Two-Start Pitchers: Week 1 (March 30-April 6)

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Ranking and tiering the two-start pitchers for Week 1, including Scott Kazmir, Dillon Gee and Ian Kennedy.

Week 1 is all about the aces. Don't get cute, and absolutely do not bench your studs. Cliff Lee draws a difficult road matchup against the Rangers in his first turn, but you didn't draft him to sit on the sideline. Start him and your No. 1s with confidence. In addition to the tiers below, you'll also find four two-start streamer recommendations, including a deep streamer; my aim is to recommend pitchers owned in less than 30 percent of ESPN and/or Yahoo! leagues -- there's give and take here, depending on how confident I am in the available two-starter pool. Let's get after it.

*Two-start pitchers are subject to change.

Start!

Adam Wainwright: Mon-@CIN (Cueto), Sun-@PIT (Volquez)
Stephen Strasburg: Mon-@NYM (Gee), Sat-ATL (Teheran)
Jose Fernandez: Mon-COL (De La Rosa), Sat-SD (Cashner)
Felix Hernandez: Mon-@LAA (Weaver), Sat-@OAK (Gray)
Cliff Lee: Mon-@TEX (Scheppers), Sat-@CHC (Samardzija)
David Price: Mon-TOR (Dickey), Sat-TEX (Martinez)
Chris Sale: Mon-MIN (Nolasco), Sun-@KC (Shields)
Justin Verlander: Mon-KC (Shields), Sun-BAL (Norris)
Madison Bumgarner: Mon-@ARI (McCarthy), Sat-@LAD (Ryu)
James Shields: Mon-@DET (Verlander), Sun-CWS (Sale)
Matt Cain: Tue-@ARI (Miley), Sun-@LAD (Maholm)
Jered Weaver: Mon-SEA (Hernandez), Sun-@HOU (Feldman)

First Tier

Alex Cobb: Tue-TOR (Hutchison), Sun-TEX (Scheppers)
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Mon-@SD (Cashner), Sat-SF (Bumgarner)
Francisco Liriano: Mon-CHC (Samardzija), Sat-STL (Kelly)
Sonny Gray: Mon-CLE (Masterson), Sat-SEA (Hernandez)
Andrew Cashner: Mon-LAD (Ryu), Sat-@MIA (Fernandez)
Julio Teheran: Mon-@MIL (Gallardo), Sat-@WSH (Strasburg)
Justin Masterson: Mon-@OAK (Gray), Sun-MIN (Nolasco)
Jon Lester: Mon-@BAL (Tillman), Sun-MIL (Gallardo)

Second Tier

Jeff Samardzija: Mon-@PIT (Liriano), Sat-PHI (Lee)
Scott Kazmir: Tue-CLE (Kluber), Sun-SEA (Ramirez)
Johnny Cueto : Mon-STL (Wainwright), Sat-@NYM (Gee)
R.A. Dickey: Mon-@TB (Price), Sat-NYY (Pineda)
CC Sabathia: Tue-@HOU (Feldman), Sun-@TOR (Hutchison)
Dillon Gee: Mon-WSH (Strasburg), Sat-CIN (Cueto)
Alex Wood: Tue-@MIL (Lohse), Sun-@WSH (Jordan)
Ian Kennedy: Tue-LAD (Greinke), Sun-@MIA (Eovaldi)

Third Tier

A.J. Burnett: Tue-@TEX (Perez), Sun-@CHC (TBD)
Chris Tillman: Mon-BOS (Lester), Sat-@DET (Smyly)
Ricky Nolasco: Mon-@CWS (Sale), Sun-@CLE (Masterson)
Nate Eovaldi: Tue-COL (Anderson), Sun-SD (Kennedy)
Erasmo Ramirez: Tue-@LAA (Wilson), Sun-@OAK (Kazmir)
Jorge De La Rosa: Mon-@MIA (Fernandez), Sat-ARI (McCarthy)
Tanner Scheppers: Mon-PHI (Lee), Sun-@TB (Cobb)
Trevor Cahill: Wed-SF (Hudson), Sun-@COL (Anderson)

Not this week

Brett Anderson: Tue-@MIA (Eovaldi), Sun-ARI (Cahill)
Scott Feldman: Tue-NYY (Sabathia), Sun-LAA (Weaver)
Yovani Gallardo: Mon-ATL (Teheran), Sun-@BOS (Lester)
Drew Hutchison: Tue-@TB (Cobb), Sun-NYY (Sabathia)
Brandon McCarthy: Mon-SF (Bumgarner), Sat-@COL (De La Rosa)

My Week 1 Picks

Scott Kazmir, Athletics
2013: 10 W, 158 IP, 9.23 K/9, 2.68 BB/9, 40.9 GB%, 4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

Oakland inked Kazmir for two years and $22 million, a sizable commitment for a starter with only 160-plus innings since 2011. The former first-round draft pick now finds himself in pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum, and he gets two home starts in his first two assignments with his new ball club. How sweet is that? Do yourself a favor and add Kazmir right now if he's still available -- and if his 5.8 percent ownership in ESPN leagues is any indication, he probably is. I'm very high on the 30-year-old southpaw, even giving him a chance to finish the season as a top-25 starter. His velocity returned along with better control in 2013, and there's zero downside if all it takes to acquire him is a simple free-agent acquisition.

Dillon Gee, Mets
2013: 12 W, 199 IP, 6.24 K/9, 2.13 BB/9, 42.6 GB%, 3.62 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

Gee draws the Opening Day assignment against Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals, followed by a second home start against the Reds; last year, the 27-year-old had Washington's number, going 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 27:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39-plus innings. His ownership rates are trending up thanks in large part to him getting the call for the home opener, so now is the time to invest. Gee finished last season on a high note, posting a 2.72 ERA in his final 88-plus innings, and his final spring numbers were stellar (16.2 IP, 14 H, 2 ER, 15 K, 1 BB). Gee was routinely recommended in this white space last year, and I imagine he'll be a popular selection of mine again (assuming his ownership stays down).

Ian Kennedy, Padres
2013: 7 W, 181 IP, 8.09 K/9, 3.62 BB/9, 38.2 GB%, 4.91 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

Kennedy received a much-needed change of scenery late last year, as Arizona shipped the former 21-game winner to San Diego in a rare intra-division trade. Kennedy was better in his new uniform, winning more games in 10 starts with the Padres than he won in 21 starts with the Diamondbacks. His strikeout rate improved from 19.7 percent to 22.5 percent and his groundball rate from 36.1 percent to 42.9 percent, but he still struggled at times with command. Kennedy made six starts in Petco Park, winning four games with a 3.06 ERA and 53:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 47 innings. I'm not a believer that San Diego is the cure-all for Kennedy, but I'd at least gamble on his home starts early on. His second start of the week is in Miami, but that's just as tasty.

Going Deeper

Nate Eovaldi, Marlins
2013: 4 W, 106.1 IP, 6.60 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 43.8 GB%, 3.39 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

Believe it or not, Kazmir qualifies as a deep streamer, but I'm so high on him I searched for a more deserving candidate. Eovaldi throws hard; he averaged 96.2 mph on his fastball in 2013, but he doesn't generate as many swings-and-misses that normally accompany that kind of heat. His swinging strike rate was below league average (7.7 percent), as he only managed 78 punchouts in 106-plus innings. Eovaldi's spring numbers have been much more encouraging, however, as he finished with 16 strikeouts in 18-plus innings. If he can keep that K-rate up in games that count, he becomes a much more interesting arm with his home starts in Miami. He'll need to mix in more pitches to get it done; he threw fastballs 70 percent of the time in 2013.

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