Monday July 20th, 2015

We’re now in the second half of the major league season, which means time is actually starting to run short in typical head-to-head fantasy leagues. Including this week, there are just eight weeks remaining before the start of the playoffs in your average head-to-head league. We’re not yet in the waning stages of the fantasy regular season, but September is no longer a blip on the radar. On top of that, if your league has a trade deadline, chances are it isn’t too far away. That makes this an excellent time to hit the reset button and rank the top 50 starting pitchers for the rest of the season.

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Chris Sale
  4. Felix Hernandez
  5. Dallas Keuchel
  6. Jake Arrieta
  7. Zack Greinke
  8. Chris Archer
  9. Gerrit Cole
  10. Corey Kluber
  11. Jacob deGrom
  12. Madison Bumgarner
  13. David Price
  14. Sonny Gray
  15. Johnny Cueto
  16. Matt Harvey
  17. Scott Kazmir
  18. Francisco Liriano
  19. Jason Hammel
  20. Carlos Martinez
  21. Michael Wacha
  22. Jose Fernandez
  23. Carlos Carrasco
  24. Garrett Richards
  25. Danny Salazar
  26. A.J. Burnett
  27. Shelby Miller
  28. Cole Hamels
  29. Jordan Zimmermann
  30. Masahiro Tanaka
  31. Jon Lester
  32. Jake Odorizzi
  33. Lance Lynn
  34. Tyson Ross
  35. Michael Pineda
  36. Noah Syndergaard
  37. Hector Santiago
  38. Lance McCullers
  39. Hisashi Iwakuma
  40. Stephen Strasburg
  41. Wei-yin Chen
  42. Taijuan Walker
  43. Ubaldo Jimenez
  44. James Shields
  45. Jeff Samardzija
  46. Chris Young
  47. Trevor Bauer
  48. Eduardo Rodriguez
  49. Collin McHugh
  50. Ervin Santana

Pitchers of the Week

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: 8 IP, 1 W, 14 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.38 WHIP

Kershaw picked upright where he left off after the All-Star break, tossing eight shutout innings and striking out 14 batters in a win over the Nationals. He allowed just three hits, all of which were singles, and the only National to reach scoring position did so via an error. In Kershaw’s last four starts, he has surrendered a total of two runs while fanning 43 batters and walking just two in 31 innings. Kershaw now has a 2.68 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 174 strikeouts in 131 innings. He’s on pace to have a better xFIP this year (1.93) than he did last year (2.08), and he’ll likely also strike out 250 batters for the first time in his career. Remember all this if he gets off to a seemingly slow start in 2016, the way he did this season. Chances are strong he’ll keep his roll going against the Mets on Thursday.

MLB Power Rankings: Dodgers ride dominant pitching to No. 2 spot 

Dallas Keuchel, Astros: 7 IP, 1 W, 13 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.29 WHIP

Keuchel began an important trend back in June when he started missing more bats than he had in April and May. That turned him from a great pitcher into a potentially elite one, and all that came together in one of his best starts of the year last weekend. Keuchel shut out the Rangers for seven innings, allowing just two runs while striking out 13 batters in a 10-0 Houston win. He remains an elite ground-ball pitcher, but thanks to his performance over the last seven weeks, his strikeout rate is now up to 22.8% this season. He has been Mr. Everything for the Astros this year, going 12-4 with a 2.12 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He’ll be on the short list for the AL Cy Young Award for the rest of the season. Keuchel’s next start is Saturday against the Royals.

Zack Greinke, Dodgers: 8 IP, 1 W, 11 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

MLB
As scoreless innings streak mounts, Zack Greinke is staring down history

​Greinke continued his masterful season over the weekend, shutting out the Nationals for eight innings while allowing just three hits and striking out 11. He has now tossed 43 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, putting him within range of Orel Hershiser’s record of 59 straight innings without surrendering a run. If Greinke were to break the record, he’d be the third different Dodger to hold it in succession. Before Hershiser went 59 innings without allowing a run, the record belonged to Don Drysdale, who racked up 58 consecutive scoreless innings in 1968. Whether or not he reaches the record, however, Greinke is having the best season of what has been a great career. Through 131 1/3 innings, he has a 1.30 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 117 strikeouts against 21 walks. He’ll next take the mound on Friday against the Mets.

Pitchers of the Weak

Bartolo Colon, Mets: 4.1 IP, 5 K, 14.54 ERA, 2.54 WHIP

The Cardinals got to Colon quickly in his first start after the All-Star break, tagging him for seven runs on eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings. Colon surrendered four runs in the first inning, essentially ruining his fantasy night right from the jump. The veteran got off to a nice start this year, but he now has a 4.86 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 109 1/3 innings. Given his limited strikeout upside, he’s really no more than a spot starter in all but the deepest of mixers or NL-only leagues. He’ll oppose Kershaw and the Dodgers on Thursday, so that may not be the best spot to stream him unless you’re desperate for a start.

Fantasy
Hitting Report: Two young guns powering Phillies' dismal offense

Jake Odorizzi, Rays: 4 1/3 IP, 1 K, 12.46 ERA, 2.54 WHIP

Odorizzi struggled in his first start after the All-Star break—and second since returning from the DL—allowing six runs on six hits and five walks in a loss to the Blue Jays. He was able to skirt trouble through he first four innings, but surrendered five runs in the fifth, punctuated by a Justin Smoak three-run bomb. We can safely chalk this one up to a lack of command, and perhaps a bit of rust, for the 25-year-old in a tough matchup with one of the best offensive teams in the league.. The fact remains that he’s enjoying a breakout 2015 campaign, compiling a 2.80 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 69 strikeouts through 86 2/3 innings. He gets a much friendlier matchup his next time out, taking the ball against the Phillies on Wednesday.

Justin Verlander, Tigers: 3 2/3 IP, 4 K, 17.18 ERA, 2.45 WHIP

Verlander had a tough assignment out of the second-half gate, and he was not up to the challenge. The veteran righty allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Orioles. Six of those seven runs came in the fourth inning, highlighted by a two-run double by J.J. Hardy and three-run homer by Jonathan Schoop. Verlander has allowed seven runs in two of his last three starts and six in three of his last five. Like Colon, he’s too widely owned based mainly on his name. The harsh reality is that the one-time fantasy ace is no more than a stream candidate in nearly all fantasy formats at this stage of his career. He could actually be a decent streamer when he takes on the Red Sox on Friday.

Buy, sell or hold

Buy: Andrew Heaney, Angels

Fantasy
Fantasy Waiver Wire: Kyle Schwarber headlines this week's top options

Last year, Heaney starred at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in the Marlins system, before getting a rude awakening when the team promoted him to the majors. Over the offseason, they dealt him in a series of trades that ultimately landed Dee Gordon in Miami. This year with the Angels, he didn’t have the same success he did in the minors, but he pitched well enough to earn another promotion to the majors. What a difference a year makes. Heaney has been excellent since joining the Angels’ big league rotation, racking up a 1.32 ERA 0.84 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. The 24-year-old lefty is making quite the case to remain in the rotation when Jered Weaver returns from a hip injury, which will come this weekend if all goes well in a scheduled simulated game early this week. Heaney will likely need to prove to Mike Scioscia that he deserves the spot in the rotation ahead of Matt Shoemaker, who has struggled after enjoying a strong 2014 season. It’s hard to imagine the Angels sending Heaney back to the minors at this point, making it a wise move for fantasy owners to bet on Heaney over Shoemaker. He’s still widely available, but should be owned across the board. Go get him now.

Sell: Johnny Cueto, Reds

Selling Cueto is a dicey proposition for anyone but the Reds at this point. However, it makes sense for a fantasy owner in the right spot. This theoretical owner would be strong enough in pitching to absorb losing Cueto while upgrading his or her offense. The impetus for dealing Cueto in fantasy leagues is the fate that likely awaits him in real life in the next 11 days. The Reds are almost certainly going to trade their ace to begin their rebuild in earnest. The Yankees and Royals are rumored to be among the teams most interested in Cueto, and the Yankees had scouts at his start in Cincinnati over the weekend. Cueto is, of course, comfortable pitching in hitter-friendly environments, but there’s no way around the fact that a move to the AL from the NL is a negative one for a pitcher’s fantasy value. Cueto can undoubtedly weather that storm, but if he ends up in the AL he’d be unlikely to match what he did in the first half of the season.

Hold: Steven Matz, Mets

Matz and the Mets suffered a tough break when an MRI taken before the All-Star break revealed a partial tear in the rookie’s left lat muscle. He won’t throw for at least another two weeks, at which point he will be re-examined. There’s a very real chance that he’s out more than a month, and, depending on how the Mets play in his absence, there’s a realistic timeline that sees him shut down for the remainder of the season. We are still a long way from that scenario coming to fruition, however. Matz showed enough in his first two starts in the majors, as well as the three months he spent in the minors this year, to earn priority status on most fantasy owners’ DL.  Unless you have a bevy of All-Stars on your DL, stash Matz there until we learn more about the severity of his injury.

Prospect Watch

Aaron Nola, Phillies

Everyone knew this was going to be a rough year for the Phillies. The team obstinately refused to deal aging, depreciating assets over the last few seasons, and that left them with a roster that simply had no chance of competing in 2015. They’re likely just days away from sending Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon off to greener pastures, finally beginning a rebuild that probably should have kicked off a few years ago.

Fantasy
Pitcher Scouting: What's behind Dallas Keuchel's rising strikeout rate?

Through that lens, they can see Tuesday as one of the best days of their season. That’s because Nola, their top pitching prospect, will make his major league debut. Nola was ranked 39th by Baseball America and 37th by MLB.com on their respective top-100 prospect lists entering the season, and he made both services look smart during his 109 1/3 minor-league frames split between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He was absolutely dominant at Reading, posting a 1.88 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 59 strikeouts against just nine walks in 76 2/3 innings. He had a tougher time at the highest level of the minors, but still fanned 33 in 32 2/3 innings to go along with a 3.58 ERA. Nola may not have an ace profile, but he was widely seen as one of the most major league ready pitchers heading into the season, thanks to the three years he spent at LSU. The Phillies owe it to themselves to see what they have in Nola, and that means he’ll likely be in the majors for the rest of the year. Fantasy owners should keep their expectations in check, but he’s available in about 85% of leagues. That simply should not be the case.

Two-start pitchers

  1. Jacob deGrom
  2. Gerrit Cole
  3. Matt Harvey
  4. Michael Wacha
  5. Danny Salazar
  6. A.J. Burnett
  7. Taijuan Walker
  8. Gio Gonzalez
  9. Wei-yin Chen
  10. Matt Moore
  11. Yordano Ventura
  12. Andrew Heaney
  13. Ian Kennedy
  14. Kyle Gibson
  15. Mat Latos
  16. Carlos Rodon
  17. Eduardo Rodriguez
  18. Odrisamer Despaigne
  19. J.A. Happ
  20. Mark Buehrle
  21. Nathan Eovaldi
  22. Shane Greene
  23. Brandon Beachy
  24. Aaron Nola
  25. Matt Garza
  26. Tim Hudson
  27. Clayton Richard
  28. Vincent Velasquez
  29. David Phelps
  30. Matt Wisler
  31. Jeremy Hellickson
  32. Alfredo Simon
  33. Rubby De La Rosa
  34. Brian Anderson
  35. Nick Martinez
  36. Michael Lorenzen
  37. Kyle Kendrick
  38. Jason Vargas
  39. Chris Rusin
  40. Kendall Graveman
  41. Joe Ross

GIF of the Week

Jake Arrieta continued his phenomenal season on Sunday, shutting out the Braves for seven innings and striking out 10 batters. In his last six starts, he has allowed a total of four runs and whiffed 44 in 46 2/3 innings, and he’s now the No. 4 ranked starting pitcher in standard 5x5 fantasy leagues. There was actually a moment when the Braves had him on the ropes in the first inning, but Arrieta put their brief notions of optimism to bed with this curveball to A.J. Pierzynski.

 

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