Daily Starters – Friday, September 28

It won’t likely come as a shock that, as we have one of our final opportunities to stream pitchers, there are few widely-available options worthy of our trust. In his recent piece on starting pitcher streaming options for the final weekend, Nick Pollack identified three pitchers from Friday’s slate who could be available and have some appeal. However, none of the three are likely to be on waivers in deeper formats.

In this column, I typically consider only pitchers who have an ownership rate of 25 percent or lower in Fantrax leagues, and even with setting the bar for availability fairly high, a couple of the pitchers featured here are at least worthy of consideration for your Friday rotation.

If I lower the bar just a bit, another starter enters the picture. Adam Wainwright, who is 31 percent owned on Fantrax and CBS and 22 percent owned on ESPN, has shown an impressive skill set since returning from a nearly four-month hiatus due to elbow inflammation. In 17.1 innings, Wainwright has struck out 18 batters while walking only three, and he has induced called strikes with his curveball at a 24.3 percent rate. He does have a tough opponent in the Cubs, and a formidable opposite number in Kyle Hendricks, but Wainwright could still come through with a good performance, just as he did against an imposing Dodgers lineup back on Sept. 16.

Jerad Eickhoff – PHI vs. ATL (24%)

Eickhoff, who has missed nearly the entire season due to a variety of injuries, has made two relief appearances of an inning each within the last three weeks. He gave up a run in each of those games, allowing a combined five hits. Even if we could expect a better performance this time out (he did get seven swings-and-misses in 42 pitches), it’s hard to see how Eickhoff is going to pitch more than two or three innings. For that reason alone, it’s best to pass.

Joe Ross – WAS at COL (20%)

Ross’ first two starts coming back from Tommy John surgery haven’t been great, but they haven’t been bad. In both his 2018 debut against the Cubs and his second outing — a quality start against the Mets — Ross registered a soft contact rate above 40 percent. That was essential to his success, because he got a combined 13 swinging strikes in 169 pitches. Having to rely on soft contact seems like a bad idea against the Rockies at Coors Field.

Eric Lauer – SD vs ARI (18%)

The Padres’ lefty rarely lasts more than five innings, so he’s a poor bet to get a quality start, and in opposing Patrick Corbin, he seems unlikely to come away with a win. Lauer does have some appeal, simply because he’s been fairly effective for more than two months. Over his last 12 starts, he has a 3.41 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. He could continue to help in those categories, given that the Diamondbacks have scuffled their way to a .288 wOBA this month, and Lauer gets to face them at PETCO Park.

Thomas Pannone – TOR at TB (15%)

Of Pannone’s five starts, four have been quality starts with no more than two runs allowed. In every one of his four quality starts, he has amassed a BABIP no higher than .222, and in three of them, his strikeout rate did not exceed 18 percent. It’s not all luck; more than one of 10 batted balls allowed by Pannone this season have been popups. However, not all of his flyball contact has been harmless, as opponents have launched flies an average of 335 feet against him (per Baseball Savant). Pannone’s 52.2 percent flyball rate meeting up with a Rays offense that has posted a .197 Iso this month could result in a short and explosive outing.

Brian Johnson – BOS vs. NYY (14%)

With a 42.6 percent flyball rate, Johnson is not quite as prone to letting balls get launched as Pannone has been, but he has had his share of difficulties with keeping the ball in the yard (1.4 HR/9). If it seems like the Yankees could be a dangerous matchup, his recent track record supports whatever fears we may have. Johnson has already allowed three home runs to the Yankees over a mere 9.2 innings this season. While it’s an incredibly small sample, it hints at the risk you could run into if you give a rotation spot to Johnson for this start.

Martin Perez – TEX at SEA (7%)

Of 166 pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings, just four have a higher contact rate than Perez’s 84.4 percent. That might not be an awful thing for fantasy owners if he had Pannone’s flair for inducing popups or some sort of weak contact. To the contrary, Perez owns a 41.5 percent hard contact rate, which is more than six percentage points above the major league norm for this season. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Corey Oswalt – NYM vs. MIA (5%)

Finishing off his season at offense-squelching Citi Field? Against the Marlins? Matchups and venues can only do so much for a pitcher. He has yet to face the Marlins at home, but in 8.2 innings at Marlins Park, he has allowed nine runs on 12 hits, including a pair of home runs. Oswalt has generally been too amenable to contact and too homer-prone to trust, and there’s no reason to take a chance with him here.

Chase De Jong – MIN vs. CHW (4%)

De Jong has fared decently in two of his three starts, but he did not last five innings in either one. In his first two starts combined, he was able to entice the Royals into a 34.8 percent O-Swing% and 26.5 percent strikeout rate, and we could easily see the aggressive White Sox chase De Jong’s out-of-zone pitches. He is clearly a better option than either Perez or Oswalt, but without assurances that he can pitch even five innings, there is little point in pursuing him.

Yefry Ramirez – BAL vs. HOU (4%)

At the time of this writing, the Orioles have their starter listed as TBD, but according to beat writer Dan Connelly, Ramirez will make the start. He entered last Friday’s start against the Yankees not having allowed a home run over his previous 17.1 innings, but a pair of two-run homers spoiled his outing. For the most part, Ramirez has done a fair job of avoiding home runs, especially given that he is a flyball pitcher in the AL East. Still, it’s not hard to imagine the Astros taking advantage of Ramirez’s flyball tendencies, as well as his wildness.

Lauer is far-and-away the best choice out of this group (if we exclude Wainwright). If you absolutely need to add a starter in deeper formats and Lauer and Wainwright are unavailable, the only other waiver option who is worth considering is Pannone. Tropicana Field just might contain any long flies hit off him. Tyler Glasnow, who has a 46.8 percent hard contact rate over his last five starts, might not be as fortunate.

Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.

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Tony Disco sort of forgot how to pitch lately but surprised not to see him here at least (13% owned @ Yahoo). Speaking of Nick Pollack’s article, I’m still trying to figure out if Framber Valdez is pitching this weekend… Cmon Astros say something!