Waiver Wire Week 20: 10 SP Targets

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

Aaron Sanchez (Houston Astros, 18%) – After we were paid in full for our hype of Sanchez donning an Astros uniform via six no-hit innings, I’m shocked to see a sub 20% ownership rate for the newest slinger in Houston. Yet here we are, ready to reap the rewards as Sanchez features a great matchup ahead in Baltimore. Our hopes of Sanchez packing his low fastball usage on his international flight came to fruition, maintaining a near 50% fastball usage as he pumped curveballs and changeups galore. It’s a step in the right direction and while a full-on breakout shouldn’t be expected through the final weeks of the year, a winning team behind him as he faces middling to poor lineups should return productive outings for your fantasy squads.

Griffin Canning (Los Angeles Angels, 14%) – Canning hit the IL a week ago with elbow inflammation, but expectations are for the Angels’ rookie to return to the rotation next week. Now may be the time to stash him on your staff as he carries the potential to win weeks down the stretch. His slider’s 22% swinging-strike rate will keep the strikeouts flowing, his curveball’s .167 BAA allows him to feature the pitch constantly to steal strikes, and his heater is good enough to allow his breaking balls to excel.

Jakob Junis (Kansas City Royals, 14%) – We went over Junis’ tumultuous month last week and it’s more of the same, with Junis excelling against a strong Boston lineup, yet failing to show up with his signature slider – it’s often better to be lucky than good. The good news here is Junis could reclaim the feel of that slider once again as he faces a plenty weaker offense in the Tigers over the weekend. Those in need of a decent stream should consider Junis, and if he does showcase an elite breaker, we may still trust him against the Mets right after.

Cal Quantrill (San Diego Padres, 14%) – This option may look foolish in a few hours as Quantrill gets the call tonight hosting the Rockies in San Diego, but I have a feeling Quantrill will take full advantage of his date. His stuff doesn’t dictate the same ceiling as others on this list, but Quantrill’s slider and changeup could provide the foundation needed for his fastball to get the spotlight on any given night. Quantrill has allowed just 3 ER across his last four games, including matchups against the Braves, Cubs, and recently Dodgers. It’s not all smoke and mirrors, but take note – this isn’t a big move that will push the needle dramatically.

Vince Velasquez (Philadelphia Phillies, 13%) – I don’t believe strongly in Velasquez for the long-term, but he’s currently boasting an improved slider that allowed him to earn quick outs against the Diamondbacks and has the good fortune of facing the Giants over the weekend. He’s a clear streaming option that could turn into more, just ensure Velasquez comes with a short leash. It could go south quickly if his slider command fades.

Dinelson Lamet (San Diego Padres, 12%) – We’ve discussed the ceiling of Lamet in previous weeks and I’m shocked I need to detail it further today after he produced it in full on Sunday against the Mariners to the tune of seven no-hit frames and 12 strikeouts. Sure, his fastball command is highly questionable and he lacks a proper third option, but with a deadly slider that creates Jack Flaherty comps, it’s baffling to see a clear strikeout producer sitting under 15% owned. Grab him, even in that 12-teamer.

Dylan Cease (Chicago White Sox, 11%) – This is more of a late-August/early-September play as Cease faces the strong Astros this weekend and may need a little more time to get his footing, however, with enough major innings under his belt, Cease should grow into a formidable starter with an electric heater at his side. His command needs to improve and trust in his secondary pitches to steal strikes in paramount to his success. Still, few arms on the wire carry the same raw talent in their arm and Cease may be worth the stash now for those running out of SPs to chase.

Under 10% Owned

Drew Smyly (Philadelphia Phillies, 5%) – Like Quantrill, Smyly is heading to the hill just over an hour after this is published, but I expect him to produce for owners streaming tonight. Smyly has heavily cut back on heaters in favor of a new cutter he rediscovered during his brief tenure with the Brewers, while showcasing his best curveball in years. His trio of outings for the Phils have returned 20 strikeouts in 18 frames and a date against the Giants should favor the 30-year-old southpaw. Don’t be scared off by his 5 ER clunker last time out – all five baserunners came around to score as Smyly pitched a strong game overall.

Mitch Keller (Pittsburgh Pirates, 4%) – The recent news of Keller’s call-up didn’t send the ripples across the fantasy landscapes as it did earlier this season, but owners should take note. While his very small sample in the majors is far from encouraging, Keller possesses legitimate skills that could blossom with volume in the majors. He pumps 95-96 mph heaters with an excellent slider that will miss plenty of bats, matched with two developing pitches in his curveball and changeup. Just the slider and fastball could return value on its own and keep an eye out if he finds a true third offering. Keller may turn into a difference-maker down the stretch.

Joe Ross (Washington Nationals, 1%) – Many have written off Jo-Ro and label him fantasy irrelevant, but like his older brother did last season, Ross has resurged after years of absence and should be on your radar. Ross’ last two outings have returned zero runs, while his sinker has looked as good as it’s ever been. If Ross can find his old slider, his fastball and curveball make for a good foundation to quickly turn into a solid deep option. Watch his development from afar in shallow leagues, but take note in 15-teamers.

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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Smyly’s shine is ending, I’m afraid.