despite that, his upside is undeniable. You should have him in your lineup against the Rays and Twins as the Jays inch closer and closer to overtaking one of their division rivals for a potential Wild Card spot.
- After allowing six runs in his last start, one might be tempted to bench the consistently inconsistent Eduardo Rodriguez. His upcoming schedule, however, dictates you put some faith in the Red Sox’s lefty during the fantasy playoffs. Rodriguez had his fastball working throughout August and, if he can get it back against the Mariners and Orioles, has the opportunity to perform well next week. The M’s and O’s both find themselves in the highest third of the league in strikeout rate, indicating E-Rod may be able to rack up some K’s for your fantasy team.
- Jake Odorizzi has found himself as a priority two-start streamer a few times this season and finds himself here again in the fantasy playoffs. Odorizzi pitches behind the league’s second-best lineup in terms of runs per game (their 5.26 is behind only Tampa Bay) and will face two last-place teams in the Rangers and Diamondbacks. While his peripheral stats don’t look great, the veteran has shown he can be a useful option in the right matchups. Odorizzi is available in over 60% of both ESPN and Yahoo! leagues and is likely the best option you might be able to find on your waiver wire. Assuming he can locate his fastball at the top of the zone, the Astros SP can be a difference-maker in your playoff matchup.
- Kyle Gibson and Rich Hill are two matchup-dependent plays who don’t have any prohibitive opponents in front of them next week. While I wouldn’t be excited about either of them, I think you could get away with having them in your lineup. Gibson was the Phillies’ trade deadline “splash” to bolster their rotation and solidify their push for the NL East crown. While it’s a small sample of only eight starts, Gibson has pitched to a 4.60 ERA and 1.38 WHIP since his move to the senior circuit.
- It currently looks like Aaron Civale will get two starts next week, both on the road. Civale was solid if unspectacular in his return off the IL against the Twins. He’s projected for a rematch with Minnesota on Tuesday and I’d be comfortable starting him there. I’d monitor how he performs in his first start, but think he could be worth the gamble against the Yankees depending on your team’s needs at the end of the week. The Yankees were running roughshod over opponents in the middle of August, but the pendulum has since swung the other direction. They are ice cold as of late and no longer look like an offense you need to staunchly avoid with your pitchers.
- Zac Gallen’s season has been filled with starts and stops, preventing him from building upon a strong 2020. He hasn’t quite had his secondary pitches as of late, often relying heavily on his fastball. While that may work against the likes of the Rockies, Phillies, and Rangers, it’s not a recipe for success against the Dodgers or Astros. I can understand those who are willing to put their faith in Gallen after turning in a pair of quality starts, but I’d almost certainly have him on my bench or send him to the wire for a pitcher with safer matchups.
- The Yankees rotation is a bit unsettled at the moment given Cole’s hamstring and now Jameson Taillon’s ankle injury. It’s possible Luis Gil will get the opportunity to make two starts. Seven walks in his last start certainly throw some cold water on what has been an electric start to his career, but he’s a decent upside play against Baltimore and Cleveland.
- Touki Toussaint lands in the Questionable tier solely due to a home start against the Rockies. I wouldn’t recommend chasing it, but there’s always potential given the Rockies’ well-documented road woes.
- A.J. Alexy has yet to allow an earned run in three starts this season. He should definitely be on your radar, right? Not against the Astros and White Sox, unfortunately.
- Sean Nolin has the fortune of projected upcoming home starts against the Marlins and Rockies next week. It sounds overly simplistic, but it’s important to remember that finding a valuable two-start streamer is a combination of good matchups with a pitcher who you believe can execute. While the matchups are ideal, I’m not yet confident Nolin will be able to take advantage of the opportunity.
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)