May 5, 2017
Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner
Every Friday we preview the hurlers scheduled for two starts in the upcoming week. Hopefully that will give enough insight to make educated lineup moves and FAAB decisions over the weekend. As the old wrestling promoters would always say “Card Subject to Change," because lots can happen between the time this goes up and first pitch. Unfortunately, weather, injuries and tinkering managers make this less than a science. I’ll do my best, though, and should new information present itself after this posts, we can go over it in the comments. We’ll crowdsource this as well, so if you hear anything, feel free to comment and we all can offer our takes, hot or not.
Here’s how this works. The pitchers will be split by league using these categories:
Auto-Starts: These are your aces, your studs, and your guiding lights. You paid big to acquire these guys, whether via early draft pick, high-dollar auction bid, or hefty trade package. You’re likely starting these guys anywhere, anytime, on a train, and on a plane. You get it. The list is fluid, and guys can pitch their way into or out of this category. You know all about these guys, so there won’t be as many notes associated with this group.
Starts: As the name suggests, this group won’t quite be as much of a slam-dunk decision, but I’m still recommending you give them the ball. Some will still be easy decisions due to pedigree, but others will be based mostly on favorable matchups that you can take advantage of.
Considers: This category will be populated by guys that are really tweeners, and your league settings and position in the standings will be a key factor in your ultimate decision. These pitchers can range from an SP2 or SP3 with a week of tough matchups to No. 5 starters pitching against bad teams in good ballparks. Your league context will be important here; if you are in a shallow mixed league, you probably have better options, and don’t need to take the risk. However, in an AL- or NL-only league, these guys could provide a nice opportunity to log some innings at a cheaper price.
Sits: These are the guys I want no part of this week. This group will run the gamut from mid-rotation starters with tough matchups (or trips to Coors Field), to just flat-out uninspiring options.
At this point of the season, the majority of these recommendations will be based on a combination of ADP/auction price and PECOTA projections for opponent strength. As the season progresses and we get more concrete data points for how the pitchers themselves and their opponents are actually performing, the formula will gradually evolve into a performance-based projection.
**It looks like there could be some inclement weather over the weekend that could wreak havoc on the probables for this week. Check back and we will try to address the schedule changes in the comments.
It didn’t take long for deGrom to find his way back to this category, and he did so by being flat out awesome (written before his blowup against the Braves, amending to “very good”). He’s fanning 12 batters per nine innings with a 2.10 DRA and 83 cFIP, and his fastball velocity is back up to 96 mph. That said, he’s still a Mets pitcher so…
A rainout shuffles the deck for the Cards and gives us two Martinez starts. This is good.
Scherzer is Scherzer. You’re starting Scherzer.
Arrieta is giving up nearly two homers per nine innings, but he also has a HR/FB rate approaching 18 percent, which is higher than any point previously in his career. I would expect both of those numbers to trend downward, dog style (I’m sorry that was so bad). Coors Field is treacherous, but if his ground-ball rates can rebound to his Cubs career norms, he should be fine.
Gonzalez has been a rock of sorts in the rotation for the Nationals since coming over in 2012. You probably won’t ever be psyched to start him, but he’ll typically range from “meh” to “pretty good.” Sometimes that’s all you’re looking for. OK, so maybe that’s not such a ringing endorsement. He gets two teams this week with gobs of swing and miss in their respective repertoires.
After bouts with Nicasio, Hutchison and Vogelsong, it was fair to wonder whether pitching wizard Ray Searage’s magic was wearing off. Enter Nova. He’s not getting many strikeouts, but he’s walking basically nobody, which is nice. You might say he’s burning bright, like a super (don’t you dare), um pitcher. Will it last? Maybe not, but enjoy it for now.
So, Moore and Samardzija have been pretty bad so far this season (although Shark is getting a few more strikeouts). Like, they’ve been a combined ERA approaching 12.00 level bad. Having said that, they’re getting two pretty good matchups this week.
Somehow Ray is striking batters out at an even higher rate than a season ago. Unfortunately, he’s also walking more dudes. One early development to keep an eye on: Ray has a 53 percent ground-ball rate through his first six starts. If he can keep that up, he could pitch a lot closer to his 1.94 DRA than his 3.47 ERA. This week he gets two lineups that struggle against lefties.
Urias is really freaking good. However, he’s still 20 years old, so the Dodgers are still treating him, appropriately, with kid gloves. While this could be good for his career, it might not be as great if you’re looking for innings or quality starts.
It always seems like Wood is the odd man out in the Dodgers’ rotation, but shockingly there is always an injury that slots him right back into the lineup. This season he is getting ground balls 60 percent of the time and is striking out almost 10 batters per nine innings.
The Dodgers are currently toying with a weird six-man rotation, so there’s a chance that Wood, Urias, or both won’t get two starts this week. Check back for updates.
Perdomo gets ground balls at a 64 percent clip, mostly by relying on his 94 mph sinker. He’s also getting whiffs with his curveball over 25 percent of the time, which he throws in nearly 35 percent of his offerings. The problem is that he really only has those two pitches, which hurts him against lefties to the tune of .321/.368/.518. I’m out this week, but I’m keeping an eye on Perdomo.
Both Senzatela and Freeland have shown glimpses of... something. It’s mildly intriguing. Not this week however, when they welcome the Cubs and Dodgers to Coors Field.
Somehow Weaver has a 5.51 ERA with a .219 BABIP. That’s all.
At a certain point, Carrasco decided that allowing baserunners is for losers, averaging only 5.3 hits per nine (albeit with a .198 BABIP, but still), en route to a 0.82 WHIP. That’s pretty good. The strikeouts aren’t there yet, but his swinging-strike rate is still above average, so they’re probably coming. If the team keeps Carrasco on regular rest, he’ll get two starts. If they give him an extra day, second-year righty Mike Clevinger could get two. Clevinger is an interesting option, but he is most definitely not an auto start.
The parallels between Verlander and Tom Brady are growing by the year.
Pomeranz is doing his best Rich Hill impression (minus the blisters, because that would be super weird). He’s throwing his curveball 45 percent of the time and so far it’s working. Pomeranz is striking out over 11 batters per nine and is even chipping away at his walk totals. This week he will face two lineups very prone to striking out against lefty hurlers.
Stroman gave up two homers in his previous start, matching his total for the entire season. He still throws ground balls for days, and if he starts leaning on his slider a little more, as he did last season, he will probably see an uptick in strikeouts to boot.
*Having to include these asterisks is terrible. Stroman left his last start with arm pain, but is still scheduled for his next start. That sounds ominously familiar—not great. While we’re at it, let’s throw an asterisk on Kennedy as well, who was pulled from his start Thursday because of a hamstring issue.
If you want the textbook example of a serviceable starter, it might very well be Andriese. He will walk more than you like, strike out fewer than you like, yet somehow he’s still out there in the sixth, logging innings. It’s not always glamorous, but someone has to do it. I salute you, Matt Andriese, serviceable starter. I just might not start you in fantasy.
We have wanted Gausman to break out for so long, and it looked like 2016 might have been that year. Unfortunately 2017 has decidedly not been that year for the 26-year-old righty, who is sporting an ERA more reminiscent of a Fellini movie. He’s getting a loaded Nationals lineup before heading to Kansas City this week, so, I guess at least he’s well rested.
Normally I wouldn’t advocate for Griffin due to his propensity to do too many A.J. Griffin things, but a start in Petco Park followed by a start against the A’s is pretty tasty. Still, don’t forget he’s A.J. Griffin.
Small sample alert: Karns has a home slash line of .116/.174/.116. On the road it is .299/.373/.642. I don’t know if that necessarily means anything, but it’s interesting. Maybe.
James Shields Revenge Game! James Shields Revenge Game! James Shields Revenge Game!
Apologies to Joe Kelly, but Snell also has great stuff. He had 15 swinging strikes in his last start against the Marlins, and he has actually settled down nicely after a rocky first outing. The problem with Snell is that there’s always a threat for a five-walk (or more) monstrosity. The Red Sox are surprisingly middle of the pack as far as drawing walks this season, and the Royals don’t walk at all, so Snell could be a strong play this week.
Jimenez will be good for a gem when you least expect it. It’s infuriating. However those starts are few and far between, so I’m staying away.
Full disclosure (because I’m nothing if not honest with you guys), I had to refresh myself on what team Meyer plays for. That’s probably not a great sign. The former top prospect in the Twins system is still only 27 years old, but he’s really struggled with walks in his short big-league career, to the tune of a career rate nearing seven per nine. Yikes.
Nolasco hasn’t seen the seventh inning yet this season, and hasn’t been particularly good in the first six.