Last week I decided to focus solely on hitters, so this week I turn my attention to those men on the mound. Pitchers are so much harder to figure out given they only go every five days. You can read a little bit from the early numbers, but things can reverse course with the drop of a hat. Remember when Mat Latos had an ERA and WHIP under 1.0 and was one of the best pitchers in baseball? Yea, me neither – amazing what three bad games can do.
It’s no secret that I hate pitchers. The strained arms, elbows and shoulders. The 15 day DL trips that turn into 30 and then another three or four bad starts as they have to figure things out all over again. The unpredictability and volatility of every arm with less than three years of major league experience as well as most of those over the age of 33. As the season progresses those feelings subside as the pretenders begin to fall to the wayside and the potential gems begin to shine. Now is the time to start paying attention to what pitchers are doing, and now is when you should be able to start adding arms that will be with you for months as opposed to one or two starts.
For the record: I do not trust any pitcher recommended below long-term, but they are all worth adding just to see how long those good numbers they are putting up now will last.
Bartolo Colon (Mets): Prior to Thursday nights game Colon had the best K/9 we’ve seen from his since 2001. His BB/9 was below 1.0, besting last year’s 1.11 BB/9. His FB% was at its lowest point since his major league debut. The last time Colon had a Contact% this low (84.5) was back in 2004. The ERA (2.82), FIP (3.03), xFIP (3.12) and SIERA (3.43) were all basically in harmony with each other. Four of his first six starts were quality starts, and he had yet to allow more than three earned runs in a single contest.
Thursday night that all ended with a four run first inning, yet despite the off game Colon deserves to be owned more – even at age 43 (in two weeks). Look what he did last year at age 42, defying the odds and pitching beyond what anybody thought he was capable of. Look at David Ortiz this year; 40 years old and hitting like he’s in his prime. Sometimes age does not matter, only production.
Colon isn’t an ace, but he is a solid pitcher more than capable of being a number five/six pitcher on any fantasy team. Look at his numbers prior to that start – forget the name, just look at the numbers. Would you leave him out there on waivers if he was a 24-year-old kid with upside? Yea….. I thought not.
Available in 41% of CBS, 60% of Y! and 33% of ESPN leagues
Matt Andriese (Rays): He is getting the opportunity that rightfully belongs to Blake Snell (yea, I’m bitter), but Andriese is just as deserving of an opportunity. Prior to his promotion he had a 3.41 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and an 11.53 K/9. His ERA in AAA has shown steady progression from 2013 to 2015, going from 4.45 to 3.37 down to 2.35 last season. His first taste of the majors wasn’t bad (4.11 ERA), and at least his xFIP and SIERA lined up with his season total so you know that’s what we should expect at a minimum.
The increased use of his slider should help keep the ball on the ground – currently above 50%, and I see no reason for the GB% to drop below that. His 0.55 HR/9 in the minors should play well given his new home park. Finally the improvements we saw in each year at AAA are an encouraging sign that Andriese should improve upon last year’s numbers.
His next start is at Toronto – a tough test if there ever was one. If things go well he should have starts after that against the Marlins and at home versus the Yankees. I can see Andriese being a solid back of the rotation guy for fantasy teams.
Available in 94% of CBS, 88% of Y! and 95% of ESPN leagues
Josh Tomlin (Indians): I have a hard time buying into Tomlin. His batted ball profile is average at best. He gives up way too much hard contact, and not nearly enough soft contact. Given the high fly ball rate it appears he is lucky in the home run department. Finally he doesn’t strike out enough batters. Yet somehow he continues to put up steady fantasy numbers.
His FB% is at least lower than last season which is a plus. He is also walking fewer batters (0.62 BB/9) which should help suppress some of the damage from any long balls. Finally his xFIP (4.08) and SIERA (4.06) are just a shade over his current ERA so he’s not getting lucky. Tomlin isn’t sexy and he will have his occasional four run games, but he should go at least six innings per start and put his team (and himself) in line for the win on most nights.
Available in 52% of CBS, 65% of Y! and 74% of ESPN leagues
Rubby De La Rosa (Diamondbacks): Since his debut against the Cubs on April 7th, Rubby has allowed more than two earned runs in a game once. His K/9 currently sits at 9.33; that ranks 23rd among the 102 qualified starters. He has a GB% above 50 and a FB% below 30 – two things we’re unaccustomed to seeing from him. Rubby also has a LD% below 20 which should help keep his .213 BBA (a career best) relatively low.
The xFIP and SIERA are both lower than his ERA which is good. His Contact% is much lower than league average. soft contact rates are higher than average. Other than an above average hard hit rate, everything looks positive for De La Rosa. This could be a career year for him, or it could just be a hot streak. Either way, ride him while he is producing.
Available in 54% of CBS, 83% of Y! and 89% of ESPN leagues
Trevor Bauer (Indians): The Tribe has moved Bauer into the rotation, and early on it appears that all systems are go. He is putting up his best K/9 (9.32) since his debut with Arizona. I expect that to come down some due to the number of K’s he got in relief, but it shouldn’t go below the 8.69 he posted last season. The GB% is up nine percentage points over last season (39.2 to 48.7) and the FB% is down nine percentage points over last season (40.7 to 31.6).
The biggest change is in his arsenal. Bauer abandoned his slider and picked up his cutter again; that pitch alone is generating a 66.7% ground ball rate and a strikeout percentage over 50. It also helped lower his Contact% which is the lowest we’ve seen from him and ranks inside the top 25 for starters. Bauer still has some work to do, but given what he did against Houston on Tuesday – this could be the beginning of something. Considering his age and pedigree, I might be inclined to pick him up just to find out.
Available in 61% of CBS, 79% of Y! and 90% ESPN leagues
Tyler Chatwood (Rockies): Among qualified starters, Chatwood is the best pitcher in the majors for road starts. His 0.33 ERA is 0.57 better than the next best pitcher, Jake Arrieta. He is one of a dozen pitchers (out of 114) that has not allowed a home run on the road. He ranks in the top 10 for OBA. It is only four starts, but his 27.2 innings is the 15th highest total on the road so it’s not that small of a sample in comparison.
Chatwood allows a few more fly balls on the road, but his low hard hit rate (20.6), low walks (1.63 BB/9), high soft contact rate (23.3) and high GB% regardless of where he pitches (over 50%) keeps things in check. He also strikes out more players on the road (6.83 K/9 compared to 5.06 at home). Chatwood may not be much to look at in Coors, but on the road there isn’t anyone better. If he can even improve things to quality start levels at home he’d be the complete package. As it stands, he’s an ace on the road which is better than Any streamer you can find on waivers.
Available in 37% of CBS, 62% of Y! and 71% of ESPN leagues
Tim Lincecum (Free Agent): I’m sure Lincecum will have decided on a team by the time this goes to print, but why wait for him to make up his mind. I say stash him now. Lincecum has been bad since 2012, but from 2012 to 2014 his xFIP and SIERA say he wasn’t as bad as advertised. During that three-year span the biggest change in his batted ball profile was a spike in line drives (up five percentage points). That in turn led to an increase in hard hit rate, yet the overall Contact% didn’t go up until 2014.
The velocity was the biggest issue, going from 92 to 90 in 2012 and then dropping below 90 in 2014. During his workout for scouts his fastball was back in the 90-91 MPH consistently; the slider sat at 84 which we haven’t seen since his dominant years; the curveball was back in the 76-77 MPH zone, and the changeup showed the best velocity since he rookie debut. If the dip in velocity was the main culprit for his demise, and that velocity (for the most part) has returned, it’s quite possible Lincecum could produce numbers in line with what we saw in 2010 – with a lower strikeout total of course.
We’ve all rostered rookies based on less, and the increased velocity has me curious. I know curiosity killed the cat, but it also worked out well for George. I’m gonna side with the monkey on this one and say take a flyer on Lincecum sight unseen. You don’t need to start him; just take him off the market for now.
Available in 95% of CBS, 98% of Y! and 99% of ESPN leagues
Y! and ESPN Special
Kevin Gausman (Orioles): You have no chance of getting him on CBS, but Gausman is available in over half of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. He doesn’t have a win to his name, but that’s not for a lack of effort. Over his first four starts (25 innings) Gausman has a 2.16 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP and a .170 BAA. He has lowered his BB/9 from last season (2.32 to 1.80), held on to his K/9 totals (8.25 to 8.28), raised his F-Strike%, lowered his LD%, and raised his GB%. The soft contact rate is above league average and his hard contact rate is below league average. Yes, there have been several years of struggles, but it appears Gausman has finally turned the corner. If he is available in your league, find a way to roster him.
Now in some leagues the number of quality or even streamer worthy pitchers may be a little thin. If this is the case, you may want to turn your attention to the middle men who are scattered throughout your waiver wire. Most fantasy owners see little value in these players since they don’t get holds, but like I’ve preached for years; you can build an ace out of spare parts. Orioles reliever Brad Brach has a 1.00 ERA and 0.72 WHIP over 19 innings with a K/9 just over 9.0. He also has three wins under his belt. Nate Jones of the White Sox has a 1.84 ERA and 0.61 WHIP over 14.2 innings, and he has two wins to go along with a K/9 just under 9.0. Put them together and you’ve got a 1.36 ERA, a 0.66 WHIP and a K/9 just a hair under 9.0 in 33.2 innings. Oh, and five wins.
Do you know how many qualified starting pitchers have five or more wins? Nine! Only 28 qualified starting pitchers have a better K/9. And the kicker is these two men put up those numbers in less innings, and important factor in roto and point based leagues with an innings cap. It’s time to start getting creative if you are rostering less than favorable options towards the back-end of your rotation. A few other names to consider who are readily available on waivers are:
- Kevin Siegrist – 4 wins, 2.57 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 20 K’s, 14 IP
- Ryan Buchter – 3 wins, 0.57 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 22 K’s, 15.2 IP
- Shawn Kelley – 1 win, 0.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 16 K’s, 11.2 IP
- Adam Warren – 3 wins, 1.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 13 K’s, 14 IP
- Seung Hwan Oh – 1 win, 1.65 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 20 K’s, 16.1 IP
- Kevin Barraclough – 2 wins, 1.64 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 17 K’s, 11 IP
- Trevor May – 0 wins, 1.89 ERA, 1.11, 27 K’s, 19 IP
To put things in perspective for you:
- Dellin Betances – 0 wins, 2.57 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 27 K’s, 14 innings pitched.
Guys like Will Harris, Logan Verrett and Mike Morin are also good options for ratios, but they don’t have the strikeouts and haven’t been, nor are they likely to be, put in a position to win. If the players above are gone though, they make decent fallback options. And if their bullpen role is ever elevated and they are put in game-winning situations, their value increases. Mix and match, play the wire, and don’t be afraid to dump someone when they get cold for the new hotness on waivers.
Tyler Glasnow (Pirates): Since his minor league debut in 2012, Glasnow has not produced an ERA above 2.43 at any level. His K/9 has been in the double digits at every level. Since 2014 his HR/9 has been 0.29 or lower. Right now the only flaw in his game is a high walk total, but every other facet of his game is money.
Juan Nicasio is starting to show chinks in the armor and Jonathan Niese is, well – my mom always said if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone don’t …………..oh hell, he’s been a train wreck and deserves the hook. I don’t see things getting better for either pitcher, and once that super-two deadline passes one of them will be sent to the pen (or packing) to make room for Glasnow.
Buy and stash now if you can, because the hype train will be rolling in over the next few weeks – it just passed through CBS town and is approaching Yahoo. All aboard!
Available in 37% of CBS, 60% of Y! and 85% of ESPN leagues
Previous Waiver Wire Recommendations
I like to hold myself accountable for past recommendations so I will monitor my hits
and misses from the previous weeks and adjust the players accordingly.
This is the last week Brandon Drury and Joe Smith will appear here. Their ownership levels have reached a point to where they should be owned in all competitive leagues.
Continue to add
- Marcell Ozuna, Derek Dietrich, Javier Baez, Steven Wright, Mark Reynolds, Jake Lamb, Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders are all still solid adds.
- Melky Cabrera, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli are hitting well enough to be owned in leagues with more than 12 teams with four or more outfielders and or a CI slot.
- Eduardo Nunez is hitting well enough to be used as a middle infielder.
Stash – Minor league players to stash prior to their promotion
- Blake Snell, Josh Bell, Trea Turner
Hold – Do not add them, but do not drop them yet if possible
- Mallex Smith was not sent to the minors which is a plus, but now he has to prove he’s better than Jeff Francour. I still consider him an add, but playing time dictates I downgrade him here.
- I may have jumped the gun on Danny Santana. Hold if you can, but drop him if there are better options. The same goes for Jayson Werth, but I’d give him a longer leash given his power potential.
- Chris Owings stopped the bleeding this week, but he is one more bad week away from dropsville.
- Melvin Upton is still good for leagues with 14 or more teams or leagues that use five outfielders. Everyone else feel free to drop him.
- Homer Bailey‘s setback makes him a drop if you need the room and a hold for everyone else. Ditto for A.J. Griffin.
- Joey Rickard and Nick Markakis have both picked things back up, but not enough to warrant any more adds.
- Jeremy Hazelbaker continues his decline. I would (and have) drop him, but I can see holding depending what’s on your wire.
- The Angels recalled Matt Shoemaker but he is still a drop until he strings together at least three solid starts in a row.
- Sean Rodriguez has had only 18 at bats over the past two weeks. He’s still hitting when he gets the chance so it’s worth monitoring him, but he has zero fantasy value right now.
- I had hopes Eddie Rosario was turning things around – hope is a dangerous thing.
- Ben Paulsen is back to being a full-time bench guy – buh bye.
- I still have faith that Aaron Blair will turn things around, but it’s hard to hold him if he can’t handle the hapless Phillies.
Need more waiver wire recommendations, 2-start pitchers, prospect news and general fantasy baseball goodness, head on over to Fantasy Rundown