Fri Aug 2 12:30pm ET
By MIKE BARNER
With the month of July and the trade deadline now a thing of the past, it’s crunch time in fantasy baseball. There are several two-start pitchers on the horizon for Week 19, including a streaming option that might just be worth taking a chance. Let’s dive into the matchups for a few starters and discuss whether or not they should be included in most fantasy starting lineups.
Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves: at MIN, at MIA
The Braves addressed their major weakness by adding three new members to their bullpen, including closer Shane Greene from the Tigers. One of their strengths has been Soroka leading their starting staff with his 3.18 FIP and 1.11 WHIP. While he doesn’t provide much on the strikeout front, he’s remained extremely effective by allowing only 0.5 HR/9. His 55.7 percent ground ball rate also certainly helps his cause.
Normally, Soroka is a set-it-and-forget-it starter. However, his first start of the week against the Twins might make some fantasy managers pause. They have one of the most potent lineups in the league, so Soroka’s ability to limit home runs will be tested. Even with his first start carrying some blowup potential, his second outing against the Marlins is as favorable as it gets. In two previous matchups this season, Soroka has held them to three runs (one earned) across 15 innings. Starting him is a risk that could be well worth the reward.
Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs: vs. OAK, at CIN
Home runs might by rampant across baseball, but Hendricks has only allowed 1.0 HR/9 this season, which is right in line with his career numbers. Not known for his ability to accumulate strikeouts, he’s still been phenomenal with his 3.07 ERA and 3.59 FIP. To illustrate how consistently good he’s been, he’s allowed more than three earned runs in a start only two times since the calendar turned to May.
While the A’s have some imposing bats, their lineup has been weakened with Ramon Laureano (shin) on the IL. They will also have to face Hendricks and the Cubs in Chicago, leaving them without the benefit of the DH. His second start will come against a Reds team that dealt away two of their better hitters in Yasiel Puig and Scooter Gennett at the deadline. Hendricks has already limited them to six runs across 20 innings this season, leaving him with significant upside for Week 19.
Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees: at BAL, at TOR
Surprisingly, the Yankees failed to bring in another starting pitcher on the trade front, which is an area of significant weakness for them. Tanaka has contributed to their recent woes, allowing at least five runs in three of his last six starts. That included an epic blowup against the Red Sox in which he gave up 12 runs across 3.1 innings. He entered the month of June with a 3.20 ERA, but that number has ballooned to 4.78.
He’ll look to bounce back against two teams in the cellar of the AL East. He’s already had plenty of success against the Orioles, allowing three runs (two earned) and recording 10 strikeouts over 11 2/3 innings in two previous starts this season. The Blue Jays have proven to be a more potent lineup with all of their young hitters now in the majors, but they do strikeout out a lot. With the potential to grab a couple of wins against inferior teams, starting Tanaka could be a wise choice despite his recent rough patch.
Michael Pineda, Minnesota Twins: vs. ATL, vs. CLE
While Tanaka has pitched poorly of late, Pineda has been locked in for the Twins. It took him some time to get acclimated to the big leagues again having been out since 2017, but he’s streaking right now with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP over his last six starts. In fact, he’s allowed three earned runs or fewer in 14 of his last 15 outings.
The question here is, can he keep this up against two teams with hot lineups? The Braves entered play Friday having averaged 6.2 runs over this last 10 games. The Indians have averaged 5.1 runs over that same 10-game stretch and now boast a lineup that has been strengthened by the additions of Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes. Another downside with Pineda is that he’s heavily reliant on his ERA and WHIP to provide value considering he has just a 21.7 percent strikeout rate. Even with how well he’s pitching right now, it might be better to place him on your bench this week based on these tough matchups.
Dinelson Lamet, San Diego Padres: at SEA, vs. COL
Like Pineda, Lamet has experienced his first action in the majors this season since 2017 due to injury. However, he didn’t make his first start until July, so he’s still trying to round into form. That might be part of the reason why he hasn’t logged more than five innings in any of his five appearances so far. His 5.09 ERA might not make him look like a viable fantasy option right now, but his FIP is better at 4.18 and he has a 29.1 percent strikeout rate.
Lamet’s ability to miss bats could leave him with a stellar outing against the Mariners, who have struck out the most times (1,082) in baseball. The Rockies have continued to crush teams at Coors Field, but their 72 wRC+ on the road is the second-worst mark only to the inept Marlins’ lineup. If you are desperate for a streamer, taking a chance on Lamet could prove to be worthwhile.
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.