Good Morning. Welcome to Week 16. I hope you all had a fun, safe and happy All-Star Week whether you went to the festivities or not. It was also nice for a week to not have to pick any spot starters or do much with our lineups. But we deserve a break now and then as it can get daunting after a while and like most other fun things in life, we never want them to become a chore instead of a fun activity. This is the time of the year when setting lineups and hitting/pitching minimums becomes a chore if you are a non-contender, but you owe it to your league mates to keep a competitive team on the field so as not to upset the balance of scoring in the league. That is an article for another time. If you are a contender, well then you still need to get it right every week, so read on.
CC Sabathia threw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game. I think that was the best moment of the entire three day festivities. It may only have been trumped by the moment in the 9th inning when he was sent out to the mound to talk to Aroldis Chapman with 2 outs in the 9th. Nice tribute to a really nice guy. He’s had a great career and has won everywhere he has pitched. On the Yankees, other than Brett Gardner, he is the last of the old core of Yankees from the Jeter days. But, time marches on, and there are new players and new Yankees making a name for themselves. But, CC is also part of a dying breed of bulldog starting pitchers. CC logged a ton of innings, often while battling injuries or other medical issues. He’s not the same 230-250 inning, 18-20 win horse that he used to be, but he is pitching his ass off in this last season of his career. Will he make the HOF? I don’t know, I’m not good at predicting those types of things, but if he does it will be a good induction speech I am sure. He won 251 games, losing only 157. He has over 3,000 strikeouts. He played in the post season nine different seasons including six with the Yankees and has a Cy Young Award on his mantle. Is that enough? I don’t know, but I think it is more than Mike Mussina had. I’m going to miss him. They don’t make them like this anymore.
Ok, so being the week after the All-Star Break, some rotations are still in flux. There are far more TBA’s than usual in the schedule for next week, so I went out and looked at the schedules from all the major services and some actual team web sites to try and figure out who was pitching those TBA games. I think I snagged a few here, and I hope they are actually going to pitch those games. Just in case, I listed them as “Possible” pitchers. If they are in this article, it is more likely than not that they will get the nod for that game, but keep your eyes on it more than most weeks, Things could change. And, we are going DEEP into the Abyss. Five pitchers this week.
All ownership figures are from Fantrax. All wOBA matchups data is courtesy of Fangraphs.
***Two Start Pitcher***CC Sabathia, LHSP, NYY (52% owned) Vs TB TUE & VS COL SUN: Sabathia posted his third straight quality start right before the All Star Game going seven innings against these same Tampa Rays. He’s pitched fairly well this season. Overall, he is 5-4 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 71 strikeouts in 76 innings this season. The Rays are hitting to a wOBA of .340 on the road vs lefties, along with a .285 BA and .204 ISO, so I can understand being cautious about that start, but this is CC week, so I’m running him out there on the teams where I own him. The Rockies, on the other hand, are dead last in baseball vs lefties on the road at a .265 wOBA, .200 BA and .145 ISO. That second start is a Fantasy Must Start.
***Sort of Two Start Pitcher***Michael Wacha, RHSP, STL (52% owned) VS PIT TUE & @ CIN SUN: Wacha continues to struggle with the long ball, as he gave up 2 HR in his last contest to bring his total up to 18 on the season. It’s been an erratic first half for Wacha, as he’ll take a 5.54 ERA through 76.1 innings into the All-Star break. I love him for the Reds start but I can understand if you want to bench him for the Pirates start. The Pirates are hitting to a .321 wOBA and .278 BA against righties at home since June 1st. The Reds are hitting to a near league worst .285 wOBA, .228 BA and .159 ISO since June 1st. This is a Fantasy Must-Start. His wife said he better straighten out quick. I think he will.
***Two Start Pitcher***Zach Plesac, RHSP, CLE (45% owned) Vs DET TUE & VS KC SUN: Plesac was optioned back to AAA last week to make room for Chad Allen, but this was also strategic as the Indians would not need him again until after the AS break. It had nothing to do with his poor showing vs the Royals last week where he gave up three runs in less than three innings. The right-hander has managed a 4.00 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 33 strikeouts across 45 innings this season. The Tigers are hitting to a .298 wOBA and .237 BA against lefties on the road since June 1st. Then Plesac gets the Royals in Cleveland. The Royals are hitting to a wOBA of only .286 with a .238 BA and .135 ISO since June 1st. All rookies hit speed bumps, hopefully his are behind him. These are both Fantasy Must Starts.
***Possible Pitcher***Logan Allen, LHSP, SD (48% owned, up from 26.5% owned in Fantrax) @ MIA WED: Some services show him as the SP for this start while some others list that start as TBA. I can’t see a reason he would be skipped. He has struggled in a couple of starts since his great start vs the O’s on June 25th, but I think he rights the ship pretty quick. Last season at AAA, Allen was 14-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 151 K’s in 148 IP. He still walks a few too many batters but I like him in this game. The Marlins are hitting to a .305 wOBA and .267 BA with a .145 ISO against lefties at home since June 1.
***Possible Sort of Two Start Pitcher***Daniel Ponce de Leon, RHSP, STL (28% owned) Vs PIT MON & @ CIN SAT: Some services show him as the SP for these starts while some others list them as TBA. Ponce de Leon was awesome in Friday’s spot start with one run allowed on three hits over 6.2 innings, which should get him a few more turns in the starting rotation. The 27-year-old has been impressive in his seven major-league outings (including four starts) this season with a 1.99 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and [38:11] K:BB across 31.2 innings. The Pirates are hitting to a .331 wOBA vs righties on the road, with a .278 BA. But the Reds are hitting to a near league worst .285 wOBA and .228 BA at home vs righties. I can understand sitting him against the Pirates but the Reds game is a Fantasy Must Start. So he fits both of my made up categories. Possible and Sort of two start pitcher. I’d take a chance on grabbing him while everyone else snoozes. His young family is counting on him to stick in Saint Louis. I am too.
FROM THE ABYSS – Starting Pitchers owned in roughly less than 20% of leagues: A lot of the walking wounded have returned or are about to, making the Abyss much less fertile. The only thing saving us are the recent additions from the minors who are starting to make their mark, and there are some good matchups in that group to be had this week.
Adbert Alzolay, RHSP, CHC (26% owned) Vs CIN TUE: Alzolay was optioned back to Iowa in early July after he was lit up against the Pirates, allowing seven runs on 10 hits before getting pulled with two outs in the third inning, so this move wasn’t unexpected, especially given the return of Kyle Hendricks from the injured list. However, he is penciled in to be called back up for the start against Cinci on Tuesday. Alzolay posted a 7.15 ERA and struck out 12 over 11.1 frames in three appearances with Chicago. His Minor League numbers don’t light up a scoreboard but he has been billed as a good mid rotation arm with good K rates and low BB and HR rates. I like that combo. The Reds are hitting to a near league worst .287 wOBA and .221 BA at home vs righties.
Ivan Nova, RHSP, CHW (25% owned in Fantrax) @ KC WED: No, I’m not overly excited about this one either. But the numbers are what they are. The Royals are hitting to a .288 wOBA vs righties at home since June 1st, with a .247 BA and anemic .135 ISO. If you need him he is likely out there.
***Two Start Pitcher***Adam Plutko, RHSP CLE (17% owned): Vs DET MON & VS KC SAT: Plutko’s last start came June 24 in against Kansas City, when he pitched four innings of one-run ball before being pulled after a rain delay. He mopped up in long relief in his next appearance last Friday in Baltimore, giving up five runs on nine hits and one walk in 4.2 innings. So, while he was kicked around for a couple of outings, Francona has decided to stick with him when they need a 5th starter. The Indians will next require a fifth starter July 16 against the Tigers. The Tigers are hitting to a .298 wOBA and .237 BA against lefties on the road. Then Plutko gets the Royals in Cleveland. The Royals are hitting to a wOBA of only .286 with a .238 BA and .135 ISO. Mrs Plutko has decided to stick with him also.
Austin Voth, RHSP, WAS (14% owned) @ BAL WED: Voth is expected to be back in the big leagues to start in Baltimore on July 16 or 17, Byron Kerr of MASN Sports reports. Fantrax lists him as Wed, the 17th. Voth was sent down Saturday as he won’t be needed over the All-Star break. The Nationals won’t need a fifth starter until July 20 due to an off day, but it sounds as though Voth will be back sooner than that, giving the rest of the rotation an extra day to rest. He has not exactly been brilliant, walking far too many in both the majors and the minors, but if he can keep the ball in the park and keeps his K rates where they are, he has a chance to get some W’s in the Nats rotation. The O’s are hitting to a .298 wOBA at home vs rigties with a very low .140 ISO.
Dario Agrazal, RHSP, PIT (10% owned IN FANTRAX) @ STL TUE: Agrazal is lined up to start the Pirates’ fifth game of the second half Tuesday in St. Louis according to Fantrax. He has made three starts with the big club this season, the last two being quality starts, and posted a 2.81 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, but only striking out seven batters over 16 frames. He appears to be penciled in to lefty Steven Brault’s (shoulder) turn when a fifth starter is first needed. Despite the good results so far holding down runs, his low K rate doesn’t make him particularly exciting for fantasy. The Cardinals, however, are dead last in the MLB with a .275 wOBA against righties at home, with a .227 BA and paltry .113 ISO
That’s it for this week. Picking Your Spots has gotten a lot harder 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 seventeenth 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.