Two-Start Options Week of 7.26.21: Few Great Options
It has been a nightmare prognosticating which pitchers are getting two starts each week coming off the All-Star Break. I know my piece last week was full of errors as many teams had not yet announced their post-break plans when we went to press. I apologize if that threw anyone off last week.
This week, the top-shelf, automatic two-start pitchers are in short supply. Take a look for yourself, and you will see what I mean. There are some intriguing two-start options, but many come with substantial risk for minimal reward. Proceed at your own risk! Let’s get into it.
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Two-Start Pitchers for Week of July 26
Slim pickings here, and you could reasonably argue that none of these are top-shelf two-start options. But they are this week.
Charlie Morton @New York Mets, vs. Milwaukee: The 37-year-old continues to roll out quality in Atlanta: 9-3, 3.65 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 130 punchouts in 111 innings. The curveball spin is still elite in the 97th percentile, and he’s been solid through June and July after a tough start to the year. He’s walking more guys but giving up fewer hits, thus not suffering much damage. If you watch any of his games, the man knows how to pitch and get guys out. Continue to use with confidence.
Kyle Hendricks vs. Cincinnati, @ Washington: Hendricks keeps doing Hendricks things. As many wrote him off in April and May, Hendricks figured it out. He’s 12-4 with a 3.61 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He won’t help you with strikeouts, but he has pitched at least six innings in his last 13 starts. Impressive. Start each week.
German Marquez @ Los Angeles Angels, @ San Diego: Marquez has been great; at 8-7 he deserves better with his 3.50 ERA and 1.16 ERA, with 119 punchouts in 118.1 innings. He’s an automatic start until he shows us something different.
Luis Garcia @ Seattle, @ San Francisco: What a revelation Garcia has been this year. A waiver wire pick-up earlier this year, Garcia is 7-5 with a terrific 2.86 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. What’s more, he has 105 Ks in 91.1 innings. He’s more than done his part to keep many fantasy rotations afloat amidst the glut of injuries this year. He limits hard contact, has his K% up to 27.3, and doesn’t surrender walks. And he’s pitching in front of the scariest lineup in the American League right now. He’s a sure-start for me each week.
Shohei Ohtani vs. Colorado, vs. Oakland: There is no denying the greatness of Ohtani and the historic value of what he is doing in the major leagues right now. It is staggering. But I am going to make this point and I know people will be critical of it. He doesn’t get wins, only four on the year, and he averages just a hair over five innings per start. The fact that he walks a ton of guys flies under the radar because he doesn’t give up many hits, but this could change on a dime. I know, this is like trying to find flaws on a thoroughbred. But I have several friends in the industry who are shopping Ohtani as they have lost patience with the handling of him with kid gloves. He’s elite, no doubt about it, and you should obviously use him wherever you have him, but if you search your soul, maybe he’s not exactly the ace you had in mind for fantasy purposes. I expect and deserve criticism for this take. I am ready. 🙂
Julio Urias @ San Francisco, @ Arizona: He’s been terrific, better even than expected, at 12-3, 3,63 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 127 Ks in 119 innings. No-brainer. Use everywhere.
Robbie Ray @ Boston, vs. Kansas City: Ray continues to give excellent results. Overall he is 8-5 with a 3.12 ERA and sterling 1.05 WHIP, and 142 punchouts in 112.1 innings. The only issue that can give you pause is the longball: 23 homers so far this year. Here’s an amazing thing though: he’s only given up 40 runs all season, so he’s limited the damage and his 6% BB % is a career-best. Keep starting him until the wheels fall off, and they may not this year.
Some very solid options here for the week in regards to two-start pitchers here. If any of these guys are floating on your waiver wire (doubtful), grab them. Austin Gomber may be; consider grabbing him this week.
Marcus Stroman vs. Atlanta, vs. Cincinnati: I love Stroman. He just takes the ball every five days with his five-pitch mix and gives the Mets a great chance to win; in his last start, he went eight innings, giving up nothing and adding in seven strikeouts. Stroman is 7-8 with a 2.59 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. The 93 strikeouts help too, and he’s outpitched his peripherals (4.38 ERA). Continue to use him everywhere.
James Kaprielian @ San Diego, @ Los Angeles Angels: Kaprielian quietly continues to get results. He’s 5-3 with a sparkling 2.65 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. I would use him in all formats and contexts. I have some concern about innings limits coming for him based on the fact that he has never thrown more than 68 innings at any level of his career. Guess how many innings he has in 2021? 68. I haven’t heard or read anything yet stating this, but he seems like an obvious candidate to get some rest via the skipped start soon. Until then, use him.
Alek Manoah @ Boston, vs. Kansas City: Manoah was one of the young arms keeping several of my teams afloat until he slipped on the dugout stairs last week and bruised his back, spending ten days on the IL. I do not expect that he will be limited too much by this, but you never know; all managers can be a bit skittish, and Manoah could be on a pitch count as a young guy fresh off injury. He really seemed to be putting it together before the injury with 19 strikeouts in his last two starts. Use him in any format.
Dylan Cease @ Kansas City, vs. Cleveland: Cease boggles the mind. It’s so obvious watching him pitch that his stuff is elite; he’s got a four-pitch mix that can be baffling to hitters. As young pitchers go, he is inconsistent. He’s 7-6 with a 4.21 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and a very helpful 132 punchouts in 102.2 innings. The fastball velocity is in the 88th percentile; fastball spin is 95th percentile, the Whiff % is 89th percentile. Cease really struggles with runners on base as evidenced by his 10.80 ERA with runners in scoring position. Egads! I cannot escape the feeling that he should be far better than this, but that doesn’t mean you should not use him this week. The lure of the strikeouts and potential wins is hard to pass up. I would use him this week.
John Means vs. Miami, @ Detroit: How many teams’ second-half fortunes rest on a healthy Means? He came off the IL and looked rusty; keep in mind he has been out since June 5th. The good news was he went five innings; the bad news was two home runs and five earned against two strikeouts. I am hoping, as many of you are, that these matchups this week cure him and get him back on the track he was on earlier this year. Means is 4-3 with a 2.72 ERA, .87 WHIP, and 71 strikeouts in 76 innings. Expect regression towards the xERA of 3.92, but that is still very usable and needed in our game.
Nick Pivetta vs. Toronto, @ Tampa Bay: He’s 8-4 with a 4.37 ERA and climbing 1.32 WHIP. He’s 2-1 with a 4.08 ERA in July. In his last start, he gave up 11 hits in 6.2 innings but got the win while also getting four punchouts. If you keep expectations in check, he is fine to use. Do not expect ace-like results but a middle-of-the-road performance, and you will likely be satisfied here.
Austin Gomber @ Los Angeles Angels, @ San Diego: I have Gomber in many leagues and have been waiting for him to be healthy. Before his injury, Gomber had been excellent in June: 3-0, 1.29 ERA, .71 WHIP, and 16 strikeouts, and zero walks. Tough matchups here but I am using him this week.
On our lower shelf this week, there are a couple of two-start options who could help you, like Tyler Anderson and Adbert Alzolay. The Sheriff, anyone? I am going to roll the dice with him.
Tyler Anderson vs. Milwaukee, vs. Philadelphia: As you would imagine I look at many stats during the week and I kept seeing Anderson as a guy getting points in points leagues and helping teams out, yet often on the waiver wire. Anderson has only had two truly bad outings all year, and in July, albeit a small sample size, he’s 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts. The lefty is not a big strikeout guy but limits damage with a career-best 5.8 BB%. Starting his against Milwaukee will be tough though. I personally will be using him in leagues where he is my fifth or sixth-best guy.
Chris Paddack vs. Oakland, vs. Colorado: True story for those who care: Paddack was on the waiver wire this week in one of my home leagues. I wavered and waffled on adding him since we have acquisition limits, but ultimately decided to roll the dice. And he was ok this last start, throwing five innings with only three hits and a meager one strikeout. His career has been one of ups and downs and maddening inconsistency. The question to ask yourself is “how much risk am I willing to take?” Paddack is 6-6 with a 5.17 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. The 84 strikeouts in 81 innings help out too. In my situation, I will be using him due to injury. Your context will determine what you do.
Dallas Keuchel @ Kansas City, vs. Cleveland: He’s 7-3 with a usable 4.22 ERA, but will not help at all with strikeouts (64 in 102 innings). You roster Keuchel to help with wins and perhaps ratios, but his ratios aren’t all that great with a 1.37 WHIP. He surrendered seven runs in his first July outing and was decent in his last two starts. The matchups this week appeal to me, but if you have better options, use them.
Kyle Muller @New York Mets, vs. Milwaukee: Muller has really helped the Braves in their time of need with injuries to Ian Anderson and Huascar Ynoa depleting their rotation. Muller is 1-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. He features a four-seamer and a slider and throws an occasional curveball a Keep in mind that he’s made four starts and logged only 18.2 innings in those, so he is unlikely to go deep into games. And with Anderson and Ynoa on the mend and soon to return, Muller may fall out of favor in Atlanta. I don’t like these matchups for him this week and wouldn’t use him unless desperate.
Adbert Alzolay vs. Cincinnati, @ Washington: The surface stats tell us that Alzolay is 4-10 with a 4.58 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Alzolay is intriguing though. He mows down righties (2.92 ERA in 49.1 innings) but gets shellacked by lefties (6.69 ERA in 39 innings). If he corrals the home run balls, he could take the next step. Alzolay has surrendered two home runs in five of his last six starts. Proceed with caution, but I could see using him this week against two struggling offenses.
Jordan Holloway @ Baltimore, vs. New York Yankees: He’s an intriguing option. With the Miami rotation decimated by injuries to Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Sixto Sanchez, Holloway gets an opportunity here. He’s 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. The K% is a middling 21.6, and his BB% is a terrible 15.3, putting him in the lowest 5% of the league. But he’s got a legitimate four-pitch mix and once he figures out the command issues, he’s going to be a decent option in fantasy baseball. He intrigues this week because of matchups; Baltimore is just bad, and the Yankees have been decimated by injuries and are using Rougned Odor in the cleanup spot. Yes, that Roughned Odor. If you are feeling lucky or want to press the issue, go ahead and start Holloway. I would like to see a few more starts before I invest, however.
Logan Webb vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, vs. Houston: Informed fantasy managers know guys like Webb are the glue that holds your staff together especially those besieged by injuries. Webb is 4-3 with a nice 3.54 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, chipping in with 65Ks in 61 innings. The xERA seems to agree with the results thus far at 3.47. While he’s been good, he faces two tough offenses (Dodgers are banged up, so may not be as formidable) this week which gives me a pang of concern before running him out there. And the other thing you need to consider with Webb is that he does not often go deep into games, which I know is a trend among many starters, but three or four innings isn’t enough to help most of our fake teams out. I would lean towards passing on him this week, but you have to make that call for your team based on your needs and your context. Good luck!
Erick Fedde @ Philadelphia, vs. Chicago Cubs: When Fedde controls his walks and gets a high volume of groundballs, he can be effective. I have championed him all year as an under-the-radar guy that can be useful to your teams depending on league context. However, he has not earned a win since June 12th and his value to you is marginal at this time. He could east some innings for you but won’t help much right now with Ks or ratios. I would pass on him this week, although the Cubs’ lineup could look very different next week, which may intrigue you.
You are not this desperate for two-starts this week, are you? If so, the options I would most likely go to here are Manning, Pineda, and Hill. I hope you are not this desperate.
Jeff Hoffman @ Chicago Cubs, @ New York Mets: I say no. No analysis needed here.
Matt Manning @ Minnesota, vs. Baltimore: Manning is an interesting one this week. Many will be scared off by his 2-3 record and 5.79 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. And those numbers should give you caution, too. However, that bloated ERA is due to one horrific outing where he gave up nine earned runs in 3.2 innings. In every other start of his six, granted a very small sample size, he’s given up two runs each start. The issue here is he won’t get deep into the game and he’s not really helping yet with strikeouts. These are about the best matchup he could get, and using him depends on your league context. Personally, I need to see more of him before recommending him here, but he’s got the potential to be a top-three starter in Detroit sooner than people think. It just may not be this year, and it may not be on your roster.
Tyler Alexander @ Minnesota, vs. Baltimore: I like Alexander but he’s essentially an opener giving you at best three or four innings, meaning he won’t get you wins and won’t log lots of strikeouts. Too risky to use because of that. Detroit manager A.J. Hinch is trying to preserve the arms of Casey Mize, Tariq Skubal, and Matt Manning, and is limiting innings for these guys, leading to opportunities for other arms. Watch this and see what happens in Detroit, but be wary of using Alexander right now.
Brad Keller vs. Chicago White Sox, @ Toronto: Oh how I wanted to believe Keller was a sleeper candidate this year. I snuck him in wherever I could late in my drafts. He’s rewarded my faith with an ERA and WHIP (5.84, 1.72) higher than Jack Carter’s numbers in Batavia Youth Baseball. What’s worse? His xERA is a nauseating 6.47…so he’s actually been lucky. Ugh. Against these lineups, you cannot start him. I apologize to anyone who followed my advice and took him on your team, although I am pretty sure most of you don’t roster him anymore.
Daniel Lynch vs. Chicago White Sox, @ Toronto: Lynch truly struggled in three May starts for the Royals, giving up 14 earned runs in eight innings. I am sure he’s made some adjustments as he returns for his second opportunity, and he has the pedigree to be good, but do you want an untested rookie facing Jose Abreu and Vladito? I didn’t think so. Pass. NOTE: This two-start week may go to Mike Minor, in which case, you still pass.
Michael Pineda vs. Detroit, @ St. Louis: While watching the Sox and Twins play last week, Jack turned to me and asked, “Dad, don’t the Twins have anyone better than this guy?” Now you and I know that Pineda is far from the worst starter you can use, but a ten-year-old is pointing out that he’s not very good. The numbers are fine: 4-5, 3.93 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 58 strikeouts in 66.1 innings. He doesn’t go deep in games and thus doesn’t give you much if any counting stats, and with the Twins in a period of transition, he may not get much run support. Pass on him unless desperate.
Rich Hill vs. Atlanta, vs. Cincinnati: Hill was traded in the last 24 hours to the New York Mets, who are desperate for experienced arms in the wake of their injury issues. He’s a better pitcher in real life than he is in fantasy baseball. Hill only goes four or five innings most times, and that means he is not amassing Ks or wins. I love that he’s still at it at 41, but you’d have to be hard-pressed to start him this week.
Nestor Cortes @ Tampa Bay, @ Miami: Cortes has made two starts for the Covid-annihilated Yankees team. In those two starts, he’s gone 3.1 and 4.2 innings, and he’s been good. The issue, as always with these kinds of guys, is that they don’t give you length or depth, so he’s limited in his upside, so I would pass on Cortes.
Matt Moore vs. Washington, @ Pittsburgh: I don’t see anything to recommend here. Moore is 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Moore is good against lefties but righties murder him. He looks better-suited as a LOOGY to me, but who knows? Pass on him at this time.
Darren McCaughan vs. Houston, @ Texas: General manager Jerry DiPoto said that McCaughan would get another start next week after being the starter in a game last week in which he surrendered three walks without a strikeout. The risk is too high for this relative unknown against a premium Houston lineup. Because I wrote that, watch him be lights out now.
Spenser Watkins vs. Miami, @ Detroit: He opened my eyes in a start against the White Sox two weeks ago. The moribund Orioles have no reason not to run him out there. Results so far: 2-0, 1.65 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, all in three starts. These results are encouraging, which led me to look more deeply at his minor league record. In his last full season, in 2019, Watkins was 9-7 with a 6.07 ERA. Egads! The xERA is a more average 4.24 this year. So what is he? I don’t have a great handle on that yet, but he’s 28 and a 30th round draft pick who seems to have been in the right place at the right time. The bottom could fall out at any time, and because of that, I would watch from afar for now. Let’s see how he does this week and then evaluate again later.
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