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“65 Mustangs” Pick Your Spots – Week 11 – How is Your DL Doing? And Your Yard?

I finally bit the bullet and hired my neighbor’s kid to cut my grass. That gives me more time to sit at the computer and tweak my lineups one last time. I’m also in three FAAB leagues and all three have a draft Sunday night. Maybe now I can be there early and do a better job of picking and bidding. I did get all my vegetables yesterday (Saturday)  so I can put the vegetable garden together today and this week. I’m sure I’ll have the usual battles with the neighborhood woodchuck and now a plethora of chipmunks who want to dig up my whole yard. Between the two of those varmints they would easily eat all my plantings if I don’t barricade them pretty well.

And that is what happens to our pitching staffs. I mean, I love to spot start pitchers. In most of my leagues I have about six permanently rostered starting pitchers that I roll out in all but the worst match-ups, and then I have one or two more fluid spots that I use to bring in those waiver wire cream puff match-ups. But what happens when that core of rostered pitchers falls prey to the shoulder soreness chipmunks and the strained elbow woodchucks. What happens when your AL SP Tanaka strains BOTH hammies, um, running the bases in an inter-league game. There is no animal for that one.

Well, you spot start more until you figure it out. And that is a good reason to read on as I try to find those few pitchers on the wire who can help you this week. You might toss them back next week but you need to do something while waiting for Syndergaard, Tanaka, Strasburg, Hill, etc. But there are also guys like Kyle Freeland who is only 40% owned in ESPN (People must still fear the thin air) and Anthony Desclafini fresh off the DL himself who is still only 4% owned who may be better than spot starters if you want to fill the spot more permanently. I talked about both of them in depth last week. My newest graduate is Marco Gonzales who crossed up to 55% owned in ESPN after winning his fourth start in a row. The other 45% of leagues must be dead, but if he is on your wire he should be in your rotation. Carlos Rodon should finally get his first start this coming week, and Nathan Eovaldi was not as sharp in his 2nd start but looks to be healthy and has a start today against Seattle. Speaking of trouble finding enough starters, neither the Dodgers nor the Rays have more than two pitchers scheduled for next week. Keep an eye on who gets the call as you may find a last minute spotter worth a plug. Just be careful of the Tampa hybrid reliever starters. Even if one is in your bullpen (Johnny Venters, looking at you!!) he may blow up your ERA in a moment, or at least less than an inning. Go take a shower kid!

WEEK 11 TRIVIA QUESTION: What NL Central reliever was recently inserted into the rotation to replace a legendary SP who has not lived up to his contract so far before eventually getting hurt. So far this pitcher is 2-0 and has a 1.05 ERA since being inserted into the rotation. This lesser known pitcher, owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues has a very accomplished girlfriend as well. She was known as the LG Phone Girl among many other accomplishments. Answer below.

***Two Start Pitcher***Clay Buchholz, RHSP, AZ (33.6% owned in ESPN) Vs PIT TUE & Vs NYM SUN: There has to be a correction coming, no? Buchholz has never been this good, has he? Maybe not, but he is throwing strikes and first pitch strikes more often than at any time in his career as well (67% 1st pitch strike rate). He also has a 21/3 K/BB rate, though he does have a strand rate over 94% which will be hard to maintain in the NL Wild West. Next week he gets the Pirates at home in Arizona on Tuesday. The Pirates are playing to a wOBA of .297 on the road vs righties. Then, on Sunday, the Mets come to town. The Mets are 28th in runs scored in the MLB, averaging less than four runs per game, and lately averaging about one run per game without lineup anchor Yoenis Cespedis who seems to be still a ways away from returning. Be careful too though, as the Mets have compiled a wOBA of .334 with a BA of .258 against righties on the road. I would not blame you if you only used him for the Pittsburgh start and not the Mets too. But that would take some willpower.

Kyle Freeland, LHSP, COL (39.8% owned in ESPN) @ TEX SAT: I’ve talked about Freeland a lot the past few weeks, both in these articles and on the radio. He has been pitching pretty nicely, both on the road and even at home in Colorado, yet as I said earlier, his ownership is still not even at 40% in ESPN. Seven of his last eight starts have been quality starts, and the 8th one would have been as well had he gotten two more outs. He’s given up three earned runs in his last three starts but won two of them. His ERA over the past month is 2.55, and Freeland, at 25 this season, is doing two things I love to see in a young starter, both increasing 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%. He has walked one or fewer batters in five of his past seven starts, and that will keep you fairly safe even in the thin air of Colorado. Nearly all his other ratios remain unchanged from his rookie season. This week he gets to pitch @ TEX Saturday. The Rangers are hitting to a wOBA of .302 and a BA of .218 against Lefties at home. First he has a start today against the Diamondbacks, in Colorado and I’m all in on it. I’m not sure who his wife’s trainer is, but the Mets should consider hiring whoever it is.

Caleb Smith, LHSP, (33.8% owned in ESPN) Vs SF WEDS: It has taken a while, over two months, for Caleb Smith to appear in one of my “2018 Pick Your Spots” articles. Not because he has not pitched well, as in fact he has, but because his match ups never looked all that appealing until now. Maybe I am finally a believer as Smith is 10th in the NL with 79 K’s in 65 IP, and 5th in the NL with a 10.82 K/9. He is also not putting runners on as he has no more than two walks in eight of his last nine starts, winning five of them. On Wednesday he gets the Giants at home in Miami. The Giants are hitting to a .294 wOBA on the road vs lefties. He is not available in any of my leagues, hopefully you play in one of the 66.2% of leagues where he is un-owned. The Yankees, who traded him to the Marlins in November for basically international bonus pool funds probably wish they had him back right about now.

Lance Lynn, RHSP, MIN, (21.1% Owned in ESPN) @ DET THU: Finally, on to some lesser owned arms. Lynn, after a slow start to the season, is starting to pitch like, well, Lance Lynn. His last four starts have all been quality starts, and Lynn has a W to show for three of them. This coming week he gets to face the Tigers in Detroit, where the Tigers are batting to a wOBA at home of .314 which is middle of the pack in the MLB. The Tigers are hitting only .202 over their last seven games with only 21 runs in that span. He is still walking too many batters and even walked five in a recent start that he won, so his command is still a bit of a work in progress. I now own him on nearly all my teams and look forward to this Detroit start. We all know he will not last at under 25% owned for long.

***Two Start Pitcher***Chris Stratton, RHSP, SFG (15.5% Owned in ESPN) @ MIA TUE & @ LAD SUN: Stratton is another first timer to “Pick Your Spots” this week, and I have avoided him myself all season thus far. But, Stratton has two must-start fantasy match-ups next week so I’ll be looking on the wire for him myself. Stratton’s seven wins are suddenly 2nd in the NL to only that Scherzer fellow. Even though Wins carry a measure of luck, they are still a fantasy category in most leagues and it does take a pitcher who can consistently get five or more innings pitched per game or more. That is not so much of a given in the MLB anymore. He has won four in a row and six of his last eight games for the Giants. They have not all been pretty, but he seldom gets whacked around either. Next week he gets the Marlins in Miami where they are posting a wOBA of .291 with a .244 BA against righties at home which is 3rd worst in the MLB. The Marlins are dead last in the MLB in runs scored with 215 runs in 62 games, or a RPG of only 3.46. Then he gets the Dodgers in LA where they are hitting to a .298 wOBA and .231 average at home vs righties. Stratton struggled against LA the last time he faced them in San Francisco, but the Dodgers are hitting 31 points lower at home than on the road and averaging less than four runs per game at home this season. This is a perfect plug and play for both daily and weekly leagues next week.

Brent Suter, LHSP, MIL (13.2% owned in ESPN) vs PHI FRI: I realize Suter is not a sexy pick. He is a five inning starter who seldom gets blown away and has a recent knack for picking up W’s, as he has done in five of his last seven starts. He is also picking up about a strikeout per inning and walking very few. Next week he has a date with the Phillies at home in Milwaukee. The Phils are playing to an MLB worst wOBA of .236 with a .187 BA against lefties on the road. That’s right, a .236 wOBA. If you need a start this one is worth grabbing.

From the Abyss: Pitchers below 10 percent owned in ESPN Leagues who can help you in week 11:

Bartolo Colon, RHSP, TEX (9.9% Owned in ESPN) @ LAD TUE: The ageless Big Sexy just keeps rolling along. This past week he won a game moving him into a tie with Juan Marichal for the most victories ever by a Dominican born pitcher in the MLB. My bet is that he is amped up to get the next victory, and he has a good match-up to do it in. Lately Colon has been alternating really good starts and really bad starts, but such is life in the deep player pool. This coming week Colon gets the Dodgers in LA on Tuesday. The Dodgers are hitting to a .298 wOBA and .231 batting average at home vs righties in 2018, so this looks like a good bet to me.

Mike Montgomery, LHSP, CHC (9.9% owned in ESPN) @ MIL WED: This is the answer to the Week 11 Trivia Question. Since being inserted into the Cubbies rotation after the Yu Darvish injury, Montgomery has made Cubs fans wonder who the heck Darvish was anyway. Monty is 2-0 and has a 1.05 ERA after three starts with a 0.76 WHIP and a 10/2 K/BB. Granted, two of those starts came against the weak hitting Pirates and the other against the suddenly anemic Mets, but isn’t that what a spot starter is for? Pick your spots to use him, then take it to the bank. Mainly, you want a spotter who will not walk a lot of batters and keep the ball in the park for five or six innings. That has been Monty so far. Next week he gets the Brewers in Milwaukee. The Brewers are hitting to a wOBA of .297 against lefties at home so far in 2018. His current girlfriend is Stephanie Duchaine who helps keep Monty warm in windy Chicago. You might recognize her as the LG Phone Girl and a host on People Magazine and Home Shopping Network, among other things like movies and NCAA events.  Yu, Who?

Alex Cobb, RHSP BAL (7.9% owned in ESPN) Vs MIA SAT: Like Lance Lynn a couple of weeks ago, I am ready for Alex Cobb. He appeared ready to break out in 2017 but an injury derailed him before it came to fruition. This start against the Marlins should give him some good confidence in his 2018 season going well. Cobb now has quality starts in 6 of his last 7 starts. The Marlins are hitting to an MLB 28th wOBA of .291, with a .244 BA against righties at home in 2018. Cobb will not be under 10% owned much longer.

Tyler Mahle, RHSP CIN (6.8% owned in ESPN) @ KC WED: The good news is Mahle goes at least five innings in nearly every start. The bad news is that he seldom goes more than five innings either, but that is OK from a spot starter if he still gets you a W and a few K’s and protects your ratios. Over his last two starts he has a 1.80 ERA and has an 11/4 K/BB over 10 IP. Mahle is profiling as a true match-ups pitcher, and I can see him staying on the wire most of 2018 due to his lack of innings and inconsistency. I like the strikeouts though, and will never hesitate to use him in good match ups if he is out there. He is clearly one of my 2018 go-to spotters so far. Next week he gets the hapless Royals at home in Kansas City where they are accumulating a .305 wOBA and .245 BA against righties. Mahle has not burned me yet, never giving up more than four runs in any start since his 2nd start of the season. If you are in a deep league he is worth a pickup next week, and lately every week.

Nick Tropeano, RHSP LAA (6.6% owned in ESPN) @ OAK SAT: I’ve written about Nick before. He can be a reliable match-up spotter, and may even have some untapped upside beyond that. Last week he had a rough start against the Royals but did manage to limit the walks to one and K’ed five in five innings. Before that though he rattled off four quality starts in his past five starts. But right now I like him against the A’s in Oakland next week. The A’s have the 2nd worst wOBA in baseball against righties at home at .288, with a .228 BA. Over the past month they are hitting only .232 and averaging barely four runs per game. At home they are hitting 35 points lower than on the road. He is likely out there on your wire.

Thanks for reading. Good luck this week Picking Your Spots. Until next week, I’ll be on the Reddit r/fantasybaseball Sub all day Sunday talking spot starts and all things fantasy.

To reach me directly email joseph.iannone021@gmail.com or Tweet me @JoeIannone2


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I'm an accountant and an amateur writer of fiction and sports commentary, mostly baseball. I've been a student of the game of baseball since the Dinosaurs roamed the earth, or at least since a few years before the world knew what a designated hitter was. Otherwise, I like "antique" cars of the 60's and 70's and have been a fantasy baseball fanatic since my first draft many years ago. I live in CT with my wife Megan of 25 years, our daughter Caitlin and their (their) cats. I'm also the better looking of the two guys in the the photo.

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