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, ordered by ownage %:
Under 20% owned
Wade Miley (Houston Astros) – This list is barren compared to previous weeks, due to our favorite choices impressing and a larger emphasis on pitching needs due to a multitude of injuries. That makes someone like Miley a considerable option as he offers a strong chance at a Win whenever he takes the hill. The Houston offense will support him and his ability to induce weak outs often can push him into the sixth frame. Don’t invest for strikeouts, but if a 1.25 WHIP, 3.70 ERA, and a handful of Wins fits, Miley is your guy.
Jeff Samardzija (San Francisco Giants) – I won’t tell you that Samardzija’s 3.16 ERA is legitimate – it comes with a whopping 45%+ hard contact and a 4.79 SIERA, rooted in a .225 BABIP and 82% LOB Rate. This spells disaster soon…but I can fathom Samardzija piecing together a decent ratio season for those in deep leagues. A 3.80 ERA with a 1.25 WHIP seems possible for Shark given his new emphasis on cutters, a pitch that batters simply can’t connect with, rendering a minute .097 BAA thus far (and .091 BABIP so don’t expect it to be nearly this good). The ceiling isn’t high, but you could do plenty worse.
Reynaldo Lopez (Chicago White Sox) – Lopez hasn’t been close to his 14-strikeout self in his last two starts, but the skills are still there. Lopez’s four-seamer sets a strong foundation for his two secondary pitches to take over on a given night, the only question is when those pitches will take shape. It’s not the most comfortable pickup you can make, but with few options, you may want to chase the endless coin flip of ReyLo and see what happens.
Jonathan Loaisiga (New York Yankees) – With James Paxton on the IL, Loaisiga will get a handful of starts in the Yankee rotation and could be a solid play moving forward. His first outing against the Mariners left plenty to be desired, but with three pitches that can work effectively in tandem, his next start against the Orioles could pay dividends. The Rays follow and I can see the Yankees pushing Loaisiga at least five frames if not a chance for more if his changeup and curveball are working. The upside is there, at least take a shot on it against Baltimore, and don’t rule out the chance that Loaisiga survives past Paxton as another arm falls to the IL.
Trevor Richards (Miami Marlins) – Like Reynaldo, Richards is a sink-or-swim play. His changeup can be one of the deadlier pitches out there – 21% swinging strike rate with a fantastic 49% O-Swing – or it can disappear completely, the latter of which Richards had to deal with in three of his last five starts. When the slow ball isn’t there, everything falls apart and it leaves owners scratching their heads as to why they ever trusted him. And even when the pitch is working, like his most recent outing against the Cubs, his fastball could not get the whiffs upstairs it needs to make up for its low velocity and lack of complementary breaking ball. Still, with the lethal slow ball, there’s an opportunity for Richards to grow, making him an interesting lottery pick. This is just the sophomore season for the 25-year-old, after all.
Under 10% Owned
Lucas Giolito (Chicago White Sox) – It’s interesting, I’m not sure why these next five arms are all listed as under 10% owned, but I’d rather have all of them over the five arms above. Let’s start with Giolito who pitched plenty better than the line suggested last week against the Red Sox, then pitched a bit worse than his excellent production against the Indians. The former featured an array of secondary pitches for strikes while Giolito had little feel for his slider and curveball against the Indians, dominating with heat and slowballs nearly exclusively. How should we feel about this? There are two camps: 1) Giolito was able to make it work when he wasn’t at his best –> feel good since the secondary stuff will return and give him a strong chance at production. 2) Giolito doesn’t have the feel for his secondary pitches now –> he won’t be so fortunate moving forward. I’m personally leaning in the first camp as his slider should be better off in the future, especially with the Jays in his crosshairs for two straight starts. Grab him where you can.
Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins) – PabLo is a DIPS darling with his excellent 19% K-BB rate, returning a 2.80 FIP despite the 4.00+ ERA. That alone makes him very worthwhile in this piece, though I will preach some caution. Lopez’s whole approach has yet to properly click across each of his three pitches. Fastballs aren’t nipping edges, curveballs are often hung up in the zone, and his changeup – his best offering – hasn’t consistently been the weapon he needs it to be. There’s another gear or two left for PabLo to reach, just keep expectations a little low in the short term as works to get there.
Tyler Mahle (Cincinnati Reds) – At such low ownage rates, you’re going for guys that could help in their next start and maybe just that one start. I’m liking Mahle’s odds this weekend as he heads to San Francisco for a matchup in pitcher-friendly Oracle Park. Mahle just had his way with the Athletics, featuring plenty of strong heaters upstairs as his new curveball dominated the bottom of the zone. The future schedule isn’t as friendly, but you can worry about that later.
Michael Pineda (Minnesota Twins) – After a promising start to the year, Pineda has taken a massive downturn, now hosting a 6.09 ERA in 34 innings, yet there may something to salvage here. His latest outing against the Yankees featured his slider of old – 20% swinging strike rate – and there’s a chance his eight-strikeout game could be repeated as soon as his next outing facing the Tigers. If you need the strikeout help, Pineda may be your answer
Derek Holland (San Francisco Giants) – Holland just got demolished by the Rockies, raising his ERA to a horrid 6.75. It’s terrible, horrible, and means you can capitalize on the wire. I know, he just allowed 3 HRs, but he still misses bats, will not carry a 27% HR/FB through the year, will continue to strikeout over a batter per inning, and eventually become a stable producer for your squad. Sure, skip his next start if you want to wait for one good outing to sign up, at least ensure he’s on your radar in the coming week or two.