I’ve always been a big fan of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. This is basically the theme song for streaming pitchers and managing a fantasy baseball pitching staff, especially in 2017.
Below is a list of pitchers who are owned in less than 50% of Yahoo and ESPN leagues. Some can be added for long-term production, some can be held for future potential, and for some, you need to walk away or run.
for now and the foreseeable future
Mike Foltynewicz – Braves
- Ownership: 14% Yahoo, 12% ESPN
- Upcoming opponent: vs. PHI
I will keep beating the drum for Folty! Coming off a 7-inning domination of the Reds, allowing two hits and striking out 10, Foltynewicz has been, and continues to be, highly under-owned in the fantasy world. He will have a poor performance from time to time, but so do all pitchers not named Kershaw.
All of the underlying metrics show stability and sustainability of his performance thus far in 2017. Folty has logged 6 quality starts in his last 9 outings, and a 7th should be a lock against the dysfunctional, struggling Phillies this week. Lock Foltynewicz into your lineup now.
Zack Wheeler – Mets
- Ownership: 34% Yahoo, 32% ESPN
- Upcoming opponent: @TEX
Typically, Wheeler is not the type of pitcher I would invest in. 2017 marks his return from Tommy John surgery after missing two full seasons. He is on an innings limit and reportedly won’t be pushed much beyond 125 innings, so the bottom line is that Wheeler cannot be counted on for a full season of production.
However, 2017 is not a typical baseball season, and 100-125 good innings are more valuable than ever, so Wheeler now becomes a pitcher worth rostering for the value he can provide for as long as he lasts. With his innings limit and almost 4 BB/9, Wheeler will rarely pitch beyond six innings per start, but he seems to be gaining strength and stamina while posting a quality start in 4 of his last 5 outings.
Although he no longer has the ace upside that he had as a prospect, if you think of Wheeler as a “long-term streamer”, the 50-70 innings he has left in him this year can be useful, as long as you can absorb a small hit to your WHIP.
stash and hold for high upside in the near future
Julio Urias – Dodgers
- Ownership: 42% Yahoo, 18% ESPN
Urias is an uber-prospect who was highly drafted back in March, but has seen his ownership plummet since his poor performance and subsequent demotion to AAA about two weeks ago. As we have learned recently from Jose Berrios, baseball players do not progress in a linear way. Urias showed tremendous promise last year down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Dodgers, but failed in his recent opportunity this year.
He is performing well thus far out in Oklahoma City, and a call-up back to the Dodgers should happen sooner than later. If you have the ability, stash him now for the unlimited potential he can bring if it all clicks the second time around.
Jon Gray – Rockies
- Ownership: 42% Yahoo, 32% ESPN
Gray was named by many as a pre-season break-out candidate after the former first round pick struck out 185 batters in 168 innings in his first full MLB season last year. Gray went down with a stress fracture in his foot in his third start of the year back in mid-April and is now beginning to work his way back to the Rockies rotation.
He is still a few weeks away, but given that his injury was not arm-related, there is no further concern for injury than there would be for any other pitcher. Keep Gray’s return close on your radar and stash him as soon as you are able.
Zack Godley – Diamondbacks
- Ownership: 27% Yahoo,39 % ESPN
Godley was highlighted here last week, but was optioned to AAA after a quality start against the Pirates this past week. The demotion was more about roster construction and managing Godley’s innings than anything due to performance. In fact, his 2.39 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 22% K rate merit a rotation spot. Godley should be back pitching for the D-Backs in within the next week or two, so stash him now for the potential benefit down the road.
Remember when Amir Garrett was going to win you your league? He now owns a 6.00 ERA and is only 10% owned.
Dinelson Lamet – Padres
- Ownership: 30% Yahoo, 13% ESPN
Lamet has been one of the most added pitchers this past week, and on the surface, rightfully so. He has taken care of the Mets and Cubs in his first two major league starts to the fashion of an astounding 14.4K/9, giving up only 3 earned runs in his first 10 innings.
But BUYER BEWARE: He holds a 98% strand rate and a 15% swinging strike rate that only the likes of Chris Sale and Max Scherzer could sustain. Lamet may be a serviceable major league pitcher, but we have possibly already seen the best of him. Regression is coming.
Ty Blach – Giants
- Ownership: 20% Yahoo, 23% ESPN
On the surface, Blach looks like a useful fantasy commodity. Thus far in 2017, his 3.24 ERA and 1.11 WHIP have provided good value to fantasy owners. But BUYER BEWARE: Blach has posted a putrid and scary 6% swinging strike rate, leading to a minuscule 3.5 K/9. Add in a low .250 BABIP and it’s not surprising to see an xFIP of 4.64.
With the inability to miss bats, Blach truly is more of a mid-4’s ERA pitcher who provides very little upside in the strikeout column. Take a pass on Blach, despite the solid surface numbers.
Good luck! Have a great week! Check back every Sunday for your waiver and streamer pitching needs.
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