Oh, it is time! Another long winter is in the books, as is Spring Training, and now it is time to Play Ball! I apologize for this article already being 4 days into the start of the season, but c’mon, you know you have not needed a spot start yet anyway, right? We do need to get moving on next week, especially since most leagues combined this and next week as one. You likely don’t have quite enough starting pitching to make it through. This is especially true in Head to Head leagues where you have innings or start minimums, very few two-start pitchers, and an opponent who wants to take you down. Get the best spotters first.
I have a confession to make. In Roto, for the first two weeks of the season, I hardly start anyone. If I own aces like Syndergaard and Severino, I’m starting them. But the last three or four starters on my bench will not contribute to my Live Scoring until after the middle of April. The first two weeks of the season, like the last two are wrought with chaos. Pitchers have not aired it out, nor stretched it out, nor figured it out yet. The hitters have the advantage right now. So, since I won’t even let my bottom three to five starters in a game there is no way I am looking to spot start any either. It is way too early to be messing around with my ratios by starting rusty guys who could get blown out. It takes a few starts for most of these guys to get their routine, rhythm, and command going in the right direction. So, if you are in Roto Leagues, you can stop reading now. No Starting Pitchers! No, not that kind of pitcher!!
WAIT!! I didn’t mean that. Even if one is hesitant to spot start during the first couple of weeks, like I am, it is also a special time of year for pitching. I draft as many relievers as possible, especially CLEWS (Closers en Waiting) with my last several picks of the draft, so I tend to only draft five or so starters. One of the first things I do is look at the undrafted pitchers to see who was forgotten on draft day. I spend April filling out my rotation with one to three pitchers that didn’t make the cut on draft day but seriously should be owned. Some I see already, and some emerge as the month goes on. By early May the new phenoms, or pitchers who have turned the corner are mostly gone, scooped up by guys like me who grabbed them to spot them and then just never let go. So, by early May I’ll be spotting from the usual group of 4th, 5th and 6th starters looking for that cherry match-up where all the stars align. In the meantime, my spot list for this week looks like a pretty good MLB pitching staff. Every pitcher on today’s list has an ESPN ownership level of 50% or less. Why? I just don’t know. Good for us.
HOUSEKEEPING – Aside from my not so perfect crystal ball, I’ll list the criterion I use for choosing spot starters any given week. This list will be at the bottom of the articles from now until the playoffs start for reference. Even if you don’t like the picks I made, the criterion is there for you to use on your own waiver wire.
- The pitcher must be under 50% owned in ESPN Leagues. Services vary, so a player might be 45% in ESPN, but 25% in Yahoo and 65% in Fantrax. So he may not be available in your league, especially if I am in it, but I have to use something and I chose ESPN. Sometimes I’ll cheat and use a guy up to 59% owned if it is just that cherry of a match-up, or I just can’t fathom why the guy is not owned. I can cheat like that because it is my article.
- I look at the player’s recent history (last season for the next week or two), health, situation, and my own history with that pitcher. This part is not scientific, but if he has a great match-up, but he’s burned me too many times before, has a sore (insert name of core muscle, ligament or tendon here), a dead arm, or is coming off a few ERA ruining starts, I’m likely to leave him off the list. But if the match-up is that good, I may have no choice but to roll him out there.
- I research the following: His own history vs that team, stadium, types of hitters, even day game vs night game.
- I research his opponent’s batting splits vs L/R, Home/Away, stadiums, 1st half 2nd half, GB/FB pitchers, etc.
- The main batting criterion I use is wOBA, but I’ll also look at BA, power numbers and K/BB splits among others.
- While i don’t just look for Two-Start Pitchers, when i do find good one I notate it as ***TWO START PITCHER***. I may often however, recommend the first start but suggest caution on the 2nd. Unless you are in a weekly league, you are not obligated to use the 2nd start of a two-start pitcher’s week.
Today’s Trivia Question: What NL SP won 17 games in 2017, only to go mostly undrafted in 2018? Wins are still a category last I checked?
Let’s Pick Our Spots Already!
Patrick Corbin, LHP, AZ (50% owned ESPN) vs COL, THU – If you are in a league with me, don’t even look. He is on all my rosters. Is he an ace? Is he a stud? No. Should he be universally owned? Yes. Last season started much the same way. Corbin starred on my Pick Your Spots lists heavily in the early weeks of 2017. By mid May he was universally owned. People have short memories on draft day, and half of all ESPN leagues ignored him. Who did you draft as your last starting pitcher? If you wait until he fails it may be too late to get Corbin. This does not happen often, but I am not necessarily recommending you start him against the Dodgers on Wednesday. The numbers say not to, as the Dodgers posted a .346 wOBA vs lefties away in 2017. However, Corbin landed the opening day start last Thursday vs a potent Colorado lineup at home in Arizona, a team who posted a decent .312 wOBA themselves vs lefties away in 2017. Corbin delivered 5.2 innings of 2 run ball, 8 K’s, only 1 walk and a W. The Dodgers are without one of their best lefty killers in Justin Turner, and have lost their first two games each 1-0. They will start hitting soon enough, but I like Corbin’s chances here. If nothing else, he would look great on your bench. In 2017, he quietly put together a pretty good season with 14 Wins, 178 K’s in 189.2 IP, (8.45 K/9) and a pedestrian but not ratio killing ERA of 4.03. Where he falls a little short, and this keeps him from Ace status, is that his walk rate of 2.9/9 and HR rate of 1.2/9 left him just below average in 2017 and lead to a poor 1.42 WHIP. Those numbers look much better though had you not started him in the 4 games where he gave up 30 runs in 15 IP and 6 of his 26 HR. Corbin started 33 games in 2017, had 19 quality starts, and gave up more than 5 runs in only those 4 games which included 8 runs in Colorado, 7 in Milwaukee, 7 more at Wrigley and an unlikely 8 at home vs SD. Without those 4 games, his ERA would have been 2.84 for the season, and who would have started him in Colorado or Wrigley anyway? Wins still count in most leagues, and 14 is not a bad number to add there. If Corbin is on your wire, pick him up already, and don’t look back. Corbin better perform. His wife looks athletic enough to take him down.
***TWO START PITCHER***Jordan Montgomery, LHP, NYY (46% owned in ESPN) vs TB MON 4/2 & vs BAL SUN 4/8- This is a Must-Add for next week. Monty’s performance as a rookie in 2018 has gone almost wholly unnoticed in Fantasy (221.7 ESPN ADP). It wasn’t until the end of the season that this rabid Yankees fan really understood how good and how stable a 5th starter he was. He went 9-7 in 29 starts, tossing 155 mostly reliable innings to the tune of a 3.88 ERA backed by a 4.07 FIP. He logged a decent 8.3 K/9, though he did give up 1.2 HR/9 and 3.0 BB/9. If he can improve the command enough to lower the walk and HR rates he moves up a full tier. The Yanks expect to contend so he should be counted on to improve his innings toward 200. But, we are talking about spot starting and he has a cream puff matchup with the snowflake Tampa Rays at home on Monday, the Yanks Home Opener. In 2017, the Rays marched to a .236 avg and .279 wOBA vs lefties away, and their 26.8 K rate ranked 4th worst in the MLB vs lefties away. As for Monty, he pitched to an ERA one full run better at home than on the road as well as a hitting line against of .232/.289/.328 (.617 OPS) His 9.1 K/9 was also a full K higher than on the road. He also gets Baltimore at home in NY next week. The O’s were 24th in the MLB away vs lefties with a .304 wOBA, though they did hit .261. If I pick up Monty, I’d start him in both games. After those games, I’d think hard before throwing him back to the pool. It is scary how much he looks like Tommy John in that picture. (NotOmen)
***TWO START PITCHER***Zack Davies, RHP MIL (30.9% owned ESPN) vs STL MON 4/2 & vs CHC SAT 4/7- Answer to Today’s Trivia Question: Similarly to Corbin, Davies was barely drafted in 2018 (220.5 ADP) after winning 17 games in 2017. He is owned in only 30.9% of ESPN leagues. I don’t think he is as good a pitcher as Corbin, but, again if wins are still a category, could you have used the 17 he posted in 2017? I realize there is no guarantee the stars will align for him again in 2018, but he does pitch in front of a pretty strong lineup and gets deep into games on a regular basis. In 2017 he pitched 191.1 innings and posted a 3.90 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He is not a big strikeout pitcher but gets the job done. He logged 15 Quality Starts, or two less than his number of wins. That is a good example of how flawed both sets of stats are. He gets the Cardinals at home in Milwaukee. In 2017 the Cards had a wOBA of .321 vs RHP away, and the Cards hit .257 with only a .428 Slugging Percentage against the Brewers. The Cubs may seem a bit scarier, but in 2017 they were 13th in the MLB in wOBA away vs righties at .320 and only hit .241 away vs righties. The only caveat is that Davies was far worse at home than on the road, by a lot. His highest park ERA was at home. So, he may be a one start pitcher next week unless he does so well vs the Cards you just have to keep him. It is still early, I might toss him back and only use him in away games until his trend shifts or he gets traded to another park. He had a minor oblique issue near the end of Spring Training but all reports say it is over now. If you need a spotter this week he is pretty safe.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, MIN (36% owned in ESPN) (mostly undrafted), @PIT WED 4/4 – Odorizzi is another decent pitcher who went mostly undrafted. The Twins thought enough of him to start him in their season opener, albeit Ervin Santana was not ready to start the season. Still, a nice honor for the newcomer. His ownership percentage grew 13.3% since his opening day start, mainly because he pitched 6 innings of 2 hit, 2 walk, no run, 7 K ball although he did not get the decision. Odorizzi continued his development in 2017 pitching 143 innings with 127 K’s for a K/9 of roughly 8. He hurled 11 Quality Starts and logged 10 wins with a decent AL East 4.14 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He only gave up 117 hits in those 143 IP. He needs to cut back on walks and HR allowed, both of which spiked in 2017. Next week he gets the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. In 2017, the Pirates were one of the worst teams in baseball at home vs right-handers with a .311 wOBA, good for 29th in the MLB, along with the 25th worst BA of .253. The Pirates hit 56 HR vs righties at home in 2017, good for 31st place in baseball. He’s not going to last long on the wire. Both he and his wife are going to have to get used to Minnesota Springs after years in Tampa. Brrrrrrrrr. She’ll have to keep his arm warm.
From the Abyss: Deep Leaguers and other gamblers, here is my pick for you.
Carson Fulmer, RHP CHW (1.4% owned in ESPN) @TOR TUE 4/3 – Fulmer, just 24, went virtually undrafted in 2018, but pitched better than his final numbers show last season. He pitched in seven games but gave up six runs in one of them and not more than one in the other six. The good news here is that the Jays slashed .245/.315/.415 (.731 OPS) and produced a .314 wOBA (25th in baseball in 2017) at home vs righties. The Jays are also an extreme fly ball hitting team, posting a .426 GB/FB rate in 2017 as well. So far in 2018, after two games the Jays are hitting .115 (7/61). Strike while the iron is hot.
Honorable Mention – Potential Lightening in a Bottle: Yes, they are Mets.
Matt Harvey, RHP NYM, (29.1% owned in ESPN, 220.6 ADP) vs PHI, MON 4/2 & @ WAS SUN 4/8 – I’m Joe and I am addicted to Matt Harvey. Knowing you have a problem is always the first step, right? Maybe I am just an optimist, but Harvey has too much talent to just forget how to pitch a baseball, and he has looked good this Spring. I was not a fan of the Playboy Harvey, not that I blame him, but if this turns out to be a humbling experience for the Not So Dark Knight then I may grow to love him again. He has a two start week, getting the Phils on Monday at home and then the Nats away next Sunday. I’ll start him vs the Phils, who were 26th in MLB in 2017 with a .302 wOBA and .255 BA vs righties on the road, but I’ll reserve my decision on the Nats game until I decide what to do. The Nats hit .286 with a .349 wOBA vs righties at home in 2017, and even an addict like me knows that is a problem. Even if he pitches well against the Phils he may be too risky for the Nats. It is about knowing when to say when.
Steven Matz, LHP NYM, (15.7% owned in ESPN, 260 ADP or mostly undrafted) @ WAS SAT 4/7 – Here’s the deal. I’m not going to tell you to pick up Steven Matz and start him in Washington DC next Saturday when the Nats hit a whopping .289 BA and .342 wOBA at home vs lefties last season with nearly the same lineup they have now. But, what I will tell you is that if Steven Matz pitches a good game today at home against the Cards, he will be one of the most sought after pitchers on waivers. People forget how good a pitcher’s skill set is until they pitch another gem, and then the hounds are released and you’ll be stuck in waiver land. Grab him today. You can even drop him if he bombs against the Cards. If he pitches well, you own him. You don’t even have to pitch him against the Nats later in the week, but you’ll have gotten your Nth SP pretty cheap.
That’s it for this week. Like I said, it will get more interesting once these name players are all owned again, or, um, on the DL, and then we can get into the nitty-gritty. Till then, Pick Your Spots and fill your Rotation for the rest of the season. It is a long grind and like most MLB teams you’ll need more SP than you think to make it through the season. Pick the right ones. As always I’ll be on the r/fantasybaseball subreddit all day Sunday talking spot starts and all things fantasy. Or you can give me a shout at:
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday April 1st, 2018 from [7:30]-9pm EST for episode #111 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Todd Nevin. Todd is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com, and his articles publish every Wednesday morning. Todd is also the Assistant GM of a professional soccer club in PA called the Harrisburg Heat.