A fantasy owner’s best friend is the waiver wire—where finding value can make the difference between a great week and a very disappointing one. Most pitchers see the mound once every seven days, but if you want to maximize the number of starts per week, it’s important to look for players pitching twice and exploit favorable matchups if they exist. With that being said, let’s take a look at some pitchers you should be starting this week, and some you should just leave on your bench.
Clayton Kershaw | Los Angeles Dodgers
Opponent: Stephen Strasburg (WAS), TBA (PIT)
There’s no reason to explain why you should start Clayton Kershaw this week. He’s elite, and will continue to be elite every time he takes the mound. He’s been exceptional in June and is showing no signs of slowing down. If you’re lucky enough to own the southpaw, just keep rolling him out there until his arm falls off.
Madison Bumgarner | San Francisco Giants
Opponents: Jeff Locke (PIT), Jeremy Hellickson (PHI)
Let’s start with excluding the Phillies from this section, because they are #NotGood. They pose no threat to any pitcher, unless you’re James Shields of the White Sox. The Pirates are an interesting team, mainly because they’re hitting .268 as a team this season (.269 against lefties), but only .225 in the month of June; good enough for 28th overall. To put that into context—only the Dodgers and Phillies are hitting worse. Bumgarner is once again putting together another MVP season, and he should have very little difficulty getting hitters out in both contests. Like Kershaw, Bumgarner is basically a must-start every week.
Johnny Cueto | San Francisco Giants
Oppoenets: Wilfredo Boscan (PIT), Aaron Nola (PHI)
Just like Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto is another excellent option this week. Since allowing six runs to his former team back on May 2, Cueto has allowed seven in eight games, has a 49:13 K:BB ration and his ERA has dropped from 3.61 to 2.10. As explained earlier, the Phillies and Pirates just aren’t very good, and with the way Cueto has been pitching of late, he’s poised for another great week.
Other Must Start Pitchers: Stephen Starsburg, Noah Syndergaard, Jose Fernandez
Bud Norris | Atlanta Braves
Oppoenets: Jose Fernandez (MIA), Noah Syndergaard (NYM)
Yes, Bud Norris is an option this week, but before you change the channel, just hear me out. Since the Braves put the 31-year-old into the rotation, he’s done a pretty decent job.
Yes, it’s a small sample size, but for Norris to be good, he just has to not be terrible. The Mets are a terrible hitting team, and while the Marlins are ranked 3rd in baseball in team batting average (.272), they’ve come down a bit with the loss of Dee Gordon and the poor play of Giancarlo Stanton. Bud Norris isn’t going to win you a fantasy baseball championship, but there’s a good chance he’s floating on the waiver wire and he’s a pretty decent spot-start option. If you’re pitching staff has been decimated by injuries, Norris can provide at least some relief this week.
Hector Santiago | Los Angeles Angels
Opponents: Collin McHugh (HOU), Sonny Gray (OAK)
Hector Santiago has had a difficult 2016 season. His record sits a 4-4, while his ERA is an ugly 5.30. So why is he a decent spot-start option this week? For starters, he gets to face the Astors, who are ranked 26th in team batting average (.238). They either hit the ball out of the park (9th in HR), or strikeout (1st in SO), there’s no middle. Santiago is a hit-or-miss play here. If he can’t get Houston to swing and miss on some pitches, he should be fine, but his 4.5 strikeouts per game is where most fantasy owners will start to panic. Like Norris, if Santiago can pick up a quality start and not get destroyed by the Astros, that’s good enough for me.
Other Options to Consider: Justin Verlander, Jason Hammel, Blake Snell, Tyler Wilson.
Chris Sale | Chicago White Sox
Opponents: Clay Buchholz (BOS), Marcus Stroman (TOR)
Remember when Chris Sale was basically unhittable for over a month? Yeah that’s gone. He’s stumbled a little since getting hit hard back on May 24 when he allowed six runs in 3.1 innings. So far in the month of June, he’s allowed 12 earned runs in 19.1 innings (5.59 ERA) and has a 1.55 WHIP. He’s also seen his ERA go from 1.58 to 2.94 in the last six starts, and that number could continue to climb this week. If it wasn’t’ for the fact that Sale has to face the best offensive team in baseball, I’d probably take the risk and start him, but right now that’s just not a risk anyone should be taking. Fantasy owners should wait and see how he performs this week before deciding if he should be reinserted into lineups for next week. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but the right call to make.
Patrick Corbin | Arizona Diamondbacks
Opponents: Marco Estrada (TOR), Chad Bettis (COL)
This is a no brainer to bench Patrick Corbin. The 26-year-old lefty has a date with the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Tuesday and a date with Colorado Rockies in Colorado on Sunday. Those two reasons alone are enough for me to leave him on the sidelines. Corbin hasn’t been terrible this season; he’s just been unable to be consistent from start to start. Of all the pitchers who take the mound twice this week, Corbin probably has the worst matchup of them all. Unless he finds some consistency over the next few weeks, Corbin should be a borderline starter in mixed leagues.
Clay Buchholz | Boston Red Sox
Opponents: Chris Sale (CHW), Derek Holland (TEX)
Clay Buchholz will be making his return to the Red Sox starting rotation on Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean fantasy owners should go a scoop him off the waiver wire! There’s a reason Buchholz lost his starting job, and that reason was because he’s not good at throwing baseballs anymore. In his last five starts before getting demoted to the bullpen, the 31-year-old gave up 20 earned runs in 29 innings and had a mediocre 18:11 K:BB ratio. Even though the White Sox have been terrible for over a month now, it doesn’t make Buchholz any more appealing, mainly because he has to take on the Texas Rangers, and they’re hitting .265 as a team so far this season. Maybe Buchholz finds his mojo and becomes a good pitcher game (looking at you, Adam Wainwright), but for now, take a wait-and-see approach.
Other Pitchers to Avoid: Jason Hammel, James Paxton, Jeff Locke, Doug Fister, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Gausman, Chad Bettis, Justin Nicolino.