Two-Start Pitchers for the Week of May 17
Looking through the two-start pitchers for this week, there are fewer top-shelf options than weeks past. But, we are rife with good middle-shelf options, just in time for graduation season. Buy in bulk for those parties? Maybe similar to that, invest in some of these middle tier options if they are available, either on your waiver wire in shallow leagues, or your bench in deeper leagues.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
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Two-Start Pitchers for the Coming Week
Just a reminder that these are your rinse, wash, repeat starters. Set them in your lineup and don’t think twice about it. And if they bomb out, do not blame me.
Zac Gallen @ Los Angeles Dodgers, @ Colorado: ain’t happening, as an injury to his UCL is going to shelve him for a bit, maybe longer. The team was still mapping out what the next few weeks may look like for Gallen; the hope is that the injury was caught early enough to avoid surgery. Matt Peacock started in his place last week, and could again. But so also could Jon Duplantier, Corbin Martin or Seth Frankoff. All are options but none are Gallen, obviously, and you should not think of any of these guys, all fine pitchers, as a replacement for Gallen. NOTE: It appears that Peacock will get both starts next week. Bump him down a couple shelves.
Shohei Ohtani vs. Cleveland, vs. Oakland: The superlatives are all out there on Ohtani, and he is terrific. But I will throw out a word of caution: he’s prone to games where he walks several guys. But…he also has 4o punchouts in 25.2 innings, and that’s what you are here for, right? These are good matchups for him this week, but beware of the Jekyll and Hyde thing happening: 10 strikeouts in seven innings against the Astros last Tuesday, but six walks in five innings the start before against the Angels. The thing is, Ohtani almost always limit the damage, but lots of walks lead to elevated early pitch counts and potentially early exits for him. Just be aware.
Julio Urias vs. Arizona, @ San Francisco: He has been terrific and may be the fourth best starter in the Dodgers’ rotation. That doesn’t matter to us as we just want his stats. He’s really been limiting the walks (seven all year) and has 52 Ks in 49.2 innings. Urias can be homer prone, though, with two starts this year with two homers surrendered in each. But I love this guy and you should too. Roll with confidence.
Gerrit Cole @ Texas, vs. Chicago White Sox: Cole is more than doing his job, but the Yankees need some other starters to step up. He’s 5-1 with a sparkling 1.37 ERA, and 78 Ks in 52 innings. He’s one of the five best pitchers in the game right now, so set it and forget it.
Yu Darvish vs. Colorado, vs. Seattle: Darvish is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 47.2 innings. The WHIP sparkles at 0.92. He labored through his last outing, throwing 76 pitches in four innings before yielding to the bullpen. Cause for concern? Maybe. But two favorable matchups this week means you start him.
Anthony DeSclafani @ Cincinnati, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Every week I am sure I will surprise you with someone on the top shelf, and this week, it is Tony Disco. For years, the analyst’s darling was thought to be on the verge of a breakout, and it may finally be happening with an opportunity in San Francisco and no need to look over his shoulder. DeSclafani is 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA and .88 WHIP. The xERA is 2.79, and his slider gained one MPH compared to 2020. The one area he doesn’t help you tremendously is in the K department, where he has 41 in 46.1 innings. Still, that isn’t bad, just not outstanding. Some people will fear these matchups this week, and I get that. But I will be starting him this week and hoping for continued great results, even though this is risky.
Hyun Jin Ryu vs. Boston, vs. Tampa Bay: Yawn. The guy just keeps getting it done. The fastball sits at 89 much of the time but his changeup is superlative. Ryu doesn’t walk anyone and his chase rate is in the 89th percentile. Throw him out there and let him work.
Zack Wheeler, vs. Miami, vs. Boston: Wheeler is quietly putting together a quality season. He has been terrific in May: a 2.45 ERA, 21 Ks in 22 innings, and really limiting the walks with only two in three May starts. The fastball velocity is elite, 96th percentile in MLB, at 97.2 MPH, the fastest he’s ever been when you compare his Statcast data over the years. I don’t have many shares, but if you do, start him in all formats right now.
J.T. Brubaker @St Louis, @ Atlanta: This guy has yet to surrender more than three runs in any of his seven starts this year. Believe in him yet? Continue rolling with him. Consistency is the name of our game, and he has been giving that to lucky owners who picked him up right away this year.
The week of May 17 is rife with middle-shelf two-start pitchers that could be very satisfying. Choose carefully as each has reward but also some risk too.
Max Fried vs. New York Mets, vs. Pittsburgh: Fried is still shaking off the rust from injury. If you look at the stats for the year, you may be prone to sitting him. Granted a small sample size, but his two starts in May show signs of life: a win, 1.64 ERA, 10 Ks in 11 innings. He’s on his way back to normal, and I like these matchups for him this week. Despite the bloated 6.55 ERA (which is actually down from the 11 it was in mid-April), Fried continues to limit hard contact with the best of them.
Charlie Morton vs. New York Mets, vs. Pittsburgh: Many owners want to write him off but I would argue he’s trying to round into form. Granted the results have not been great, but the curveball spin is still elite and the velocity is still there. The high walk rate has been uncharacteristic of Morton. But he’s also been victimized by bad luck this year: a .343 BABIP, some missed strike calls and some spotty defense behind him are things you don’t see in box scores. He can turn this around, and I think he will, starting this week. How’s your luck been this year?
Sonny Gray vs. San Francisco, vs. Milwaukee: I know the surface stats have been ugly. But the K rate is still there with 36 Ks in 25.1 innings, despite the less-than-stellar 1.46 WHIP. He’s not pitched deeply into games either. But we’ve been down this road before with Gray, right? And I think he is going to be just fine but keep your expectations in check. I am starting him this week in all formats.
Wade Miley vs. San Francisco, vs. Milwaukee: scratching your head and cursing my name because I do not have him as top shelf? I just don’t believe in him that deeply. Serviceable. Limiting walks and hits thus far. But at some point, all things return to the center, and Miley should regress back to his mean. Only question is when will it happen?
Taijuan Walker @ Atlanta, @ Miami: Walker has been very good. I love xERA, more than I should, and his is 4.07. Current ERA is 2.19. Walk percentage is 11%. I’m concerned that regression is coming and soon. But another thing to consider is that he is now fully healthy in his return from TJS and his velocity is up a full tick in 2021. Can he sustain this level of success? hard to say, but I would bet on no.
Michael Pineda vs. Chicago White Sox, @ Cleveland: I am not a huge fan especially playing for a currently moribund Twins team with a sickly offense. Yet he has been very effective: 2-2, 2.79 ERA and a miniscule 1.01 WHIP. But Mike, you might ask, what is that xERA? Answer: 4.32. That’s quite a difference and suggests there has been some luck here. Do you want to take a risk against a surging White Sox team right now? Do you? Then go for it.
Eduardo Rodriguez @ Toronto, @ Philadelphia: Thing is, he is 5-1 and pitching for a first place team. So potential for wins is solid even if the stats do not jump out at you: 4.15 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 42 Ks in 39.1 innings. The walk percentage is a paltry 4.4%. So he has the potential to limit damage while giving you a middling K rate. I am not sold and would bench him this week. But that’s me.
These two-start pitchers would be ok if you had to use them, but they are not recommended. If you have already had some off the top-shelf, you can backfill with these guys, but buyer beware. This could be fraught with peril!
Dallas Keuchel @ Minnesota, @ New York Yankees: A better streamer option, I would not start him this week. The Yankees could come alive anytime and launch him.
JA Happ vs. Chicago White Sox, @ Cleveland: The White Sox kill lefties (8-1 this season, including a nine run demolishment of Happ last time), and this just isn’t the kind of guy I want to start against a hard-hitting team. Pass.
Luis Castillo vs. San Francisco, vs. Milwaukee: Take a step back and be objective. What are you going to do with a guy that was likely your first pitcher taken, maybe second? Are you going to bench him? Or do you hope he finds that magic elixir in between starts and immediately rights the course of his season? Holy hell, it has been bad. The fastball velocity is down almost a tick and a half (97.4 to 96 MPH) and the sinker is being destroyed; batting average against the sinker is .538 in 46 plate appearances. He’s too good to be this bad. But where will it end? the xERA is 4.78 and his actual ERA is 7.71. The K rate is way down. I can’t recommend him but you may find yourself just starting him until he gets it going. Just wow.
Adbert Alzolay vs. Washington, @ St. Louis: Alzolay is moving up in the ranks and deserves consideration. He is working to become an answer in the Cub’s rotation as opposed to a question mark. The last three starts are all trending up: only one win, but six, seven and six strikeouts while pitching at least five innings in those last three outings. The ERA is 4.50 but xERA shows he deserves better at 3.93. Those are serviceable numbers as long as you do not expect him to be your ace.
Jon Lester @ Chicago Cubs, vs. Baltimore: This is not vintage Jon Lester. This is Jon Lester trying to hold on. I admire his moxie for sure. The guy is a warrior, a survivor and a winner. But he’s 37 and his fastball touches 88 MPH, and nothing more. The stuff just isn’t there and he has to be almost perfect as the margin for error has become so small. He’s throwing the cutter about 40% of the time now, and his curveball has flattened and is rarely used now. You just can’t rely on him any longer.
Logan Webb @ Cincinnati, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: He is a talented arm who has pitched in some bad luck. He’s 2-3 with an unsightly 4.74 ERA. Egads! But take a deeper look and see some interesting glimmers of hope: a 3.44 xERA, 43 Ks in 38 innings, 10 punchouts in his last start against Texas. Yes, fraught with peril this week with these matchups, but I would rather roll the dice with an arm like Webb versus those listed below. There is much potential here. Depending on league setup, start him.
Justin Dunn vs. Detroit, @ San Diego: Dunn intrigued me but his walk rate is far too high (a whopping 15.1% through six outings. That is just not playable. The K rate isn’t good enough to make up for it. And he hasn’t gone more than 5.2 innings in any start. Pass for now.
Now there is some intrigue here, no doubt about it. However, you are risking the hard-earned reward of your delicate ratios when you delve down into the bargain bin of two-start pitchers here. If you must do this, guys like James Kaprielian and Cody Poteet have some appeal, but again, be careful.
Matt Harvey vs. Tampa Bay, @ Washington: He is about who we thought he was, to quote the dearly departed Dennis Green. The ERA sits at 4.50, xERA is 4.80. He’s throwing a sinker about 24% of the time so far this year, and has cut his fastball usage from 53% to 38%. It just hasn’t been very effective. Not sure how long he can survive.
Jordan Lyles vs. New York Yankees, vs. Houston: I wanted to believe this year. I looked at advanced statistics, trying to find the solver lining. What I found was, there is none when your ERA is 6.63, and xERA is 5.70. He’s given up a homer in every start except his last one. There is just nothing here to recommend, and you have to pass, especially given these matchups.
Mike Foltynewicz vs. New York Yankees, vs. Houston Astros: It’s been better than the last year. Eight starts, a 4.60 ERA, a 4.78 xERA. The velocity has come back, but it is not what it was during his earlier, better days. Folty is giving up lots of hard contact; in fact, his maximum exit velocity is in the bottom 3% of the league. He is not a recommendation at this time.
Patrick Corbin @ Chicago Cubs, vs. Baltimore: what is Corbin now? How much do you believe? As analysts comb through his work, is he the guy who struck out nine and issued no walks? Or is he the guy who gave up nine earned runs and three home runs earlier in the year? The truth is in the middle, and I am willing to let another owner find out. Too risky for me. His xERA is 6.60 and his not get swings and misses and Ks like he did prior to 2020. Wait until he becomes more consistent, one way or the other.
Casey Mize @ Seattle, @ Kansas City: He is learning on the job with the expected mixed results of a young pitcher. While he sorts it out, he can really hurt you by shredding your ratios and not giving you much firepower for strikeouts. I do like him but more in 2022 and beyond. Pass.
James Kaprielian vs. Houston, @ Los Angeles Angels: I am so intrigued by Kaprielian. I have been secretly hoping for him for years. He is likely not here for long , at least not as a starter, with Mike Fiers and Jesus Luzardo expected back by the end of the month. still only 27, Kaprielian was a first round pick of the Yankees in 2015. Injuries have besieged his career. In his first MLB start last week, he struck out six in five innings, and got the win, despite surrendering three walks. Granted we have no sample size here, but if you were going to take a risk, he might be a decent gamble right now. The pedigree is there.
Cody Poteet @ Philadelphia, vs. New York Mets: he won his debut last week. Who is he? The Marlins have had injuries to Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez, creating opportunities for other guys. Poteet stepped in and threw six strikeouts in five innings. He had impressive command, issuing no walks. His fastball is lively and topped out at 96.8 in his debut. As you can see from this list, you could do worse. He is one to file for later; I am not sure I would use him yet until we have seen a few more samples of the work. Aggressive owners may want to try him, but he’s hard to recommend here.
Jameson Taillon @ Texas, vs. Chicago White Sox: this guy is really pitching in bad luck, folks. His ERA is a ghastly 5.40, but his xERA is an excellent 3.01. What gives? Taillon has 43 Ks; in 33.1 innings. Lefties are killing him and he’s given up eight home runs. Could be better days be coming? Methinks yes; keep in mind he has not pitched regularly since early 2019. Time ripens all things, as Cervantes once said, but I am going to wait for easier matchups before starting Taillon.
Zach Davies vs. Washington, @ St. Louis: I’ll be frank and say it: I do not usually roster guys who pitch to contact as the margin for error is razor thin. Hence why I never have Davies. That, and he’s got a 5.60 ERA, 1.78 WHIP and 22 Ks in 35 innings. No diggity.
Jose Urquidy (INJURED) @ Oakland, @ Texas: He’s got a sore shoulder. The Astros have not announced plans for a replacement next week and he is still listed as the probable pitcher. That seems likely to change this weekend.
Alex Cobb vs. Cleveland, vs. Oakland: Coming off an IL stint for a blister. I’ll pass, thanks.
Sam Hentges @ Los Angeles Angels, vs. Minnesota: he did well in his starting debut, but the cursory looks at his minor league career shows a high propensity for walks. Keep in mind Cleveland does select and develop excellent starting pitching, but it is too early in his career for me to recommend him.
Nick Niedert @ Philadelphia, vs. New York Mets: he won’t be on this list anymore. Just checking to see if you are reading still. He is back in AAA.
For more help, check out Eric Cross’s latest Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire column.
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