Pitching Primer: Week 18

Sun Jul 31 8:37pm ET
Contributing Writer

The MLB trade deadline is Tuesday, so things are a bit up in the air for projected two-start pitchers in Week 18. Rotations could change not only because of players being traded away, but also because of the incoming starters that would be acquired by contending teams. As things currently stand, let’s discuss five projected two-start pitchers and what their matchups could mean for their fantasy value.

Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves: vs. PHI, at NYM

Strider has been one of the better surprises in baseball, recording a 2.91 ERA and an even better 2.18 FIP for the Braves. He’s transitioned smoothly into the starting rotation, a role that makes him even more valuable for fantasy given his 37.2 percent strikeout rate. Opponents have just a 35.9 percent hard-hit rate against him, which has contributed to his 1.02 WHIP.

These aren’t the easiest of matchups, given that the Phillies and Mets both rank inside the top-10 in runs scored. Still, the last time he faced the Phillies, he allowed one run and record six strikeouts over six innings. The last time he took on the Mets, he allowed one run to go along with eight strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings. With his strikeout upside, he still needs to be locked into fantasy starting lineups.

Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox: vs. KC, at TEX

On the surface, it looks like Kopech has had a smooth transition into the starting rotation given his 3.16 ERA. However, his 4.42 FIP is far less encouraging. His walk rate has also increased to 12.3 percent, while his strikeout rate has plummeted to 21.4 percent. That’s more than 14 percentage points lower than last season, when he worked mostly out of the bullpen.

Fantasy managers will likely continue to be disappointed by his strikeout totals, but this is still a great week to start him. First up is a matchup against the Royals, who have scored the fourth-fewest runs in baseball and have already traded away one of their better hitters in Andrew Benintendi. The Rangers have a more potent lineup, but they have the seventh-lowest OPS against right-handed pitchers (.679) in baseball.

Cal Quantrill, Cleveland Guardians: vs. ARI, vs. HOU

Despite facing a depleted Red Sox lineup, Quantrill gave up six runs (five earned) across 5 1/3 innings in his last start. He’s hit a rough patch, posting a 4.87 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP over his last eight starts. During that same stretch, he gave up eight home runs across 44 1/3 innings.

Quantrill only has a 15.1 percent strikeout rate, which leaves him with limited upside in fantasy. The Diamondbacks are not a difficult matchup, but his start against the Astros could be a disaster, given that they have the sixth-highest OPS in baseball. Based on that matchup alone, it might be best to avoid rolling with Quantrill in Week 18. 

Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox: at HOU, at KC

Things have not gone well for Eovaldi since being activated from the IL. Over three starts, he’s allowed 17 runs (15 earned) and recorded only eight strikeouts across 13 innings. The Red Sox’s defense has been laughable, so if Eovaldi is going to have success, it sure would help his cause if he can generate more strikeouts.

Week 18 brings a case of one terrible matchup, and one terrific one, for Eovaldi. Neither of his outings will come at hitter-friendly Fenway Park, either. With that being said, he looks off right now and the Astros could hang a crooked number on him. Unless you’re in a 14-team or deeper league, staying away from Eovaldi could be wise.

Kyle Gibson, Philadelphia Phillies: at ATL, vs. WAS

Gibson is basically a back-of-the-rotation innings eater at this point of his career. He doesn’t excel in any one particular area, posting a 4.60 ERA, 4.43 FIP and a 1.23 WHIP. His strikeout rate is also uninspiring at 18.6 percent. If you’re going to deploy him in fantasy, it has to be the right matchup.

His second start of the week against the Nationals could turn out to be a fantastic one. Their lineup isn’t great as it is, and things could get really ugly is they trade Juan Soto and/or Josh Bell. The problem is, Gibson has to get through an outing against the Braves first. If you’re desperate for a streaming option and looking for a reason to take a chance on Gibson, he has held the Braves to four runs over 11 innings this season. It’s risky, but if he can get through the Braves, his second start against the Nationals could be exceptionally valuable. This is probably another league-context option. If you play in a 12-team or deeper league, you could do worse than Gibson. Anything shallower and he’s likely not worth the potential blowup against the Braves.

Mike Barner has been covering fantasy sports since 2007. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, SportsLine and RotoWire. Mike was also a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Follow Mike on Twitter @rotomikebarner.

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