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
- Save for a couple starts where he was hurt by the long ball, Max Scherzer has been back to his dominant self this season. With a 32.4% CSW and 12.14 K/9 in 2021, any fears he wouldn’t live up to expectations at age 36 were likely overblown.
- Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes have the now fully healthy Padres visiting Milwaukee. They’ve been dominant and don’t require a second thought, even against one of the best lineups in baseball in a friendly ballpark for hitters.
- With seven games on the schedule, the White Sox line up to have their top two starters on the hill for a pair of starts. Those with Lucas Giolito or Lance Lynn on their rosters should be in for a big week. Outside of a red-hot Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals lineup doesn’t look particularly fearsome despite a team OPS of .746 in the month of May. A weekend matchup against the Orioles should provide a strong opportunity to rack up a W and some Ks.
- Kevin Gausman has been unstoppable thus far in 2021 and I’d expect him to continue flummoxing opponents with the splitter. The Dodgers have turned it around in a big way after their early May slide, but Gausman has earned the trust to be in your lineup regardless of who he lines up against.
- John Means and Sandy Alcántara each had a recent stumble (although Means’ 4 ER against the Rays was far less damaging than Alcántara’s disastrous trip to Dodger Stadium), but it’s unlikely you have a group of starters on your roster who would make you second guess getting them in your lineup.
- Maybe it’s recency bias coming off a no-no, but I can’t think of any scenario where I wouldn’t want Corey Kluber in my lineup, even against the explosive Blue Jays. Kluber may not be the Cy Young candidate he was in his prime, but he’s rounded into form in his last five starts, earning whiffs and soft contact. Since April 27, Kluber has tallied a 4-0 record with a sterling 0.85 WHIP.
- We have a small group in the second tier this week, but it’s worth noting that Charlie Morton could join them depending on how the Braves set their rotation post-Ynoa injury. Atlanta has a five-game week where they could give Morton the nod for a second start on Sunday with regular rest. While he’s not officially projected for two-starts, I’d place him here if we learn otherwise. A trip to Fenway is certainly risky given Morton’s up-and-down season thus far, but a weekend trip to Citi Field against the hobbled Mets would make it worth it in weekly leagues.
- I don’t feel all that comfortable with either Zach Plesac or Aaron Civale against a Blue Jays’ top-5 offense that currently ranks second in the majors in home runs. There is certainly the potential for a ratio-damaging outing. Why, then, do they find themselves in the Probably Start tier? In leagues where lineups lock for the week, the upside of a start against the Tigers outweighs the risk at home against the Jays. Detroit has the worst strikeout rate in the majors and a paltry .649 team OPS.
- Zach Eflin took care of business last start against the Marlins and he’ll have the chance to do it again early in the week. That’s an easy decision for his fist start. The Rays offense is rounding into form as Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows begin to heat up, but I’d still get Eflin into my lineup there as well. A 44.1% Hard Hit rate would be the highest of Eflin’s career, but he’s sporting a career best walk rate at 2.2% and is getting opponents to chase outside the zone at a healthy clip. Given Tampa’s propensity to strike out, Eflin should be a solid source of strikeouts this upcoming week.
- If Yusei Kikuchi is available in your league (47% and 39% rostered on Yahoo! and ESPN, respectively), I’d recommend him as my two-start streamer of the week. Command has always been an issue, but he’s put together some promising outings this season utilizing a full repertoire including a four-seamer that is up to 96 MPH. Oakland hits lefties well (their 114 wRC+ against LHP is fourth highest in baseball) so this has an element of high risk and high reward, but the strikeout upside should probably warrant a spot in your lineup.
- Spencer Turnbull might not have been on your 12-team radar prior to his no hitter, but now is the time for a speculative add to see if he can keep it up. He’s increased his slider usage this season and, along with his four-seamer, has started to see results. His walk rate is down considerably from 2020 and he continues to induce soft contact. Turnbull can be an excellent streamer at home against Cleveland, but I’d take a wait-and-see approach in his second start against the Yankees
- Steven Matz should remain on your bench against the right-handed heavy Yankees, but is a strong streaming candidate at Cleveland over the weekend. They currently have a .203 AVG against lefties and are one of the best offenses to target with streamers.
- David Peterson has a great opportunity in his first against the league’s worst road offense in the Rockies; he should definitely be in your lineup early in the week. You may be tempted to consider Peterson in his second tilt against the Braves who have struggled mightily against lefties over the first quarter of the season. The Mets’ big lefty, however, struggled against Atlanta in his only other start against them this year. Peterson is a matchup-dependent play, leave him on the bench or waiver wire against the Braves.
- After the most promising start of his young career, Tarik Skubal looks like a potential streaming option at home in a favorable pitcher’s park against a poor offense in Cleveland. If you’re searching for strikeout upside he might be an option in his first start, but buyer beware: there’s elevated risk here for poor ratios as Skubal has struggled with walks (4.50 BB/9) and keeping the ball in the yard (2.84 HR/9).
- Matt Shoemaker rounds out the Questionable tier because of a pair of ideal matchups against the Orioles and Royals. Shoemaker, however, hasn’t shown enough this season to make fantasy players comfortable he can take fully advantage of the opportunity. After holding the White Sox to two runs in his last outing, I can understand wanting to roll the dice, but I’ll be leaving Shoemaker on the wire.
- You shouldn’t be starting anyone on the fringes of 12-team rosters when they’re pitching in Dunedin. Ryan Yarbrough is no exception here and should be left on the wire. The upside isn’t quite there to warrant a stream at the Phillies unless you’re streaming in search of a W for your categories league.
- Despite a rough start to the season, I still find Brad Keller as an intriguing streamer in the right matchups due to his floor, especially with his increased fastball velocity. Unfortunately, the Rays and Twins are not the right matchups. You can leave him on the wire until he finds a weaker opponent.
- Even in starts where he’s had favorable results, Jake Arrieta hasn’t been all that convincing. The Pirates are a lineup you should be streaming against, but I just don’t have much confidence is worth it for one start.
- Austin Gomber has two excellent matchups on the road against a injury-ravaged Mets squad and the lowly Pirates. He should find himself up in the third tier, right? After being burned in a two-start week once before by Gomber this season (you may remember his 9 ER over 1.2 IP in a meltdown of epic proportions against the Giants), I’ve learned my lesson. In a standard 12-teamer, you’d be best off avoiding.
- Trevor Cahill is listed as Day-to-Day after leaving his last start with a calf injury. I find it unlikely that he’ll actually make two starts next week, so he finds himself at the end of this week’s rankings until we know more.
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)