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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 9

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

Hard to believe, but the fantasy baseball season is already coming to a close. While it wasn't the long slog we normally love, we can at least appreciate it was here. This week we're looking at a few pitchers who could help you take home some hardware after posting solid starts last week. Youngsters Keegan Akin and Mitch Keller tossed some impressive outings, while Madison Bumgarner turned in his first good start of 2020 after what has been a disaster of a season for MadBum. In addition to their ROS outlook I'm going to look at the pitcher's potential value for 2021, as next year is already on the minds of many fantasy baseball addicts.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 09/21/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

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Keegan Akin, Baltimore Orioles

9% Owned

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 13.2 IP, 4.61 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 13.1% K-BB%

09/16 vs. ATL: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

Keegan Akin carved up the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, putting up a career-high nine strikeouts over 5 innings. A mid-tier pitching prospect in the Baltimore organization, Akin has found early success in the majors, putting up a 3.38 ERA through his first six appearances. Now, the young lefty is staring down a two-start week during the final week of the regular season, and with availability in over 95% of leagues, he could wind up being a crucial difference-maker in championship matchups.

A second round pick back in 2016, Akin was viewed by scouts as a back-end starter or possibly a bullpen arm. He works with a three-pitch mix consisting of four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. The fastball averages about 92 MPH on the gun, but with an average spin rate of 2390 RPM, Akin’s fastball is firmly above average and can allow it to play better than its velocity. The really interesting piece of Akin’s repertoire is his slider, because it’s more a slider-curveball hybrid. Here is an few example from this start.

With that big, looping movement the pitch resembles a curveball to the naked eye, and it shows up in the data as Akin’s slider has 49.5 inches of vertical movement, a top ten mark among starting pitchers. This type of movement has allowed Akin to throw the pitch to opposite handed hitters with confidence, and is a big reason Akin has held righties to a .232 BA and .318 wOBA, very respectable numbers for a rookie left-hander. Overall, batters have mustered just a .167 BA, .172 xBA, .250 SLG, and .214 xSLG against his slider. While those numbers are impressive, the 25.9% whiff rate is quite poor for a breaking ball and should have us questioning how real the strikeout numbers are for Akin.

High strikeout numbers have been the biggest surprise with Akin’s game thus far, as his 31.6% rate would be top-15 among starters if he had enough innings to qualify. The slider hasn’t been the big source of strikeouts, as Akin had just three swinging strikes with it in his most recent start. Instead, it’s been his changeup and fastball doing the heavy lifting strikeout-wise, with 16 combined swinging strikes between the two pitches in his start against Atlanta. The changeup especially has been key for Akin, since he has a 38.2% whiff rate and 34.2% chase rate with the pitch thus far. He uses it almost exclusively against righties, which has helped contribute to his success against opposite handed batters. The pitch itself has solid movement, especially with its 15.9 inches of break, putting him solidly above average. The changeup’s metrics show that it could play as a strong breaking ball itself and pick up Akin’s slider in terms of strikeouts.

While there are plenty of positives with Akin, there are also some red flags with that should concern those looking at him hoping to squeeze out a few good starts. First, is the legitimacy of the strikeout numbers. The 26.8% whiff rate on Akin’s fastball is wholly unsustainable given his 92 MPH fastball velocity. His 83rd percentile spin rate on his fastball helps, but the whiff rate on his fastball could easily be 10% lower or more over a longer period of time.

The second thing scary about Akin is his flyball tendencies. His 36.4% groundball rate would be the seventh-lowest among qualified starters if Akin had enough innings to qualify. Akin has had a groundball rate under 40% in each of the last three seasons as a prospect. He survived because he was able to generate infield flyballs more than 20% of the time, but he’s had just a 10.5% IFFB rate in the majors. Akin has been lucky to have surrendered just one home run thus far, especially considering his home ballpark and his division.

The third thing that worries me about Akin is a historically bad walk rate. His walk rate has been north of 10% in each of the last three season as a minor leaguer, and is at a bloated 11.3% mark so far in the big leagues. That combined with potential home run regression and suspect strikeout numbers on his fastball make Akin’s numbers look shaky thus far. He could still be used in a league where volume is king, such as a points league, but I’d be nervous about what Akin could do to my ratios in Roto, especially my WHIP. If two so-so starts have more value to you than one good one, then roll the dice on Akin and hope for the best. Otherwise, there should be better options for a team competing for a title.

Verdict: Akin’s changeup looks like a solid strikeout pitch, but poor control and possible home run regression make hima dicey play during the final week. He’s a volume play only since he has two starts in shaky matchups, at the Red Sox and at the Blue Jays. Both teams have been above average against lefties this season, and both ballparks are tough pitching environments. Long term, he looks like he could stick around as a four or five starter in the majors, but fantasy-wise he’ll likely be a matchup-based streamer next season if he makes Baltimore’s rotation.

Mitch Keller, Pittsburgh Pirates

28% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 10.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 8.99 FIP, -2.2% K-BB%

09/19 vs. STL: 6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Injuries have kept Keller off the mound for the majority of 2020, and prior to Saturday things hadn’t been to pretty for Keller when he did pitch. But the highly regarded young righty twirled a gem last week, firing six scoreless innings for one of the best starts of his career to this point. Unfortunately, the bullpen coughed up the lead for Keller and spoiled his chances for a win, but we can’t expect too many wins out of any Pirates pitcher given the current state of the team. What we should look for is strikeout ability, ratio help, and quality start opportunities, and with starts like this one Keller could be the answer in those categories.

One of the most prized pitching prospects in baseball, Keller has struggled to find his footing at the major league level. He took a pounding in 2019, going 1-5 and posting a horrific 7.13 ERA in 48 innings. But Keller sort of had a Corbin Burnes-esque season in 2019. The surface stats were terrible, but the skills looked solid. If you look past the ERA and win-loss record, Keller’s 3.19 FIP, 3.47 xFIP, and a 12.0 K/9, which are ace-like numbers. Ironically, the situation has been reversed for Keller this year. His 3.24 ERA is solid, but he has a 6.73 FIP and 6.27 xFIP. He’s only pitched 16.2 innings, and ERA estimators like FIP and xFIP can become skewed in such a small sample size, but it’s still an interesting turn of events for Keller. His 19.7% strikeout rate is uncharacteristically low, and he’s allowed four home runs in his first four starts.

Despite the ugly strikeout and home run numbers, Keller is still one of the most intriguing waiver wire arms out there for the final week. The uber prospect boasts a strong four-pitch arsenal, with a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. The fastball has only averaged 93.8 MPH overall this season, but over his last two appearances Keller has averaged 95 on the gun with it. He was at 95.5 MPH with his fastball last season, so it seems likely that Keller was just getting ramped up during his first two outings and should hover around 95 MPH with his fastball regularly. Of his secondary pitches, Keller’s slider has always been the gem of the bunch. Aside from his changeup, all of Keller’s pitches are considered above average, but his slider is on another level.

Keller’s slider generated an unreal 26.8% swinging strike rate last season, and while that has come down to just 13.5% this year, Keller still got five swinging strikes on 18 pitches in this start against the Cardinals. Batters have also failed to get a hit off of Keller’s slider in 2020, and have just a .072 xBA and .082 xSLG against his slider thus far. With above average velocity and spin, and the good results he’s gotten through his first two seasons, Keller’s slider has all the makings of an elite breaking ball, and should allow him to put up strong strikeout numbers at the major league level.

While Keller’s slider looks good, there should be concern about the viability of his fastball. It has a .205 BA against this season, but has been smoked by opposing batters for a 93.5 MPH average exit velocity, and has a .263 xBA and a troubling .609 xSLG. Keller’s heater was a major reason for his struggles last year, as batters hit .461 against the pitch along with a .719 SLG and .499 wOBA. Those numbers were perhaps the worst possible outcome for Keller, but a .205 BA and .441 SLG against his fastball this season seems near the best possible outcomes. Keller’s fastball has an above average spin rate, but the movement is unexceptional. Keller has above average velocity, but major league hitters can catch up to a 95 MPH heater, especially when it has poor movement. It would be nice to see Keller lean a little more heavily on his offspeed stuff instead of his fastball. It doesn’t have to be a radical shift, but if he threw his slider and curveball 5% of the time each and his fastball 10% less often it could serve him well.

Keller is a pitcher that has the tools to become a high-end starter, and he could put it all together next season. I liked him as a late round sleeper coming into this year, but a month-long stint on the IL never allowed us to see if that could come to fruition. I would go back to the well in next year’s drafts assuming Keller will be another late round flier or $1-$2 player in auctions. His final start this season comes Friday at Cleveland, and the Indians have just a .689 OPS, .139 ISO, and .305 wOBA against right-handed pitching this season. That’s a pretty juicy matchup, and Keller has the stuff to take advantage of a weak lineup. If you need an extra start, Keller is a solid option with an excellent matchup.

Verdict: A plus slider headlines a solid all-around repertoire for Keller, and he’ll finish the season against a weak Cleveland lineup, making him a good streaming option as a high risk, high reward pitcher. He’s also an interesting late round draft pick for next season, and someone I'll definitely look to scoop up in my leagues if the price is right.

Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks

57% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 22.1 IP, 8.46 ERA, 8.42 FIP, 6.8% K-BB%

09/20 @ HOU: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

A year ago it would be shocking to see Bumgarner featured in a column like this, but 2020 has been a rough one for ol’ Mason Saunders. Bumgarner has posted an eye-popping 7.36 ERA and 7.84 FIP this season, which are both more than twice as high as his career 3.21 ERA and 3.41 FIP. While no one expected Bumgarner to be this bad, the writing was on the wall coming into the season. Bumgarner really hasn’t been the same since his highly publicized dirt bike accident back in 2017. Sure, he managed a respectable 3.57 ERA between 2017-2019, but a 2% dip in strikeout rate and 4.26 xFIP over that time period are signs of a pitcher on the decline. Bumgarner really benefitted from pitching in AT&T/Oracle Park during that stretch as well, posting a 2.99 ERA in San Francisco, but a 4.61 ERA on the road. That’s why many were left scratching their heads when Bumgarner inked a five-year, $85 million dollar deal with Arizona this offseason. Was Arizona that desperate for veteran arms? Does their front office know about sabermetrics? Did Dave Stewart sneak in after hours to make one final blunder? Whatever happened, Bumgarner is a Diamondback now, but can he ever come close the pitcher he was at the height of his powers? And more importantly, does he have one more epic playoff performance in him, this time for fantasy managers?

Bumgarner’s repertoire hasn’t changed much even in the later years of his career. He still throws out the same four-pitch mix, relying heavily on his four-seam fastball, cutter, and curveball, with the occasional changeup. Bumgarner’s fastball velocity had been trending downwards coming into this season, but has taken a precipitous drop in 2020, as Bumgarner is averaging a mere 88.4 MPH on the gun this season. Below is a graph of his fastball velocity by year, just to allow you to visualize how stark the drop has been.

Even at his best he was never an overpowering pitcher in terms of velocity, with his best years being between 92-93 MPH, but he’s among the slowest in the league. The drop is so steep one has to wonder if something is wrong with him beyond age. He’s 31, which is old for baseball but not ancient. Plenty of pitchers can be effective at this stage in their career, especially pitchers with the raw talent that Bumgarner possesses. He does have almost 2000 MLB innings on his arm if you include the postseason, and such a heavy workload may have accelerated his decline.

It may seem overly simplistic to point to a lower fastball velocity as the reason for Bumgarner’s struggles, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Batters have pulverized Bumgarner’s fastball for a .309 BA and .618 SLG, and the expected stats are even worse, as Statcast projects a .329 xBA and .740 xSLG on MadBum’s four-seamer, and that’s not to mention the scorching 91.2 MPH average exit velocity against. That’s right, batters are sending it back about 3 MPH harder than Bumgarner is sending it in. I wish I could say the velocity was back up in this one, but it wasn’t even close. Bumgarner averaged 88.8 MPH with his fastball, which does tie a season high, but is still about 2-3 MPH below where he needs to be to find success.

What about the cutter? The famous MadBum cutter that has been the key to success for Madison Bumgarner throughout his career. Bumgarner has attempted to lean on his cutter more often this season, using it 36.2% of the time, his highest usage rate since 2013. Unfortunately, his cutter has suffered serious decline as well, as Bumgarner is throwing it just 83.4 MPH this season. That’s about 4 MPH less than last season, but it’s not just the velocity that’s troubling for Bumgarner. Below is a chart of average break on Bumgarner’s cutters by season.

So not only is it slow, it’s not moving much either, which makes it a cookie for major league hitters. Bumgarner’s cutter has been pounded for a .293 BA and .707 SLG this season as well, and it only generated three swinging strikes in this start.

Ultimately, we are a long way away from trusting Madison Bumgarner in fantasy again. If he can’t get his velocity back up we may never see a regularly effective Bumgarner again. He falls into a bucket of once great veterans who are now a shell of themselves, such as Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, and Johnny Cueto. The only fantasy value I see in these types of players is in their name. More casual players who don’t spend a large chunk of their free time pouring over advanced statistics may recognize the name and the player becomes a trade asset, but I hesitate to draft or use them. His next matchup is solid, home against Colorado, a club with an 89 wRC+ against lefties and a 75 wRC+ away from Coors Field this season, but Bumgarner has shown little signs of life despite solid results Sunday. As far as next season, I’d have to see it before I trust him. He’ll probably be a cheap flier in drafts or auctions, but I’d rather roll that dice on a young up-and-comer like Mitch Keller instead of hoping Bumgarner regains his form. A rebound isn’t impossible for him, but there is nothing in the stuff or metrics that suggest one is imminent, which is why he has to do it on the diamond before we buy back in.

Verdict: It was nice to see at least one good start from Bumgarner this season, but we probably won't see another. Fastball and cutter velocity was still down in this one, and his nine swinging strikes on 80 pitches are fine, but a little underwhelming in today’s strikeout-heavy game. He can’t be trusted in his last start, even in deep leagues. 2021 will be critical for Bumgarner, because if he can’t regain his velocity, either by getting healthy, getting a normal spring training, or a mechanical change, this arm might be completely fried.

 

 



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 8

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

The lefties were on display this week, as we saw two strong outings from AL southpaws Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield. And of course we're going to break down the most surprising start of the season to this point, Alec Mills's no-hitter over Milwaukee on Sunday.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 09/14/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

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Jordan Montgomery, New York Yankees

16% Owned

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 28.1 IP, 5.72 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 13.4% K-BB%

09/12 vs. BAL: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

Montgomery was something of a popular sleeper candidate coming into the season, as the 27-year-old was set to pitch his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery back in 2018. Montgomery was effective for the Yankees in 2017, putting up a 3.88 ERA and 14.3% K-BB% in 29 starts before succumbing to injury.  Domingo German’s suspension solidified Montgomery’s role in the rotation, and the stars were aligned for another successful season in the Bronx. Things didn’t work out that way for Montgomery, who got pounded to the tune of a 5.72 ERA and 1.6 HR/9 through his first seven starts. However, Montgomery welcomed the struggling O’s in to town, and sliced up Baltimore’s lineup for a career-best nine strikeouts. With a powerful (on paper, at least) New York offense to support him, Montgomery may be the answer for those trying to eek out a few extra wins and strikeouts down the stretch, but just how useful can the big lefty be?

Montgomery has a deep five-pitch repertoire consisting of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, changeup, and the occasional cutter. Montgomery’s 92.7 MPH fastball is a career-best, but still puts him around the league average. Even though Montgomery is throwing his fastball harder, opposing hitters don’t seem to mind, as batters are crushing his four-seamer for a .346 AVG and .538 SLG. The two-seamer hasn’t been much better, with opponents hitting .324 with a .486 SLG off the pitch thus far. This isn’t a new development for Montgomery, as both of his fastballs have always been clobbered, but it is cause for concern and caps his upside. Plenty of pitchers can get by with weak fastballs, but it makes them risky on a start-by-start basis. Montgomery’s own teammate Masahiro Tanaka is a perfect example of this. Tanaka’s fastball gets clobbered, but his command and secondary pitches are good enough for Tanaka to survive and thrive at times, but make him tough to trust. Montgomery must show he has capable enough secondary pitches if he wants to stick around with such a bad fastball.

Fortunately for Montgomery, he’s got two solid secondary pitches in his changeup and curveball. Both pitches have been effective in generating whiffs and soft contact. Batters are hitting .238 off Montgomery’s changeup and .161 off his curveball, and have an average exit velocity under 80 MPH on both pitches. These two pitches have allowed Montgomery to have overall 83.8 MPH average exit velocity against, the third best mark in the league (min. 100 batted ball events). Montgomery had a decent 87 MPH average exit velocity during his full season in 2017, but his current rate puts him in elite territory. Montgomery has been racking up the whiffs with both secondary pitches, with eight swinging strikes between the pair on Saturday. Montgomery’s curveball did the heavy-lifting for him against Baltimore, with Montgomery throwing it 31% of the time and getting six whiffs. Here’s an example from this start.

His curveball is not traditional, and is really more of a slurve than a true curveball. It’s always gotten better than average whiffs for Montgomery and he should be able to use this pitch to get decent strikeout numbers. Based on his track record, we shouldn’t expect Montgomery to maintain a strikeout rate above 9.0 K/9 and it’s unlikely that Montgomery will match or top the nine strikeout mark again this year. Over a four-game series with the Yankees, Baltimore scored three runs total and struck out 38 times, so Montgomery may have taken advantage of a weak lineup that had been overperfoming their true skill levels earlier in the year.

Verdict: Montgomery has all the tools of a four starter in the majors with a ceiling as a three, which makes him a streamable option in the right matchup. His next outing is against Boston, and while the Red Sox have a bad record, they do have with a .796 OPS and 111 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season. That’s not a great spot for a bad fastball pitcher like Montgomery. Sure, he had a good start this time, but it was just two starts earlier that Montgomery failed to make it out of the first inning against Tampa Bay.

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Justus Sheffield, Seattle Mariners

28% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 37.1 IP, 4.34 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 13.8% K-BB%

09/12 @ ARI: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Once considered among the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, Sheffield’s star has faded since coming to Seattle as the centerpiece of the package that brought James Paxton to New York. Sheffield took his lumps in 2019, posting a 5.50 ERA and 4.71 FIP in 36 MLB innings. As if that wasn't bad enough, in 55 innings at Triple-A Sheffield was pounded for a 6.87 ERA, 7.18 FIP, 1.96 HR/9, and 1.17 K:BB ratio. Yeah, there were some crazy offensive numbers in the PCL last year, but these numbers are hideous any way you spin it. Two years ago a strong start from Sheffield would have ignited a massive hype train, but now it barely registers among fantasy baseball managers. Sheffield is still just 24 and has fewer than 100 MLB innings under his belt, so he has plenty of room to grow as a pitcher.

Sheffield uses a three pitch mix, relying on a fastball, slider, and changeup. The slider was his most touted pitch as a prospect, but scouts also raved about his sinking fastball, projecting that Sheffield could use it to regularly induce groundballs. His changeup is the weakest of the three pitches, and Sheffield uses it almost exclusively against right-handed batters when the slider would be less effective. Sheffield did make a change with his heater this season, ditching the four-seamer for a true two-seamer. That change hasn’t been revolutionary to Sheffield’s game from a results perspective, but it has helped him limit power. Batters had a .507 SLG against Sheffield’s fastball last season, but have a .378 SLG against his sinker this year. It’s worth noting that the xSLG (.460 in 2019, .451 in 2020) are nearly identical, so it remains to be seen if this improvement will stick. He’s been rather fortunate with just a 5.3% HR/FB ratio, but Sheffield also excelled at limiting longballs as a minor leaguer prior to 2019, so it’s certainly possible that he can maintain a solid home run rate in the majors, especially pitching half his games in the friendly confines of T-Mobile Park.

The most impressive piece to Sheffield’s arsenal is his slider, which batters have flailed at for a .180 AVG and .197 SLG this season, along with a 14.2% SwStr rate, by far his best on his three primary pitches. A 14.2% SwStr rate falls short of elite territory for a  slider, but with sharp, sweeping break and an above average spin rate this pitch can make any left-handed batter look foolish. Here’s one of his best from this start.

You might look at that pitch and wonder how Sheffield only has a 22.2% strikeout rate on the year. Well, remember how I said Sheffield’s slider can make any left-handed batter look foolish? Unfortunately for Sheffield, sometimes major league teams use right-handed batters too. With Sheffield relying so much on his slider to get whiffs, he has suffered from quite large platoon splits. As a big leaguer Sheffield has held righties to a .173 AVG and .270 wOBA, but righties have crushed him for a .303 AVG and .348 wOBA. It’s a relatively small sample size as Sheffield has just 82 career innings in the majors, but with his pitching style it’s easy to predict wide platoon splits.

Sheffield can fix his platoon splits one of three ways: Better fastball command, better slider command, or developing the changeup into a true strong third pitch instead of a weak alternative for his slider. Ideally, he’d do all three, but that’s a tall order even over an entire offseason. If he could do one and cut back on the walks it would work wonders for his consistency and long-term viability as a starter. It was just two years ago where Sheffield was among the most prized pitching prospects in baseball, and he makes for a sneaky post-hype sleeper heading into 2021. For this year, Sheffield should be viewed similarly to Jordan Montgomery. The two have different pitching styles, but your willingness to use them depends on matchup and personal situation, because both are far from must-start right now.

Verdict: For the first time in his big league career, Sheffield is showing some promise that he can live up to the immense hype he had as a prospect. Still, he’s tough to trust in playoff time, and only usable against weak opponents. As it would line up now Sheffield’s next start comes home against San Diego, a team with a 109 wRC+ and .777 OPS against lefties this season. I’d avoid that one, but his final start against Oakland is intriguing. The A’s are playoff-bound, but only have a .714 OPS against left-handed pitchers, along with a 26.8% K rate versus southpaws, second-highest in the league. Oakland will also be without Matt Chapman and possibly without lefty-masher Chad Pinder, making that start even more enticing. He’s a sneaky championship streamer in that one.

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Alec Mills, Chicago Cubs

28% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior tot this start): 43.2 IP, 4.74 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 9.9% K-BB%

09/13/20 @ MIL: 9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

Sure, Alex Mills threw a no-hitter, but did you know he has a .000 BABIP over his last nine innings? Yeesh, talk about good luck. In all seriousness, Mills etched his name into the record book on Sunday tossing the 16th no-hitter in Chicago Cubs history and becoming Chicago’s second favorite Sunday arm behind comeback artist Mitch Trubisky. Mills has sort-of filled the Mike Montgomery role for Chicago over the past few years, bouncing between long relief and the rotation as needed, but with a no-no to his name and a 3.85 ERA over his MLB career, the Cubs may have stumbled onto something special with the unheralded righty.

As a 22nd round pick by Kansas City in 2012, it’s safe to say that Mills had little prospect pedigree. He did make it on to some Chicago Cubs prospect lists a few years ago after coming over from KC, but Chicago’s farm system had been severely depleted by win-now trades at that point and says more about the Cubs’ prospects at the time than Mills. In short, Mills had no where near the hype of a Justus Sheffield or Jordan Montgomery, and many scouts thought he’d be lucky to hang around in a big league bullpen for a few years.

Mills works with a five-pitch repertoire with a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. He fires in his fastball at a modest 90 MPH, and opposing hitters have sent it back even harder, as Mills’s four-seamer has a 90.6 MPH average exit velocity against this season. His four-seamer may have a .250 AVG and .450 SLG against, but a .313 xBA and .621 xSLG foretell heartache in his future with this heater. His best pitch has been the changeup, which has held batters to a .147 AVG and .324 SLG this season, along with an 18.6% SwStr rate. An argument could be made for his slider being his best pitch, as batters have mustered just a .111 AVG, .111 SLG and have a 13.2% SwStr rate against the pitch this year, but Mills has only used it 9.4% of the time this season and only 5% of the time in his no-hitter, so Mills clearly views the pitch as a tertiary option. It’s the changeup that appears to be the key to Mills’s success.

What makes Mills’s changeup so special? Well, there are two things. First,  Mills has had about nine MPH of velocity separation between his fastball and changeup this season. Among the 260 pitchers who have thrown at least 250 total pitches and thrown both a fastball and changeup, the average velocity separation between fastball and changeup this year is 7.67. Some of the largest positive outliers are pitchers like Dylan Cease and Devin Williams, who average better than 97 and 96 MPH on their fastballs respectively. Mills simply can’t compete with that, but settles into a positive zone with guys like Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Keuchel, and Zach Davies. Those are Mills’s people, the guys he should one day hope to become. They all average around nine MPH of separation between their fastball and changeup despite poor fastball velocity. Like any metric, velocity separation isn’t an absolute indicator of success, but it helps with deception, which is Mills’s only hope of generating whiffs.

The second thing that makes Mills’s changeup special is above average movement, both horizontal and vertical. Here’s an early example from this start.

It doesn’t take much to get Keston Hiura to whiff, but Mills embarrasses the young second baseman with a changeup at his shins. This movement allows Mills to use the pitch as his primary offspeed offering against both lefties and righties. Mills has obviously been better against right-handed batters with a .159 AVG and .238 wOBA for his career, but he’s held his own against lefties with a .259 AVG and .344 wOBA all time. Those aren’t great numbers, but he can survive with those platoon splits.

What makes me hesitant about Mills isn’t just the poor fastball velocity, but it’s that his changeup isn’t good enough to overcome that fastball. Plenty of pitchers, such as Masahiro Tanaka and Dylan Bundy, have gotten by with a bad fastball, but those pitchers have an elite breaking ball. Kyle Hendricks has been the wizard of weak contact, while Dallas Keuchel the king of grounders. All of those pitchers do one thing exceptionally well to overcome their fastball. Mills doesn’t have that. He has a good changeup, a decent groundball rate, and limits hard contact pretty well, but all of those skills are far from elite. It would be interesting to see Mills use his slider more often, as it’s performed well and has above average break, but he only throws it about 10% of the time. Batters have a .061 AVG and a 14.8% SwStr rate against his slider all time, but it’s his least thrown pitch. A left-handed batter has never gotten a hit off his slider in the major leagues. Seriously, not once. 50 pitches thrown, zero base hits. Surely the Cubs’ coaching staff and analytics team knows about these statistics, so there must be a good reason why he’s not throwing much, but from where I’m sitting I can’t figure it out.

Going into this breakdown I was ready to dismiss Mills as lucky, and in many ways he was extremely lucky in this start. The Brewers put ten balls in play with an xBA of .300 or higher, the highest being a lineout by Jedd Gyorko in the second that screamed off his bat at 102.1 MPH and travelled 388 feet, good for an .810 xBA, but landed safely in the glove of Ian Happ standing on the centerfield warning track. But hey, if no one got lucky then we’d never have no hitters. Mills has been pretty lucky this season quite frankly, with a .211 BABIP helping him to a 3.93 ERA, but his 5.00 SIERA and 2.18 K/BB ratio are concerning. It’s almost silly to say I want to see more a pitcher throws a no hitter, but I do want to see more from Mills. I want to see him increase his slider and changeup usage so he’s less reliant on his fastball. That probably won’t happen this season, which make him another situational streamer. I wouldn’t be too keen on starting him after a 114-pitch outing either, especially against his next opponent, the powerful Minnesota Twins. After that one he’s lined up to face the Pirates in Pittsburgh, a matchup I’d consider.

Verdict: While the unheralded ex-swingman may not look like much on the radar gun, he’s got a pair of strong secondary pitches in his changeup and slider. It would be nice to see him use the changeup and slider more often, but we’ll likely have to wait until 2021 to see a change like that. For now, he’s a matchup dependent streamer. The no-hitter may have other owners overrating him, so don’t forget he had a 4.74 ERA prior to this start, and has allowed four or more runs in four of nine starts this season. He also has a pitiful 17.5% strikeout rate on the season, which makes the ceiling pretty low on days where he allows hits.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 7

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

It was another exciting week of surprising starts, and with playoff time already upon us now is when September heroes emerge and become legends, at least in the storied history of our personal fantasy leagues. This week we're looking at three guys who could become that fantasy legend in the truncated 2020 season. Seth Lugo has continued to thrive after an unexpected move to the rotation with his best outing yet, Tony Gonsolin celebrated the Ross Stripling trade with another dominant performance, and Tarik Skubal notched his first career career quality start.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 09/07/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Tarik Skubal, Detroit Tigers

11% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 9.1 IP, 6.75 ERA, 6.58 FIP, 14.3% K-BB%

09/05 @ MIN: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Skubal has been one of many top pitching prospects to make his debut in 2020, but unlike many other hyped names, Skubal had struggled to make an impact prior to this start. Detroit gave him an incredibly short leash to begin with, as Skubal pitched four total innings over his first two starts. He made it a little deeper the third time out, going five innings against the Twins, but the young lefty finally went deep enough to earn his first career quality start against those same Twins on Saturday. With the hype having died down on Skubal he is available in over 80% of leagues, and the big name probably has fantasy managers wondering if Skubal is poised to be the next rookie pitcher to put up big numbers.

Skubal is perhaps best known for the monster strikeout rates he put up in the minors. Skubal always maintained a strikeout rate of 30% or better as a minor leaguer, but posted an absurd 48.2% strikeout rate in 42.1 IP at Double-A last year. That was good for a 17.43 K/9, which is a number you only expect to see from an elite reliever. Skubal was able to rack up those strikeouts with a four-pitch arsenal consisting of a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. It’s a rather complete repertoire for a young pitcher, and if he’s able to command all four pitches effectively Skubal should find success at the big league level.

The fastball and slider were Skubal’s most highly regarded pitches as a prospect, and it’s easy to see why after this start. He averaged 94.6 MPH with the heater in this start, and generated eight of his 14 swinging strikes with his fastball. Skubal throws hard for a lefty, and his 95 MPH average fastball velocity is the fourth highest among southpaw starters this season, behind just Jesus Luzardo, Blake Snell, and Yusei Kikuchi (min. 10 IP). His 2441 RPM on the fastball also puts him in the 86th percentile of fastball spin rate, and with 4.2 inches of break Skubal’s fastball is able to play above its velocity, and it’s a big reason why he’s had a 10.9% SwStr rate on his fastball this year. Here's one of his better four-seamers from this outing.

 

It's very tough for hitters to catch up to a 95 MPH fastball like that high in the zone. A good fastball can take a pitcher a long way, but he needs at least one worthwhile secondary pitch to sustain success in the bigs. Luckily for Skubal, he has more than one.

The slider has long been the standout among Skubal’s secondary offerings, and that hasn’t change through his first four starts. Opponents are hitting just .214 with a .286 SLG and .273 wOBA against the pitch thus far, and have a 15.7% SwStr rate on Skubal’s slider. His slider doesn’t blow hitters away like some of the game’s best, but it’s an above average offering that coupled with his fastball should allow Skubal to generate strikeouts, although it’s unlikely he’d do so at a 30% or better clip like he did in the minors.

Skubal’s other two pitches, the curveball and changeup, are clearly a notch or two below his fastball and slider. Skubal has only thrown 22 curveballs this season, and batters are 1-for-1 with a single against the pitch. Poor command has been a knock on Skubal all throughout his minor league career, and with just a 13.6% zone rate on his curve it’s clear that he doesn’t have much command with this one yet. A pitcher doesn’t necessarily want to pound the zone with his curveball, but 13.6% is absurdly low. The curveball is not a pitch we should expect much from for Skubal at this point.

His changeup is a bit more critical to his success, as Skubal uses his changeup exclusively against right-handed batters. Righties have eaten him alive this season for a .302 BA, .379 wOBA, and all three of his home runs. They have only hit .250 on his changeup, but the pitch has a .479 xBA and 1.113 xSLG. Yes, Statcast projects batters to slug over 1.000 off Skubal’s changeup. Obviously, this is a small sample size as Skubal has only thrown 40 changeups all year, but these ugly numbers reveal what could be a larger problem for Skubal, which is an inability to put away opposite handed batters.

Skubal hasn’t been afraid to use his slider against righties when ahead in the count, going to it 26% of the time when ahead and 29% of the time with two strikes, but Skubal is in big trouble if he falls behind against righties. His fastball is a plus offering, but right-handed major league hitters can still feast on fastballs from a lefty. Righties have crushed Skubal’s fastball for a .333 AVG and .593 SLG thus far, and as mentioned above results against the changeup haven’t been much better. Until he better develops his changeup, improves his command, and/or gains more confidence in his slider against righties, Skubal will continue to struggle against opposite handed hitters. It’s doubtful that he’ll be able to fix all that over the last three weeks of the season, os beware of Skubal against a team with a penchant for mashing lefties.

Skubal has plenty of upside and has shown several positives traits during his short time in the majors this season, but there’s enough here to scare me away in tough matchups. In a longer season it would be interesting to watch whether Skubal could make the necessary adjustments midseason, but with just three weeks remaining and championship glory on the line it’s hard to trust such a raw arm. On the plus side, the downside could be mitigated by Skubal’s short leash. Detroit has been so cautious with their prized prospect they would likely yank him before he completely destroys your ratios. Especially since Detroit is a surprise wild card contender and can’t afford to let Skubal ride out rough patches while they jockey for playoff positioning. In soft matchups Skubal isn’t the worst streaming option, but he’s hard to trust in tough matchups or in critical fantasy weeks.

Verdict: A plus fastball-slider combo should give Skubal good strikeout upside, but command issues, a quick hook, and struggles against righties limit Skubal’s overall ceiling. It wouldn’t surprise me if Skubal’s last start was his only quality start all year. His next start is at St. Louis against a Cardinals lineup that had a 109 wRC+ against lefties this season, along with the second-lowest strikeout rate against southpaws at 18.7%. The risk does not outweigh the reward in that matchup.

 

Seth Lugo, New York Mets

76% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start, SP/RP): 17 IP, 2.12 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 29.2% K-BB%

09/05 vs. PHI: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K

Seth Lugo’s 2020 numbers and high roster percentage make him seem like an unlikely candidate for a column like this, but the reason he’s on so many teams and has outstanding stats is because of his work as a reliever. Lugo’s 2.61 ERA and 5.5 K/BB ratio out of the pen earned him the closer role for the Mets, but his tenure as closer was short-lived, as the starter-desperate Mets threw Lugo in the rotation, looking for some semblance of stability behind Jacob deGrom. Lugo had been great in his first two starts this year, allowing one earned run total, but never made it through four innings. Lugo finally completed five innings on Saturday, and was absolutely brilliant in the process, striking out eight Phillies while allowing just one run. The Mets say Lugo is ready to go even deeper, and if that’s true he could be an excellent contributor down the stretch. Those who added Lugo were expecting to get a dominant reliever, but could they have lucked into a dominant starter instead?

For an ex-reliever Lugo has a pretty deep arsenal, using a four-seam fastball, sinker, curveeball, slider, and changeup. He also mixes things up well, using everything but the changeup at least 18% of the time. Lugo may be best known for his curveball, which averages 3203 RPM, giving him the third-best curveball spin rate in the majors (min. 250 pitches). This spinning hook has frustrated opposing hitters this season for a .118 AVG and .294 SLG, along with a 15.3% SwStr rate. Even when batters make contact they can’t do much with the pitch, as it has an 86.1 MPH average exit velocity and a 57.1% groundball rate this year. The pitch also gorgeous to watch, so here are a few examples from this start.

That pitch is so dirty I need to take a shower after watching it. And while Lugo’s physics-defying bender is the gem of his arsenal and should continue to make hitters look foolish, this Metropolitan has more to offer than his curve.

From a results perspective, Seth Lugo’s slider has been horrible this season. Batters are hitting .462 with a .238 wOBA against the pitch, but the underlying numbers tell a more favorable story. Lugo has a 22.2% SwStr rate with his slider, and batters have a .583 BABIP despite just an 83.6 MPH average exit velocity and a 58.3% groundball rate against. The .294 xBA and .294 xwOBA suggest better days ahead for Lugo’s slider. The pitch doesn’t light up a Statcast chart quite like the curveball does, but it should serve as an effective third pitch to complement the curveball and fastballs.

Speaking of Lugo’s fastballs, they have both been pretty good offerings in their own right this season. He uses both a four-seamer about equally, and batters have not been able to muster much against either offering, as opponents are hitting under .180 against both pitches. Lugo’s four-seamer has always given hitters fits, as they are hitting .177 with a 10.9% SwStr rate against the pitch all time, and it has been effective both as a starter and reliever. The sinker is a different story, as the pitch got creamed during Lugo’s 2017 campaign as a starter for a .311 average and .387 wOBA. The important thing to watch here is Lugo’s velocity, as he averaged just 91 MPH with his sinker in 2017, a career low during the only year where Lugo worked primarily as a starter. If Lugo’s velocity dips as he stretches out to go deeper and deeper into games, his fastball could become very hittable. Below average velocity was one of the main reasons Lugo couldn't hack it as a starter the first time around, and if he can’t keep it around 93-94 he could struggle again.

Even though Lugo was viewed as a failed starter prior to this year, his 2017 campaign really wasn’t that bad. Sure, he had a 4.71 ERA, but a 3.95 FIP, 4.18 xFIP, and 3.4 K/BB ratio are solid numbers in today’s game. With how poorly some of the Mets’ starters have been this year, they would gladly take that performance as a worst-case scenario. And his stint as a reliever has allowed Lugo’s dazzling curveball to flourish, giving him a hammer strikeout pitch in a repertoire of solid stuff. Chances are Lugo isn’t available in most leagues, but if you added him in hopes of getting a closer, you may have wound up with a high-upside starter instead. Lugo is worth adding in 12-team mixed leagues or deeper.

Verdict: Lugo’s curveball is as pretty as ever, and his well-rounded pitch arsenal should allow him to routinely pitch five innings or deeper now that Lugo is stretched out. His next start against the Blue Jays in Buffalo is a little scary, but he’s been good enough to earn our trust for that one.

 

Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers

56% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 17.2 IP, 0.51 ERA, 2.24 FIP, 18.5% K-BB%

09/05 vs. COL: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 8 K

Every year the Dodgers seem to have at least one exciting emergent arm that looks ready dominate every fifth turn, only to be jerked around between the rotation, bullpen, injured list and minor leagues. Whether it be Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, or countless other names, every fantasy player has been frustrated by the Dodgers pitching management at some point in the past. It’s as if they only care about winning big league games, and not the thousands of fantasy managers that rely on these pitchers. Well, this year that man in Tony Gonsolin, a consensus top-10 Dodgers’ prospect in a loaded farm system. The Dodgers did us a favor at the trade deadline, dealing Ross Stripling to the Blue Jays and solidifying Gonsolin’s role as a starter. It was an easy move for them, as the young righty has been spectacular in five starts, sporting an immaculate 0.76 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. Obviously, Gonsolin can’t keep those numbers up over an extended period, but just how good can he be?

Scouts raved over Gonsolin’s raw stuff, highlighted by a filthy split-change that helped him maintain at least a 26.2% strikeout rate at every level of the minors in his last three seasons. Gonsolin has some cheese to go along with that splitter as well, as he’s averaged 95.2 MPH with his fastball this season, and has a max velocity of 97.9 MPH. This combination alone can be devastating, but unlike many young pitchers Gonsolin has two complementary pitches in his slider and curveball to round out his arsenal.

Gonsolin’s splitter is what catapulted his stock as a prospect, and the pitch has been as advertised thus far. Batters are hitting just .208 with a .275 wOBA against the pitch, and with a -3-degree average launch angle and 81 MPH average exit velocity, batters haven’t been able to make solid contact on Gonsolin’s splitter. With 3.1 inches of break, Gonsolin’s splitter has the highest horizontal movement in the majors (min. 100 pitches). Take a look at this beauty from his most recent start.

It’s easy to see why Gonsolin was so hyped with this weapon at his disposal. Looking at his splitter I can’t help but draw comparisons to Kevin Gausman. Many may cringe at that comp, but Gausman was once a top prospect known for his above average velocity and filthy split-change. Gonsolin possesses those same attributes, but unlike Gausman, Gonsolin appears to have an effective third pitch.

No one can touch Gonsolin’s slider, at least not so far, as Gonsolin has not surrendered a hit with his slider this season. He has been a little lucky, but even if he regresses to his .088 xBA he’ll probably be okay. His slider has a monster 32.6% swinging strike rate as well, and he generated eight whiffs on 14 pitches with the slider in this start against Colorado. Gonsolin’s slider was always an afterthought, living in the shadow of his splitter and fastball, but it’s been a quality offering for him thus far, and has above average break for a slider. Here was a pretty good one from this start.

If that’s considered your third best pitch, you are in pretty good shape on a big league mound. It’s been a small sample size, but there’s a lot to like about what Gonsolin has done thus far. He won’t sustain a 0.76 ERA all year, but he should be able to deliver solid production as a waiver wire add. The biggest concern with him is control, as Gonsolin had an 11% walk rate at Triple-A last season. He has a 53.3% zone rate this season, so it would be difficult to have a double digit walk rate with how much Gonsolin has pounded the zone, but command and control have always been the knock on Gonsolin as a prospect. It would be hard to imagine him maintaining his current 5.8% walk rate based on his history, but unless the walks really start to pile up he should still be effective.

Verdict: Three above average pitches have allowed Gonsolin to dominate at the major league level, and while no one should expect him to maintain a 0.76 ERA, Gonsolin should be owned in all leagues and started in most matchups. My biggest concern is a short leash, as he hasn't thrown more than 84 pitches in an outing this year. He’ll be a popular 2021 breakout candidate if he finishes strong, and if not I’ll gladly scoop him up at a discount in drafts next year.

 



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 6

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

We're looking at a trio of low-owned right-handers this week, as Dane Dunning, Zach Eflin, and Tyler Mahle all impressed over the weekend. Each is available in more than 80% of Yahoo leagues, so they are likely out there in most standard 12-team leagues.

Roster percentage is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 08/24/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Zach Eflin, Philadelphia Phillies

16% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 19.1 IP, 5.12 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 24.1% K-BB%

08/29 vs. ATL: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

Eflin has cranked up his strikeout game this year, raising his strikeout rate 15% from a mediocre 18.3% in 2019 to an elite 33.3% in 2020. Going into play Sunday Eflin is among the top-10 best strikeout starters in baseball (min. 20 IP), matching names like Lucas Giolito, Sonny Gray, and Blake Snell. His 39.9% chase rate is the second-best in baseball behind only Shane Bieber. All of the pitchers covered in this column pitch surprisingly well, heck, it’s in the title, but it’s especially surprising coming from Zach Eflin. Eflin had made 74 career starts coming into the season, and we knew exactly who he was. A fringy, occasionally streamable right-handed with so-so stuff and low upside. The type of pitcher who is more valuable in real baseball than fantasy. A budding Mike Leake, if you will. But this type of strikeout rate can be ignored no longer, so let’s dive into the Phillies righty and see how Eff-lin good he actually is.

In the first few years of his career Eflin typified so-so stuff. He throws low-to-mid 90s heat (though he used to be able to touch 97), has a weak slider that typically generates a poor whiff rate, a changeup to try and get lefties out (emphasis on the try, as lefties have a .373 wOBA against Eflin all time), and a show-me curveball. Good enough to keep a big league job, but nothing for us fantasy nerds to get excited about. However, Eflin has made two big changes in 2020 that could have us eying him up on the waiver wire. First, he’s transitioned from primarily a four-seam fastball pitcher to a sinkerballer. And second, he’s revamped his curveball and upped the usage, giving him a second breaking ball to compliment the slider.

First, we’ll start with the change I’m less enthused about, which is the transition to be a sinkerball pitcher. Sinkerballer is almost a derogatory term in 2020, as that style of pitching has lost much of its viability in the Statcast era, but for Eflin the pitch has been a godsend in terms of limiting power. Eflin served up 28 long balls last season and has a career 1.52 HR/9, but he’s only allowed three home runs for a 1.03 HR/9 this year. With an average exit velocity of 87.7 MPH and an average launch angle of three degrees, batters haven’t been able to clobber home runs like in seasons past. It’s worth noting that Eflin’s sinker did have similar Statcast metrics last season and batters managed a .471 SLG and ten homers off the pitch last season. Eflin has also surrendered nine doubles but zero home runs with the pitch thus far, so he may be on the fortunate side to have kept the ball in the yard. Batters have a .492 SLG against Eflin’s sinker all time versus a .490 SLG against his four-seamer. The change has undeniably worked to prevent home runs thus far, but whether it continues to work is questionable. The sinker isn’t the source of strikeouts for Eflin anyway, that would be his new and improved curveball.

Eflin’s curveball has always been an afterthought pitch for him. He threw it just 5.4% of the time in both 2018 and 2019, and last year batters feasted on Eflin’s curveball for a .308 AVG and .654 SLG. Eflin has more than  doubled the usage Things have been much better this season, as batters are hitting .133 with a .333 SLG against the pitch. The expected stats are even better for Eflin’s curveball, with a microscopic .079 xBA and a .094 xSLG. The swinging strike rate has risen to 17.8% this season, and the chase rate has skyrocketed from 30% last year to 47.8% this year. Batters seem to have a hard time recognizing the pitch this season. Below is a heatmap comparison of the swing rate on Eflin’s curveball this year (top) and prior to 2020 (bottom).

Eflin has stayed inside the zone more with his curveball this year, and batters aren’t swinging at it inside the zone. Instead, they are flailing away at the unhittable curveballs. While this is nice to see, this graph also puts in perspective just how small of a sample size we’re looking at here. All season long we have to add the sample size qualifier when talking about players, but this allows us to visualize it. Eflin has thrown just 45 curveballs all year, and just a few more swings or a few more pitches down long significantly changes things like chase rate, zone rate, and whiff rate, which are all crucial metrics to evaluate pitchers. So, while there’s a lot to like about Eflin’s curve, we are still far away from drawing definitive conclusions.

So when it’s all said and done, what exactly do we have here? Eflin is trending in the right direction, but this writer isn’t buying it yet. He used his curveball a ton in this start against the Braves, with his 22.9% curveball usage the highest of his career. If Eflin can continue to do that he’ll be worth rostering in mixed leagues, but I have to see more before I trust him. In a deeper league I would add him and keep him on my bench for the start against Washington. If that goes well and the curveball trend continues Elfin should have a two-start week against Boston and at Miami, which could be a great spot down the fantasy stretch.

Verdict: Eflin’s changed his pitch mix this year to feature his sinker and curveball more prominently. The curveball has been the primary source of his strikeouts, and it’s at least made Eflin worth monitoring in mixed leagues. He isn’t a must add in standard mixed, but not a bad dart to throw if you can hold him on the bench.

 

Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds

9% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 16.1 IP, 4.41 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 18.1% K-BB%

08/28 vs. CHC: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11 K

Mahle is something of a regular when it comes to surprising starts. The 25-year-old right-hander is known for putting up big starts and even extended hot stretches only for things to blow up in his face. This is my third year writing this column for RotoBaller, and this will be the third time I’ve covered a Tyler Mahle start. Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of Mahle. He has been overly reliant on his fastball in the past, and lacks the put-away breaking ball to consistently generate strikeouts and prevent runs in the big leagues. That being said, I’m open-minded and more importantly I want for myself and every RotoBaller out there to win their league, so let’s dive into Tyler Mahle: 2020 Edition and see if he’s turned the corner or if it’s another flash in the pan.

As previously mentioned, Mahle has been overly reliant on his fastball throughout his major league career, but Mahle has been trying to change that. His fastball usage has gone down each of the last two seasons, and is at an all-time low this year with just a 52.1% usage rate for Mahle. In fact, Mahle used his fastball and slider almost equally in his start against the Cubs, throwing 46 fastballs and 44 sliders. The slider was the big strikeout pitch for him too, with 12 of his 19 whiffs coming on sliders. This effort brought Mahle’s swinging strike rate with the pitch up to a career-high 20%, along with a monster 45.5% chase rate for his slider. It’s worth noting that Mahle’s slider is sometimes called a cutter by certain pitch tracking systems, but it has the drop and movement of a slider. Here is an example from this most recent start.

That is clearly a slider, and pretty good one at that. Increased slider usage and movement could be exactly what Mahle needs to take the next step.

It’s excellent to see Mahle incorporate an effective slider into his pitch mix like this, but it should be said that Mahle is no slouch with the heater. Mahle’s fastball has above average velocity and spin, and batters have managed just a .161 BA and .170 xBA against the pitch this season. What’s better is the 35-degree average launch angle and 9.3% SwStr rate against the fastball. Batters are struggling to make contact, and when they do it’s typically a lazy flyball, as Mahle’s fastball has a 73.9% flyball rate. The launch angle revolution has taught us to love flyballs, but flyballs are still the least likely type of batted ball to become a hit. There can be some positives to being a flyball pitcher, such as a lower-than-average BABIP,  but we should still expect Mahle’s chronic home run issues to remain. Even so, Mahle is becoming a more complete pitcher and for the first time has this writer interested.

Verdict: Mahle has increased his slider usage, and combining that pitch with his effective fastball should give him a one-two punch for strikeouts. Home runs will be a problem, as will walks, but Mahle’s doing some interesting things. He’s worth an add in deeper leagues, and he is startable in his next matchup against St. Louis, a club with just a .715 OPS against right-handed pitchers this season.

 

Dane Dunning, Chicago White Sox

17% Rostered

2018 Stats (Double-A): 62 IP, 2.76 ERA, 2.40 FIP, 17.6% K-BB%

08/30 vs. KC: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

Every week it feels like a new and exciting pitching prospect gets promoted to the big leagues and becomes the hot waiver wire commodity, but Dane Dunning has flown somewhat under the radar in his first two big leagues starts. He went toe-to-toe with Casey Mize in his debut and arguably out-pitched Mize, and thanks to a Gio Gonzalez injury Dunning got another chance on Sunday against the Royals and did not disappoint. The Royals couldn’t even muster a hit off Dunning over five innings, and went down on strikes seven times. Dunning may be best known as the “other” pitcher who went to Chicago from Washington in the Adam Eaton trade, and was always considered a notch below Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. He’s obviously no Lucas Giolito yet, and hopefully he’s no Reynaldo Lopez, but where in between does Dunning fall?

Part of the reason Dunning was never considered a super high-end pitching prospect was his poor fastball velocity. Dunning sat low-to-mid 90s prior to Tommy John surgery in 2019, but averaged just 91.1 MPH in his most recent start and topped out at 92.4 MPH. Batters have also smoked his fastball with an average exit velocity of 100.4 MPH against Dunning’s four-seamer. The pitch has a .226 xBA thanks to a 50% groundball rate, but it’s hard to trust a pitch that’s surrendering so much hard contact. This is still a very small sample size, especially for batted ball data, but something to keep an eye on regardless.

On the plus side, Dunning’s slider absolutely carved up the Royals lineup. He generated seven of his 14 whiffs with the pitch, which gives him a 30.9% whiff rate with his slider in two starts. The slider was absolutely dominant for Dunning in the minor leagues as well, which has helped him maintain a 10.2 K/9 over his minor league career. Here are a few examples from this start.

 

It’s especially nice to see Dunning unafraid of throwing his slider to a left-handed batter. Dunning has thrown his slider to lefties 23% of the time when ahead in the count and 18% of the time with two strikes. Most young pitchers do not have the confidence to throw a breaking ball to opposite handed batters and instead rely on a changeup, so it’s encouraging to see Dunning go after both righties and lefties with his best pitch.

Based on his first two starts and his minor league numbers, it seems like Dunning has big strikeout potential. He should also be an above average groundball pitcher, as he’s had a groundball rate of 49% or higher in every minor league season and has a 52.6% groundball rate through his first two starts thanks to his slider and a plus two-seamer. The four-seam fastball velocity is a bit concerning, and it would be nice to see Dunning do it against a lineup besides the Royals or Tigers, but there’s a lot to like here. And lucky for Dunning if things stay the same his next two outings would come against the Royals and Tigers. He’s worth adding in 12 teamers or deeper, and usable in the next matchup at Kansas City. Dunning’s rotation spot isn’t guaranteed, but if he continues to pitch well he could easily supplant one of Reynaldo Lopez, Gio Gonzalez, or Carlos Rodon, all of whom have been horrible thus far this year.

Verdict: A great slider and good groundball rate should help Dunning overcome poor fastball velocity. A soft AL Central schedule helps, as Dunning's next two starts would come against Detroit and Kansas City. He deserves to be on someone's team in 12-teamers or deeper.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 5

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

The young guns were on display this week, and we are going to break down three right-handers all 25 or younger who put up surprising starts this week. We'll look at someone we have a lot of hype for this year (Triston McKenzie), someone we had a lot of hype for last year (Corbin Burnes), and someone who's never had much hype at all (Logan Webb).

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 08/24/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Indians

49% Rostered

2018 Stats (Double-A): 90.2 IP, 2.68 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 16.3% K-BB%

08/22/20 vs. CLE: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 10 K

There is always a humungous amount of hype when a top pitching prospect gets the call, and this hype rocket is headed straight for the moon after McKenzie carved up the Detroit Tigers for ten strikeouts on Saturday. It’s hard not to be excited after watching this start, as McKenzie showed us why he was such a highly regarded prospect in the first place. McKenzie is a four-pitch pitcher, with  a mid-90s heater, a plus curveball, a solid changeup, and a recently-developed slider. McKenzie showcased all four pitches in this one to great success, so just how good can the young right-hander be?

McKenzie’s fastball does not light up the radar gun like many top pitching prospects, especially right-handed pitching prospects. He was averaging 94.6 MPH in this one and touched 97 MPH, which is a little harder than advertised. His velocity was pleasantly surprising, but even more impressive about McKenzie’s fastball is the spin rate. He generated 2432 RPM with the fastball in this start, which would put him among the top-25 in fastball RPM among qualified starting pitchers if he qualified. This type of spin, along with McKenzie’s long arms helping get the ball to the plate from a shorter distance (seriously, check out this guy’s wingspan) should allow his fastball to play above its velocity. Here's one of the better examples from this outing.


Even a future hall-of-famer can't catch up to this high fastball

It was true in this outing, as Detroit hitters were behind McKenzie’s heat all day. McKenzie got eight swinging strikes on 46 fastballs in this start, and while I don’t expect him to maintain a 17.4% SwStr rate over a long period of time, he could maintain an above average whiff rate with the pitch.

Outside of the fastball McKenzie has a pretty well-rounded repertoire for a pitcher his age, and he was getting whiffs with all three secondary pitches in this start. I've taken one of each offering from this start and created a video sample below, so if you missed the start or want to get another look here's your chance.

Poor Miggy was taken to school again by the kid, this time on a sweeping slider


The batter didn't swing, but this was a good curveball that was almost in the perfect spot

McKenzie's changeup was most effective outside the zone. He left a couple over the plate that got barreled up. The solo homer he surrendered came on a mislocated changeup.

He used his curveball effectively against both right- and left-handed batters, and had his changeup to neutralize lefties and the slider for righties. None these pitches have outstanding movement compared to league average, but all are slightly above average. McKenzie doesn’t have one killer pitch, but every pitch in this repertoire is effective and should allow McKenzie to be productive at the major league level and generate decent strikeout numbers.

There’s a lot to like about McKenzie’s first start, and he’s definitely worth a shot in all formats. Obviously, young starters can be volatile and inconsistent, but McKenzie looked quite polished in his first start, especially since he hadn’t pitched in a game since 2018. The biggest question surrounding his value right now is staying power in Cleveland’s rotation. If Cleveland ever decides to welcome Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac back, there might not be room for McKenzie in the rotation. It’s hard to know what the future holds for Plesac and Clevinger after their controversy, but if McKenzie continues to pitch well they’ll have a hard time sending him back down.

Verdict: McKenzie has been the most impressive of all top pitching prospects recalled thus far, and deserves to be added in every league. The stuff is good-not-great, but a well-rounded arsenal of plus pitches should allow McKenzie to thrive.

 

Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers

51% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 21 IP, 3.00 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 17.2% K-BB%

08/23/2020 @ PIT: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

A popular breakout candidate last season, Burnes was astonishingly awful in 32 appearances last season. He posted an 8.82 ERA and served up 17 longballs in just 49 innings. What’s even more bizarre about that statistic is that home runs have never been an issue for Burnes. Outside of 2019 Burnes has only surrendered 16 home runs total between all levels in 319.1 innings. Because his 38.6% HR/FB rate was absurdly bad, many ERA predictors suggests that Burnes had not only pitched better than his actual ERA, but significantly better. No other pitcher has ever had an ERA over eight (8.82) and an xFIP and SIERA under four (3.37 xFIP, 3.55 SIERA) besides Burnes in 2019 (min. 40 IP). Well, now Burnes is back with a vengeance, carving up opposing lineups with a 33% strikeout rate. Juicy as that may be, owners are understandably worried that Burnes will drop an atom bomb on their ratios. Let’s dive into the turbulent right-hander and see if he’s really turned a corner.

If you are familiar with Burnes, you probably know that he boasts an amazing slider. It’s been the jewel of his repertoire for some time now, and it had performed well this season. Really well, in fact, as opposing batters haven’t been able to muster a single hit against the pitch. He also has a monster 26% SwStr rate and 30.8% chase rate with his slider. Wanna see something cool? Check out the slider he threw on Sunday to Kevin Newman.

 

Even though it’s in the zone, it’s nearly impossible for a right-handed batter to hit that pitch. Burnes is rarely in the zone with this pitch, with just 22.2% of his sliders catching the strikezone. The slider alone is good enough where Burnes could be an effective pitcher, but this young man has so much more to offer.

Going into play Monday only one qualified pitcher has a better fastball spin rate than Burnes, and that was Cy Young favorite Trevor Bauer. Burnes combines his elite spin with plus velocity for a pitch that can be truly marvelous to watch at times. The one below is a perfect example.

 

That’s a fastball. A fastball. 97 MPH at letters with a 99th percentile spin rate. Don’t feel bad Cole Tucker, the Babe himself would’ve swung right through it too. On paper, Burnes fastball should be among the league’s best, and overall his fastball has an above average 10.6% SwStr rate, but the problems come when batters manage to make contact.

Batters have a .273 AVG and .485 SLG against the pitch, but an even worse .366 xBA and .719 xSLG off Burnes’s fastball. It’s getting smoked for a 93.4 MPH average exit velocity. With metrics like this, it’s easy to see where Burnes’s home run issues came from, as 13 of the 17 bombs he gave up last year came off the fastball. Burnes may have been extremely unfortunate with home runs last season, but he is quite fortunate to have just a 4.5% HR/FB ratio this year. His 4.10 xFIP is higher in 2020 than it was in 2019 despite his ERA being more than five runs lower. The HR/FB ratio coupled with a .259 BABIP suggest that Burnes has been on the right side of the luck factor thus far, especially considering his bloated 14.7% walk rate.

Corbin Burnes’s stuff is undeniably good. We only cracked open the slider and fastball, but he’s got five pretty good pitches. His curveball has been every bit as good as his slider. Batters have zero hits against it on 49 pitches with an .030 xBA and 65.5 MPH average exit velocity. Not to mention it also has an elite spin rate at 2970 RPM. He also has a changeup and debuted a brand new cutter, both of which have swinging strike rates above 16% and opponent batting averages below .200. With all these high-quality options Burnes should have no problem racking up strikeouts, but maintaining stellar ratios is another story.

As previously mentioned, Burnes’s fastball gets crushed when batters make contact. And they don’t have to worry if they can’t make contact, because there is a pretty good chance Burnes will issue them a free ticket to first anyway. It’s so hard to look at Burnes and not see an ace, but he is still raw even at the age of 25. I still want exposure to him because the stuff is so good and the strikeout potential is sky-high, but mind the WHIP and ERA with Burnes. Maybe someday Burnes can put it all together and reach his full potential, but for now I would hesitate to use him against strong lineups.

Verdict: Burnes’s raw stuff is awesome, and his arsenal is chalked full of pitches that can generate consistent strikeouts. A bloated 14.7% walk rate and 90.8 MPH average exit velocity against will cap his upside, as Burnes is likely to post a high WHIP, and many of those runners will come around to score. Love the potential, but he’s not all there quite yet. He should be used against weak and neutral lineups, but avoid against powerhouses.

&nbap;

Logan Webb, San Francisco Giants

4% Rostered

2020 Stats (prior to this start): 20.1 IP, 3.54 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 7.5% K-BB%

08/21 vs. ARI: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

With all the top pitching prospects getting the call this year, it’s easy for a guy like Logan Webb to fly under the radar. While Webb has garnered little mainstream attention, the 23-year-old righty was considered San Francisco’s top pitching prospect coming into the year. Admittedly, San Francisco’s farm system is thin on pitching talent, but Webb has been completely off the fantasy radar in all but the deepest of leagues. That may begin to change after this impressive start, as Webb fired seven strong innings of two-run ball on Friday, striking out eight Diamondbacks en route to his first quality start and second win of the season.

Webb gets it done with a five-pitch arsenal, consisting of a four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, changeup, and curveball. Webb’s fastball isn’t particularly overpowering, but he has averaged 93.8 MPH with it this season, putting him a full MPH above league average for a starter. It was the biggest swing-and-miss pitch for him against Arizona, as he netted six of his 11 whiffs with the heater in this start.

Owners shouldn’t expect these fastball strikeouts to continue, as Webb’s fastball only has a 7.2% SwStr rate on the year. He’s thrown 166 pitches, which means half of those swinging strikes came in one game. Webb’s fastball also has below average spin and movement. Webb has done a pretty good job of keeping the ball up in the zone where batters will tend to whiff at it, but it’s too early to call that a repeatable skill. It also requires precise command from the pitcher, and Webb has been shown to struggle with command both as a big leaguer and in the minors. It would be hard to envision Webb maintaining an above average whiff rate with his fastball, which will seriously restrict his ability to get strikeouts.

So, maybe the fastball isn’t the pitch for Webb to put up those juicy strikeout numbers. Most pitchers use their secondary stuff to secure punchouts, and if Webb can generate plus strikeout numbers it will be with his curveball. Or is it a slider? The two most notable advanced statistic websites disagree on which, as it’s classified as a slider on Baseball Savant, but as a curveball on FanGraphs.

So which is it? Let’s hear it from the man himself, who told the Mercury News the changes he made during the offseason, “With my curveball, you guys called it a slider, but now it’s actually a slider,” Webb said with a laugh. “It actually is called like a ‘sweeper slider’ now. I’ve been working on that for awhile (sic) now” (Source).

We’ll call it a slider because that’s what the big guy calls it, but it’s really more of a slurve in the truest sense. It’s hard and sweeping, coming in at 81.8 MPH and with 12.2 inches of horizontal break. The pitch has gained 2.5 inches of break, so Webb’s offseason work paid off. The results have been there thus far as well, since batters have hit just .214 with a .220 wOBA against the pitch thus far. Between this pitch, an already established changeup, and above average fastball velocity, the pieces could all be here for Webb.

There is one giant red flag with Webb, and that’s his meager 7.6% SwStr rate on his slider. A swinging strike rate below 10% on a breaking ball is pitiful, and with 9% overall swinging strike rate Webb may be the rare pitcher to have a higher overall SwStr rate than the SwStr rate on his breaker. He is doing something interesting things, and I’m definitely adding Webb to my watchlist, but he’ll need to do a little more before reaching mixed league viability.

Verdict: The strikeout numbers seem unsustainable, and Webb doesn’t have enough positive qualities yet to use him in a mixed league. He is someone worth watching, as the young righthander is actively developing his stuff.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 4

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

Something's fishy about this week's group...it's the Marlins! Miami has quietly built one of the most intriguing young staffs in the league, and we're taking a deep dive down south to break down Pablo Lopez and Elieser Hernandez. We'll also take a trip out west to check out Merrill Kelly's dominance in the desert.

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 08/17/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Merrill Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks

60% Owned

2019 Stats: 183.1 IP, 4.42 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 13% K-BB%

08/14 vs SD: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

Between Robbie Ray, Luke Weaver, and Madison Bumgarner, the Diamondbacks have had a lot to be concerned about with their starting rotation this year. One pitcher they haven’t had to worry about is Merrill Kelly, who put up zeroes last time out against San Diego, and now sports a dazzling 1.71 ERA through four starts. The Padres are probably sick of Kelly too, since Kelly has faced them in his last two starts and allowed just one run to cross the plate over 12.2 innings. With a 1.71 ERA, three wins, and four quality starts under his belt already, many fantasy owners are wondering if we’ve stumbled onto a short season breakout.

Kelly gets it done with a five-pitch arsenal, consisting of a four-seamer, two-seamer, changeup, cutter, and curveball. Kelly’s arsenal may seem deep, but it’s sort of like the menu at a Cheesecake Factory. Yeah, there’s a lot there, but none of it is very good. His best pitch is probably the banana cream—err, I mean, the curveball. Kelly’s curveball has held batters to a .222 AVG this season, along with an 11.5% SwStr rate and zero extra base hits allowed. The results have been decent, but the pitch has about league average movement and has been getting smoked by opposing hitters for a 93.5 MPH average exit velocity. Here are a few examples of the curveball from this season.

 

 

It’s not a bad pitch, but it’s also not something that will completely befuddle hitters and probably can't be relied on for consistent strikeouts. Kelly doesn’t really have a breaking ball that’s capable of generating above average swing-and-miss, which is why his strikeout rate is only 21.6%, nearly 2% lower than league average.

What’s disheartening is that Kelly doesn’t have anything better in his back pocket. He’s gotten decent results out of his cutter at times, but with a .407 xBA (.250 actual BA) and .885 xSLG (.688 actual SLG), it’s not a pitch he can rely on regularly. His fastball zooms in at 92.2 MPH, which is far from impressive in today’s game. Kelly is usable in the right matchup, but at the end of the day his stuff just isn’t special, and he’s not taking a step towards stardom. His .233 BABIP and 100% LOB rate are a big reason for his success thus far.

Verdict: Kelly has looked good thus far, but the raw stuff is underwhelming and he seems to have benefited from good fortune thus far. One positive is that the Dbacks trust Kelly to pitch deep into games, and he could get you some quality starts or wins, even if they aren't great for your ratios. He is streamable in positive matchups, but I’d look to sell high if you can. His next start is at Oakland, which is a good pitcher’s ballpark but a tough lineup and he should probably be avoided in that one.

 

Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins

2019 Stats: 111.1 IP, 5.09 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 14.5%

08/14 vs. ATL: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

The Marlins have a lot of interesting young pitchers on their team right now, and perhaps no one more exciting than Pablo Lopez. Lopez has carved up opponents through three starts this season, and sports a cool 2.25 ERA and a 28.4% strikeout rate thus far. Lopez gets it done with five pitches, a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, curveball, cutter, and changeup. Lopez may throw the same pitches as the aforementioned Merrill Kelly, but the two have drastically different strengths and styles. While Kelly uses his changeup as a show-me pitch, the changeup has been the catalyst for success for Pablo Lopez.

Lopez’s changeup has brought opposing batters to their knees, as hitters have mustered just a .154 AVG and .039 ISO against the pitch, along with a monster 30% SwStr rate. And if the strikeouts weren’t impressive enough, Lopez’s changeup also has a 75% groundball rate this season. Even if you manage to hit this thing, chances are it’ll be straight into the dirt. The changeup is mostly responsible for Lopez’s 17% overall SwStr rate, which is second best among qualified pitchers behind just Shane Bieber. Lopez’s changeup was his best pitch last season, but Lopez has improved his movement, spin, and velocity on the pitch this year to account for better results. Rather that spit out a bunch of numbers, let’s take a look at a few changeups from his start in Baltimore earlier this year.

 

It’s truly a marvelous offering, and good enough to be used against both right and left-handed batters. Few pitchers have a changeup that transcends being a show-me pitch to help with opposite-handed hitters and becomes a primary and dominant breaking ball, and Lopez looks to have it.

Outside of his changeup, Lopez rolled out a new offering this year, a 90 MPH cutter. He’s been using the pitch about 10% of the time. Batters have hit well against the pitch with a .375 AVG, but his .196 xBA and 86.1 MPH average exit velocity suggest better results could be on the way. The pitch has slightly above average drop and velocity, but is far from being a dominant offering at this point. Still, it’s nice to see him add another piece to his arsenal, and could give Lopez another reliable secondary pitch to compliment his fastball-change-curveball mix.

Speaking of the fastball, Lopez fires it in at 93.5 MPH on average and batters have a .221 xBA against the pitch. What’s most impressive about the pitch is its 85.2 MPH average exit velocity. Lopez has routinely induced soft contact over the course of his young career, and while that’s a skill that usually takes several full seasons of data to normalize, Lopez is certainly trending in the right direction. Altogether, there’s a lot to like about what Lopez has done this season, and the fact that he’s owned in just 27% of leagues is a crime.

Verdict: Lopez is doing everything we like to see out of a young pitcher. He’s improved on his best pitch for an elite strikeout rate, he’s added a new pitch to round out his repertoire, and he’s getting good contact and results with his fastball. He’s worth adding in 12-team leagues or deeper.

 

Elieser Hernandez, Miami Marlins

2019 Stats: 82.1 IP, 5.03 ERA, 5.58 FIP, 16.7% K-BB%

08/16 vs. ATL: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 BB, 9 K

We have yet another young Marlins hurler who put up an impressive showing this weekend against the Braves. Maybe it’s just that Atlanta’s lineup sans Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies is pitiful, but Miami starters Pablo Lopez, Daniel Castano, and Elieser Hernandez held Atlanta to a combined three runs between them. We already talked about Lopez, and Castano still has a ways to go before reaching mixed league radars, but Hernandez has been doing me interesting things dating back to last year.

Hernandez is a two-pitch pitcher, using hist fastball and slider almost exclusively. He has thrown 10 changeups this year, but it’s just a pitch he’ll use occasionally against left-handed hitters. It’s all about the fastball and slider with Hernandez, and the slider is a good one. It comes in slowing, at about 79 MPH, but has the second most drop of any slider in the league. Hernandez transformed the pitch last season, slowing it down a few MPH but greatly increasing the drop and RPM on the pitch, turning more into a slurve. The results have been fantastic as well, as batters have hit just .143 against the pitch with an 18.2% whiff rate since the beginning of 2019. Here are a few from this most recent start.

 

Pretty impressive stuff from Hernandez, and batters have struggled to keep up with the pitch this year, with a .100 AVG and 20.45% whiff rate thus far. This is a pitch that can be relied on for strikeouts, and if nothing else we could expect Hernandez to maintain an above average strikeout rate because of his slider.

The issue with Hernandez lies in the rest of his repertoire, or lack thereof. His only other pitch is a four-seam fastball, and it comes in around just 91 MPH. Batters have only hit .206 with a .202 xBA thus far, but last season they hit .297 with a .259 xBA, so it’s hard to trust the fastball results through three starts. He does generate a 26% infield fly ball rate with the pitch thanks to a 24-degree average launch angle against, but that launch angle has also been Herandez’s Achilles heel throughout his career. Hernandez had a horrible case of Gopheritis last season, allowing 2.19 HR/9, which was the ninth-worst rate among pitchers with at least 80 innings last year despite pitching half his games in Marlins Park, one of the best stadiums to keep the ball in the yard. Hernandez is an extreme flyball pitcher, sporting a 49.1% flyball rate last year and has a 52.9% rate this year. It’s hard to see him maintaining his 5.6% HR/FB ratio all season, and if that ratio trends towards league average Hernandez could be in for a rude awakening.

Verdict: Hernandez’s slider looks like the real deal, but he doesn’t have much else to fall back on. I’d be interested in him as a spot starter, especially if I was lacking in strikeouts, but he’s not a set-and-forget player yet. Hernandez could be a hot sleeper next year if there are rumblings of a new pitch or changeup development during the spring.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 3

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

This week we're looking at a trio of pitchers who put up surprising strikeout numbers over the weekend. Nathan Eovaldi dominated the baby Blue Jays, while Framber Valdez put up nine strikeouts in Oakland, and Kevin Gausman shut down the powerful LA Dodgers.

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 08/10/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Framber Valdez, Houston Astros

25% Owned

2019 Stats: 70.2 IP, 5.86 ERA, 4.98 FIP, 7.3% K-BB%

08/08 @ OAK: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 9 K

Valdez has been straight dealing for Houston as of late, allowing just one earned run and striking out 17 over his last 13.1 innings pitched. The final numbers were ugly for Valdez last season, but the sinkerballer lefty looks to have something up his sleeve, and could be a sneaky add on the waiver wire, as he’s out there in over 80% of Yahoo leagues. Valdez gets it done with four pitches, a two-seamer, four-seamer, curveball, and changeup. As previously mentioned, he’s a sinkerballer, primarily pitching off his two-seamer, which has been his trademark as a prospect. Valdez consistently maintained a groundball rate better than 55% in the minors, and has a career 63.2% groundball rate at the major league level. Groundballs are nice, but the newly found strikeout numbers are what has fantasy owners interested in the Astros’ southpaw.

The curveball has been Valdez’s primary source of whiffs this season, as the pitch has a 20.8% SwStr rate and batters are hitting just .080 against it. Valdez has shown signs of improvement with the pitch, gaining over an inch of drop and break this season compared to 2019. The curveball has always garnered the best results for Valdez, and it looks like he’s taking it to another level through his first three appearances.
Valdez has made one more big change with his pitch mix, and that’s the abandonment of his four-seam fastball. Pitch F/x has registered just three four-seamers all season, and he didn’t throw a single four-seam fastball in his start against Oakland. That’s probably for the best, as batters have crushed Valdez’s fastball for a .345 AVG and .172 ISO over his major league career. To fill in the gaps he’s increased his sinker usage to 60.1% and his changeup usage to 9.7%, both career-highs. While ditching the four-seamer should prove fruitful for Valdez, owners should be wary of him leaning too heavily on his sinker.

As a left-handed sinkerballer pitching for Houston, it would be easy to compare Valdez to Dallas Keuchel, but unlike Keuchel, Valdez seems incapable of inducing soft contact, and it brews skepticism in this writer. Batters have hit Valdez’s fastball well throughout his career, no doubt, but his sinker hasn’t fared too much better, with a .292 AVG and .120 ISO all time. Valdez’s sinker has been creamed this year, with a 94 MPH average exit velocity against. He also has a 59.2% hard hit rate against, which is the second-highest among pitchers with at least 30 batted ball events. The groundballs are nice, but a fast groundball can sneak through the infield for a hit quite easily. Valdez is also allowed an increased line drive rate at 24.5%, and his 5.8-degree average launch angle is by far the highest of his career.

Valdez has looked good in his last two outings, but he’s fooled us in the past with hot stretches.  His meager 9.7% SwStr rate makes me question the sustainability of his 26.8% strikeout rate. His improved 60.1% zone rate has helped him cut walks from 13.4% last year to 4.2% this year. Still, it’s hard to trust what Valdez has done considering how hard he’s getting hit. Even though Valdez has a .313 BABIP, his .272 xBA is nearly 40 points higher than his actual .235 AVG against. He’s usable in a good matchup, but the foundation is shaky with Valdez.

Verdict: Valdez has ditched his troublesome four-seamer and seems to have found new success, but his 59.2% hard hit rate against and .272 xBA suggest lady luck has been on his side thus far. He could be streamed in his next outing at home against Seattle, but following that he’s in Coors Field and away against San Diego, two tough matchups.

 

Kevin Gausman, San Francisco Giants

8% Owned

2019 Stats: 102.1 IP, 5.72 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 18.2% K-BB%

08/09 @ LAD: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Gausman has quietly been pitching well for San Francisco, piling up 21 strikeouts in 16 innings over his last three starts. Gausman has long toyed with fantasy owners, often seeming on the brink of a breakthrough, only to come crumbling down. It’s perhaps why he’s available in more than 90% of leagues despite delivering the strikeout numbers we thirst for in fantasy. Owners would much rather take a chance on a relative unknown like Zach Plesac or Christian Javier than return to someone who has burned them before, like Gausman. Even so, it’s undeniable that Gausman possesses some great talent in his arm, and like his ex-teammate Dylan Bundy, a ticket out of Baltimore could be just the thing Gausman needs to turn the corner. Unlike Bundy, Gausman has pitched outside of Baltimore for a year and a half with Atlanta and Cincinnati, but struggled with injures for the Braves and was a reliever for the Reds. This turn with the Giants may be his first chance as a starter while truly healthy and liberated from Baltimore, and ironically his last chance to make it as a starter in the big leagues.

Gausman works with a four-pitch repertoire, a four-seamer, a slider, a changeup, and a splitter. The splitter has always been Gausman’s defining pitch. He lives and dies with his splitter, and it’s been an elite offering throughout Gausman’s career, which is why it’s surprising to see Gausman succeed even though the pitch has underperformed relative to past seasons in 2020. Below are a few graphs charting the splitter’s performance in key metrics on a year-by-year basis.

Batters are hitting .240 against Gausman's splitter, the highest mark of his career.

Gausman is getting less drop on his splitter this season compared to previous years.

The whiff rate on Gausman's splitter is below 20% for the first time in his career.

Obviously, it’s still a small sample size, but the metrics on Gausman's splitter are trending downward. They are still respectable, but below where he usually hovers around. The pitch has lost about two inches of drop, and whiffs are down about four percent thus far. Whenever we’ve seen success from Gausman in the past, he’s been doing it with his splitter, but this time around Gausman is getting it done with other pieces of his arsenal.

Anyone who watched Gausman’s most recent start noticed one thing, and that was the fire coming out of his right arm right from the beginning. Gausman averaged 97.1 MPH with his heater in this one, and routine popped 98 and even hit 99 on the gun. In fact, even his last pitch of the game was a 99 MPH fastball that Cody Bellinger turned around for a single. That single caused Gabe Kapler to pull Gausman even though Gausman had only thrown 80 pitches and was still popping 99 MPH, and the Giants bullpen immediately blew the game, but as they say, it's easy to second-guess an obviously incorrect decision after it blows up in the manager's face, but I digress. This was the hardest Gausman has ever thrown as a starter, and the first time he’s averaged more than 96 MPH in a start since 2017. Not only did Gausman throw harder, but he attacked the upper portion of the zone more than ever. Below is a fastball heatmap from this start (top) compared to a heatmap prior to 2020 (bottom).

Gausman racked up the whiffs with his heater too, inducing nine swinging strikes with his fastball, out of eleven swinging strikes total. The combination of high velocity and that deadly splitter are what made Gausman such an exciting prospect and breakout candidate in years past, and if he can maintain this velocity and tweak his splitter just a bit back to previous years, he could be in line for a nice little pandemic year. The fact that he’s pitching half his games in San Francisco, while homers were such a problem for him in other ballparks, is just gravy.

Verdict: Increased velocity could give Gausman just what he needs to sustain success as a starter. If he can get a little more drop on his splitter Gausman will have a deadly strikeout combination. He’s burned this writer, and likely many readers before, but Gausman’s doing interesting things and deserves a pick up in deeper leagues, and to be on the watch list in shallow ones. His next two starts are at home against the A’s and Angels, two teams with strong lineups on paper, but haven’t quite performed at a high level yet. The friendly confines of Oracle Park certainly make it easier to roll with Gausman in those outings.

 

Nathan Eovaldi, Boston Red Sox

59% Owned

2019 Stats: 67.2 IP, 5.99 ERA, 5.90 FIP, 11.6% K-BB %

08/09 vs. TOR: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 10 K

Eovaldi has a lot in common with Kevin Gausman. Both were highly-touted, hard-throwing right-handers, both sport an above-average splitter, and both have dealt with their share of ups-and-downs and injuries throughout their career. In fact, their career stat lines are eerily similar. Eovaldi has 47 wins and a 4.29 ERA over 939.2 innings during his career, while Gausman has 47 wins and a 4.29 ERA over 945.2 innings for his career. Both also had disastrous seasons in 2019, putting up career worst ERAs north of 5.50. Maybe it’s east coast (or Boston) bias, maybe it’s his memorable playoff performances, or maybe it was his clearly defined role coming into the season (okay, probably this one), but it’s a wonder why Eovaldi is so much more highly owned than Gausman.

Unlike Gausman, Eovaldi does sport a more rounded repertoire, throwing four pitches (fastball, cutter, splitter, and curveball) regularly, with the occasional show-me slider tossed in the mix. It was two years ago when Eovaldi first came to Boston that his slider took a backseat to a harder cut-fastball, which was a key piece of Eovaldi’s 2018 success. The cutter has hardly been the reason for Eovaldi’s success this year, as batters have walloped the pitch for a .379 AVG and .690 SLG. Instead, Eovaldi is having newfound luck with his curveball, a pitch that has been a source of pain for him in the past.

Batters are struggling against Eovaldi’s curve to the tune of a .188 AVG and .062 ISO against, which is a stark improvement compared to previous seasons, as opposing hitters knocked Eovaldi’s curveball around for a .276 AVG and .204 ISO prior to 2020. Eovaldi has gained two inches of drop with his curveball this season, and has induced a monster 26% SwStr rate with a 44.4% chase rate on the pitch this season. He racked up eight whiffs on the curve in this start against Toronto, along with 19 swinging strikes total. Eovaldi is still firing his fastball upwards if 97 MPH on average, so an improved curveball would add a new dimension to his game that gives Eovaldi previously untapped strikeout potential.

The curveball improvements are exciting, but it was just two years ago that Eovaldi’s cutter was adding a new dimension to his game and activating previously untapped strikeout potential. There’s still reason to be interested, but like with Kevin Gausman, Eovaldi is a house of cards that could come crumbling down at a moment’s notice.

Verdict: Increased curveball drop is letting Eovaldi pile up punchouts like never before, and in a pitching-starved landscape he’s definitely worth owning. He’s someone that belongs on a short leash, as things can go sideways in a hurry for Eovaldi. His next two starts are at the Yankees and home to Philadelphia, so if you can flip him after this 10 K start you should consider it. Otherwise he’s on the bench until August 25 at the Blue Jays.



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Miguel Cabrera (1B, DET) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 16% of leagues

ANALYSIS: 

Could it be? Is Miguel Cabrera back? Well, his early numbers are certainly promising. Miggy has slugged four homers and has a .302 ISO in 43 PA going into play Sunday. The future Hall-of-Famer is pulverizing the ball, with a 94 MPH average exit velocity, and a whopping 59.4% hard hit rate. It’s only 32 batted balls, but it’s hard to not be impressed by that number. The big man has feasted on fastballs this season, hitting .333 with a .442 xwOBA and 98.4 MPH average exit velocity. The average big league fastball is 93.1 MPH, and Miggy is sending it back more than five MPH harder than pitchers are throwing it in. Miggy has been quite unlucky on balls in play thus far, with a .209 AVG and .179 BABIP. Nobody expects Cabrera to leg out grounders, but he could easily add 100 or more points to that BABIP, especially considering his 28.1% line drive rate and 12.5% barrel rate. Again, it's a small sample size, but this is some impressive hitting, and even though Cabrera’s been fighting off age and injuries the past few seasons, there’s tons of natural talent lurking in this bat. Cabrera is a great add for those in need of power, and he should contribute in the batting average department too once things even out for him.


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Brandon Nimmo (OF, NYM) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 12% of leagues

ANALYSIS: 

Brandon Nimmo has shown plenty of promise as a big league in the past, but a .221 AVG in 2019, a high strikeout rate, and an overcrowded Mets outfield have soured Nimmo’s prospects. With injuries piling up and Yoenis Cespedes opting out, Nimmo has been thrust into an every day role as New York’s centerfielder and leadoff man, and with a monster 21% walk rate this year it’s hard to argue against Nimmo hitting atop a major league lineup. Nimmo’s eye has been his biggest strength as a big leaguer, and even though he hit .221 last season his bat was still valuable, as Nimmo maintained a .375 OBP and 114 wRC+. There may more power to come, as Nimmo has a 91 MPH average exit velocity and 42% hard hit rate this year. He’s also got a .268 xBA, which paints a much rosier picture compared to his current .217 AVG. Nimmo is best in formats that reward walks, whether it be points, OPS, or OBP, but he could also have some value in traditional 5x5 leagues if his surface numbers begin to reflect his underlying peripherals.


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Leury Garcia (2B/SS/OF, CHW) - Week 3 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 28% of leagues

ANALYSIS: 

With both Tim Anderson and Nick Madrigal on the shelf, Garcia is getting every day playing time at shortstop for the White Sox. Anderson should be back next week, but Garcia can slide over to the keystone and continue as a full-timer. Garcia’s been smoking the ball too, with a .300/.352/.500 triple slash in 54 PA. The 29-year-old utilityman has cut back on strikeouts in a big way this year, striking out just 13% of the time compared to a 24.5% rate prior to 2020. Putting the ball in play is key for a speedster like Garcia, who can leg out grounders with the best of them. The strikeout improvements coupled with a career-best 7.7-degree average launch angle could have Garcia, a steady .270-.280 hitter over the past few years, keep his batting average around the .290-.300 range instead.

Garcia’s power numbers thus far are certainly a fluke; he has a 23.1% HR/FB ratio and .200 ISO despite an 86.2 MPH average exit velocity, but Garcia should be able to provide a decent batting average and moderate speed as a volume play. He’s especially good in daily lineups leagues, as his triple eligibility means you can rotate him between spots as needed and keep up on volume. Garcia’s not sexy, but he’s got value in 12+ team leagues.


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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 2

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

This week we're looking at a pair of pitchers who disappointed after signing big contracts, but both have shown a little something extra during their first couple starts of the season. Tyler Chatwood has looked like a Cy Young candidate for Chicago, while Yusei Kikuchi dominated the Athletics over the weekend.

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 08/03/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Tyler Chatwood, Chicago Cubs

63% Owned

2019 Stats: 76.2 IP, 3.76 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 11.4% k-bb%

08/01/20 vs. PIT: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K

Chatwood was a popular breakout candidate two years ago when he inked a 3-year, $38 million dollar deal with the Cubs. Many believed a ticket out of Colorado would help Chatwood thrive, and his 3.18 road ERA during his tenure with the Rockies help strengthen the case. Admittedly, this writer was always skeptical of the Chatwood hype. His xFIP was actually better at Coors Field than away from it, and his pitiful 6.5 K/9 and 1.6 K/BB ratio didn’t show much room for upside. He floundered in the rotation and soon became an overpaid middle reliever, but as the Cubs’ pitching options thinned out this offseason Chatwood found himself back as a starter and is pitching better than we’ve ever seen him. So what, if anything, has changed to help Chatwood transform?

One thing that jumps out about Chatwood are the changes in his pitch mix. Chatwood has a deep arsenal, consisting of a four-seam, two-seam, and cut fastball. He also throws a curveball and the occasional changeup. In his first two starts Chatwood has drastically reduced his four-seam fastball usage. His career usage is 31.2%, but this season he’s thrown the pitch just 8.9% of the time, and threw only four four-seamers in his start against Pittsburgh. This is probably in Chatwood’s best interest, as batters have hit his fastball well historically, with a .272 AVG and .156 ISO against it all time. He’s supplemented the reduction in fastballs with an increase in cutter usage. The cutter is the gem of Chatwood’s repertoire, as batters have just a .182 AVG and .116 ISO against the pitch, along with a 14.5% SwStr rate. Chatwood looks to be taking the route of Patrick Corbin, Matthew Boyd, and many other pitchers, in that he’s leaning on his best pitch to find success. He is throwing the pitch 27.2% of the time, which doesn’t approach the levels of Corbin and his slider, but it’s still the most Chatwood has ever used it.

The improvements go beyond simple usage, as Chatwood is throwing his cutter better than ever as well. Below are a few graphs charting the progress he's made over time.

 

Chatwood's gained over an inch of break on his cutter in 2020

Chatwood is also throwing his cutter harder than ever before, an impressive feat at 30 years old.

While this is encouraging to see, it’s important to remember how small of a sample size we’re dealing with right now. Chatwood has only thrown 49 cutters thus far, which isn’t nearly enough to draw definitive conclusions from yet. Really, this entire season won’t be enough to draw definitive conclusions from, so it’ll be extra important for us to monitor trends like this one to get the jump on who’s real and who’s a fluke. Thus far, Chatwood is looking mostly real.

Regression is clearly going to come for Chatwood, as his 90$% LOB rate and .250 BABIP are both wholly unsustainable for any extended period of time, especially since his most used pitch, the sinker, has a .323 xBA (.250 BA) and .619 xSLG (.313 SLG). Opposing hitters have also smoked him for a 41.7% hard hit rate against, which would be the highest percentage of his career. That number is uncharacteristic for Chatwood, as he’s normally done an excellent job of limiting hard contact in his career.  Chatwood is still a great pitcher to take a chance on, especially in today’s pitching landscape, but know that his current performance is not sustainable.

Verdict: Chatwood has increased his cutter usage and quality, which has led to newfound dominance for the right-hander. He won’t maintain a 0.71 ERA or 31.9% K-BB%, but Chatwood looks to have made legitimate improvements and is worth adding in all leagues.

 

Yusei Kikuchi, Seattle Mariners

5% Owned

2019 Stats: 161.2 IP, 5.46 ERA, 5.71 FIP, 9.2% K-BB%

08/01/20 vs. OAK: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1BB, 9 K

Kikuchi had a rough go during his first major league season, leaving many to wonder whether the former NPB ace had what it takes to pitch in the big leagues. He went largely ignored in fantasy drafts, but the 29-year-old southpaw has garnered some interest after putting up a dominant performance on Saturday against Oakland. The nine strikeouts were the second-most in his career, and it was only the second time Kikuchi started a game and did not allow a run to cross the plate (min. 2 IP). Kikuchi had a few good starts last season and always managed to fall back into bad habits, but can the Japanese left-hander finally find some consistency?

Kikuchi’s early season success shares traits with that of Tyler Chatwood, in that Kikuchi has heavily featured a cutter during his first two starts. Unlike Chatwood, the cutter is a new pitch for Kikuchi. Last year Kikuchi primarily relied on his slider and curveball as secondary pitches, but this cutter looks like a completely new weapon for him. It’s much harder than his slider, averaging 92.8 MPH, and also has more drop than the slider.

The sharp break and above average velocity should make the pitch more effective against right-handed batters, which is great since righties clobbered him for a .304 BA and .545 SLG last season. Through his first two starts righties have hit .250 with a .286 SLG against him. What’s perhaps most impressive about his cutter in such a small sample size is the .060 xBA, versus the .139 actual BA. The pitch has been dominant, and according to Statcast it should’ve performed even better.

The cutter is the main reason to be interested in Kikuchi, but it’s also worth noting that he’s greatly increased his fastball velocity. Kikuchi is averaging 95.5 MPH on the gun this season, which makes him the hardest-throwing left-handed starter in the majors as of writing this. He’s also gained over 150 RPM on spin rate, and his .211 xBA on the fastball suggests the pitch should perform much better than it did last year, when batters hit .326 with a  .622 SLG off Kikuchi’s four-seamer. Between the increased fastball velocity and brand new cutter, there’s a lot to like about Kikuchi.

Verdict: A fancy new cutter and an increase in fastball velocity have Kikuchi looking like an entirely new pitcher. He’s only thrown 9.2 innings, so we need to be careful not to overreact, especially since Kikuchi’s final numbers were atrocious last year, but Kikuchi is worth at least taking a chance on in 12+ team leagues. He’s out there in 95% of leagues, so check your waiver wire, as he can be had for free in most cases.



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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts from Week 1

Welcome back to "Are You For Real?" Each week, we look at lower-owned starting pitchers who have performed unexpectedly well in their last outing(s).

This week we're looking at a trio of promising right-handers, all under the age of 28. Sandy Alcantara lit up the Phillies on Opening Day, Brady Singer dazzled in his MLB debut, and Dylan Bundy looked sharp in his first start in an Angels' uniform.

Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is accurate as of 7/26/2020. The goal of this article is to look at pitchers who are either still widely available or were hot waiver wire pickups after good starts, and to analyze whether they're a flash-in-the-pan or if there's any staying power.

 

Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins

63% rostered

2019 Stats: 197.1 IP, 3.88 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 8.3% K-BB%

07/24 @ PHI: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 7 K

Alcantara was a surprise workhorse for Miami last year, putting up nearly 200 innings in 32 starts despite just having 6 MLB starts under his belt coming into 2019. His surface numbers look decent, but advanced stats have never been kind to Alcantara, as the young right-hander sports an ugly 5.21 SIERA and 1.77 K/BB ratio for his career. The lack of strikeouts, poor control, and awful team around him have made Alcantara an afterthought in the fantasy world, but at just 24 years old there may be room for growth here.

Alcantara’s defining pitch has always been his sinker, which makes him a relic of the past in today’s game. Sinkerballers are on their way out, but Alcantara has managed to hold batters to a .227 AVG, .121 ISO, and 62.2% groundball with the pitch throughout his career. Opposing hitters also mustered just an 83 MPH average exit velocity and a -1-degree average launch angle in 2019. There is some spice in this cheese too, as Alcantara averages between 95-96 MPH and has been known to touch 99-100 MPH when he’s really dialed in. Sinkerballers don’t put up the strikeout numbers we crave, but there’s no denying Alcantara’s sinker works as intended, and has helped him suppress home runs despite power surging around him.

While the sinker is clearly a good foundational pitch for Alcantara, he has a litany of question marks that have prevented him from taking the next step. One of his biggest issues has been poor control. Alcantara has a bloated 10.7% walk rate for his career, along with a 41.4% zone rate. He issued two free passes in this start against Philadelphia, but he did manage to throw 56 of his 87 pitches for strikes, which is nice to see from the sometimes wild hurler. Alcantara managed to do it with just a 35.6% zone rate in this start, and that’s because he got hitters to chase more often with his secondary pitches.

Alcantara’s five-pitch arsenal may look impressive on the surface, but this repertoire has always lacked a put-away pitch. Sure, Alcantara can lean on the sinker, like he often has, but he doesn’t have a pitch he can rely on for a punchout. Things looked a little differently in this start, as Alcantara notched 14 swinging strikes along with a 50% whiff rate on his slider and a 66.7% whiff rate with his changeup. Of course, these metrics are skewed by small sample size, but Alcantara still got plenty of hitters to chase at these pitches. He benefitted from an extra two inches of horizontal movement on his changeup and an extra half-inch of drop on his slider. The changeup is the pitch worth focusing on, because Alcantara made improvements with the pitch last season that coincided with better results (see below, source: brooksbaseball.net)

2019 Changeup Horizontal Movement (by month)

2019 Changeup Velocity (by month)

2019 Changeup Whiff Rate (by month)

2019 Changeup Batting Average Against (by month)

As he gained more movement and more velocity, the pitch performed better and (mostly) got more whiffs. Alcantara also improved his K/BB ratio in the second half to 2.38 along with a 4.47 FIP, which doesn’t sound  great, but is much better than where Alcantara has been throughout his career. If he could truly develop his changeup, and to a lesser extent, his slider, as reliable secondary pitches he could become more than a rotation filler. In a normal season I’d prefer a wait-and-see approach, but since we don’t have the luxury to wait Alcantara is a fine add where available, and usable in his next outing at Baltimore. There are a lot of strong lineups in the eastern region, so if there’s any time to use Alcantara it’d be in that matchup.

Verdict: Take a shot, but be wary of the kinks he still has to work out. I wouldn’t hesitate to drop him if he reverts back to bad habits.

 

Brady Singer, Kansas City Royals

24% rostered

2019 Stats (Double-A): 90.2 IP, 3.47 ERA, 3.78 FIP, 15.3% K-BB%

7/25 @ CLE: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

Singer, who was ranked as the Royals’ top pitching prospect and second-best overall prospect behind Bobby Witt Jr. coming into the season, was a surprise addition to Kansas City’s rotation. Injuries to Jakob Junis and Brad Keller along with complete lack of organizational depth forced the Royals’ hand in giving the young pitcher a shot, and in a shortened season they might as well see what they have in the 23-year-old ex-Florida Gator.

Singer has a four-pitch arsenal consisting of a two-seam, four-seam, slider, and changeup. The fastballs and slider are his bread-and-butter, and Singer racked up 14 swinging strikes between his fastball and slider in this one, including 10 just with the slider. The slider is really the make-or-break pitch with Singer, so let’s look at a pair of examples from the start below.

Late slider movement fools Franmil Reyes on one of Singer's best of the day

Singer caught far too much plate with this one, making it easy pickings for a hitter like Jose Ramirez

As you can see, Singer’s slider is more of a slurve, as it clocked in at around 84 MPH in this start and tends to have a looping motion, compared to the hard, sweeping slider that’s common across the league. Singer’s slurve coupled with his strong two-seam fastball not only give him good strikeout potential, as we saw in this outing, but should help him maintain a healthy groundball rate as well. Singer maintained a groundball rate of 49% or higher as a minor leaguer, and had a 2:1 GB:FB ratio in his start against Cleveland.

Strikeouts and groundballs are the golden combination for a pitcher, and add in the fact that Singer has maintained a walk rate under 7% throughout his minor league career and there’s a lot to like in this profile. It will be interesting to see whether Singer utilizes his changeup more often going forward, as he only threw two changeups this entire start despite Cleveland starting six lefties and/or switch-hitters against him. There was a lot of buzz around Signer’s changeup during the preseason, and it’s hard to imagine Singer relying on his slider 50% of the time all season. There were plenty of positives here, and if Singer can successfully incorporate his changeup he could carve out a permanent role for himself in this rotation even when Junis and Keller return.

Verdict: The slider-fastball combo looked dangerous in this one, and it leaves me impressed and excited to see more out of Singer. It’s worth monitoring his pitch mix, as his hyped-up, revitalized changeup could be the third piece that helps Singer stick around. He’s worth a speculative add in 12+ team leagues, and he is even startworthy in his next matchup against Detroit.

 

Dylan Bundy, Los Angeles Angels

73% rostered

2019 Stats: 161.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 4.73 FIP, 14.8% K-BB%

7/25 @ OAK: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

Dylan Bundy has long been one of my favorite breakout candidates, but between injuries, gopheritis, and the incompetence of the Baltimore organization in developing pitchers had my predictions of stardom looking more and more foolish with each passing season. At 27 years old Bundy was an afterthought following the 2019 season, but an offseason trade to the Angels could be just what the doctor ordered for a post-hype breakout in Bundy.

Bundy has a deep five-pitch arsenal, consisting of a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. Anyone who’s followed Bundy knows that, despite the five pitches, he lives and dies by that slider. For his career, Bundy has held batters to a .167 AVG and .132 ISO, along with a monster 24.1% SwStr rate. Even at his worst, Bundy’s slider has been an elite pitch and was a big piece of his success in this start. He had a 26.67% whiff rate with the pitch, and threw it 30 times out of 90 pitches. Even with his tumultuous history, Bundy’s slider is a known commodity and a strong pitch that can maintain a solid strikeout rate by itself. What’s more intriguing about this start is Bundy’s changeup usage.

Bundy only threw 11 changeups in this start, but had a 27.27% whiff rate with the offspeed offering, which is over 9% higher than his career rate. Bundy made some improvements with his changeup last season by increasing vertical movement and making changes to his release point, and the results speak for themselves. Prior to 2019 batters had a .265 AVG, .258 ISO, and a 17.37% whiff rate against Bundy’s changeup. Since 2019 batters have a .250 AVG, .157 ISO, and 19% whiff rate, and in 2019 Bundy had a 28.7% chase rate with the pitch compared to 33% the year prior. These improvements should allow Bundy to reduce his home run rate, fare better against left-handed batters, and finally give him an effective secondary offering outside of his slider.

It’s hard to declare Bundy “fixed” after just one outing, but there’s a lot to like about what he did against Oakland in this one. The biggest concern remaining is the inconsistencies in Bundy’s fastball. It clocks in at just 91 MPH, and it’s clear at this point that he’ll never come close to the mid-to-high 90s he flashed as a prospect before he suffered serious shoulder and elbow injuries that sapped his velocity. He’s a high-risk, high-reward breakout candidate, and that’s a chance I’m usually willing to take in fantasy.

Verdict: Bundy has flirted with the next level for years, only to come crashing down. Still, his elite slider guarantees an above-average strikeout rate. Add in an improved changeup and a much-needed change of scenery and there might be something cooking here. Bundy is worth adding in all leagues, and if the Angels’ rotation stays intact his next two starts will come against the rebuilding Mariners.



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Sam Hilliard (OF, COL) - Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 12+ Team Leagues

OWNED IN: 24% of leagues

ANALYSIS: 

Sam Hilliard’s power exploded in 2019, clubbing 42 home runs between the majors and Triple-A last season, this after just hitting nine dingers with a .126 OPS in 2018 at Double-A. The 6’5”, 238-pounder is surprisingly fleet of foot as well, swiping at least 23 bags in each of the last four seasons. This skillset would be exciting regardless of the player’s organization, but the fact that Hilliard will play half his games in Colorado makes him all the more enticing. Normally, Colorado players, especially young up-and-coming Colorado players, have an inflated draft cost due to the ballpark. But Hilliard is owned in just 24% of leagues, and can be had virtually for free at the end of drafts. Hilliard will most likely start the year as the strong side of a platoon with Matt Kemp, but Hilliard did have a 1.117 OPS against lefties last year, granted it was only 20 PA. Kemp on the other hand was last seen flailing away with a 19:1 K:BB ratio and .493 OPS in Cincinnati in 2019. Hilliard has plenty of raw tools and talent, and that could emerge in a big way during our shortened season. That makes him an add in any league with 12 or more teams.


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Howie Kendrick (1B/2B/3B, WSH) - Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 30% of leagues

ANALYSIS: 

Not many players have a career-year at age 36, but that’s exactly what Howie Kendrick did last season in Washington. The veteran infielder hit for a cool .344 with a .966 OPS along with 17 longballs in 370 PA. That performance wasn't a fluke either, as Kendrick was in the 98th percentile for xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA, with numbers rivaling youngsters like Yordan Alvarez and Juan Soto. Of course, no one expects Kendrick to perform near the level of those players, but it’s surprising to see him owned in just 30% of leagues. With Ryan Zimmerman opting out of the 2020 season and the DH coming to the NL, Kendrick is looking at a full-time role in Washington. Not only that, but Kendrick has triple eligibility at 1B, 2B, and 3B.

His low ownership rate is likely because Kendrick carries two traits fantasy baseball owners fear, which is age and spotty track record. Kendrick has always been a good hitter with a .294 career BA, but has never shown much power prior to last season. He set a career-high in ISO by 49 points, and if the ball is no longer juiced Kendrick’s power could slip. Even if the ball changes, Kendrick improved his strikeout rate, walk rate, hard hit rate, and launch angle last season, which should be enough to maintain moderate power. Pair those improvements with an every day role batting behind studs like Juan Soto and Trea Turner, and Kendrick has appeal in all formats.


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C.J. Cron (1B, DET) - Week 1 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues

OWNED IN: 34% of leagues

While his 2019 surface stats look unremarkable (.780 OPS, 25 HR in 499 PA), C.J. Cron made leaps in hit quality last year. He set career highs in average exit velocity (91.1 MPH), barrel rate (15%), and hard contact rate (41.1%). He also cut his swinging strike rate and chase rate, leading to an overall 4.5% reduction in strikeouts from the year prior. Cron also dramatically increased his effectiveness against offspeed pitches with a .328 BA and .623 SLG in 2019. Like many sluggers, offspeed pitches had been a longtime kryptonite for Cron, but his improved plate discipline allowed him to tee off on the offspeed stuff for the first time in his career.

Now tucked away in rebuilding Detroit, Cron’s been largely ignored by fantasy owners this upcoming draft season, with just 34% ownership heading into opening day. Detroit certainly isn’t a hitter’s paradise in terms of ballpark or supporting cast, but one benefit of being on such a talent-starved club is that there’s no one to unseat Cron. For the first time in his career Cron can serve as an every day player, and with a respectable 105 wRC+ and .754 OPS against righties, he may be able to hold his own against righties in a full time role. This is a free 30 HR bat (during a full season) sitting on waivers in most leagues, so if you need cheap power look no farther.


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2019 Busts Who'll Keep Junking it Up - Infielders

Nothing grinds a fantasy owner's gears quite like a bust. Well, maybe unpaid league dues, but busts are a close second. It doesn't feel good to stare at your lineup all-season and watch a high draft pick torpedo your team's chances at glory.

Spurned owners tend to avoid the players who've burned them, but a savvy drafter knows that last year's bust is this year's breakout. But before you go running to the bargain bin on draft day, remember that not everything that bust is a rebound waiting to happen, and what appears as good value might be a trap in disguise.

In this article, we go around the horn in the infield to examine a 2019 bust at each position and outline the case against drafting that player. ADP data is taken from NFBC and is accurate as of 3/9/20.

 

Rhys Hoskins 1B, PHI (ADP 115)

2019 Stats: .224/.364/.454 triple slash, 29 HR, 85 RBI 2 SB

2019 presented new lows for Hoskins, as he posted career worsts in batting average, strikeout rate, and ISO. On the surface, it’s easy to make a bounce-back case for Hoskins. He’s just 26 years old with an elite power pedigree and plays in an excellent hitters park. Hoskins also bats cleanup behind three All-Star caliber hitters. However, when we dive into the underlying numbers, the rebound seems much less likely for the hulking first baseman.

There are three notable issues in Hoskins’s batted-ball profile that, by themselves, won’t cripple a batter’s ability to maintain a decent batted average. But when combined, these three deficiencies destroy any hope of approaching even a .250 mark. Hoskins had a poor barrel rate at just 9.7%, a weak average exit velocity (for a power hitter) at 89.7 MPH, and an extreme 24-degree average launch angle, the highest in the majors among qualified hitters. Hoskins was a weak fly ball machine last year, which almost always guarantees outs. It’s why he had a nauseating .221 xBA, which was bottom-ten among qualified hitters, a territory mostly occupied by glove-first catchers like Martin Maldonado and Yan Gomes.

Hoskins hit just .226 on flyballs with a .372 wOBA last year, while the league hit .254 with a .401 wOBA. Hoskins also had a meager 388-foot average flyball distance on his home runs, which was the fifth-lowest among players who hit over 25 longballs, behind two Astros and two Yankees that benefit from famously short outfield porches. The more I dig into the Statcast numbers, the more pessimistic I feel about Hoskins heading into 2020.

Hoskins is revamping his swing, and while that could prove to be a promising change, I need to see sustained regular-season production before buying back in with him. He’s going at pick 105 per FantasyPros consensus ADP, and that’s far too high for someone with poor peripherals, drastic mechanical changes, and an oversaturated skillset. For the price, I’d rather turn to Trey Mancini at pick 104, Carlos Santana at pick 141, Miguel Sano at 117, or wait a lot longer and scoop up Hunter Dozier, who is a tremendous value at pick 182.

What’s perhaps most frustrating about Hoskins’s poor 2019 is that it came during a league-wide power explosion. The all-time high for home runs was shattered by more than 600 dingers last season, and Hoskins, who’s only valuable 5x5 skill is power, couldn’t even reach 30 long balls while playing 160 games.  Fifty-eight players hit 30 or more home runs, including the likes of Kole Calhoun, Mitch Garver, Renato Nunez, and Dan Vogelbach. And those players all did it in fewer games. If Hoskins can’t do it with a juiced ball, why should we be confident in him rebounding in 2020? Why take that risk when we can get similar or better production at a lower price?

 

Daniel Murphy 1B, COL (ADP 250)

2019 Stats: .279/.328/.452 triple slash, 13 HR, 78 RBI, 1 SB

There was plenty of excitement when Murphy signed with the Rockies last offseason, as he had been one of the most reliable sources of batting average between 2016-2018. The move to Colorado was seen as a way for the aging superstar to prop up his numbers as he entered the twilight years of his career. Things didn’t quite go that way for Murphy, who battled injuries all year en route to a career-worst 86 wRC+ and a modest .279 batting average, his lowest since 2009. Murphy isn't going nearly as high as the other players in this article, but he was certainly one of the biggest busts at second base in 2019. Murphy’s draft stock has tanked as a result of that performance. However, he still has a stranglehold on Colorado’s first base job. With a superb track record behind him, owners could look at Murphy as a potential veteran bounce-back candidate, especially if he can stay healthy. Unfortunately, there were more problems here than just injuries.

Even when on the field, Murphy just didn’t have the same oomph on the ball he once had. His average exit velocity has been on a downward trend since his 2016 breakout, but it reached an all-time low at just 86.3 MPH last season, the exact same mark as players like Adam Frazier, Joe Panik, and Harold Castro. Murphy’s line drive rate also hit a three-year low at 24.2%, and these two factors combined gave him a .250 xBA, a 55-point drop from the year below and the first time since the introduction of Statcast that Murphy had an xBA below .293. That dip is especially disappointing since Colorado hitters routinely outperform their xBA at a greater rate than league average (see below).

last_name  first_name pa bip ba est_ba est_ba_minus_ba_diff slg est_slg est_slg_minus_slg_diff woba est_woba est_woba_minus_woba_diff
Arenado  Nolan 662 503 0.315 0.272 0.043 0.583 0.484 0.099 0.392 0.344 0.048
Story  Trevor 656 417 0.294 0.264 0.03 0.554 0.463 0.091 0.38 0.339 0.041
Blackmon  Charlie 634 481 0.314 0.294 0.02 0.576 0.52 0.056 0.387 0.362 0.025
McMahon  Ryan 539 322 0.25 0.245 0.005 0.45 0.429 0.021 0.33 0.322 0.008
Desmond  Ian 482 327 0.255 0.271 -0.016 0.479 0.474 0.005 0.328 0.335 -0.007
Murphy  Daniel 478 368 0.279 0.25 0.029 0.452 0.371 0.081 0.328 0.29 0.038
Tapia  Raimel 447 326 0.275 0.259 0.016 0.415 0.376 0.039 0.307 0.287 0.02
Dahl  David 413 271 0.302 0.267 0.035 0.524 0.482 0.042 0.364 0.34 0.024
Wolters  Tony 411 299 0.262 0.244 0.018 0.329 0.316 0.013 0.29 0.281 0.009
Alonso  Yonder 335 224 0.199 0.232 -0.033 0.346 0.38 -0.034 0.277 0.306 -0.029
Hampson  Garrett 327 215 0.247 0.227 0.02 0.385 0.329 0.056 0.292 0.265 0.027
Iannetta  Chris 164 91 0.222 0.231 -0.009 0.417 0.415 0.002 0.303 0.312 -0.009
Reynolds  Mark 162 81 0.17 0.166 0.004 0.311 0.295 0.016 0.268 0.266 0.002
Daza  Yonathan 105 77 0.206 0.207 -0.001 0.237 0.262 -0.025 0.221 0.23 -0.009
0.256429 0.244929 0.0115

*Colorado players outperformed their xBA by 11.5 points last season, much higher than the league average of 2.1 points (min. 100 PA)

Murphy got the Coors field bump and then some last year, and it still couldn't salvage his rapidly deteriorating skills.  Murphy’s draft price is so low that there isn’t much risk in drafting him, but there isn't much to like in this profile. He’s going to be 35 years old on April 1, and when push comes to shove, you probably aren’t going to waste an IL spot on Murphy when the inevitable injury comes. At best, we’re looking at a hitter to stream when healthy and the Rockies have a homestand. Those types of players belong on waivers, and I’d rather burn a late-round pick on a sleeper than this creaky old veteran.

 

Manny Machado SS/3B, SD (ADP 60)

2019 Stats: .256/.334/.462 triple slash, 32 HR, 85 RBI, 5 SB

The fantasy community had a split reaction when Machado landed with San Diego last offseason. The park is notoriously pitcher-friendly, and pessimists pointed to Machado’s .760 OPS and 104 wRC+ away from Camden Yards during his tenure with Baltimore as a reason to doubt the former All-Star. The case for Machado heading into his first year with the Padres hinged on his supreme batted ball metrics, five-category contributions, and dual eligibility with shortstop and third base. Unfortunately, Machado’s batted-ball quality took a dip, he stopped running, and his dual eligibility happens to be at the two beefiest positions in fantasy baseball. These factors culminated in Machado posting his worst offensive season since 2017. Right, just two years prior to Machado’s disappointing year in 2019, he was stinking it up for the Orioles in 2017. In two of the last three seasons, Machado has posted an OPS below .800, not something we’d expect from a $300 million supposed MVP candidate. Machado bounced back after 2017, but can the San Diego superstar do it again next season?

There are a few crucial differences between Machado’s poor 2017 and poor 2019 that should make owners approach him with caution in drafts. Machado’s strikeout rate was a career-worst 19.4% last year, which is still above average in this era of baseball, but it’s how the strikeout rate rose that should have owners wary. Machado’s swinging strike rate rose to 10.5% despite a four-year low in swing rate. Machado’s swing rate on fastballs was down, but his swing rate on breaking balls were all above his career average. Below is a heatmap comparison of Machado’s swing rate against off-speed pitches career prior to 2019 (left) and 2019 (right).



*2012-2018

 


*2019

He swung more in every quadrant, and as a result, Machado hit .189 with a .319 SLG against off-speed pitches last season. Machado’s always been a fastball assassin, and last year was no different, but he spent too much time chasing breakers and watching juicy fastballs go by in 2019.

Of course, Machado could recover from something like this, but this development has coincided with, or perhaps caused, notable drop-offs in barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and xwOBA for Machado last year. His poor 2019 was more than bad luck, and it will take some tweaking for Machado to rebound. In today’s fantasy baseball climate, the upside doesn’t seem worth the risk. It would be tough to envision Machado reaching even ten steals next year, and 30-35 home run power at third base just ain’t what it used to be. Seven shortstops and 13 third baseman hit 30 or more home runs last year, and only two of them had a worse batting average (Paul DeJong and Miguel Sano). It’s not that Machado can’t bounce back, but he has more problems than simply a low BABIP. It’s hard to take him at his current ADP when Eugenio Suarez can be had at 76.  You could also wait even longer to scoop up bankable power with Max Muncy (71), Josh Donaldson (94), or Mike Moustakas (96). Those players don’t have Machado’s ceiling, but they present much better value at their current ADP.

 

Adalberto Mondesi SS, KC (ADP 38)

2019 Stats: .263/.291/.424 triple slash, 9 HR, 62 RBI, 43 SB

Mondesi was arguably the most controversial player heading into 2019, and while injuries plagued his second half, Mondesi did deliver with 43 steals in the 102 games he did play. His steals rate was a bit down last year (10.3 per PA in 2019 compared to 9.1 in 2018), but is it really fair to call him a bust? It depends on how you look at it because the real issues lie in Mondesi’s bat, not his legs.

Most owners should’ve expected Mondesi’s power to regress in 2019, but he took a pretty far step back with the stick. His ISO fell from .222 to a pedestrian .161, his hard-hit rate fell over 3%, and Mondesi posted a pitiful .282 wOBA. It would be convenient to blame this regression on Mondesi’s shoulder injury, but his hard-hit rate was actually higher after he returned from the injury. However, he only played in 20 games before hitting the IL for good. Mondesi’s famous poor plate discipline was on display last season, as he struck out 29.8% of the time and drew just 19 walks in 443 PA, making him only one of nine players with over 400 PA and fewer than 20 walks last year. These flaws aren’t news to those interested in Mondesi, but they aren’t weighted heavily enough when considering his draft-day value.

Those who draft Mondesi do so with the intention of getting a steals source who can contribute in other categories, but Mondesi is walking a fine line with this approach. His 2018 power surge was built on an increase in launch angle and hard-hit rate, two metrics that went down in 2019 while the rest of the league saw their power numbers skyrocket. The rest of Mondesi’s profile is also dependent on an incredibly volatile metric, BABIP. Since 2018 Mondesi has a .268 AVG thanks to a .348 BABIP, and while we can expect a speedy player like Mondesi to maintain an above-average BABIP, a drop within normal variance could tank his batting average. And since he rarely takes a walk, a drop in BABIP would also severely hinder his ability to reach base, and you need to reach first before you can steal second. It would be difficult to pile up steals with an OBP under .290.

Of course, the previous paragraph outlines a worst-case scenario; any player can experience a drop in BABIP, but when a hitter has such an aggressive and extreme profile like Mondesi, they are more susceptible to the whim of the baseball gods. A good comparison might be Carlos Gomez. At his best, Gomez could be great, but as we saw, the swing-heavy approach made consistent success nigh impossible. Even worse, Mondesi’s plate discipline metrics look more like late-career Gomez than peak Gomez. He swings just as much and takes fewer walks than Gomez in his last few years.

One final issue I raise with Mondesi is a question of durability. He is coming off shoulder surgery and has never played more than 125 games in a season at any level, and that was back in 2013 at Single-A. All of these factors make me wonder why Mondesi is going ahead of Jonathan Villar. Mondesi has an average ADP of 38, while Villar is at 42. A negligible difference sure, but for some reason, Mondesi has an ADP of 96 in ESPN drafts, well below his ADP on other sites. If we eliminate ESPN for both players, Mondesi is going 43rd while Villar is still going at 52nd. Isn’t Villar what we want Mondesi to be? He doesn’t steal bases at Mondesi’s rate, but he’s topped 35 steals in three different seasons, hitting .260 or higher with double-digit home runs and a walk rate of at least 8% during those seasons. He also played over 140 games in three of the last four seasons. Villar’s abysmal 2017 seems to have left a bad taste in owners' mouths because he seems like a much more bankable multi-category contributor at the same position for a slightly cheaper price.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 17

The fantasy season is over for most, but some of you crazy people have Week 17  championships. If that's the case, then you'll have to navigate teams resting starters, shutting down injured players, and using second-stringers to see what they've got. The biggest name we'll likely be without is Lamar Jackson, since Baltimore has locked up home field advantage in the AFC. He's a common player among championship contenders, and if you've been using him you'll need a replacement. Kyler Murray owners could also be scrambling, as he went down with a hamstring injury in Week 16.

Maybe you're looking for a streamer because your regular starter has a tough matchup. If you own Kirk Cousins (vs. CHI), Jimmy Garoppolo (@ SEA), Russell Wilson (vs. SF), Ryan Fitzpatrick (@ NE), or Derek Carr (@ DEN) then it's at least worth weighing your options at the position.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of 12/22/2019.

Week 17 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Ryan Tannehill (TEN): 69% Owned @ HOU

Tannehill is a bit above the ownership threshold I normally use, but he’s played so well and is in a great spot this week, which makes him by far the top option owned in fewer than 70% of leagues. Tannehill has scored at least 23 points in his last three games, and has scored fewer than 18 points just once since taking over the starting role in Tennessee. Tannehill’s good play has brought many of Tennessee’s receivers to life, as we’ve seen great performances from A.J. Brown, Tajae Sharpe, and Jonnu Smith over the past few weeks. Houston has really struggled against the pass this season, having allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Their defense has allowed 27 points per game over their last six games, and gave up 25 fantasy points to Tannehill back in Week 15. Tannehill has revitalized his career with the Titans, and has proven his fantasy viability over the second half of the season. If you need a quarterback for Week 17, Tannehill is the best bet.

Philip Rivers (LAC): 61% Owned @ KC

Rivers was a disappointment in Week 16, managing just 11.16 points in a juicy matchup against the Raiders. It was another letdown in his worst season in over a decade. The Chargers legend has one last chance to come up big for his squad against divisional rival Kansas City. The Chiefs Defense has been better this year compared to last, but have still allowed the 18th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Their secondary is a little thin, as they’re without corners Morris Claiborne and Rashad Fenton. Kansas City still has their starting corners, but the Chargers have a strong receiving corps that can match up well with this secondary. While the year hasn’t gone how Rivers or the Chargers hoped, Rivers isn’t the type to lay down and coast to the offseason. He will take this rival to the limit as Kansas City is still jockeying for playoff position. We’re going to get one last hurrah out of this future Hall-of-Famer, and we should get more solid fantasy day out of him.

Daniel Jones (NYG): 19% Owned vs. PHI

Jones was a monster in his return from injury on Sunday, throwing for 352 yards and five touchdowns in a thrilling overtime win over Washington. The matchup won’t be quite as easy this week, as the Giants host Philadelphia. The Eagles have been about average against quarterbacks this year, allowing the 18th-most fantasy points per game to QBs. This secondary has been a little leaky as of late however, giving 365 yards and three touchdowns to Ryan Fitzpatrick three weeks ago, and allowing Dwayne Haskins to have the best game of his young career in Week 15. The play of starting corners Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby has been questionable over these past few weeks, and there is certainly room for young receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton to take advantage. Jones has been a boom-or-bust this season; over his last six games he’s scored more than 28 points three times, and fewer than 15 points in the other three games. In a Week 17 championship, owners should be willing to take that gamble with an up-and-comer like Jones.

Two-QB League Pickups

Andy Dalton (CIN): 9% Owned vs. CLE

Dalton put up big numbers in a shootout with Miami, throwing for 396 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-point day. The Red Rifle is playing to prove himself as a starter, not just for Cincinnati but for other teams, as Dalton is only under contract through 2020. The Bengals could choose to move on this offseason and save some cash, and with a strong finish Dalton would put himself in a position to land a starting gig elsewhere. Cleveland has allowed the 11th-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, and have given up 69 points to opposing offenses in their last two games. The Bengals are playing with more heart and passion than Cleveland right now, and with the number one pick locked up Cincy can go all-out to try and down a division rival in an otherwise meaningless game. Dalton is a fine low-owned options for those in deeper leagues.

Drew Lock (DEN): 6% Owned vs. OAK

Lock had an efficient day in Denver’s victory over Detroit in Week 16, and more production could be in store this week against Oakland. The Raiders have allowed the second-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, and lost starting safety Lamarcus Joyner last week. Joyner hadn’t been playing well to begin with, but is still a better option than backup Curtis Riley. Lock has had flashes of brilliance since taking over as Denver’s starting quarterback, and with his big arm should be able to take advantage of this weak secondary. The Raiders have really struggled against the deep ball this year, having allowed an above average completion rate on balls 15 yards downfield or more. Lock is someone worth taking a shot on in the under-10% owned range. He is a good player to scoop up in dynasty leagues as well, since it’s likely that the Denver job is Lock’s to begin 2020.

Robert Griffin III (BAL): 0% Owned vs. PIT

Baltimore is going to sit Lamar Jackson this week, which put his owners in quite a pinch. There’s an easy swap to be made for those in two-QB leagues, and that’s RGIII. Griffin was the original Lamar Jackson back in 2012, and while Griffin was eventually exposed, he still has decent legs and good weapons around him (if they play). Baltimore will likely be without Mark Ingram in this one as well, so deep leaguers could get a discount Ravens attack by adding Griffin and Gus Edwards for a Week 17 stack. Playing RGIII could backfire in the worst way, but if you’re reaching all the way down here your options are probably limited. He’s someone I’d rather roll the dice on than David Blough or Will Grier, for what that’s worth. 

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 16

It's championship week, and if you're looking for quarterback streamers things have either gone horribly right or horribly wrong for your squad heading into the title game. Whichever it is, we've got some strong options to help bring home the ship.

Maybe you're looking for a streamer because your regular starter has a tough matchup. If you own Tom Brady (vs. BUF), Josh Allen (@ NE), Jared Goff (@ SF), Baker Mayfield (vs. BAL), Carson Wentz (vs. DAL), Patrick Mahomes (@ CHI), Aaron Rodgers (@ MIN), or Kirk Cousins (vs. GB), then it's at least worth weighing your options.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of 12/15/2019.

 

Week 16 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Philip Rivers (LAC) 59% Owned vs. OAK

Rivers and the Chargers got their teeth kicked-in by Minnesota yesterday, but luckily for the veteran gunslinger this will be much easier in Week 16. The Chargers host Oakland, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. They’ve also allowed the highest average yards per target, third-highest aDOT, and an above average completion rate on passes at least 15 yards downfield. In other words, their secondary can’t handle the deep ball. Starting free safety Lamarcus Joyner has been an abomination in pass coverage for Oakland this year, and they are without top corner Daryl Worley. Oakland’s already subpar defense could be extra-vulnerable in this one.

While the matchup is a good one, Rivers himself has been a question mark all year. There’s no sugarcoating it, father time looks to have claimed Philip Rivers. His 18 interceptions are the second-most in football, and Rivers has been brutalized by defenses, taking a hit on 10% of his dropbacks. In Rivers’s defense, he’s faced one of the toughest schedules of any quarterback this season. Since week five’s faced just two bottom-10 pass defenses, Oakland in Week 10 and Jacksonville in Week 14, and Rivers shredded the Jaguars for three touchdowns and 24.5 fantasy points. Even taking his struggles into consideration, Rivers has been productive on volume alone. He’s averaged 309.75 passing yards and 35.5 attempts per game over his last four games. With his track record and an excellent matchup, Rivers is by far the top stream of the week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA): 25% Owned vs. CIN

Fitzpatrick had a solid fantasy showing this past week, putting up 279 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants. He’s been a solid fantasy quarterback over the last few weeks, averaging over 22 points per game over his last four games. A string of soft matchups have boosted his numbers, and the good times should continue this week as the Dolphins host the hapless Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and while that may not seem too bad, that number is artificially lower because opponents rarely throw on Cincinnati. The Bengals have seen the fourth-fewest pass attempts this season, certainly a product of their -169 point differential, second-worst the in league. 

With an anemic run game led by Patrick Laird, The Dolphins won’t have the luxury of keeping the ball grounded in this one. Miami has relied heavily on Fitzpatrick’s arm as of late, as Fitz has averaged 40.2 pass attempts over the last five weeks. The connection between Fitzpatrick and Devante Parker may be the strongest offensive force either team can offer in this game, and Fitzpatrick has the ability to deliver another solid fantasy performance in championship week.

 Jacoby Brissett (IND): 37% Owned vs. CAR

The Panthers are a team in turmoil, as they dropped their sixth-straight game yesterday in a 30-24 loss to the Seahawks. They’ve allowed 31 points per game during that stretch, and while their rush defense has received some well deserved criticism recently, Carolina has also allowed multiple pass touchdowns in each of the last four games. Brissett has yet to play this week, but in the week before the Colts QB took advantage of a soft opponent, scoring 22.64 points against Tampa Bay. Obviously, Brissett would be much better off if T.Y. Hilton plays in Week 16, but even without Hilton he’s got a nice young duo at receiver with Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson, and a reliable target with the veteran Jack Doyle at tight end. Brissett doesn’t have the same upside as the likes of Philip Rivers and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he is less mistake-prone and blowup-prone than the latter. Fitzpatrick has thrown twice as many picks as Brissett despite starting one fewer game. If you aren’t willing to roll the dice with a riskier play, then Brissett provides a safer option with a stable floor in this matchup.

 

Two-QB League Pickups

Daniel Jones (NYG): 18% Owned @ WSH

Jones has been on the sidelines the past two weeks with an ankle injury, and it’s a wonder if the Giants would risk their QB of the future in a lost season, but if Jones is healthy and plays he’s a good deep-league streaming option. Jones hsa flashed brilliance at times this season, and has proven capable of capitalizing on a bad defense. He’s had three games of 28 points or more, and they came against Tampa Bay, Detroit, and the Jets. Washington hasn’t been as bad as Tampa or Detroit, but they’ve had their struggles against the pass this season, allowing the 13th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. They just allowed three touchdowns to Carson Wentz, who is missing his top three wide receivers. Washington is struggling at cornerback, with Quinton Dunbar out and Fabian Moreau hobbled they were forced to start the corpse of Josh Norman in this one. Norman was outdone by rookie Greg Ward Jr., a quarterback who converted to receiver after going undrafted this offseason. The Giants’ receiving corps isn’t the strongest, but their better than what Philadelphia can offer these days. Jones could leap back into production if healthy. If Jones doesn’t play, then Eli Manning (6% Owned) could be a sneaky two-QB streamer as well, though Jones is the more enticing option.

Drew Lock (DEN): 6% Owned vs. DET

Lock disappointed in Week 15 after a strong showing the week before against Houston, but Lock has the perfect bounceback opportunity this week, facing Detroit at home. The Lions’ defense has already booked their tee times for the offseason, having checked out sometime in October following the Quandre Diggs trade. Detroit’s secondary was absolutely dominated by a banged up Jameis Winston last week, as Winston put up 458 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-17 road win. Lock isn’t on Winston’s level yet, but he is of a similar archetype. He’s a tall, strong-armed quarterback with questionable decision-making skills. The Lions are tied for the sixth-most fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks, and have managed a meager six interceptions all year, tied for second-fewest in the NFL. Detroit’s lack of turnover-prowess should help a young quarterback like Lock avoid costly mistakes. Lock makes for a high-upside dart throw in a juicy matchup.

Dwayne Haskins Jr. (WSH): 3% Owned vs. NYG

Haskins had his best showing as a pro last week, going 19-for-28 with 261 yards and two touchdowns in Washington-s 37-27 loss to Philadelphia, good for a 121.3 passer rating.  He also chipped in with 26 rushing yards, helping him top 19 fantasy points for the first time in his career. To say Haskins is hard to trust would be a massive understatement, but in leagues where even Drew Lock is unavailable Haskins could prove to be a decent hail mary option. The Giants have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and their defense took a big hit when they cut Janoris Jenkins last week. Jenkins was their only above average corner, and with him gone DeVante Parker took advantage of a week counterpart for two touchdowns yesterday. If you’re looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 5% of leagues, then Haskins at least has upside in a soft matchup.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 15

The first week of the fantasy playoffs in almost in the books, and if you're fortunate enough to have advanced then it's already time to start thinking about Week 15 lineups, especially for those who stream quarterbacks. Luckily, there are plenty of viable options available as eliminated owners have stopped making moves, and if you need a quarterback there should be a usable option in leagues of all sizes.

There aren't too many tough matchups this week, but owners of Philip Rivers (vs. MIN), Kirk Cousins (@ LAC), Jared Goff (@ DAL), and Matt Ryan (@ SF) may at least want to consider an alternative given their respective opponents.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of 12/8/2019.

 

Week 15 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Ryan Tannehill (TEN): 47% Owned vs. HOU

Tannehill’s Tennessee turnaround is one of the biggest surprises this season, and he showed up big again last week with 391 yards and three touchdowns in the Titans’ win over the Raiders.He look to keep it rolling with another great matchup in Week 15 against Houston. The Texans’ defense just got shredded by Drew Lock for three touchdowns, and they have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. It’s gotten so bad in Houston that they’ve added two first-round busts midseason with Gareon Conley and Vernon Hargreaves, neither of which have helped stop the bleeding.

Tannehill has scored more than 25 points in two of his last three games, and has scored over 18 points in all but one start this season. He is relatively safe for a quarterback under 50% owned, and boasts huge upside as we’ve seen with performances such as yesterday’s. He is the number one quarterback to add this week and over the course of the playoffs, since Tannehill has another soft matchup in Week 16, facing New Orleans at home. If you need a quarterback, it’s worth emptying the FAAB piggybank for Tannehill at this point in the year.

Jacoby Brissett (IND): 37% Owned @ New Orleans

Brissett took advantage of a great matchup last week, putting up 22.64 points in a loss to Tampa Bay. He gets another excellent opportunity this week as the Colts travel to New Orleans for a Monday Night matchup with the Saints. New Orleans had allowed the 12th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks coming into this week, and just gave up 349 yards and four touchdowns to Jimmy Garoppolo. Their depth was tested last week, as the Saints were without two key defensive backs, including veteran cornerback Patrick Robinson. Robinson will have an extra day to recover, but if he doesn’t play the Saints would be missing a mainstay in their secondary.

Speaking of an extra day to recover, the injury pendulum could easily swing in Brissett’s favor if T.Y. Hilton is healthy enough to play. An active T.Y. Hilton would be a huge boon for Brissett, but even if Hilton is out, the emergence of Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson at least give him a few playmakers at receiver, and Jack Doyle is always a reliable redzone and short-yardage target. If you need a quarterback for this week and can’t get your mitts on Tannehill, Brissett is a fine streamer. He also faces Carolina in Week 16, making him a decent option in championship week as well.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA): 23% Owned @ NYG

Fitzpatrick struggled in Miami’s loss to the Jets this week, and his cause wasn’t helped by injuries to Devante Parker and Albert Wilson. The status for both of those players is up in the air right now, but if they play Fitzpatrick could be in line for quite a rebound in Week 15. The Giants have been abysmal against the pass this season, having allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, along with the sixth-highest completion rate and third-highest aDOT in the league. They just placed safety Jabril Peppers on IR this weekend, making him their fourth defensive back on injured reserve. While they haven’t played yet this week, the Giants gave up four passing touchdowns to Aaron Rodgers in Week 14. Fitzpatrick is obviously no Aaron Rodgers, but the Giants Defense has allowed at least 27 points in seven of their last eight games. This one has an early O/U of 48.0, and Fitzpatrick could be in line for plenty of scoring in a battle of basement dwellers. He follows this game with another juicy matchup, home against Cincinnati, meaning Fitzpatrick might be the unlikeliest of fantasy playoff heroes in 2019. He’s certainly worth a gamble in deeper leagues. 

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Drew Lock (DEN): 2% Owned @ KC

It's Week 15, which means I am far less likely to trust low-owned players like David Blough and Eli Manning on my team, but Drew Lock presents a widely available option with some substantial upside. Lock exploded for three touchdowns and 309 yards in the Broncos’ 38-24 win over the Texans in Week 15, taking the first step towards proving himself as Denver’s quarterback of the future. Whether he’s their franchise guy or not remains to be seen, but Lock could do himself a big favor with a pair of plus matchups over the next two weeks. He takes on a Chiefs team that has been below average against the pass, allowing the 13th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2019. Kansas City opened as a massive -13 favorite, meaning the Broncos will likely be throwing often in this one.

Owners in really deep leagues could have a nice late season addition in Lock, who has a solid matchup in Week 15 and an outstanding matchup in Week 16 against Detroit at home. He’s a sneaky player to add in leagues with dynasty and keeper implications, as a strong late season performance would catapult Lock into a possible starting role in 2020. He’s a raw talent, but Lock boasts incredible arm strength, which should make him compatible with young Denver receivers Courtland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton. It’s far too early to forecast a superstar future for Lock, but yesterday was a big leap for the rookie, and there might be more to come this season and next.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 14

It's playoff time in fantasyland, and while the playoffs generally mean fewer owners streaming quarterbacks, those that do stream will need to be even more diligent in their research. While owners shouldn't adjust their strategies too much between the regular season and playoffs, it's important to understand that even one dud can cost you your season. An extra degree of risk aversion may be necessary for those streaming this week, though unfortunately those who need a streamer may not be able to afford that luxury. Regardless, there are plenty of viable options out there for owners in need.

It can be difficult to turn away from a reliable starter in playoff time, but owners of Dak Prescott (@ CHI), Josh Allen (vs. BAL), and Jared Goff (vs. SEA) should at least weigh their options before setting a lineup this week.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of 12/1/2019.

 

Week 14 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Ryan Tannehill (TEN): 39% Owned @ OAK

Tannehill is coming off his worst fantasy performance since becoming Tennessee’s starter, putting up a meager 13.78 points in the Titans’ road win over the Colts. Even with that underwhelming game, Tannehill is averaging a solid 21.62 points in his six weeks as a starter, and now draws an excellent matchup against the Raiders. Oakland has allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and have allowed at least 26 points to their opponent in five of their last six games, with just the lowly Bengals unable to eclipse that mark.

The Raiders have been quite vulnerable to deep passes, have allowed the third-most yards per attempt along with an above average completion rate on passes greater than 20 yards downfield. Tannehill’s 10.3 aDOT is tied for the fourth-highest mark in the league (min. 50 attempts), meaning he not only excels at throwing it deep, but he does it often enough to have big upside. Tannehill follows up his Week 14 matchup with Oakland with games against Houston and New Orleans, giving him good matchups throughout the playoffs. Those in a pinch could find some stability with Tannehill during these final three weeks.

Jacoby Brissett (IND): 38% Owned @ TB

Brissett has been underperforming ever since he suffered an MCL sprain back in Week 8. Since then, he’s averaged just 14.65 points per game, a paltry number for a quarterback. However, Week 14 would be the perfect opportunity for Brissett to rebound, as he faces the notoriously soft Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa Bay has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, and have surrendered more than 27 points in nine of 12 games this season.

In addition to their three defensive backs on injured reserve, the Buccaneers also have two cornerbacks (Jamal Dean and MJ Stewart) banged up, thinning out an already weak unit. Obviously, we’d love to have T.Y. Hilton back for this game, but even without Hilton the emergence of young weapons such as Zach Pascal and a reliable target in Jack Doyle give Brissett enough to work with should Hilton sit again. Brissett has three games coming up against NFC South opponents (@ TB, @ NO, vs. CAR) to finish the fantasy season, giving him three plus matchups through the fantasy playoffs. Tannehill is the preferred option if streaming through the playoffs, but Brissett isn’t a bad alternative.

Kyle Allen (CAR): 19% Owned @ ATL

While his real-football abilities deserve great scrutiny, Allen put up his second-straight good fantasy game, dropping 278 yards and three total touchdowns in Carolina’s embarrassing home loss to Washington. From an advanced metrics perspective, it’s hard to make a case for Allen. His 61.5% completion rate, 24.4% bad pass rate, and 8.3 aDOT leave much to be desired. However, Allen has put up the numbers despite the metrics, and draws a juicy matchup in Week 14 as the Panthers travel to Atlanta for a divisional tangle with the Falcons.

The Falcons have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and are tied for the second-most passing touchdowns allowed. Allen has delivered in most of his good matchups this season, scoring at least 17 fantasy points against Arizona, Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and Washington earlier this season. He laid an egg against these Falcons back in Week 11 however, tossing four picks in a brutal 29-3 home loss. Allen’s talent is questionable, but the solid matchup makes him a worthy gamble in leagues where Tannehill and Brissett are unavailable. Don’t trust him beyond Week 14, as he faces Seattle and Indianapolis to close out the fantasy season.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA): 10% Owned @ NYJ

The annual Ryan Fitzpatrick hot streak has come a little late this year, but the journeyman quarterback is at it again, with two consecutive games of 25 fantasy points or more. It helps that Miami has no choice but to throw, with Fitzpatrick averaging 41 pass attempts over his last three games. It’s hard to blame them in this one, as the Dolphins lost Kalen Ballage early and were left with undrafted rookie Patrick Laird as their top running back. Miami will ride high into this one off the heels of their upset victory over the Eagles, while the Jets are certainly reeling from a loss to the previously-winless Bengals, a crushing blow to their meager playoffs hopes.

The Jets are middle-of-the-road against quarterbacks, allowing the 16th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, however, their secondary took a big blow on Sunday. Star safety Jamal Adams was in walking boot after suffering a foot injury against the Bengals. Adams is the third ranked safety by PFF at 89.9, while his replacement Matthais Farley is the absolute worst with a pathetic 26.2 rating. This would be a huge talent swing should Adams miss this week’s game. If that wasn’t bad enough, the Jets also lost starting cornerback Arthur Maulet this week. It was a tough week all around for Adam Gase’s squad, but this secondary is in shambles given these two injuries. Know that the FitzMagic could run out at any time, but Fitzpatrick gives us great upside for a quarterback available in 90% of leagues. 

Andy Dalton (CIN): 8% Owned @ CLE

Desperate for their first win of the year, Cincinnati turned back to the red rifle, and the veteran helped make easy work of the visiting New York Jets en route to victory. Even though Dalton was benched following Week 8, he wasn’t performing horribly from a fantasy standpoint. The longtime Bengal had scored at least 17 fantasy points in six of eight games, and his only true stinker came in a Monday night showdown with Pittsburgh. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about primetime Andy Dalton anymore this season, as it’s one o’clock starts from here on out for the Bengals.

The Browns have been slightly below average against quarterbacks this season, allowing the 14th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks thus far. They’ve been able to improve that mark over the last few weeks by facing the likes of Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, and Brandon Allen in three of their last four games. Dalton is no superstar, but he’s certainly a notch above that group. Few quarterbacks in this ownership range have the track-record of Andy Dalton, and if your digging this deep he’s the closest thing to safe we can find.

Devlin Hodges (PIT): 2% Owned @ ARI

Using Hodges in the playoffs would require rather specific circumstances, however the undrafted rookie could have sneaky value in a Week 14 matchup with Arizona. When ownership levels dip this low, it becomes almost solely about matchup, and the Cardinals have been kind to opposing quarterbacks this year. The Cardinals have allowed the most passing yards, passing touchdowns, and fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season.

Jared Goff scored more points against them this week (24.96) than in his previous three games combined. And if Jared Goff can have a good game against the Cardinals, why couldn’t Hodges? He showed good chemistry with James Washington in Week 13, as the pair connected for 111 yards and a touchdown in a victory over Cleveland. It would help Hodges if JuJu Smith-Schuster and/or James Conner can return this week, but even without them, he's a good two-QB or desperation play in Week 14.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 13

With Week 12 mostly in the books, bye weeks are finally behind us, and the need for quarterback fill-ins should taper off significantly. That means less competition on waivers for those of us who prefer to stream quarterbacks, which is great news because we've got some exciting options this week that should be easy to finds in standard leagues.

We may not have to deal with bye weeks anymore, but plenty of highly-owned quarterbacks face tough matchups this week. Owners of Dak Prescott (vs. BUF), Josh Allen (@ DAL), Philip Rivers (@ DEN), Kyler Murray (vs. LAR), and Jimmy Garoppolo (@ BAL) might want to look elsewhere at QB for Week 13. Deshaun Watson (vs. NE) and Russell Wilson (vs. MIN) also face strong pass defenses, but neither quarterback should be benched in any matchup.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of 11/24/2019.

 

Week 13 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Sam Darnold (NYJ): 39% Owned @ CIN

The schedule Gods have been kind to Darnold over the past few weeks, and the second-year quarterback has taken advantage of some weak defenses. Darnold has scored at least 21 points in each of his last three games, including a 28-point performance yesterday against Oakland. Darnold is looking an awful lot like this year’s Baker Mayfield, a young quarterback who puts up big numbers thanks to a soft schedule. Darnold draws another favorable matchup this week as the Jets head to Cincinnati for a tilt with the winless Bengals. The Bengals’ defense has allowed the seventh-fewest points per game to opposing quarterbacks, however that ranking took a dive after this week, since the Bengals were lucky enough to face the dynamic duo of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. They were allowed the third-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks prior to Week 12. They are without three defensive backs, including their best corner Dre Kirkpatrick. Cincy’s safeties have been especially bad this season, with neither Jessie Bates III or Shawn Williams cracking the PFF top-75 among graded safeties. Darnold should have no problem keeping his hot streak alive, and he’s a good option for Week 14 too, since he takes on the Miami Dolphins at home. Weeks 15 and 16 get tougher, as Darnold goes to Baltimore and then faces Pittsburgh at home. Until then, he’s the best streamer available.

Nick Foles (JAX): 33% Owned vs. TB

Foles was underwhelming in Jacksonville’s blowout loss against Tennessee this week, but he’s got the perfect bounce back opportunity in Week 13 as Tampa Bay rolls into town. Despite us seeing the Bucs contain Matt Ryan and the Falcons this past week, this defense is nothing to fear. The Buccaneers have allowed the second-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, and have allowed 30 or more points in eight of their 11 games. Already without four defensive backs, the Buccaneers also lost starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting to a knee injury in their victory over Atlanta. That leaves just three healthy cornerbacks on Tampa Bay’s roster. Foles’s numbers have been disappointing since his return, but one thing we like to see is 95 pass attempts in his first two games back. Part of that massive volume is because Jacksonville has been playing from behind, but it’s nice to see Foles delivering so much volume. It shows trust in his arm, and with a aDOT of 8.6 yards, Foles clearly isn’t afraid to sling it downfield. His playing style should mesh well with DJ Chark and Chris Conley, both of whom have an aDOT greater than 13 yards, making them both top-15 receivers by that metric (min 50 targets). Look for Foles and this young receiving corps to take advantage of a depleted secondary.

Derek Carr (OAK): 65% Owned @ KC

Carr is owned in significantly more leagues than either Darnold or Foles, and isn’t really as exciting from a one-week perspective. His performance last week against the Jets was pitiful, and he failed to top 12 points when Oakland faced the Chiefs back in Week 2. That being said, Carr was averaging 18.72 points per game prior to this week’s stinker and this offense was showing real signs of improvement. Kansas City is tied for the 10th-most fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks, The Chiefs are also a -10 home favorite in this one, meaning Oakland will be throwing early and often to try and keep up with Andy Reid’s potent offense. If you can’t get your hands on Darnold or Foles and the Carr owner drops him out of frustration, you could have a decent alternative as a streamer this week.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Mitch Trubisky (CHI): 18% Owned @ DET

The Lions seems utterly deflated, and after dropping a close game to the lowly Washington Redskins for their fourth consecutive loss, this team is probably eyeing the offseason. That puts Mitch Trubisky in a great spot for this Thanksgiving game, since the Lions have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. One of Trubisky’s biggest flaws should be mitigated this week, since the Lions have managed just four interceptions this season, tied for the fewest in the NFL with Dallas. Even though Trubisky hasn’t played well this season, he’s been able to muster more than 19 points in three of his last six games, including a three-touchdown performance against the Lions back in Week 10. He’s delivered when he’s supposed to as well, averaging 20.28 points per game against bottom-half ranked pass defenses. For deeper leagues, Trubisky is a fine option in a great matchup.

Kyle Allen (CAR): 18% Owned vs. WAS

Allen has been a roller coaster this season, but he came up big yesterday with three passing touchdowns in Carolina’s last minute loss to New Orleans. He went toe-to-toe with Drew Brees and an electric Saints’ offense. Allen’s counterpart is far less experienced this week, as Carolina hosts Dwayne Haskins and the Redskins. Washington has allowed the 15th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, but just two weeks ago this team allowed four touchdowns to Sam Darnold. Sure, they forced Jeff Driskel to throw three picks, but Driskel would probably throw three picks against tackling dummies. It’s always tough to know which Allen will show up, but for quarterbacks owned in under 20% of leagues, you could do a lot worse than rolling with Allen in a plus matchup.

Devlin Hodges (PIT): 0% Owned vs. CLE

Mike Tomlin finally put Mason Rudolph out of his misery with a well-deserved benching this week, turning the offense over to undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges. Hodges should get the start this week against the Browns, and he makes for a good sleeper add in two-QB leagues and really deep formats. Hodges has flashed decent athleticism in his limited playing time this year, and was certainly an upgrade over Rudolph this past week. The Browns’ biggest weakness on defense has been through the air, as they’re tied for the tenth-most fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks this season. They’ve tightened up over the past few weeks, but for quarterbacks at this ownership level we can’t be too picky. Plus, if Hodges can put up decent numbers this week he’ll be in line for a great matchup with Arizona in Week 14.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 12

We saw some monster weeks at the quarterbacks position, with four quarterbacks topping 37 points, and ten scoring over 25 points. These weren't all big names putting up these points either, as low-owned quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and even Jeff Driskel had some big numbers in Week 11. That means we've got plenty of interesting options on waivers this week.

There are also some big names on bye this week, with the Chiefs, Vikings, Chargers, and Cardinals all off in Week 12. Each of the starting quarterbacks for those teams is owned in at least 79% of Yahoo leagues, meaning lots of owners will be scrambling for a starter this week.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of 11/17/2019.

 

Week 12 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Baker Mayfield (CLE): 54% Owned vs. MIA

Mayfield is coming off his second-best fantasy performance of the year to take on the woeful Miami Dolphins. Miami has allowed the seventh-most points to opposing quarterbacks this season, and were  just shredded by Josh Allen for a 117.7 passer rating, 256 yards, and three touchdowns. Josh Brown dealing most of the damage on the receiving end. Mayfield is finally beginning to show some chemistry with Odell Beckham Jr., as Beckham has double digit targets in each of his last two games. The Dolphins have a weak secondary to begin with, but injuries to starters Ken Webster and Bobby McCain have thinned this unit out considerably. Mayfield has been playing much better as of late too, having gone three straight games without an interception after tossing at least one pick in the Browns’ first seven games of the year. He not only has a juicy matchup this week, but with Cincinnati in Week 14 and Arizona in Week 15, Mayfield has a few good spots coming up, making him a decent long term add as well. He’s the top streaming quarterback this week.

Jacoby Brissett (IND): 38% Owned @ HOU

Brissett was lackluster in his return this week against Jacksonville, throwing for just 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception. However, Brissett draws an excellent matchup in Week 12 against the Houston Texans. Houston’s defense was terrorized by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens this week, allowing 41 points and for four passing touchdowns. Brissett is no Lamar Jackson, but he put up four passing touchdowns against Houston himself back in Week 7. Quarterbacks have dominated Houston’s secondary all season, as the Texans have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. The Texans currently have six defensive backs listed on their injury report, including shutdown corner Bradley Roby. While his status for Week 12 is up in the air, it would be a quick turnaround for Roby this week as the Texans play on Thursday night. Brissett is out there in over 60% of Yahoo leagues and makes for a great one-week streamer this week.

Nick Foles (JAX): 32% Owned @ TEN

Foles had decent fantasy numbers in his first week back from IR, throwing for 296 yards and a pair of touchdowns, though it took him 47 pass attempts and some garbage time stat-padding to get there. He’ll have a chance to refine things even more this week as the Jaguars taken on the Titans. After a strong start to the year, the Titans’ pass defense is on the ropes. They’ve allowed at least 399 air yards and multiple touchdown passes over their last four games. They’ve been especially vulnerable to the deep ball over that stretch, with an aDOT greater than 10 in three of those four games. The biggest difference for the Titans over the last four weeks? Competition. They went from beating up on the likes of Buffalo and Denver to getting diced by quarterbacks like Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes. Foles is closer to the lower-end of the quarterback spectrum, but he still has the arm and inclination to throw it deep. Long term, Foles has an excellent schedule going forward. Following this week, he faces the Buccaneers, Chargers, Raiders, and Falcons to finish the fantasy season. Those matchups make Foles a sneaky pickup for the remainder of the year.

Sam Darnold (NYJ): 22% Owned vs. OAK

Once again, Darnold took advantage of a soft secondary, tossing four touchdowns in a dominant performance. He has scored over 21 points in each of his last two games, and draws another great matchup this week against Oakland. The Raiders have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and the third-most passing touchdown this season. The injuries are piling up in this secondary, with four defensive backs on injured reserve and safety Lamarcus Joyner on the shelf with a hamstring injury. We’ve been talking up Darnold’s schedule in this article for weeks now, and it’s still enticing even beyond next week. He faces Cincinnati in Week 13 and Miami in Week 14. He’s still out there in nearly 80% of leagues despite this schedule and great recent performances. That should change as waivers run this week, because Darnold deserves to see his ownership level skyrocket.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Jeff Driskel (DET): 3% Owned @ WAS

Driskel was surprisingly productive this past week, putting up 27.46 points in Detroit’s loss to Dallas. He beefed up his points total with an effective ground game, rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown along with his two passing touchdowns. He’s been surprisingly gutsy with the ball, boasting an 8.2 aDOT through his first two starts and an above average completion rate on passes greater than 35 yards down the field. Driskel has been freely lobbing up deep passes to his receivers and scrambling his way to first downs. He draws an easier matchup this week, taking on a Washington team that just allowed four passing touchdowns to Sam Darnold. Driskel presents a solid amount of upside for a quarterback owned in fewer than 5% of leagues. He’s a great short-term option in two-QB leagues and deep leagues, especially against the Redskins. 

Dwayne Haskins Jr. (WAS): 4% Owned vs. DET

Haskins has been handed the reigns in Washington, and put up a solid fantasy performance in Week 11 against the Jets. He tossed two touchdown passes and topped 18 points in the loss. It wasn’t a groundbreaking performance by any means, Haskins has a strong outlook heading into Week 12 against Detroit. The Lions Defense has been atrocious this season, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. They’ve allowed multiple touchdown passes for six straight week, and just gave up 444 yards through the air to Dak Prescott. Detroit has allowed at least 23 points in all but two games this season, and since their bye have given up an average of 27 points per game. The Redskins underpowered offense might struggle to reach that number, but Haskins should at least have lots of junk time opportunities in this one. If you’re in a deep league and can’t get your hands on Driskel, then Haskins is a decent alternative.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 11

We've got plenty to unpack at the quarterback position following an exciting Week 10. While no major injuries occurred in game, the revelation of Matthew Stafford's back injury was quite a surprise and left some owners scrambling just before lineups locked. So the year of the backup continued this week, as 16 of the 32 teams have now started more than one quarterback in 2019. That's made the waiver wire more important than ever for quarterbacks, and there are tons of good options heading into Week 11.

Green Bay, Seattle, Tennessee, and the New York Giants are on bye this week, meaning we'll be without two stud quarterbacks in Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, and without waiver wire darlings Ryan Tannehill and Daniel Jones. Owners of Carson Wentz (vs. NE), Kirk Cousins (vs. DEN), Baker Mayfield (vs. PIT), and Jared Goff (vs. CHI) may want to consider alternatives at the position this week, and owners of Jared Goff might be looking for a permanent replacement after this week's performance.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues. Ownership is based on Yahoo leagues and is current as of 11/10/2019.

 

Week 11 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Derek Carr (OAK): 44% Owned vs. CIN

Carr has been playing much better since Oakland’s Week 6 bye, averaging a respectable 18.2 points per game over that four-game stretch. He’s done it against some tough defenses as well, including the Packers and Chargers. Luckily, Carr gets a much easier matchup this time around, as the lowly Cincinnati Bengals limp into town after surrendering 49 points and 33.42 fantasy points to Lamar Jackson. Amazingly, Jackson put up those numbers on just 17 pass attempts. Of course, Carr doesn’t have the running ability of Jackson, but he could certainly take advantage of a weak Cincinnati secondary. Coming into Week 10 the Bengals were allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and their flaws were on full display this week. They were without their best (and only good) defensive back Dre Kirkpatrick, which shifted the load among a motley crew of draft busts and career nickel backs. Their free safety Jessie Bates III has been an abomination in coverage, which means Cincy’s corners will have little help over the top against Tyrell Williams or emerging threat Hunter Renfrow. Between his recent performance and this juicy matchup, Carr is the top streamer available this week. He will have multi-week viability as well, as Oakland faces the Jets and Chiefs in their two games following this Week 11 tilt with Cincinnati.

Jacoby Brissett (IND): 39% Owned vs. JAX

Brissett was mass-dropped after being declared out for this week, but the Colts’ signal caller deserves to be owned in more than 39% of leagues despite the injury. An MCL sprain shouldn’t affect him long term, and Brissett seems likely to be active this week against Jacksonville. This isn’t the best matchup for him, as the Jaguars have allowed the 14th-fewest points per game to opposing quarterbacks, but Brissett has a favorable schedule following this game. Between Weeks 12-15 Brissett takes on Houston, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, and New Orleans. He’s delivered solid results in good matchups earlier this year, as Brissett topped 20 points against the likes of Atlanta, Oakland, and Houston in previous games. Brissett was over-dropped after his injury, and streamers can get themselves an above-average quarterback who’s out there in more than 60% of Yahoo leagues.

Sam Darnold (NYJ): 22% Owned @ WAS

Darnold finally capitalized on his cupcake schedule, putting up 21.7 points against the Giants in a Jets’ victory. This was Darnold’s best game all season, and he gets the perfect chance to keep it rolling in road matchup against Washington. Washington has been middle-of-the-pack against quarterbacks this season, allowing the 17th-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Part of the reason Washington hasn’t allowed many points to quarterbacks is their tendency to fall behind in games. Washinton has seen the eighth-fewest pass attempts per game, and with an average margin of defeat of 14 points, teams have often iced the clock against Washington instead of throwing often. The Jets are on an equal playing field with Washington, as the Redskins are a -1.5 home favorite in this one. That means Darnold should be throwing than the typical quarterback, and can take advantage of a weak secondary. Veteran Josh Norman has been especially bad this season, and could be targeted early and often by Darnold and the Jets. Darnold is great for this week, and his upcoming schedule makes him a good long-term add. After this week Darnold faces Oakland, Cincinnati, and Miami. It doesn’t get much better than that for a quarterback.

Nick Foles (JAX): 19% Owned @ IND

Foles has been activated from injured reserve and is set to regain the starting role in Jacksonville. He’ll return just in time for a divisional matchup against Indianapolis. While the Colts don’t represent the best matchup for Foles, the former Super Bowl MVP will step into a nice long-term situation in Jacksonville. Following this week, the Jaguars take on Tennessee, Tampa Bay, the Chargers, Oakland, and Atlanta to finish the fantasy season. Foles should bring some life into this passing game too, as he has an 8.5 career aDOT, which is nearly a yard deeper than Gardner Minshew’s aDOT this season. Foles could show us what this group of young receivers like DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Chris Conley are truly capable of doing. His return should be good for all three of them, and good for those in need of a quarterback. Foles has been a solid producer in the past, and is a great streaming option in the right matchup. Pick him up now before he’s scooped up in too many leagues.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Kyle Allen (CAR): 15% Owned vs. ATL

Allen put up a gutsy performance in Carolina’s loss to Green Bay in Week 10, throwing for a career high 307 yards. He draws an excellent matchup against the Atlanta Falcons this week. Even though the Falcons put up a shockingly strong performance in Week 10, holding the Saints to just nine points in the Superdome, this isn’t a defense to fear, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. The Falcons have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks with a league-worst two interceptions all season. Atlanta’s secondary is already limited, and they’ve been shorthanded without top cornerback Desmond Trufant. In addition to Trufant’s injury, the Falcons also have three injured safeties and five injured linebackers. A depleted linebacking corps is great news for Carolina’s top playmaker, Christian McCaffery. There should be plenty of action underneath for McCaffery in the passing game, and Allen will piggyback off that production to pad his own numbers. Week 11 begins a nice stretch of matchups for Allen as well; his next four opponents are Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Atlanta again. That schedule makes Allen an appealing deep league option, as he’s available in 85% of Yahoo leagues.

Ryan Finley (CIN): 4% Owned @ OAK

For those in deep leagues and desperate, one could do worse than Ryan Finley this week. The new sheriff in Cincinnati didn’t get off to the best start this past week against Baltimore, going just 16-for-30 for 167 yards and a 67.0 passer rating. The matchup gets much easier for Finley this week, as he takes on an Oakland defense that’s allowed the third-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks. The Raiders just placed safety Karl Joseph on injured reserve, making him the fourth Oakland defensive back to hit IR this season. In addition to those losses, Lamarcus Joyner and Keisean Nixon are banged up, further thinning out an already depleted secondary. The fact that Cincinnati ran the ball 40 times despite a 36-point loss means their likely unwilling to over-expose Finley, but in this matchup he could deliver solid results for those in two-QB leagues who need a fill-in for Week 11.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 10

It was another big week for quarterbacks around the league, as five signal callers topped the 30-point mark once again. Many of the usual suspects were up there, such as Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson, but we also got a few surprises from unheralded quarterbacks.

It's a pretty big week for byes, as six teams are off. Jacksonville, Houston, New England, Denver, Philadelphia, and Washington are all getting a breather this week, making it the largest bye week of 2019. Owners of Dak Prescott (vs. MIN) and Matthew Stafford (@ CHI) may want to consider an alternative given their tough matchups, though it would be pretty difficult to bench Stafford right now.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues.

 

Week 10 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Derek Carr (OAK): 46% Owned vs. LAC

Carr has played superbly coming out of the bye, throwing for at least 285 yards and multiple touchdowns in every game since the Raiders’ Week 6 bye. The Chargers present a much tougher matchup than his last two opponents, Detroit and Houston, but Carr still put up respectable numbers against a stout Green Bay secondary. The pass rush could be a problem for Carr, but he would get a big boost if center Rodney Hudson (leg) is able to return this week. The emergence of Josh Jacobs has helped alleviate some of the pressure, and Carr has also received a boost over the last few weeks as Hunter Renfrow has stepped up as a legitimate playmaking receiver to compliment Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller. Carr is a solid start this week, but his schedule gets even better going forward. He faces the Bengals, Jets, and Chiefs between Weeks 11-13. Those are the matchups where Carr should shine, and it’s worth adding him now before everyone sees Cincinnati as his Week 11 opponent.

Jacoby Brissett (IND): 57% Owned vs. MIA

Obviously, this pickup is contingent upon Brissett’s health, but if Brissett is capable of playing he’ll be the top streaming option for Week 10. Despite notching their first victory of 2019, the Dolphins are still one of the worst teams in the league, having allowed the fourth-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. They’ve struggled on downfield passes as well, as Miami is allowing a 68% completion rate on passes 15-20 yards downfield. Their insufficiencies should help Brissett, who has been about average on deep balls this season. T.Y. Hilton may be out, but Indy’s dynamic duo of tight ends, and the emergence of Zac Pascal give Brissett a respectable repertoire of weapons to take advantage of this matchup. Again, we’ll have to watch the injury report on Brissett, but he’s certainly worth the add if he suits up on Sunday.

Sam Darnold (NYJ): 26% Owned vs. NYG

Darnold was disappointing in a juicy matchup against the Dolphins last week, but he’s got the perfect bounce back opportunity with another soft secondary in the Giants. The Giants have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, along with the highest yards-per-attempt in the NFL. Darnold has shown some promise this year in limited action, and he has an underrated supporting cast around him. Le’Veon Bell is of course a superstar, but the trio of Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, and Chris Herndon are nothing to sneeze at either. It’s hard to pass up on the matchup with Darnold, especially since he’s got a string of excellent matchups all the way until Week 15 at Baltimore. Darnold is someone to add is standard or deeper leagues, and makes for a decent buy-low candidate in two-quarterback leagues based on his schedule alone.

Daniel Jones (NYG): 26% Owned @ NYJ

The two New York franchises meet just once every four years, and both organizations couldn’t been in worse shape for this Subway Series matchups. While that’s bad for the fans, it’s good for us uninvested fantasy players. Jones has been a roller coaster since overtaking Eli Manning for the starting gig, but he’s put up some big games when the matchup is good, including a 28-point performance against the Lions in Week 9. While one wouldn’t anticipate a great performance from him Monday against Dallas, Jones is a good streaming option regardless of how he plays tonight. The Jets haven’t been horrible against quarterbacks, allowing just the 15th-most points per game to opposing gunslingers, but they’ve been trending in the wrong direction. They have allowed a combined six touchdown passes and 567 yards over the last two weeks, and that was against Gardner Minshew and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Daniel Jones isn’t much better than those two at this point in his career, but with the Giants a slight -2.5 “road” favorite in this one, a close game should mean decent scoring on both sides. Both quarterbacks are in play in this one, with Jones a bit more attractive than Darnold for this week.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Ryan Tannehill (TEN): 18% Owned vs. KC

No one expected much out of Ryan Tannehill after he took over for Marcus Mariota in Week 6; I mean, we got a pretty good idea of what Tannehill was capable of in his 88 starts with Miami, but Tannehill has been an excellent fantasy quarterback over the last three weeks. He’s averaged 21.55 points per game over his last three starts, and he’s been more aggressive throwing downfield. Tannehill is one of just seven quarterbacks with an aDOT above 10 yards(min. 75 pass attempts), up there with the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Matt Stafford. He’s also got a stellar 19.2% bad pass rate, the second-best among quarterbacks with an aDOT above 10 yards. Tannehill is throwing it deep and accurately; if only he could buy some blocking, as Tannehill’s 14.3% sack rate is the highest among quarterbacks (min. 75 pass attempts). The second-highest? Marcus Mariota at 13.6%. They were without two starters in this last game, and pro-bowler Taylor Lewan has dealt with injuries all season, but even with a bad offensive line Tannehill has been able to produce. The Chiefs have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, and with the return of Patrick Mahomes looming this game’s 48.5 O/U could be on the rise as we approach game day. For quarterbacks owned in fewer than 20% of leagues, it doesn’t get better than Tannehill.

Brian Hoyer (IND): 0% Owned vs. MIA

This one is purely matchup based, as Hoyer could fall into one of the most enticing matchups in the league should he draw the start for Indianapolis. If Jacoby Brissett is out this week, then Hoyer becomes a hot add in deep leagues and two-QB leagues, chiefly because he’s available in literally every league. No one expects Hoyer to be good, but he did manage to toss three touchdowns in a road matchup against a strong Pittsburgh defense. He also showed decent chemistry with Zach Pascal, something we’d hope can carry over as T.Y. Hilton is on the shelf. If you are looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 5% of leagues, the focus needs to be on their opponent, and it doesn’t get much better than a home date with Miami.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 9

We have no new major quarterback injuries as of writing this, but the injuries from past weeks have really thinned out the waiver wire for those of us who stream quarterbacks. Not to worry though, as there are still plenty of good options out there if you're in need.

We've got four teams on bye this week, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and the Los Angeles Rams. That means three universally-owned quarterbacks are on bye, and Andy Dalton is unavailable for those in deep leagues. Owners of Carson Wentz (vs. CHI), Jameis Winston (@ SEA), Philip Rivers (vs. GB), and Lamar Jackson (vs. NE) may want to at least explore alternatives, as those quarterbacks face tough opponents in Week 9.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 20% of leagues.

 

Week 9 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Gardner Minshew (JAX) - 54% Owned vs. HOU

Minshew put up his best game yet on Sunday, going 22-for-34 for 279 yards and three touchdowns in Jacksonville’s 29-15 victory over the Jets. He’s scored over 21 points in three of his last four games, and will take his ‘stache across the pond this week for a spot of tea with Houston. The Texans’ defense has been atrocious against the pass this season, allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. Adding Gareon Conley won’t help much, as Conley is one of the worst rated cornerbacks in the league per PFF. The Texans’ defense is on the ropes, as Houston had allowed at least 30 points in three straight games heading into Week 8, and gave up three touchdowns to Derek Carr this week.

Minshew especially excels with the deep ball, posting a completion rate nearly 20% higher than league average on passes deeper than 20 yards down the field. He gives us the ideal combination of talent, upside, and matchup that makes him the perfect standard-league streamer. Minshew doesn’t have much of a long tail in the immediacy, as he follows up this matchup with a bye and two so-so matchups against Indianapolis and Tennessee, but Minshew should finish strongly with December matchups against Tampa Bay, the Chargers, Oakland, and Atlanta. He might be worth hanging onto for those matchups, or being dropped and picked back up ahead of Week 13.

Jimmy Garoppolo (SF) - 57% Owned @ Arizona

Garoppolo hasn’t been a high-ceiling, big volume type of play this season, but it’s hard to pass him over when he draws the best matchup for quarterbacks in the NFL. The Cardinals have allowed the most points per game to opposing quarterbacks, along with 23 touchdowns to a measly three interceptions. Even the return of Patrick Peterson hasn’t helped, as the Cardinals were shredded by Drew Brees for 376 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, Brees’s first game since Week 2. Garoppolo doesn’t need to air it out or chuck it deep to take advantage of this matchup, as the Cardinals have been burned by quarterbacks despite an 8.0 aDOT, which is around league average. Garoppolo should be able to rack up points by piggybacking off of playmakers like Tevin Coleman and George Kittle, making him a safe streaming option with decent upside. He faces the Cardinals again in Week 11, so Garoppolo could be used twice within three weeks.

Derek Carr (OAK) - 26% Owned vs. DET

Despite his team’s loss, Carr had a nice game in Week 8, going 18-for-30 with 285 passing yards and three touchdowns. Carr took advantage of a great matchup against Houston, and draws another one this week as Detroit comes to town. The Lions had allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks coming into Week 8, and just allowed four touchdowns and 322 yards to Daniel Jones this week. The Lions’ secondary took a few hits over the last week, as they shipped Quandre Diggs to Seattle and lost Tracy Walker to injury this week. Carr carries a bit more risk compared to Jimmy Garoppolo, merely because Carr’s offensive line and supporting cast is much worse, but he also offers a bit more upside than someone like Garoppolo. This should be a high-scoring game, and streamers can pick up Carr to benefit.

Sam Darnold (NYJ) - 23% Owned @ MIA

Darnold had his share of mistakes this past week, tossing three interceptions in a loss to Jacksonville, but he still put up decent numbers with a pair of touchdowns and 218 yards. The matchup gets much easier this week, as Darnold and the Jets head to Miami for a tilt with the Dolphins. We all know the Dolphins are bad, and what makes this an extra-good matchup for Darnold is the lack of turnover ability. Miami has just one interception all season heading into Monday night, and have allowed the third-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Darnold isn’t just a great streamer for this week, but he’s got a slew of tasty matchups ahead. After his game with the Dolphins, he faces the Giants, Raiders, Bengals, and Dolphins again. His awful performance against the Patriots and so-so game against the Jaguars may have soured owners on Darnold, but now is the exact time to scoop the young gunslinger up. In deeper leagues Darnold is an under-the-radar buy-low target. Almost any quarterback could perform in those matchups, and Darnold has shown us enough in his short career to make him an interesting player to watch in the weeks ahead.

Cam Newton (CAR) - 41% Owned vs. TEN

Hopefully, Carolina’s 51-13 drubbing at the hands of San Francisco this week puts an end to the Cam Newton benching talk. Kyle Allen was an abomination in this game, throwing three interceptions and averaging just 4.3 yards per attempt en route to a cool 28.9 passer rating. It’s hard to say how Newton will perform upon his return, as injuries have really sapped his production over the last few years. If healthy, Newton has consistently been a top-12 quarterback, and has an excellent schedule to help ease him back into action. Tennessee has been around league average against quarterbacks, and after that the Panthers draw a tough matchup against Green Bay, but in Week 11 the fun begins. The Panthers face Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, and Atlanta again before facing Seattle in Week 15. That’s a nice stretch of games for Newton to regain his top form, and owners should be looking to pick Newton back up now before he becomes a hot commodity.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Mason Rudolph (PIT) - 17% Owned vs. IND

We have yet to see how Rudolph performs in his return from a brutal concussion, as his Steelers take on the Dolphins in a bland Monday Night matchup. Regardless, Rudolph makes for a fine deep league option against the Colts in Week 9. The Colts have been slightly above average against opposing quarterbacks, however, to be blunt, it’s a pretty awful week for those digging this deep at quarterback. With the return of Drew Brees and impending return of Cam Newton, there aren't as many options available in under 20% of leagues. Rather than take needless and heart-palpitating risks, deep league owners could choose to roll with Rudolph. The ceiling is admittedly low, but Rudolph notched more than 15 points in his two full starts this season, and put up a really nice game against the Bengals in Week four. The Steelers aren’t really letting Rudolph throw downfield, which will limit his turnovers and allow him to bank production on the backs of James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster, among other weapons in Pittsburgh’s offense. If you just need a safe streamer who’s out there in most leagues, then Rudolph is your man.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA) - 4% Owned vs. NYJ

On the other end of the spectrum, Fitzpatrick offers a high-risk, possibly high-reward option in Week 9. He’s out there in basically every league, and if there’s one thing we can say about Fitzpatrick, it’s that he’s not afraid of throwing a pick.  He managed to score over 21 points against the Bills in Week 7, and he draws a much easier matchup in Week 9 against the Jets, who’ve allowed the 15th-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks, while the Bills have allowed the fourth-fewest. Things may turn sideways in a hurry for Fitzpatrick. Heck, he hasn’t even played in Week 8 yet, so he’s not even the guaranteed starter for Week 9. That being said, you won’t get much more upside when you’re digging this deep on waivers. The Dolphins have one of the best chances to earn a win this season, and with a little Fitzmagic they might just get there. Even if they don’t, the bearded one could make for a passable streaming option in Week 9.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 8

Tragedy struck a few top quarterbacks this week, as both Patrick Mahomes and Matt Ryan left games with injuries. We already know Mahomes will miss 3-6 weeks, while more will be revealed about Ryan's status later today. Either way, owners of these quarterbacks will need a backup plan in place, and this week the waiver wire is loaded with good options at quarterback.

In addition to the injuries, owners of Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott will be searching for help at quarterback, as both are on bye. Owners of Carson Wentz (@ BUF), Philip Rivers (@ CHI), and Baker Mayfield (@ NE), may also want to consider alternatives, as each quarterback faces a tough opponent on the road.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 15% of leagues.

 

Week 8 Quarterback Waiver Wire Options

Kirk Cousins (MIN): 63% Owned vs. WAS

Cousins has been on a roll lately, throw four touchdown passes in each of his last two games while eclipsing 28 points in each of those starts. Cousins hasn’t just stepped his game up by throwing the ball more often, but throwing more downfield and taking more calculated risks at the helm of this offense. His aDOT has risen to 8.8 over the last few weeks, which gives him the highest aDOT of his career. He’s also maintain an above average completion rate on throws of all depths, which has helped boost Cousins to having a top-three QBR in the league (min. 75 pass attempts). He’s got a juicy matchup against his former team on Thursday Night Football this week as Minnesota hosts Washington, making Cousins the top fill-in for quarterbacks on bye or who are injured. He’s got solid matchups following this one as well, with games against Kansas City and Dallas in Weeks 9 and 10. Cousins is the perfect guy to target for Patrick Mahomes owners, who need someone for about three weeks while Mahomes is on the shelf.

Matthew Stafford (DET): 57% Owned vs. NYG

The habitually underrated and underappreciated Detroit gunslinger has a fine matchup ahead next week, as the Lions host the reeling New York Giants, who have allowed the seventh-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. The Giants have also given up at least 28 points in every game but one this season, and that one was a 24-3 drubbing of Washington as the Redskins rotated quarterbacks in a desperate attempt to spark their lifeless offense. Stafford should have no problem slicing up this weak defense up, and he follows up this matchup with another excellent one, as the Lions travel to Oakland to face the Raiders in Week 9. The Raiders were allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks coming into Week 7, and  just got utterly dominated by Aaron Rodgers for over 50 points. Stafford is a hair behind Kirk Cousins in terms of priority this week, but still an excellent option for owners in need.

Jacoby Brissett (IND): 47% Owned vs. DEN

Brissett was superb in Indianapolis’ 30-23 win over Houston, throwing for 326 yards and four touchdowns. He’s been playing so well Colts fans have forgotten all about Andrew Luck (well, probably, right?). Brissett has thrown multiple touchdown passes in all but one game this season, and has scored more than 20 points in three of his last four starts. He’s looked polished and been careful with the ball, as Brissett boasts an above average 15% bad pass rate, and has just a 0.14% interception rate. The matchup isn’t great for Brissett this week, but he’s established himself as a trustworthy top-12 option for most weeks, and therefore deserves to be owned in significantly more leagues than just 47%. If you can ride it out or use a replacement this week, Brissett has a pair of nice matchups in Weeks 9 and 10, taking on Pittsburgh and Miami.

Sam Darnold (NYJ): 33% Owned @ JAX

We have yet to see what Darnold will do this week against New England, but chances are it won’t be pretty. He then follows up that matchup with a tough road game in Jacksonville. So why add Darnold now? He’s got an insanely soft schedule beginning in Week 9. He faces Miami, the Giants, Washington, Oakland, Cincinnati, Miami, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh between Week 9-16. Those teams have a combined 13 wins, and five of those belong to Baltimore. All but Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been bottom-ten against opposing quarterbacks this season. Darnold looked sharp in his return from mono against the Cowboys in Week 6, and if he can capture that same success during this cupcake schedule he’ll be one of 2019’s breakout quarterbacks. Get him while you can.

Derek Carr (OAK): 20% Owned @ HOU

It can sometimes be hard to tell whether Carr is a mediocre quarterback, or a victim of his circumstances in Oakland. What we can count on is the matchup in this one. The Texans were allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks coming into this week, and just gave up four touchdowns to Jacoby Brissett. Carr isn’t on Brissett’s level, nor does he have Brissett’s supporting cast, but in deeper leagues he’s a fine one-week play in a plus matchup. Carr doesn’t have as much of a long tail as some of the other quarterbacks in this article, but a Week 11 home tilt with Cincinnati could make him worth holding onto for QB-streamers in deep leagues.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Ryan Tannehill (TEN): 5% Owned vs. Tampa Bay

Tannehill stepped up to the plate when called upon last week, throwing for 312 yards and two touchdowns in Tennessee’s 23-20 win over the Chargers. He gets a much easier matchup this week as the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. The Bucs defense has been abysmal this season, allowing at least 31 points in all but one game so far this season. Tampa has also allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. The Buccaneers have proven that any opposing quarterback can put up numbers against them, as they’ve given up big games to the likes of Teddy Bridgewater and Kyle Allen. Tannehill is the top option owned in fewer than 20% of leagues.

Mason Rudolph (PIT): 6% Owned vs. Miami

Rudolph will be ready to return after a scary concussion in Week 6, and it comes just in time for an exhilarating Monday Night Football with the Dolphins. Boy, nothing beats prime time football. Rudolph is a low-ceiling dump-off king, but his best game of the year came against Cincinnati, which is the next closest thing to Miami. Rudolph put up 17 points in the game against Cincy, and he should be able to piggyback off of talented players like James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster to replicate that performance. Rudolph is a passable streamer in two-QB or very deep leagues.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 7

It was another big week at the quarterback position, as five quarterbacks topped 30 points and 12 scored more than 20 heading into Sunday Night Football. Most of the big performers were players we expect, such as Matt Ryan and Deshaun Watson, but we also got some surprising starts from quarterbacks who are widely available. It could be a hot week on waivers for quarterbacks this week, as some long-term options are out there.

There are four teams on bye this week, though just two quarterbacks on bye are owned in more than 75% of leagues. Those quarterbacks are Jameis Winston and Baker Mayfield, both of whom could desperately use a bye week and may not be owned in 75% of leagues once waivers run. If you're looking to cut bait on one of those guys, or own Matt Stafford (vs. MIN), Carson Wentz (@ DAL), or Philip Rivers (@ TEN), then you may want to consider one of the waiver wire choices at quarterback this week.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 15% of leagues.

 

Longer-Term Options

Josh Allen (BUF): 49% Owned vs. MIA

Allen was in this column last week despite being on bye, and that’s because he’s about to enter an excellent string of matchups. Going into Week 6 the Dolphins were allowing a whopping 30.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, the most in the league by over three points per game. The good matchups continue for quite a while, as Allen takes on Philadelphia and Washington at home, then travels to Cleveland and Miami before things get tough against Denver in Week 12. Allen has been solid this season as well, netting at least 18 points in all but one game, Week 4 against New England when he left with an injury. One of Allen’s best attributes is his willingness to throw it deep, with an 8.8 aDOT this year and a 10.2 aDOT for his career. Those shots downfield should pay off more often than not against the porous defenses he’s about to face. Allen is my favorite streamer add both for this week and the next few weeks going forward.

Kirk Cousins (MIN): 46% Owned @ DET

Everyone had long jumped off the Kirk Cousins bandwagon after some poor games early this season, but his production has improved significantly over the last two weeks. He’s topped 300 yards in back-to-back games, and had a completion percentage of 78.5% over that stretch. Rather than limit his throwing entirely, the Vikings are allowing Cousins to aggressively target Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, letting the elite receivers do the heavy lifting. The Vikings shift in philosophy comes just in time for a solid string of matchups starting with Week 7 against Detroit. The Lions’ secondary has been banged up all season, and they could be without two key pieces in Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs. Even if one of both of those men play, they will be hobbled and not at full speed for Diggs and Thielen. The Lions have also allowed at least 27 points in all but one game this season, Week 2 against the Chargers. This is still a run-first team, but Cousins has shown us over the last two week he can produce in this offense. His next three games give him favorable matchups as well, since the Vikings take on Detroit, Washington, and Kansas City before facing Dallas in Week 10 and Denver in Week 11. There should be a few good weeks ahead for Cousins, making him one of the top options on waivers this week.

 

One-Week Streamers/Matchup Plays

Gardner Minshew (JAX): 60% Owned @ CIN

Minshew’s ownership skyrocketed heading into this Week 6 matchup with the Saints, and he proceeded to lay an egg in Jacksonville’s 13-6 loss. He went 14-for-29 passing with just 163 yards and an interception. This poor performance will probably have many owners off the Minshew bandwagon, however the mustachioed gunslinger has another juicy matchup lined up for Week 7. The Bengals had allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks heading into Week 6, and gave up 30.64 to Lamar Jackson this past week. Minshew doesn’t have Jackson’s legs, but he does have a bigger arm and better downfield passing ability. Minshew has an above average completion rate on passes between 20-40 yards this season, and has a stellar 16.3% bad pass rate, eighth lowest in the league (min. 100 pass attempts). This game against the Saints was definitely a step backwards, but it’s too early to bail on Minshew with his matchup against Cincinnati. He has solid matchups following Week 7 as well, taking on the Jets and Texans before a Week 10 bye.

Jimmy Garoppolo (SF): 63% Owned @ WAS

It’s been pretty tough to rely on Jimmy G this season, but the one time he was able to deliver this season came against the hapless Cincinnati Bengals. Despite their impressive one-point victory over the Miami Dolphins, the Redskins are still one of the league’s worst teams. Heading into Week 6 they were allowing the fourth-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and were tied for second-most passing touchdowns allowed. The combined performances of Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick will help improve those numbers, but this is still a weak secondary that a quarterback of Jimmy Garroppolo’s caliber can beat. The advanced stats for Garroppolo aren’t too favorable, but between the matchup and his playmakers he makes for a solid one-week streamer.

Daniel Jones (NYG): 29% Owned vs. ARI

The Daniel Jones hype has died down considerably after a few lackluster outings, but he’s got the perfect opportunity for a bounce back this week with a home date against Arizona. The Cardinals’ defense got shredded this week for 356 yards and four touchdowns by Matt Ryan, and showings like that have been a regular occurrence in Arizona. The Cardinals have allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, along with 16 touchdown passes to zero interceptions. They will get Patrick Peterson back this week, but even with Peterson this unit has serious flaws. Jones showed us in Week 3 against Tampa Bay that he can handle easy matchups, and he’s got another one this week. His schedule following this game is the softer side as well, since Jones faces the Lions, Cowboys, and Jets before a Week 12 bye.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Sam Darnold (NYJ): 15% Owned vs. NE

Darnold was quite impressive in his return this week, helping the Jets upset the Cowboys 24-22. His 338 passing yards were the second-most for his career, and he showcased the ability to throw it deep and accurate on several occasions this game, something the Jets were sorely missing without him. The matchup this week is pretty ugly, as the Patriots have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. They’ve only given up one touchdown pass all year while reeling in 14 interceptions. Darnold is more of a long term add, as the Jets showed the willingness to take shots downfield and spread the ball to their playmakers this week. Despite their offensive struggles, the Jets have some good weapons for Darnold in LeVeon Bell, Robby Anderson, and Jamison Crowder. Starting in Week 9 things get really nice for Darnold, beginning with a matchup against the Dolphins. He has a six week stretch where he faces Miami, New York, Washington, Oakland, Cincinnati, and Miami again in Week 14. Darnold could be looking like a breakout after he’s through carving up those defenses. Ride him out this week against New England and Week 8 against Jacksonville, because the payoff will come.

Joe Flacco (DEN): 8% Owned vs. KC

For those in really desperate situations, Flacco presents a widely available option in what could be a high-scoring game. Denver doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with Kansas City. I mean, their quarterback is Joe Flacco, for crying out loud. But, Flacco could have a nice game through sheer volume and pile up points in garbage time. He put up passable numbers in Week 2 against Chicago and Week 4 against Jacksonville just by throwing the ball 38 or more times in those games. Emerging star Courtland Sutton has been a favorite of Flacco’s as Sutton has been targeted at least seven times every game this season. Between him and veteran Emmanuel Sanders, Flacco has some nice weapons to help elevate his declining game. Flacco isn’t a standard league option, nor is he a long term option, but for one week he makes for a decent fill-in play.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 6

It was a monster week for Quarterbacks, as six QBs topped 30 points and 14 topped 19 points (in six-point passing TD leagues) heading into Sunday Night Football. Some of the high-scorers were the usual suspects, such as Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, and Tom Brady, but we also saw huge weeks from the backups, as Teddy Bridgewater and Gardner Minshew were just a few unheralded signal callers to put up big numbers.

Week 6 six is the first week with more than two teams on bye, but not many notable fantasy quarterbacks are on bye. Owners will be without Jacoby Brissett, Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky, and Derek Carr this week, though the latter two shouldn't be used in standard leagues anyway at this point. Carson Wentz (@ MIN) and Matthew Stafford (@ GB) owners may want to consider a streamer this week, as both quarterbacks face tough passing defenses on the road.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 15% of leagues.

 

QB Waiver Wire Options for Week 6

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

59% Owned @ LAR

The Rams’ secondary has been decimated over the last two weeks, allowing eight touchdown passes and 60.22 fantasy points to Russell Wilson and Jameis Winston. There are some big names in this secondary, but have seen starters Aqib Talib and John Johnson III take big steps backwards through their first five games, as both have achieved mere average PFF grades this season. Garoppolo doesn’t have near the big-play ability of either Winston or Wilson, as Garoppolo has a meager 7.2 aDOT through his first three starts. Even when factoring in Garoppolo’s short-tossing tendencies, he should be primed for some decent production as this game has a 48.5 O/U, giving it the second-highest expected total behind HOU @ KC.

With San Francisco a four-point road underdog, the game script should be conducive to success in the passing game for Garoppolo and the Niners. This is more than a one-week add as well, since Garoppolo has a few weeks of good matchups ahead. He gets the Rams in Week 6, Washington in Week 7, Carolina in Week 8, and Arizona in Week 9. Of that group only the Panthers have looked solid against the pass, and they were just shredded by Gardner Minshew for 374 passing yards. This four-week stretch should be very revealing about Garoppolo’s future as both a fantasy and real-life starter, and owners in need should pick him up ahead of a potentially strong run.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

51% Owned, bye Week 6

The Bills have a bye in Week 6, so you can’t use Allen this week, but he has an excellent schedule following the bye. He gets Miami in Week 7, Philadelphia in Week 8, Washington in Week 9, Cleveland in Week 10, and Miami again in Week 11. Those are all bottom-12 teams against quarterbacks this season, and two of them (Miami and Washington) are bottom-five.

Most quarterbacks are in play against Miami and Washington by virtue of how bad those teams are versus the pass, but there is reason to be excited about Allen outside of these matchups. Other than his disaster against the Patriots where he suffered a concussion, Allen has put up at least 18 points in every game this season. Allen has seen great improvements in his efficiency this season, with his completion rate up to 62% and his PACR up to 0.79. If you can hold Allen through his bye, he should provide a string of productive weeks going forward.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

35% Owned @ BAL

The Ravens’ defense took another big blow on Sunday, losing Tony Jefferson to an ACL tear. He joins Jimmy Smith and Anthony Averett on the shelf, thinning out this secondary even more for their matchup with Cincinnati. The Ravens Defense had been torched by Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield in Weeks 3 and 4, and it took an undrafted rookie third-stringer for Baltimore to look formidable in their overtime win Sunday.

Despite his reputation, Dalton has topped 18 points in all but one start this season, his Monday night stinker against Pittsburgh. That was Prime Time Andy, and luckily the Bengals’ 0-5 record means we’ll be getting plenty of one o’clock starts for Cincinnati this season going forward. It would be nice if Dalton had A.J. Green or John Ross in this one, but with Tyler Boyd’s emergence he still has a good weapon to target in what should be an uphill battle for Cincinnati. Dalton sort of epitomizes slightly above average. He’s a human C+, but that C+ should be good enough to pass in a favorable matchup against a banged up Baltimore secondary.

Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars

23% Owned vs. NO

Minshew continues to surprise, and his latest performance was his best so far. Minshew put up 374 passing yards against a Carolina defense that had allowed the fewest passing yards per game going into Week 5. Minshew isn’t the only one emerging in Jacksonville either, as D.J. Chark put up a monster performance on Sunday along with Minshew. Things get much easier for Minshew and the Jaguars going forward, as they take on a Saints Defense that had allowed the second-most points to opposing quarterbacks going into Week 5. The defense was able to hold Jameis Winston in check this week, but that had more to do with the Saints’ offense controlling time of possession and running 12 more plays than the defense shutting down the Bucs.

While that’s a possibility again this week, it’ll be much harder for Teddy Bridgewater to perform well on the road against the Jaguars Defense, especially if Jalen Ramsey plays in this game. Jacksonville, unlike Tampa Bay, can also run the ball, which should help balance things out. Minshew’s play style matches up well against New Orleans, as he’s had an above average completion percentage on throws between 20-40 yards. The deep ball has been a big problem for New Orleans, who have allowed the fourth-most air yards and fourth-highest aDOT this season. Minshew will look to build on his recent success in a favorable matchup this week.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Kyle Allen, Carolina Panthers

10% Owned @ TB

There aren’t many quarterbacks I wouldn’t start against Tampa Bay, and Kyle Allen draws the cupcake matchup this week. Tampa Bay has allowed over 300 yards passing in their last four games, and just got picked apart by Teddy Bridgewater, for crying out loud. The four touchdown passes tied a career high for Bridgewater, and Week 5 was his first 300-yard performance since 2015.

Teddy two gloves racked up most of his numbers on the back of an elite player by peppering Michael Thomas with targets. Allen has the opportunity to do the same in Week 6 with Christian McCaffery, and those in deeper leagues will happily take those piggyback points from Allen. There isn’t much longevity with Allen, as the Panthers have a bye in Week 7 and Cam Newton could return shortly after that, but for this week there isn’t a better choice under 15% owned.

Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints

9% Owned @ JAX

It’s hard to ignore Bridgewater after his monster four-touchdown performance in Week 5. The matchup will get tougher in Week 6 against Jacksonville, but the Jaguars aren’t as scary if Jalen Ramsey sits out. Without him they allowed 303 passing yards and three touchdowns to the corpse of Joe Flacco in Week 4. Sure, they held Kyle Allen in check, but that’s because the defense spent its time chasing Christian McCaffery up and down the field.

As we saw this past week, Bridgewater can be elevated by the talent around him. With Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, Bridgewater has access to some of the best weapons in football. He’s also protected by one of the league’s strongest offensive lines, making this the perfect situation for a mediocre talent to perform. Kyle Allen is still the preferred deep league option due to the matchup, but Bridgewater is a decent alternative.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups and Streamers - Week 5

The year of the backup continued in Week 4, with Mitch Trubisky going down early against Minnesota and Case Keenum taking a well-deserved benching in Washington. These moves along with the already existing injuries to major quarterbacks means many owners will be looking for short-term and long-term options this week.

We've got Detroit and Miami on bye this week, which is disappointing since we could stream just about anyone against Miami's defense. Matthew Stafford owners will need to find a replacement, and owners of Philip Rivers (vs. DEN) and Daniel Jones (vs. MIN) might want to consider an alternative this week, as the veteran and the rookie both face tough home matchups.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 15% of leagues.

 

QB Waiver Wire Options for Week 5

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 67% Owned @ TB

Winston is just above the 65% ownership threshold we typically aim for with these articles, however he’s out there in enough leagues that it’s worth mentioning the Tampa Bay signal-caller, especially with his juicy Week 5 matchup against New Orleans. The Saints have been torched by opposing quarterbacks this season, allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks heading into Week 4. That number might be a little inflated because they’ve allowed four rushing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks thus far, having faced some of the league’s most athletic, mobile quarterbacks thus far.

Still, the Saints have allowed the third-most passing yards in the NFL and have been especially vulnerable to deep passes. New Orleans has the fourth-highest aDOT (average depth of target) against. Winston matches up well against a defense like this, as we all know he isn’t afraid to sling it deep, and Winston has the sixth-highest aDOT among quarterbacks in 2019. Winston has scored over 26 points in each of his last two games, and will look to ride this hot streak into a potential shootout with New Orleans.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals - 35% Owned vs. ARI

The Red Rifle has done a decent job of producing without his best weapon, A.J. Green. Dalton has scored at least 18 points in each of his first three games despite some tough opponents. While we don’t know what Monday night brings for Dalton this week, next week he draws his best matchup of the season, home against Arizona.

This secondary had a lot of turnover between 2018 to 2019, losing Antoine Bethea and Tre Boston to free agency, and losing Patrick Peterson for the first six games due to suspension, and the losses have had a huge impact thus far. The Cardinals have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season, and struggled against the pass in practically every facet. They’ve allowed ten touchdowns with zero interceptions through four games, and have the seventh-highest air yards and aDOT in the NFL. Arizona may have held Russell Wilson in check this week, but that had more to do with Seattle cruising to an easy victory than the ability of Arizona’s defense.

By most advanced metrics Dalton is a middle-of-the road quarterback. He doesn’t shine with the deep ball, with efficiency, with accuracy, or under pressure. Dalton has sort of epitomized slightly above average for his entire career, and a slightly above average quarterback in an excellent matchup makes for the ideal streamer. This game also has a surprisingly high early line, with a 48.5 O/U and Cincinnati a -4 favorite. For a one-week, widely-available streamer, it doesn’t get much better than Dalton.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts - 35% Owned @ KC

Indianapolis may have dropped a home game to Oakland, but Brissett played well in defeat, putting up his highest point total of the season thus far at 23.5 points. His point total was mostly volume-driven, as Brissett threw a career-high 46 passes in this loss. He could reach similar volume in Week 5, as Indianapolis travels to Kansas City for Sunday Night Football. Kansas City was tied for the eighth-most pass attempts against heading into Week 4, and with their high-scoring the Chiefs often force teams to air it out to keep pace. Even though the Chiefs Defense has been good from an efficiency perspective, boasting the sixth-best RACR (Rec. yards/Air yards) this season, they’ve also allowed the sixth-most raw air yards in the NFL this season. They’ve also been vulnerable to deeper passes, allowing an above average completion rate on passes between 20-40 yards down the field. Even though Kansas City has solid talent on their defense, they have been susceptible to the passing game based on volume.

Given the above analysis of Kansas City’s defense, a healthy T.Y. Hilton would be a huge boon to Brissett and the Colts offense. Hilton’s skillset matches up perfectly against where Kansas City struggles on defense. Even without Hilton, we’re looking at what could be a solid week for Brissett. Despite a low completion percentage, Brissett has been one the league’s more accurate passers, with the third lowest bad pass rate among quarterbacks (min. 50 pass attempts). That would perhaps indicate some of the blame belongs to his receivers, because outside of T.Y. Hilton and their tight ends, Indianapolis has a weak receiving corps. That shouldn’t concern us too much this week, as we’re looking at Brissett as a volume play. He’s going to be droppable after this week, as Indianapolis has a bye week followed by tough matchups with Houston and Denver.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars - 14% Owned @ CAR

Minshew continues to get it done for Jacksonville, looking like their best quarterback since David Garrard was in town. Minshew put up a respectable line of 213 yards and two touchdowns against a strong Denver defense, and things are about to soften up considerably for the mustachioed gunslinger following Week 5. A matchup against Carolina isn’t ideal for Minshew, but after this week he faces New Orleans, Cincinnati, and the Jets, all excellent matchups for him.

Minshew hasn’t lit up the scoreboard yet, but he has been accurate and efficient, with a stellar 11.4% bad pass rate, the second-lowest in the league. He’s also maintained an above average PACR (passing yards/air yards) even on deep throws. Minshew’s got the goods to be a consistent producer, and he should put up better surface numbers once easier matchups roll in. It’s a good idea to pick him up now before he puts up a big game and owners gain significant interest.

Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints - 7% Owned vs. TB

Bridgewater may not be the most exciting player to add, but he’s fallen into a really good situation with Drew Brees sidelined. Not only does Bridgewater have a plethora of weapons to play with on the Saints offense, but he also gets a cupcake matchup against Tampa Bay this week. The Buccaneers Defense had some surprising success earlier this year, but have come crashing back to earth over the last two weeks, allowing a whopping 853 passing yards and 72 points over their last two games. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged just under 29 points per game in the last two weeks against Tampa Bay.

It’s hard to build a case for Bridgewater based on advanced metrics, or his own ability, as he is truly a weak-armed, game manager quarterback. That being said, owners in two-quarterback leagues or deep leagues with barren waiver wires should always be interested when a quarterback owned in fewer than 10% of leagues faces a defense this bad. This is a pure matchup play, and Bridgewater could give us some cheap production this week. He won’t be usable beyond this week, as New Orleans takes on Jacksonville and Chicago in Weeks 6 and 7, and Drew Brees could be back in time for a Week 8 date with Arizona. Get what you can out of Bridgewater and cut him loose after what’s hopefully a solid performance.

Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears - 0% Owned @ OAK (in London)

Available in literally every league out there, Daniel has been thrust into action due to Mitch Trubisky’s shoulder injury. He played well on short notice against a tough Minnesota defense, and things should get much easier for him in Week 5 against Oakland. The Raiders gave up a season-high 23.5 points to the previously mentioned Jacoby Brissett this week, and have allowed the tenth-most points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. Oakland also has a 9:1 TD:INT ratio this year, and has allowed the fifth-most air yards.

They’ve been especially bad against deep passes this season, which a completion rate nearly double the league average on passes 30 yards or more down the field. No one would mistake Daniel for a strong-armed gunslinger, but has an above average completion rate on deep balls himself throughout his career. The Bears will likely try and use Daniel as a game manager to let their defense win them games, but he could still put up solid numbers in a good matchup like this one against Oakland. For owners in leagues where even players like Teddy Bridgewater are owned, Daniel is a play to look at going into Week 5.

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Quarterback Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 4

This was a crazy week at the quarterback position, as the backups came out to play. We saw big performances from Daniel Jones, Kyle Allen, Gardner Minshew, and Teddy Bridgewater that few saw coming. With all these new names stepping forward, it'll be tough to know who's worth adding and who to leave on waivers.

Bye weeks begin in Week 4, with the 49ers and Jets on bye this week. Jimmy Garoppolo owners will need to look for a fill-in option, while Luke Falk owners will need to take a hard look at their decision-making abilities. Owners of Carson Wentz (@ GB) and Baker Mayfield (@ BAL) may be interested in using a streamer this week, as both quarterbacks have tough road matchups.

In this article, we're looking at quarterbacks owned in fewer than 65% of fantasy leagues, while throwing in a few deep-league options who are owned in fewer than 10% of leagues.

 

QBs to Consider Adding and Streaming

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions - 51% Owned vs. KC

Stafford’s point total this week was a little underwhelming given the matchup and the high-scoring nature of his game with Philadelphia, but he’s in a great position to put up numbers with a home matchup against Kansas City. This game has a early total of 53.0, and while Kansas City is a -6 favorite, Stafford and the Lions will likely need to rely on the pass to keep pace with the Chiefs in this one. That’s what happened in Week 1 against Arizona, and Stafford put up 385 yards and three touchdowns in that game. His schedule gets significantly tougher after this game, with matchups against Green Bay and Minnesota, but Stafford is an excellent streaming option for those needing to fill a one-week gap.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants - 16% Owned vs. WAS

It was nice of the Giants to let Daniel Jones make his first NFL start against an NCAA caliber defense, and Jones responded with a big league performance in New York’s one-point victory. It won’t get any easier than this matchup for Jones, but he still has a decent matchup next week against Washington at home. Jones is certainly worth adding in deeper leagues as an upside stash, as the talented young quarterback could find himself quickly acclimated to the NFL and producing before expected. IF you’re in a two-OB league, or a league where owners hoard quarterbacks, then Jones should be picked up.

Case Keenum, Washington Redskins - 16% Owned vs. NYG

Keenum could be in for a rough one tonight versus Chicago, but he’s got the perfect bounce back opportunity in Week 4 against the Giants. Sure, all the focus in New York is around Daniel Jones right now, but don’t forget that the Giants Defense has allowed eight passing touchdowns in the first three weeks. They’ve also allowed 31.33 points per game over their first three games. No one is ever excited to add Case Keenum, including the Redskins, but he’s in a great position to produce this week.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts - 19% Owned vs. OAK

Good thing that Andrew Luck guy got out of Brissett’s way, as the ex-Patriot has thrown seven touchdowns through three games and put up his third-career 300-yard performance Sunday against Atlanta’s weak secondary. He gets an equally soft matchup this week, as the Oakland Raiders limp into town after taking a 34-14 beating at the hands of Minnesota. The Raiders have allowed 62 points over their last two games, and have shown no signs of life on defense this season. Hopefully, T.Y. Hilton is healthy enough to play in this one, but even without Hilton Brissett is a solid play against Oakland.

 

Two-QB League Pickups and Stashes

Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars - 8% Owned @ DEN

It’s not an easy matchup this week for Minshew, but owners in deeper leagues should still be looking at the savior of Jacksonville on waivers this week. Minshew has played unexpectedly well after being thrust into action, and better days could be ahead as Jackonsville’s schedule softens up following a Week 4 matchup in Denver. Rather than wait for Minshew to get expensive in terms of FAAB, owners should be looking to add him before the rush, which should come later down the line when he faces weaker opponents.

Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints - 6% Owned vs. DAL

Teddy two-gloves is back, and playing his low-risk, low-reward play style just like he did in his Minnesota days. For deeper leagues his efficiency and ability to avoid turnovers gives him relatively decent value as a short-term fill-in. His matchup against Dallas this week isn't exactly a cake walk, but Bridgewater should be able to lean on the plethora of offensive weapons to help him put up a respectable line, as he did against Seattle this week. Even if you aren't using Bridgewater this week, he might be worth a preemptive add, as New Orleans takes on Tampa Bay in Week 5. If you've got an open roster spot, that game alone might be worth the stash. Even for this week, one could do worse than Bridgewater at home in a potential shootout with Dallas.

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