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.
Note: This week and moving forward, 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.
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
Trevor Richards (Miami Marlins) – When digging at the bottom of the barrel, I love chasing individual pitches. Richards’ changeup is as elite as you’ll find, boasting a 24% swinging-strike rate, 52% O-Swing, and a paltry .151 BAA across the 174 he’s thrown in 2019. With the slow ball’s usage above the 35% mark, expect Richards’ strikeout rate to stay afloat well past 20%, while his ratios should help more often than not. His fastball is still questionable, but with his recent ability to elevate the pitch, Richards should be able to avoid the disasters and allow owners to frequently feast.
Derek Holland (San Francisco Giants) – I’m surprised I still need to sell Holland in this article, as the San Francisco southpaw is striking out batters at a fantastic 30.6% clip, bolstered by an impressive swinging-strike rate above the 12% mark. He has the added benefit of calling Oracle Park his home and while his BABIP should rise, the 20%+ HR/FB rate should come down dramatically, allowing the strikeouts to pile up without a dent in your ratios.
Reynaldo Lopez (Chicago White Sox) – Yes, a pitcher holding a 7.46 ERA is featured today and I completely understand if you don’t want anything to do with Lopez. It feels awfully like a coin-flip on any given night, especially as he followed an 8 ER effort with six innings of 1 ER ball. There is still a gear to hit with ReyLo, though, as he’s shown flashes with both his changeup and slider over the season. With a fastball that sets a strong foundation for his secondary stuff, Reynaldo’s success lies in developing consistency for his breaking pitch and slow ball. The chance for more is still there.
Wade Miley (Houston Astros) – With a seven-strikeout game now on his resume, it’s getting hard to find reasons not to roster Miley, even in your 12-teamers. His minute walk rate improves his chances at a beneficial WHIP, pitching for the Astros presents constant opportunities for a Win – six frames in 60% of his games thus far! – and his 3.58 ERA, while a bit on the fortunate side, hints at a possible sub 4.00 campaign. The strikeouts will be more in the 4-5 camp per game, but that’s just icing at the cake at this point.
Michael Pineda (Minnesota Twins) – Two straight starts above four earned runs are shrinking Pineda’s shares and understandably so. His last three seasons have all returned ERAs above 4.30 and 2019 is shaping up to be more of the same…right? Well, while his slider wasn’t as sharp in his recent starts, it’s not without question that his first 24 frames of 10.5% swinging-strike rate aren’t quite indicative of the five months left to come – a bit of rust was anticipated. Not to mention, the slider still qualifies as a Money Pitch – 40%+ O-Swing, 40%+ Zone rate, and 15+ swinging-strike rate – and will mow down batters across the year. There may still be a decent amount of turbulence, but expect the strikeouts to rise and ratios to improve with them.
John Means (Baltimore Orioles) – I was shocked to see Means already jump above the 10% threshold, but I guess his start Wednesday evening against the White Sox turned enough heads. In 12-teamers, Means could return value with his stellar changeup and “good enough” fastball, though it remains to be seen how the Orioles will use him. It will take time to see six frames from Means as he needs to be stretched out and could continue as a flex bullpen/rotation arm, though monitor him closely. His skills don’t speak to a meteoric rise, but certainly serviceable.
Under 10% Owned
Jerad Eickhoff (Philadelphia Phillies) – With Nick Pivetta moving to triple-A, Eickhoff has taken a role in the starting rotation and there’s reason to be excited. Eickhoff has improved his curveball from previous seasons, quickly earning success across his brief ten frame showcase in the past week. The deuce has earned chases off the plate over 40% of the time, while generating swings-and-misses at a 23.5% rate, and that’s plenty of cause for celebration. It’s reason enough to endure his questionable heater, though an increase of reliance on his slider/cutter should ease the pain his fastball has caused in the past. Mix in a winning ballclub in the Phillies and Eickhoff has a chance to make a legitimate impact for a cheap price.
Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins) – The ERA hasn’t been pretty – 4.44 through 26.1 innings – but a 1.18 WHIP and 26% strikeout rate after facing teams like the Braves and Cubs is something to heavily consider. His WHIP will be above-average given his excellent 4.5% walk rate and a fantastic changeup – 29% swinging-strike rate and 61% O-Swing! – are propelling his strikeouts. There will be bumps along the way with fastball command that demands a touch of polish and a curveball that floats a bit too often, though the peaks will be worth the valleys.
Merrill Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks) – We never quite know what to expect from Kelly and he was fluid once again Wednesday night as his fastball velocity dipped just under 91 mph. It’s far from encouraging, though he was able to throw his secondary pitches for strikes and earn 27 called strikes against the Pirates. We could easily see 92/93 from Kelly moving forward and paired with the development of his curveball and changeup, it could spell production at the back end of pitching staffs.
Tyler Mahle (Cincinnati Reds) – With Alex Wood still recovering from a back injury, Mahle has taken full advantage of his opportunity in the Reds rotation. His 21.5% K-BB rate is phenomenal, driven by a quality heater he busts up-and-in constantly to right-handers. The biggest concern lies in his struggling secondary pitches, with batters taking advantage of his weak curveball. Keep an eye on Mahle while he continues to progress with the hook and split-changeup as the fastball could carry Mahle toward production on its own.