Fantasy baseball two-start pitching guide for the MLB week ahead

·7 min read

A rookie arrival can singlehandedly spur a season, both in real life and in fantasy baseball. We’ve seen evidence of that this season with Braves flamethrower Spencer Strider.

The right-hander began the season in the Braves bullpen, but he started to really shine when he joined the team’s starting rotation in late May. Over eight starts, he’s been seemingly untouchable with a 2.83 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and an astounding 65 strikeouts in 41.1 innings.

Somehow the Braves have only a .500 record in those eight starts, but he’s still helped stabilize the backend of the rotation. Atlanta was only 23-26 on May 30, but have been 26-9 since that date. As for Strider, he leads MLB since that date with a 14.2 K/9 and ranks 24th in ERA, 14th in WHIP, and first in strikeouts among starting pitchers.

The astronomical strikeout rate is a clear sign of his dominance, and provides hope Strider’s effectiveness will continue. Still, fantasy managers who have been riding the wave have one major reason for concern. Strider is still only 23, and has never thrown more than 94 innings. Already at 65.2 innings, Strider is fast approaching that innings number, and the Braves have playoff ambitions. While it’s fair to expect Strider to fly by last year’s innings total, Atlanta might not want to take too much risk.

This all creates a complicated thought process if you are looking to either trade for or trade away Strider in a fantasy league. Though, for fantasy managers who are fortunate enough to have Strider already, it’s a very minor complaint.

Spencer Strider has been a fantasy baseball star, but could run into workload issues as the season moves forward. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Spencer Strider has been a fantasy baseball star, but could run into workload issues as the season moves forward. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

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-Twins right-hander Josh Winder hasn’t had the same rookie impact as Strider, but he’s still been a nice contributor in 2022 when he’s been healthy. Splitting time between relief and the rotation, Winder has a 3.12 ERA and 1.24 WHIP while consistently throwing strikes and pitching to contact. The depth that he’s providing a banged up Minnesota pitching staff has been especially valuable, and his career 2.87 ERA and 4.64 K/BB ratio in the minors shows even more potential. Injuries elsewhere have allowed Winder to reenter the rotation, where he’s allowed only two runs in 11 innings since his return. He has a chance to be a nice pickup if available.

-The final week of the first half will mark the returns of left-handers Chris Sale and Steven Matz from the IL. Sale has yet to pitch this season, and while he made some bad headlines after tearing up a minor league clubhouse this week, there’s reason to be optimistic based on his history. The most recent memory is his struggles in last year’s playoffs, but Sale still had a 3.16 ERA and 11.0 K/9 in his return from Tommy John surgery during the 2021 regular season. As for Matz, he has an ugly ERA above 6.00 in nine starts before hurting his shoulder, but his 4.25 FIP and 5.50 K/BB ratio show good things ahead if he can prove healthy.

-With this being the final week of play before the All-Star break, don’t be surprised if some early-week pitchers scheduled for only one start make a weekend relief appearance. It’s been an infrequent phenomenon over the years, but with this era of starters going fewer innings and more relief appearances, teams could employ the strategy to help net a win. Tuesday starters like Mike Clevinger, Graham Ashcraft, Luis Garcia, and Noah Syndergaard could be in play to contribute another inning or two on July 17.

Going Twice…

Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, July 8, and are subject to change.

American League

Strong Plays

Dylan Cease: @CLE, @MIN

Logan Gilbert: @WAS, @TEX

Shane Bieber: CHW, DET

Luis Severino: CIN, BOS

Jeffrey Springs: BOS, BAL

Decent Plays

Corey Kluber: BOS, BAL

Lance Lynn: @CLE, @MIN

Josh Winder: MIL, CHW

José Berríos: PHI, KC

Chris Sale: @TB, @NYY

Cal Quantrill: CHW, DET

Michael Pineda: @KC, @CLE

Brad Keller: DET, @TOR

At Your Own Risk

Beau Brieske: @KC, @CLE

Daniel Lynch: DET, @TOR

Glenn Otto: OAK, SEA

Spencer Howard: OAK, SEA

National League

Strong Plays

Max Scherzer: @ATL, @CHC

Spencer Strider: NYM, @WAS

Max Fried: NYM, @WAS

Aaron Nola: @STL, @MIA

Logan Webb: ARI, MIL

Miles Mikolas: PHI, CIN

Decent Plays

Josiah Gray: SEA, ATL

Alex Cobb: ARI, MIL

Merrill Kelly: @SF, @SD

David Peterson: @ATL, @CHC

Steven Matz: LAD, CIN

Sean Manaea: @COL, ARI

Roansy Contreras: @MIA, @COL

At Your Own Risk

Trevor Rogers: PIT, PHI

Daniel Castano: PIT, PHI

Adrian Sampson: BAL, NYM

Mitch Keller: @MIA, @COL

Jason Alexander: @MIN, @SF

Austin Gomber: SD, PIT

Jose Urena: SD, PIT

Streamer City

The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:

American League

Wednesday, July 14: Ross Stripling vs. KC

Stripling is worthy of an add in the leagues where he’s still available, especially with next week’s great matchup against the Royals. KC has a .675 OPS against right-handers, while Stripling has a 3.32 ERA and has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start.

Friday, July 16: Dane Dunning vs. SEA

Dunning’s first half has been frustrating, but his ERA metrics still hover around 4.00. Seattle ranks in the bottom half of the league vs. right-handers with a .697 OPS, and Dunning had one of his best starts of the season against Seattle on June 3.

Saturday, July 17: Dylan Bundy vs. CHW

Bundy has quietly been rolling over his last four outings, with a 1.88 ERA and only four walks in 24 innings. The White Sox lineup continues to disappoint, with a .665 OPS vs. righties, fifth worst in MLB.

National League

Thursday, July 15: Braxton Garrett vs. PIT

Garrett is starting to hit his stride in MLB, with a 4.25 ERA and 26/7 K/BB in 29.2 innings. The Pirates are a great matchup, especially for a lefty, with a .662 OPS.

Friday, July 16: Justin Steele vs. NYM

The Mets have a loaded lineup, but it hasn’t been as potent against left-handed pitching this season with a .695 OPS. Steele looks to cap off a strong first half with his 4.13 ERA and nearly one strikeout per inning.

Saturday, July 17: Ranger Suárez @ MIA

Suarez hopes to come off the IL from back spasms before the break, and the Marlins would be the perfect matchup for the groundball pitcher. They are the worst hitting team in the NL vs. lefties with a .621 OPS.

Total Games

American League

5: BAL, LAA

6: HOU, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA, TOR

7: BOS, TB, TEX

8: CLE, CHW, DET, KC

National League

5: LAD

6: ARI, CHC, CIN, MIL, PHI, WAS

7: ATL, COL, MIA, NYM, PIT, SD, SF, STL

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The Infirmary

Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at NBCSports Edge’s Injury Page.

Chris Archer: Placed on IL (hip)

Jake Burger: Placed on IL (hand)

Curt Casali: Placed on IL (oblique)

Willson Contreras: Day-to-day (hamstring)

Carlos Correa: Day-to-day (leg)

Luis Garcia: Day-to-day (illness)

Kyle Hendricks: Out indefinitely (shoulder)

Jonathan India: Day-to-day (ankle)

Aaron Judge: Day-to-day (legs)

Ian Kennedy: Placed on IL (leg)

Yusei Kikuchi: Placed on IL (neck)

Evan Longoria: Placed on IL (oblique)

Michael Lorenzen: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Tyler Mahle: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Frankie Montas: Day-to-day (shoulder)

Josh Naylor: Day-to-day (back)

Jeremy Pena: Day-to-day (COVID-19)

Jurickson Profar: Day-to-day (head)

Anthony Rizzo: Day-to-day (back)

Antonio Senzatela: Placed on IL (shoulder)

Ranger Suárez: Placed on IL (back)

Chris Taylor: Out indefinitely (foot)

Joey Votto: Day-to-day (back)

Michael Wacha: Day-to-day (arm)

Bobby Witt Jr.: Day-to-day (hand)