Low-Ownership Starters for Wednesday

It’s that time of year when teams will be churning through starting pitchers hope to improve their Strikeout and Win totals. Here are my thoughts on some lowly owned guys (under 10% owned):

Buck Farmer (1% Yahoo) at Cleveland (vs. Mike Clevinger)

Just looking on the surface, I would say roll with Farmer and collect some strikeouts (8.9 K/9) and take an ERA hit. The problem is that those strikeouts came early in the season. In his major-league stint in June, he posted 11.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. Since returning, those numbers are 5.9 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9. There’s no guarantee his strikeouts will return.

Additionally, his flyball nature (48% FB%) has pushed his home run rate up to 1.7 HR/9. The home runs have inflated his ERA up to 6.32 with his ERA estimators hovering around five.

With Cleveland hitting on all cylinders right now, the Win is unlikely. With little chance for the Win and strikeouts, I would pass on him.

Luiz Gohara (1% Yahoo) at Washington (vs. Max Scherzer)

Playing Gohara would be a strikeout-only play with likely damage to ERA and WHIP. As I recently noted, he’s just a strikeout play.

The strikeouts exist with him averaging over 10 K/9 almost at every minor league stop. He just posted a 12.2 K/9 in AAA. His problem has been walks which have gone up each level after starting the season in High-A. It’s not a good progression: 2.5 to 3.1 to 4.1 to 9.0 BB/9.

Basically, he showing no signs of control pushing every stat higher. And to make matter worse, he’s facing Max Scherzer, so the Win chances are low.

If an owner needs strikeouts and can sacrifice everything else, take a chance.

Tyler Mahle (6% Yahoo) at St. Louis (vs. Jack Flaherty)

Starting Mahle seems like a safe play for owners needing a Win. The Cardinals and Flaherty are beatable. Also, Mahle should be pitching better than his stats show.

In the minors, his strikeout rate was close to 8.0 K/9 and his walk rate near 2.0 BB/9. The 6 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 are underwhelming and will likely improve.

The one aspect which has saved him from putting up some clunkers is his 59% GB%. I’m not sure if he can keep this rate up. Over the past two minor league seasons, his groundball rate is closer to 40%.

Altogether, he’s pretty meh but few exciting players are only 6% owned. A Win play with few strikeouts.

Tyler Skaggs (6%) vs Houston (Lance McCullers)

I’ve tried to be a Skaggs fan but he’s shown no ability to stay healthy and come back productive. This year, it was strained oblique which cost him the middle part of the season. Before the injury, he posted a 3.99 ERA with a 16.5 K%-BB%. Since coming back, his ERA is 5.61 with his K%-BB% dropping to 11%. The drop is mainly from his 5.1 BB/9.

The walks are compounding his problems because he is a fly ball pitcher and the extra runners are on base when he eventually gives up a long ball.
With all the options, he may be someone to take a chance on … I guess. The Angels are still trying to make the playoffs, so a low chance Win is in play. and he’ll get some strikeouts.

Matt Garza (4%) vs Pirates (Tyler Glasnow)

Matt Garza been the same horrible pitcher for the past three seasons. An ERA over five. Only a 6 K/9 and a 3.5 BB/9. Also, just six wins in each of the three seasons. Owners know what they are getting and it’s not good. Just start him for the ‘W’. Maybe he can get seven this year.

My rankings

  1. Mahle
  2. Skaggs
  3. Gohara (K’s only)
  4. Garza
  5. Farmer

Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Good post, definitely beneficial for us needing streamers in the playoffs. Would you rank Mahle over Jaime Garcia (currently owned in 13% on Yahoo)?


+1 A welcome addition for H2H playoffs and those looking to use up the rest of their innings cap in roto. I was looking for similar analysis yesterday and decided to just hold off to get deeper in the week before I know which categories to go after.