Waiver Wire: Starting Pitchers To Consider Under 15% Owned

It’s the opening weekend of Fantasy Baseball, but that doesn’t mean your waiver wire isn’t already a source of help.

Each week through the season, I’ll be looking at the collection of starting pitchers owned in under 15% of leagues (consensus Yahoo/ESPN ownership from Fantasy pros) and pointing out the options to consider if you need an extra arm or two at the end of your staff.

Jake Junis (Kansas City Royals) – Junis was an intriguing option last season, armed with one of the better sliders you’ll see from a player many barely know. His biggest weakness was lack of depth in his repertoire, though reports from spring training are a new knuckle-curve that he’s trusting as he enters the season. If it can be a consistent strike offering, this addition to his arsenal mixed with his fastball and slider should set the stage for a strong arm at the end of your rotation.

Mike Minor (Texas Rangers) – One of the fun upside plays around is rolling the dice on Minor, who hasn’t started a game since 2014. After missing two seasons due to injury, Minor dominated as a reliever, showcasing mid 90s velocity after sitting near 90mph prior. I don’t expect that velocity to stick as a starter, but even 92mph in concert with a good changeup and a slide piece he can throw for strikes will work in a 12-teamer. I’d love to stash him and see how it plays out.

Sean Newcomb (Atlanta Braves) – Need strikeout help with Lamet in your DL spot? Newcomb comes with plenty of warts, including an atrocious 12.5% walk rate fueled by a lack of third pitch, yet the strikeouts will still be aplenty with his big curveball. There’s a clear risk of getting your WHIP destroyed, but there isn’t a safer strikeout play on the wire.

Joe Musgrove (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Now that Musgrove has been cleared of his shoulder woes, he makes for a prime upside play on the wire. Pittsburgh’s philosophy of fastballs inside plays well with Musgrove’s one-seam fastball, paired with good breaking balls to boot. Given the nature of “fewer pitches per at-bat”, Musgrove could turn into a solid QS option as well for qualified leagues.

Mike Leake (Seattle Mariners) – He’s far from exciting, and while his final five starts of 2.53 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 19.5% K-BB rate in 32.0 frames was a terribly small sample size, there’s hope that Leake can give you volume without killing your ratios while wearing the Mariners uniform. There’s definitely value in that.

Marco Gonzales (Seatle Mariners) – There’s been a good amount of talk about the changes Gonzales has made since returning for TJS, including an improved two-seamer/cutter approach that has returned impressive spring numbers: 2.08 ERA, 21 Ks, and 9 BBs in 26.0 IP. This could be a complete flop, though consider the upside if you’re in dire need of help.

Reynaldo Lopez (Chicago White Sox) – It was a mixed bag from Lopez during his 2017 stint, showcasing improved control while sputtering with his breaking ball. Expect the whiff rate to return to ~17% levels on his curveball that will push his K% well above 20%, while his hard and well-controlled fastball should set a solid foundation. His changeup took a step forward as well last season and Lopez has the makings of a stable 5th starter for your rotation.

Joey Lucchesi (San Diego Padres) – So it’s obviously not 0% owned as I’m sure FP hasn’t updated yet, and I have zero idea how this game is going to go, but why not? Lucchesi is the first of the inevitable wave of prospect pitchers that’ll generate hype before their first start and while Lucchesi could easily flounder in his MLB debut, there’s a chance it goes well and he sticks in your rotation. The reports don’t describe overpowering stuff, but instead focus on deception and control, which could play up against a team that doesn’t have any introduction to the young arm. Take a gamble today and see where it gets you.

Jack Flaherty (St. Louis Cardinals) – With Adam Wainwright going down with a hamstring injury, Flaherty has secured a rotation spot with the Cardinals, and you should care. He sports an excellent slider and above-average curveball that will keep the strikeouts afloat, and while his fastball command still needs polishing, the ceiling is high for a Top 50 arm here. At the bottom of the barrel, I’d love to chase that potential.

Chris Stratton (San Francisco Giants) – Stratton has turned from the Giants’ 4/5 starter to their 2/3 with Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner taking extended DL stints, and that locked in role will make him a good target. Hopefully he raises his curveball usage well north of 20% – a pitch with one of the better spin rates around and is sure to continue debilitating batters – while he possesses solid fastball command to make up for his lack of overpowering velocity. That alone should return more beneficial starts than poor, deserving your attention if he’s available in your league.

Nick Pollack is the founder of PitcherList.com and has written for Washington Post, Fantasy Pros, and CBS Sports. He can be found making an excessive amount of GIFs on twitter at @PitcherList.

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If I’m thinking 2018, I’m going with Junis, Flaherty, and Musgrove from that list. St Louis will need Flaherty…..there will be someone hurt or struggling most of the year.