Each week I look at the collection of starting pitchers owned in under 30% 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, roughly ordered from top to bottom:
Under 30% Owned
German Marquez (Colorado Rockies) – It’s a pretty easy case for Marquez: He’s averaged over eight strikeouts per game across his last five starts – including three games in Coors. He’s improved his curveball, earned a 10%+ swinging strike rate in each game and while he has run into some trouble along the way, it’s a 3.15 ERA with a 30% strikeout rate and 5.5% walk rate in his last seven outings. Take a chance.
Derek Holland (San Francisco Giants) – Ownage rates are steadily climbing for Holland and like Trevor Cahill, I expect Holland to be off this list shortly. Grab him while you still can as he’s boasting a 2.73 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 29% K rate, and 8% BB rate across his last 56.0 frames. A shift on the rubber plus a greater emphasis on breaking balls did wonders for Holland and with a firm spot in the rotation, he can do wonders for your team as well.
Mike Fiers (Oakland Athletics) – His move to the Athletics was a little disappointing as his schedule was as easy as they come in Detroit, but after cruising through the Dodgers lineup, Fiers has a cushy four-game stretch ahead against the Mariners twice, Rangers, and Twins. When a pitcher is holding a 2.51 ERA in his last 13 starts, you let that ride with a good schedule.
Joe Musgrove (Pittsburgh Pirates) – You may be a little disappointed with Musgrove’s recent strikeout performances, tallying just two punchouts in each of his last three games. However, he’s only allowed 4 ER in that stretch, going seven innings strong each time as well. Considering two of those starts came in Coors and against the Tribe, Musgrove may be able to continue producing solid ratios while upside for more strikeout production is still there.
Joey Lucchesi (San Diego Padres) – Since landing on the DL in the middle of May, we’ve been waiting for Lucchesi to return to form. We finally got a hint of his spring success last time out, earning nine strikeouts in Wrigley, with his famous “Churve” racking up whiffs after losing its feel over the past month. It’s now a 3.48 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with a 25% K rate and 7.5% BB rate across his last seven starts. This may be one of the sneakier adds around for your playoffs.
Mike Minor (Texas Rangers) – Minor was a dark horse sleeper for me entering the season and while it took him a little longer than I would have liked to get going, his last nine starts have served owners well: 3.12 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 21% K rate, and 5.5% BB rate. Those play in any league, especially with a near 6.0 IPS in that time. He gets the Yankees next, so maybe wait until after that start for a pickup, but keep your eye on Minor.
Trevor Richards (Miami Marlins) – When it comes to searching for upside, I love chasing pitches instead of pitchers and Richards has one of the more intriguing offerings around in his changeup. The slow ball currently holds a 24% whiff rate and massive 51% O-Swing, limiting batters to just a .162 BAA across 450+ thrown this season. The best part? He’s increased its usage from ~20% to 40% across his last seven starts, with each of his last five outings returning double-digit whiff rates. There’s promise here, though be wary of the floor that comes with a horrendous heater and even worse breaking ball.
Wade LeBlanc (Seattle Mariners) – LeBlanc is far from the sexiest option on this list, though it’s hard to argue with an arm holding a 3.81 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in August. There are signs that times will get worse for LeBlanc, but for those looking for a decent floor come September, LeBlanc may be a guy to consider for some cheap Wins.
Matt Harvey (Cincinnati Reds) – I don’t expect Harvey to be a Red for much longer, but he’s sure to carry his improved velocity with him wherever he goes. That velocity allowed him to carry a strong five-game stretch of just six total ERs leading up to the All-Star Break and while he’s briefly stumbled, there’s still upside in the tank, which came out in his July 28th start against the Phillies (17.4% swinging strike rate!). It’s a bit of a longshot, but there may be value to be found here.
Under 10% Owned
Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins) – I have to say, I’m intrigued with Lopez. His sinker has a marvelous 40% O-Swing, inducing swings off the inside corner to RHB constantly, promoting weak contact and 54% grounders, while limiting walks to just a 6% rate. It adds up to a marvelous 1.13 WHIP in his brief 2018 season, though he’ll have to limit the HRs if he wants to hold a competitive ERA. Meanwhile, his changeup hints at higher strikeout days ahead, boasting a fantastic 47% O-Swing that betrays its sub 15% whiff rate. It’s a lottery pick, but there is a path to consistent success here.