Spotty internet access as I awaited my setup to be transferred from my old apartment made for a spotty and abbreviated version of what I intend to become a weekly staple with the spot starter recommendations. In a moment, I will unveil the list of week three recommendations as well as how the week two pickups performed, but first a bit more about the goal behind these recommendations.
The idea is that there is enough useful pitching on the waiver wire of a large swath of leagues (generally, 10-14 team mixers) that you can play the matchups with one or two spots in the backend of your rotation and get some very quality work out the spots instead of sticking it out with a run of the mill third or fourth starter.
Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano over MLB.com’s Fantasy 411 popularized the phrase “pitch or ditch” for this strategy. You will also hear it called streaming or spot starting. I am not for a second pretending like I created this strategy, I am merely offering my solutions on the best way to maximize it. Let’s see how last week’s picks worked out:
Not too bad on the whole as only one of the nine gave up more than three runs (Brandon Beachy) and he softened the blow by striking out eight. Of course he had to make up for Jeff Francis’ lame one strikeout in six and a third innings of work. If there is one thing that sticks out as less than desirable, it’s the two wins in nine starts, but you can’t chase wins and a lot of these are available because they aren’t on the high profile teams that would generally be more conducive to wins.
Who’s on tap for week 3?
Chris Tillman (BAL v. MIN) – He has had an uneven start to the season with a dominating six inning no-hit effort against Tampa Bay followed by two poundings at the hands of the Tigers and Yankees. The best medicine is a shot against the league’s worst offense in the midst of getting used to being without their best player. They weren’t very good with Joe Mauer and it would be quite a shock if they were without him.
Travis Wood (CIN v. PIT) – Wood’s skills have remained intact from last year which is to say they are pretty good and facing the anemic Pirates should only accentuate them. The fly in his ointment remains a severe flyball rate in a terrible park for such an affliction. He was extremely lucky when it came to home runs last year (6.3 HR/FB) and he’s been even luckier this year (4.5%) so while I like him in this favorable matchup, I wouldn’t stick with him beyond that.
Jonathon Niese (NYM v. HOU) – A 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio powered by nearly eight strikeouts per game coupled with a 51% groundball rate is enough for me to remain optimistic in Niese despite a 6.88 ERA. He is getting tagged by a 56% LOB% and 14% HR/FB rate so a date with the lowly Astros is welcomed by Niese and owners of his services. Depending on who you cut for him, this may be someone to hang onto going forward.
Phil Coke (DET @ SEA) – Through two starts totaling 13.7 innings, Coke has allowed just two runs. The six hits allowed are definitely a plus while the six walks are neither good nor bad. In his debut start against Kansas City, he struck out seven, but followed that up with just two in seven innings against Oakland. So we are left wondering what kind of strikeout capability he will offer as a starter. The Mariners strikeout 2nd-most in the American League, but they are also tied for the most walks in baseball. It’s a terrible lineup in a favorable park, so Coke should be a nice play here (and in his next start when he draws the Mariners at home).
Bud Norris (HOU @ NYM) – He worked out well last week so let’s hit the well again. He has improved start to start and posted strikeout totals of 7-6-7 in the process. This is a very talented young arm who could become a permanent asset for fantasy owners sooner than later.
Philip Humber (CHW @ TB) – Picking on the Rays again who Humber already thwarted back on April 9th allowing a run in six innings with four strikeouts en route to a win. This is purely a hot streak/matchup play as I don’t like Humber much going forward.
Brandon McCarthy (OAK @ SEA) – To drive home the point about not chasing wins, the A’s will face Felix Hernandez during this start, but I still really like McCarthy. Like Norris, he has improved start to start (all of which came against teams much better than Seattle) yet his ownership rate remains very low. He could definitely become a long-term hold going forward so you might want to his secure his services sooner than later if you have the spot available.
Chris Capuano (NYM v. HOU) – He just can’t stay this unlucky, especially against a bad team like the Astros. He’s getting groundballs and strikeouts while limiting walks, but his BABIP is nearly .400 (.385) and over 20% of his flyballs have left the yard leaving him with an ugly 61% LOB%. Those numbers begin their correction with this start.
Fausto Carmona (CLE @ MIN) – Many of you may know that I’m not a fan of Carmona at all, but he’s done some impressive work in his last two starts (v. BAL, @LA) against better teams than the Twins including 11 strikeouts over 14.7 innings which is high for him. He’s still inducing a crapton of groundballs, too. He gets hot in stretches and after a horrific Opening Day starts (10 ER in 3 IP) he’s allowed four runs in 21.7 innings (the other start was against BOS), so ride the wave.
Jo-Jo Reyes (TOR v. TB) – Even with a small sample size, his .438 BABIP is kind of unbelievable. It has definitely fueled his 6.75 ERA, but I like that he’s still striking out nearly a batter per inning (12 in 13.3 IP) and maintaining a 1:1 groundball/flyball ratio. I hate to keep picking on Tampa Bay, but until they get Evan Longoria back and/or sort out their lineup woes, it will continue to happen.
I will give out the Saturday and Sunday picks midweek as those are going to be the repeat starters and I’d like to see the first starts of those guys before making another decision on them. Plus it guards against injury that may occur in those initial starts.