Fantasy Baseball Two-Start Pitcher Rankings (6/19-6/25)
Here once again are your tiered Two-Start Pitcher Rankings for this upcoming week. As always, pitching rotations are constantly changing due to inclement weather, unforeseen injury, performance hiccups, DL shenanigans, and so forth. May your spirits and your place in the standings both rise in Week 12!
SET IT, FORGET IT
2. Corey Kluber (6/19 @BAL, 6/24 MIN)
Fresh off a seven-inning, 10K start that was his strongest pound-for-pound outing since he twirled a complete-game shutout against the White Sox in late April, Kluber is finally starting to look like the frontline ace that you paid up for, with a 2.37 ERA, 0.97 FIP, 13.3 K/9, and stingy 13% hard-contact rate over his last three starts. Don’t think twice–heck, not even once!–about giving Kluber the ball this week.
With Kershaw and Klub essentially in a tier of their own, it’s tempting to poke holes in each of the remaining four high-end starters, with all mixing one strong matchup with a potentially shaky one: Lester gets a Miami squad that’s had a fair bit of success against lefties; Verlander gets a cupcaker at Petco offset by a tough turn against Seattle, a strong producer against righties on the season (though decidedly subdued of late); a slumping Cueto (4.68 FIP and 35% hard contact over the last month) stares down a surging Mets offense that has been murdering right-handers; and, naturally, Greinke, the pitcher with the strongest full-season numbers here (3.33 FIP and 10.4 K/9) is slated for a turn at Coors Field.
All this trepidation aside, I can only imagine an owner with an absolute embarrassment of starter riches sitting any of these four in a standard league. Do any such owners exist in this pitching-starved climate?
7. Michael Pineda (6/20 LAA, 6/25 TEX)
The Rangers’ tendency to reach outside the zone and thus struggle with the slider make them real marks for Pineda, who has made his bones this year by surrendering a measly 15 wRC+ on the slider (the lowest wRC+ allowed across his other three offerings is a 137 on his changeup). The Angels are much less likely to chase, but their dreadful power numbers with Trout on the shelf should have Pineda owners in across most league formats eager to keep the New York righty active.
8. Gerrit Cole (6/19 @MIL, 6/24 @STL)
Cole’s seeming return to form against the Rockies last week isn’t the beacon of hope that his beleaguered owners might be hoping for. With a modest 6% swinging strike rate and a mere three punchouts across seven innings, the young Pirate’s premier stuff might still be M.I.A. And speaking of missing in action, the Milwaukee offense has been just that over the last month. We shouldn’t easily forget that Miller Park was at one point a stay-away for most starter matchups. Even then, the Brewers were a strikeout machine, and that combined with the recent futility of the Cardinals against righties should have Cole active just about everywhere he’s owned this week.
9. Dylan Bundy (6/19 CLE, 6/24 @TB)
The silver lining on Bundy’s 5-run drubbing at the hands of the White Sox this past week was a continuation of his previous start’s 13% swinging strike rate. That comes on the back of a 93 mph average fastball velocity that is his peak mark on the season. Bundy might be powering up, perhaps rendering moot the one run difference between his ERA (3.29) and FIP (4.49) on the season. Cleveland and Tampa Bay have both proved formidable against righties, though, perhaps making Bundy a less-than-ideal play in shallow leagues.
10. Sonny Gray (6/20 HOU, @CWS)
Gray’s past three starts have found him in the midst of a minor resurgence, with a 3.93 ERA, 1.88 FIP, and near-19% K-BB rate across 18-plus innings. The Houston start will be a major test; they’ve been aces against right-handers of late, but the White Sox and their RHP allergy provide a nice cushion. 10-teamers might have a tough choice here, but I’d be starting him anywhere deeper.
11. Ervin Santana (6/20 CHW, 6/25 @CLE)
Like Gray, Big Erv should benefit from picking against a White Sox team that underachieves against righties, but there’s a good chance that we see the veteran’s two-run ERA and FIP gap shrink further during his weekend tilt against a tough Cleveland lineup that’s been heating up at home. Santana’s best 2017 work is almost certainly behind him, but he’s still probably a useful start in most leagues.
12. Marco Estrada (6/19 @TEX, 6/24 @KC)
Estrada’s 12.08 June ERA is rough stuff indeed, but only one start this month has felt like a true pummeling, and that start came against a Yankees team that’s pummeling everybody. The 55% strand rate and .533 BABIP on the month suggest a fair bit of poor fortune, while the 17% K-BB rate should assure us that the skills are intact. Look for Estrada to bounce pack with a pair of plus righty matchups this week. Only the most cautious and starter-rich fantasy owners should be benching Estrada.
13. Mike Leake (6/20 @PHI, 6/25 PIT)
Now that the other shoe has dropped on Leake’s improbable season-opening hot streak (2.24 ERA through first 10 starts; 6.62 in most recent three), shrewd standard leaguers might want to see if he’s been recently dropped. He’s not a season-long solution by any means (the most optimistic Leake apologists knew as much, even when he was coasting early on), but his matchups this week are among the most favorable on the two-start slate. The Phillies, in particular, have been miserable and are by far the least productive offense over the last month.
14. Jake Odorizzi (6/19 CIN, 6/25 BAL)
Odorizzi hasn’t been able to replicate the major reach rate gains that he flashed on his fastball last season. While the swinging-strike rate is notably up on that pitch, so is the homer rate, making Odorizzi feel all the more like a three-true-outcomes pitcher with limited upside (the kind you start begrudgingly in a two-start week at home). To be fair, the 27-year-old does have a tight 3.11 ERA at the Trop this year (albeit with a 4.54 FIP).
15. Tanner Roark (6/19 @MIA, 6/25 CIN)
The results on Roark’s slider this year (113 wRC+ compared to 47 last season) might be the key to his return to mediocrity, and the underlying stats suggest things could be even worse. The Nationals’ righty has seen his K-BB rate on that pitch fall from near 20% to below 4%. The Reds and Marlins are both around league average against the slider this season, but even that could spell trouble for Roark. He’ll have to navigate a number of daunting power hitters in both lineups if he wants to chip away at his career high 28% hard-contact rate. Roark is an candidate for the bench in shallower leagues, even if he’s in a nice spot to take home a couple of Wins.
16. Julio Teheran (6/20 SF, 6/25 MIL)
On the one hand, the struggling Braves ace gets two home starts against two bottom-third offenses over the last month. On the other hand, nothing gets a struggling offense off the schneid like a changeup that surrenders a 1.216 OPS. To be fair, Teheran has been phasing out the change of late, though his 3.86 ERA in the five starts since that adjustment is backed by a 6.17 FIP that doesn’t inspire much confidence. Teheran remains a touch-and-go fantasy starter despite the plus matchups.
17. Matt Shoemaker (6/20 @NYY, 6/24 @BOS)
An early exit from his most recent start has Shoemaker’s status for Week 12 very much up in the air. Even if he were declared ready before lineups lock this week, a jaunt to a pair of tough AL East parks (where Shoe’s walk rate and hard contact spikes will not play well, suffice it to say) makes him one of the least desirable widely-owned two-start pitchers.
18. Brad Peacock (6/19 @OAK, 6/24 @SEA)
19. Francis Martes (6/20 @OAK, 6/25 @SEA)
These Astros righties carry major strikeout upside with a fair bit of uncertainty. Peacock has pitched beyond the fifth inning only once in his five starts since being called into the rotation, and Martes, besides being largely unproven, is not guaranteed to log a true two-start week if reports of Lance McCullers‘ imminent return ring true. And while both get a prime chance to rack up the Ks against Oakland (a top-four whiff-rate team against righties on the season), the turn against Seattle is a bit daunting, with the Marines proving quite productive at home against right handers this year. Peacock is the play for streamers with a need for strikeouts and an appetite for risk; if the news on McCullers turns bleak before lineups lock, Martes is an interesting dice roll.
20. Francisco Liriano (6/20 @TEX, 6/25 @KC)
Liriano has quietly had a respectable run of work since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago, with a 3.71 ERA, 3.31 FIP, and refreshingly slim (by his standards) 2.6 BB/9 over 17 innings. It’s tempting to pencil in the Royals as pushovers given their season-long numbers, but Kansas City has actually been a trap for lefties over the past month. Texas’ unflattering strikeout rate against lefties is the real plum target here. Liriano is always a threat to torpedo your ratios in a given week, but streamers with a need for upside should be giving him long look.
21. Brandon McCarthy (6/19 NYM, 6/24 COL)
McCarthey seems to have gotten the feel back for his cutter and sinker, pitches that he struggled to command last season as he walked nearly six batters per nine across 40 injury-hampered innings. You might not be anxious to run McCarthy out there against a Mets squad that’s been running hot against righties, but you’ve got to like his chances to stifle the Rockies, a top-third offense in terms of reach rate and swinging-strike rate who should be struggling with the movement on McCarthy’s secondary stuff.
22. Jason Hammel (6/19 BOS, 6/25 TOR)
Like Liriano, Hammel has been low-key excellent of late, with a 2.24 ERA over his last 20-plus innings. Hammel doesn’t have Liriano’s strikeout upside, though he does have two home starts. For what it’s worth, Boston has been in a major funk against righties this month.
23. Zack Wheeler (6/19 @LAD, 6/24 @SF)
24. Robert Gsellman (6/20 @LAD, 6/25 @SF)
I don’t mind taking a chance on one of these two young Mets despite their underwhelming season-long totals. Believe it or not, the Dodgers have actually been worse than the Giants against righties this month.
25. Mike Montgomery (6/20 SD, 6/25 @MIA)
With his sub-7.0 K/9 and near-5.0 BB/9, Montgomery has unsurprisingly inspired shrugs on the waiver despite carrying a 2.56 ERA and pitching for one of the more visible teams in the majors. That might change with 27-year-old set to have a go at the streamer punching bag that is the San Diego Padres. Still, you’ve got to wonder if the spacious confines of Marlins Park are enough to shield Montgomery from some major ERA regression against a Miami a team that’s been putting together strong numbers against righties this month.
26. Jordan Zimmerman (6/19 @SEA, 6/24 @SD)
Zimmerman’s 20-inning run of 2.25 ERA ball carries a hair-raising 37% hard contact rate and suspiciously low 6% HR/FB rate that should have standard leaguers keeping the Detroit veteran at arm’s length. Thrill-seeking streamers eyeing the plum San Diego matchup will first have to survive a very tough turn in Seattle.
27. Edinson Volquez (6/19 WAS, 6/24 CHC)
28. Matt Moore (6/20 ATL, 6/25 NYM)
29. R.A. Dickey (6/19 SF, 6/24 MIL)
30. Matt Garza (6/19 PIT, 6/24 @ATL)
31. Chad Kuhl (6/20 @MIL, 6/25 @STL)
32. Zach Davies (6/20 PIT, 6/25 @ATL)
33. Ariel Miranda (6/20 DET, 6/25 HOU)
34. Sam Gaviglio (6/19 DET, 6/24 HOU)
35. Andrew Cashner (6/19 TOR, 6/24 @NYY)
36. Clayton Richard (6/19 @CHC, 6/25 DET)
37. Nick Martinez (6/20 TOR, 6/25 @NYY)
38. Chris Tillman (6/20 CLE, 6/25 @TB)
39. Jeremy Hellickson (6/20 STL, 6/25 @ARI)
40. German Marquez (6/20 ARI, 6/25 @LAD)
41. Daniel Gossett (6/19 HOU, 6/24 @CHW)
42. Miguel Gonzalez (6/20 @MIN, 6/25 OAK)
43. Josh Tomlin (6/20 @BAL, 6/25 MIN)
44. Scott Feldman (6/19 @TB, 6/25 @WAS)
Edinson Volquez, the man behind one of the most surprising no-hitters in recent memory, headlines a deep “hands off” tier for Week 12. Banking on Volquez’s recent run of success (3.08 ERA across 32 innings) seems like a fool’s errand with the potentially explosive Nationals and Cubs coming to town — no matter how subdued their recent production. After all, you’re not going to get credit for yesterday’s stats.