Slow starters in position to see change of pitching fortunes soon
Despite 1-6 record, Ervin Santana has posted three consecutive quality starts
Marlins leaning toward Steve Cishek to close for now but will go back to Heath Bell
After a poor start, Max Scherzer has struck out 18 batters in his last two games
Next week marks a first for this season in fantasy baseball: Every team is going without a day off. That makes for a lot of pitching options in setting lineups. That is 210 starts to pick through.
It makes analyzing the matchups more important than ever, and the loading up on two-start pitchers as easy as ever.
With that in mind, we decided to lead this week's Friday pitching report with in-the-tank pitchers you can probably trust this week, even though the losses (and walks) are piling up. In the week where the only 0-5 pitcher in baseball -- Francisco Liriano (9.45 ERA, 2.100 WHIP) -- was ushered to the bullpen, there are a number of slow starters who are poised for a rebound.
Buy now, or merely start them if you're hung with them and the breaking balls they have been hanging:
1. Ervin Santana, Angels (85 percent owned)
Liriano might be baseball's lone 0-5 pitcher, but Santana is the game's lone six-game loser at 1-6. All of those losses came in a row, too. It looks about as bad as anyone could have imagined.
Santana has posted three consecutive quality starts, though, including a 10-strikeout performance. He also won his last time out. The best news of all happens to lie in his matchups. The A's and Padres are not offensive juggernauts, and the Angels are due to string a strong stretch together.
Santana and his fantasy owners will be the beneficiaries.
2. Phil Hughes, Yankees (41)
With Andy Pettitte returning to the majors Sunday, Hughes picked the perfect time to start pitching like a major leaguer -- heck, even a fantasy contributor. He struck out seven this week, pitching into the seventh and posting his first quality start of the season.
He managed to save his rotation spot and has given owners a great time to buy low. There are going to be some solid pitchers sent to the waiver wire with so many two-start pitchers sitting out there as mixed-league options, so give Hughes a call to your fantasy roster, if not your starting lineup now.
If he bombs his next time out, you can rotate that roster spot to the next flavor of the week. If his recent outing is a signal of a trend, you have yourself a steal off waivers.
3. Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, Red Sox (96 and 65)
This writer marveled at the bargains the Red Sox pitchers were going for in drafts this March. Apparently, their low values were justified, if not overbids. Both look like risky players to start this week.
You should at least own them, if not start them, on blind faith their career numbers will win out amid their struggles.
Beckett is easier to trust in the week ahead because of his matchups and two-start status, but Buchholz is the potential buy-low gem. He looks completely worthless right now with his 9.02 ERA and 2.020 WHIP. Assume Buchholz isn't hurt, and if Beckett can play golf, he can pitch for the Red Sox and our fantasy teams.
Stick with the belief there is still value to be had with the downgraded Red Sox arms.
5. John Danks, White Sox (66)
He is 27 years old; this was supposed to be a breakthrough year. Well, if you play fantasy long enough, you know every pitcher struggles in spurts. Danks might have gotten his struggles out of the way.
That is the great news, if you're just jumping on board and haven't had to absorb his worst. Even if you have, his best is yet to come.
Before righting himself last time out, Danks had allowed 13 runs in two starts against the Red Sox and Indians. Throw those two starts out and Danks is right around a quality start each other time out.
This is a pitcher who is a lot better than merely being owned in two-thirds of fantasy leagues. Starting him next week is easier as a two-start pitcher, even if you have to cross your fingers on him against the White Sox before he takes on the Cubs.
David Robertson went ahead and did exactly the wrong thing: He blew a save after proving so unbelievable as a setup man. Rafael Soriano was the closer of choice last time out, albeit a fallible one, allowing a run. Stick with Robertson. He will right himself and take charge with the role.
Chris Sale was moved to the bullpen to take the closer's role from Hector Santiago in lieu of closer-in-waiting Addison Reed. Well, Sale has an elbow issue that will limit him, if not shelve him, so finally we might be getting Reed in the role he belongs. Reed has saved two games now and has the ability to hold that role for not just weeks or months, but years, in Chicago.
The Padres have decided to keep Luke Gregerson in the setup role and didn't want the wildness of power arm Andrew Cashner in the closer's role, so Dale Thayer has picked up back-to-back saves. Thayer can hold down that role until Huston Street (side) returns.
The Marlins finally got a decent outing out of Heath Bell, but Ozzie Guillen is still juggling between Edward Mujica and Steve Cishek as his temporary co-closers. Guillen is leaning toward Cishek and we should do the same. It might take a few more promising outings from Bell before the $27 million man gets his job back.
1. Max Scherzer, Tigers (58 percent starting) -- After a slow start to his season, Scherzer has posted back-to-back quality starts with nine strikeouts in each. He is a must-start again, although his starting numbers aren't reflecting that yet.
2. Josh Beckett, Red Sox (57) -- He is coming off injury and his worst start, so there is some risk, but this recommendation is founded on the fact that we can see a sharp turnaround against the offensively weak Mariners and Phillies.
3. Ivan Nova, Yankees (62) -- He kicked his own funk last time out and should be leaned on heavily this week, particularly with that first matchup against the Orioles.
4. Ervin Santana, Angels (50) -- He has posted three consecutive quality starts and draws the A's and Padres in a week where he should be active in all leagues.
5. Christian Friedrich, Rockies (4) -- This is the true sleeper of the group. Pick him up in any leagues. The top prospect fanned seven in his debut and draws the offensively weak Giants and Padres.
1. Jason Hammel, Orioles (50 percent starting) -- His hot start has to wear off sometime and with a sore knee putting his health in question against an offensively-potent monster like the Yankees, it is probably a bad time to jump on the bandwagon, if you're not already playing with the house's money on him.
2. Bartolo Colon, A's (31 percent) -- There was a stretch where he was carrying fantasy teams. That seems to have run out already, somewhat earlier that should have been expected. His struggles and the slew of many other quality two-start options in a full week figure to justify keeping him out of mixed-league lineups.
3. Danny Duffy, Royals (11) -- There was promise here early but walks and high pitch counts have knocked him out of games early. It figures to happen again against the Yankees, at the very least, and perhaps the Diamondbacks, too.
4. Homer Bailey, Reds (9) -- He had a string of four consecutive quality starts before getting rocked his last time out. Road games at Atlanta and the Yankees don't figure to be promising for him.
5. Paul Maholm, Cubs (6) -- This would seem to be an obvious sit, until you look at what he has done in winning four consecutive starts. He has been unconsciously good. Trusting him against Kyle Lohse and Jake Peavy, arguably two of the best fantasy pitchers to date, is probably not a great idea.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. If you miss his Monday baseball trends, Wednesday prospect report or Friday pitching review, you can also find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).