In my article last week, as with the last several weeks, (Links to my past four weeks of articles including the legendary Stormy Daniels issue) I found plenty of pitchers to spot start in the under 50% owned club. However, many of you told me that most of the SP I mentioned were not available in your own leagues. When I thought about it this made sense. Most of us who write, read, and research about fantasy baseball strategy only play in competitive leagues against quality, knowledgeable opponents. So it stands to reason that pitchers available in the bulk of common, average ESPN Leagues, may not be available in yours. This week and going forward I will dig a little deeper to find the guys who really are lesser owned, available, and might just help you win your league. The risk of failure is greater for me of course, but if I write about guys you can’t find what good is my research doing for me or anyone else?
I did have an utter failure in one case this past week. I waited too long to grab a SP for the latter part of my week when I noticed I was losing in too many pitching cats. I went to the wire and it was pretty barren. Just like many of you told me your wire has been pretty barren lately. I picked up Jason Hammel of the Royals to start that same day. Normally, I seldom look at that day’s available starters as there are likely a lot of good reasons that no one has picked one of them up yet. Well, I couldn’t find a good reason to avoid Hammel, as he has not pitched horrendously and had a pretty solid matchup that day pitching against the Indians in Cleveland. Needless to say, I got creamed. I’d have been better off pitching that game myself. Luckily for me, my opponent has had even worse luck this week and I just took the lead back this afternoon (Saturday) as I write this. So, yeah, I’m going to reach down and find some gems for you and I both so that does not happen again this week. I also want to apologize to anyone who was influenced by my recent Ian Kennedy rants as this past week clearly was not the week to use him. I did, and I got burned. Good luck to both you and I this coming week. Time to kick some ass.
***Two Start Pitcher***Nick Pivetta, RHSP, PHI (24.4% Owned in ESPN) @ BAL TUE & @ STL SUN: If you are in a deep or competitive league he won’t likely still be on your wire, but at 24.4% owned it is worth taking a look. What is not to like with the way he is pitching, though he did get roughed up by the Nats a couple of starts ago, and gave up four to the Braves in five innings as well. In his last start, however, Pivetta gave up no runs or walks with four hits and seven K’s going five IP for his 2nd W. Prior to the rough patch, he started the season pitching extremely well, giving up a total of eight runs in five starts over 28 IP. His 28K against only four walks in that same period give hope that we have another pitcher capable of a 9.0 K/9. He is throwing too many pitches to go deep, but that is common among the young arms we are seeing so far. He needs to turn that around to start getting some W’s and QS. Next week he has two absolute gem match-ups against each league’s Birds. First he gets to face the Orioles in Baltimore on Tuesday. The O’s are playing to a wOBA at home vs righties of .305 (23rd in baseball) with a .234 average. On Sunday he is in St Louis where the Red Birds have a wOBA of .305 (23rd in Baseball) and a .229 BA. If you do find him you may not want to drop him after next week. This picture is of Nick and his girlfriend of many years at the WBC last season where he represented Canada. I’ll bet she likes Philly just fine now that Nick is pitching so well in the big leagues.
***Two Start Pitcher***Francisco Liriano, LHSP, DET (25.6% Owned in ESPN) Vs CLE TUE & @ SEA SUN: Like Pivetta he may be owned in your competitive league, so this will be the 2nd and last pitcher I write about this week who is more than 20% owned in ESPN. But if I told you in March that Liriano would be 3-0 with a 3.35 AL ERA and 1.17 WHIP with 4 Quality Starts after his first seven starts for the Tigers you would have called me crazy. The fact is he has not yet given up more than three runs in a game in 2018, yet he is still only 25% owned. No, he will never be the mythical unicorn that was Francisco Liriano in 2006, when he was going to be the 2nd coming, but he is a serviceable MLB starting pitcher 12 years later, and he has two cream puff match-ups next week. First he gets the Indians in Detroit. Those are usually fun games but right now the Indians are playing to a wOBA against lefties on the road of .287 with a .214 BA, 23rd worst in the MLB. Then the Tigers go to Seattle where the Mariners are 20th in the MLB with a .305 wOBA and .237 BA against lefties at home.
***Two Start Pitcher***Tyler Mahle, RHSP, CIN (13.3% Owned in ESPN) @ SF TUE & Vs CHC SUN: I’ve been writing about Mahle for a month now and he continues to get the job done, even if not necessarily impressing anyone as he does it. He has a 44/15 K/BB in 44 Innings so far with decent ratios and three W’s. He’s walked 4 in two separated games but also has 11 K’s in another, so he needs to get some consistency and efficiency as he spent 109 pitches to get through five shutout innings against the Dodgers in his last start. His first start is a MUST-START as he gets the SF Giants in San Fran where they are 20th in the MLB in wOBA against righties at home at .307 with a .241 BA. The Cubs, on the other hand, are playing to a .336 wOBA and .263 BA against righties on the road. I would understand if you wanted to drop him before, or sit him for the Cubs start. I probably will too. He is a ground ball pitcher though, so if you had to use him for both starts there are much worse choices to throw out against the Cubs next week.
Zack Eflin, RHSP, PHI (18.8% owned in ESPN, UPDATE – Up to 22.3% as of this morning) @ STL FRI: The Phillies are starting to get all their SP back healthy. Recently Vince Velasquez came back, now Zack Eflin. Eflin has been superb in two starts so far with a 13/3 K/BB in 13 innings and microscopic ratios. Eflin gets to go to Saint Louis on Friday. The Cards are hitting a .305 wOBA and .229 BA against righties at home, good for 22nd in the MLB. UPDATE: Because his game against the Mets on Saturday was post poned, Eflin will not be pushed back a day, but instead skipped over in favor of Aaron Nola. There has been no word yet as what his next start will be, and if it will affect his Cards start or not. Keep an eye on this as he could just be skipped, or if he is inserted early in the week could even gain 2 start status.
Steven Matz, LHSP, NYM (11.5% owned in ESPN) Vs TOR WED: One of these Mets pitchers is going to make a
comeback, right? I think Matz is heading in the right direction, even though he is having trouble getting out of the 5th inning. He does have 34K’s in 32 IP, and that will get him universally owned once he gets his command and efficiency on track. He’s also walked 15 in that time which combined with the K’s has his pitch counts far too high to make a difference with Wins and QS. In his past two starts he’s only given up 2 runs total in 11 innings. He has a Fantasy Must-Start on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays in New York. The Jays are playing to a wOBA against lefties on the road of .283 (25th in the MLB) with a .206 batting average. Once he pitches a gem, no one is going to drop him. I own him in two leagues. UPDATE: Because the game against the Phillies on Saturday was postponed, Matz will be pushed back a few days. He will now get the D’Backs at home in NY on Saturday. I’m still going to recommend him though as the D’Backs have a wOBA of .288 and a BA of .214 against lefties on the road, which is barely better than the Jays. If you already picked him up stay the course.
From the Abyss: Pitchers below 10 percent owned in ESPN Leagues who can help you in week 7:
German Marquez, RHSP, COL (5.9% owned in ESPN) @ SD TUE: Marquez, unlike his teammates below, is right handed. The Padres are 29th in the MLB in hitting righties at home with a .285 wOBA and .218 BA. The .285 wOBA makes this a Must-Start in fantasy. Marquez has a lofty ERA 5.35 and WHIP 1.68, but that is from three bad starts, all of which were at home in Colorado. All his other starts would have made you glad you picked him up, and now he is in the pitcher friendly San Diego air.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHSP, PHI (4.8% owned in ESPN) @ AZ TUE: Chacin is a mediocre pitcher, but he ends up in my artices whenever a match up like this one comes along. The Diamondbacks are dead last in the MLB with a .265 wOBA and .196 BA against righties at home. .265/.196 is not a miss print. This is not a flashy pick and won’t leave your league mates kicking themselves for not seeing him first. But all Chacin does is stay out of trouble. He has not been torched yet this season, and since his 1st start on 3/31 when he gave up 4 runs, he has given up three runs or less in 7 of 8 starts and has 3 wins to show for it. He only has 2 QS however as he seldom makes it through 6 innings. In his most recent starts he gave up only two HR in Colorado. Oh and look, he is on your wire.
Adam Wainwright, RHSP, STL (5.1% owned in ESPN) Vs PHI SAT: No, he is not the same Adam Wainwright you used to pick in the 2nd or 3rd round. But this is not a marriage proposal here either, he’s already got a wife, and when his career is finally over he can spend more time with her. Until then, even a diminished Waino is better than a lot of other 5th SP out there, and at 5.1 % owned he has been basically forgotten about. He gets the Phils in STL on Saturday. The Phils are 19th in the MLB in wOBA against righties on the road at .304 with a .233 BA. Waino also has a start today in SD if you want to watch him pitch once before investing. Don’t wait until he gets to the fifth inning though as people will suddenly remember who he is. He’s pitched ok in three starts this season prior to getting hurt.
Sal Romano, RHSP, CIN (1.8% owned in ESPN) @ SF MON (Must Start) & Vs CHC SAT (Don’t Start): CAUTION: This is a one start pitcher this week. Don’t look now, but Sal Romano has given up 2 runs or less in his past 5 starts. No, he is not going deep into games and does not have double digit strikeout stuff. In those 5 games he has a 19/8 K/BB in 27 innings pitched and picked up a pair of wins. Yes, he also has the Cubs next Saturday, but they have a .336 wOBA against righties on the road. If you have to start him, good luck, but his other start is a no-brainer. The Giants are hitting to a .307 wOBA and .241 BA (20th in the MLB) at home vs righties. So, like Tyler Mahle above, if you can start these two guys against SF but then cut bait before the Cubs series it would be ideal. If you have to start them against the Cubs too you are on your own.
Here are a Couple to AVOID! I would seriously advise avoiding these starts next week even if you own the pitchers already. Sit em, drop em, but don’t start em: I’ll keep doing this going forward.
AVOID***Two Start Pitcher***Tyler Anderson, LHSP, COL (12.7% Owned in ESPN) @ SD MON & @ SF SUN: This is not because he pitches for the Rockies as both of these starts are away from the mountains. I’m saying no because they are both horrendous match ups for Anderson. Believe it or not, the Padres are actually 12th in the MLB with a .327 wOBA and .246 Avg vs lefties at home. The often weak hitting Giants are 9th in the MLB with a .333 wOBA and .279 BA against lefties at home. It is not a good weak to be a lefty away from COORS.
AVOID – Kyle Freeland, LHSP, COL (11.3% owned in ESPN) @ SF FRI: It stinks when you can’t even start Colorado SP when they are on the road. See Anderson above for the reason you don’t want to see Freeland on your roster next week.
AVOID***Two Start Pitcher***Andrew Heaney, LHSP, LAA (4.1% Owned in ESPN) Vs HOU MON & VS TB SUN: He’s been pitching great lately, and it has been a nice surprise to add him to a few of my teams last week. However, he is still a work in progress after TJ surgery and gets the Astros who have a .373 wOBA and .291 BA against lefties on the road and the Rays who are actually first in the MLB with a .377 wOBA and .296 BA against lefties on the road. These are about the worst two match ups in baseball next week. Stay away. Keep your children and cats in the house. His career has been a roller coaster so far and his wife is hoping they can stay in one place for a while now. Mainly the MLB.
There are definitely a lot of good match ups to pick from this week and I could have added quite a few more. We also have plenty of current year data now to use so I won’t reference 2017 any longer unless there is something relevant. Till next week, I’ll be on the Reddit fantasybaseball Sub all day Sunday talking spot starts and all things fantasy.
If you want to reach me directly email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet me @joeiannone2
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 13th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #120 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 Kevin Bzdek. Kevin is a writer and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Friday morning and his focus is on bullpens.