Happy Memorial Day Weekend! We honor our troops that have fallen throughout history and around the globe protecting our democracy. Thank you for your service and for allowing me to sit in the comfort of my house writing about the hobby and the sport that I love so much. Thanks also to all of you who participate in serving our country now, a time of anxiety in a world that seems close to conflict in many of its corners. We are relying on you once again to keep us safe.
Memorial Day for many of us marks the start of summer as well. Open the pool, get the tomatoes in the ground, fire up the grill if you haven’t been using it all winter anyway. The beginning of summer also means that we are 1/3 of the way into the baseball season. The trends in baseball are no longer slow starts or fast starts, but reality. The position you find your own fantasy team in right now is not set in stone but at this point you know if you need to make some changes quick if you hope to contend in 2018. By July, your ratios are set. If you need to move them now is the time to do it before it is too late.
I had a horrible week picking spot starts in Week 7, so I knew I had to change it up. Then, last week I had my best week yet this season. I went deeper, and I finally divorced some of the pitchers I fell in love with in April and early May. It worked, as “Pick Your Spots” went 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA and a .973 WHIP with 5 QS out of 7 and a 34/15 K/BB. Six of those SP have another start today, Sunday, so the final tally won’t be in until later tonight. But I’ll take that, so far, as a much needed boost to my teams and hopefully yours too. I wrote about a total of 16 SP this week just to put some pressure on myself. You can forget about Nick Pivetta now though as he is owned in 64% of leagues. It feels like a son graduating when one of my spotters becomes widely owned. Well, this is fantasy baseball after all.
Let’s get right to it as your league mates are doing the same thing you are right now. So, Pick Your Spots before you crack open some holiday beers. Don’t worry though, there are a ton of lesser owned SP that have great match-ups this week. My “From the Abyss” section this week has a record 10 SP listed as good starts from pitcher less than 10% owned in ESPN. 10 for 10. Also, these guys are not necessarily recommended for next week, but check your wires for some returnees expected next week. Alex Reyes (who I might start anyway), Carlos Rodon (who just took a line drive to the face), Nathan Eovaldi and Anthony Desclafini are all due back this coming week. There are a lot of good 2 start choices this week as well with a full slate on Monday for the holiday. Watch for Hanley Ramirez too as one of your league mates just dropped him. Too bad he can’t pitch.
WEEK 9 TRIVIA QUESTION: Which Left Handed AL SP, only 30.8% owned in ESPN as of this writing, has given up 6 earned runs total in his last 6 starts against the Yanks twice, O’s, @ COL, Hou, and then the Rays, all poor match-ups on paper. I’ve recommended against him 3 weeks in a row now and he has been ace like. This week he has another bad match-up but I am starting him even though the numbers say not to. Answer below.
***Two Start Pitcher***Tyson Ross, RHSP, SD (43.0% Owned in ESPN) Vs MIA TUE & Vs CIN SUN: Can someone tell me why Tyson Ross is not even 50% owned? This is not a mirage, as Ross was a pretty well regarded prospect when he first came up before being slowed by injuries. In 2014 & 2015 he averaged 200 K’s per season and nearly 400 innings pitched between 64 starts with an ERA right around 3.00. Right now, after 10 starts, he is 4-3 with a 3.43 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, with 64 K & 23 BB in 60 innings pitched. Nine of his 10 starts have been six innings or more and seven of those have been Quality starts. The Rangers even released him last September, giving the Padres a quality pitcher for next to nothing. About the same price it cost me to own him this season. The Marlins are producing at a .264 wOBA and .206 BA against RHSP on the Road, good for 30th (last) place in the MLB in 2018. The Reds are a bit better in 17th in the MLB with a .306 wOBA and .248 BA RHSP on the road. He is likely not on your wire but if he is he should not be.
Kyle Freeland, LHSP, COL (41.5% owned in ESPN Up 10% from last week) Vs SF TUE: This may be your last chance to pick up Freeland before he is owned in most leagues. I almost never recommend Colorado SP at home in my articles but, Freeland is either perfect for that stadium or fearless or both. This season he is pitching well on the road (4.17 ERA) as he has in the past, but he is pitching even better at home (1.40 ERA at home). His ERA over the past month is 2.43. Freeland is 25 this season and he is doing two things I love to see in a young starter. This season he has increased his K Rate from 15.6% in 2017 to 21.1% this season and at the same time has reduced his walk rate from 9.2% to 8.5%. Nearly all his other ratios remain unchanged from his rookie season. For the doubters, he does have a 3.77 FIP and a low .265 Babip, so perhaps a tad of regression is coming. But this week he gets the Giants in Colorado on TUE. The Giants are 22nd in the MLB in wOBA (.288) and .216 AVG against lefties on the road. Freeland was one of my better picks two weeks ago when he went almost seven innings in a win against the Giants giving up just one run. Last week he did his job, going 6.1 innings for a quality start against these same Dodgers. In his last six starts he is 4-2, all Quality Starts and all over six innings pitched, three of them being seven innings. His ownership jumped 20 points to 33.2%, and now another 10 points to 41.5%. Hurry up.
***Two Start Pitcher***Trevor Cahill, RHSP, (19.5% owned in ESPN) Vs TB MON & @ KC SAT: He was supposed to be a two start pitcher this week but today’s start was pushed to tomorrow at home vs the Rays setting him up to be a two start pitcher this week. His scheduled match against the D’abacks would have been a good one today, but such is life in 2018. The Rays have a pretty good .325 wOBA and .275 BA agaisnt righties on the road, so I normally would not have recommended a spot start there, but you didn’t need me to tell you about the KC start. Cahill is on a roll since returning to action a couple weeks ago, giving us a quality start last time out, going seven innings and allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. His strikeout per inning average may not last, but he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any outing this year and four of his six starts have been quality starts. Next week he gets the Royals in Kansas City where the Royals are hitting only a .298 wOBA and .240 BA vs righties at home. I’m not afraid to start him for both games but if you want to play safe and have a flexible roster, the KC start is a fantasy Must-Start.
***Two Start Pitcher***Lance Lynn, RHSP, MIN, (14.2% Owned in ESPN) @ KC MON & Vs CLE SAT: This may not be scientific, but I am ready for Lance Lynn, and based on his prior success in the MLB I’m not sure I’m going to drop him if he truly is putting it back together. In his last start against the Mariners, Lynn went 7 innings giving up two runs on four hits and two walks. He didn’t look great prior to that but he did miss a lot of time. Lynn has two fantasy Must-Starts next week, and I already picked him up wherever I could. First he gets the Royals in Kansas City where they are hitting only a .298 wOBA and .240 BA vs righties at home. Then, he gets the Indians at home in Minneapolis, where they are puttering along at a .289 wOBA and .207 BA against righties on the road. As you can see in the picture, Lynn listens to his coaches intently.
***Two Start Pitcher***Kyle Gibson, RHSP, MIN, (20.9% Owned in ESPN) @ KC TUE & Vs CLE SUN: This is a piggy back on the prior entry for Lance Lynn.If Lynn has two fantasy Must-Starts next week, then so does Gibson. I prefer Lynn next week but I would be nearly as happy with Gibson. As stated above, First he gets the Royals in Kansas City where they are hitting only a .298 wOBA and .240 BA vs righties at home. Then, he gets the Indians at home in Minneapolis, where they are puttering along at a .289 wOBA and .207 BA against righties on the road. Gibson has a quality start in three of his last four outings and is averaging a strikeout per inning in 2018. No, he is not a sexy pickup that will wow your league mates, but if you need a QS or two, this could be your man.
Jordan Lyles, RHSP SD (13.8% owned in ESPN) Vs MIA THU: No, I’m not a band-wagoner. If I was I would have recommended Lyles last week when he was coming off two amazing starts, including a 10K one-hitter over 7.1 innings. His last start was not so pretty, when he gave up 4 runs over 5.2 IP at Pittsburgh. Will he own the 3.11/1.01 ERA/WHIP and nearly 9 K/9 he is sporting right now through the end of 2018? No, of course he won’t, but next week he faces Miami in SD. Miami is dead last in the MLB with a .264 wOBA and .206 BA vs righties on the road. This is a fantasy must-start whether you believe in Jordan Lyles or not. Clearly his wife believes in him, we just wish she would have turned around for the camera.
From the Abyss: Pitchers below 10 percent owned in ESPN Leagues who can help you in week 8:
Tyler Mahle, RHSP CIN (9.4% owned in ESPN) @ SD FRI: Mahle has been a regular in my articles this season with mostly good results. He is coming off three mediocre starts in a row where he has given up four runs in each. But, right now we are looking for one good start. Next week he gets a cream-puff match up at San Diego where the Padres have a .284 wOBA and .219 BA against righties at home. No, Mahle is not a guarantee, but this is a match-up worth gambling on if you need a start.
***Two Start Pitcher***Steven Matz, LHSP NYM (9.2% owned in ESPN) @ ATL TUES, & Vs CHC SUN: As I said earlier about Lance Lynn, I am ready for Steven Matz. This guy appears healthy and has too much talent to stay down. Don’t look now but he has given up one or fewer runs in three of his last four starts. He is still not pitching efficiently, nor getting a lot of K’s, but command is usually the last piece to the puzzle. First he gets the Braves in ATL on Tuesday. The Braves have a .311 wOBA and .264 average against lefties at home. However, as hard as it is to believe, the Cubs are hitting to a 29th place in the MLB wOBA against lefties on the road of .252 with a .198 batting average against them. They come to Citifield on Sunday which should be another good game for Matz. He has pedigree so his ownership will skyrocket if he slaps together two more good starts. Matz’ girlfriend is country singer Taylor Cain, so he needs to step it up before she leaves him in the dust. Talk to Matt Harvey about that Stevie.
***Two Start Pitcher***Matt Koch, RHSP AZ (9.9% owned in ESPN) Vs CIN MON, & Vs MIA SUN: Nope, Koch is not winning your league for you. He does not throw enough K’s and did have a recent 8 run blowup, his only poor start this season. But, he has pitched well enough, though, to get our attention in a favorable match-up like he has next week. In his most recent start he held the Brewers to 1 run over 5.1 innings, giving up three hits and three walks with five K’s. The Reds have a .306 wOBA and .248 BA agaisnt righties on the road. The Marlins are horrible on the road vs righties with a lowly .264 wOBA and .206 BA against. I consider both of these low end must-starts. That is right Matt, chicks dig the high hard one, keep it up.
***Two Start Pitcher***Dan Straily, RHSP MIA (6.0% owned in ESPN) @ SD TUES, & @ AZ SUN: By now we know who Dan Straily is. He is a journeyman RHSP who when the match up is right will give you a quality start. He got off to a late start in 2018, but in his last three starts he has 16 K’s in 18 IP, and has given up 3 runs in 18 innings, albeit with 9 walks. So, his 3.12 ERA may not last with his 1.38 WIP, but he has two fantasy must-start match ups next week. He gets the Padres in SD on Tuesday where they have a .284 wOBA and .219 BA against righties at home. Then he gets the D’Backs who, believe it or not, are dead last in the NL with a .255 wOBA and .189 average against righties at home. Those are not miss-prints. Look for Straily now if you need two starts next week.
Wade LeBlanc, LHSP, SEA (8.3% owned in ESPN) Vs TEX THU: As Leblanc gets stretched out, and thus exposed, his numbers should regress back to his mean. In the meantime though, Leblanc has a 2.70 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. The last time he gave up more than two runs in a game was 4/23 when he gave up four. This may not last, however, Leblanc has the luxury of facing the last place team in the MLB against lefties on the road in the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have a wOBA of .244 and a .190 average against lefties away from Texas. Nail this one.
Marco Gonzales, RHSP, SEA (6.6% owned in ESPN) Vs TEX MON & Vs TB SAT: I didn’t advertise Gonzales as a two start pitcher because while his 1st start against Texas is a fantasy Must-Start, his next start on Saturday vs the Rays is not as pretty. If you had to have two start pitcher and had no way to pull him after one start it is not the end of the world as he has been pitching pretty well lately. His command has improved tremendously after a rough patch earlier in May. In his last start, Gonzales threw each of his four pitches for strikes with regularity He needs the ability to change speeds and rely on each different pitch for strikes in different counts, as his fastball sits in the low-90s and can’t be a swing-and-miss threat without breaking and off-speed pitches to keep hitters off balance. The Rangers are batting to a wOBA of .244 with a .190 BA against lefties on the road, good for dead last in the MLB. His second start against the Rays may be tougher as the Rays are batting to a .347 WOBA and .273 BA vs lefties on the road. Yup, he looks happy.
Bottom Feeding: I’m not hanging my hat on this next group, but their match-ups are premium if you are a risk taker with a need.
Clay Bucholz, RHSP, AZ (5.2% owned in ESPN) Vs MIA FRI: I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to Bucholz. I don’t doubt if some of you have forgotten more than you ever knew about him. But, he is pitching again and this week he has a date with the Marlins in the desert on Friday. The Marlins are playing to a dead last in the MLB .264 wOBA and .206 BA against righties on the road. If there were ever a time to use Bucholz……….
Ty Blach, LHSP, SF (4.4% owned in ESPN) Vs PHI SAT: No, Ty Blach will not likely win your league for you or even help your strikeout totals, but if you need a start and the cupboard is bare, this might be your choice. Blach gets the Phillies on Saturday where they are hitting to a .258 wOBA and .186 Batting average against lefties on the road.
Andrew Suarez, LHSP, SF (1.3% owned in ESPN) Vs PHI SUN: Yup, we are reaching here. Suarez is not that great of a pitcher so far in 2018. However, he has the same match-up as Blach above, so you could do worse. However, you don’t want Suarez for his Monday start at Colorado. Do I need to explain that?
Jason Vargas, LHSP, NYM (2.1% owned in ESPN) Vs CHC THU: Ah, the Met’s savior. The man who made Matt Harvey expendable. Vargas is finally starting to contribute, and this week he gets a nice match-up with the Cubbies at home in Queens on Thursday. The Cubs one weakness is against lefties, especially on the road where they are playing to a .252 wOBA and .198 average against. Again, this is for those of you who don’t have much to choose from.
Matt Harvey, RHSP, CIN (2.1% owned in ESPN) @ SD SAT: Yeah he is pitching in Colorado today, so keep an eye on his bruised ego after that start. But pitching in SD seems to be a soothing ointment for a lot of embattled pitchers. Harvey actuall pitched a pretty good game the other day with a quality start against the Pirates giving up only one run in six innings for a QS and a W. He K’ed 5 and only walked two in the effort. The Padres have a home wOBA vs righties of .284 with a .219 BA, good for 29th in the MLB. Do you think Harvey is done? I don’t. Maybe with Super Models but not hurling baseballs.
AVOID ME: Pitchers pitching well but with poor match-ups this week: Yes, Heaney is the trick trivia question answer.
Andrew Heaney, LHSP, LAA (30.8% Owned in ESPN) @ DET THU: Last week I joked that Two weeks ago I said to avoid Heaney at all costs and that on paper he had “the worst two match ups in baseball” I said “Stay away. Keep your children and cats in the house.” He notched two pretty awesome starts that week giving up just one earned run with 17 K’s in 14 IP against the Stros and Rays. So hopefully you did not listen to me. Last week he got to face the Yankees and their tornado of a line up so I recommended against him again. The Yanks were hitting to a wOBA of .343 and a .239 average against lefties at home, so what did Heaney do but give up only one run against them in 6.1 innings of a no decision with five K’s giving him a sparkling 1.62 ERA in 11.1 innings against the Yanks so far this season. Heaney has given up 6 earned runs total in his last 6 starts against the Yanks twice, O’s, @ COL, Hou, and then the Rays, all poor match-ups on paper. This week he gets the Tigers @ DET where they are hitting to a .329 wOBA and .274 BA against Lefties at Home, good for 11th in baseball. So, on paper, I should not be recommending him. Do what you want. I’m starting him everywhere I own him and I am shocked he is still only 30.8% owned in ESPN. His wife loves roller coasters so she loves all this backwards attention I am giving her husband.
***Two Start Pitcher***James Shields, RHSP, CWS (1.9% owned in ESPN) Vs BAL & @ DET: Shields is pitching pretty well for me right now. However I’ve been talking about breaking up sooner with some of these pitchers that you don’t plan on settling down with long term. Shields has a good start today, but next week he gets the Brewers in Chicago. The Brewers are hitting to a wOBA of .329 and have a .267 BA against righties on the road in 2018. Let “Big Game James” sit this one out.
Alex Reyes, RHSP, STL, (48% owned in ESPN) @ MIL WED: Pick him up already but don’t start him net week. It is just too soon, plus the Suds are hitting to a respectable .309 wOBA at home vs righties. Let him sit for a week.
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.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 27th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #122 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.