The season is officially here! While things may look a little different on the outside, baseball is still being played and that is what should matter. More importantly, those fringe fantasy starters widely available in your leagues should be eyed now more than ever because they could become staples across the fantasy universe in a mere few weeks.
This year, we have less time than ever to evaluate players. Starting pitchers get an even shorter end of the stick due to their typical 5-day start schedules. The weeks will be fast-paced and every start will matter. Our goal is to quantify the value of each starter to a point where it is easy for you to decide whether they're worth adding over someone already on your roster.
A reminder before we begin: Our focus is on players who are below 50% owned in Yahoo leagues, and standard 5x5 scoring. Your mileage may vary, in terms of availability or league settings. Using that cutoff point for ownership rate, however, these are your starting pitcher waiver wire targets and adds for Week 1 of the 2020 fantasy baseball season!Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off. Get access to our exclusive articles, rankings, projections, prospects coverage, 15 in-season lineup tools, daily expert DFS research, powerful Research Station, Lineup Optimizer and much more! Sign Up Now!
Pickups for Shallow Leagues
Joe Musgrove (SP, PIT) - 39% Owned
Joe Musgrove was a breakout candidate last season after posting major improvements across the board in 2018. He ultimately disappointed owners to the tune of a league-average 4.44 ERA with the worst xFIP and SIERA of his short career. Musgrove saw a one mile-per-hour downtick in velocity which hurt him throughout the season. In eight of his 31 starts in 2019, he allowed at least five runs, and unfortunately, it was not due to luck.
The general pitching mentality seared into young Pirates was to pitch to contact rather than attempting to miss bats. This old school mentality promulgated by ex-pitching coach Ray Searge harmed just about every SP over the past few seasons due to the ignorance of what modern analytics state. Searage's system was based on a mindset where walks were detrimental. While they are troublesome, it wholly overvalued them while ignoring how much more damage balls in play could cause.
Nevertheless, the Pirates have reconfigured their front office in an attempt to reach modernity and it will hopefully pay dividends sooner, rather than later. Recent reports on Musgrove have been positive as his velocity is up from last year in spring/summer training. He's slated to start Opening Day against the Cardinals and presents good value as the front-line starter in a year where innings will be difficult to come by.
Caleb Smith (SP, MIA) - 37% Owned
Caleb Smith's 2019 season was visibly divided into two parts. His stretch prior to the oblique injury, and that after it. His season looked like Jekyll and Hyde via game logs. From the start of the season until June 6th, his ERA was 3.41 and he was sporting a 1.02 WHIP and 31.5% K-rate with only a 7.7% walk rate.
After the injury, his ERA inflated to 5.36 with a 5.96 xFIP, 22.3% K-rate, and 10.4% walk rate. The hope here is that Smith's injury is the primary culprit in his fall from grace and having a full offseason to recover has brought his best self back. Smith is the SP2 in Miami and should see plenty of opportunities to pitch regularly.
Nate Pearson (SP, TOR) - 34% Owned
Pearson is a highly touted rookie who is essentially guaranteed to come up as soon as the Blue Jays can manipulate his service time. Six days into the 2020 season, Pearson will be activated and asked to take one of the spots on this thing starting staff. The Blue Jays benefit a great deal from the shortened season because they have enough talent to get really hot for a month and collect enough wins to sneak into a playoff spot.
Pearson will be asked to shoulder a substantial load as the SP3/4 given how unreliable the starters could be. His stuff is MLB ready and after dominating the minors last season, he is deserving of a promotion. Expectations should be high for the fire-balling stud for potential strikeouts and WHIP but wins and ERA may not as easy to come by.
Griffin Canning (SP, LAA) - 29% Owned
Griffin Canning's elbow may be held together by string cheese but the price at the moment is so low that saying no is almost blasphemous. He just pitched a fantastic six-inning game against the Giants in summer camp and looked sharp.
Canning's pitch sequencing is more important than anything to his caliber of talent and if the new managerial staff can unlock the right formula, he could be a force in the Angels' staff. He is an immediate drop if injury strikes, but for now, he should hold onto a back-end role in Anaheim. Canning is just 24 with plenty of room for important despite having a mediocre fastball. If the secondary pitches get going, watch out.
Pickups for Deeper Leagues
Ross Stripling (SP, LAD) - 25% Owned
With David Price opted out of the season and the Dodgers pitching staff seeing an influx of youth, Ross Stripling remains one of the more stable options after the front-line starters in Buehler and Kershaw. His role may alternate throughout the season from starter to long-man but that should not change the fact that Stripling and his shining peripherals should be valued.
The Dodgers have no reason to preserve starters up until they clinch a playoff spot because every game matters so much more and the short season puts less of a strain on the players' bodies. While Stripling may never have pitched more than 122 innings as a major leaguer in the past, with this bizarre season's structure, he will not be limited or have his innings manipulated too much.
Chris Bassitt (SP, OAK) - 14% Owned
With the news of A.J. Puk's shoulder and his meeting with Dr. El-Attratch, Chris Bassitt's role in the A's rotation is as secure as ever. He is the SP4 with Daniel Mengden behind him piggybacking with top prospect Jesus Luzardo.
Of course, Bassitt has to perform well enough to hold onto the job but given Luzardo's history of minimal pitches thrown in a game, it's unlikely that he's a threat until possibly later in the season. Bassitt finally pitched roughly a full major league season yet managed to keep his ERA under four (3.81). He's a worthy late-round/waiver wire flier.
Corbin Burnes (SP, MIL) - 9% Owned
With Brett Anderson placed on the IL due to a "blister" issue, Corbin Burnes is now the fifth starter in Milwaukee. His fantasy value shoots up with the extra Ks that come with the extended innings and wins as well. Burnes is an extremely volatile pitcher who has such incredible stuff that it doesn't matter where the ball goes, you'll be in awe of the movement and velocity he can generate.
He will not be guaranteed a spot all year but this is his opportunity soon enough to display full-time consideration. Maybe he ends up piggybacking a 5th starter and collecting wins. Value can come from all over, talent always wins out. Burnes' 8.82 major league ERA in 2019 is complemented by a 3.37 xFIP. Strikeouts heavily skew xFIP but Burnes has his other positives such as his stint as a reliever full-time in 2018 where he generated fewer K's but got enough outs to end the year.