Streaming pitchers in April is challenging. We don’t have enough data from 2014 to accurately analyze team’s hitting traits, and roster turnover negates much of the value we could gain from looking at last year’s stats. Enter Fangraphs’ sortable team stats page, which not only allows you to analyze statistics over any time frame and across any split of your choice, but also allows you to see data for a team’s active roster rather than the stats a team accrued last season. In other words, it will solve any problem that currently exists in your life.
When analyzing streaming options, I take into consideration a number of things. First and foremost, I consider the quality of the pitcher. When doing so, I consider a pitcher’s strikeout rate, his batted ball profile, and his overall effectiveness, as these traits will be most important in projecting his success as a streaming option.
I then consider each pitcher’s opposition, looking primarily at the opposing team’s active roster splits versus the handedness of the opposing pitcher. This is where Fangraphs comes in handy. Since we don’t yet have enough 2014 data, I use their sort functions to see active roster data since 2013. I then consider each team’s active roster handedness splits for K% and wOBA.
Finally, I consider par factor and opposing pitcher. When considering park factor, I think it’s important to take into consideration a pitcher’s batted ball profile (pitchers who give up a lot of flyballs will be more impacted by park than pitchers who induce a lot of ground balls). Since a left-handed pitcher is likely to struggle against right-handed hitters (and vice versa), I also give extra credence to how a park affects opposite-handed hitters. The last thing I consider is the opposing pitcher. I use this to help gauge the likelihood that a stream start will result in a win. While chasing wins isn’t a good idea, we can all agree that a pitcher is more likely to get a win if he’s facing Felipe Paulino than Chris Sale.
Using this approach, my aim is to identify the best streaming options each week, and I’ll share my analysis with you in this weekly post. For my Daily Picks of the Week, I will only consider players available in at least 60% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. In my detailed breakdown of all options found afterwards, I’ll include pitchers who may be available, even if it’s less likely.
DAILY PICKS OF THE WEEK
- Monday – Wily Peralta vs San Diego
- Tuesday – Erasmo Ramirez vs Houston
- Wednesday – Nathan Eovaldi at Atlanta
- Thursday – Eric Bedard vs Minnesota
- Friday – Robbie Erlin at Washington
- Saturday – Jenrry Mejia vs Miami
- Sunday – Dillon Gee vs Miami
MONDAY’S BEST OPTIONS
Wily Peralta (RHP) vs San Diego (Yahoo: 22%, ESPN: 4%)
Peralta’s off to a fantastic start, posting a 2-0 record, a sub-2.0 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it will continue. Peralta’s been aided by a fortuitous BABIP and an unsustainable strand rate early this season, but he may not need good fortune to dominate a bad Padres team. Current Padres have a 22% strikeout rate and sub .300 wOBA vs right-handers since last season, and I like Peralta’s chances to turn in a quality start. Unfortunately, squaring off against Andrew Cashner limits the likelihood that he picks up a win for his effort.
Zack McAllister (RHP) vs Kansas City (Yahoo: 10%, ESPN: 3%)
The shortened slate of games Monday makes McAllister one of the best options, despite a fairly neutral matchup. The Royals’ active roster has only struck out 16.7% of the time versus right-handed pitching since 2013, and their .307 wOBA against right-handers in the same time frame isn’t awful. Despite an average matchup, McAllister is a streaming option because he is the most talented pitcher you’re likely to find as a free agent. His 2-0 start with a 2.04 ERA is obviously too much to expect, but perhaps some early success with a changeup is reason to be cautiously optimistic that he’ll exceed preseason expectations and, at the very least, turn in a quality start Monday night.
Other Options: Dallas Keuchel (Yahoo: 1%,ESPN: 0%) has pitched well this year, and it may continue versus a Seattle team that has a 22.7% K Rate and horrendous .287 wOBA versus left-handed pitchers since last year. Paul Maholm (Yahoo: 1%, ESPN: 0%) won’t be a source of many strikeouts and will be an underdog facing Cliff Lee, but he should turn in a decent outing against a Phillies team that struggles with southpaws.
TUESDAY’S BEST OPTIONS
Erasmo Ramirez (RHP) vs Houston (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN: 4%)
Ramirez struck out twenty batters in 23.2 innings, while offering only two free passes during a fantastic spring. Then, he fell on his face by walking eight and striking out only 12 through 18 innings of work to start this season. While his 7.50 ERA will likely scare many off, I expect Ramirez to right his ship Tuesday when he faces an Astros team that struggles more against right-handed pitching than left-handed.
Tyler Skaggs (LHP) at Washington (Yahoo! 28%, ESPN: 25%)
Skaggs only has 11 strikeouts in 21 innings this season, but he has pitched well, as evidenced by his 3.43 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, and 7 innings per start. Perhaps Skaggs is pitching to contact more this season, as his walk rate has dropped with his strikeout rate (8.8 to 4.8% walk rate, and 21.2 to 13.1% K rate). If Skaggs can improve upon his strikeout rate against a Nationals team which has a 20.4% K rate versus left-handers, he’ll make a fine streaming option. Pitching in an NL park should also make things easier on him.
Other Options: Scott Feldman (Yahoo! 38%, ESPN: 48%)has a nice matchup pitching in Seattle. Edinson Volquez (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN: 13%) is finally throwing strikes in Pittsburgh and faces a Reds team which isn’t as scary as many perceive them to be. Travis Wood (50%, 13%) is owned in 50% of leagues, but he makes a strong play against a Diamondbacks team which struggles on the road.
WEDNESDAY’S BEST OPTIONS
Nathan Eovaldi (RHP) at Atlanta (Yahoo! 28%, ESPN: 27%)
Eovaldi’s fastball has averaged 95.5 mph over his first three starts this year, down only slightly from last year’s 96.1 mph fastball that he used to maintain a 3.39 ERA over 106.1 innings. Given his velocity, Eovaldi’s pedestrian 17.1% k rate last season made little sense. Or at least it made little sense until you realized how little movement his fastball has on it. Until I see Eovaldi pitch, I’m not ready to buy into the idea that Eovaldi is a breakout star, but he doesn’t need to be elite to make him a strong streaming option against a Braves team that is prone to striking out.
Other Options: Chris Young (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN: 1%) and Jarred Cosart (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN: 2%) are decent steaming options as they face off against each other in Seattle Wednesday night. Drew Smyly (Yahoo! 40%, ESPN: 83%) is owned in 40% of leagues, but if he’s available he’s a good option versus the Cubs at Wrigley Field. You could also do worse than Charlie Morton (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN, 5%) at home against Cincinnati.
THURSDAY’S BEST OPTIONS
Eric Bedard (LHP) vs Twins
Bedard is the only option I’d consider Thursday night. Bedard isn’t exactly dominant, but the Twins’ active roster has a K rate of 22.7% since last season, and their .311 wOBA versus south paws is far from intimidating. If I’m going to put someone out there Thursday, it’d likely be Bedard, but I plan to avoid this matchup.
FRIDAY’S BEST OPTIONS
Robbie Erlin (LHP) at Washington (Yahoo! 9%, ESPN: 2%)
Erlin has 14 strikeouts and only one walk through his first 11.1 innings of the 2014 season. I was excited to break down his first two starts, hoping to find a reason for his dominant start to the season. Erlin’s first start was against a Cleveland team which typically rakes against south paws, and his second start was against a decent Rockies team, albeit at Petco Park. Nothing jumps out to suggest his strikeout rate should continue to be exemplary, but Erlin has several plus pitches and great command. As a flyball pitcher, I’d feel better streaming him in San Diego than Washington, but I’ll still start him Friday with relatively little reservation.
Rick Porcello (RHP) at Min (Yahoo! 38%, ESPN: 71%)
Porcello should be a heavy favorite for a win when he squares off with Kevin Correia in Minnesota Friday. Porcello’s biggest weakness is his low strikeout rate, but the Twins 22.8% K rate since last season against right-handers should alleviate any concern there. Start Porcello with confidence.
Other Options: Colby Lewis (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN: 1%) has a strong matchup in Seattle. Josh Beckett (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN: 2%) can be hit or miss, but the Rockies lineups looks much less daunting in Dodger Stadium than at Coors Field.
SATURDAY’S BEST OPTIONS
Jenrry Mejia (RHP) vs Miami (Yahoo! 12%, ESPN: 4%)
While we’re on the subject of elite swinging strike rates, we might as well talk about Jenrry Mejia, whose 12.1% rate last season was significantly better than Straily’s. Mejia has a 12.0% rate through his first three starts, and can be an excellent source of strikeouts if you need them late in the week. At the same time, Mejia could also implode at any time. He’s walked 11 batters in 16 innings so far this season, and he’s dealing with blisters that could put his playing time in jeopardy. All of that said, if you’re willing to risk Mejia’s lack of command, the Marlin’s 22.4% K rate and abysmal .285 wOBA versus right-handers makes him an intriguing start.
Dan Straily (RHP) at Houston (Yahoo! 42%, ESPN: 93%)
Straily’s swinging strike rate last season of 11.1% was better than that of Chris Sale (10.8), Felix Hernandez (10.7), Jose Fernandez (10.1), and Adam Wainwright (9.6). This made Straily one of my biggest sleeper picks for this season, as it was fair to project significant improvement to his 2013 strikeout rate of 19.4%. Straily has managed to make a modest improvement to his strikeout rate (21.7%) so far in 2014, but he’s also been knocked around a fair bit. A two mph drop in fastball velocity is worrisome, but a matchup with the Astros should help Straily look like the pitcher I thought he would be this season. Even if he doesn’t meet my preseason expectations, Straily should meet your expectations as a streaming option if he’s available Saturday night.
Other Options: Zack McAllister’s (Yahoo! 10%, ESPN: 3%) second start of the week against San Francisco is very similar to his first start versus Kansas City – not fantastic, but stream-worthy. Robbie Ross’s (Yahoo! 7%, ESPN: 4%) matchup with a Seattle team that has monumental struggles against lefties is very intriguing, though Ross has control problems which are nearly as bad as Mejia’s. Tanner Roark (Yahoo! 15%, ESPN: 1%) was knocked around by the Braves in his second start of the season, but has been serviceable otherwise; streaming him versus a bad Padre’s team makes plenty of sense.
SUNDAY’S BEST OPTIONS
Dillon Gee (RHP) vs Miami (Yahoo! 29%, ESPN: 31%)
The Marlins may not be as bad offensively as last season, but I don’t expect them to be much better. Gee is a better pitcher than he gets credit for. After struggling out of the gate last season while returning from injury, Gee maintained a 2.74 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over the second half. Gee’s not a high strikeout pitcher, but he will likely be good for a quality start and possibly a win on Sunday.
Tommy Milone (LHP) at Houston (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN: 1%)
It’s true that the Astros hit lefties better than righties, but it’s also true that they’re still terrible against lefties. Since last season, their active roster has a 23.9% K rate vs southpaws with a .307 wOBA. I prefer Gee to Milone, but if you need strikeouts, Milone is likely the better option.
Other Options: Wily Peralta (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN: 4%) draws another matchup with the Cubs making him a nice two-start option this week. Tom Koehler (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN: 0%) draws a Mets team which boasts a 21.9% K Rate and .301 wOBA versus righties since last year. Taylor Jordan (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN: 0%) has struggled early this season, but a matchup with the Padres is enticing.