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.
Note: This week, I’m going to focus more on the sub 20% and sub 10% owned arms as I expect many of the sub 30% arms are snatched up in your leagues, including Mike Minor, Michael Pineda, and Max Fried.
Let’s highlight my ten favorite starting pitcher options that may be available on your waiver wires, roughly ordered from top to bottom:
Under 20% Owned
Caleb Smith (Miami Marlins) – I refuse to believe in the current 10% ownership listed for Smith, but until he’s universally praised, I’ll be forced to mention him weekly. Smith’s taken a step forward with his heater, sitting just under a 10% swinging-strike rate with his four-seamer, while earning a 17%+ swinging-strike rate on both his slider and changeup. Those worried about his future schedule should look at the teams he’s faced thus far – Mets, Braves, Phillies – and note the 2.65 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 32% strikeout rate he produced regardless. There may be some issues on the road with his history of longballs, but his strikeout potential (14.3% overall swinging-strike rate!) paired with a 3.26 FIP should not be ignored.
Frankie Montas (Oakland Athletics) – We wanted more out of Montas against Baltimore – a 4.50 ERA and three strikeouts are mediocre at best – but there’s still an opportunity for Montas to form into a dependable asset through the year. He’s still pumping 96+ heat with a heavy sinker, mixed with a new splitter that has missed bats this year at an 18% rate and a developing slider that has returned a .143 BAA thus far. He’ll need to get the breaker over the plate more often and work toward setting up his splitter, but these changes are well possible over the full year. Montas may not be the best pickup at this very moment – today’s start against the Astros isn’t favorable – but keep him on your radar moving forward.
Luke Weaver (Arizona Diamondbacks) – I’m not a huge fan of Weaver – I actually like him a decent amount less than a good amount of names here – but there’s a chance that Weaver’s recent outing against the Padres – 6.1 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 0 BBs, 8 Ks – is a sign of days to come. His changeup was beautifully located at the bottom of the zone, earning strikes on 18 of 23 thrown. Meanwhile, his four-seamer paired well with the slow ball, and was reinforced by cutters in the zone. It could be a turning point, it could fall apart quickly against the Braves next. If he survives Atlanta, be ready to snatch Luke for a start against the Pirates next week.
Under 10% Owned
CC Sabathia (New York Yankees) – Sabathia returned over the weekend and gave trusting owners five sparkling innings on just 62 pitches. Expect the pitch counts to steadily rise close to 100 as the season continues, giving an opportunity for owners to steal cheap wins along the way. A cushy schedule awaits – Royals then Angels – and while his strikeout numbers will be tame, there’s plenty of value in a possible pair of wins at decent ratios.
Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins) – I want to be more excited about PabLo’s fantastic 23% K-BB rate, with a .289 FIP stemming from terrible luck in BABIP (.386) and LOB rate (61%). Those numbers alone warrant a pickup consideration, though I won’t be incredibly hyped until he polishes his overall command. His changeup and curveball hung a decent amount against the Braves, while his fastball isn’t dominating both sides of the plate quite yet. With his K/BB rate, these tweaks can propel PabLo quickly, though, and you may want to get in on the ground floor.
Clay Buchholz (Toronto Blue Jays) – I didn’t expect Buchholz to succeed from the very beginning, but in his first start of the year, Buchholz impressed with six frames of just one-run ball. The few strikeouts are a bit worrisome, though his .300 BABIP didn’t suggest an exuberant amount of luck. Meanwhile, his cutter – the pitch that elevated Buchholz to a surprise arm in 2018 – was back in full form, earning a 28% swinging-strike rate and generating outs. With starts against the Twins and Giants ahead, Buchholz could make a sizeable impact for the price of free.
Merril Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks) – We’re not sure what Kelly we’re going to get, but in deeper leagues, you don’t have the luxury to wait and see. He can be like the arm we saw against the Red Sox, featuring plenty of curveballs on and off the plate, allowing him to surprise batters with well-located heat and changeups for outs, or we could see the curveball disappear with the reliance on worse cutters as his gameplan. With the velocity back to 92-94 mph, the floor is a bit higher and it may be worth it to gamble on Kelly getting into a groove and provide quality innings through the year.
Touki Toussaint (Atlanta Braves) – I’m a bit amazed at the lack of owners jumping on Touki and his 5% ownership rate could be far from indicative of your league. If he is still out there, you should make room for Touki. His massive curveball and improved splitter hint at strong strikeout rates, while his fastball command hasn’t been detrimental. There is a floor here that could result in a wave of Touki drops in leagues, but he’s worth the gamble for now.
Derek Holland (San Francisco Giants) – Many are still sleeping on Holland, but that may change quickly after collecting sixteen strikeouts across his last two outings. His emphasis on breakers this season has pushed his swinging-strike rate to 11.4%, matching his mark across the final four months of the 2018 season. Considering Holland has produced at this level since June of last year, there’s substance to his success. Calling Oracle Park his home will only help him maintain his 6.0 IPS and solid ratios, making The Flying Dutchman a sneaky pickup in all formats.
Spencer Turnbull (Detroit Tigers) – Last week’s outing against the Tribe left a sour taste in our mouths, though Turnbull’s next matchup against the Pirates could provide an opportunity for redemption. His slider and curveball both miss bats, while his four-seamer’s cut action can carve outs quickly. His steps to success involve refining a sinker that may have been given a bit too much focus in his previous outing. At the very least, a pickup just for the Pirates matchup could turn beneficial and suggest an extended spot on your roster.