Waiver Wire Week 8: 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

Reynaldo Lopez (Chicago White Sox – 15%) – You’ve heard it before, but it still rings true: you never know what you’re going to get from ReyLo. His four-seamer is a strong pitch on its own, but it falters if batters don’t have to respect his slider or changeup. The blueprint is there – four-seamers jamming batters in both boxes with sliders and changeups low to steal strikes and miss bats. The latter is the troublesome area as Lopez fails to hit a 30% O-Swing on either his breaker or slow ball for the year. Every start could be the one where it all clicks into place indefinitely, or it could be another one where we shake our heads in disappointment.

Griffin Canning (Los Angeles Angels – 15%) – I was a bit surprised to see Canning with such a low ownership rate, most likely a product of owners rage-quitting after allowing a trio of gopherballs to the Orioles in a wild three-true-outcome outing. Don’t let the walks and 37.5% HR/FB turn you off, though. Canning sports a near 18% swinging-strike rate and 31% strikeout rate due to his fantastic pair of breaking pitches, mixed with a strong approach for four-seamer elevation. Yes, he hasn’t looked polish in his short three-start sample, but trust the skills. He faces the Royals – far from a strong HR offense – and could take a major step in the right direction.

Under 10% Owned

Michael Pineda (Minnesota Twins – 9%) – We’re diving into the depths early this week, starting with Pineda. There may not be a better time to jump on the Pineda train, whose slider has looked like the weapon of old in his last two outings. With the deadly offering in his repertoire, Pineda can push his current 20% strikeout rate plenty closer to the 25%+ clip from his prime. It’s rare to find strikeout upside this deep and take the gamble if you’re lacking the punchouts.

Trent Thornton (Toronto Blue Jays – 4%) – The same goes for Thornton who may surprise you with his 25% strikeout rate across nine starts this season. 25%! His big hook is doing the damage, holding batters to just a .180 BAA, though Thornton won’t fully take off until he uses the pitch more as a putaway pitch (35% O-Swing) instead of a jack-of-all-trades option. His growth will come from commanding his four-seamer around the zone and pairing with a decent cutter that surprises batters. At his current state, Thronton is a high risk/reward arm that can pull struggling teams out of the water during a fortunate week. Play it wisely and monitor his progression.

Pablo Lopez (Miami Marlins – 5%) – I’m sure some with consider me ridiculous to suggest an arm that just allowed 10 ER but it would be unwise to suddenly write a pitcher off completely due to just one outing. The start inflated many numbers but still kept his SIERA below 4.00, while his K-BB% rate is still a solid 17% clip. Remember, it was just one outing. Yes, a terrible and cataclysmic outing, but it’s in the past. The 11%+ swinging strike rate is still around and there’s time to develop his curveball into the proper third option he needs. Deep leagues shouldn’t quit on him so soon.

Felix Pena (Los Angeles Angels – 7%) – A good amount of owners have gotten on the Yonny Chirinos train and it seems inevitable that Pena is next in line. He’s been featured as the “False Starter” after an opener four times thus far, producing two Wins in that span while helping your numbers across the board. Pena already has three games this season collecting at least seven strikeouts, while his 3.49 ERA and 0.96 WHIP are easily digestible. His success come down to a degree – that .220 BABIP is not sustainable – but his whiffability will stick, providing some help among a dearth of choices.

Lance Lynn (Texas Rangers – 8%) – I’m amazed to find myself endorsing Lynn in any fashion, but I’m not blind to an arm that fanned at least eight in two of his last three games…against the Mariners and Astros. It’s ridiculous, crazy, and such a gamble given the obvious floor contained in his 5.48 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, but there it is. Lynn may be on to something that turns him into a volatile performer instead of another bird on the wire.

Jefry Rodriguez (Cleveland Indians – 8%) – You don’t like this. I don’t like this. Can we both agree that we don’t expect Jefry to continue doing well, but there may be something he’s doing to create the 2.92 ERA and 1.8 WHIP that could last another week or two? Maybe his 54% groundball rate is coming with enough weak contact, or maybe the .253 BABIP can stick around just a bit longer. You may be debating between him and Dan Straily and why not, give Jefry a spin against the poor Baltimore offense.

Merrill Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks – 7%) – Do I like Kelly? Not really, but he’s allowed 3 ER or fewer in 75% of his starts, while hinting at more with his array of secondary pitches. The path to sustainable success comes from curveballs for strikes and in two-strike counts, though we may be chasing that for some time. Meanwhile, as long as he’s placing fastballs where he wants to, Kelly’s deep repertoire will allow him to find something to play off his heater and grind through a decent outing. The volume and potential for above-average production make Kelly an option off the wire.

Zac Gallen / Dylan Cease (Prospects) – We’re at the point of the season where waiver wire arms are at their scarcest. All fantasy teams are still in the running, while injuries are prevalent and managers are giving up on disappointments to chase the next big thing. With the diminished pool of solid talent make sure to consider using that roster spot to stash a pitching prospect in its place – if you can afford it. Gallen and Cease are at the top of my list for SPs to stash as each could make immediate impacts from their call through the end, and each may debut before next week’s edition.

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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Given how often he’s appeared here, I think it’s time for FG readers to pony up a few bucks and buy you a Pablo Lopez fan club t-shirt. 10 ER and on the Marlins would probably be poisonous enough for almost everybody to leave him on the wire until the All-Star break. But, (sigh), I suppose if one’s bench is deep enough…

Thanks for all the write ups.