We are now at the point in the season where you truly have to make a decision and plot out your course for the next two months. This is across both the MLB Trade Deadline, but also in your fantasy leagues. If you are in a keeper or dynasty league, the first item for consideration is whether or not you are playing for the present or the future. And then, regardless of your league format, or even if there is trading or not, you must decide your pitching strategy when targeting two-start pitchers.
It is vital to evaluate your place in the standings and what categories you need to attack for the remainder 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.
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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.
Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers, at Washington, vs. Pittsburgh
The Brewers, and Burnes, have a favorable schedule this week and the right-hander is in a perfect position to capitalize. With a 0.90 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 20 innings in his last three starts, the right-hander is pitching at his highest level of the season with a 1.64 ERA in July. The strikeouts from Burnes are a nice boost when he takes the mound twice in a week and these are two teams that the right-hander should overpower.
Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins, vs. Philadelphia, at Texas
Unlike a lot of the other top-tier two-start pitchers for this week, Alcantara has been moving in the correct direction after a rough start to the season. After a 5.04 ERA in April, Alcantara got down to 3.31 in July which also brought his ERA on the season to 4.46 with a 3.87 FIP showing more cause for optimism. The right-hander has not been overpowering from a strikeout perspective, but 30 in 32.2 innings in July is another nice development.
Framber Valdez, Houston Astros, vs. Cleveland, at NY Yankees
Valdez is coming off a rough start against the Rangers in which he allowed six runs, but the problem is that it does not appear to be an isolated incident for the southpaw. While he had been dealing with an ankle injury, Valdez has allowed no fewer than four earned runs in four of his last five starts with two games of multiple home runs. With that being said Valdez is still one of the better two-start pitchers for this week as he strikes out more than a batter an inning but we would like his ground ball rate of 53.5% to be more in line with his 66.5% mark from last year.
Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks, at San Francisco, at Minnesota
After a dominant start to the season, Gallen’s ERA has increased each month to 4.45 in July. Perhaps more troubling considering both of Gallen’s starts this week come away from Arizona is his 4.97 ERA on the road this season. Opponents are slugging drastically better against Gallen on the road, .444 compared to .307, and while this is not enough for me to think about benching him this week, there is some concern.
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.
George Kirby, Seattle Mariners, vs. Boston, at LA Angels
Kirby sandwiched two starts in which he allowed 11 earned runs around seven shutout innings as he continues to be a strong performer overall. While he could overpower opposing hitters, Kirby is still striking out just 8.15 batters per nine innings, but when you combine that with the fact that he is walking just under one batter per nine innings, he is a strong two-start pitcher option.
Justin Steele, Chicago Cubs, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Atlanta
It has not seemed to matter to Steele whether he pitches at home or on the road this season, but he will have two difficult opponents to deal with this week. The good news is that the left-hander does keep the ball on the ground, limits the walks, and strikeouts close to a batter per inning and there is a lot to like in his 2.87 ERA as opposing hitters have a barrel-rate of just 6% against Steele.
Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee Brewers, at Washington, vs. Pittsburgh
Peralta caught our attention with 13 strikeouts in his last start and his strikeout upside is hard to miss. There are problems with the long ball from the right-hander but he should not have many issues dealing with the Nationals and Pirates this week.
Pablo Lopez, Minnesota Twins, at St. Louis, vs. Arizona
There is both good and bad taking place with Lopez in his first season with Minnesota. With over 11 strikeouts per nine innings, Lopez is a real asset as far as two-start pitchers go as his average fastball velocity has jumped this season by 1.5 miles per hour up to 95. On the season, Lopez’s ERA sits at 4.13, but with a 3.25 xERA, there is some optimism here. Another change we have seen out of Lopez this year is the introduction of a slider which he is throwing over 21% of the time.
Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers, vs. Oakland, at San Diego
Urias has two strong matchups this week as he looks to get back on track in what has not been an especially successful season for the southpaw. Facing Oakland does have a way of turning things around for opposing pitchers and Urias and his 4.98 ERA are next up. Last year, Urias benefited from a .229 BABIP, and while he never was especially proficient at keeping the ball on the ground, the left-hander is now allowing 1.77 home runs per nine innings although his 4.14 xERA offers a little room for optimism.
Carlos Rodon, New York Yankees, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Houston
It has not been the smoothest of rides for Rodon in his first season with the Yankees, and four starts in, it has been a mixed bag. Health does not appear to be an issue as he shakes off the rust. In his last start against the Mets, the left-hander picked up his first victory with 5.2 innings of one-run ball while striking out four. While Rodon is talented, these will be two tough matchups for him.
Andrew Abbott, Cincinnati Reds, at Chicago Cubs, at Washington
Abbott continues to have success since his promotion and he is currently working on a 0.90 ERA over his last three starts which brought his ERA on the season down to 1.90. He is still striking out more than an inning, but he also continues to benefit from a .222 BABIP and 96.2% strand rate and there is some concern relating to Abbott’s 25.3% ground ball rate. Additionally, a 23.3 degree average launch angle does not give me comfort either.
Kyle Bradish, Baltimore Orioles, at Toronto, vs. NY Mets
Following the trade deadline, it is unclear what the Mets’ lineup depth will look like, but we know Bradish will be tested to some degree by the Blue Jays. With a 3.29 ERA on the season and a little under a strikeout per inning, you know what you are going to get out of Bradish in most weeks, and that especially plays for weeks in which he is a two-start pitcher.
Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs, vs. Cincinnati, vs. Atlanta
Things have gone downhill pretty quickly for Stroman after a strong start to the season with a 7.99 ERA in July after not posting a mark lower than 2.87 in his three previous months. From a statistical perspective, opposing hitters are just making better contact against Stroman, but despite the recent struggles, I would resist the urge to overreact. as the overall body of work, aside from the walks is solid. Opposing hitters still have a barrel rate of just 4.4% against Stroman and a 58.1% groundball rate also helps.
Charlie Morton, Atlanta Braves, vs. LA Angels, at Chicago Cubs
Seeing Morton strike out just nine batters in his last three games is not going to generate much confidence, but we are still dealing with a solid and reliable veteran starter. When looking at two-start pitchers, Morton’s 1.42 WHIP presents itself as a legitimate risk, but he still strikes out a batter per inning and his 47.1% ground ball rate helps get him of trouble leading toward a strong 3.57 ERA.
Bryce Miller, Seattle Mariners, vs. Boston, at LA Angels
With an average of just about five innings per start, we are not getting much length from Miller to this point. The good news though is that he is striking out close to a batter per inning, and with a WHIP of 1.00, he is keeping runners off the basepaths. What gives some pause on Miller, although he has been able to pitch around it to this point, is the fact that opposing hitters have an 11% barrel rate and 19.6-degree average launch angle against the right-hander.
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.
Taijuan Walker, Philadelphia Phillies, at Miami, vs. Kansas City
Walker has been a solid option for the Phillies this season, but with a 1.27 WHIP, there is some risk in player here was he is walking 3.66 batters per nine innings. With a little less than eight strikeouts per nine innings, Walker does not offer up as much upside as we might like in that category, but he is a solid source of innings.
Alex Cobb, San Francisco Giants, vs. Arizona, at Oakland
Cobb generally does not pitch deep into games, but the veteran continues to be a solid option, and that is especially true when he is one the two-start pitcher options for this week. The fact that Cobb is facing Oakland certainly helps here as does his 57.4% ground ball rate while he strikes out close a batter per inning.
J.P. France, Houston Astros, vs. Cleveland, at NY Yankees
If France is going to go out there and allow just one unearned run in seven innings while picking up the victory as he did in his last outing against Texas, then we can deal with the lack of strikeouts. France has gone seven innings in three of his last five starts and he is continually in the position to pick up a victory thanks to Houston’s run support. This helps to make up for just 6.17 strikeouts per nine innings, but his 4.32 xERA is probably a more reasonable expectation than his 2.87 ERA.
Brayan Bello, Boston Red Sox, at Seattle, vs. Toronto
It is difficult to talk about Bello without thinking about his upside, but his 56.4% ground ball rate so far this season has helped provide a solid performance base. While it would be nice to see him strikeout more than 7.69 batters per nine innings, Bello has 3.66 ERA are managing to this point, and with an average launch angle of just 5.9 degrees, opposing hitters are limited in the damage that can inflict on the right-hander.
Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals, vs. Minnesota, vs. Colorado
Name recognition is going to keep Flaherty afloat to some point, but continues to have some issue. The immediate concern is Flaherty’s 5.66 ERA at home this season, where both of his starts this week are, but his batting average, slugging, and on base percentages are all better there than on the road. Getting Colorado away from Coors Field also helps here. Tread carefully as you must go into this aware of what his 4.43 walks per nine innings can do to your ratios.
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.
Seth Lugo, San Diego Padres, at Colorado, vs. LA Dodgers
If it were not for Lugo’s matchups this week, and venue (Coors Field), the reliable right-hander might be in the tier ahead, but the preference here is to keep some distance in most situations. With that being said, the overall body of work for Lugo has been pretty solid this year with a 3.62 ERA (4.29 xERA) while striking out close to a batter per inning and limiting the walks.
Kyle Gibson, Baltimore Orioles, at Toronto, vs. NY Mets
You will certainly get innings out of Gibson as he takes the mound twice, and the right-hander has also benefited from Baltimore’s success leading to nine victories so far this season. Beyond that, nothing truly stands out from Gibson as he is striking out just under eight batters per nine innings while recording a 4.68 ERA and his 1.32 WHIP might not be great for your ratios.
Ranger Suarez, Philadelphia Phillies, at Miami, vs. Kansas City
Suarez is struggling as of late with a 5.82 ERA in his last three starts, but at a 4.22 ERA on the season he has been a solid option. With a ground ball rate of over 50% and opposing average launch angle of just 7.2 degrees, we do have to give Suarez credit for keeping the ball out of the air which does help to limit the damage.
Edward Cabrera, Miami Marlins, vs. Philadelphia, at Texas
While Cabrera is talented, he is also inconsistent and his 5.59 walks per nine innings can do some serious damage to your ratios. Yes, Cabrera does strike out close to 11 batters per nine innings, but his success is strictly tied to him pitching around his control problems, and these are two lineups that can make him pay.
Domingo German, New York Yankees, vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Houston
The perfect game got our attention, but that was against Oakland, and things will be a lot more difficult against the Rays and Astros this week. Strikeouts won’t come nearly as easy against these tough lineups and a 4.77 ERA illustrates the up-and-down nature of German’s season.
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.
Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels, at Atlanta, vs. Seattle
Including Sandoval here is a mere technicality as he enters the week with victories in consecutive starts. Sandoval does run into some control issues which could be a cause for concern, but a 51% ground ball rate and the ability to limit home runs helps keep the ERA down (4.13). Between a 6.5% barrel rate and a 6.9 degree average launch angle, it is a good sign that opposing hitters are not truly squaring up Sandoval.
Jose Quintana, New York Mets, at Kansas City, at Baltimore
After a Spring Training injury, Quintana has just two starts under his belt this year, and each has been solid. While Quintana has dealt with traffic on the bases, six hits in each start and three walks in his most recent start, he has limited the damage to two runs in each outing. Quintana is not going to be overpowering with strikeouts, but he is a solid veteran whose ownership is depressed due to the injury.
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Toronto Blue Jays, vs. Baltimore, at Boston
Ryu could be more of a season-long play here as he makes his return from Tommy John surgery and he is thrust right into the fire. The track record of being a solid veteran is there, but it is also unclear what he will be capable of this week in two matchups that will provide an early test.
Johan Oviedo, Pittsburgh Pirates, vs. Detroit, at Milwaukee
Oviedo has two solid matchups this week as he looks to get back on track after a solid start to the season. In his last three outings, Oviedo has a 3.71 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings which brought his ERA down to 4.60. With looking at two-start pitchers this week, there could be some value in Oviedo.
Ben Lively, Cincinnati Reds, at Chicago Cubs, vs. Washington
Lively is another pitcher for whom matchups work in his advantage this week. Initially, length was not a strong suit for Lively, but in his last start, he did pitch 6.2 innings while allowing two runs after scattering eight hits. We have to keep an eye on the long ball here as well as the strikeouts as Lively pitches deeper into games, but he does have a solid 3.76 ERA.
Austin Gomber, Colorado Rockies, vs. San Diego, at St. Louis
We have been down this road with Gomber before, but his 3.00 ERA over his last three starts at least gets him a mention. One of his starts this week does come at Coors Field and with just 11 strikeouts in his last 18 innings, there is not much upside there.
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