As the fourth week of the 2017 MLB season approaches, pitchers are preparing to make their 4th or 5th start of the year. Yet, we are still dealing with small sample sizes that leave some uncertainty between what is a real, reliable trend, and what is a hot or cold streak that will even itself out as time progresses.
However, players and teams do go through hot and cold stretches throughout the year, and savvy fantasy owners take advantage of those streaks to maximize statistical productivity – even if it’s in the short-term.
This week there are not appear to be any clear-cut, long-term, waiver wire solutions to patch the holes in your pitching staff. But all is not lost. In the short-term, the following pitchers, owned in less than 50% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues, can be an asset for this week based on the a combination of their own recent quality of performance and the mediocre to poor performance of their opponents.
STREAMS OF THE WEEK
Play the match-up game and win
Blake Snell – Rays
- Ownership: 36% Yahoo, 19% ESPN
- Opponent: @TOR
Snell was featured in this space last week as a potential break out candidate if he can get his walk rate under control. There are some small positive signs in that direction over his last two starts, but Snell is a must add this week because he is facing Toronto. Yes, you heard me. The Blue Jays.
Many fantasy owners still think of the Blue Jays as the powerful offense they had been over the last few years, but over the first three weeks of 2017, the Jays, as a team, are dead last in OBP and SLG percentage, 29th in runs scored, and strike out 24.6% of the time (the fourth most in MLB). There is double-digit K potential here and a strong likelihood for a quality start.
Matt Andriese – Rays
- ownership: 7% Yahoo, 3% ESPN
- Opponent: @TOR
Snell’s rotation-mate, Matt Andriese is another streaming option for those in deeper leagues. Andriese is coming off two quality starts in a row against the Yankees and Tigers. Although he has limited upside as a long-term option, he is about a league-average pitcher who can keep the Blue Jays in check and earn a third straight quality start.
Brandon McCarthy – Dodgers
- Ownership: 46% Yahoo, 41% ESPN
- Opponent: vs. PHI
Like most Dodger pitchers, McCarthy can be good…when healthy. Well, right now McCarthy is healthy and has a favorable matchup against the Phillies at home. So far this season, McCarthy has become a high ground ball pitcher and has limited hard contact to 21%. The hard contact rate is sure to regress some, but his velocity is up a tick and he is relying more on his cutter, which may indicate that he can sustain favorable batted ball rates.
As a team, the Phillies are near the bottom of the league in hard contact rate (28%) and ground ball rate (49%), so it is a logical and safe bet that McCarthy will continue to perform well and reward those owners who stream him this week.
Two starts are better than one
Patrick Corbin – Diamondbacks
- Ownership: 9% Yahoo, 7% ESPN
- Opponents: vs. SD, vs. COL
Corbin is another example of a pitcher with good skills who has shown success in the past when healthy. Shrewd fantasy owners can take advantage of his early season health and benefit from the two starts he has this week against the Padres and Rockies. It’s no surprise to label the Padres as a weak offense, but the Rockies thus far in 2017 have been middle of the road (at best) with poor plate discipline (23% K rate and 7.6% BB rate).
If Corbin is able to continue to induce ground balls at a high rate of close to 50% (a mark he has achieved over the past calendar year) and limit the hard contact and HR/FB rates (25% hard contact, 8.3% HR/FB), he can have two successful turns this week. He is currently working on a streak of three straight quality starts. Ride the wave for now.
NOT FOR THIS WEEK, BUT ON THE HORIZON
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Tyler Beede – Giants
- Ownership: 1% Yahoo and ESPN
With the surprising and unfortunate news that Madison Bumgarner will likely miss the next two months, and Matt Cain hanging on for dear life as a starter, the Giants have some big spots to fill in their rotation. As a team with playoff and championship aspirations, they are not going to be patient with Cain or Mad Bum’s current replacement Ty Blach. Tyler Beede should be next in line and if you have the ability to stash a pitcher, Beede is the guy to own right now before others beat you to it.
A former first round pick in 2014, he has made steady progression through AA in 2016 and so far in AAA this year, while also impressing Giants management in his six Spring Training appearances back in March.
Jose Berrios – Twins
- Ownership: 5% Yahoo, 4% Yahoo
Berrios was called up by the Twins around this time last year to make his major league debut – to a decent amount of fanfare I might add. He was a top pitching prospect, and the fantasy community was excited to hit the add button. After 14 starts and an ERA of 8.02 in 2016, Berrios has now become a post-hype afterthought. What we often forget is that not all prospects progress in a linear way, and many are unsuccessful in their first big league go-around.
Berrios is back in AAA this year sporting a 1.42 ERA and 0.79 WHIP in three starts. Last year, he was called up and made his debut on April 27. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Twins had a little deja vu. He is a year older, maybe ready this time, and it’s not like he is blocked from a rotation spot in Minnesota.
For Berrios, as it has been with many others, the second time may be the charm. Fantasy owners who have written off Berrios based on his 2016 performance may live to regret it in 2017.
Good luck! Have a great week! Check back every Sunday for your waiver and streamer pitching needs.
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