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.
It’s been another week of Fantasy Baseball, and the waiver wire has shifted. Let’s highlight my ten favorites, roughly ordered from top to bottom.
Mike Minor (Texas Rangers) – I get the feeling Minor needs just one more outing before he’s wildly owned. He’s sporting a 2.53 ERA with a 29.3% K rate thus far, supported by a 3.38 FIP and 12.9% whiff rate. He’s locating his slider well on both sides of the plate, trusting his changeup plenty as both a strike-getter and finisher, while he’s being careful with his fastball to prevent the longball (5.6% HR/FB rate thus far). I can even see Minor improving as he gets more innings as a starter, since 2018 marks the first year he’s been handed the role since the 2014 season. April is all about getting on the right trains early, and Minor could be leaving the station soon.
Nick Pivetta (Philadelphia Phillies) – The man struck out nine batters last week, displaying a pair of breaking balls that totaled 11 whiffs in 44 thrown – good for a 25% whiff rate. His fastball also sits 94-95 and there’s hope that Pivetta can nail down his command to become a sturdy backend arm as opposed to a Russian Roulette arm on the wire. I’d like to take my chances here while there is still some possible momentum to capitalize on.
Andrew Triggs (Oakland Athletics) – While I don’t see a massive ceiling for Triggs, there is still plenty to like here that should help in 12-teamers. He’s inducing grounders near a 50% rate while hinting at a 30% K rate through his first 10 innings of the year, shifting to more loopier breaking balls that the tighter slider/cutter. He is still prone to poor outings and his health will inevitably keep him off the field, but while he’s in uniform, I’d like to roll with Triggs more often than not.
Tyson Ross (San Diego Padres) – Ross wasn’t even in the link above, but he’s owned in under 3% of ESPN leagues, making me believe it’s kosher to feature him here. After not holding relevancy for years, it might be time for Ross to be back on your radar after fanning seven Houston batters last time out. There’s still risk here given that he hasn’t surpassed a 10% whiff rate just yet, but this may be a steady ramp to success as opposed to a small blip for a declining arm. I’d love to get in on this before a potential start that has the fantasy community talking.
Yonny Chirinos (Tampa Bay Rays) – Today will make an impact on Chirinos’ value one way or another as he gets his third start for the Rays. While I don’t expect big things this early in the year – he’s still getting stretched out as a starter – his stuff speaks to success, holding a 12.7% overall whiff and a pair of secondary pitches that miss bats constantly. With his slider and splitter acting as effective putaway offerings, his sinker limits hard contact and helped silence the Red Sox in back-to-back games. It’s a small sample for sure, though a strong outing today against the White Sox may close the window on adding him to your squad.
Luiz Gohara (Atlanta Braves) – If you’re not in dire need of SP help now, I’d definitely consider stashing Gohara, who packs a solid repertoire of a mid-90s heater, deadly slider that will lead to strikeouts, and a changeup that is still being polished, but works for now. There’s no definitive timetable, though an expectation for an early May return to the majors is reasonable, and he can instantly provide Top 60 SP value.
Jimmy Nelson (Milwaukee Brewers) – Speaking of stashes, it’s no surprise that owners are reluctant to roster Nelson as players are already dropping like flies, filling up DL spots. Still, Nelson is sure to make an impact when he does return in a few months, let it be June or July. Remember, he sported an elite 27.3% strikeout rate fueled by an 11.4% whiff rate, 50%+ groundball rate, and 3.49 ERA with a 3.05 FIP. It’s possible the shoulder injury prevents him from replicating his fantastic 2017 run, though even a dip in performance is still highly relevant.
Jaime Garcia (Toronto Blue Jays) – He’s nothing pretty to look at, but Garcia has the skills to churn out productive outings here and there, taking the approach your traditional craft veteran. The biggest downside is his health, though when you’re looking to fill a temporary spot on your team through the wire, long term health is far from important. He shouldn’t maintain that currently 26.7% strikeout rate, but a 22% mark with an ERA hovering 4.00 is more attainable than you’d think.
Chris Stratton (San Francisco Giants) – It hasn’t been a strong start to the year for Stratton, but considering he’s still armed with a Statcast loving curveball, there’s hope for better times ahead. He can be a decent floor option for those in deeper leagues while also holding the upside for a great strikeout performance on a given day. Yes, he needs more consistency with his slider, yes his success is dependent on fastball command, but you’ll take those warts with Stratton’s job security and K potential.
Chad Kuhl (Pittsburgh Pirates) – This is a lottery play as Kuhl hasn’t yet figured out how to properly meld his swing-and-miss breaking stuff with elite velocity to return consistent results. Still, the tools are there via a fastball that averages over 95mph, and a slider/curveball combination that sit around 15% whiff rates combined. There’s skepticism that the Pirates will allow Kuhl to reduce his fastball usage from 2/3 down to anywhere around 50%, but if he gets that’s green light, Kuhl could transition into a power pitcher that piles up the punchouts. Very few have that kind of upside this far down the chain.