Now that the All-Star break is in the past, it is time to attack the second half of the season with a vengeance. While I am sure you did not spend the past four days completely abandoning fantasy baseball, it’s always refreshing to enjoy a break.
A great use of this time is to evaluate your place in the standings and what categories you need to attack for the second half of the season. From a pitching standpoint, it is often a balancing act between the ratios (ERA/WHIP) and the counting categories (Wins/Strikeout), and then Saves also come into play. When we are dealing with Points leagues, things are very different as it no longer matters where the points come from, just how many points you can accumulate. In either type of league, effectively using two-start pitchers can be a great way to stay ahead of your competition.
I won’t be listing all two-start pitchers for the upcoming week as that could be too cumbersome. With this being said, we will only detail the viable options that will be taking the mound twice.
If you are in the position of trolling the waiver wire, especially in deeper leagues, it is hard to find comfort with the options that are likely available, so caution must be exercised. Regardless of league size, this is something that must be managed across the board. The good news though, is that we have a lot of strong options to work with this week as teams have used the four days without games to reset their rotations.
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Fantasy Baseball Two Start Pitchers
There are simply some pitchers who are going to be weekly occupants of your starting lineup regardless of any other variables.
Joe Musgrove, San Diego Padres, at Toronto, at Detroit
The early season injury to Musgrove is very much past the right-hander as he enters the week with a 3.29 ERA. For the most part, things look for Musgrove this season look very similar to his success from last year and that has to make you feel good about him once again. Facing the Tigers in his second start of the week also gives Musgrove a plus matchup.
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies, vs. Milwaukee, at Cleveland
You do not have to look hard to find the source of Nola’s struggles this season as he is allowing 1.59 home runs per nine innings which is close to double his total from last year. The good news is that Nola is still striking out a batter per inning and limiting the walks, but his ERA still sits at 4.39. A 3.73 xERA does offer some hope as does the lack of depth in Milwaukee’s lineup.
Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox, at NY Mets, at Minnesota
Giolito is very much past his struggles from a year ago and that has placed him squarely on the trade block this month. We do not know when his last start with Chicago is coming, but everything from here on out is a likely audition. The right-hander’s BABIP is down from .340 to .266 last year, but for the most part, aside from a roughly 25% decrease in walks, things do look pretty similar for Giolito from a year ago when luck was not his friend.
These two-start pitchers are likely going to be rostered in the majority, if not all leagues, and started in most of them as well.
Sonny Gray, Minnesota Twins, at Seattle, vs. Chicago White Sox
One clear way to avoid allowing runs is to not give up home runs, and at just 0.27 per nine innings, that is clearly the case for Gray this season. That has led to a 2.89 ERA from the right-hander through 18 starts while striking out a batter per inning and working through 3.52 walks (causing some WHIP risk). One noticeable change from Gray has been a decrease in fastball usage from 54.2% to 40.7% as he anchors the Minnesota rotation.
Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates, vs. Cleveland, at LA Angels
Keller has been consistently successful throughout the season as he is finally delivering on his potential. It is the age 27 season for Keller who takes a 3.31 ERA into the week with a career high of 9.92 strikeouts and a career-low of 2.62 walks per nine innings. With an 8.6-degree average launch angle, Keller has done a great job of limiting the long ball while an average exit velocity of 86.7 miles per hour and an 8.9% barrel rate from opposing hitters also speak to his success.
Worthy of a Start in Most Leagues
In 10-team leagues, these two-start pitchers might be not worth the trouble, but in anything deeper, these Fantasy Baseball Two Start Pitchers are worth strong consideration at a minimum, and likely deserving of a starting spot this week.
Bailey Ober, Minnesota Twins, at Seattle, vs. Chicago White Sox
Ober is healthy and back in the big leagues with a 2.61 ERA in 14 starts with the Twins this season. Opposing hitters are batting just .207 against Ober as he has increased his use of the changeup this season from 15.6% to 25.6%. With a 3.39 FIP and just under a strikeout per inning, Ober is not going to overpower anyone, but it is hard to argue with the results.
Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves, vs. Arizona, at Milwaukee
Fresh from the All-Star game, Elder jumps back into action with two starts this week. There is a lot to like with his 2.97 ERA and 54.8% ground ball rate, but his 6.79 strikeouts per nine inning lack upside, and Elder’s 4.13 FIP give a better look at what we can likely expect from him moving forward. A large part of Elder’s success can be traced back to his 5.7% barrel-rate against opposite hitters as they simply are not squaring up the right-hander.
Taj Bradley, Tampa Bay Rays, at Texas, vs. Baltimore
The prolific right-hander is not pitching deep into games for Tampa Bay but with a 5-5 record in 13 starts, he has done a great job of factoring into the decision which is all we want while hunting victories. Bradley is striking out close to 12 batters per nine innings while working through a .348 BABIP which plays a large part in his 5.43 ERA as we look towards his 3.98 FIP and 3.34 xFIP.
Tyler Wells, Baltimore Orioles, vs. LA Dodgers, at Tampa Bay
Wells continues to defy his .202 BABIP with a 3.18 ERA and he has been consistent throughout the season as well. I know it is difficult to argue with that number, but his 1.81 home runs per nine innings and 32.2% ground ball rate do not generate much confidence for me as we wait for him to regress towards his 4.64 FIP even if it has not happened yet. Additionally, Wells’ 11.5% barrel rate and 21-degree average launch angle do not work in his favor.
This is where we really need to limit ourselves to leagues of 15-plus teams as we need all the innings we can get; but at what cost? This is the last bastion of two-start pitchers who are rostered in more than 50% of leagues.
Brady Singer, Kansas City Royals, vs. Detroit, at New York Yankees
Singer has had success at home this season, 4.68 ERA compared to a 7.54 ERA on the road, but it is still less than ideal from the right-hander. That gives us optimism for his first start of the week in a great matchup against the Tigers, but things could truly go in any direction against the Yankees to close out the week as they break in a new hitting coach. Singer provides limited upside in the strikeout department with 7.32 per nine innings while working through a .340 BABIP which helps explain the ERA/FIP gap (5.80 to 4.26).
Jameson Taillon, Chicago Cubs, vs. Washington, vs. St. Louis
Both of Taillon’s starts come at home this week and in his first season with the Cubs, pitching in Wrigley Field has not appeared to agree with the right-hander as illustrated by his 7.41 ERA. In 37.2 innings at home, Taillon has allowed eight home runs while opposing hitters are batting .323 against him.
Drew Smyly, Chicago Cubs, vs. Washington, vs. St. Louis
Just like his teammate above, Smyly has struggled at home this season with a 5.36 ERA in Wrigley Field. With a 5.81 ERA in June and an 8.22 to this point in July things have become progressively worse for the southpaw who has given 15 home runs in 84 innings this year. At 34.1%, Smyly does not keep the ball on the ground but the good news is that a 6.9% barrel rate from opposing hitters means that they are not squaring the veteran up.
Two-Start Pitchers from the Waiver Wire
These are pitchers who are rostered in less than 50% of leagues who could provide value both for this week and the remainder of the season. This is especially the case in deeper leagues, but these options have potential across most formats if you are looking to maximize your innings.
Matt Manning, Detroit Tigers, at Kansas City, vs. San Diego
Coming off a combined no-hitter, Manning starts off the week with a great matchup against the Royals. While Manning has shown strikeout ability and upside in the minor leagues, we have not seen that yet in his 29 major league innings this season. While we are truly getting a sense of what Manning is capable of, I would not go crazy here with an investment, but there is some prospect pedigree and minor league success here.
Daniel Lynch, Kansas City Royals, vs. Detroit, at NY Yankees
Lynch provides us with another opportunity to target the Tigers, and if we really decrease the sample size, the left-hander is entering the second half of the season with some momentum. Three of Lynch’s last four outings have resulted in a quality start and he has a 2.63 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over that span. The issue though is that Lynch is striking out just under six batters per nine innings and it is unclear if the New York bats will suddenly heat up.
Yonny Chirinos, Tampa Bay Rays, at Texas, vs. Baltimore
We know that Tampa Bay can do odd things with their pitchers that are not exactly friendly to fantasy baseball, but Chirinos is needed given the current state of their pitching. After an April that saw Chirinos post a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings, the right-hander has had a rougher go of things with his ERA now sitting at 3.88 (along with xERA of 5.93). At just 4.66 strikeouts per nine innings, we are really limiting the upside here but we have seen good things from Chirinos in the past and our options are limited here.