Nothing is more volatile or harder to predict in fantasy baseball than pitching. It’s why hitters usually make up the bulk of the first few rounds in drafts, they’re safer. A few bad games from a hitter isn’t going to ruin your week. But a bad outing from one of your pitchers can send you to the loss column depending on your format. We want to stay out of the loss column. Starting with this article, we’ll be giving you our recommendations for pitchers to pick up every week that may be available in your league.
Corbin Burnes (SP – Milwaukee Brewers)
Ownership: Yahoo 22% ESPN 18% CBS 68%
Before the start of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers named Corbin Burnes to the starting rotation in a bit of a surprise move that sent Chase Anderson to the bullpen. In Burnes’ first start of the season he pitched five innings while getting an impressive twelve strikeouts including the first nine batters he faced. The most noticeable difference with Burnes in his first start was the significant rise in the spin rate of his pitches. Spin rate correlates strongly with strikeouts. The higher the spin rate, the more strikeouts a pitcher tends to get because of the deceptive movement the spin causes. Because Burnes is a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball and slider, I don’t expect too many quality starts. But strikeouts will be plenty with this young hurler with the potential to get his share of wins on a good Brewers team. Pick him up in any twelve-team league or deeper and stream him for two start weeks in ten team leagues and shallower.
Trevor Richards (SP – Miami Marlins)
Ownership: Yahoo 30% ESPN 12% CBS 57%
The Miami Marlins made a similar decision as the Brewers in giving their young core of pitchers spots in the rotation coming out of spring training. Richards likely had his spot secure but a solid spring in which he gave up only four runs in 19 innings with 20 strikeouts gave the Marlins reassurance going into the season. Richards has not disappointed thus far with two quality starts against the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies. With already an elite changeup, the growth of his fastball will be key in Richards’ success. So far, five of his eleven strikeouts have come via the fastball. It’s difficult to put too much stock into the Miami Marlins, as wins will be hard to come by. But I’ll take Richards of all the pitchers in that rotation to deliver a good number of quality starts with about a strikeout per inning. Pick Richards up in twelve team leagues.
Caleb Smith (SP – Miami Marlins)
Ownership: Yahoo 10% ESPN 6% CBS 50%
The Miami Marlins have an interesting group of young pitchers, and Caleb Smith might just have the best stuff of them all. Smith flashed some great potential last season with a 16.9% K-BB rate before going down with a lat injury. Smith earned himself a rotation spot with 19 strikeouts to only one walk in thirteen innings this spring and started the season with a five inning, eight strikeout performance against the New York Mets. As with most strikeout pitchers, control and a quality third pitch is going to be key in his ability to go deeper into games. If Smith can continue to improve on his walk rate as he’s shown thus far, he could be in for a breakout season. Take a chance on his upside and pick Smith up in twelve team leagues at the end of your bench. As with Richards, wins might be hard to come by but he can provide excellent ratios and a ton of strikeouts if things break right this season.
Frankie Montas (SP – Oakland Athletics)
Ownership: Yahoo 7% ESPN 7% CBS 34%
Perhaps the most unknown and most widely available of this group is Oakland Athletics starter Frankie Montas. Montas was up and down the A’s organization last season but managed to put together a respectable 3.88 ERA in 65 innings, including 11 starts. Montas also showed decent control with a 7.4% walk rate but the strikeouts weren’t there as he relied more on his Sinker to get ground balls than his four seam fastball. The Athetics’ need for starting pitching landed Montas back into the rotation to start the season and he’s shown an ability to pitch well with 11 total innings and 11 strikeouts, giving up 3 runs. His recent outing against the Astros showed he can fare well against good competition and his 60% ground ball rate so far is a good sign. I don’t expect the strikeouts to continue at a nine K/9 rate for Montas but I think he can continue to show good control with a low walk rate and high ground ball rate that will put him in positions to win games. He doesn’t need to be owned in twelve team leagues but anything deeper and he could be used to pick up wins and not destroy your ratios in good matchups.
Matthew Boyd (SP – Detroit Tigers)
Ownership: Yahoo 51% ESPN 26% CBS 60%
Currently leading the AL in strikeouts and behind only Jacob Degrom for lead in the majors through two starts is Detroit Tigers starter Matthew Boyd. Boyd has managed to punch out a whopping 23 batters in 11.1 innings so far including a one run, 13 strikeout performance in 6.1 innings against the New York Yankees on the road. Boyd is a pitcher with good control as shown by his 1.16 WHIP in 170 innings last season. The problem with Boyd last season was his inability to keep the ball in the yard, as shown by his 1.43 HR/9, eight worst among qualified pitchers, so the fact that he has yet to allow a home run in his first two starts is encouraging. What’s working for Boyd is his slider, generating a 26.9% swinging strike rate and responsible for 13 of his 23 strikeouts. Given Boyd’s nature as a fly ball pitcher, I don’t expect him to keep a zero percent home run to fly ball rate. But he doesn’t walk many batters so keeping men off base will be important to limiting runs. Given how bad hitting in the AL Central looks, Boyd should be able to feast on excellent matchups in the division. He’s slated to face the Cleveland Indians this week, still missing Francisco Lindor, followed by a two start week at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox. I would go as far as recommending Boyd in ten team leagues and deeper to take advantage of these matchups ahead.
Two Start Streamers of the Week
Jordan Zimmermann (Detroit Tigers) 4/9 vs CLE, 4/14 @ MIN
The veteran pitcher is off to a good start this season with two quality starts and surrendering only one run in 13.2 innings. Home to the Cleveland Indians is a matchup I want to take advantage of while going to Minnesota will be a tougher test. Zimmermann could be a decent stream in points leagues.
Derek Holland (San Francisco Giants) 4/9 vs SDP, 4/14 vs COL
Holland was a nice surprise for the Giants last season and much like last season, Holland is off to a bit of a slow start. Given the way the season has gone, two runs in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers doesn’t look too bad the way they’ve been swinging the bats. This week Holland gets two games at home against the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies in the notoriously pitcher friendly AT&…no wait, Oracle Park. That’s going to take some getting used to.
Two-Start Pitcher Rankings
- Jacob DeGrom – 4/9 vs Minnesota Twins, 4/14 @ Atlanta Braves
- Blake Snell – 4/8 @ Chicago White Sox, 4/14 @ Toronto Blue Jays
- Corey Kluber – 4/9 @ Detroit Tigers, 4/14 @ Kansas City Royals
- Justin Verlander – 4/8 vs New York Yankees, 4/14 @ Seattle Mariners
- Aaron Nola – 4/8 vs Washington Nationals, 4/14 @ Miami Marlins
- German Marquez – 4/9 vs Atlanta Braves, 4/14 @ San Francisco Giants
- Zack Greinke – 4/9 vs Texas Rangers, 4/14 vs San Diego Padres
- Jameson Taillon – 4/8 @ Chicago Cubs, 4/14 @ Washington Nationals
- Masahiro Tanaka – 4/8 @ Houston Astros, 4/14 vs Chicago White Sox
- Joey Lucchesi – 4/9 @ San Francisco Giants, 4/14 @ Arizona Diamondbacks
- Ross Stripling – 4/9 @ St. Louis Cardinals, 4/14 vs Milwaukee Brewers
- Jon Lester – 4/8 vs Pittsburgh Pirates, 4/14 vs Los Angeles Angels
- Madison Bumgarner – 4/8 vs San Diego Padres, 4/13 vs Colorado Rockies
- Miles Mikolas – 4/8 vs Los Angeles Dodgers, 4/14 @ Cincinnati Reds
- Hyun-Jin Ryu – 4/8 @ St. Louis Cardinals, 4/13 vs Milwaukee Brewers
- Kyle Freeland – 4/8 vs Atlanta Braves, 4/13 @ San Francisco Giants
- Eric Lauer – 4/8 @ San Francisco, 4/13 @ Arizona Diamondbacks
- Jhoulys Chacin – 4/8 @ Los Angeles Angels, 4/14 @ Los Angeles Dodgers
- Marco Gonzales – 4/9 @ Kansas City Royals, 4/14 vs Houston Astros
- Jordan Zimmermann – 4/9 vs Cleveland Indians, 4/14 @ Minnesota Twins
- Derek Holland – 4/9 vs San Diego Padres, 4/14 vs Colorado Rockies
- Carlos Rodon – 4/8 vs Tampa Bay Rays, 4/14 @ New York Yankees
- Kyle Gibson – 4/9 @ New York Mets, 4/14 vs Detroit Tigers
- Jake Junis – 4/9 vs Seattle, 4/14 vs Cleveland Indians
- Anibal Sanchez – 4/8 @ Philadelphia Phillies, 4/14 vs Pittsburgh Pirates
- Trevor Cahill – 4/8 vs Milwaukee Brewers, 4/14 @ Chicago Cubs
- Max Fried 4/9 @ Colorado Rockies, 4/14 vs. New York Mets
- Julio Teheran 4/8 @ Colorado Rockies, 4/13 vs. New York Mets
- Brett Anderson 4/9 @ Baltimore Orioles, 4/14 @ Texas Rangers
- Jose Urena 4/9 @ Cincinnati Reds, 4/14 vs. Philadelphia Phillies
- Felix Hernandez 4/8 @ Kansas City Royals, 4/13 vs Houston Astros
- Andrew Cashner 4/8 vs. Oakland Athletics, 4/13 @ Boston Red Sox
- Homer Bailey 4/8 vs. Seattle Mariners, 4/13 vs. Cleveland Indians