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Fantasy Baseball: Two-Start Pitchers for Week 21

There is no time like the present to make moves in the standings. For those looking to truly make a move in the standings, time is becoming your enemy. It is important to be aware of your place in the standings and what categories you need to attack for the remainder of the season. Utilizing two-start pitchers can help do this.

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.

More great fantasy baseball advice and analysis: Waiver Wire & FAAB Recommendations | Daily MLB Injury Report | MLB DFS Picks | Line-up Analysis | Dynasty Rankings and Strategy | MLB Bullpen Updates | MLB Player Props | Prospect Rankings & Analysis | Fantasy Baseball Risers and Fallers

Fantasy Baseball Two-Start Pitchers

No Doubters

There are simply some pitchers who are going to be weekly occupants of your starting lineup regardless of any other variables.

Zac Gallen, Arizona Diamondbacks, vs. Texas, vs. Cincinnati

With a 2.37 ERA in his last three starts, Gallen appears to be intent on finishing the season strong. After throwing six innings of one-run ball on Thursday, his ERA for the season is down to 3.17. Gallen continues to limit the walks while striking out over a batter per inning with opposing hitters batting .229 against him.

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, at Cleveland, at Boston

Kershaw returned from the Injured List and did not miss a beat. In each of his starts, Kershaw has thrown five innings of one-run ball while allowing three hits in each start. With 11 victories and a 2.48 ERA the left-hander continues to be a dominant option. Aside from the COVID-shortened year, Kershaw is posting his highest average fastball velocity since 2017.

Blake Snell, San Diego Padres, vs. Miami, at Milwaukee

Regardless of how well Snell does, walks are always going to be a problem. After walking 10 batters in his last three starts, Snell’s WHIP is up to 1.26. For all of the success that Snell is having in 2023, he is walking over five batters per nine innings. Limiting the hits has been huge for the left-hander and his 2.65 ERA. While his 3.78 FIP reflects the control issues, it is hard to argue with 11.65 strikeouts per nine innings and the results we are seeing.

Luis Castillo, Seattle Mariners, at Chicago White Sox, vs. Kansas City

After allowing seven runs a few starts ago, Castillo bounced back in his last two starts. He has had a problem with the home run this year, 1.38 per nine innings, but a 3.23 ERA and 1.05 certainly plays. It is concerning that Castillo’s barrel rate against is 10.5%, but an opposing batter average of .214 provides more comfort.

Solid Options

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.

Jordan Montgomery, Texas Rangers, at Arizona, at Minnesota

The move to Texas has not slowed the southpaw’s strong season. With two wins in his last three starts, Montgomery is soaking up the run support. There are other pitchers who will be more overpowering from a strikeout perspective, but with a 3.30 ERA, he gets results.

Aaron Civale, Tampa Bay Rays, vs. Colorado, vs. NY Yankees

The matchups work in Civale’s favor this week. Since his last outing in June, Civale has not allowed more than three runs in a start. The fact that Civale only strikes out 6.34 batters per nine innings is at least helped by him making two starts this week. That means Civale has two chances at a victory and racking up points. With just a 4.7% barrel-rate against, hitters are having difficulty making quality contact.

Yusei Kikuchi, Toronto Blue Jays, at Baltimore, vs. Cleveland

Heading into Camden Yards these days to face the Orioles is never easy, but Kikuchi should have an easier go of it facing the Guardians. The good thing is that right-handed hitters do have issues hitting home runs in Baltimore as that is a rough part of Kikuchi’s game. He has been able to work around allowing 1.54 home runs per nine innings. We should get a fair amount of strikeouts without much risk to the ratios.

Andrew Abbott, Cincinnati Reds, at LA Angels, at Arizona

After allowing 10 runs over two starts, Abbott bounced back to allow four runs in his next two starts. Despite a 26.7% ground ball rate, Abbott has settled into a strong rookie season. The key here is that he can get a strikeout when he needs while limiting the walks. I still point to his 4.35 xFIP (3.85 ERA) as a cautionary tale, but the results have been there.

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.

Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves, vs. NY Mets, at San Francisco Giants

Elder bounced back from consecutive outings of five runs each to dominate the Yankees. Granted the Yankees offense helped from that perspective, but it was good to see Elder get back on track. While striking out just three batters, Elder only allowed one hit to go along with three walks. Facing the Mets to begin this week should put him in good position to pick up his 10th win. A 52.4% ground ball rate helps here, but just be aware that there is not much strikeout upside.

Graham Ashcraft, Cincinnati Reds, at LA Angels, at Arizona

It has been an up-and-down season for Ashcraft, but a 2.86 ERA in his last three starts will get our attention. That brought his ERA on the season down to 4.89 as he also struggles to generate strikeouts. The good news is that Ashcraft does keep the ball on the ground, 48.9%. Additionally, despite the rough ERA, opposing hitters struggle to make strong contact with a 6.2% barrel rate and a 6.9 degree average launch angle.

Bailey Ober, Minnesota Twins, at Milwaukee, vs. Texas

Limiting walks is huge for Ober here as he has allowed just 22 free passes in 113.2 innings. Ober is not going to do anything overly impressive, but a strikeout per inning along with a 3.40 ERA and 1.13 WHIP do work. It is not ideal to see his ERA get worse each month this year, but Ober is a solid option for deeper leagues.

Mike Clevinger, Chicago White Sox, vs. Seattle, vs. Oakland

Any time a pitcher takes the mound against the A’s it certainly catches your attention. Clevinger has a 2.00 ERA in his last three starts which brought his mark for the season down to 3.26. The problem though is that his other metrics run the gamut up to a 5.35 xFIP and he does not offer tremendous strikeout upside.

Jack Flaherty, Baltimore Orioles, vs. Toronto, vs. Colorado

Facing the Rockies certainly helps this week as Flaherty looks to bounce back. In his last start, after having success since joining the Orioles, San Diego tagged Flaherty for seven runs. The right-hander continues to struggle on the control front, 4.51 walks per nine innings, while being hampered by a .345 BABIP. While you are taking on some risk, there are worse options as he strikes out a batter an inning.

Digging Deeper

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.

Kutter Crawford, Boston Red Sox, at Houston, vs. LA Dodgers

Despite giving up 1.40 home runs per nine innings, Crawford has had a solid season. This week though will put things to test for Crawford as he has two difficult matchups. Crawford is not pitching deep into games so that also limits the upside despite a solid 3.80 ERA.

Johan Oviedo, Pittsburgh Pirates, vs. St Louis, vs. Chicago Cubs

Oviedo has, for the most part, been a bright spot for the Pirates this year. There has been some streakiness involved, 10 runs in his last two starts after two runs in three prior outings. On an overall basis, his 4.55 ERA speaks to what you will likely get.

Jose Urquidy, Houston Astros, vs. Boston, at Detroit

In just 38 innings this season, it has been an up-and-down ride for the right-hander. He has struggled with the longball and has put up a 5.21 ERA to this point. We can’t expect him to pitch too deeply into the game, but we know there should be some run support involved.

Luis Severino, New York Yankees, vs. Washington, at Tampa Bay

While talented, Severino has been just brutal as of late, Regardless of what the right-hander tries, things just have not been working for Severino. He is up to a 7.98 ERA on the season, and you just cannot find success when allowing 2.66 home runs per nine innings.

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.

Paul Blackburn, Oakland A’s, vs. Kansas City, at Chicago White Sox

With a 1.93 ERA in his last three starts, Blackburn has been a bright spot for Oakland. Blackburn has been pitching through a .360 BABIP and is helped by striking out more than a batter per inning. The matchups this week also help here as we look for something closer to his 3.49 FIP than 4.08 ERA.

Javier Assad, Chicago Cubs, at Detroit, at Pittsburgh

Assad gets two favorable matchups this week against the Tigers and Pirates and that makes him an interesting two-start pitcher. In what has been a solid season overall for Assad, the move to the rotation has not slowed that. Of course, we would like more upside than 6.62 strikeouts per nine innings, but he is an interesting option.

Matthew Liberatore, St. Louis Cardinals, at Pittsburgh, at Philadelphia

In his last start, Liberatore put the A’s angle to bed by allowing five earned runs on 10 hits. Since his promotion in August, it was the second time in three starts that the left-hander allowed five runs in a start. That brought Liberatore’s ERA up to 6.12, but a 4.46 FIP does point to some upside as the talent is there. It will be difficult to expect too much production though until the command improves.

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