July 22, 2016
Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner
Welcome to the starting pitcher planner, where every Friday I’ll be taking a look at the pitchers slated for two turns in the upcoming week. The hope is that the planner can help guide lineup and FAAB decisions that need to be made over the weekend. Of course, my information isn’t perfect and I don’t have a crystal ball. Rain, injuries, and teams reshuffling between when I write and Monday’s first pitch will definitely happen. If new information comes to light after we publish, I’ll try to tackle it in the comments. Feel free to beat me to it if you have any info, and I’ll be glad to offer my opinion there if you want it.
Let’s get some ground rules out the way before getting started. The pitchers will be split by league and then by category. Here are some general thoughts about the categories:
Auto-Starts: You paid a big price for these guys, either with an early draft pick, high dollar auction bid, or significant haul of prospects or MLB talent. These are the top 20 or so starters in baseball, so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can pitch their way on to or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many notes associated with this group, unless a player has just moved up or is in imminent danger of moving down.
Starts: These are the pitchers I’m recommending you give the ball to this week. Some will be obvious, though not quite auto-start excellent. Others will be lesser talents who find themselves with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of.
Considers: These guys will be on the fence and your league settings and position in the standings will play a big role in your decision. A pitcher in this category can be an SP2 or SP3 with a tough week of matchups. Conversely, he could be a team’s number five who happens to be lined up against a couple basement dwellers. Your particular league context carries the day here; if you are in a 10-team mixed league you probably don’t need to take the risk, but a 10-team AL-only leaguer might see it as a nice opportunity to log some quality innings from a freely available resource.
Sits: These are the guys I’m staying away from this week. They will range in talent from solid to poor. With mixed leagues smaller than 16 teams my default position for all two-start pitchers who rank outside of the top 60 or so is to sit them unless the matchups dictate otherwise. Additionally, mid-rotation starters who face a couple tough draws will find themselves in this category more often than not.
The Dodgers only have five games next week, so they may not have a two-start pitcher. Then again, their entire rotation is broken and there’s no reason to take it easy on Bud Norris, the presumptive Tuesday starter. He could start again on full rest on Sunday. I’ll pass. With Greinke still hurting, the Diamondbacks have an open spot for a double-up. It’s not clear who will get it.
If you read the review of my first-half work, you might recall that I beat myself up for taking a timid position on DeSclafani, among others. You might also remember that I pledged to be more opportunistic and aggressive with Start recommendations when there is a solid case for it. Well, here you go. DeSclafani is outpitching his peripherals on the whole, which is reason for caution, but he’s turned in a quality start in seven of eight turns. He’ll pitch in two favorable venues next week. Eickhoff got beat up at Coors two weeks ago, yielding eight runs before exiting in the sixth inning. Prior to that, he hadn’t given up more than three runs in an outing since May 28. Eickhoff’s strikeout totals waver from start to start, but his ratios are stable and the opponent and park context provide some safety.
Bartolo has had a couple ugly outings recently against top-shelf offenses (Cubs, Nationals), so a date with the Cardinals doesn’t give me that warm, fuzzy feeling. Garcia has been volatile this summer and has always been worse on the road. Tread carefully here. Gio was doing a good job limiting free passes early in the season, but he’s been poor in that regard lately, walking north of four batters per nine innings since the calendar turned to June. Arbitrary endpoints and all that, but Peavy has a 3.43 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over his past 12 starts. That’s actually not too far out of line with his better-than-I-remembered performance over the past half-decade.
This might be too hard on Chen, who has been eminently hittable lately and doesn’t tally enough whiffs to provide value if you can’t count on acceptable ratios. I did not see this coming for Corbin. He’s more than earned his spot here.
Brian Flynn is scheduled to go on Monday. He lasted 2 1/3 innings in his first major-league start of 2016, and has pitched primarily out of the bullpen this season, both in Triple-A and the bigs. He’ll need to pitch well enough to keep the spot from Chris Young. It has not been announced who will start opposite Flynn for the Angels. Whoever it is could start again versus Boston over the weekend, making whoever it is an obvious stay-away.
I can’t quit Keuchel. He’s beginning to resemble something much closer to the SP2 you probably drafted him to be. Keuchel is eating innings and his run prevention has improved over the past month, even as his command remains off relative to 2015. Santana has been equally solid over the past 30 days, allowing more than two runs only once in his past half-dozen starts, one of which was an impressive complete game where he faced one more than the minimum. The White Sox have seen Santana twice this season and scored six runs on 14 hits in those two contests, but those were back in April and he gets a tasty matchup against the Braves in the second turn. Verlander continues to mix in the occasional blowup with strings of dominance. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the next implosion came at Fenway next week, but you can’t sit him coming off 19 strikeouts and 10 baserunners allowed over his past 15 frames.
Kansas City’s outfield defense can’t help Kennedy if the fly balls leave the yard. He’s reverted to the home run allowing machine he’s always been, and then some, allowing a whopping 16 dingers in his last eight starts, covering only 44 innings. The Rays have been a bottom ten offense against righties in 2016, but have shelled Pineda twice. Everything about Pineda’s season deserves the shruggy guy. Pomeranz struggled mightily in his reintroduction to the junior circuit, lasting only three innings. I’ll take the cautious route with both him and his new teammate, Wright, who’s had problems of his own lately. I’ve been on vacation for the better part of July and tuned out of daily box score checking for a bit, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw that Santiago wasn’t scored upon in three consecutive outings. I’ve never been a believer. Your mileage may vary. Tillman’s season is back on track after a rough stretch in mid-late June. A cFIP of 108 indicates his underlying skills are more or less the same as they’ve always been, which is worrisome.
Shields has been passable after the horrid beginning to his White Sox career. The strikeouts are gone though, and there’s too much ratio risk against the cross-town rivals.