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 some matchups. Here’s a look at some options owned in less than 50% of CBS leagues to help you gain an advantage this week.
To be considered in most leagues
Felix Pena – Angels (vs. White Sox, 9% owned) ‘A-’
While a bit surprising, Pena has been a reliable starter this year for the Angels but seems to be unnoticed by fantasy owners reflected by his low ownership rate in CBS leagues. He’s mostly thrown a fastball (58%)/curveball (36%) mix while tossing in a change (6%) to put up an impressive 10.94 K/9 and solid 3.08 BB/9, netting him a nifty 3.56 K/BB ratio. His ERA is very respectable at 3.42, but an elevated BABIP of .328 and impressive 52% GB rate has his xFIP even better at 3.17.
His matchup will be the White Sox, a team with a ton of organizational potential but still looking to find results offensively at the big league level. They’re not impressive in the OPS department, at .696 on the road, but they’re even worse pushing runs across the plate at 190 in 48 road games, less than 4 per game. They’re also likely to help out Pena’s K totals, as they’re striking out over 9.5 times a game. While Pena is not exactly a proven entity, he’s shown a ton of success this year and the White Sox have shown they’re not to be feared by any means themselves.
Some nice upside but also some risk
Nick Kingham – Pirates (vs. Mets, 43% owned) ‘B-‘
After a hot start to the season, and his first start in the big leagues, Kingham has in a sense come back to earth. A 4.26 ERA in 9 starts is alright, but not going to set the world on fire. Some of his underlying stats are quite intriguing, with a 9.06 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9 making for a very impressive K/BB ratio of 4.25. His xFIP is 3.90, likely because his HR rate is very high at 1.78 HR/9 or 17.2% of all FB going over the fence. Well he’s been much better at home, including only 4 HR in 31 home innings and a .363 home OPS, while still striking out 32 and only walking 5. Well, who are they facing then? The Mets… and while the Mets have been dreadful at home, on the road they’re actually a difficult matchup. In road games the Mets have the 8th best OPS in baseball at .748 (ahead of the Red Sox) and have scored 217 runs in 45 games (almost 5/game). This is not prohibitive to starting Kingham, but it does raise the level of risk significantly.
Solid option but also a fair amount of uncertainty
Matt Boyd – Tigers (vs. Royals, 22% owned) ‘C’
Yes Boyd has had a string of bad starts, 12 ER in his last 3 starts spanning 15 innings. The good news is in his last start against Boston he only allowed 1 ER in 5 IP, and across those 15 bad innings he’s struck out 17 batters and only walked 3. While he is far enough along in his Major League career that we know not to expect any Cy Young award votes, he has shown to be capable of being serviceable from time to time, usually against weaker offenses. Enter the Royals stage left. The Royals are the 4th worst home offense, highlighted by a league worst 31 home ‘home runs’ in 47 games, and a 29th ranked runs scored total of 162, or under 3.5 per game. Boyd is not a must start, but he’s serviceable and combined with a great matchup he does become intriguing for streaming purposes.
Significant risk but also potential to put up a solid outing
Clayton Richard – Padres (vs. Mets, 37% owned) ‘D’
Richard is not going to be a shining beacon of potential. He’s been in the league a long time, over 1,200 IP in 10 years, and has never cracked 7 K/9 in any season. He has become somewhat reliable getting guys out, with a 1.35 WHIP and 4.82 ERA, which is elevated thanks to a low 66.8% strand rate. His xFIP is a much more comfortable 4.12. While he has been quite a bit better at home, this is a road start against the Mets. Already in sell mode, the Mets are by far league worst in home OPS at .627, a full .035 points behind the next ‘best’ team. In fact, the Mets are only scoring 3.11 runs a game at home, which is not just bad, they’re Amazin’ ly bad. There’s not a ton of upside to Richard in any matchup, but if you’re in need for innings there’s not a ton of risk here.
Options you might be considering but are not recommended
Jason Vargas – Mets (vs. Padres, 8% owned)
The Padres are a bad offense… Very bad. Overall they have the worst OPS at .665, scoring 3.7 runs per game, and are even worse on the road, a .641 OPS scoring barely over 3 runs per game. So, with such a juicy matchup why not jump on Vargas? After a hot start to 2017, when he made the AL All Star team, it’s been all down hill. In the second half of 2017 he put up a 6.38 ERA and 16 HR in only 73 1/3 innings. That’s led to more of the same for Mets fans in 2018, with an 8.60 ERA and a 2.63 HR/9 rate in 9 starts. Will there be some natural regression? Probably… Are the Padres a really bad offense right now? Absolutely… But given what we know of Vargas over the last year, how could anyone stream him in any situation? Step down from the ledge, there area better options out there.
Sites consulted: CBSsports, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Fantasy Pros, Rotoworld, ESPN
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: