Today’s piece is the debut of start/sit: two start starters for this season. Obviously, in weekly leagues — like the THT/FG league that’s currently going on — lineups must be set prior to Monday’s tilts, so we’ll take this opportunity to have a gander at the pitchers currently slated to start two games for streaming starters if that’s a strategy you like to pursue.
We’ll try to only go with starters who rostereed in less than half — in many cases, MUCH less than half — of leagues.
Homer Bailey (6 percent Yahoo/3.4 percent ESPN) (v. STL, @WAS)
Despite a rough spring, Bailey is still a recommended play for me based on his last four starts of 2011. He carried a 3.86 ERA, whiffed more than a hitter an inning, and finally showed a semblance of the talent that made him a seventh overall pick back in ‘04. He’s pitching to stay in the rotation, but at the same time it’s unlikely that Alfredo Simon (recent waiver claim) or Aroldis Chapman (sizzling in the bullpen) would stake claim to his spot anytime soon. He’s also backed by a very good offense, and one of the better defenses in the senior circuit. That certainly benefits a guy like Bailey, whose batted ball rates are relatively ambiguous.
Ivan Nova (46 percent Yahoo/29.4 percent ESPN) (@BAL, v. LAA)
Last year’s fantasy darling with 16 wins despite only ordinary peripherals starts off 2012 with a relatively weak offense at Camden Yards before he gets a tough draw in the Angels at home. He should get tons of ground balls again this year, and is backed by the powerful-as-usual Yankees offense, which only managed 12 runs in a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rays, and will be looking for vengeance. There’s potential for fallback should the left side of his infield continue to look its age, but all-in-all he should be a good bet for double-digit wins and a fair amount of mixed league utility.
Chris Narveson (1 percent Yahoo/0.2 percent ESPN) (@CHC, @ATL)
Narveson is coming off his third straight year with seven-plus whiffs per nine, and starts the 2012 campaign with a couple of starts at home, where his career ERA is 20 points lower and his K rate is a half-whiff better. Be careful; He’s a notorious slow starter (5.50/3.68 ERA splits). But if he gets off to a good start this year — and to be sure, the Cubs should help that — he should be a lefty who’ll rocked up the charts in terms of ownership. He’s like Chris Capuano, less one percent worm burners.
At your own peril:
Nick Blackburn (0 percent Yahoo/0.2 percent ESPN) (v. LAA, v. TEX)
Blackburn is the king of balls in play, and takes on two lineups that will pound the ball all over the park. On Blackburn’s side is durability, and the fact that from time-to-time he’ll randomly dazzle against a good offense (such as 0.69 ERA in 13 innings over two starts against Boston in 2011).
Hector Noesi (1 percent Yahoo/0.2 percent ESPN) (@Tex, v. OAK)
Noesi is a young flamethrower who should get every chance to hang in the Mariners rotation, but facing Texas in Arlington probably isn’t a great play the righty who’s a veteran of only 56.1 big league innings. He’s a pet project of a few different fantasy players I chat with, and to be sure the Oakland matchup should be beneficial, but the M’s offense isn’t likely to give a ton of support this season either. Monitor him closely, because if he can hack it, he won’t show up in these sub 50 percent ownership columns for long.
Henderson Alvarez (15 percent Yahoo/2.8 percent ESPN) (@BOS, v. BAL)
Like Noesi, Alvarez is a young righty who can bring it, as both are averaging an identical 93.3 mph fastball in limited big league duty. Like Noesi, Alvarez is well under the 100 big league inning threshold, but unlike Noesi, Alvarez hasn’t missed many bats in the bigs. In fact, dating back to ‘08, he still hasn’t missed more than 6.7 per nine innings, which is sort of odd given his skill set. Nonetheless, he got grounders on 53.5 percent of balls in play last season, and if that can continue, he’ll get by with the sub-standard K rates. If the K’s come — and I think they will — he could be another fantasy darling up north. At Boston will be a tough start, as that offense is all sorts of stacked, but I’m not high on the Baltimore offense, so he could be a good play this week.
Derek Lowe (2 percent Yahoo/1.0 percent ESPN) (v. CWS, @KC)
Lowe’s brought his groundball act to the junior circuit for the first time in seven seasons, and he’s doing so in front of a Jekyll-and-Hyde infield defense. The corners should be helpful (Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan), but the middle may be a bit soft. Lowe’s a pretty good play this week against a really weak White Sox offense and at home against a Royals offense I can’t quite get a feel for, but Lowe’s starts can sometimes go like his seasons (alternating good ones and clunkers with little reason).
Philip Humber (5 percent Yahoo/0.4 percent ESPN) (@CLE, v. DET)
I’m still waiting for the real Humber — the one I saw as a Twins and Mets farmhand — to rear his head, but to his credit he was really, really good on the south side last year. He effectively mixed a decent fastball with a couple good breaking balls and a solid change, and in doing so brought his home run rate way down. Maybe even unsustainably so. Nonetheless, he won’t get any help from his offense this year — to be fair, he didn’t really last year either — but he’ll be hard pressed to match last year’s nine-win mark and he’s facing an excellent lineup versus Detroit after visiting an alright Indians offense. From a real-life standpoint he should continue to be OK, but he’s just too hard to recommend in fantasy while backed by the current White Sox offense.
Tom Milone (4 percent Yahoo/0.9 percent ESPN) (v. KC, @SEA)
Milone would be hands-off if he weren’t facing Kansas City at home and Seattle on the road (two terrific pitcher’s parks). Finesse lefties have a pretty thin error for margin, and those with only 26 innings innings at the big league level can be as dicey as they come. Keep in mind, three of Kansas City’s best hitters are lefties (Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon), so he may be able to grit and guile his way through that lineup. It’s going to be hard to recommend many A’s starters this year, for what it’s worth.
Jake Westbrook (3 percent Yahoo/1.3 percent ESPN) (@CIN, v. CHC)
Westbrook is supported by the solid Cardinals offense, and despite facing a tough Reds offense at Great American Ballpark, is a tremendous ground ball pitcher (a stunning 59.0 percent career rate), so that offense will be hard-pressed to elevate too many out of that bandbox against the veteran righty (0.80 career home run rate). The Cubs at home should be a relatively good matchup for him as well. He doesn’t strike anyone out, and thus isn’t such a sexy fantasy hurler, but in a pinch he can be a nice pickup. He’s won double-digit games in his last five straight healthy seasons.
Mike Leake (17 percent Yahoo/2.9 percent ESPN) (v. STL, @WAS)
Leake’s been almost exclusively a big leaguer in his professional career, but he really hasn’t wowed in either campaign despite tossing over 300 innings over that time frame. Typically — at least in my view — those who move quickly to the big leagues are the ones with the big arms that whiff a ton of hitters, whereas Leake is more of a groundball, sub-90mph heater, polish kind of guy. He’s increasingly scrapped his heater for an improving cutter, which should continue to induce weak contact as long as he can further hone it. Nonetheless, he’s got a couple of tough matchups against solid offenses in St. Louis and Washington, and is difficult to recommend too strongly as a result.
J.A. Happ (1 percent Yahoo/0.1 percent ESPN) (v. ATL, @MIA)
Felix Doubront (3 percent Yahoo/1.8 percent ESPN) (v. TOR, v. TB)
Kevin Correia (1 percent Yahoo/0.0 percent ESPN) (@LAD, @SF)
Blake Beavan (1 percent Yahoo/0.1 percent ESPN) (@TEX, v. OAK)
Rick Porcello (14 percent Yahoo/5.0 percent ESPN) (v. TB, @CWS)
Graham Godfrey (0 percent Yahoo/0.1 percent ESPN) (v. KC, @SEA)
Luis Mendoza (3 percent Yahoo/0.2 percent ESPN) (@OAK, v. CLE)
Ross Detwiler (1 percent Yahoo/0.0 percent ESPN) (@NYM, v. CIN)
Barry Zito (1 percent Yahoo/0.8 percent ESPN) (@COL, v. PIT)
Kyle Drabek (2 percent Yahoo/0.4 percent ESPN) (v. BOS, v. BAL)