Eric Mack
Friday May 27th, 2011

It hasn't been a great start for many of our preseason third-year starting pitcher breakouts, but it's still early. That's our story and we're sticking to it.

With two full months of baseball now in the books, it's a good time to begin reviewing some of our preseason forecasts. Among third-year starting pitchers, it has been more breakdown that breakout.

Phil Hughes (shoulder) was moved to the 60-day DL on Thursday and is out at least another month. Edinson Volquez (6.35 ERA) has been banished to Triple-A. Brian Matusz (oblique) might just finally be ready to return soon, while Mat Latos (2-6, 4.08 ERA) and Brett Anderson (2-4) haven't been as good as advertised ... yet.

That's 50 percent of our preseason top 10 third-year starting pitcher breakouts gone (relative) bust to date. But again, it is still early.

Among our preseason top 10, No. 1 Tommy Hanson has held up well. He's on pace for career bests in wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. And he really hasn't gotten hot yet.

No. 5 Bud Norris, No. 6 Brandon Morrow and No. 10 Homer Bailey have shown flashes of potential, but it is the under-the-radar breakthrough of Rick Porcello that has provided the biggest boon to fantasy owners. Porcello hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his past six starts, sitting at 4-2 with a 3.08 ERA. He has been particularly dominant of late, going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three May starts.

Porcello hasn't been a big strikeout pitcher in his young career, but it has been too readily forgotten he is still just 22 years of age. He is one of the best starters in baseball in his age group.

And once again a must-have and must-start in fantasy.

The fact he was still available in more than 50 percent of fantasy leagues is a bit ridiculous. He should be active in 75 percent of leagues and owned in well over 90 percent. Pick him up immediately if he is still floating out there for some reason. Sure, he pitches to contact, but he gets the job done and pitches well beyond his few, young years.

As for the rest of that 50-50 split of breakdown and breakout third-year starters, buy low right now. All of these guys are better than they have shown to date -- even Tommy Hanson. It will be those dog days of summer where we find out just how many strides they have truly made.

Now, on to the rest of our weekly report that breaks down all of the two-start pitcher options and outlines some of the fringy one-start matchups to take advantage of:

Outside of the obvious pitchers, here are some matchups to capitalize on this week and some to avoid, with the pitcher in question identified in italics.

Monday, May 30

Matchup to exploit: Jake Arrieta, BAL (6-2, 4.57) at Doug Fister, SEA (2-5, 3.19)

Arrieta might not be knocking people out, but he is winning games and pitching well enough to use in all mixed leagues on a regular basis. He gets a two-start week starting with the Mariners in that pitcher's park. He could beat the Blue Jays, too, later in the week.

Matchup to avoid: Aaron Harang, SD (5-2, 3.96) at Tim Hudson, ATL (4-4, 3.95)

This warning is far more than just the 7.47 ERA Hudson has had in his past three starts. His back might not let him take this turn, which could be given to Mike Minor again. Hudson is a risk not worth taking until he officially returns and proves healthy. Keep him reserved in all formats.

Tuesday, May 31

Matchup to exploit: Jeremy Guthrie, BAL (2-6, 3.45) at Erik Bedard, SEA (3-4, 3.48)

It likely is well overdue for this announcement, but Bedard is once again a must-have and must-start in all fantasy leagues. He is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his past three starts. It only helps he is drawing the Orioles at home in the beginning of a two-start week. Ride him while he's hot.

Matchup to avoid: Brian Duensing, MIN (2-5, 4.83) at Max Scherzer, DET (6-1, 2.98)

Duensing was a revelation last season and a sleeper on draft day this spring. Instead, he has proven to be a borderline apocalypse. He could be on the outs in the Twins rotation, especially with Kevin Slowey ready to step forward again. Duensing is a ghastly 0-3 with an 8.47 ERA in his past three starts. Don't start him. In fact, cut him outright in any league.

Wednesday, June 1

Matchup to exploit: Scott Baker, MIN (2-3, 4.116) at Rick Porcello, DET (4-2, 3.08)

Porcello is the pick-up of the week. Seriously. He wasn't given enough respect on draft day and has gotten off to a great start for the Tigers and loyal fantasy owners. The third-year starting pitcher is breaking through with a 3-0 record and 1.95 ERA in his past three starts.

Matchup to avoid: Brett Myers, HOU (1-4, 5.00) at Doug Davis, CHC (0-2, 8.31)

This is a functional warning that the present means far, far more than the past. Myers is an amazing 11-3 with a 2.15 ERA in 18 appearances against the Cubs. You cannot trust him, though, not with an 0-2 mark and 6.27 ERA in his past three starts. Myers, clearly, has digressed from his 2010 renaissance. Stash him, don't cut him, but he clearly is not useful right now.

Thursday, June 2

Matchup to exploit: Paul Maholm, PIT (1-7, 3.65) at Mike Pelfrey, NYM (3-4, 5.37)

We haven't been fans of Pelfrey in many weeks this season, but this might be a good time to buy into him. He gets a home start against the Pirates and he had held up moderately well before getting beat up by the Yankees in his past start. Pelfrey has won three of his four career starts against the Pirates. Start him as a one-start sleeper in deeper leagues.

Matchup to avoid: Wandy Rodriguez, HOU (3-3, 3.409) at Tim Stauffer, SD (0-3, 3.88)

Everyone loved Stauffer in spring training, but he has yet to win a game in almost two months. This matchup against the Astros seems promising for his turnaround, but his recent struggles make him too risky to trust outside of NL-only leagues. He is 0-2 with a 7.02 ERA in his past three starts.

Friday, June 3

Matchup to exploit: Bud Norris, HOU (2-3, 3.77) at Dustin Moseley, SD (1-6, 3.15)

Norris hasn't pitched that well of late, posting an ERA over 5.00 in his past three starts, but his strikeouts are there and he can score points for fantasy owners even when he loses. Norris gets the added bonus of facing the weak Padres in that pitcher's park, too. Use him even in mixed leagues.

Matchup to avoid: Bronson Arroyo, CIN (3-5, 5.28) at TBD, COL

This turn is the one vacated by Jorge De La Rosa for the Rockies, but the important note is the struggles of Arroyo. He has dealt with back woes, is facing the Rockies in Colorado and has been awful of late. Arroyo is a must-sit in all leagues, even NL-only formats for this difficult matchup.

Saturday, June 4

Matchup to exploit: Nick Blackburn, MIN (4-4, 3.20) at Luke Hochevar, KC (3-5, 4.81)

Blackburn isn't the first name that comes to mind when you think potential fantasy ace, but he is hot right now at 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his past three starts. He has that streak coming into a two-start week, too. It is a great time to jump on board with one of the resurgent Twins strike-throwers -- especially with a second start at the Royals.

Matchup to avoid: Wade Davis, TB (4-4, 3.71) at Doug Fister, SEA (2-5, 3.19)

Davis is supposed to be improved from his quality rookie season, but he is hitting the skids. He is 0-2 with a 5.21 ERA in his past three starts and draws the Rangers in his first of two starts. This second matchup against the Mariners is intriguing, but avoid the temptation. He is dangerous to trust.

Sunday, June 5

Matchup to exploit: Bartolo Colon, NYY (2-3, 3.77) at Ervin Santana, ANA (3-4, 3.95)

We have remained a staunch supporter of Colon's since he joined the Yankees rotation and will likely stay that way for as long as he stays healthy. The Yankees are trying to assist that situation by moving him back a day for a two-start week that ends with the matchup with the Angels. The first start comes against the A's. It is yet another week to trust Colon in any format.

Matchup to avoid: Jair Jurrjens, ATL (6-1, 1.561) at Dillon Gee, NYM (4-0, 3.83)

Gee has been a pleasant surprise in a half decade of bad news for the Mets, but this two-start week could prove to be dangerous for fantasy owners. His 2-0 record and 3.86 ERA in his past three starts makes him tempting, but the Braves own the Mets. Gee is opposing arguably two of the hottest pitchers in baseball in the Pirates' Morton and the Braves' Jurrjens, making him too risky to start outside of NL-only leagues.

Eric Mack helps you plan your pitching staff every Friday at You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice on Twitter @EricMackFantasy. Hit him up. He honestly has nothing better to do with his free time.

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