A potential breakout in Frankie Montas and a surging Mike Minor highlight week four’s waiver wire column plus my two start rankings.
Frankie Montas (SP – Oakland Athletics)
Ownership: Yahoo 39% ESPN 16% CBS 63%
Two weeks ago, Oakland A’s starting pitcher Frankie Montas was included on this list. Here is my call to fantasy owners once again to pick up Montas where he’s available. In his last start in which he shut down the Houston Astros for the second time this season, Montas pitched differently than before, using his four-seam fastball often and effectively, a pitch in which he averaged 97 mph. Last season, Montas was more efficient as a starter when using his splitter and two seam fastball to induce ground balls, something he continued this season to a 59.4% ground ball rate, which ranks first in baseball. If he can put it all together and add the strikeouts to his game that he displayed in his recent outing against Houston, he could be a real gem for fantasy teams.
Tyler Skaggs (SP – Los Angeles Angels)
Ownership: Yahoo 35% ESPN 48% CBS 67%
The Los Angeles Angels and fantasy owners alike had high hopes for starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs coming into the season. Skaggs displayed some impressive numbers in the first half of the 2018 season with a 2.57 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 98 innings. Hampered by injuries, Skaggs wasn’t able to sustain his success in the second half. Given health, I think Skaggs can perform much like his first half self. In his second outing of the season against the Texas Rangers, he pitched six innings of one run ball while striking out five, followed by a 4 run outing in four innings at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. Despite Skaggs being hurt by the longball on a day the wind was blowing out at 20mph to center field, he struck out seven batters in four innings. Skaggs was placed on the IL due to an ankle sprain he suffered during that start but is set to make his return as soon as he is eligible on April 23rd at home against the depleted New York Yankees. Skaggs is considered the ace of a underwhelming rotation still without Andrew Heaney. I would pick him up and stash him in all twelve team leagues if he’s been dropped.
Luke Weaver (SP – Arizona Diamondbacks)
Ownership: Yahoo 24% ESPN 6% CBS 55%
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Luke Weaver came on strong in his 2017 debut season with the St. Louis Cardinals but disappointed fantasy owners last season under high expectations. Weaver ended last season with a 4.95 ERA and 7.99 K/9, a far cry from the 3.88 ERA and 10.74 K/9 he put up the prior season. Many thought Weaver was next in line to be the ace of the Cardinals but an offseason trade sent Weaver to a rebuilding Diamondbacks team, where he should benefit from a home run suppressing environment. Weaver started the season slow but has shown the potential he flashed in 2017 over his last two starts going five innings with nine strikeouts against the Atlanta Braves on the road and a six inning, eight strikeout performance against the San Diego Padres at home. The impressive 35% and 31% CSW rate (called plus swinging strikes) is highly encouraging to go along with his elite 53% ground ball rate. Weaver is also showing much better control this season lowering his BB% from 8.9% to 5.7%. His 3.92 ERA this season paired with the 2.91 FIP and 3.09 xFIP show that his recent good stretch is no fluke and there is potential for more. The one thing that does concern me is the 53.4% hard hit rate Weaver is giving up, but it is easy to overlook when he’s giving up only 27.6% fly balls, in a home run suppressing park, and baserunners are being limited. He could be picked up in twelve team leagues and deeper if available.
Homer Bailey (SP – Kansas City Royals)
Ownership: Yahoo 3% ESPN 2% CBS 16%
Homer Bailey has been good? What year is this? And does it surprise you as much as it surprised me to learn he is only 32 years old. He’s been around forever. The 106 innings he pitched for the Reds last season were the most he had pitched since 2014. This year Bailey signed on with the Kansas City Royals, moving from a park that ranked fourth in the league in park factors for home runs at Great American Ball Park to the third worst park for home runs in Kauffman Stadium. Bailey has pitched this season to a 4.30 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP with 27 strikeouts in 23 innings. And the peripherals support his start despite a seven run blowup against Seattle on April 8th with a 3.33 FIP and 3.42 xFIP. In his most recent outing, Bailey shut down the Yankees by holding them to one run in six innings and striking out six. Much of Bailey’s success has come on the heels of his split finger fastball he started to throw in 2017 but is doing so now with much better effectiveness, with a 53.8% strikeout rate on the pitch, raising the pVAL from -2.1 to 3.5. It will be interesting to see if Bailey can keep the strikeout rate up as things begin to stabilize with enough of a sample to start the year. His walk rate remains good at 7.6%, so keeping baserunners off will be key given his hard hit rate of 43%. But as mentioned, the park change will help suppress home runs and the AL Central has been mostly a division to target for pitchers. I don’t think his ceiling will be more than a two start streamer in standard twelve team leagues but in 15 team leagues and deeper he could be a useful addition.
Matt Strahm (SP – San Diego Padres)
Ownership: Yahoo 39% ESPN 16% CBS 48%
San Diego starting pitcher Matt Strahm was a popular sleeper pick coming into the year, mostly because of the excellence he displayed out of the bullpen with a 2.05 ERA and a 10.13 K/9. The Padres would give him a chance to stick in the rotation coming in to the year and he made his case with a 2.25 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 20 innings this spring. Making his first start of the season on April 1st against the Diamondbacks at home, Strahm was all over the place allowing three walks and eight hits and five runs in only two innings. But since then Strahm has looked much better allowing only two runs in 18 innings with a 0.72 WHIP. In his recent outing against the Cincinnati Reds, Strahm went eight innings strong allowing his only run on a solo home run. The 52.4% ground ball rate was a big reason for Strahm going deep into this outing. His K/9 currently sits at 5.66, the lowest of his career and much lower than his 9.67 career rate. I expect the strikeouts to start coming and Strahm to get stronger as a starting pitcher as the year progresses. I advise patience with Strahm. Pick him up if he was dropped in your league.
Two Start Streamers of the Week
Mike Minor (Texas Rangers) 4/22 @ OAK, 4/27 @ SEA
Last week’s featured waiver pick-up becomes one of my favorite two start plays this week. Minor finds himself outside of home run friendly Globe Life Park in Texas and goes on the road to face the Oakland A’s on Monday and the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. Minor has been fantastic to start the season and has gone over seven innings in each of his last three starts including a complete game shutout of the Angels.
Domingo German (New York Yankees) 4/23 @ LAA, 4/28 @ SFG
It just doesn’t get much better than this as far as matchups go. Domingo German as shown that no matter what role the Yankees need to him play, he can pitch well with a 2.37 ERA and 10.37 K/9 in three starts. German rejoined the rotation this week for a strong showing against the Royals, striking out nine in six innings. The Royals have the seventh lowest strikeout rate in the league so the outing was impressive. German has shown the Yankees enough to keep them from calling upon Gio Gonzalez, who they signed with an opt out for 4/20 if he wasn’t on the major league roster by then. The Angels and Giants both rank in the bottom ten in the league in team average and home runs hit. Set German in you lineups with confidence this week.
Two-Start Pitcher Rankings
- Carlos Carrasco – 4/23 vs. MIA, 4/28 @ HOU
- Chris Sale – 4/22 vs DET, 4/27 vs TB
- Jack Flaherty – 4/22 vs. MIL, 4/28 vs. CIN
- Cole Hamels – 4/23 vs. LAD, 4/28 @ ARI
- Joe Musgrove – 4/22 vs. ARI, 4/27 @ LAD
- Kenta Maeda – 4/23 @ CHC, 4/28 vs. PIT
- Jake Arrieta – 4/22 vs. NYM, 4/28 vs. MIA
- Zach Eflin – 4/23 @ NYM, 4/28 vs. MIA
- Trevor Williams – 4/23 vs. ARI, 4/28 @ LAD
- J.A. Happ – 4/22 @ LAA, 4/27 @ SF
- Domingo German – 4/23 @ LAA, 4/28 @ SF
- Kevin Gausman – 4/23 @ CIN, 4/28 vs. COL
- Brad Peacock – 4/23 vs. MIN, 4/28 vs. CLE
- Mike Minor – 4/22 @ OAK, 4/27 @ SEA
- Michael Pineda – 4/23 @ HOU, 4/28 vs. BAL
- Zack Godley – 4/22 @ PIT, 4/27 vs. CHC
- Sonny Gray – 4/23 vs. ATL, 4/28 @ STL
- Luke Weaver – 4/23 @ PIT, 4/28 vs. CHC
- Pablo Lopez – 4/23 @ CLE, 4/28 @ PHI
- Wade Miley – 4/22 vs. MIN, 4/27 vs. CLE
- Jake Odorizzi – 4/22 @ HOU, 4/27 vs. BAL
- Spencer Turnbull – 4/22 @ BOS, 4/27 @ CHW
- Steven Matz – 4/22 vs. PHI, 4/28 vs. MIL
- Kyle Freeland – 4/23 vs. WAS, 4/28 @ ATL
- Matt Harvey – 4/22 vs. NYY, 4/27 @ KC
- Lance Lynn – 4/23 @ OAK, 4/28 @ SEA
- Jeremy Hellickson – 4/22 @ COL, 4/28 vs. SD
- David Hess – 4/22 vs. CHW, 4/28 @ MIN
- Tyson Ross – 4/23 @ BOS, 4/28 @ CHW
- Chris Bassitt – 4/22 vs TEX, 4/28 @ TOR
- Felix Pena – 4/23 vs. NYY, 4/28 @ KC
- Homer Bailey – 4/23 @ TB, 4/28 vs. LAA
- Erik Swanson – 4/23 @ SD, 4/28 vs. TEX
- Lucas Giolito – 4/22 @ BAL, 4/28 vs. DET