As we get ready to take a look at two-start pitchers for the week of 5/24, I ask a question: who gets the next no-hitter, and do you have that guy on your roster? In one of my leagues last week, I had both Corey Kluber and Spencer Turnbull starting in my lineup. Pure luck. And there was also an excellent Lucas Giolito start in there as well. Is luck just as important as skill in fantasy baseball? A question for another time. Let’s dive headlong into summer with our two-start options this week.
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Two-Start Pitchers for the Week of May 24
These are going to be the best two-start pitchers of the week according to our tabulations. Start as many of them as you can.
John Means @ Minnesota, @ Chicago White Sox: Means has been a revelation this year. Many analysts knew he had potential, but few saw this level coming: 4-0, a 1.70 ERA, and 59 punchouts in 58.1 innings. Everything is working, especially the change-up and curveball. You might take pause against s potentially damaging White Sox lineup, especially since the Sox are 8-1 against LHP this year. But I would advise you to start him in all formats until you have reason not to do so.
Aaron Civale @ Detroit, vs. Toronto: Civale has been good at 6-1 with a 3.30 ERA. And the xERA is 3.65, which is in line with where he has been all year. Civale doesn’t do it with velocity; he does it with movement. He’s only got 47 Ks in 60.1 innings, which is less than you would like, but he helps with wins and ratio control. Go ahead and use him.
Lance Lynn vs. St. Louis, vs. Baltimore: what can you say about Lance Lynn? He quietly takes the ball every fifth day and always produces, even when he struggles with his stuff, like he did against Minnesota last week. The definition of a workhorse. Lynn is 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 46Ks in 40.1 innings. What’s not to like? No-brainer.
Lucas Giolito vs. St. Louis, vs. Baltimore: there had been some hand-wringing about Giolito and for good reason, Drafted as an ace by many fantasy players, he limped out to a 3-4 starts and a 4.35 ERA. And then he reminded you last week what he can be against the moribund Twins: eight innings, 11 Ks, around a solo home run. One issue has been walks. But the ERA in May has been 2.96, and he’s an automatic start for me this week.
Clayton Kershaw @ Houston, vs. San Francisco: The reports of his diminished capabilities have been exaggerated. Despite the downward trend in fastball velocity, Kershaw mixes in a slider and curveball to great effect. Keep running him out there. A great two-start pitcher this week/
Joe Musgrove @ Milwaukee, @ Houston: He’s been really good. He’s 4-4 with an ERA under 3.00 He’s quietly become the workhorse for the San Diego staff. Run him out there.
Brandon Woodruff vs. San Diego, @ Washington: Is there a better 1-2 combo in the game right now than Woodruff and Corbin Burnes? Run with these two-start pitchers this week.
Corbin Burnes vs. San Diego, @ Washington: what’s not to like here? Ho does he have a losing record? Burnes is 2-3 with a teeny tiny 1.79 ERA and 67Ks. The Statcast data is blood red. Set it and forget it.
Kevin Gausman @ Arizona, @ Los Angeles Dodgers: I was always wary of Gausman and the fantasy pundits who touted him. I was wrong. He’s excellent and has finally hit the stride his pedigree suggested years ago. Start with confidence.
Jacob deGrom vs. Colorado, vs. Atlanta: the only issue will be stamina and how far they let him go returning from injury. That could limit the ability to rack up strikeouts or wins. But what are you going to do? NOT start him? Give me a break. UPDATE: deGrom struck out eight in his rehab start Thursday night and hit 102 MPH on the radar gun. What injury?
Corey Kluber vs. Toronto, @ Detroit: was Kluber any good in his last outing? I must have missed it. He resembles the Klubot of old, getting good movement on the cutter again and minimizing his walks. These look to be good matchups for him, too. I start him automatically right now; a 1.88 ERA in his last four starts.
Max Scherzer vs. Cincinnati, vs. Milwaukee: let people continue to ask questions about his age and stamina. As a discerning owner you know that as long as Mad Max retains health, you have a sneaky ace in your pocket. A 4-2, 2.24 ERA plays in any league.
Trevor Rogers vs. Philadelphia, @ Boston: Many analysts far wiser than me had Rogers as a dark horse this spring. I liked what I saw when I further investigated him, but did not see this coming: 6-2, 1.74 ERA with 65 Ks in 51.2 innings. The Statcast page is blood red. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any start this year. Kudos to those of you who selected Rogers late in drafts as you are reaping a huge benefit from him right now.
Snell is a two-start pitcher this week but I am bumping him down to top-shelf B this week.
Blake Snell @ Milwaukee, @ Houston: Every time I say I am not a fan, he is terrific. Last start: 11 Ks, six innings, and one run. It was his first start this year that he did not walk multiple hitters. The walks are killing his WHIP right now at 1.46. Egads! I don’t like it. But the 60 Ks in 40.1 innings is nice. Only one decision in nine starts though? That’s not so nice. I have never thought of Snell as an ace but a good #2 starter. I have him bumped slightly below the top-shelf options this week. Criticize me and I get it, but I just don’t see the love for him.
Middle Shelf Options
Here is where you start to get into a roll of the dice with two-start pitchers. These are guys I would not put on the top-shelf, but still could satisfy your need for two starts in one week for your team. Let’s take a look here and see why and what you could do with these two-start options.
Zac Eflin @ Miami, @ Tampa Bay: I drafted Eflin as my fourth starter and was hoping for third starter results. To be blunt, he’s been somewhere in between. He’s gotten a little homer-happy in May, and his ERA for the month is a still usable 4.01, and the xERA is 3.45. However, he usually limits the damage from the long ball by having a stout 2.2 BB%. To me, it comes down to what else you have going that week. But I start him about 75% of the time right now, and I will this week, too. But I do not expect ace results, which means I could be satisfied with his work. Similar to how my wife feels about me: not an ace, but serviceable.
Spencer Turnbull vs. Cleveland, vs. New York Yankees: I was tempted to move him to the top shelf, but some feeling I cannot name bubbled up and convinced me to put Turnbull here. He’s 3-2 with a 2.88 ERA, a 2.98 xERA, and threw a no-hitter in his last start. What else does he need to do, Mike? He’s been really good against lefties, and pretty average against righties. I don’t know what it is, but just my gut feels like he’s going to regress some, and I don’t want him as a top-shelf guy with that feeling. Maybe call it intuition? Or maybe you will call it stupidity.
Charlie Morton @ Boston, @ New York Mets: Is the wily veteran Morton coming out of his tailspin? Full disclosure: I am in love with his curveball, and just my gut, do not think he is done. Guys like Morton adapt and recreate themselves as the league catches on to their plan. Last start: six innings, eight Ks, and one run. Yes, the ERA is 4.60, slightly bloated, but the xERA is 3.86. I think better days could be ahead and I am starting Morton this week.
Jake Arrieta @ Pittsburgh, vs. Cincinnati: the guy is a warrior, no doubt about it. But his days of being an effective top rotation arm are over. The K% is down, the walk % is up, and the xERA is 5.00. Still, he seems to be out-pitching his peripherals. For now, at least. I am out on him but maybe you want to take a chance.
Cole Irvin vs. Seattle, vs. Los Angeles Angels: I know the results have been good, but call me a skeptic. I worry about relying too heartily on guys who limit hard contact but don’t miss many bats. To me, it’s a question of when the luck runs out. His BB% is 4.6%, which is very good, but his xERA is a more mediocre 4.59. The matchups don’t terrify you and if you feel good about him, roll with it. Just beware: the other shoe could drop at any time.
Ryan Yarbrough @ Toronto, vs. Philadelphia: Yarbrough is 2-3 with a pedestrian 4.24 ERA. Not bad and definitely usable. The problem I have with him is that while he won’t kill your ratios, you don’t get much out of using him. The Ks (35 in 46.2) don’t offset the risk involved with a potential poor outing. He gave up three home runs last outing, and while all were solo, you get my point. I am passing on him this week.
Kwang Hyun Kim @ Chicago White Sox, @ Arizona: I have said it here before. Kim is the kind of guy you love to watch pitch on a Saturday afternoon, cold beverage and a hot dog in hand. However he is tough to own, and it’s not because he isn’t good. Kim just doesn’t pitch long enough in a game to give you high strikeout volume or a win. I would pass.
Yusei Kikuchi @ Oakland, vs. Texas: Doesn’t it feel like he should be better than this? He’s 1-3 with a 4.32 ERA. His last three starts: seven strikeouts, then 11, then eight. The issue? He has given up at least one home run in seven of his eight starts. In three of those starts, he has surrendered at least three walks. Yet he’s 80th percentile in chase rate. The talent is obvious. Until he is more consistent, I will not use him. NOTE: It may be Justin Dunn with two next week. If that is the case, bump Dunn to the lowest shelf and do not use him.
Sandy Alcantara vs. Philadelphia, @ Boston: Listen, Sandy Alcantara is much better than people think he is. He’s 2-3 with a 3.63 ERA and 60 Ks in 57 innings. He flies under the radar often. Savvy managers know that the game against the Dodgers where he surrendered eight earned earlier this month are not the norm for him. The reason I bumped him down a little here is because of the offenses he faces this week, especially Boston. I would lean towards starting him in my leagues.
NOTES: As of press time, it was uncertain, but looked like Zac Plesac may also get two starts for Cleveland next week. As many of you, I have been disappointed in him this year, and would likely not use him this week with potential matchups against Detroit and Toronto. It could also be Sam Hentges, who would be a no-go for me.
Lower Shelf Options
These are two-start guys that could hurt more than help, and it depends on your level of risk as to whether you start these guys at all.
Austin Gomber @ New York Mets, @ Pittsburgh: I can’t do it again. I won’t do it again. Anybody else use Gomber on that fateful late April day? I am still reeling from it. The thing is, his last two starts have been really good: six strikeouts, then seven, against one walk in each. Is he coming around? The ERA in May is 3.22, and while his real ERA is a sickly 4.96, the xERA is kinder, at 3.59. So what is Gomber? The thing that could bump him here is playing against the depleted Mets and the subpar Pirates. How lucky do you feel? I can’t do it again. I won’t do it again…
Kyle Freeland @ New York Mets, @ Pittsburgh: This will be Freeland’s maiden voyage in 2021. Wait and see what he looks like before adding this risk to your rotation.
Frankie Montas vs. Seattle, vs. Los Angeles Angels: Things look to be improving for Montas. But I would like to see consistency before moving him up the ladder. Which Montas do you believe in?
Steven Matz @ New York Yankees, @ Cleveland: See above. Is Matz the guy who threw five innings and struck out nine against Philadelphia? Or the guy who followed that up with 10 hits and five runs the next start? You can be the judge. He got off to a great start but has cooled, as had my desire to roster him. Pass.
Brad Keller @ Tampa Bay, @ Minnesota: I like Keller and touted him before the season started. And then he ran on tough times but is improving. It’s just that he is not improving enough to be reliable for your fantasy team as a 5th or 6th starter.
David Peterson vs. Colorado, vs. Atlanta: He is throwing the sinker more than twice as much as he did last year, from 15.8% to 36.9%. Yet the ERA is 4.97, and the xERA isn’t any kinder at 5.11. The 46 strikeouts in 38.1 innings are nice, but he doesn’t pitch deep enough often enough to qualify for a win; only 38 IP in eight starts. I can’t recommend him for those reasons.
Bottom Shelf Desperation
This is where you may find other two-start pitchers in the bargain bin.
Dean Kremer @ Minnesota, @ Chicago White Sox: There will be a time when Kremer is a solid option and could be a #3 starter in MLB. But that time is not this week. Pass.
Matt Shoemaker vs. Baltimore, vs. Kansas City: he tries really hard to get by and is a survivor of multiple injuries who always comes back for more. You should not. Shoemaker is 2-5 with a 6.08 ERA. Egads! This will torpedo your team. Stay away. And now watch him get the next no-hitter because I said this.
Kohei Arihara @ Los Angeles Angels, @ Seattle: I admit I was intrigued enough to use him earlier in the year. The intrigue quickly turned into disinterest for me. Some may think there is upside here, but I am not one of those, and if he has success, it will be on someone else’s team. The ERA is 6.59; the xERA is 8.59. No good, not even in Batavia Youth Baseball. NOTE: there was a rumor that Arihara would cede one start to Hyeon-Jong Yang, who had a very mediocre start last week against the Yankees.
Riley Smith vs. San Francisco, vs. St. Louis: I am not going to say anything and let you guess how I feel about this.
Tariq Skubal vs. Cleveland, vs. New York Yankees: This guy has a lightning bolt for a left arm. He’s learning as he goes and will likely climb these ranks at some point. But not this week.
Ross Stripling vs. Tampa Bay, @ Cleveland: Stripling was a fairly popular sleeper pick moving over to Toronto. Yet he imploded with a 7.20 ERA and no wins this year. Could one of the young guns in Toronto’s farm system replace him? Stay tuned.
Trevor Cahill vs. Chicago Cubs, vs. Colorado: ever get that feeling when you’re driving down a road that you’ve been down before and nothing good happened there? Yeah, we all have. That’s what happens when you try and use Trevor Cahill. Time ripens all things; don’t self-inflict harm on yourself.
For more help, check out Eric Cross’s latest Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire column.
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