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“65 Mustangs” – Pick Your Spots – Week 13 – Almost Half Way There – Beware the “Opener.”

Good Morning. Welcome to Week 13. For me, the next couple of weeks, including the All-Star break, are when I do a gut check on my teams. Normally, I’m thinking about what hitters to target in trades or call-ups, but I’ve been getting all my injured sluggers back the last few weeks and may not need much help there. So, perhaps I’ll look to upgrade my pitching staff this season instead — at least in the two of my three leagues I still have a shot at contending in. I have plenty of good relievers and win holds every week along with a good K supply from my pen, but I am save starved. This is a good time to start kicking the tires on closers as the teams looking to trade them know that the window gets smaller and smaller as we get near the end and in head-to-head leagues I could trade for a closer right at the deadline. I could always use an ace, but my starters are not doing too badly on their own.

What is up with these teams using “openers” and then “primary pitchers”. What started last season as a lark by the Rays has now caught on to the point where even the Yanks are using Chad Green as an opener. This makes planning starts for the coming week a nightmare of sorts. An opener is worthless for fantasy purposes. He burns a start, only goes an inning or two and can’t get a win or quality start. The primary pitcher who is expected to go three or four innings is often one of the worst pitchers in that team’s pen. He can’t get a quality start, can get a win but what are the odds? Also depending on your league’s position limits, an SP primary pitcher who is being used as an opener will wreak havoc on your roster make up. We have adapted to bullpen committees and some other MLB changes, but I can’t wrap myself around this one yet.

One of the reasons my starting staffs are doing pretty well is that I got in early on Dakota Hudson (Up to 67% ownership in Fantrax), Daniel Norris and now Jordan Yamamoto (Who’s ownership in Fantrax soared to 61%) — among others. They are not aces, but I am pretty happy that I bought stock in them when I did. To be honest, it is from the extra research I do to write these articles that I think helps me early in the season assemble a staff. My goal is to build a staff that hardly needs any spot starters. Life is a lot easier that way. But, I can’t count on that. so here I am again on a summer weekend picking spot starters from the scrap heap for the coming week. Thanks for coming along.

Last week, my MON through SAT picks went 6-4 as quality starts/wins go, keeping my streak of 60% or better results since week one intact. I took a big risk by recommending Andrew Cashner as one of my Must-Start pitchers. Normally, I’m a pretty humble guy, but I am pretty proud of some starters I recommended for this past week. These are guys I may never have considered starting without the extra research, like Michael Wacha, Yamamoto, Norris and Elieser Hernandez. I’m still waiting to see how Steven Breault does against the Padres when he finally takes the mound today (Sunday). Two weeks ago, I hit on Jason Vargas, but who went with my suggestion last week and rolled out Andrew Cashner for his two start week? He faced the A’s and Mariners Mon and Sat and he was money in the bank, going 1-0 with only three earned runs in 12 innings. He also chipped in 12 Ks to go along with the two quality starts. But, now that we are done gloating, drop him while he is hot, quick. Next he faces the Indians in Baltimore. The Indians are hitting to a wOBA of .344 with a .279 BA and a whopping .223 ISO against righties on the road in the month of June. That is how we have to roll.

So, I’ll try and make it look easy again. Here are some serious Fantasy Must-Starts running the gamut from 50% down to less than 10% owned. Michael Pineda is of special interest to me this week. He is getting back to where he was before his injury and also has a primo match-up this week. This may be the last chance to own him this season now that he is getting close to 60% owned.

All ownership figures are from Fantrax. All wOBA matchups data is courtesy of Fangraphs.

Michael Pineda, RHSP, MIN (57% owned) @ CHW SAT: Don’t look now but Michael Pineda is pitching pretty well again. He has given up three runs or less in his past seven starts and only one each in his last two starts. He also has 39 strikeouts in those seven starts. They say the last thing to come back after a major injury is command. Pineda has only walked eight batters over that seven game stretch and has only given up one HR in his last four starts, including none in his past three starts. This will be your last chance to own him in all but the deepest of leagues. I’m buying. The White Sox are hitting to a .285 wOBA and .208 BA in the month of June. This is a Fantasy Must-Start. He’s moved on from the Yankees now, and I hope he took his GF with him. The Yankee uniform looks better on her anyway.

Anthony Desclafani, RHSP, CIN (51% owned) Vs CHC SUN:  I know, I’ve written about him before and I was really high on him going into this year in his age 27 season. Don’t look now, but he has just rattled off three quality starts in a row where he has given up one run or less with an 18/2 K/BB over 22.1 innings and seven quality starts in his last nine games. I’m not used to recommending spot starts against the Cubs. However, on the road against righties the Cubs are hitting to a 28th worst .265 wOBA with a .183 batting average and a .141 ISO in the month of June. One word of caution is that for the entire season the Cubs wOBA vs righties on the road is .337. Ooooh, does the June swoon continue or does Desclafani get lit up? I love this game, don’t you?

Michael Wacha, RHSP, STL (51% owned) @ SD FRI: Wacha (5-3) picked up the win Friday, allowing one run on five hits and a walk over six innings while striking out four in a 5-1 victory over the Angels, Wacha’s fourth quality start of the season,  and second in three outings since returning to the rotation. He’ll take a 5.59 ERA and [60:36] K:BB through 66 innings into his next start June 28 in San Diego.  Wacha struggled through nine starts before being shifted to the bullpen in late May, posting a 5.59 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and [43:29] K:BB over 46.2 innings. He is being stretched back out after his pen stint and now may collect some elusive W’s. The Padres are hitting to a .285 wOBA and .226 BA against righties at home. This is another Fantasy Must-Start for Wacha who will not stay this little owned much longer.

Danny Duffy, LHSP, KCR (48% owned) @ TOR FRI: Duffy would be a tough pitcher to own as he alternates gems and duds at will. He’s one of those pitchers that I keep thinking will break out at some point and be near ace-like. But, in the meantime he is merely a spot starter with a lot of talent. Two of his last three starts have been Quality Starts and he has a not too horrible 4.05 ERA in that time. The Jays are hitting to a pitiful .288 wOBA and .231 BA against lefties at home with only a .133 ISO. THIS is a Fantasy Must-Start. Mrs Duffy agrees.

This is a good spot to list two honorable mention pitchers that have great spot starts next week, but I didn’t have enough room for the them in this week’s article. But here they are for you. These are both Fantasy Must-Starts. Eric Lauer, LHSP, SD and Logan Allen, LHSP, SD both have primo starts next week. Lauer gets the Cards in SD. The Cards are hitting to a .280 wOBA and .187 BA against lefties on the road. Yeah that was .187. Allen gets the O’s in Baltimore. The O’s are hitting to a wOBA of .267 with a .226 BA and .073 ISO. Right, .073. Scoop them up.

***Two Start Pitcher***Adam Plutko, RHSP, CLE (30% owned) Vs KC MON & @ BAL SUN: Plutko gave up two earned runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out five through 4.1 innings in a no-decision against the Rangers on Wednesday. He does not walk many batters at all but does have a bit of a propensity to give up some HR, and is not extremely efficient when it comes to pitch counts, though he does routinely go six innings. He has two QS among his last three starts and three of his last five. He has a couple of choice match-ups this coming week in the Royals and O’s. The Royals are batting to a wOBA of .309 with a .243 BA against righties on the road, and only a .275 wOBA over the month of June. The O’s are hitting to a .301 wOBA and .227 BA against righties at home. Speaking of choice match-ups.

Vince Velasquez, RHSP, PHI (39% owned)@ MIA FRI: Velasquez allowed one run on one hit and no walks across five innings during Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Marlins. He struck out five but did not factor in the decision. Velasquez served up a solo homer in the third inning but otherwise held Miami without a hit. The right-hander exhibited good control, with 40 of his 57 pitches going for strikes. The 27-year-old was previously removed from the starting rotation but may receive another chance following Saturday’s performance, which currently lines up for Friday versus the same Marlins. The Marlins are hitting to a .275 wOBA, .237 BA and an ISO of only .091 in the month of June. I didn’t realize a team could have that low of an ISO, but these are the Marlins, and this is a Fantasy Must-Start.

FROM THE ABYSS – Starting Pitchers owned in less than 20% of leagues: With the slew of injuries to established starters, many undrafted free agents are rostered now. That opened up the Abyss for some new players to look at, and there are some good match-ups from under 20% owned pitchers to be had this week.

Elieser Hernandez, SEA, RHSP, MIA (20% owned IN FANTRAX up from 10% last week) Vs PHI FRI: Hernandez was a two-start pitcher this past week and he came through it pretty well for an Abyss dweller reducing his ERA a point and a half from 5.87 to 4.34 in the process. He is still not giving up walks as he only walked two in his 11 innings pitched last week, but he also gave up three HR. He contributed 12 K’s in those same 11 innings. He had filthy numbers at AAA so far this season with a 1.13 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 69 strikeouts in 48 innings. I said last week he is worth a shot, and I still think he is. This week he gets the Phills again, this time in Miami. The Phillies are hitting to a wOBA of .299 with a .242 BA and .141 ISO vs right handers on the road.

***Sort of Two Start Pitcher***Jeff Hoffman, COL, RHSP, (10% owned IN FANTRAX) @ SF TUE & Vs LAD SUN: Hoffman is no doubt a work in progress, but we are deep in the Abyss here. He walks to many and gives up a few too many HR, which is a bad combination in any pitcher but much worse if you play half your games a mile in the sky. The Giants are definitely not a mile high in San Francisco, and, in fact, are dead last in the MLB against right handers at home with a .260 wOBA and .208 average with a dreadful .119 ISO. They are only a little better in the month of June, with a .305 wOBA, and .132 ISO. The Dodgers on the other hand…….well never mind, that start is in Colorado. Put Hoffman in your lineup that day and your league mates will laugh at you. If you are hurting for an extra start next week, use Hoffman on Tuesday, which is a Fantasy Must-Start, but drop him on Wednesday.

That’s it for this week. Picking Your Spots has gotten a lot more fun now. As always, there are plenty of good spotters on the wire, including some new ones. We just have to find them. Hopefully, this week’s edition will be helpful. See you next week, when we’ll pick some more spots for the season’s fourteenth week. Even better still, may all your injured players continue to return healthy. As always, I’ll be on Reddit today talking spot starts. If you ask about a starter, please save me some time and let me know who he is pitching against and where. If you want to speak to me directly, my Twitter and Email are below. Thanks for reading.

joseph.iannone021@gmail.com                    @Joeiannone

I'm an accountant and an amateur writer of fiction and sports commentary, mostly baseball. I've been a student of the game of baseball since the Dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least since a few years before the world knew what a designated hitter was. Otherwise, I like "antique" cars of the 60's and 70's and have been a fantasy baseball fanatic since my first draft many years ago. I live in CT with my wife Megan of 25 years, our daughter Caitlin and their (their) cats. I'm also the better looking of the two guys in the the photo.

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