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
Dylan Bundy (Baltimore Orioles, 19%) – I introduced Bundy to this weekly column last Thursday and Bundy took another step forward over the weekend, pulling in more favor from owners and just barely staying under the 20% threshold. The secret to his success may be his improved slider locations at the bottom of the zone, featuring fewer mistakes in the heart of the plate. The more Bundy can do to prevent hitters from sitting heat the better (Bundy’s heater is returning an abhorrent -10.3 pVal this season) and keeping his sliders down will help punish those out in front. Meanwhile, look for Bundy’s changeup to take steps forward as the pitch could unlock the final gear in Bundy’s machine. If the pitch returns to its 2016 levels, there could be legitimate production heading owners’ ways this season.
Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins, 19%) – This may be the final week of enduring a PabLo blurb from yours truly as Lopez featured a solid curveball down in the zone last week while improving his fastball command on the edges. The result was Lopez’s second highest swinging-strike game of the season, holding off the strong Atlanta offense. With the Pirates and Cardinals next on the slate, PabLo could succeed in both, pushing him well out of reach for your team. Now’s the time to jump on board.
Tanner Roark (Cincinnati Reds, 15%) – It’s rare to see an arm with a 3.74 ERA, 3.44 FIP, and over a strikeout per inning neglected on the wire, but here we are with Roark. The reasons for hesitation are obvious – a minute 7.0% HR/FB that is sure to rise and a 3.61 BB/9 – but you’re hurting for an arm and all waiver wire options are going to come with warts. Expect him to shake off the last two starts of four ER and provide beneficial starts in the coming weeks.
Eric Lauer (San Diego Padres, 17%) – I don’t anticipate Lauer consistently producing through the final three months of the season, though I can imagine him helping deep squads in the short term. Lauer has boasted a 3.81 ERA across his last nine starts – outings that include a disastrous 8 ER effort that inflates his ERA massively. Meanwhile, his 1.19 WHIP certainly helps, his 19% strikeout rate could be pushed over 20% and suddenly there’s a decent arm among a dearth of options. I wouldn’t say his 17% ownership is well deserved, but if you’re in need, this may be your best floor bet.
Merrill Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks, 14%) – It’s a weird time to assess Kelly. His last three starts have seen just two runners cross home plate and owners are peeking out the window wondering if it’s safe to go outside – Kelly held a 4.83 ERA through his first two months, after all. It comes down to Kelly’s curveball. When he commands it effectively inside the zone early and out of the zone late, the strikes pile up, allowing Kelly to pull back on relying heavily on heat and cutters. We’ve seen it arrive a few times this season and while the pitch was there against the Mets and Phillies, there’s concern it’s a mirage instead of a turned corner. It’s a gamble and our fingers are crossed for its feel to stick across the summer nights.
Michael Pineda (Minnesota Twins, 10%) – Pineda’s stock will likely rise heavily after today’s strong performance and you may want to buy. While his exciting velocity from his last start (94/95) wasn’t revisited today, his changeup usage increased, giving him a proper third option to help him get through lineups on the third time through. We’re still waiting for that truly explosive outing to put him on the map, but maybe the velocity creeps up again, maybe the slider is back to its old ways, and maybe that changeup can separate Pineda from a fringe arm to a wildly owned producer.
Under 10% Owned
Danny Duffy (Kansas City Royals, 8%) – This is a legit deep dive as Duffy has been all over the place in 2019. There is one element that has caught my eye as of late though: his fastball velocity. Duffy’s last two starts have returned the highest fastball velocity marks of the year, hovering 93 mph. Keep in mind, Duffy’s breakout 2016 season came with near 95 mph velocity, so he’s still a ways off, though there may be a steady ramp as the temperature rises. Keep an eye out.
Jason Vargas (New York Mets, 8%) – It’s mind-boggling to see Vargas continue this wild ride, but after starting the season with a 14.21 ERA through three starts, it’s been a 2.20 ERA mark through his last nine, even recently surviving a night in the Bronx with three runs through six. We have had no choice but to employ The Vargas Rule on Vargas himself, where we start an overperforming mediocre arm until he hits the wall (inspired by Vargas’ wild first half of 2017). Vargas hasn’t encountered the brick quite yet and we may as well let this ride.
Tommy Milone (Seattle Mariners, 2%) – I feel a little dirty endorsing Milone in any way, but I can’t ignore four of his five starts coming with at least six strikeouts this season, failing to allow more than 3 ER in any game. He doesn’t have the ceiling of others here, but if you’re looking for cheap – and I mean cheap – production, Milone could chip in.
Cal Quantrill (San Diego Padres, 2%) – This may be a bit early as I do not trust starting Quantrill in Coors this weekend, though I was surprised to see the young arm put it all together last week against the Phillies, earning seven strikeouts in just five frames. It was the second start in a row earning over an overall 17% swinging-strike rate and if it weren’t for Coors, I’d be leaning heavier into this pickup. Those in deep leagues, consider adding and stashing now – if Quantrill somehow avoids disaster in Colorado, he won’t be available for long.