Good Morning and welcome to Week Five.
This week, the cupboard is pretty bare. Not because the number of decent pitchers on the wire is less than usual, but the ones that are there have mostly bad matchups. The more heavily owned starters must have an easy schedule this week. So, once again I’ll be looking upon some old stand byes to get me a good week. In the meantime, we work with what we have. Most of the best ones, the ones we’ve been talking about here for four weeks are now owned in well over 50% of leagues. We have to dig deeper to find some warm bodies. And we did find some.
As for my Groundhog. He was busy on his computer this week trying to look up the best time for planting seedlings. Once he realized I’m a week or two late he was pretty indignant. Demanding little bugger he is. Wait till he wanders into the next trap I’m getting for him. Unless my neighbor gets him first. That will not be as pretty. I would not worry, he is a lousy shot.
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. Jeff Samardzija of the San Francisco Giants is trying to prove he is at least the pitcher he was two years ago when he struck out over 200 batters in 200 innings. He missed most of 2018 with injuries but has picked it up where he left off in his 2017 season. I’ve always rooted for him to put it all together, and pitchers have done that at an older age than the Shark who is 34.
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, I took it on the chin as my choices went 4-7, my first losing week in almost a year, again as far as Quality Starts (QS) & Wins (W). This week i had my first blowout of the year as well. Lance Lynn was destroyed in Oakland for eight runs in only 3.1 IP. He has another start in SEA today (Sunday) tread at your own risk for that one.
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.
***TWO START PITCHER***Samardzija, Jeff, RHSP, SFG (61% owned) Vs LAD MON & @ CIN SUN: Technically, at 61% owned the Shark is well outside my usual scope of players. My own rule is under 50% owned. But this guy is still available in 40% of leagues and pitching well enough that I wanted to lead my article with him. Yes, Samardzija has been in my article three weeks in a row, and he has not disappointed, posting basic stats and advanced stats all well within the norms he set during his best seasons. He’s fully recovered now and back to where he was in 2017. He’s only gone more than five innings once so far, so getting W’s and QS may be a challenge until he can build up some durability. The Dodgers are hitting to a .325 wOBA and .235 BA so far in 2019 against righties on the road. That puts the Dodgers in the middle of the pack offensively. I like Shark to keep the roll going this week, but if you want to bench him for LA and start him in the next game i understand. I’ll trot him out though. The Reds on the other hand have posted a .259 wOBA and.211 BA against righties at home. This game is a must start regardless of what happens in the Dodger’s game.
***TWO START PITCHER***Tanner Roark, RHSP, CIN (50% owned) @ NYM MON & Vs SF SAT: Roark allowed one run on six hits and one walk across 5.1 innings during Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Cardinals in Mexico. He struck out five and walked one. He has pitched progressively better in each of his three 2019 starts but still has not made it through six innings. He seemed to like pitching in Mexico, so maybe the climate in SD will help him as well. The Padres are hitting ti a horrendous .277 wOBA vs righties at home after compiling a .292 wOBA against righties in all of 2018. Guys, there is not much we can do about it, but, yeah chicks dig the high hard ones. I’m not sure if Roark looks better in a Red’s uniform, but his wife does.
Wade Miley, LHSP, HOU (50% owned) @ LAA SAT: Miley is a two-start pitcher next week, but his first matchup against the Indians in Houston is one to avoid. The Indians have hit to a .337 wOBA and .258 BA against lefties on the road so far in 2019, but the Angels have a .278 wOBA and .225 BA against lefties at home so far in 2019. I’ve never been a Miley fan, never will be. But a few times a year he has a matchup that is hard to turn away from. The LA start is one of them. Miley so far in 2019 is 1-2 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.084 WHIP and has a nice 18/5 K/BB. Looks like he has found his hunting buddy.
Danny Duffy, LHSP, KC (42%owned) VS TB WEDS: I’m not telling you to pick Duffy up to face the Rays in Kansas City, though it could be a quality start. I’m mainly telling you not to forget him. He got a late start in 2019 and only has one start so far in which he gave up three runs to the Angels in five innings. 58% of leagues have him still on their wire. He’s an inexpensive gamble that could pay off. In case you do want to pitch him against the Rays on WEDS, the Rays have a .348 wOBA and .247 BA against lefties on the road, though that is in only 101 plate appearances.
Erik Swanson, RHSP, SEA (30% owned in Fantrax)@ CLE SUN: Swanson hit a speed bump in San Diego last week giving up four runs in a little over five innings. That was the day Franmil Reyes busted out and hit two homers, but for the 2nd start in a row, Swanson did not walk any batters. I’m undeterred though as HR have never been an issue for this ground baller and he is pitching fairly well this season for Seattle. He was one of the prime beneficiaries of the James Paxton trade. In his brief MLB career (two starts) he has a 12/2 K/BB rate, and other than the two Reyes HR has been tough to hit. 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. Another reason I am giving him another shot is that he is facing the Indians in Cleveland where they are hitting to a wOBA of .292 with a .229 BA against righties at home.
Griffin Canning, RHSP, LAA (29% owned in Fantrax) VS TOR TUE: Canning will make his major league debut Tuesday against the Blue Jays. Canning has allowed just one earned run and has a 17:1 K:BB through three starts for Triple-A Salt Lake this season. He’s a promising prospect with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a potentially plus slider, backed up by decent command. He’ll reach the majors within two years of being taken 47th overall in the 2017 draft. He’s got a good matchup to cut his teeth on as the Jays have hit to a .294 wOBA and .222 BA against righties on the road this season. I’m not sure how he got to be 32% owned in Fantrax, other than Fantrax is the home base of many dynasty leagues where he’d have been rostered for two years now. He even has a baseball card.
FROM THE ABYSS – Starting Pitchers owned in less than (Roughly) 20% of leagues:
Daniel Norris LHSP, DET (19% owned) Vs KC SAT: This will be Norris’ third start of the season. He shut out the White Sox for five innings in the first start and got roughed up a bit by that same White Sox lineup a week later. In those two starts, Norris has an 11/3 K/BB and gave up one HR. Walks and HR have been his Achilles heal for most of his career. If he can keep the ducks off the pond and the ball in the park, this could be a big year for Norris. Now in his seventh MLB season, it is hard to believe he is only 26. The Royals so far this season have a wOBA against LHSP Away of .269 and are batting .202 against lefties. Dude, check out my cool Micro-bus man.
Felix Pena RHSP, LAA (15% owned) Vs TOR WED: There is a great match-up lying beneath the surface of this pick. So far Pena has started four games and relieved in one. In his last start he went five innings and gave up one earned run with eight K’s and no HR allowed. In his most recent game, Pena entered the game after Cam Bedrosian tossed one inning as the opener, Pena dominated through five innings of work. In his first appearance with an opener, the 29-year-old induced 14 swinging strikes, including 13 on his slider. The right-hander has a 0-1 record with a 3.62 ERA through five appearances this season. His K/BB is an excellent 28/7 in those games. Pena gets the Blue Jays Wednesday, likely as the starter but there is a chance they use him as the first pitcher after an opener. The Jays are hitting to a .294 wOBA vs righties on the road in 2019 with a .222 BA against.
***Two Start Pitcher***Manny Banuelos, LHSP CHW (12% owned) Vs BAL MON & Vs BOS SAT: Yes!! The second of the famous Yankee Killer Bees finally has made it. The Killer Bees were Delin Betances, Manny Banuelos & Andrew Brackman pitching in the minors for the NY Yankees. Brackman ended up needing TJ surgery and was traded. Banuelos had some injuries and never did figure it all out with the Yanks so he was finally traded. We all know who Dellin Betances is. But now Banuelos is getting his shot starting for the Chisox at the age of 28. So far in 2019 he has an ERA of 2.51 in four relief appearances and one start. The Chisox have been gradually ramping up his innings for a spot in the rotation. Next week he is lined up for two starts. Vs BAL on Monday. The O’s are putrid in 2019 starting against lefties on the road with a .262 wOBA and .214 BA against. That is a MUST-START Fantasy Start. The following Saturday he gets the Bosox on the road. Ok, so the name Bosox makes that a scary start, but if you are a risk taker like I am you’d bank on the fact the Bosox have only hit to a .313 wOBA and .250 BA on the road vs lefties. BAL = Must Start. BOS= I’d understand if you sat him.
***Two Start Pitcher***Adrian Sampson, RHSP, TEX(3% owned) Vs PIT TUE & Vs TOR SUN: This is the bottom of the Abyss with a 3% ownership in Fantrax. 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. I recommended him last week for a start against the Mariners. But instead of starting him he had two scoreless relief outings covering four innings, and giving up only one hit and one walk in those frames. But, that happens sometimes in the Abyss. This week he gets the Pirates in Texas on Tuesday. The Pirates have hit to a .289 wOBA and .221 BA on the road vs righties so far in 2019, good for 22nd in all of baseball. Then he gets the Blue Jays in Texas where they are hitting to a wOBA of .294 with a .221 BA which is 21st in baseball.
That’s it for this week. Picking Your Spots will become more fun next week when we’ll be in May and have a current body of work to use as data. Until then, I hope this was helpful. See you next week, when we’ll pick some more spots for the season’s sixth 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 Show: Join host Cole Freel, and Kyle Amore live on Thursday April 25th, 2019 from 7:30-9pm EST for episode #154 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 Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday April 28th, 2019 from 8pm-9:30pm EST for episode #155 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.
Our guest this week is John Gozzi. John is a writer and editor with majorleaguefantasysports.com.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show Episode #167, 6/23/2019 Host Brian Roach, Jr., Co-Host Cole Freel, Guest Kevin Bzdek
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show Episode #169, 8/4/2019 Host Cole Freel, Guest Joe Iannone
@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.