Fantasy Baseball Two-Start Pitchers: 8/27 – 9/2
Week 21 of the Fantasy Baseball season. The week when we slip into September and roster expansion. If 2018 hasn’t already been difficult enough for trying to figure out the scheduling of possible two-start pitchers with the popularization of “the opener,” we’ll now be dealing with a bevy of names that will require a quick Google search for the rest of the year. Alas. Still, even with the obstacles set before us, Week 21 is of the utmost importance. For some, it will be the final week of their regular season. So, with that in mind, let us power through the uncertainty and learn all we need to know about the two-start slate for next week.
Don’t Think Twice
Carlos Carrasco (8/28 vs. MIN, 9/2 vs. TB)
Charlie Morton (8/27 vs. OAK, 9/1 vs. LAA)
Noah Syndergaard (8/27 @CHC, 9/2 @SF)
Patrick Corbin (9/27 @SF, 9/1 @LAD)
Masahiro Tanaka (8/28 vs. CWS, 9/2 vs. DET)
Jon Gray (8/27 @LAA, 9/2 @SD)
Clay Buchholz (8/28 @SF, 9/2 @LAD)
Julio Teheran (8/28 vs. TB, 9/2 vs. PIT)
In direct contrast to how the past couple of seasons have gone, you now want to be using Teheran when he’s pitching at home in Atlanta. The 27-year-old is allowing opponents to hit to just a .296 wOBA at SunTrust Park, which, after playing as a hitter-friendly field in 2017, is now the worst home run environment in the National League for LHBs in 2018. It shows. Teheran is surrendering just 1.21 long balls per nine at home compared to 1.77 on the road. Sure, the .216 BABIP is ridiculous, yet, in the same way we validated the Cubs’ staff of 2016, the Braves defense is pretty awesome. They rank fourth in defensive fWAR this season, somewhat explaining Teheran’s tremendous luck.
Cole Hamels (8/28 vs. NYM, 9/2 @PHI)
Coming into Thursday night, Hamels had been near un-hittable as a member of the Cubs. In fact, across his first four starts in Chicago, not only was the veteran pitching to a 0.72 ERA and an opponent wOBA of just .217, but he’d yet to allow an extra-base hit to a right-handed batter. This was a man who had surrendered 22 home runs to RHBs as part of the Rangers organization. Well, the good times kept on going last night. Hamels’ streak of not giving up an extra-base hit to righties did unfortunately come to a close – to Billy Hamilton of all people – but he ended up throwing a complete game. I’ll take that trade. Also, if you’re into narrative stuff, any time Hamels goes back to Philadelphia is a special moment.
Jon Lester (8/27 vs. NYM, 9/1 @PHI)
There’s no two ways about it, Lester has been atrocious the past couple of months, possessing a putrid 5.86 FIP and massive .411 wOBA since the start of July. However, these matchups in Week 21 make him interesting. The Mets carry the National League’s worst wRC+ (80) against left-handed pitching for 2018 and they pair that embarrassing fact with the NL’s top strikeout rate within the split (25.4%). As for the Phillies, a .168 ISO against RHPs turns into a microscopic .131 figure when facing a southpaw – the fifth-lowest mark in all of baseball. It’s not a comfortable feeling, but Lester’s win expectancy and opposition get him just over the bar.
Trevor Cahill (8/28 @HOU, 9/2 vs. SEA)
Ah, the rollercoaster that is owning Cahill. Including his struggles from last night against Minnesota, Cahill’s past nine starts have been an exercise in high-ceiling, but low-floor. In four of the nine outings, Cahill has allowed more than four earned runs. In another four of the starts, he’s surrendered two or fewer – twice tossing at least six scoreless innings in the month of August alone. At the end of the day, Cahill has a groundball rate above 50%, he strikes out roughly a batter per inning, and his win expectancy is high playing for maybe the hottest team in the league. That pushes the scales in favor of the oft-injured 30-year-old, if only barely.
In the Danger Zone
Zach Eflin (8/27 vs. WAS, 9/2 vs. CHC)
Since the beginning of July, Eflin has faced 77 left-handed hitters. Those at-bats have resulted in 25 hits, five home runs, and a .408 wOBA. That’s exceedingly awful. This isn’t a new issue, either. Before his amazing start to 2018, Eflin sported a 7.09 FIP and .385 opponent wOBA when having to face those of the left-handed persuasion. Now, you could make the argument that Eflin’s at least pitched better at home this season, but even that’s an outlier. Citizen’s Bank Park sits third on ESPN’s Park Factors list of top home runs field this season – making it a non-ideal place to pitch. Plus, considering both the Nationals and Cubs sit inside the top-5 in LHB wRC+ against RHPs, things could get very ugly, very quickly for Eflin.
Carlos Rodon (8/27 @NYY, 9/1 vs. BOS)
I’ve been content to sit back and ride the wave of shaky success that Rodon has been on since the beginning of July, but Week 21 seems like the point where his luck will start to turn. On the surface, there’s little more you could ask of the young LHP, as he’s pitched to a 1.75 ERA across his last 56.2 innings. However, his FIP in that span is nearly two full runs higher, his BABIP is a wholly unsustainable .192, and he’s still walking 10.5% of the batters he’s facing. You’ll have to factor in how injury-depleted the Yankees currently are, but facing the two powers of the AL East with regression looming is like hitting on an 18 in Blackjack. It’s time to walk away from the table.
Stephen Strasburg (8/27 @PHI, 9/2 vs. MIL)
It’s a difficult pill to swallow, especially at this crucial time in the Fantasy Baseball calendar, but you’d likely be best sitting Strasburg in shallower formats next week. Even in a 12-man setting, uncertainly is the exact opposite of what we’re looking for in two-start options, and few come less certain than the former No. 1 overall selection. Making his first MLB start in over a month on Wednesday, Strasburg was roughed up by the same Phillies squad he’ll face again in Week 21, allowing five earned runs and two long balls in just four frames of work. More worrisome was his fastball velocity, which, for the first time all season, sat below 95mph on average in a start. In fact, it was at only 93.7mph. Strasburg was quoted as saying he attributed the drop in velocity to fatigue, yet, any way you slice it, it’s not good news. I’ll have to see a healthy and effective version of the 30-year-old before buying in once again.
Kyle Gibson (8/28 @CLE, 9/2 @TEX)
This is a confluence of factors. Firstly, Gibson’s simply pitched poorly through four starts in August, combining a 5.99 FIP with a .395 opponent wOBA. He’s also seemingly stopped generating swings and misses. Where Gibson had managed an above-average 23.6% strikeout rate up to the beginning of the month, that number has slipped to just 16.2% through 23.2 innings. There’s also the matter of matchups and ball parks. Since the All-Star break, only five teams have managed a wOBA over .340: Oakland, Texas, Washington, Arizona, and Cleveland. Plus, in the cases of the Rangers and Indians specifically, both are heavily aided by their home environments. According to ESPN Park Factors, Globe Life Park and Progressive Field rank No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in overall run scoring. If this is all making you feel queasy about Gibson’s viability in Week 12 – it should.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (8/28 @TEX, 9/2 vs. ARI)
Look, this shouldn’t really be seen as a knock on Ryu, although it’s not as if we’ve seen much of him since 2014, this is purely playing the percentages with the Dodgers. I’ve vented in this space many times in 2018 about how infrequently I believe a Los Angeles starter will ever actually make their two scheduled starts in a given week – and, usually, I’m right. That’s why I’m not too keen on trusting that a constantly injured pitcher who has only made two starts since early May, will double that quota over the next 10 days. Not to mention that Ross Stripling will likely be activated off the DL at some time in the next few days. If I’m proven wrong, I’ll take it, yet it’s not like these are the easiest matchups in the world, either.
Streamers Under 50%
You can take the pitcher out of the American League Central, but you, uhhh, can’t take the schedule away? …That fell apart quickly, but, the point is: Lynn, now pitching for New York, is still reaping benefits usually reserved solely for AL Central pitchers. He draws an incredibly favorable slate of opponents in Week 21 of the Fantasy Baseball season, with the Tigers posting American League lows in ISO (.115), wOBA (.277), and wRC+ (70) since the All-Star break, and Chicago striking out more than any team in baseball across that same span (27.2%). Lynn’s also just been solid in his own right since being traded to the Yankees. Really, aside from one poor inning in each of his past two starts, Lynn’s thrown the ball well, striking out 33 opponents in only 26.0 innings. Make sure to grab him in your 10-man formats.
Streamers Under 25%
Though he’d technically made four relief appearances at the major league level, Pannone’s coming out party was Wednesday afternoon in Toronto, where the rookie would toss six no-hit innings in what would eventually become his first career victory. The team he faced? The very same, very sad Baltimore Orioles squad he’ll see again this Monday. Though the element of surprise will be gone, the Orioles have just been awful all year long. Even with posting some league-average offensive numbers since the All-Star break, Baltimore is still one of only three teams to possess a swinging strike rate above 12% in that span of time. The Marlins have been equally poor. Miami entered action Thursday with a mere .276 wOBA in the month of August and then proceeded to be shut out by Atlanta. In short, Pannone might find himself as the Blue Jays’ 27th best prospect by MLB.com, but his level of competition in Week 21 won’t be dissimilar to what he was seeing in Triple-A.
Not Unless You’re Desperate
Garion Thorne is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Garion, check out his archive and follow him @GarionThorne.