Good Morning and welcome to Week Four.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – We all know that as the definition of insanity.
I experience this every Spring in my back yard when I try fruitlessly to stop my local groundhog from eating all my fresh veggie and sunflower sprouts. Have-A-Heart traps don’t work, pouring water and Quick-Krete under the shed where he lives doesn’t work, bribery doesn’t work, and we won’t talk about what my next door neighbor tried which didn’t work either. Right now the little marmot is complaining because I have not opened the pool yet for him. These picks are from his trip to Cancun last season. He likes to lounge around waiting for the plant sprouts to come up.
This week, whether it is because I truly am insane, or because there is nothing but scrum on the waiver wire this week, I’ll be looking upon some old stand byes to get me a good week. We are due for a new wave of pitchers and the way SP are dropping like flies in the MLB we’ll have an influx of minor league talent to sift through soon enough. The cream always rises. In the meantime, we work with what we have. Most of the best ones, the ones we’ve been talking about here for three weeks are now owned in well over 50% of leagues. We have to dig deeper to find some warm bodies. I guess we’ll even have to look at pitchers who have burned us in the
past without admitting we are insane.
One of my favorite spotters this week has been in the MLB for a long time and has terrorized all of us at some point with his inconsistency. Clay Buchholz of the Toronto Blue Jays is trying to prove the last 15 years were a fluke. He had a good season in 2018 and has picked it up where he left off in this 2019 season. I don’t know about you but I’m going to ride the wave, at least until he has to face the Red Sox and Yanks.
So, what is left? Well, in my leagues, the weekly limits are such that an owner has to grab a couple of spot starts each week if he wants to compete for a league title. Last week was pretty good as my choices went 6-3 again as far as Quality Starts (QS) & Wins (W).
This fourth week it gets harder to pick spots as even though we have more data to look at, we have less available quality spotters at the moment. We have both last year’s data and a very small and skewed sample of the first three week’s data to go by for forecasting results right now. Hopefully in the next few weeks things will be less barren on the wire.
Every Sunday I’ll highlight a few of the MLB starting pitchers, owned in less than half of leagues, who might help you in the coming week. I’ll also look deep into the abyss and toss out some SP who have great matchups even though they are owned in less than 20% of fantasy leagues. These are the pitchers your league mates didn’t think about, or even know about, or just plain avoided. With the right matchup, any of them is worth a start. Let’s work on making our odds a lot better. All ownership figures are from Fantrax. All wOBA matchups data is courtesy of Fangraphs.
Samardzija, Jeff, RHSP, SFG (56% owned) @ TOR TUE: Yes, Samardzija has been in my article three weeks in a row. That is how it is with the shark, and the only reason he is not more widely owned is that the downside can be pretty bad as well. 2018 was a season to forget for the Shark, who is now 34. It seems he has been around a long time, and he has, starting his 12th season in the MLB. In 2018 he battled injuries and had the most ineffective stretch of his inconsistent career. He’s off to a decent start this season sporting a 2.91 ERA after four starts with 20 K’s in 21 innings. He’s only gone more than five innings once so far, so getting W’s and QS has been a challenge so far The Jays are hitting to a .312 wOBA and .229 BA so far in 2019 against righties at home, so maybe this start will be even more kind to him.
***TWO START PITCHER***Lance Lynn, RHSP, TEX (48% owned) @ OAK TUE & @ SEA SUN: Can you believe Lynn has 84 Wins in the Majors after seven seasons as a SP, yet he is only 31? We all know he has not been quite the same after missing all of 2016 with an injury, but in the right spots he can be golden. As unlikely as it sounds, the A’s are hitting to a .253 wOBA and .192 BA at home vs righties, and the Mariners are hitting to a .278 wOBA vs righties at home. In his last three starts, Lynn has given up only five earned runs in 19 innings and looks like a prime two start pitcher for next week. Grab him quick if he is still out there. At least it will be easier to keep his wife Lauren warm in Texas than it was last season in NY and MIN.
CC Sabathia, LHSP, NYY (45%owned) @ LAA WEDS: This recommendation may be more about the pitcher than the match-up. In 2019 so far, LA is hitting to a .329 wOBA & .253 BA at home vs lefties, but CC has been lights out so far in 2019, and right when the Yanks needed him to step up. He has not given up a run yet in two starts after starting late from none other than heart surgery in 2019. He’ll be 39 in July and is 3 wins shy of 250 for his career. He has already said this will be the final season of his very storied career. But we are not looking for a keeper here. We just need one good start on Wednesday and he’ll be worth the pick up. But don’t fall into insanity and expect this all to last. CC is not as durable as he used to be, but we are looking for one start here, and I think this is a good one.
***TWO START PITCHER***Pablo Lopez, RHSP, MIA (42% owned) @ CLE TUES & @ PHI SUN: Here is another two start pitcher who has one primo match-up and then another that is not quite as attractive. He is off to a bit of a rough start this season, but in his last start he went his usual five innings giving up two runs with six K’s and one walk against the Cubs. This week he gets the Indians at CLE where they are hitting to a .262 wOBA and .210 BA against righties at home, one of the worst marks in the MLB. When he goes to Philly on Sunday you may want to bench him unless your really need the start. The Phils are hitting to a .344 wOBA and .239 BA at home vs righties. So again, I’m recommending the Cleveland start. You are on your own in Philly.
Clay Buchholz, RHSP, TOT ( 35% owned) Vs SF WED: You did notice that Buchholz has gotten off to a good start again, right? The 2018 feel good story has carried over to 2019. Seemingly healthy, Buchholz is off to a 3.38 ERA after two starts. But this is even more about the match-up than the pitcher. SF is hitting .303 vs Righties on the road so far in 2019 with a .223 average. Last season they were one of the worst teams in baseball against righties on the road with a .287 wOBA. Ride the wave man. Mrs Buchholz is.
Jerad Eikhoff, RHSP, PHI (30% owned in Fantrax) Vs MIA FRI: This one is hard to resist. Fresh off the DL, Eikhoff threw 4 shutout innings against the Mets with six K’sHe lost a good chunk of the past two seasons to injury, but will be a popular add if he is back to 2016 form. Still only 28, he has a shot. This week he gets Miami at home in Philly. The Marlins are hitting to a wOBA of .223 with a paltry .148 BA against righties on the road. I’d take spot shot at this one.
Felix Hernandez, RHSP, SEA (29% owned in Fantrax) @ SD WED: Yes. Insanity comes in many forms. So do good match-ups. Hernandez is not off to a blistering start, but if he was he would not be available here. A few years ago who would have thought he’s be a “spot starter”. But he is and this week he gets the Padres in SD where they are hitting to a .271 wOBA and .219 BA agaisnt righties on the road, which is dead last in all of baseball. If he can’t pitch a QS here then I’ll finally throw in the insanity towel myself. I think he’ll be ok. Felix and CC in a spot starting article. Go figure. Mrs King Felix will be rooting for him as well.
FROM THE ABYSS – Starting Pitchers owned in less than (Roughly) 20% of leagues:
Jeremy Hellickson, RHSP, WAS (21% owned) @ COL MON & Vs SD SUN: No, I’m not telling you to run him out Monday in Denver. I do have a reputation to uphold, but if you look at his Sunday match-up it is a must start. He is on the fringe of rosterable with the right match ups, and has gotten off to a good start with the Nats so far in 2019. He’ll give you K’s and help your ERA. In the wrong match up he will blow up your team. Two weeks ago he blanked the hard hitting Phils for six shutout innings giving up only three hits and striking out six, but with four walks. Then, he pitched a quality start against the Giants, but with no K’s and four more walks. The four walks show how he walks a tightrope. This week he gets the Rockies in Colorado. The Rockies are hitting to a .329 wOBA and .250 BA at home, which is not great, but like any good fantasy owner I avoid pitchers in the mountains. Then, he gets the Padres at home in Washington. The Padres are hitting to a .308 wOBA and .223 average against righties on the road after hitting to a .290 wOBA vs righties in all of 2018. Spot the SD start with confidence this week, but you are on your own in the mountains. His wife Natalie doesn’t mind the inconsistency, and neither should you if you pick the right spots.
Homer Bailey, RHSP, KC (20% owned) @ TB TUE: Put the words Homer Bailey and Joe’s Fantasy History together and you have the definition of insanity, or insidious. As long as he still has a pulse and an MLB job I’ll keep rooting for him to do well. Before him it was Aaron Harang and Eric Bedard who I couldn’t quit, and these are not man-crushes. I like power pitchers, and when they discover their command they are Fantasy Baseball Must Owns. Sometimes though, a player has a serious injury and it derails that power pitcher’s career. But that couple of seasons of great power pitching keeps me hoping they will get it back. Neither Harang nor Bedard ever did get it back, and Bailey may not either, but then he teases. Other than one clunker in week two he has been pretty good in 2019 for the Royals, going 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. In his last two starts, against the Yanks and Indians, Bailey has gone 13 innings with only five hits, three walks and only gave up one run with 12 K’s. That is enough for me to toss him out there against the Rays on Tuesday. The Rays are hitting to a .313 wOBA against righties at home so far this season with a .238 BA. It is too bad he doesn’t get to face the Royals.
***TWO START PITCHER***Erik Swanson, RHSP, SEA (20% owned in Fantrax)@ SD TUE & Vs TEX SUN: Who? Yeah, that is what I said. Swanson is pitching fairly well this season for Seattle as the 25 year old righty is the prime beneficiary of the James Paxton trade. In his brief MLB career (2 games) he has a 3.38 ERA and .88 WHIP. After a mostly non descript minor league career, Swanson shot through the ranks from A ball to AAA ball in 2017/2018, going 15-5 with an ERA just over three and a K/9 of 10.3 for the Yankees farm teams. He certainly did not wow anyone in Spring Training this season but now finds himself in their rotation. However, sometimes spot starting is as much about the match-ups as it is about the quality of the arm on the mound, and this may be one of those cases. First he gets SD at PETCO on Tuesday. The Padres are hitting to a pitiful .269 wOBA vs righties at home with a .216 BA, good for 28th in the MLB. In 2018, the Padres hit to a .292 wOBA vs Righties. Texas is hitting to a wOBA of .334 with a .266 BA against righties away. So, the Texas matchup is not nearly as appealing as the San Diego one, and I am not recommending it as a must spot start. If he is on my roster and I need a start I’ll run him out there though for the Texas game as well.
Adrian Sampson, RHSP, TEX(4% owned) @ SEA THU: Who? Ha Ha. This 27 year old has a much broader MLB history than Swanson, 10 games to Swanson’s two, but again, this is about the match-up. Plus we are at the bottom of the Abyss at 4% ownership. That is “does he have a pulse?” territory. I do think Sampson is better than that though. When he is on his game he is a good control pitcher. He keeps it in the park and keeps the ducks off the pond though he will not net you a ton of K’s. He’s given up an uncharacteristic four HR already in 2019 but should have a long leash. This week he gets the Mariners in Seattle on Thursday. The Mariners have hit to a .277 wOBA and .203 BA at home vs righties so far in 2019, good for 27th in all of baseball. If you are in the Abyss, do what the Abyssinians do. I mean show your fellow owners who has the balls in your deep league. And don’t let him cut his hair. We all know what happens to Sampson in the Bible when they gave him a haircut, he lost all his power. Right, I better stop now. I’m out of material.
That’s it for this week. Picking Your Spots will become more fun after April when we have a current body of work to use as data. Until then, I hope this was helpful anyway as 2019 gets under way. See you next week, when we’ll pick some more spots for the season’s fifth week. As always, I’ll be on Reddit today talking spot starts. If you ask about a starter, please save me some time and let me know who he is pitching against and where. If you want to speak to me directly, my Twitter and Email are below. Thanks for reading.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 18th, 2019 from 7:30-9pm EST for episode #152 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. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Cole and Kyle will discuss the latest happenings in the world of MLB and fantasy. They will take a look back on the previous few days and a preview of the coming weekend. Including spot starts, bullpens, offense, and minor league players.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Cole Freel live on Sunday April 21st, 2019 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #153 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. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. We will discuss spot starters for the coming week, plus a weekend update, and look ahead to next week.