Fantasy Baseball: Week 9 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em Breakdown
Memorial Day presents fantasy baseball managers with a swarm of two-start pitchers this week.
Rather than the usual partial slate of Monday affairs, every team will take the field on the national holiday. Thursday will not provide a rest for two-thirds of the league, as 20 teams are in action every day this week.
Because of this bounty of two-start options, this week’s “Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em Breakdown” will focus heavily on hurlers taking the mound twice. Managers obviously shouldn’t bench Stephen Strasburg or Adam Wainwright because they each only get one chance to help fantasy squads, but a mid-level starter with a testy opponent may have to ride the pine.
Then again, what about a slumping ace with an ERA that’s traveling further north than Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch?
Get your lineups set for a busy week before starting up the grill.
Note: All advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.
Deep-League Streaming Options
Brandon Cumpton, Pittsburgh Pirates: Monday (5/26) at New York Mets
According to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Dejan Kovacevic, Cumpton will take the mound on Monday in place of Wandy Rodriguez. Before getting sent down earlier in the year, he registered a 2.82 FIP through two starts, and his patience is now rewarded by his return against the Mets.
Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals: Wednesday (5/28) vs. Houston Astros
His strikeout (6.03 K/9) and walk (3.45 BB/9) rates don't support his 2.59 ERA, but Duffy gets a nice matchup against Houston to test his luck. Don't put too much trust in Duff Man long term, but he'll do for this week in deeper formats.
Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels: Thursday (5/29) at Seattle Mariners
When a 27-year-old cracks a rotation for the first time, it typically does not pan out well. Shoemaker, however, has posted a 2.81 ERA since joining the rotation, notching 15 strikeouts in 16 innings. Pitching at Safeco Field helps his chances of keeping the hot streak alive.
John Danks, Chicago White Sox: Friday (5/30) vs. San Diego Padres
Don't let his eight shutout innings against the New York Yankees fool you into thinking the John Danks of old is back, but he's sporting a 3.13 ERA at home and gets a home start against baseball's worst offense.
Drew Hutchison, Toronto Blue Jays
Scheduled Starts: Monday (5/26) vs. Tampa Bay Rays; Saturday (5/31) vs. Kansas City Royals
Does Drew Hutchison have your attention yet?
If the answer is no, why not? A sophomore registering a 3.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in the American League East is awfully impressive. With 59 strikeouts and 16 walks through 60 innings, he has shown that there's plenty to like about him in his first 10 MLB starts.
Coincidentally enough, he made seven of those starts on the road. Usually bad for a newcomer, avoiding the Rogers Centre has only helped his hot start. He’s carrying a 2.33 ERA on the road while allowing 11 earned runs through three home outings.
With an MLB-worst 20 team homers, the Kansas City Royals are not equipped to capitalize in Toronto’s favorable ballpark. The Tampa Bay Rays rank 27th in team slugging percentage, so owners shouldn’t fret about them either.
Give Hutchison a chance to succeed north of the border, as the 23-year-old is well worth owning and starting this week.
Brandon McCarthy, Arizona Diamondbacks
Scheduled Starts: Monday (5/26) vs. San Diego Padres; Sunday (6/1) vs. Cincinnati Reds
Brandon McCarthy has transformed into a completely different pitcher this season, one that holds more relevance in fantasy circles.
He has pitched commendably over the past few years, but a lack of strikeouts has limited his fantasy impact. His career 6.11 K/9 rate veered even further south the last two seasons, but he is suddenly generating more whiffs.
This year, he is sporting a career-high 8.03 K/9 rate supported by an improved 7.9 swinging strike percentage. Looking deeper, the added strikeouts represent a fundamental change in approach rather than a small sample.
Last year, McCarthy threw his fastball 45.5 percent of the time, relying on his cutter for 34.8 percent of his pitches. This season, he’s leaning more on his four-seamer, with a 62.9 percent usage rate.
More importantly, he’s throwing harder, dialing in his heater at 92.9 miles per hour, well above his career 90.3 percent average.
Sure, none of that is evident in his 4.67 ERA, but his 2.89 xFIP shows that home runs have inflicted most of that damage. His week presents him with a golden chance to improve his ERA against San Diego and Cincinnati, who respectively rank last and 28th in runs scored.
Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox
Scheduled Starts: Monday (5/26) vs. Cleveland Indians; Sunday (6/1) vs. San Diego Padres
Jose Quintana continues to truck along with little fanfare, publishing a 3.67 ERA and 3.09 FIP through 10 starts.
Last year, he posted a similar 3.51 ERA but a higher 3.82 FIP. Before reading too much into that, however, let’s take a look at a few numbers that have regressed since 2013.
His line-drive rate has jumped to 25.1 percent, which explains the higher hit rate. Batters are also whiffing less, missing on 7.8 percent of his offerings compared to last year’s 8.8 percent. At this stage of the game, it’s not an awfully significant downgrade.
Those stats aren't alarming, but they’re reasons you shouldn't expect his lower FIP to manifest into a deflated ERA. This is the Quintana fantasy owners should expect going forward, and he’s good enough to warrant our attention in the right scenario.
Bestowed with two starts, the second of which comes against the light-hitting Padres, the 25-year-old lefty gets the nod this week.
Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins
Scheduled Starts: Tuesday (5/27) vs. Texas Rangers; Sunday (6/1) at New York Yankees
I endorsed Phil Hughes last week, and he rewarded my confidence with seven strikeouts through seven scoreless innings to defeat the San Diego Padres. He now holds a 3.15 ERA with six walks during nine starts, making him a must-own player in mixed formats.
It sounds like I’m gloating, especially with two starts for Hughes on the horizon. But take a look at that second start, as he returns to his old, miserable stomping ground of Yankee Stadium.
The bandbox nearly destroyed his career before he fled for Minnesota. Over his last three seasons with the New York Yankees, he posted a 5.35 ERA at home, allowing 45 home runs through 210.1 innings.
The Yankees no longer flaunt a Murderer’s Row batting lineup, but only the Colorado Rockies and the Toronto Blue Jays have tallied more home runs at home. Although lefties are hitting just .196 against Hughes last year, the small sample size shouldn’t excite owners enough to trust him against New York’s lefty-heavy lineup assembled to expose the short porch in right field.
In a league with daily changes, play Hughes at Target Field against the Texas Rangers, an average offense that has lost Prince Fielder for the season. Even that's a risky play, as they exploded for 35 runs during a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers.
In a weekly format, don’t risk the start at Yankee Stadium, where he’ll probably cough up some deep balls for nostalgia’s sake.
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
Scheduled Start: Friday (5/30) at Boston Red Sox
It may seem like an obvious decision to start the former Cy Young winner, but some owners may feel uneasy after he surrendered five first-inning runs to the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, expanding his ERA to 4.42.
Pitching against Boston again during a week flooded with two-start pitchers could create the perfect storm for an anxious owner to bench his or her ace, especially if those managers grew so furious after the first inning that they missed the seven scoreless frames that ensued.
Don’t panic. Barring an unforeseen injury, Price is just fine.
He’s touting a sparkling 84-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio, giving him the best K/BB rate in baseball. His .345 BABIP, however, is the eighth-highest mark among qualified MLB starters. An 18.6 percent line-drive rate is right on par with his career mark.
Through 11 starts, the ace has surrendered 12 home runs, which puts him on pace to shatter his previous career high of 22 allowed in 2011. During the past five seasons, he yielded an average of 17 base-clearers per year.
His bloated 14.6 home run/fly-ball rate should fall closer to his career 9.5 percent rate, setting him back on the right track based on his exceptional strikeout and walk measures.
He faces the Red Sox against this week, this time at Fenway Park. Although that's typically a terrifying draw, Boston ranks 19th in runs scored and has only hit 18 home runs at home. Don’t let one troubling inning steer you away from utilizing Price this week.
Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
Scheduled Start: Friday vs. Baltimore Orioles
I'm going to count to 10. By the time I'm finished, Dallas Keuchel better be owned in every fantasy league.
The lefty gets ignored because he pitches for the last-place Houston Astros, but it’s time to take notice of one of baseball’s most unheralded hurlers. He is brandishing a 2.55 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP and a 5.13 K/BB rate.
Opponents are making miserable contact against him, as he holds an MLB-best 66.5 ground-ball rate, an amazing number that has to slip back into this galaxy. That also gives him the AL's lowest line-drive rate of 14.1 percent.
His average fastball doesn’t even hit 90 on the radar gun, but that hasn’t stopped him from tallying 61 strikeouts through 70.2 innings with an impressive 11.5 swinging-strike percentage.
And he’s not just beating up on downtrodden opponents. He pitched a gem at Toronto and tossed a quality start against the underrated Oakland Athletics in April. Two of his last four outings have seen him slay the Los Angeles Angels and the Detroit Tigers, two other top-10 offenses.
In his last four starts, Keuchel has allowed four runs through 34.1 innings (1.05 ERA, 0.73 WHIP) while compiling 28 punchouts to just one walk. Sounds like a guy who should be accounted for and utilized in every league.