Forget the trade deadline. August is just three short days away, and once the dust settles from all the moves that'll happen early this week, we as fantasy managers will be back to preparing our pitching staffs for the stretch run ahead.
With streaming starters such a popular strategy, especially in this era of limited pitch counts and innings caps, sometimes it's beneficial to know which pitchers face an overall monthly schedule that's favorable enough to generate 4-6 consecutive useful outings, locking that arm into your regular pitching staff so you don't run the risk of losing them to free agency.
Using the same formula that I publish in the Forecaster, here are five pitchers who have especially soft schedules in August:
Michael Pineda, Minnesota Twins: The knee injury that shelved Pineda in late May and early June doesn't appear to have had any lasting impact, as the right-hander is 5-of-9 in quality starts with a 3.12 ERA and 23.7 percent strikeout rate since his activation. During that time, he has the majors' 11th-best qualified FIP (3.05). Pineda has been one of the most reliable pitchers on a Twins staff that should be able to churn through August with greater ease than its July, considering the contrast in monthly schedules. The team will play six games against the Chicago White Sox, five against the Detroit Tigers, three against the Kansas City Royals and one against the Miami Marlins.
Ryan Yarbrough, Tampa Bay Rays: Feel free to pick either of the Rays' left-handed "followers," with Jalen Beeks being the other, but Yarbrough is the one who has averaged more innings (5.3-3.4) and pitches thrown per appearance (74.6-58.8) since the beginning of June, not to mention the one who has been the more effective pitcher during that time span. The Rays face the Forecaster's most favorable August schedule, with six games against the Seattle Mariners, four against the Baltimore Orioles, three against the Tigers, San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays, and two against the Marlins. Yarbrough should be able to provide quite a bit of length in his outings accordingly, maximizing his chances at official scorers' W's in his outings.
Jose Urquidy, Houston Astros: He has pitched a pair of excellent games since his most recent recall from Triple-A Round Rock on July 20, flashing the same elite control he has had throughout his professional career, walking only two batters while striking out 15 of 47. In the process, Urquidy has probably guaranteed himself at least the Astros' fifth-starter role moving forward, even if the team adds a veteran starter in advance of Wednesday's trade deadline. It's fortuitous timing for the right-handed rookie, as his Astros face one of the softest August schedules, including four games against the Tigers, three against the White Sox, Mariners, Orioles and Rays, and two against the Blue Jays.
Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers: With Ross Stripling (biceps, IL) sidelined for what sounds like multiple starts, Urias has a golden opportunity to step into the Dodgers' rotation at a rather soft stage of their schedule. During the month of August, the team will play seven games against the Padres and three against the Blue Jays, Marlins, Padres and St. Louis Cardinals. Urias has a 0.40 ERA in his past 10 relief appearances, during which time he averaged 8.6 batters faced, 36.4 pitches thrown and 2.2 innings. It shouldn't take him more than a couple of starts to build up his pitch count to the point that he'd be an every-start option for fantasy.
Kevin Gausman, Atlanta Braves: He's a tough pitcher to trust, after he posted a 6.21 ERA in his first 13 starts of the season, then surrendered six runs in as many frames Sunday during his second start since returning from a foot injury, but the Braves' schedule gives him quite the opportunity to rebound. The Braves, in August, play seven games against the Marlins, six against the New York Mets, four against the Cincinnati Reds and two against the Blue Jays and White Sox. Incidentally, fantasy managers should keep tabs on the Braves' plans with Mike Foltynewicz, who has a 2.93 ERA and 23.0 percent strikeout rate in five starts since his demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett. He could get another look in the big league rotation soon and could comparably capitalize by facing this favorable August schedule.