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MLB Fantasy Advice: 2 Start Pitchers Week One

Oh, Happy Day! Real-life Major League Baseball is finally upon us! Sunday is opening day of the 2017 MLB season and with it the start of the Fantasy Baseball season. One strategy fantasy players like to utilize is focusing on two-start pitchers in a week. This is particularly the case for H2H leagues out there who set rosters weekly. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it basically maximizes those pitchers’ points given they have two opportunities in a week to accumulate. In most weeks this is an essential strategy as you can weed out the less desirable pitchers or make an educated decision over one start pitchers with less upside. However, week 1 of the season offers a unique situation since most of the two-start pitchers are each team’s #1 and #2 starters. It is pretty safe to say that most of these pitchers are already owned.

I’ll tier these groups for you here and try to offer insight on any hidden value plays. These projected starts are not a lock and are subject to change due to rain outs, injury, performance issues, or managerial whims in accordance to each player’s actual major league team. I only offer my opinion on the matchups, there are no guarantees on the actual starts.

No Brainers…

  • [the_ad id=”567″]Noah Syndergaard – (4/03 vs. ATL-Julio Teheran; 4/08 vs. MIA-TBA) – Thor is set to be the next big thing in ’17. Starts season at home twice against young rebuilding clubs. Look out!
  • Clayton Kershaw – (4/03 vs. SD-Jhoulys Chacin; 4/08 @ COL-Jon Gray) – Start in Colorado might be a concern for most mortal men, but is Kershaw mortal? His own body may very well be his kryptonite.
  • Madison Bumgarner – (4/02 @ ARI-Zack Greinke; 4/08 @ SD-Jhoulys Chacin) – Is there anyone more steady, if not spectacular, than Mad Bum? D’backs offense at home could give him some pressure.
  • Stephen Strasburg – ( 4/03 vs. MIA-Edinson Volquez; 4/09 @ PHI-Jeremy Hellickson) – Spring was so-so, but he is healthy and gets two teams in rebuild to start the season.  Though nothing guaranteed this should equal cake walk.
  • Johny Cueto – (4/03 @ ARI-Patrick Corbin; 4/09 @ SD-Clayton Richard) – Cueto may be the fantasy ace that gets the least publicity. Solid all-around pitcher should have another great season with two seemingly easy starts.

These Are Still Aces Guys!

  • Yu Darvish – (4/03 vs. CLE-Corey Kluber; 4/09 vs. OAK-Sean Manaea) – Great start opposite Kluber in first game should offer more challenge than weak Oakland offense in second match-up.
  • Justin Verlander – (4/03 @ CHW-Jose Quintana; 4/09 vs. BOS-Drew Pomeranz) – Bounce back season from last year seems to be the real deal. He must pitch at a dominating level to offset offense woes due to age and injury.
  • Masahiro Tanaka – (4/02 @ T.B.-Chris Archer; 4/08 @ BAL-TBA) -As long as elbow holds out staff ace great start most weeks. A road game against slammin’ Orioles may be tough early season contest.
  • John Lester – (4/02 @ STL-Carlos Martinez; 4/09 @ MIL-TBA) – Lefty ace defends Championship on road against arch rival, then follows on road against rebuilding Brew Crew.
  • Jose Quintana – (4/03 vs DET-Justin Verlander; 4/09 vs. MIN-Ervin Santana) – Long overshadowed lefty becomes ace for Pale Hose, until traded. Two home games against what could be iffy offenses. This is one to watch this first week.
  • Corey Kluber – (4/03 @ TEX-Yu Darvish; 4/09 @ ARI-Patrick Corbin) – Indians ace with two tough starts on the road against good offenses. Match-up vs. Darvish should be great pitchers game.
  • Dallas Keuchel – (4/03 vs. SEA-Felix Hernandez; 4/08 vs. K.C.-Danny Duffy) – I’m giving Keuchel a bit of a break here considering he has both games at home. Last year was pretty unimpressive coming off the A.L. Cy Young the previous. Innings and a shoulder injury may have been the cause.
  • Matt Shoemaker – (4/4 @ OAK-Sean Manaea; 4/09 vs. SEA-Hisashi Iwakuma) – Not sure why Angel’s chose Ricky Nolasco to start their season, but they did. Shoemaker might be a bit of surprise ranked this high, but I believe he is being overlooked and has two very favorable match-ups this week.
  • Kevin Gausman – (4/03 vs. TOR-Marco Estrada; 4/09 vs. NYY-C.C. Sabathia) – Baltimore’s Opening Day starter for the first time is in line to be solid if not one of the top A.L. arms for years to come. Must keep the HR totals down, which is tough to do at Camden Yards, and must stay healthy.

Great Pitchers With A Little To Prove…

  • [the_ad id=”384″]Kenta Maeda – (4/04 vs. S.D.-Clayton Richard; 4/09 @ COL- TBA) – If not for the road game in Colorado Maeda would be rated much higher. Padre game at home is a certainly winnable contest. Can not bet on many pitchers throwing in Denver air.
  • Gerrit Cole -(4/03 @ BOS-Rick Porcello; 4/09 vs. ATL-Julio Tehran) – Cole had an injury ravaged ’16 and saw a little shine come off his star. He has an incredible arsenal and at only 26 years old should be able to gain that back. Boston’s lineup will be a tough first task, but Atlanta should be a better game for the Pirates’ ace.
  • Felix Hernandez – (4/03 @ HOU-Dallas Keuchel; 4/08 @ LAA-Ricky Nolasco) – King Felix starts ’17 season on the road twice against A.L. West foes.  Must stop regression and diminished velocity if he hopes to return to the realm of fantasy aces.
  • Zack Greinke – (4/02 vs. S.F.-Madison Bumgarner; 4/08 vs. CLE-Trevor Bauer) – Performance over last two seasons resembles Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Actually looking him in the eye gives the same feeling. Did not build a lot of confidence coming out of spring training. Has to prove last season was an aberration and not the new norm.
  • Carlos Martinez – (4/02 vs. CHC-Jon Lester; 4/09 vs. CIN-Scott Feldman) – Freshly anointed young ace of Cards staff must prove himself at home against World Champs. At least 2nd game will be more manageable.
  • Chris Archer – (4/02 vs. NYY-Masahiro Tanaka; 4/08 vs. TOR-Aaron Sanchez) – Two home games against A.L. East big boys. Home field should help mitigate some of visiting offenses. If he can survive both in shape for a great start to the season.
  • Danny Duffy – (4/03 @ MIN-Ervin Santana; 4/08 @ HOU-Dallas Keuchel) – Needs to build off last season’s breakout. Opens on the road twice with a split between a winnable game against Twins followed by an intriguing lefty on lefty match-up against Keuchel and Astros.
  • Lance McCullers – (4/04 vs. SEA-Hisashi Iwakuma; 4/09 vs. K.C.-Nathan Karns) – Only 23 and battling all sorts of arm injuries in ’16, could still potentially be one of top pitchers in A.L. with a healthy season.  Needs to reign in control and stay healthy and continue with high K rates. Some quiet post injury intrigue here.

Meh, Nothing Exciting Here…

  • [the_ad id=”384″]Jon Gray – (4/03 @ MIL-Junior Guerra; 4/08 vs. LAD-Clayton Kershaw) – This is a potentially great young right-hander in N.L. only leagues. Bright future is ahead, but a road game in hitters park in Milwaukee and facing Kershaw in the second game does not bode well this week.
  • Julio Teheran – (4/03 @ NYM-Noah Syndergaard; 4/09 vs. PIT-Gerrit Cole) – Two pretty tough road games here for the Braves’ young ace. Had a nice bounce back season last year, but could be a possible regression candidate as continues to have HR issues and fights innings build up on a 26-year-old arm.
  • Jake Odorizzi – (4/04 vs. NYY-C.C. Sabathia; 4/09 vs. TOR-Marco Estrada) – Both home games are leaning toward Odorizzi wins, but must improve on his slight regression last year as both HR allowed and K/BB increased. He is a good pitcher’s park and has a good arm and arsenal. Would be a better bet against lesser offenses.
  • Ervin Santana – (4/03 vs. K.C.-Danny Duffy; 4/09 @ CHW-Jose Quintana) – Santana quietly puts together a very solid second half of ’16 after mediocre first half. Find it hard to get very enthusiastic when he pitches. Match-ups this week aren’t very taxing, so may come in a bit underrated if holding to improved second-half form.
  • Sean Manaea – (4/04 vs. LAA-Matt Shoemaker; 4/09 @ TEX-Yu Darvish) – There is plenty to like about the up and coming left-hander, but I want to see proven performance first. A home game against Angels and on the road against Texas is a good start to see exactly what he can do.
  • Rick Porcello – (4/03 vs. PIT-Gerrit Cole; 4/08 @ DET-TBA) – I am not a believer. ’16 A.L. Cy Young winner is not a high K rate guy.  Relies quite a bit on control which does not always bode well for repeat performances. Wins are always overrated for SP, which inflated his fantasy value last year.
  • Jeremy Hellickson – (4/03 @CIN-Scott Feldman; 4/09 vs. WAS-Stephen Strasburg) – Dependable, inning-eating starting pitchers are not exactly hot fantasy commodities. Hellickson’s improvements are not the kind of improvements that offer much to hope on.
  • Marco Estrada – (4/03 vs. BAL-Kevin Gausman; 4/09 @ T.B.-Jake Odorizzi) – A 33-year-old righty who possess no real velocity on his fastball and has HR issues is do for some regression. Will be solid in some match-ups, but would not expect to hold down fantasy rotation as an ace.


No Offense Intended, Hope These Aren’t Your Guys!

  • Hisashi Iwakuma – (4/04 @ HOU-Lance McCullers; 4/09 @ LAA-Matt Shoemaker) – Two games on the road against a tough Houston team and a team led by Mike Trout, plus a really rough spring training. I sense something about Iwakuma is off. I’m not recommending until he shows something.
  • Kendall Graveman – (4/03 @ LAA-Ricky Nolasco; 4/08 @ TEX-TBA) – At best Graveman is a match up type or streamer pitcher. At worst he’s your starting pitcher on opening day…uhhh. For fantasy purposes, there are not enough positives with such a low strikeout rate and playing on a fringe team.
  • Edinson Volquez – (4/03 @ WAS-Stephen Strasburg; 4/09 @ NYM-Robert Gsellman) – Veteran right-hander moves to friendly confines in Miami, but the lack of control really doesn’t matter. Both games this week are on the road; one against a very sound Washington team. He will have consistent struggles this year.
  • Patrick Corbin – (4/04 vs. S.F.-Johny Cueto; 4/09 vs. CLE-Corey Kluber) – San Fran will give Corbin fits, plus facing a tough A.L. champ in the Indians gives me no confidence. Last year’s rough season after Tommy John surgery has long past, but Corbin not the type of pitcher gives a lot of trust.
  • Junior Guerra – (4/03 vs. COL-Jon Gray; 4/08 vs. CHC-Kyle Hendricks) – Brewers’ feel-good story of ’16. Not buying into the sustainability of last year’s success. His Cinderella season is about to go the way of the pumpkin. More useful in real-life than fantasy over the long haul.
  • C.C. Sabathia – (4/04 @ T.B.-Jake Odorizzi; 4/09 @ BAL-TBA) – In fantasy terms, Sabathia is offering very little here at age 36. Best left for streaming play or pick the match-ups. The silver lining may be the number of LH bats in Orioles lineup, but I still wouldn’t bet on him vs. that lineup in that park.
  • Ricky Nolasco – (4/03 @ Oak-Kendall Graveman; 4/08 vs. SEA-Felix Hernandez) – The opening game of the season for A’s and Angels is ugly from a pitching standpoint. Not who I’d choose to start the season and deliver confidence to fan base. Sometimes useful pitcher, but not a game 1 starter. Please disperse, there is nothing to see here…

Basically the ’17 Padres Staff or Similar…

  • Scott Feldman – (4/03 vs. PHI-Jeremy Hellickson; 4/09 @ STL-Carlos Martinez) – Cincy is aware this begins the regular season, right?  If this is their best foot forward to start season, it could be a very long season for Reds. Hopefully, their offense will keep games close and worth watching.
  • Jhoulys Chacin – (4/03 @ LAD-Clayton Kershaw; 4/08 vs. S.F.-Madison Bumgarner) – I want to like Chacin, but not this week. This is a guy that would barely make the 5th starter for most teams, and he’s the #1 for Padres. Let’s just look past the carnage and hope for better match-ups in the future.
  • Clayton Richard – (4/04 @ LAD-Kenta Maeda; 4/09 vs. S.F.-Johny Cueto) – Not much better here for Padres #2 to start the season. Just look away, this is going to be bad. Middle and backend of Padres team may end year better off than their top two starters at this rate.
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