The 2016 Fantasy Baseball season is finally here! Each and every week I will be ranking the two start pitchers here at FakePigskin.com. My goal is to help you decide which pitchers you should start in weekly lineups along with daily lineups, depending on your league setup. Every league is different and some may have a max starts limit along with a max innings limit. It’s possible you’re in a league with no limits in which case my recommendation would be to load up on starting pitchers (especially in H2H setup) and only roster a couple hitters on your bench.
Another strategy deployed in these types of leagues is pitch or ditch. This is a great way to accumulate as many counting numbers as possible in all your pitching categories in H2H leagues. Essentially you’re picking up a pitcher and streaming him for that day and then dropping him the following day for another starter. This can be a very effective strategy if you pick and choose your pitching matchups wisely. For more on this check out Damian Dabrowski’s weekly streaming article that posts on Monday’s. Meanwhile I will try to cover as many of these areas as possible while giving you my expert insight on the top two start pitchers and how I would rank them for that particular week. Without further ado here are my rankings for all the two start pitchers in Week 1.
Tier 1 – Must Start Aces
- Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – [email protected] (Ross), [email protected] (Bumgarner)
- Max Scherzer (WSH) – [email protected] (Teheran), Sun 4/10-MIA (Cosart)
- Chris Sale (CWS) – [email protected] (Gray), Sat-CLE (Tomlin)
- Matt Harvey (NYM) – Sun 4/[email protected] (Volquez), Sun 4/10-PHI (Hellickson)
- Jake Arrieta (CHC) – [email protected] (Richards), Sun 4/[email protected] (Miller)
- Madison Bumgarner (SF) – [email protected] (Peralta), Sat-LAD (Kershaw)
- Felix Hernandez (SEA) – [email protected] (Hamels), Sun 4/10-OAK (Hill)
- Dallas Keuchel (HOU) – [email protected] (Tanaka), [email protected] (Anderson)
- David Price (BOS) – [email protected] (Kluber), [email protected] (Dickey)
- Corey Kluber (CLE) – Mon-BOS (Price), Sun 4/[email protected] (Quintana)
- Zack Greinke (ARI) – Mon-COL (De La Rosa), Sat-CHC (Hendricks)
- Cole Hamels (TEX) – Mon-SEA (Hernandez), [email protected] (Richards)
I’d like to refer to these aces as the dirty dozen because their pitches are flat-out nasty! If you own any of them it’s self-explanatory – start your aces and don’t think twice about it! These guys are the cream of the crop and are all most likely high draft picks. Don’t be concerned if your staff ace didn’t have a good spring or struggled. You can’t read too much into spring numbers because pitchers are just trying to shake the rust off and work on their mechanics. Madison Bumgarner is historically a slow starter in April but should have an excellent opportunity to pick up a couple of quality starts this week. David Price will take the hill twice in his new Red Sox uniform with both starts coming on the road. King Felix is still a stud and believe it or not went 5-0 with a 1.83 ERA versus the Texas Rangers last year. I absolutely love his second matchup at home Sunday versus the Oakland A’s and Rich Hill.
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Tier 2 – Ace Plays
- Johnny Cueto (SF) – [email protected] (Nelson), Sun 4/10-LAD (Kazmir)
- Chris Archer (TB) – Sun 4/3-TOR (Stroman), [email protected] (Wright)
- Francisco Liriano – (PIT) Sun 4/3-STL (Wainwright), Sun 4/[email protected] (DeSclafani)
- Sonny Gray (OAK) – Mon-CWS (Sale), [email protected] (Karns)
- Noah Syndergaard (NYM) – [email protected] (Kennedy) *possible 2nd start Sun 4/10-PHI (Hellickson)*
- Garrett Richards (LAA) – Mon-CHC (Arrieta), Sat-TEX (Hamels)
- Adam Wainwright (STL) – Sun 4/[email protected] (Liriano), Sun 4/[email protected] (Teheran)
- Raisel Iglesias (CIN) – Mon-PHI (Hellickson), Sat-PIT (Locke)
- Jose Quintana (CWS) – [email protected] (Hill), Sun 4/10-CLE (Kluber)
- Marcus Stroman (TOR) – Sun 4/[email protected] (Archer), Fri-BOS (Porcello)
- Tyson Ross (SD) – Mon-LAD (Kershaw), Sun 4/[email protected] (Bettis)
This tier is composed of a few staff aces but they’re mostly SP2 and SP3 fantasy options for Week 1. I had a hard time not including Chris Archer in the dirty dozen but I’m just a little concerned about two tough matchups. He has pitched well versus the Blue Jays going 5-3 with a 3.26 ERA over his last 15 starts. My main concern is that pitching at Camden Yards can prove to be a tough task for even the best pitchers in baseball. Johnny Cueto returns to the National League and the Giants are expecting big things from him this year, as am I. Noah Syndergaard, aka “Thor”, could start two games this week but it’s still up in the air. If this was confirmed he would most certainly make my tier 1. In Week 1 Adam Wainwright will make his triumphant return to the starting rotation for the Cardinals. He’s a gamer and has extra motivation to come out and prove all his doubters wrong. His first start should prove to be a good test versus the Bucs while drawing a tasty matchup on Sunday versus one of the weakest lineups in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. Marcus Stroman and Raisel Iglesias are two of my favorite breakout pitchers for 2016 and are both capable of leading their respective teams to wins. Jose Quintana has sneaky value this week with two plus matchups versus the A’s and Indians, going toe-to-toe with Corey Kluber in the latter.
Tier 3 – Decent Plays
- Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) – Mon-HOU (Keuchel), Sun 4/[email protected] (Verlander)
- Drew Smyly (TB) – Mon-TOR (Dickey), [email protected] (Tillman)
- Ervin Santana (MIN) – [email protected] (Tillman), Sun 4/[email protected] (Volquez)
- Scott Kazmir (LAD) – [email protected] (Shields), Sun 4/[email protected] (Cueto)
- Justin Verlander (DET) – [email protected] (Chen), Sun 4/10-NYY (Tanaka)
- Jake Odorizzi (TB) – Tue-TOR (Sanchez), Sun 4/[email protected] (Wilson)
If you’ve listened to any of our FakePigskin 60 Feet and 60 Inches fantasy baseball podcasts you’re already aware that I’m not a big Masahiro Tanaka fan. His arm could fall off at any point so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Tanaka’s matchups this week are less than ideal versus a loaded Astros lineup and stacked Tigers team on the road. I was tempted to drop him into my tier 4 but it’s possible he can provide a quality start in one of these matchups. The rest of these guys are middle-of-the-road options but can be started where they’re owned. I’m curious to see if the good spring carries over for Justin Verlander. He has an excellent matchup in South Beach versus the Marlins, but I would definitely consider benching him in his second matchup of the week versus the Yankees. Jake Odorizzi never gets any love but he should considering he finished eighth in the AL last year with a 3.35 ERA. Just tread lightly since these aren’t great matchups and the same can be said for his teammate Drew Smyly. Ervin Santana has been really good this spring but draws two matchups on the road at Baltimore and Kansas City, that could prove to be very challenging.
Tier 4 – Stay Away
- Julio Teheran (ATL) – Mon-WSH (Scherzer), Sun 4/10-STL (Wainwright)
- Shelby Miller (ARI) – Tue-COL (Bettis), Sun 4/10-CHC (Arrieta)
- Edinson Volquez (KC) – Sun 4/3-NYM (Harvey), Sun 4/10-MIN (Santana)
- R.A. Dickey (TOR) – [email protected] (Smyly), Sat-BOS (Price)
- Jeremy Hellickson (PHI) – [email protected] (Iglesias), Sun 4/[email protected] (Harvey)
- Martin Perez (TEX) – Tue-SEA (Iwakuma), Sun 4/[email protected] (Weaver)
- Rich Hill (OAK) – Tue-CWS (Quintana), Sun 4/[email protected] (Hernandez)
- Chris Tillman (BAL) – Mon-MIN (Santana), Sat-TB (Smyly)
- Jorge De La Rosa (COL) – [email protected] (Greinke), Sat-SD (Erlin)
- Wily Peralta (MIL) – Mon-SF (Bumgarner), Sun 4/10-HOU (Keuchel)
- Chad Bettis (COL) – [email protected] (Miller), Sun 4/10-SD (Ross)
There really aren’t many positive things that I can say about these bottom tier options. You have to be desperate or in an NL or AL-only league to consider anyone in this group. Julio Teheran was overrated last year after a very impressive 2014 season. The problem is that he gives up way too many home runs (27 in 2015) and struggles with his mechanics. I don’t particularly like either matchup considering he’s facing Scherzer and Wainwright, with the Braves providing very little run support. Shelby Miller isn’t someone you should trust especially in Week 1. Miller was 0-2 with a 6.94 versus the Rockies in two starts in 2015. I’d be very scared to throw him out there versus arguably the best lineup in baseball, the Chicago Cubs. He’ll have better matchups to exploit down the road but this is a week to bench him. Wily Peralta was named the Brewers opening day starter which was rather surprising considering his sub par 2015 campaign. Peralta allowed a career-high 4.72 ERA and his average velocity was down from 95.8 mph to 94.3 mph in 2015. Peralta lacks the secondary out-pitches in his repertoire to keep hitters guessing. Stay away from this group or risk having your pitching ratios blown up. That’s all from Maddog this week but be sure to check out all the great Fantasy Baseball content this week and every week at FakePigskin.com.