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Pitch or Ditch for Friday, September 30

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2016 All-Breakout Team

2016 All-Rookie Team

2016 All-Fantasy Team

Taijuan Walker

ZACH’S PICKS

Gallardo @ Pineda – Pineda has pitched well lately but this matchup is too tough.

Cashner @ A.J. Cole – Cole has been hit or miss. I’ll pass.

Gsellman @ Asher

TBD (CHC) @ J. Smith

Estrada @ Porcello

D. Norris @ Wisler

Andriese @ Darvish

Suter @ Bettis

Duffey @ Rodon – Rodon inconsistent of late but he’s coming off dominant outing.

Merritt @ Ventura – The risk outweighs the reward with Ventura right now.

Glasnow @ C. Martinez

Jackson @ Shipley

Peacock @ D. Wright – Peacock worth considering in deeper formats.

Alcantara @ Walker – Walker far from a sure thing these days but he sports a 2.03 ERA in two starts this season versus an Oakland club that ranks last in the AL in both runs scored and OPS.

Hill @ Bumgarner

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2016 All-Fantasy Team

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2016 All-Breakout Team

2016 All-Rookie Team

And here’s the All-Fantasy Team article:

Every championship fantasy team needs at least one superstar to provide difference-making numbers while a deep cast of complimentary players fills in around him. Each member of our 2016 All-Fantasy Team proved to be the game-changer at his respective position. No matter the acquisition cost for these players, they provided a return that could have keyed a Yoo-Hoo shower.

Jonathan Lucroy

Jonathan Lucroy, C/1B: Lucroy was effective across 95 games with the Brewers, but it was his stretch-run success as part of a potent Rangers lineup that vaulted him to the top spot at his position. The 30-year-old’s impressive accomplishments included having a top-five positional ranking in all five standard categories. He could use his talented new supporting cast to challenge Buster Posey as the initial catcher to come off ’17 draft boards.

Paul Goldschmidt, first baseman: Goldschmidt has accomplished a rare feat in ’16 by leading all first basemen in overall value while tallying more steals than homers. A perennial .300 hitter who consistently hovers around the 100-mark in runs and RBIs, the 29-year-old should be a first-round pick next season despite failing to rank among the top-15 at his position in round-trippers.

Jose Altuve, second baseman: Altuve shocked many fantasy owners by following up his ’15 power jump by making another leap this season. The diminutive second baseman was the most valuable fantasy asset in the first half when he hit .341 with 14 homers and 23 steals across 405 plate appearances. Altuve has hit well enough since the All-Star break to urge owners to look past his late-season dip in steals and consider him a top-5 pick in ’17.

Nolan Arenado, third baseman: Arenado has used his prodigious power to emerge from a deep group of third base options to lead the position in overall production. With pronounced home/road splits this season, the 25-year-old used the benefits of playing half his games at Coors Field to rank among the Major League leaders in homers, RBIs and runs. Owners will be wise to ignore Arenado’s lack of speed and select him in the middle of the first round next season.

Jonathan Villar, SS/3B: With steals at a premium in ’16, Villar’s Major League leading total made him an elite fantasy asset. The 25-year-old’s fleet feet may have put him on this list, but he has provided a complete fantasy profile by also hitting .285 with 19 homers. Villar will come off the board in the initial rounds of ’17 drafts due to his ability to heavily impact the swipes category without leaving an owner bereft of power.

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts, outfielder: Even owners who expected Betts to improve this season could not have envisioned such a large jump in production. Splitting time between the leadoff and cleanup spots in the highest-scoring lineup in baseball, the 23-year-old ranks among the Major League leaders in all five standard categories. Betts will be a top-3 pick next season even with the understanding that it will be hard for him to improve on his memorable ’16 campaign.

Mike Trout, outfielder: Death, taxes and Mike Trout on an All-Fantasy Team. Likely the least surprising player on this squad, Trout used an uptick in the batting average and stolen base categories to offset a drop in home run production this season. Wise owners will put Trout at the top of their ’17 draft boards despite the relative lack of talent surrounding him in the Angels lineup.

Charlie Blackmon, outfielder: On the strength of major improvements at the dish, Blackmon managed to retain his impressive overall value from ’15 despite tallying more than 20 fewer stolen bases. The 30-year-old has used his offense-inducing home venue and perch atop the second-highest scoring lineup in baseball to easily post career bests in homers, RBIs, runs and batting average. The time has come for owners to give Blackmon serious consideration in the first round of drafts.

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer, starter: Scherzer set himself apart from the competitors at his position by leading all starters in strikeouts and WHIP. He may also lead the Senior Circuit in wins and ranks among baseball’s best in ERA despite giving up his share of home runs. Owners with plans of dominating the pitching categories next season will need to seriously consider Scherzer at the back end of the first round.

Madison Bumgarner, starter: The model of consistency, Bumgarner is about to finish a fourth consecutive season with an ERA below 3.00 and a sub-1.10 WHIP. The southpaw took his game to another level by posting a career-best strikeout total, which made up for a dropoff of at least three wins from the 18 he produced in ’14 and ’15. Bumgarner will be one of the safest options in the second or third round of ’17 drafts.

Rick Porcello, starter: Along with Villar, Porcello may be the most surprising name on this team. The right-hander is about to complete a remarkable transformation that shifted him from waiver-wire fodder to the Major League leader in wins and arguably the ace on a World Series contender. Wise fantasy owners will project some going-forward regression for Porcello due to his career-long inconsistency and a .266 BABIP this season that is more than 40 points lower than his career mark.

Clayton Kershaw, starter: Remarkably, Kershaw managed to crack the All-Fantasy Team rotation despite missing all of July and August due to injury. On pace to produce career lows in ERA and WHIP, the left-hander is unquestionably the best pitcher in baseball. Even owners who tend to avoid taking pitchers in the early rounds must recognize that a starter who owns a 1.87 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP since the outset of ’13 is a fine choice at any point in round 1.

Jon Lester, starter: Lester is performing his best impersonation of teammate Jake Arrieta circa ’15 by producing Cy Young-worthy numbers on the strength of a remarkable second half that includes a 10-0 record and a 1.34 ERA. Backed by a Cubs squad that leads the Majors by a wide margin with a .730 defensive efficiency ratio, the southpaw has produced career-best numbers with the support of a .255 BABIP. Fantasy owners should expect more of the same next season from Lester and his ultra-talented supporting cast.

Kenley Jansen, reliever: Jansen must have had some kind of ’16 season in order to generate more fantasy value than a closer (Zach Britton) who has converted all 47 of his save chances and has logged a 0.55 ERA. The Dodgers’ stopper has reigned supreme at his position by producing a low ERA, a minuscule WHIP and a triple-digit strikeout total across more than 50 save chances. The tremendous turnover at the closer position this season will make Jansen a tough option to resist once the initial four rounds are completed in ’17 drafts.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB

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2016 All-Rookie Team

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And here’s my All-Rookie Team article:

Fantasy owners are always in search of the next big thing, especially when the next big thing comes at a minimal cost. This is why rookies are so highly coveted, as they can often be drafted in the late rounds or even added via the waiver wire during the season. The profit potential is significant, and choosing the right rookie could mean the difference between winning a fantasy title or falling just short. The challenge, however, is to make the correct choices, as your league mates will also be in pursuit of these much-hyped players. With only a few days remaining in the 2016 season, it is time to name the All-Rookie Team, and congrats to those of you who own one or more of these members.

Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez, catcher: Despite playing in the Majors for only two months, Sanchez is a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year candidate. With 20 homers and 42 RBIs to go along with a .311 batting average through 50 games, the Yankees backstop has rewarded owners who grabbed him off the waiver wire with a level of run production that rivals any hitter in the game. At the very least, he’s already earned clear-cut top-5 catcher status heading into drafts next spring.

Tommy Joseph, first base: Despite being stuck in a timeshare with Ryan Howard at first base, Joseph has proven to be a solid fantasy asset this season for those in deeper mixed leagues or NL-only formats, recording 21 home runs through 310 at-bats. With Howard set to enter free agency this winter, Joseph could take over as the Phillies’ regular first sacker in 2017, and his strong September (.304 AVG, 4 HR, 13 RBI) suggests that the 25-year-old is up for the task. Assuming that Philadelphia names him their everyday first baseman coming out of spring training next season, Joseph is deserving of a late-round pick in standard mixed leagues thanks to his power upside.

Trea Turner, 2B/OF: Turner’s first extended big league opportunity came later in the season than many had expected, but the 23-year-old speedster wasted no time proving that he belongs in the Majors. Turner has provided his fantasy owners with an All-Star level stat line, including a .340 batting average, 29 swipes, 51 runs scored and 12 homers through 69 games. While his power output is surprising (Turner registered only 19 homers across 268 minor league games), his speed is legit (77 steals in the Minors). Add in his ability to deliver high-end numbers in both batting average and runs scored along with his youth, and Turner should be selected within the top 50 picks, and possibly sooner, in 2017 drafts.

Corey Seager, shortstop: The overwhelming favorite to capture NL Rookie of the Year honors, Seager ranks among the top three players at his position in home runs (26) and runs (104) while leading all shortstops in batting average (.311), OBP (.369) and OPS (.888). The 22-year-old doesn’t run much (three steals), but he is otherwise a reliable stat-filler who could get even better. Seager is already a top-40 fantasy option for 2017. Trevor Story also deserves a mention here, as his NL Rookie of the Year case rivaled that of Seager before a thumb injury ended his season prematurely in late-July.

Brandon Drury, 3B/2B/OF: Drury’s 2016 campaign has been one of ups and downs, but the 24-year-old is finishing off the season on a high note, batting .333 with five homers, 17 RBIs and 17 runs scored in September. Drury’s minor league stat line that includes a .285 batting average, 60 home runs and 363 RBIs in 641 games hints that he could be a quality fantasy contributor going forward. The fact that he is eligible at three different positions adds to his appeal, and playing his home games at hitter-friendly Chase Field should help him maximize his offensive potential. Drury makes for an intriguing late-round flier in mixed leagues next season.

Jason Castro, Nomar Mazara

Nomar Mazara, outfielder: Mazara played only three games in the Minors this season before getting promoted to the big club, and it soon became clear that the Rangers made the right decision. The Dominican native entered June sporting a .302 batting average to go along with nine homers and 24 RBIs, and after an underwhelming middle portion of the season, Mazara’s power stroke has returned in September (5 HR, 13 RBI). At 21 years of age, Mazara still has room to grow as a hitter, and fantasy owners have every reason to be excited about his offensive outlook heading into 2017 and beyond.

Max Kepler, outfielder: Although Kepler has struggled to maintain a solid batting average, the lefty-swinging 23-year-old has managed to slug 17 homers while collecting 62 RBIs in 384 at-bats this season, including eight home runs and 23 RBIs in July. Kepler’s minor league batting average of .281 suggests that he could improve in that area with additional big league experience. There’s profit potential in using a late-round pick to draft Kepler in 2017.

Travis Jankowski, outfielder: For owners in need of steals, Jankowski proved to be quite a find off the waiver wire. The 25-year-old’s most productive month was August, when he batted .308 with 11 swipes and 18 runs scored. September (.205 AVG, 1 SB, 8 R) has been a different story, and he’s lost at-bats of late to recent call-ups Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot. The playing time uncertainty heading into 2017 puts a damper on Jankowski’s fantasy value, but the speedster will be deserving of a late-round pick in deeper mixed formats should he emerge from spring training with a starting job.

Kenta Maeda, starter: As with any player coming to the Majors from overseas, it was unknown whether Maeda’s success in Japan would translate to the big leagues. As it turned out, the transition was not a problem at all for Maeda, who boasts a 3.28 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP through 31 starts to go along with 176 strikeouts across 173 innings. Even if   he experiences some regression in 2017, the Dodgers righty should still post quality numbers, and there is little downside in drafting him as a fourth or fifth starter in 12-team mixed leagues.

Michael Fulmer

Michael Fulmer, starter: The key piece acquired by the Tigers from the Mets in last summer’s Yoenis Cespedes trade, Fulmer enjoyed immediate success upon his late-April big league call-up, going 9-2 with a 2.11 ERA over his first 13 starts. The 23-year-old remained a steady presence in Detroit’s rotation all season, finishing off the 2016 campaign with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP across 26 starts. His 7.5 K/9 rate is somewhat disappointing, but Fulmer’s 8.7 K/9 rate in the Minors hints that a strikeout uptick in 2017 is likely. Mixed league owners should feel comfortable adding Fulmer to the back-end of their rotation in drafts next spring, and he could very well return a substantial profit.

Jameson Taillon, starter: For years, Taillon was billed as an elite prospect, but Tommy John surgery delayed his big league debut until this June. The 24-year-old righty found immediate success, and he closed out the season with a strong 3.38 ERA and 1.12 WHIP across 18 starts. Taillon is fully expected to fill a spot in the Pirates starting rotation next season and offers plenty of upside as a late-round pick in fantasy drafts.

Junior Guerra, starter: Among the biggest pitching surprises of 2016, Guerra has registered a stellar 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his first 20 big league starts. Although his pedestrian 7.4 K/9 rate limits his fantasy value to deeper mixed leagues for now, Guerra’s ability to minimize hits (7.0 H/9) and home runs (0.7 HR/9) bodes well for his ERA and WHIP going forward.

Zach Davies, starter: Pitching in his first full big league season, Davies has posted a solid stat line this year, highlighted by an impressive 135-to-38 K/BB ratio. However, his 7.4 K/9 rate is far from elite, and he wasn’t a high-end strikeout pitcher in the Minors (7.8 K/9). Still just 23, Davies could develop into a reliable fantasy option in standard mixed leagues. But for now, he’s more of a deep-league asset.

Seung Hwan Oh, reliever: The surprising struggles of the once dominant Trevor Rosenthal opened the door for Oh to assume ninth inning duties for the Cardinals beginning in early-July. Oh’s success in the closer role along with Rosenthal’s subsequent shoulder injury solidified his hold on the job for the remainder of the season. Through 74 appearances, the South Korea native boasts a 1.85 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 11.6 K/9 rate to go along with 18 saves in 21 chances. Should he remain the Cardinals stopper in 2017, Oh could continue to establish himself as an upper-tier ninth inning man and would be well worth a mid-round selection on draft day.

Zach Steinhorn is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ZachMLB

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Pitch or Ditch for Thursday, September 29

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Dan Straily

ZACH’S PICKS

Ray @ J. Ross – Ray has struggled lately. Pitch only if you’re chasing strikeouts. Not a whole lot of upside in pitching Ross in what should be another abbreviated outing.

Merritt @ D. Norris – Norris pitching pretty well lately. (PPD)

Owens @ Sabathia

Zastryzny @ Nova – Tough matchup for Nova, who has struggled of late.

Jimenez @ Stroman – Stroman 3 ER or fewer in each of his last five starts.

Hellickson @ Collmenter – Hellickson coming off rough outing but I’ll stick with him here.

Straily @ Reyes – Straily is 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA in five September starts and he’s fared well against the Cardinals this year (2.45 ERA). Reyes a decent option if you’re in need of K’s.

Gibson @ Duffy

Archer @ Quintana

Urias @ Friedrich – Who knows how many innings Urias will pitch here. I’ll pass.

Graveman @ Miranda – Miranda worth a look in deeper leagues for this matchup.

J. Gray @ Cueto – Gray has been hit or miss lately but the K’s are nice.

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Pitch or Ditch for Wednesday, September 28

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Rockies Padres Baseball

ZACH’S PICKS

Paxton @ Fister – Paxton is on a roll.

S. Miller @ G. Gonzalez – Gio has been inconsistent though.

Buchholz @ Mitchell – Buchholz a decent deep-league option.

Arrieta @ Taillon

Tillman @ Liriano – Sticking with Tillman despite the tough matchup.

McAllister @ Fulmer

Lugo @ Urena

Morgan @ Foltynewicz

Big Erv @ Vargas

Ch. Anderson @ Hamels

Snell @ M. Gonzalez – Snell worth a shot if you’re chasing K’s. Otherwise, pass.

DeSclafani @ Leake – Leake too unpredictable these days.

S. Gray @ Meyer – First start in almost two months for Gray. Who knows what we will see here.

De Leon @ Perdomo – De Leon a viable option in deeper formats.

Chatwood @ Samardzija – Chatwood continues to get the job done on the road (7-1, 1.88 ERA) and the Giants rank last in the Majors in runs scored since the All-Star break.

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2016 All-Breakout Team

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Fred Zinkie delivers the first of our season wrap-up articles:

Finding a breakout player is one of the best parts of playing fantasy baseball. While steady studs certainly have their appeal, leagues are often won by the owners who correctly pluck breakout performers during their draft or waiver-wire transactions. The following 14 players made massive jumps in ’16 and are likely to have populated the rosters of many fantasy championship squads.

Wilson Ramos, catcher: Ramos has easily surpassed his previous career bests by hitting .307 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs across 482 at-bats. But much of the backstop’s best work came when he hit .330 with 13 homers in the first half. With a .279/.317/.447 slash line since the All-Star break, Ramos looks more like a good fantasy option than a great one heading into ’17.

Wil Myers, 1B/OF: Much like Ramos, Myers rode an outstanding first half (19 homers, 60 RBIs, 15 steals across 379 plate appearances) to the top-tier of players at his position. But unlike Ramos, the 25-year-old has struggled in the second half (.221 batting average) to the point where he has fallen out of the active lineup in some shallow leagues. Myers will enter ’17 as a boom-or-bust draft option with the tools to make a major five-category contribution.

Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy, second baseman: Murphy turned out to be fantasy gold for owners who took his ’15 postseason power binge (seven homers across 58 at-bats) as a sign of a looming breakout year. Among the Major League leaders in batting average (.347) and RBIs (104), the second baseman should come off the board in the initial rounds of ’17 drafts.

Jonathan Villar, SS/3B: In a matter of months, Villar has gone from waiver-wire fodder to the Major League leader in steals. The 25-year-old has also proven to be more than a one-trick pony by posting a solid .283 batting mark and 18 homers across 569 at-bats. With swipes at a premium in all leagues, the infielder could come off the board as early as round three in ’17 drafts.

Jose Ramirez, 3B/2B/SS/OF: Owners who have missed Indians’ star Michael Brantley this season should notice that Ramirez has been doing an outstanding impersonation of Brantley’s five-category effectiveness. Slated to open ’17 with multi-position eligibility, Ramirez could be a major contributor to fantasy squads by repeating the 11 homers, 22 steals and .313 batting average he has produced across 602 plate appearances this season.

Jackie Bradley Jr., outfielder: Highlighted by a 29-game early-season hitting streak, Bradley has used his spot in the highest-scoring lineup in baseball to more than double his previous career bests in homers (26), runs (93) and RBIs (87). But before owners bid too heavily for the outfielder next season, they should notice that he has produced a .242/.324/.447 slash line since June 1.

Athletics Angels Baseball

Khris Davis, outfielder: After hitting .221 with three homers in April, Davis rewarded patient owners by being one of the most powerful players in baseball across the final five months of the season. Wise owners will predict the outfielder to experience some measure of regression next year based on his inability to make notable improvements in his walk, strikeout or fly-ball rates in ‘16.

Hernan Perez, OF/2B/3B: Fantasy owners without a crystal ball were content to leave Perez on waivers when he was hitting .255 with four homers and 10 steals across 146 plate appearances at the All-Star break. But the 25-year-old has used his improved power stroke, plus speed and versatile fielding skills to carve out a regular role and hit .278 with nine homers and 23 steals across 262 plate appearances in the second half. As one of the few players with the potential to make a major impact in the steals category, Perez should be a desired commodity in the middle rounds of ’17 drafts.

Rick Porcello, starter: Porcello began ’16 on many “do not draft” lists after posting a 4.92 ERA a year ago. But the right-hander has outpitched heralded teammate David Price to become the ace of Boston’s rotation. Even though Porcello’s .266 BABIP this season offers reason to expect some regression in ’17, he should win plenty of games as long as he can produce a mid-3.00’s ERA in front of Boston’s potent lineup.

Sanchez

Aaron Sanchez, SP/RP: Even those who tabbed Sanchez as a sleeper pick could not have expected that he would become the ace of the Blue Jays staff and rank among the American League ERA leaders. Despite a mediocre strikeout rate, Sanchez showed enough consistency to be ranked as a top-30 starter for ’17 drafts.

Kyle Hendricks, starter: Hendricks has likely benefited more than any other Cubs starter from pitching in front of a Chicago squad that leads the Majors by a wide margin with a .732 defensive efficiency ratio. The 26-year-old leads the Majors in ERA (1.99) and ranks second in WHIP (.097) despite not making notable improvements in his K/9, BB/9 or HR/9 this year. Owners should note that Hendricks has benefited from a .248 BABIP and rank the righty as a top-20 — but not a top-10 — starter next season.

Rich Hill, starter: Most ’16 drafters saw Hill’s uneven Spring Training results (11.25 ERA, 2.25 WHIP) and assumed that his five-start success last season was an aberration. But the southpaw’s 2.05 ERA and 0.98 WHIP would have ranked among the Major League leaders if not for a pair of disabled-list stints that have limited him to 19 starts. Owners should expect more of the same — stellar results but an inability to approach 30 starts — next season.

Drew Pomeranz, SP/RP: Pomeranz cemented his spot on this list by posting a 2.47 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP across 17 first-half starts with the Padres. However, major issues with the long ball since joining the offensively charged American League East at the All-Star break have led to a 4.68 ERA as a member of the Red Sox. His swing-and-miss repertoire and success with San Diego will combine with his struggles in Beantown to make Pomeranz a boom-or-bust option in ’17 drafts.

Alex Colome, reliever: Colome took over the closer’s role in the first week of the season and never looked back. Having blown just two of his 37 save chances, the right-hander has not given the Rays any reason to go back to incumbent stopper Brad Boxberger now that he has recovered from an injury-plagued season. Looking ahead, Colome has shown the skills to be a second-tier stopper in ’17 drafts.

Fred Zinkie is the lead fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredZinkieMLB

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Pitch or Ditch for Tuesday, September 27

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Ricky Nolasco

ZACH’S PICKS

Koch @ Scherzer

Price @ Cessa

Lackey @ Vogelsong

Gausman @ Ar. Sanchez – Tough matchup for Gausman but he’s been pitching very well for quite some time now.

Clevinger @ Verlander – Clevinger worth considering in deeper formats.

Syndergaard @ Koehler – Koehler a toss-up. I’ll play it safe.

Eickhoff @ Teheran

Berrios @ Kennedy

Nelson @ Griffin

King Felix @ Fiers – Fiers is risky but I like what I’ve seen from him of late.

Cobb @ Sale – Cobb coming off awful outing. No thanks.

Stephenson @ Wainwright – I’ll continue to stick with Wainwright, though I wouldn’t blame you for benching him.

Mengden @ Nolasco – Did you know that Nolasco sports a 3.78 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 13 starts since the All-Star break? Oh, and the A’s rank last in the AL in both runs scored and OPS.

Maeda @ Clemens

Marquez @ Moore

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Zach’s Two-Start Pitcher Notes – Week of 9/26

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Hey everyone,

And so we’ve reached the end. Here’s the final installment of my two-start pitcher notes for the 2016 season, and good luck over these final 10 days.

Standard mixed leagues

Bartolo Colon (@MIA, @PHI)

Pitching in his age-43 season, Colon has quietly been one of the most reliable hurlers in the game this year (14-7, 3.12 ERA, 1.19 WHIP), yet he can still be found on the waiver wire in some shallower mixed leagues. Coming off five straight quality starts, the veteran righty should be started with confidence in all leagues next week, when he closes out the season with a pair of favorable matchups. The Marlins and Phillies rank 27th and 30th, respectively, in the Majors in runs scored and in six combined starts versus these two clubs this season, Colon boasts a 2.45 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.

White Sox Phillies Baseball

Jerad Eickhoff (@ATL, vs. NYM)

Eickhoff’s mediocre August (4.85 ERA) prompted some mixed league owners to drop him, figuring that the 26-year-old, who is pitching in his first full big league season, had run out of gas. Not so fast! Through four September outings, Eickhoff is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. The Phillies righty should once again be owned in all leagues, and he’s a strong two-start option for next week. Although the Braves offense has improved significantly in the second half, Eickhoff’s dominance over Atlanta this season (1.88 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in four starts) cannot be discounted. As for the Mets, New York ranks 20th in the Majors in runs scored this month and Eickhoff has fared well versus the Amazins this season, registering a 3.00 ERA and 1.17 WHIP across three starts.

Collin McHugh (vs. SEA, @LAA)

The owner of a 1.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 rate over his last three starts, McHugh is doing his best to turn around what has been a disappointing 2016 campaign. The Astros righty could end his season on a high note, as he sports a 1.84 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in seven combined starts versus the Mariners and Angels this year. Plus, despite his overall inconsistency this season, McHugh has been a consistent source of strikeouts (8.8 K/9), which adds to his two-start appeal.

Deeper mixed leagues

Archie Bradley (@WAS, vs. SD)

Having allowed three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, Bradley heads into a two-start week with one challenging matchup followed by a promising matchup. The Nationals rank in the top third of the NL in both runs scored and OPS, and Washington roughed up Bradley to the tune of seven earned runs over 3 1/3 innings back on August 1. On the other hand, the Padres rank last in the Majors in OPS since the All-Star break and Bradley is fresh off a solid performance versus San Diego on Tuesday (5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 7 K). There is some risk involved in pitching Bradley next week, but his impressive recent results combined with his stellar strikeout rate (8.7 K/9 this season) makes him worth the risk for those in deeper formats.

Clay Buchholz (@NYY, vs. TOR)

Speaking of risk, starting Buchholz next week is very risky, as his second matchup will come against a high-powered Blue Jays offense that earlier this month tagged Clay for six runs over three innings. But in two games (one start) against the Yankees this season, Buchholz has tossed 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball, and the veteran righty has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his last four starts. Buchholz should also continue to benefit from plenty of run support, as the Red Sox are the highest-scoring team in the Majors. He could prove to be a difference maker for owners in need of wins.

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Pitch or Ditch for Saturday-Monday, September 24-26

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Yordano Ventura

ZACH’S PICKS

SATURDAY

Ventura @ D. Norris – Ventura coming off a complete game victory and he’s 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts versus the Tigers this season.

Reyes @ Hammel – Reyes too risky here unless you’re chasing strikeouts.

Darvish @ Alcantara

Sabathia @ Stroman

Porcello @ Andriese

Ray @ Miley – Pitch Ray only if you need K’s more than ERA/WHIP help.

J. Ross @ Nova – Ross will again be on a pitch count but he’s likely to make it through five innings if effective.

Blair @ Chen

Quintana @ Co. Anderson

Straily @ Jungmann – Straily is 2-0 with a 1.77 ERA in three starts versus the Brewers this season.

Chacin @ Peacock – Peacock worth a look in deeper formats.

Asher @ Syndergaard

Miranda @ Duffey – Miranda has been impressive lately but I don’t view him as 12-team mixed league material just yet.

Bumgarner @ Cosart

Bettis @ Kershaw – Bettis a borderline call here but I’ll pass in mixed leagues.

SUNDAY

Pineda @ Estrada

E. Rodriguez @ Odorizzi – Rodriguez an intriguing deep-league option though.

Rodon @ Tomlin – Sticking with Rodon.

Volquez @ Boyd – Boyd coming off strong bounceback outing.

Thompson @ Gsellman – Thompson a decent deep-league choice though.

Shipley @ Bundy – Bundy too inconsistent to trust these days.

A.J. Cole @ Brault

Finnegan @ Peralta – Seems like Finnegan is out of gas so I’ll bench him in his season finale. Taking a chance on Peralta but benching him is fine too.

D. Wright @ Musgrove

Walker @ Santiago – Both are far from sure things though.

Lewis @ Cotton – Favorable matchup for Lewis. Cotton a little risky here but I’ll go for it.

T. Anderson @ Hill

Cain @ Richard – I still wouldn’t trust Richard in 12-team mixed leagues.

C. Martinez @ Lester

MONDAY

Severino @ Happ

Bradley @ Roark – Playing it safe with Bradley here.

Hendricks @ Kuhl – Tough matchup for Kuhl.

Kluber @ Farmer

Colon @ Conley

Garza @ M. Perez – Perez an intriguing deep-league option.

Smyly @ Shields – Smyly always a little risky though.

Iwakuma @ McHugh – McHugh is on a nice roll.

Adleman @ Garcia

Manaea @ Weaver

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Pitch or Ditch for Friday, September 23

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Jon Gray, Jason Motte, Tom Murphy

ZACH’S PICKS

Leake @ Arrieta – Leake has actually pitched pretty well versus the Cubs this season, but this is still too dangerous of a matchup.

S. Miller @ Gallardo

G. Gonzalez @ Taillon – Gio very inconsistent of late but I’ll stick with him.

Mitchell @ Liriano – I still don’t trust Liriano.

Wisler @ Cashner – The same can be said regarding these two guys.

Pomeranz @ Archer

M. Gonzalez @ Bauer – Gonzalez worth considering in deeper formats though.

Duffy @ Fulmer

Hellickson @ Ynoa

DeSclafani @ Davies

Meyer @ Fister

Paxton @ Gibson

Hamels @ Graveman – Scary matchup for Graveman.

J. Gray @ Kazmir – Gray coming off a masterpiece and he’s registered a 3.27 ERA in four starts versus the Dodgers this season. Kazmir a toss-up. I’ll pass.

Suarez @ Jackson – Suarez a decent deep-league option.

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