There are a number of TBDs still listed for starting pitchers on Wednesday’s slate. The Orioles still need a starter for Game 1 in their doubleheader at Boston, and the Astros, Padres and Giants have yet to announce their starters. The same goes for the Rays, but that’s true for three out of every five games for them. It would be Jalen Beeks‘ turn to be their primary pitcher, but he has not lasted more than three innings in any of his last five appearances dating back to Aug. 29. Even if Beeks is at his best against the Yankees, it is doubtful that he will pitch enough innings to make a difference for your fantasy squad.
The White Sox also need a starter for their finale against the Indians, and it could be Hector Santiago. The lefty has not made a start since June 6, and his longest appearance since then was a four-inning relief stint against the Royals on Aug. 19. While Santiago has been effective for two solid months, allowing four runs (two earned) over his last 27.2 innings, he has been highly inefficient, averaging 4.54 pitches per plate appearance. (He has also benefited from an unsustainable 92.3 percent strand rate.) Even if the White Sox make it official that Santiago will start, he is not a good bet to turn in a useful outing against a dangerous Cleveland offense.
Of the pitchers who have already been named as starters, these seven are available in at least 75 percent of the leagues on Fantrax. Two of them in particular are worth using, even in some 12-team mixed leagues.
Wei-Yin Chen – MIA at WAS (25%)
Much has been made of Chen’s success at Marlins Park this year (1.62 ERA), but he been just plain good since the beginning of August. Yes, he has had a little BABIP help (.242), but he has struck out batters at a 26.2 percent rate while keeping his walk rate to a svelte 5.5 percent. That has helped Chen to maintain a 2.53 ERA over his last eight starts.
His one hiccup came against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, and while he did allow a pair of home runs, his start was shortened by a fourth inning that included four singles, three of which had hit probability rates below 50 percent (per Baseball Savant). This time around, Chen will have to brave the environs of Nationals Park, which have been favorable towards right-handed hitters. Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner have both posted home wOBAs over .350 this year, and Ryan Zimmerman has a .220 Iso at Nationals Park in 2018. These matchups are a concern, but Chen handled a road start against the Nationals just fine (two runs in 5.2 innings, 53 game score) back on Aug. 18. At a minimum, he should be considered a streaming option in any mixed league with at least 14 teams.
Cody Reed – CIN vs. KC (18%)
The last week of the season is not the time to trust a pitcher coming off uncharacteristically good back-to-back starts. Or is it? Since getting promoted from the bullpen, Reed has made five starts, and while two of them produced poor results, his six-run clunker at Pittsburgh was the only concerning start in terms of his peripheral stats (most notably his four swinging strikes in 81 pitches). He has compiled a 68.6 percent ground ball rate over the five starts, and over that period, only three pitchers have a higher grounder pull rate than Reed’s 68.8 percent (min. 30 ground balls).
Reed has struck out 21 batters over 15 innings in his last three starts, though facing the whiff-happy Cubs in one of those starts helped to boost his strikeout rate. However, his Wednesday night opponent — the Royals — are similarly prone to swinging and missing. The Royals just like to swing, period, but when they do connect, they could ground into a lot of outs.
Though they are a much tougher matchup now than they were earlier this season, I really like Reed’s chances to succeed here. He should be considered even in 12-team mixed leagues.
Sean Reid-Foley – TOR vs. HOU (17%)
Reid-Foley has embarked on a pattern of alternating good and bad starts, and after a poor outing against the Rays, he will have to rebound against the Astros. He is terrific at missing bats when he locates in the strike zone (81.0 percent Z-Contact%), but he doesn’t get enough chases out of the zone. Unless you really need strikeouts, it’s hard to see trusting Reid-Foley against a selective Astros lineup when he has posted a 23.5 O-Swing% over his last three starts.
Yohander Mendez – TEX at LAA (13%)
Mendez kicked off September with scoreless outings against the Twins and Padres and a one-hit effort over four innings against the mighty Athletics. A .158 BABIP and 95.2 percent LOB% did much of the heavy lifting in those starts, and regression hit hard in his 3.2-inning start against the Rays last Wednesday. Though Mendez managed 10 swinging strikes in 70 pitches, he froze batters only five times, while giving up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and two walks.
A road start against the Angels is not a bad deal for Mendez, as he’ll face a sputtering offense (.298 wOBA in September) in a roomy venue. Then again, the Angels went to town on Yovani Gallardo in Anaheim earlier this month, and it’s not clear if Mendez is more trustworthy than his teammate. There is not much upside to be had in giving Mendez a whirl.
Heath Fillmyer – KC at CIN (6%)
Fillmyer has been on a good one-month roll, registered four quality starts in five tries, and three of them lasted at least seven innings. The closest thing to a standout skill he has displayed over this stretch is an aversion to walks, issuing seven in 29.2 innings. It just may be that Fillmyer has reaped the benefit of some favorable venues, making three of his quality starts at home and a fourth at PNC Park. It was against the Twins at neutral Target Field where Fillmyer got clobbered for six runs in 2.1 innings.
Great American Ball Park will be the toughest venue that Fillmyer will have visited in awhile, and he has yet to have a good start in a hitter-friendly or neutral environment. The Reds are in a serious offensive rut, scoring only 13 runs over their last 11 games, but between a pedestrian skill profile and having to compete with Reed for a W, there is little reason to take a gamble with Fillmyer.
Jimmy Yacabonis – BAL at BOS (1%)
Yacabonis has not been bad over four appearances covering 13.1 innings this month. His scoreless four innings against the Blue Jays last Wednesday lowered his September ERA to 3.38 ERA, and he now owns a 26.4 percent strikeout rate and 16.1 percent swinging strike rate over this recent stretch. Home runs continue to be a problem, though, as he has allowed eight over 32.2 innings this season.
With an easier opponent, Yacabonis would be an intriguing option. However, the Red Sox could dispense with Yacabonis quickly. The Orioles’ righty has not exceeded five innings in any appearance this year, so even when he is on his game, he is limited in what he can offer fantasy owners.
Kyle McGowin – WAS vs. MIA (0%)
McGowin will be taking the spot of Tanner Roark, who will be at home with his wife and their newborn son. Across three minor league levels, McGowin posted a 2.99 ERA with 152 strikeouts over 141.2 innings this season, but he has not made a start since threw five innings for Triple-A Syracuse on Sept. 3. It’s not that hard to imagine that McGowin could have a successful debut as a starter against the woeful Marlins, but after having pitched just 2.2 innings in relief over the past three weeks, he may not be able to go deep into Wednesday’s start. McGowin’s name may end with “go win,” but the winning fantasy move is to avoid the risk of using an untested rookie.
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.