by Ken Balderston
Now comfortably into the second half of the year, offenses have built up an ample sample size to make streaming against them even more attractive. While not an exact science there are usually effective options out there for the astute owner. Let’s see who could impress this week:
To be considered in most leagues
Mike Minor – Rangers (vs. Angels, 42% owned) ‘A+’
Despite a 4.61 ERA in 2018 (and 4.45 FIP), there’s been a lot to like about Minor this year. To start with he’s controlling the strike zone well, throwing 65% of his pitches for strikes, thus keeping his walk rate at 1.98/9. This helps keep his WHIP low too, at 1.16. He’s benefited from a friendly BABIP of .270, but that tends to happen when you get 44% of the balls put in play in the air, and over 12% of balls put in play as infield flies. Like many Minor has been touched up a bit by home runs, 1.46 HR/9, but he has been much better at home overall with a 3.33 ERA compared to 6.48 on the road.
He’ll be facing a difficult lineup in the Angels, one that doesn’t exactly struggle on the road, with a .735 road OPS good for 12th in baseball (255 runs in 56 games). Where this matchup does favor Minor is the Angels ineffectiveness against lefties, with an OPS of .670 (25th in baseball) while striking out 23.5% of the time. Mike Trout should be back in the Angels lineup, but there’s no guarantee. It all adds up to a solid matchup and one where Minor should be considered in any league where you’d consider streaming pitchers.
Some nice upside but also some risk
Reynaldo Lopez – White Sox
Reynaldo Lopez got off to a hot start, showing why he was a Top 100 prospect at varying times throughout his minor league career. Inconsistency has gotten the better of him and he’s available in over half of CBS leagues. However he has started August strong, (1.95 ERA in 14 IP) so he’s garnered a look. This week he has two starts, and both are favorable, so I’ll be recommending both.
(vs. Royals, 44% owned) ‘B+’
The second start is a bit more attractive as it’s at home, where he has a 3.73 ERA vs 4.95 on the road and a home wOBA of .297. It also helps that he’s matched up against the Royals, owners of a road OPS of .675 (27th in MLB) and have scored a meager 229 runs in 59 road games (less than 4/gm). Most of that came before they traded their best hitter, Mike Moustakas, prior to the trade deadline. The Royals don’t strike out a lot on the road, about 8.3 K/9, and Lopez doesn’t fill up the K column either, only 6.35 K/9 this year, but that is splitting hairs. This is a solid situation against a team that continues to show they have difficulty putting runs on the board.
(at Tigers, 44% owned) ‘B-’
As mentioned Reynaldo is not as effective on the road, but there are some things he does better than at home. Notably he’s only allowed 6 HR on the road in 63.2 IP (0.85 HR/9) compared to 14 in 72.1 home innings (1.74 HR/9). Also his strike out rate is a bit better on the road, (6.79 K/9) than at home (5.98 K/9). He’s also matched up against a struggling, rebuilding club in the Tigers. They manage only .709 OPS at home (23rd in baseball), and have been scoring just over 4 runs per game. Top it all off with the second worst August OPS of .553, and you have a strong matchup for a pitcher with electric stuff. Stream him with confidence.
Solid option but also a fair amount of uncertainty
Jamie Barria – Angels (at Padres, 38% owned) ‘C+’
Barria has been a solid start for the Angels and fantasy owners alike this year with a 3.59 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 87.2 IP. He’s been equally good on the road (3.50 road ERA) as home (3.66 Home), and despite being a righty he’s dominated lefties to the tune of a .235 wOBA. The strikeouts have not been ideal, only 6.57 K/9, but let’s not rain on the parade. This is all just to reassure you that Barria has been a solid pitcher, since in fact you could consider starting just about anyone against the Padres. At home San Diego is 27th in the league in OPS at .678 and have scored 220 runs in 57 games, or 3.86/game. While Barria doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, the Padres could help him out as they have struck out almost 9.5 times per game at home. I’m not sure why he is on waivers in over 60% of CBS leagues, but you should seriously consider grabbing him to face the Padres.
Ryan Borucki – Blue Jays (at Royals, 29% owned) ‘C’
Borucki has gotten off to a hot start to his MLB career. Just 24-years old, he’s managed a 2.81 ERA through 8 starts and sports a 2.97 FIP. He throws 64% of his pitches for strikes and opposing batters have only been able to hit 28% of balls in play ‘hard’. This is reflected in his 0.19 HR/9, which might be unsustainable in today’s game, but it’s also a wave worth riding in the right matchup. We’ve already written how bad the Royals have been, but I’ll add to that a bit for Borucki’s write up as they are 28th in baseball in OPS vs lefties, at .665. This includes a .303 OBP, which makes it very difficult for them to elevate a pitcher’s pitch count, WHIP and overall ability to score runs. Even in a road start there’s a lot to like and while the upside is not great, the risk is low too.
Significant risk but also potential to put up a solid outing
No ‘D’ Grades this week
Options you might be considering but are not recommended
Robert Stephenson – Reds (vs. Indians, 6% owned)
It seems like Stephenson was a Top 100 prospect forever. After being drafted as a high school pitcher in 2011 he always tantalized with his fastball and curve, until eventually relying more on a changeup. The small print on his scouting reports was always his command, or nonexistent command. He’s spent almost all of 2018 back in Triple-A and has been successful, with a 2.87 ERA and 135 K in 113 IP, and he’s earned a promotion back to the bigs. The problem is he’s still struggling with command (57 BB in those 113 IP). He’s scheduled to face the Indians, and I’ve seen a number of owners in my leagues take a speculative add. Cleveland started the year with bad home/road splits on offense, but have heated up on the road and are now up to .726 on the year. They hit homers (72 in 55 road games), don’t strike out much (430 in those 55 games) and walk a fair amount too (173 BB). A patient, powerful and complete 1-9 lineup is exactly what Stephenson doesn’t want to see right now, as they can take full advantage of any control problems. While I could see spending a bench spot on him for a wait and see approach, it’s very difficult to trust him in your active lineup until we see some results.
Sites consulted: CBSsports, MLB.com, Fangraphs, Rotoworld, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: