Down the stretch, we’ll be covering the probable starters and highlighting our favorites to stream as you chase down your fantasy titles. The pitcher in question must be available in 50% or more of leagues according to FantasyPros.com, which combines ESPN and Yahoo! roster rates (sometimes exceptions just over 50% will be mentioned if they are really good and should have a much higher roster rate).
Go Get ‘Em!
Merrill Kelly (10-14, 4.68) vs. CIN | 15%*
For only the second time this season, Kelly has put together three starts in a row with a SwStr% of at least 10 percent. It just so happens that those three most recent starts are the only ones in which Kelly has averaged at least 93 mph in fastball velocity. Across those outings, Kelly has a 3.18 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP to go along with 18 strikeouts in 17 innings. Factor in his .296 wOBA allowed in home starts plus a matchup with a Reds offense that ranks sixth in strikeout rate and 21st in wOBA over the last 30 days, and Kelly stands out as the best starter to add on this slate.
Jordan Lyles (10-8, 4.38) at STL | 38%
Lyles deserved better than a 5.36 ERA with the Pirates, but he has wildly overachieved over his eight starts with the Brewers. His 2.51 ERA owes much to an 85.9 percent strand rate and .221 BABIP that will be challenging to sustain over his remaining starts. He has struggled to get swinging strikes since getting traded, with a SwStr% below 7.0 percent in five of his eight outings, so his appeal in this start leans heavily on his ability to avoid pulled flies (16.1 percent rate). That could go a long way in offense-squelching Busch Stadium, especially against a Cardinals offense that may still be adjusting from a series in Colorado.
Drew VerHagen (4-2, 5.40) vs. BAL | 2%
Daniel Norris is actually the scheduled starter, but VerHagen figures to follow him after three innings (or less). They have been quite a tag team, as neither has an ERA above 3.00 since Aug. 16. VerHagen is the one who could potentially line up for a win, and with 25 strikeouts and five walks over his last 23.2 innings, he could help with strikeouts and ratios, too, especially if he makes it at least five innings.
Some Appeal, But Also Some Risk
Anthony DeSclafani (9-8, 4.06) at ARI | 31%
DeSclafani is on a nice roll, posting a 2.32 ERA over his last five starts, the last four of which have lasted at least six innings. He has relied more on a low line drive rate (14.6 percent) than on swings-and-misses (9.3 percent SwStr%) to succeed in these recent starts. DeSclafani will need the Diamondbacks to have trouble squaring up the ball, as they rank in the lowest third in strikeout rate, both over the last 30 days and for the full season.
Robert Dugger (0-2, 4.29) at SF | 8%*
Dugger is coming off a three-inning effort against the Brewers, and aside from his Aug. 29 start against the Reds (seven strikeouts), he has not been much help with Ks. However, in the Giants, he gets an opponent that lacks plate discipline and power. No team has a lower wOBA at home this season, and that has me kind of digging Dugger for this start.
Austin Voth (1-1, 4.00) vs. ATL | 1%
The Nationals’ righty has been good at missing bats (12.2 percent SwStr%, 26.6 percent K%) and avoiding hard contact (29.6 percent hard-hit rate), though these indicators have been compiled over just 27 innings. Also, he may still be ramping up his pitch count after his recent IL stint for shoulder tendinitis. The Braves are also a challenging matchup, making Voth a high-risk, high-reward option.
Dylan Cease (3-7, 6.53) at SEA | 10%
Cease has been homer-prone (2.03 HR/9), but if ERA and WHIP aren’t a concern, he is someone to consider for this start. The rookie has 68 strikeouts in 62 innings, and just maybe, he can keep the Mariners’ run-scoring under control. They have batted a collective .226 over the last 30 days.
James Marvel (0-1, 3.60) at CHC | 0%*
An aversion to line drives helped Marvel to post low BABIP rates in the minors, which helped him to prevent runs in the absence of strikeouts. He held the Cardinals to two runs over five innings despite getting only two strikeouts in his major league debut on Sunday, but it would require a leap of faith to expect Marvel to have similar results against the Cubs. He is a poor bet for strikeouts, and in going up against Kyle Hendricks, he faces long odds in coming away with a win.
Jaime Barria (4-8, 6.14) vs. TB | 2%
Barria’s 4.65 SIERA is nearly a run-and-a-half lower than his ERA, and it suggests that maybe he could be a decent streaming option for just the right matchup. That notion is reinforced by his home splits, which include a 2.38 ERA, a 26.1 percent K% and a .274 wOBA allowed. However, Barria has pitched only 22.2 innings at home (versus 47.2 innings on the road), and 15 of those innings have come against the Mariners, Reds and Tigers. The Rays are a tougher matchup than any of those teams, making Barria too much of an unknown quantity to trust in most situations.
Mike Montgomery (3-8, 4.77) vs. HOU | 14%
The Royals’ southpaw has been particular good at getting ground balls (56.9 percent GB%) and chases (39.0 percent O-Swing%) over his last eight starts, but that won’t help him much against the Astros, who rank 20th in ground ball rate and 24th in chase rate. Given that Montgomery has thrown strikes at a paltry 33.5 percent rate during this eight-start stretch, he really relies on opponents to have poor plate discipline. There’s very little upside with this matchup, and there is at least a decent chase for a full-blown disaster.
Gabriel Ynoa (1-8, 5.79) at DET | 0%
Ynoa has been fairly good at getting out-of-zone chases (32.5 percent O-Swing%), but that’s his only skill indicator that profiles positively. The Tigers are not only a good matchup in general, but their impatience plays right into Ynoa’s strength. That could lead to an efficient outing — maybe even a quality start — but unless strikeouts are completely irrelevant for your fantasy staff, there is not much upside in pursuing Ynoa.
Leave ‘Em Alone
Félix Hernández (1-6, 6.96) vs. CHW | 4%
While the White Sox present a favorable matchup, Hernández has had two even better matchups since returning from the IL in late August, against the Blue Jays and Rangers. He pitched decently in both of those games but didn’t last six innings or tally more than four strikeouts in either one. Hernández’s implosion potential may not be high, but he also doesn’t have much to offer in any category.
Jacob Waguespack (4-4, 4.55) vs. NYY | 16%*
Waguespack has failed to complete five innings in each of his last three starts, and a 7.5 percent SwStr% since July 26 does not bode well in general or against the Yankees more specifically.
Devin Smeltzer (1-2, 4.05) at CLE | 4%*
Smeltzer will likely enter as the bulk reliever to follow opener Randy Dobnak. He pitched just four innings in that capacity against the Indians on Sunday, giving up five hits including a pair of solo home runs. As a pitch-to-contact type who is not especially adept at inducing soft contact, Smeltzer has little to offer fantasy owners with this start.
Eric Lauer (8-8, 4.41) at COL | 15%
This will be Lauer’s third trip to Coors Field this season. Over the first two starts there, he gave up 13 runs in just 5.2 innings. I don’t think I want to take the chance that the third time will be the charm.
Peter Lambert (2-6, 6.86) vs. SD | 2%
Lambert’s nine home starts have produced two quality starts, and those were against the Giants and Marlins. His Saturday opponent, the Padres, has just as much appeal as a favorable matchup, but the odds are still against Lambert having a performance that will help fantasy owners. A pitcher with a 6.7 percent SwStr% and a 40.0 percent hard-hit rate is just about impossible to trust at Coors Field.
*Indicates ownership rate not listed on FantasyPros, reflects ESPN.com ownership rate.
Statistical credits: Baseball Savant, StatCorner.
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.