2014 Fantasy BaseballAndrew Miller

2014 Fantasy Baseball: Week 5 Two-Start Pitchers and Streamers

There are only a few top starters who will double-dip in Week 5, but there are several middle-tier options who are available on plenty of waiver wires. Those players could be key contributors for you this week, as well as two starters making their season debuts: Mike Minor and Hisashi Iwakuma. Minor, who was projected to return last week, had to make an additional minor league start Friday. So he’s scheduled to pitch against Miami either Wednesday or Thursday, and you should start him. Iwakuma’s projected to return sometime this weekend after a rehab start in Triple A Sunday. He’ll face the Astros, so you should start him, too. Matt Harrison is also scheduled to make his 2014 debut today, so he should make his second start Saturday against the Angels.

Two-start pitcher rankings

Must-starts

  1. Jose Fernandez – Tue vs. ATL, Sun vs. LAD – Fernandez’s second start of Week 4 was pushed back to Miami’s first game of Week 5
  2. Max Scherzer – Tue at CWS, Sun at KC
  3. Yu Darvish – Mon vs. OAK, Sun at LAA
  4. Madison Bumgarner – Mon vs. SD, Sun at ATL
  5. Michael Wacha – Mon vs. MIL, Sun at CHC
  6. Alex Wood – Tue at MIA, Sun vs. SF
  7. Zack Greinke – Tue at MIN, Sun at MIA
  8. Yovani Gallardo – Mon at STL, Sat at CIN
  9. Tony Cingrani – Tue vs. CHC, Sun vs. MIL

Most, if not all, of the nine starters here are no-brainers. I can see you being skeptical of Gallardo, but he’s pitching very well with five straight quality starts. Even though he’s striking out fewer batters, he’s walking fewer guys also and giving up fewer line drives. The Cardinals and Reds rank just in the middle of the pack in wOBA against righties, and as a Cardinals fan I’ve seen them no-show way too much already this season.

Start in 12-teamers and deeper

  1. Sonny Gray – Mon at TEX, Sun at BOS
  2. Jeff Samardzija – Mon at CIN, Sun vs. STL
  3. CC Sabathia – Tue vs. SEA, Sun vs. TB
  4. Tyler Skaggs – Mon vs. CLE, Sun vs. TEX
  5. Kyle Lohse – Tue at STL, Sun at CIN
  6. John Lackey – Tue vs. TB, Sun vs. OAK
  7. Tyson Ross – Mon at SF, Sun vs. ARI

Gray is 5-for-5 in quality starts so far, but his 1.34 WHIP suggests his 2.25 ERA likely won’t last for long. He’s faced Seattle twice and Houston once, but his last start came against Texas, which was his worst start of the season. His matchups seem worse before you dig into the stats – Texas and Boston are right at league average against righties – but neither is an easy start for him. Samardzija also gets two middle-tier offenses. The Shark has pitched at least seven innings with no more than two earned runs in all five starts, and while his strikeout rate has dropped so has his walk rate. He’s also inducing a career-best in ground balls and a career-low in fly balls, which backs up his 2.78 FIP. Sabathia‘s posted two straight good starts, and while the Mariners rank 13th against lefties in wOBA the Rays are 25th. Sabathia’s lost velocity, but he has three above-average pitches for whiffs in his four-seam, sinker and changeup. However, his strikeout rate is a career-high, and his walk rate is below his career rate. He’s inducing grounders at the best rate of his career, and his home run rate is simply unsustainable. He should be good to go.

Skaggs has lost a few points in strikeout rate, but I can’t complain because he’s getting grounders at a 58 percent rate. Some of his peripherals suggest regression, but I’ll roll with him as I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far especially his limiting opponents’ hard contact. Lohse has only pitched against teams in the bottom eight of wOBA against righties, but granted, he has pitched well especially in his last three starts with a 19:3 K:BB. Again, the Cards and Reds rank in the middle against righties, and I’m willing to trust Lohse’s solid track record here. Lackey is also striking out a career high in batters, while his walk rate is well below his career number. I don’t think his ERA will go much lower than his current 3.65 FIP, but it should stabilize lower than his current 4.22 ERA. The A’s and Rays rank third and fifth, respectively, in wOBA against righties so he might not get started on that improvement this week. The Brewers crush righties, so Ross‘s rough Week 4 start isn’t too surprising. Now he gets two bottom-third teams, including the Diamondbacks, who are a mess.

Start in deep mixed leagues

  1. Wade Miley – Mon vs. COL, Sun at SD
  2. Alfredo Simon – Mon vs. CHC, Sat vs. MIL
  3. Jason Vargas – Tue vs. TOR, Sun vs. DET
  4. Jose Quintana – Tue vs. DET, Sun at CLE
  5. Justin Masterson – Mon at LAA, Sun vs. CWS

Miley isn’t a very sexy option, but he has raised his strikeouts while also upping his walks. Judging by xFIP he’s essentially been the same as he was last year (3.71 in ’14 to 3.77 in ’13), but his 4.5 ERA suggests he’s been a bit unlucky. His slider had been his best pitch in the past, getting a lot of whiffs and ground balls, and he’s throwing it almost double his career rate this season. That could explain his bump in swinging strikes and drop in contact rate. In daily leagues I’d sit him against Colorado but definitely start against the Padres. I’m not quite sure what to make of Simon. He has very good whiff rates on several pitches, but his strikeouts are lacking. He hadn’t started for the Reds in 2012 or ’13, so who knows how long he’ll be able to keep pitching deep into starts. His stats are a little misleading; three of his opponents rank in the bottom seven of wOBA against righties. I’d run him out there against Chicago, which ranks 27th against righties, but not Milwaukee, which ranks seventh.

The Tigers absolutely crush lefties, while the Blue Jays rank 21st against them so Vargas is a start-then-sit option in daily leagues. Due to the lack of strikeouts, he’s probably a sit in weekly, though. Same can be said for Quintana, whom you should start against Cleveland (22nd vs. lefties). Masterson‘s week consists of two top-six teams against righties, and both teams rank in the top four in ISO against righties, as well. If you’re willing to take a hit in ERA and maybe WHIP then he should be startable for innings and K’s.

Start in AL-/NL-Only leagues

  1. Tyler Chatwood – Tue at ARI, Sun vs. NYM
  2. Franklin Morales – Mon at ARI, Sat vs. NYM
  3. Jon Niese – Tue at PHI, Sun at COL

Chatwood isn’t anything special, but his matchups make him playable this week. He’s gotten a bit unlucky with his home runs allowed, but his BABIP is well below his career average. He is striking out a career-high so far while his walks are also a career low. He’s definitely playable in an NL-only league this week.

Morales could be nicknamed “Meh”rales, but he does have two excellent matchups this week against the 27th- and 23rd-ranked offense against lefties. Niese has two terrible matchups, with both teams ranking in the top four in wOBA against lefties. Only play him if you need some innings or strikeouts.

Pitchers to avoid

 Top streaming options available in at least 50 percent of ESPN leagues

Ian Kennedy – Saturday vs. Arizona – The things Kennedy can directly control are all looking good, and his low BABIP is just a little bit below his career number. He’s getting a good amount of grounders, and the putrid D’backs at Petco is a very good matchup.

Tanner Roark – Saturday at Philadelphia – Roark’s throwing his sinker a lot more in his last two starts, and he hasn’t allowed a run in 15.2 innings while striking out 13. Per Brooks Baseball, opponents are hitting just .177 against it with zero extra-base hits in 34 at-bats ending with a sinker in those two starts.

Nathan Eovaldi – Wednesday vs. Atlanta – I’m unsure why Eovaldi is still unowned in over 75 percent of ESPN leagues when he has four quality starts with a 30:4 K:BB.

Drew Hutchison – Wednesday at Kansas City – Hutch’s 3.46 ERA is backed up by both his FIP and xFIP, and he has a great 29 percent strikeout rate with below average walks. The Royals don’t strikeout too much, but they rank just 20th in wOBA against righties.

Corey Kluber – Tuesday at Los Angeles Angels – Although it was against Kansas City, Kluber looked great last week in his 11-strikeout, zero-walk shutout. Kluber’s lone non-quality start in his last four was lost in the seventh inning after he retired the first two batters he faced, and in those last four starts he has a great 28:3 K:BB. A tough matchup, but he’s capable of pitching well here.

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