by Ken Balderston
Streaming pitchers off the waiver wire can be a very effective way to add innings to your staff. Maybe you missed out on some of your end game pitchers in the draft, have run into a string of injuries or just want to take advantage of matchups. Here’s a look at some options owned in less than 50% of CBS leagues to help you gain an advantage this week:
Carson Fulmer – White Sox (vs. Rays, 13% owned) – A-
This is as much about the matchup as it is about Fulmer’s stuff. Through their first 7 games of the season the Rays have scored 17 runs in total, are dead last with a .529 OPS and are striking out 9.5 times a game as a team. While it’ a small sample size there were questions about their ability to score runs going into the season, and this is an opportunity to grab an under the radar starter who has upside. Fulmer has a 4-pitch mix that could give the Rays fits, especially if his change-up is on, and showed the ability to throw strikes in his first start at Toronto (1.80 BB/9 & 66% of his pitches for strikes). The downside is he has yet to show he can pitch deep into games at any level, but a healthy matchup like this could pay off in spades.
None (with Joey Lucchesi pitching in Coors Field he’s no longer viewed as a usable streaming option)
Nick Pivetta – Phillies (vs. Reds, 22% owned) – C+
Last year Pivetta put up a ballooned ERA of 6.02, mostly due to a 1.69 HR/9 or an incredible 25 HR in only 133 IP. This understandably put him right off some people’s draft boards, leading to his 22% ownership in CBS leagues. These results are out of line with what he’s shown since the Phillies picked him from the Nationals in 2016, consistently (except for last season) putting up a sub 1.00 HR/9, and has yet to allow a home run in ’18 (two starts). We’re currently working with a small sample size, but the other peripherals are also encouraging (13.5% Swstr%, 25.6 K%-BB%, and a solid 65% of his pitches this season being strikes). The Reds do have some pop, but they also are susceptible to Pivetta’s strength, the strike out. There are no guarantees when streaming pitchers, but this matchup has substantial upside for those who are bold enough to take advantage.
Chris Stratton – Giants (at Padres, 24% owned) – C
Generally I tend to avoid road starts for streaming options. History shows that hitters tend to perform better at home and that teams tend to win more games at home than on the road (I’m not necessarily trying to predict wins here, but those are historical facts and wins are a scoring category in most leagues). This is Petco and the Padres, though, and on top of that they’ll be without their best hitter in Will Myers who is on the 10-day DL until at least April 13. Stratton started showing the ability to strike out more hitters last year (7.82 K/9) and has always shown the ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. These factors combined lower the blowup potential in a streaming start. While it’s entirely possible he does allow a few baserunners and even a few runs, the peripherals lead me to believe he’ll keep the Giants in the game and hopefully produce a quality start for those who put him into their lineup.
Tyson Ross – Padres (vs. Giants 14% owned) – C-
Ross used to be a pretty good pitcher. Between 2014 & 2015 he had a near 3.00 ERA and more than a 9.00 K/9 across nearly 400 IP. After one start in 2016 he was shut down and eventually had thoracic outlet surgery. The 2017 season was forgettable with a miserable 7.71 ERA with the Rangers (no wonder he’s only owned in 14% of CBS leagues). He’s still 30-years old and the Padres are rolling the dice he’s healthy. So far he’s looked the part though the spring and to some extent in his first start of the season (QS, 6IP, 3 ER, but only 2 K). His fastball velocity was still in the low 90’s, but he seems to have started using his slider more, a pitch he used to great success in his good years of 2014 & 2015. I don’t feel there is a significant risk of blowing up for this start, but I also feel the strikeout rates are going to be low. Letting Ross go against the Giants is something you should consider if you need innings, but downgrade this matchup a grade if you’re looking for an upside play.
Homer Bailey – Reds (at Phillies, 20% owned) – D
It hasn’t been an ideal start to the season for Gabe Kapler and the Phillies, to say the least. Lost in the embarrassment of not having a reliever ready, or pulling Aaron Nola after 68 pitches, is a team OBP of .292 and a .304 SLG (before yesterday’s explosion). It’s safe to say Bailey is no longer the pitcher he was in his mid 20’s, but he’s been able to keep the ball down somewhat (45% GB% in 2017) and also keep the ball in the park (HR/9 of 0.78 in ’16, 1.09 in ’17, 0.84 so far in ’18) in this new Launch Angle era. This leads me to believe he can manage a game against a poor offense. Bailey is also the rare case where he was much better on the road as far as ERA was concerned in 2017, being 1.68 lower away from Great American Ball Park, and his xFIP was also a run and a half lower than the 6.43 he put up that year. Yes it’s a risky play, but that’s why we’re giving it a D grade. There is risk, but also hope it could pay off if some of the better options are not available.
Bryan Mitchell – Padres (vs. Giants, 9% owned) – F
Facing off against Stratton will be Mitchell, a player we thought would benefit from a change in home stadiums (Yankee Stadium in ’17, Petco in ’18) but has yet to pay dividends. The Rockies roughed him up pretty good last week to a 9.00 ERA and 2.20 WHIP while failing to record a strikeout. Mitchell continues to sport a very low strand rate, generally sitting between 60-65% across multiple levels dating back to 2016. Normally you might expect that to correct itself, but until it does the sample says he allows a significant ratio of base runners to score. He also doesn’t pitch deep into games, which limits his ability to overcome tough innings or even qualify for a win should he be pitching well. On the surface his mid-90’s fastball would suggest he’d provide a solid, if not good, strikeout rate, but he’s been sitting at 10 or 11% going back to 2016. Even in a solid matchup I can’t recommend Mitchell. I’m not writing him off completely, but unless you’re in a very deep league you’ll want to see some results before trusting him.
Sites referenced Fangraphs, MLB.com, CBSsports.com, Baseball America Prospect Handbook
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