Waiver Wire Week 5: 10 Starting Pitchers To Consider Under 15% Owned

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:

Caleb Smith (Miami Marlins) – This list has plenty of the same names from last week, though I expect there to be more variance as we get deeper in the season as more unpopular entities make changes that few are aware of. Smith could be part of that label after striking out 19 batters in his last two starts, featuring plenty better command of his fastball that we’ve seen before. The question is if there is sustainability here – a 5 ER/6 walk start is still in recent memory – though striking out least seven batters in four of six starts is plenty enough for us to sign up for the price of free.

Mike Minor (Texas Rangers) – I’m pretty sure Minor has been here each week as he hasn’t fully disappointed quite yet, though owners haven’t seen enough to buy into him for the long term. I’ve seen Minor’s 2018 season as one that should get better as he continues – remember, he hadn’t started since 2014 and it’s been an expected learning curve for him to get into a consistent rhythm.  I’ve been giving Minor a hypothetical “May 15th” date as a time for a proper reassessment, it looks like he’s slated for an evening with the Mariners on that exact Tuesday. Keep in mind, Minor has yet to walk more than two batters in any of his five starts, while averaging close to a strikeout per inning. As he gets more comfortable mixing his entire array of pitches – slider, curveball, and changeup to go with his heater – I believe a #5/6 starter will emerge.

Marco Gonzales (Seattle Mariners) – Here’s something interesting. Gonzales held an 8.25 ERA with a sub 20% K rate and 1.75 WHIP through his first three starts, throwing his cutter 11.0% of the time with fastballs sitting around a 50% usage rate. Across his last three? 2.70 ERA, 30.3% K rate, 1.14 WHIP as he used his cutter 18.7% of the time and heaters just 35% of the time. The latter run was against the Astros, ChiSox, and Indians as well. This is obviously cherry picking and small sample and all of those fun things, and while it could be a sign of bigger things to come, it could very easily be a drop in the bucket. However, if you wait until this becomes an official breakout to make a move, then he definitely won’t be under 15% owned in leagues. Take the chance now if you can.

Nick Tropeano (Los Angeles Angels) – He’s not the flashiest of names, but Tropeano should be heavily considered if you’re looking for some all-around production for your staff. A pair of tough outings against the Red Sox and Astros have weighed down his numbers, though his schedule ahead – Mariners, Twins, Rays, Jays – should return more of the middling 5-6 strikeout 2-3 run starts. There’s value in that and I trust Tropeano to be consistently helpful moreso than plenty other names around him.

Luiz Gohara (Atlanta Braves) – I have been throwing around May 9th as a possible call-up for Gohara as he should be ready for MLB action after his rehab start tonight. However, with Mike Soroka excelling in his MLB debut Tuesday night and Anibal Sanchez may be returning this weekend, the path to his rotation spot is a bit muddier. Still, Gohara seems ready to provide to the team and armed with a wipeout slider and fastball sitting mid-to-upper 90s, there is Top 40 upside here. Now’s the time to start stashing him.

Trevor Cahill (Oakland Athletics) – I would like to favor Cahill more given his skillset that has produced a 27.1% strikeout rate and 3.00 ERA through three starts – his changeup and curveball are both excellent whiff inducers! – I have to come with a bit of caution in the short term as he faces the Yankees and Red Sox following his next start against the Orioles. Still, I’d love rolling with Cahill in that Baltimore start and I can see him performing well above many on this list after that May 16th outing against the Red Sox. If your wire is super shallow, you may want to grab and hold now.

Daniel Mengden (Oakland Athletics) – Like Cahill, Mengden has two tough starts following a date with Baltimore, getting the Astros and Red Sox ahead. And even though Mengden took a step back last time out (allowing 4 ER and striking out just one as he survived just 2.1 frames against the Astros), I see a solid arm that could return sturdy production once getting better matchups beginning in later May. Just sit him for those two starts and this should play out well.

Vince Velasquez (Philadelphia Phillies) – I wouldn’t call myself a fan of Velasquez as his secondary options lack the upside to propel him into Top 50 SP status. However, his fastball is a great pitch that will produce excellent results from time-to-time, which alone forces him to be on your radar when trying to find treasure on the wire. His 25.6% K rate and 6.8% BB rate paired with a 59.5% LOB rate and .353 BABIP point to an inflated 5.70 ERA, with both his FIP and SIERA falling below the 4.00 mark. While I don’t expect Velasquez to carry a 3.60 ERA with a 25%+ strikeout rate, his K production should make him worthwhile for those in dire need.

Jimmy Nelson (Milwaukee Brewers) – Nelson is still a stash you should consider, though don’t hesitate to give him the ax if you need DL spots. He’s slated for a mid-June return and there is no guarantee that he’ll perform close to his ace numbers last season – a torn labrum has been a death sentence for many pitchers in the past. Nevertheless, there’s no reason not to own Nelson if you have the room and your patience could reward you with a valuable asset through the end.

Dan Straily (Miami Marlins) – Yes, Straily isn’t that good. Yes, he had a terrible opener to his 2018 season with four walks and just one strikeout against the Phils. However, starters are often below average in their first start back from a DL stint (I call it Disabled List Hangover or DLH), and holding it against him overlooks Straily’s career of decency. Not being spectacular, but it’s conceivable he returns to his 22% strikeout rate and sub 8% walk rate from 2017 while sporting a sub 1.30 WHIP. This is more for those in deeper leagues, of course, but those that are staring into a sea of disappointment may find some respite in Straily.





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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Snake Clowns
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Snake Clowns

Rank’em: C. Smith, Marco G., Soroka, Ty Anderson, or Mahle? Would you take any of them over E-Rod?

The_Beard
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The_Beard

Soroka……..Smith…..ty, Mahle, Marco. First 2 over Erod

craiglambert50
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craiglambert50

Soroka………………. Mahle, ….. Smith,….. Gonzales, … Anderson