Eickhoff, Conley serve as solid picks alongside veteran Cain
By Zach Steinhorn
Each Friday, MLB.com's fantasy team will devote this space to recommending hurlers set for two starts during the upcoming week. The picks will be tailored most frequently for standard-league owners in 12-team formats, but the occasional deep mixed or American League/National League-only pick will be suggested, as well.
And, of course, the suggestions will be limited to the "close calls." No one needs to be told to start Clayton Kershaw during a two-start week. On that note, let's get started on Week 3 options.
Jerad Eickhoff (vs. NYM, @MIL)
Coming off a dominant outing in which he tossed seven scoreless innings while striking out nine against the Padres, Eickhoff should take advantage of a pair of favorable matchups in Week 3. The Mets rank last in the NL in runs, batting average and OPS heading into Thursday's games, and Eickhoff pitched fairly well against them in his first start of the season -- allowing two earned runs across five innings. As for the Brewers, they rank in the bottom third of the Senior Circuit in both runs and batting average. Having registered a stellar 2.65 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP across eight starts in his first taste of the big leagues last season, the 25-year-old righty should be considered a must-start for next week.
Adam Conley (vs. WAS, @SF)
After earning a spot in Miami's starting rotation thanks to a strong spring showing, Conley struggled in his regular-season debut against the Nationals (one inning, three runs) that was cut short due to a lengthy rain delay. He bounced back nicely on Wednesday, however, blanking the Mets over six innings and tallying nine strikeouts. Conley has far-from-ideal matchups next week, as he will again take on the Nationals before facing a Giants team that shares the NL lead in runs scored entering play on Thursday. But with a solid Minor League track record and an impressive showing as a rookie last season, Conley is worth pitching in all two-start weeks for the time being.
Hector Santiago (@CWS, vs. SEA)
The owner of a career 3.56 ERA and a 8.2 K/9 rate, Santiago has proven to be a viable mixed-league option, for the most part. The White Sox and Mariners aren't exactly bottom-tier offenses, but they both rank in the middle of the pack in most categories. While Santiago is not an automatic pitch for next week, he is likely on the waiver wire in most 12-team mixed leagues and could turn out to be a wise investment, especially for owners looking to gain some ground in strikeouts.
Deeper mixed leagues
Chase Anderson (@MIN, vs. PHI)
Anderson has yet to allow an earned run through two starts this season, and both of those outings came against upper-tier offenses in the Astros and Cardinals. The right-hander's schedule eases up considerably next week, as the Phillies and Twins rank 23rd and 30th in the Majors, respectively, in runs scored entering Thursday. Though his appeal is limited to deeper mixed leagues for now thanks to his inconsistent big league track record and modest career strikeout rate, Anderson might emerge onto the 12-team mixed league radar soon.
Robbie Ray (@SF, vs. PIT)
Ray got the job done against a potent Cubs lineup in his 2016 debut, tossing six innings of two-run ball. He did issue four free passes, however, and will need to fine-tune his control (career 3.5 BB/9) in order to take his game to the next level. The left-hander is a risky play in standard mixed leagues next week thanks to his tough matchups, but he is deserving of a start in deeper formats.
Matt Cain (vs. ARI, vs. MIA)
Although his days as a fantasy ace are over, Cain had an encouraging 2016 debut -- limiting a potent Dodgers lineup to two runs across six innings. The accomplished righty should be added in all NL-only leagues, where he's an intriguing two-start option for next week's pair of home matchups at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. With a few more quality starts, Cain could even join the mixed-league conversation.
Zach Steinhorn is a fantasy baseball writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.