Each week I look at the collection of starting pitchers owned in under 20% of leagues (consensus Yahoo/ESPN ownership from Fantasy Pros) with a few extra sub 10% discount options at the end, pointing out the options to consider if you need an extra arm or two at the end of your staff.
Let’s highlight my ten favorite starting pitcher options that may be available on your waiver wires, ordered by ownage %:
Under 20% owned
Tyler Mahle (Cincinnati Reds) – There’s good reason to be repulsed by Mahle in standard leagues. He’s allowed four earned runs or more in five of his last eight games. Mahle is wildly prone to the longball with his current 1.60 HR/9 sitting lower than 2018’s mark. His pair of secondary pitches are far from consistent, leaving his strong fastball on its own often in outings. Despite all these shortcomings, Mahle still possesses the upside to carry his 25% strikeout rate through the season with an impressive 5% walk rate that will tamper his WHIP to an acceptable level. And hey, there’s a chance his deuce and split-change develop further and Mahle improves to his current 3.71 SIERA. With his excellent strikeout rate sticking through it all, that’s worth a shot.
Dylan Bundy (Baltimore Orioles) – I’m amazed I’m doing this but I have no choice to endorse Bundy this week. His changeup has improved (it’s a money pitch!), his slider has a 25% swinging-strike rate, and his four-seamer…well okay, his four-seamer is still terrible and has already allowed eight gopherballs on the pitch in under 500 thrown. May treated him well, though, with a 2.64 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 21% strikeout that may have been on the low side given his 12% swinging-strike rate over that time. It’s weird, I know, but maybe he’s slowly turning it around, eventually pulling back on heaters in favor of more secondary pitches and finally figuring it out. Maybe.
Danny Duffy (Kansas City Royals) – I’m a bit surprised to see Duffy carry a 3.12 ERA through six starts, but there it is. Sure, the 4.92 SIERA is a hint of worse days ahead, but in a sea of mediocrity, I’ll take a chance on Duffy after he eclipsed a 12% swinging-strike rate three times in five games (the same starts where he allowed just 1 ER against the Rays, Yankees, and Angels). There may be something here that will help him take advantage of a weak AL Central division.
Anthony DeSclafani (Cincinnati Reds) – Tony Disco’s love has dwindled by his consistent middling 3/4 ER outings across the last month and this one is a tougher sell. A trio of starts against the Padres, Cardinals, and Mets hinted at better days – 20 strikeouts and just 1 ER during the April 19th through May 1st stretch – and there’s a chance DeSclafani can reclaim the magic in June. After all, he’s still sporting an 11% swinging-strike rate for the year and could push under the 4.00 ERA threshold through September.
Trevor Richards (Miami Marlins) – It’s been a reverse bell curve of a season for Richards thus far, carving through his first three outings, struggling for a full month, then returning back-to-back 1 ER outings against the Tigers and giants. Sure, those are far strong offensives and deserves a full sack of salt grains, though Richards’ changeup has been as good as you’ll ever see it. Armed with the feel for his 50% O-Swing, .179 BAA pitch, Richards could cruise for a while before hitting another wall.
Under 10% owned
Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins) – You know the drill by now. Lopez has the underlying pitches to be successful, but his inconsistency is tearing us all apart. It may never come, it may show up next week and stick around all year. The ceiling is a 3.40 ERA arm with a ~24% K rate as he pumps 94+ heaters on the edges, changeups under the zone, and a strong curveball for whiffs and strikes. The latter has been hung a lot lately, the heater has been far from precise, and the changeup comes and goes. Here’s to hoping he makes the tweaks to finally remove himself from this weekly column.
Felix Pena (Los Angeles Angels) – I’m not a fan of rostering what I call False Starters, but the opener has benefited Pena wildly, pushing him to a 3.42 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 25% strikeout rate through his first fifty frames of 2019. There’s a smaller margin for error given the fewer innings per game and that .220 BABIP is sure to inflate shortly, though his 13%+ swinging-strike rate isn’t disappearing as he does a good job limiting free passes. Throw in a good chance at Wins as he survives the fifth frame and Pena becomes a surprisingly good add for those needing a boost.
Jose Urena (Miami Marlins) – Am I a fan of Urena? Not really. Do I respect that he has limited teams to 2 ER with 6+ frames in seven of his last eight starts? Definitely. It’s a stretch that comes with a paltry 5.71 K/9, relying on his middling .273 BABIP despite a high 55% groundball rate to get by and once the balls start repelling gloves, it’s going to be a whole lot destruction without any strikeouts to make up for it. Still, his roll of the die may be better than the disappointments sitting in the free agency pool.
Trent Thornton (Toronto Blue Jays) – If you need help with ratios or Wins, Thornton isn’t the answer. However, if you’re falling behind in punchouts, he could be your answer. The 25-year-old rookie boasts an impressive 25.5% strikeout rate across twelve starts, bolstered by a strong fastball, a heavy split-changeup, and reliable curveball. There’s plenty of polish left for the young arm, so don’t blindly throw him out there, but he could be a consistent producer in the K department through the season.
Alex Reyes / Dylan Cease / etc. (Prospects) – It’s your weekly reminder that you shouldn’t neglect the current crop of minor league stashes. Alex Reyes could be starting for the Cardinals within a few weeks, flamethrower Dylan Cease may get his starting shot for the White Sox before June ends, the mysterious Zac Gallen is destined to make his debut before the All-Star Break, Jesus Luzardo will make an impact the moment he starts for the A’s, etc. Keep them all on your radar if the waiver wire isn’t fitting the bill.