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Hitter Streamers (Week 5) - Head-to-Head Leagues

Welcome back to my hitting streamers column for Week 5, taking a look at hitters to add or stream off the waiver wire for this week's scheduled games.

To keep things simple, I pick from players who are 50% owned or less and who play at least seven games in the week.  If someone jumps off the page at me as a less than seven game player, I may make an exception, but otherwise the advantage in number of games dictates my choices.

Streaming can be a valuable tool, by allowing you to feast on favorable pitching matchups and simply have your hitters play more games than your opponents' hitters. If you have the roster space, streaming a hitter can be useful not only to fill a vacant lineup spot, but also to fill in for someone who has five games that week or faces tough matchups. In 5x5 leagues, four of the five hitting categories are counting stats, making the value of extra games significant. This week, there are two teams (Cleveland and Toronto) with eight games, and I will be featuring those teams' players heavily. With that said, let’s dive right in.

 

Bats to Stream and Start in Week 5

Kevin Pillar (OF, TOR) - 45% owned

Through 26 games, Pillar has a very impressive .309/3/17/13/4 line. While we shouldn't expect him to keep up a .300 average and his pace of approximately 20 homers and 20 steals, he has averaged 12 homers and 18 steals in the past three seasons while hitting .256, .266 and .278. With eight games this week, he very easily could provide production in both the home run and stolen base departments, while padding your RBI and runs categories. If you need a stolen base this week without suffering in the other categories, Pillar is the streamer for you.

Michael Brantley (OF, CLE) - 46% owned

Brantley has been a regular on this list, and he continues to hit. Through his first 16 games, he is hitting .354 with two homers and a steal. Once Cleveland's lineup heats up to its expected levels, he should provide excellent run production in a good lineup. When healthy, Brantley has regularly hit for an excellent average while providing stolen bases and some power. In just over half a season last year, Brantley posted a line of .299/9/47/52/11. And even though he only played 11 games in 2016, in 2014-2015 he hit .310 and .327 with a combined 35 homers and 38 steals. With eight games this week, Brantley is a no-brainer. Buy and hold for as long as he is healthy. He would sit atop this week's list if he did not face so many lefties.

Yonder Alonso (1B, CLE) - 27% owned

As mentioned in previous editions of this streaming piece, Alonso has suffered from bad luck in the batting average department, and thus we should expect his average to continue to rebound. But the rest of his production has remained, as he has a line of .236/8/13/19/0 through 25 games. The power and run production are real, and there is no reason to expect them to stop this week. After joining the fly ball revolution, he swatted 28 homers in just 451 at bats last year. This week he has eight games, and he is likely to provide you with a homer or more, along with good run production. He is a strong streaming option this week, despite the fact that he is facing many lefties.

Teoscar Hernandez (OF, TOR) - 49% owned

Hernandez has shown an impressive combination of power and speed in the minors. In 2014 he had 21 homers and 33 steals. In 2015 he again stole 33 bases and added 17 homers. In 2016 he swatted ten homers and added 34 steals in just 107 minor league games (and spent over 40 games in the majors). In 80 major league games, he has already produced 15 home runs. Due to his minor league track record, the steals will soon come too as he is still only 25 years old. If you can deal with his likely poor batting average due to his expected high strikeout rates, he should provide you with significant value in the other categories. With eight games this week, he is well worth an add.

Max Kepler (OF, MIN) - 27% owned

Kepler cannot hit lefties. In his career, he is hitting .187 with a .555 OPS against them. However, against righties, he has batted .264 with a .817 OPS. This week, he should face seven righties, making him a valuable fantasy asset. Over his career, he has averaged a homer every 20.6 at bats against righties. He should be able to provide you with a serviceable average, the potential for a homer or two, run production, and the off chance of a steal (12 in 284 career games). If the others are off the board, he is a good streaming option.

Michael A. Taylor (OF, WAS) - 43% owned

Taylor has strikeout issues, and thus is likely to hurt you in batting average. However, he also already has nine stolen bases on the young season. If you are looking for a stolen base, he may be your best bet. In 375 career games, he has 56 steals. He also has some power, knocking out 19 homers in just 118 games last season. While his run production is likely to be average and his batting average likely to be low, he is a good option if you need stolen bases with the possibility of home runs.

Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B/SS, MIN) - 24% owned

Escobar posted a line of .254/21/62/73/5 in just 129 games last year. Through 19 games this year, he's batting .297/3/11/12/1. While not an exciting fantasy option, Escobar is an under-the-radar source of power while providing decent run production. He can provide you with a serviceable average and occasionally a stolen base. Facing at least average pitching matchups this week, he is worth an add.

 

Others to Consider

Leonys Martin (OF, DET) - 13% owned - Martin has 116 steals in 643 games, and thus provides a good chance for a stolen base for your team this week. To start the season, however, he has surprisingly shown a decent average and good power.

Howie Kendrick (2B/OF, WAS) - 7% owned - Kendrick is continuing where he left off last year, with a .301/4/9/11/0 line in 24 games. He is a good source of average who can occasionally provide a homer and/or stolen base.

Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET) - 30% owned - The 24 year-old with prospect pedigree has a line of .281/4/13/11/0 through the first 24 games of the season. Batting in the second slot in the Tigers' lineup, he is a good source of production this week.

Jason Kipnis (2B, CLE) - 42% owned - Kipnis is struggling to start the year and is facing mostly lefties this week, against whom he has hit significantly worse in his career. Nonetheless, he is a talented player with eight games near the top of what should become a good lineup.

 

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Two-Start Pitcher Streamers for Week 5

We return to the three starting pitchers under 50 percent owned and three starting pitchers under 25 percent owned theme in this week’s streamer report. As you may expect, the options under 50 percent are solid, and potentially ownable, for the remainder of 2018. However, the choices under 25 percent are not. Beware that you should only add those players if you are desperate for strikeouts or are trying to snag the wins category, without worrying about your week’s ERA or WHIP.

The ownership percentages on this page are found via the Yahoo fantasy baseball site. Also, all matchups are listed as “probable” for a reason. Managers tweak rotations, injuries occur, and weather postpones games. All of which contribute to whether or not these pitchers play in one game or two in Week 5.

Without further ado, I give to you the starting pitcher streamers for Week 5 of the fantasy baseball season.

 

Week 5 Streamers Under 50% Owned

Jordan Montgomery, NYY - 44% owned

Probable opponents: @ HOU, vs. CLE

If people want to avoid Montgomery because he pitches at Yankee Stadium, I understand. However, his 3.54 ERA in four home starts should help improve Montgomery’s ownership percentage by now. He’s allowed two earned runs, or less, in back-to-back starts and he’s struck out at least five batters in each of those contests, too. The matchup against Houston isn’t ideal. They’re eighth in team wOBA (.339) against southpaws this season, and the Astros are tied for fifth in runs scored (127), thus far. On the bright side, they’re also tied for fifth in team strikeouts (236). As for the Indians, they struggle against left-handed pitchers (.287 team wOBA is 26th in MLB) and are 26th in runs scored (81 runs in 23 games).

Eduardo Rodriguez, BOS - 42% owned

Probable opponents: vs. KC, @ TEX

I still can comprehend why Rodriguez’s ownership is so low in fantasy leagues. Sure, he started the season on the DL, but he’s more than bounced-back to action. He’s allowed no more than three earned runs in all four outings and Rodriguez has notched at least five strikeouts in three of the four performances. He also has some stellar matchups this week. Kansas City is dead last in runs scored (75 runs in 23 games). As for the Rangers, they’re 22nd in runs scored (94 runs in 26 games) and fifth in team strikeouts (236). Texas is also 24th in team ISO against right-handed pitchers (.131) this year.

Jake Faria, TB - 39% owned

Probable opponents: @ DET, vs. TOR

Examining the game logs are necessary when determining who you’re going to stream into your rotation. At first glance, Faria’s 6.33 ERA would seem unmanageable to your lineup. However, when you notice that one start was an implosion (eight earned runs, against Boston, in the second start of the season) the stat doesn’t seem so bad. Through Faria’s five appearances this season, he’s allowed only one earned run in three of them. He’s also tallied at least five strikeouts in three straight starts. Last year, Faria faced the Blue Jays twice. He was 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA and struck out 11 batters in 11.2 innings of work. He also dominated the Tigers in his lone start against them: 7 IP, 1 ER, and 9 K.

 

Under 25% Owned

Marco Estrada, TOR (22% owned)

Probable opponents: @ MIN, @ TB

Looking at his 6.00 ERA, I understand if Estrada doesn’t cause you to sprint to the waiver wire and pick him up. However, looking at his upcoming opponents, you might change your mind. Minnesota and Tampa Bay are on the horizon. The Twins are 28th in runs scored this season (79 runs in 20 games). As for the Rays, they are 25th in team ISO (.131) in 2018. Estrada has also tallied at least five strikeouts in three of the past four outings.

Chad Kuhl, PIT - 5% owned

Probable opponents: @ WSH, @ MIL

When you’re looking for a streaming option who is under 25% owned, clearly, there are risks involved. You must temper the risk with the reward to determine if the pitcher is worth the addition to your roster. Kuhl will put you in that spot. This week, he’s on the road against the Nationals and Brewers. While Kuhl hasn’t been great on the road this season (four earned runs in each start), he did put together a solid performance in his last outing of 2018: 6 IP, 3 ER, and 8 K against Detroit). Milwaukee has struck out the ninth-most times this season (227). The Brewers are also 26th in team ISO against right-handed pitchers (.131) this year.

Matt Koch, ARI - 4% owned

Probable opponents: vs. LAD, vs. HOU

The sample size is small, but Koch has delivered in back-to-back starts in 2018. He’s struck out four batters and allowed two runs, or fewer, in each matchup. Koch was able to throw 102 pitches in his last outing. Now, let’s see if Koch can combine a high pitch count, with a deeper stint into the ballgame. He’s completed six innings of action in each performance.

 

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Week 5 Waiver Wire - H2H Category Streamers

I like to consider myself a pioneer of the streaming approach. I won a league about seven years ago completely ignoring saves and just stacking up the starts each week. While streaming is undoubtedly more directly associated with pitching, there's plenty of value in streaming for offense as well.

Maybe you have a stacked roster and you can't drop anyone. But for those of us with a couple of guys on the roster fringes, it's never too early to look into targeting a specific player or two to gain an edge in a particular category. This season, I will be making weekly recommendations for extreme short term category specialists every week in three offensive areas: speed, power, and average; and three pitching areas: strikeouts, wins, and ratios (ERA/WHIP).

Below are my Week 5 category streamers for fantasy baseball. All position eligibility and ownership percentages are based on Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

 

Head-to-Head Category Streamers to Consider

Speed

Michael A. Taylor (OF, WAS) - 37% Owned

Finally, people are listening on Michael A. Taylor! He's been here for three weeks now, but his ownership percentage still isn't where it should be. Taylor was tied for the league lead in stolen bases with nine as of Wednesday, including three this past week. There's not much out there in terms of speed. This is the guy you need to have in your lineups.

Craig Gentry (OF, BAL) - 0% Owned

This one is digging wayyyyy deep. Craig Gentry is not particularly good at baseball. He struggles with the whole getting on base part. His .456 OPS is embarrassing. But, when he does get on base, he's been known to run. Gentry has five steals on the season, which ranks in the top 10. No one ever said finding cheap speed was easy.

 

Power

Yonder Alonso (1B, CLE) - 25% Owned

Power remains tough to come by on the waiver wire. Yonder Alonso just recently eclipsed a .200 batting average, but he is sporting a .720 OPS. He doesn't hit the ball in play often, but when he does, he's been known to hit it pretty far. He hit three home runs in just a week's span from April 17-24. 1B itself is pretty shallow this year so Alonso is a decent option for power and not much else.

C.J. Cron (1B, TB) - 16% Owned

Do you want to know my nickname for C.J. Cron? Doesn't matter because I'm going to tell you anyway: Mega Cron (so original, I know!). Cron has massive power and is finally getting regular playing time this season. Cron is the clear starter at 1B in Tampa and has been on fire the past week or so with four home runs and five multi-hit games.

 

Average

Joe Panik (2B, SF) - 30% Owned

It took him a little while to get going, but Joe Panik is hitting over .280 now and had two three-hit games last week. He's a career .282 hitter and BABIP and other peripherals suggest he will remain around there. You'll gladly take a free .280 if you're just looking for average.

Steve Pearce (1B, OF, TOR) - 10% Owned

Although Steve Pearce is a career .255 hitter, there is reason to believe his current .289 batting average is sustainable. Pearce's BABIP is right in line with his career average, but more importantly, his strikeout rate is down 6.5% from his career average. The only downside with Pearce is he doesn't play every day. You're looking at a minimum of two absences every seven games, so that's something to take into account. However, when Pearce is out there, he is producing.

 

Strikeouts

Sean Newcomb (SP, ATL) - 26% Owned

Sean Newcomb's scheduled start next week should come against the Mets. Newcomb's K/9 was sitting at a pristine 11.22 this season as of Wednesday. The Mets don't strike out a ton, but that hasn't mattered for Newcomb this season. Plus, you know Yoenis Cespedes is good for at least two.

Vince Velasquez (SP, PHI) - 19% Owned

It won't be the greatest matchup against the Nationals when Vince Velasquez takes the mound next week, but he's still a pitcher with a career K/9 of over 9.00, which was sitting at 10.38 as of Wednesday. The ratios may not be great, but strictly looking for strikeouts, the Nationals are in the top half in strikeouts per game as an offense.

 

Wins

Jhoulys Chacin (SP, MIL) - 7% Owned

The Brewers have a strong offense. The Reds are amongst the worst teams in baseball. Jhoulys Chacin will not make it pretty, but as long as he gets through five innings, he should exit with a chance to win.

Trevor Cahill (SP, OAK) - 9% Owned

Another team that is really struggling to start the season is the Orioles. That's who Trevor Cahill is slated to face off against in his second start next week. Cahill will have home field advantage and he actually pitches for a team with a winning record.

 

ERA/WHIP

Tyson Ross (SP, SD) - 37% Owned

The truth behind Tyson Ross is that outside of his near no-hitter against Arizona, he hasn't been all that impressive. However, his FIP is about a half run lower than his ERA, which isn't all that bad at 3.64. Against a Giants team that ranks second to last in runs scored, he should do just fine.

Zack Wheeler (SP, NYM) - 19% Owned

While Zack Wheeler struggled in his last start, he dominated against a weaker opponent earlier in the season in Miami. He faces a similarly weak offense (although not nearly as bad as Miami's) in San Diego next week at the lofty confines of PETCO Park. Wheeler's peripherals suggest he will remain a mid 4s ERA pitcher. That's about what he is. In a favorable matchup, though, he can be quite useful.

 

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Week 4 Points Leagues - Strategy, Pickups and Cuts

We're back at it again this week with some points league advice for you guys. In last week's suggestions of players to add, players to drop and pitchers to stream there were some definite standouts, but the streaming pitchers were the highlight as they pitched  14 innings, had a 1-0 record, struck out 14 batters and allowed just four earned runs.

This week we will again take a look at some players that could make an immediate impact on your team either by addition or addition by subtraction of a negatively impacted player.

This article is tailored to points leagues more than traditional 5x5 leagues. While every points league is different, generally they all prioritize OPS for hitters and "quality" for pitchers, compared to the emphasis on BA and W in 5x5 leagues. Let's take a look at who you should add, who you should drop and which pitchers to stream for the fourth week the year.

 

Points League Players to Add 

Christian Villanueva - 3B, SD

The Padres third baseman has been on an absolute tear, as he is currently on a nine-game hitting streak where he is 15-for-29 with four home runs and 10 RBI in his last nine games. He is currently day-to-day with a hamstring injury, but will return for the first game of their weekend series against the Mets on Friday. Be sure to snag him while/if he's still available.

Miguel Andjuar - 3B, NYY

The Yankees' third baseman has been one of the hottest hitters in the MLB, as he is batting .524 with three home runs, seven RBI and carrying a 1.714 over the last seven days. He is still only owned in roughly 40 percent of leagues, so go check on his status as soon as possible. He could very well be a mainstay on your roster for the duration of the 2018 season.

Gleyber Torres - SS, NYY

Another Yankee to target is this former top prospect, who has finally received the call to the bigs. Through his first three games, Torres is 3-for-12 with a run scored and one RBI. Prior to his promotion, he had a slash line of .347/.393/.510 with a home run and 11 RBI in 14 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If you're in a dynasty league, check his status (even though I'd give it a 99 percent chance he's already owned), but in a redraft points league check to see if he's available before you read about the next few players.

 

Points League Players to Drop

Domingo Santana - OF, MIL

Santana's playing time has dwindled in a crowded Brewers outfield, as he has started just one of their last four games. In the Brewers' last eight games, Santana is 2-for-20 with two runs scored, zero home runs and zero RBI. It's safe to drop him due to his lack of playing time and productivity at the plate.

Kole Calhoun - OF, LAA

The former Arizona State Sun Devil has been insanely cold, going 2-for-33 in his last nine games with just one RBI to show for it. The Angels have moved him down to eighth in the batting order, and although the rest of his team is tearing the cover off of the ball, Calhoun just cannot seem to find holes in the defense.

Matt Harvey - SP, NYM

Harvey made four starts for New York to start the season, but was absolutely shelled on the mound, forcing the Mets to move the right-handed hurler to the bullpen. He was 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP, while striking out 17 batters in 21 innings of work. In his first bullpen appearance, he allowed a run on two hits and walked a batter in two innings. Unless you're in a deep league, Harvey is okay to be dropped from your roster.

 

Points League Pitchers to Stream

Felix Hernandez - SP, SEA: 4/25 @ CWS

Although King Felix isn't off to the most spectacular of starts to the season (2-2 with a 5.06 ERA), he does get a solid matchup in his lone start during week four against a weak White Sox lineup. Fire up the former AL Cy Young award winner on Wednesday.

Jordan Montgomery - SP, NYY: 4/26 v. MIN

Montgomery is coming off of back-to-back quality starts against Detroit and Toronto, and I am a firm believer that he will make it three straight quality starts. In his career, his ERA at home sits at a 3.44, compared to a 4.39 ERA in road games. Start up the second-year pitcher on Thursday when he takes on the Twins at Yankee Stadium.

Mike Minor - RP/SP, TEX: 4/27 @ TOR

In his second start of the 2018 season, Minor faced the Blue Jays and held them to just one run over six innings of work, while striking out seven batters for his lone win of the season. He did this while Josh Donaldson was still healthy and in the lineup, but with his bat being void from the lineup, Minor has an even easier set-up for his start this Friday.

 

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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts (Week 4)

Welcome to our surprising starts series. Every week we’ll be going over a few surprising starting pitcher performances around the majors to determine whether these starts were smoke and mirrors or something more.

This week we're looking at a pair of NL East hurlers that have put up some eye-popping strikeout numbers, as well as an unheralded NL Central starter.

Phillies starter Nick Pivetta headlines the article this week. He has carried over his strikeout numbers and corrected many of his flaws. Caleb Smith and Trevor Williams are the other two worth a look as each turned out good starts on Sunday.

 

Real Deal or Mirage?

Nick Pivetta, Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Stats: 133 IP, 6.02 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 2.46 K/BB

04/22 vs. PIT: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K

Pivetta is someone that could have made this list several times over the past few weeks. His overall line of a 2.57 ERA, 2.26 FIP, and 7.00 K/BB make him look like an early season breakout. There were also some signs that Pivetta was unlucky last season. He had a .332 BABIP against, a 67.1% strand rate, and 18.2% HR/FB. That is the trifecta of pitcher bad luck. Through his first five starts Pivetta has curbed his two biggest flaws last season, the walk and the long ball. Pivetta has lowered his walk rate from 9.8% to 3.6% and lowered his HR/9 from 1.69 to 0.32.

Pivetta has made a change we’ve seen many pitchers make this season. He has lowered his fastball usage and upped his breaking ball usage. Pivetta has two plus breaking balls, a curveball and a slider. He also has a four-seamer that averages about 95 MPH but can top out around 97 MPH. Pivetta has begun to use his curveball nearly 25% of the time. Not only has Pivetta used his curveball more, but it’s been a better pitch. It has four more inches of downward break compared to 2017. Here is a side by side comparison of the curveball from 2017 (top) to 2018 (bottom).

It breaks more sharply and more drastically downward. What this change has done is fostered his slider’s strikeout ability. Pivetta has a 25.40% swinging strike rate with his slider, up from a career 19%. By mixing in his curveball more batters are being fooled by his slider, a faster breaking ball.  That’s exactly what Pivetta did in his start against Pittsburgh, as he had 13 swinging strikes, including seven with his slider.

This approach should help correct a major issue that Pivetta had last season, which was reverse splits. Right-handed batters had a .409 wOBA and 2.69 HR/9 against him. Right-handers really took advantage of Pivetta’s curveball, hitting .286 with a .306 ISO. This season righties are hitting .125 against the pitch with a .250 ISO. Using more breaking balls may have the unfortunate side effect of giving Pivetta large traditional splits. Lefties are hitting .417 against the curveball this season, though it’s too small of a sample size to make a judgement either way. It’s something to watch for as the season progresses, because we must be wary of a pitcher that struggles against lefties in the NL East.

Pivetta has a bad habit of hanging the curveball, and in this start against the Pirates it’s exactly how he gave up runs. He hung a curveball to Jordy Mercer for a double, and then immediately hung another to Elias Diaz for a two-run home run. Even though that home run to Diaz was the first Pivetta has allowed all season, we can’t buy into his home run suppression. Pivetta has a 4.2% HR/FB ratio and his home ballpark had the highest home run factor (1.409) last season. There is no reason to believe his 0.32 HR/9 is realistic, and it would be surprising to see him maintain a HR/9 below 1.00.

Verdict:

Pivetta has made strides with his breaking ball. Both the slider and curveball have increased usage, movement, and effectiveness. Expect a high strikeout rate, but home runs may be an issue for him. He is someone that can be more than a streamer and should be picked up, but be careful against teams with lots of power hitters or teams that handle curveballs well.

  

Caleb Smith, Miami Marlins

2017 Stats (w/ NYY): 18.2 IP, 7.71 ERA, 5.62 FIP, 1.80 K/BB

04/22 @ MIL: 6 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 10 K

Smith’s 2018 stats look a lot like Pivetta’s 2017 stats. He has a juicy 13.29 K/9, but it comes with a 5.82 ERA, 1.66 HR/9, and 6.23 BB/9. Even at his worst Smith strikes people out. He hasn’t had a K/9 lower than 11 in any of his starts, even though he’s gotten bombed in some of them. The best comparison for Smith is a left-handed, even more rocky version of Dinelson Lamet. Smith’s stuff isn’t nearly as good as Lamet’s, but they profile similarly. Smith relies almost exclusively on two pitches, his 93 MPH four-seamer, and his 82 MPH slider. He has a show-me changeup, but he has thrown either his fastball or slider 89.1% of the time. The slider has been lights out through five starts. Batters are hitting just .088 with a.029 ISO against the slider, and whiff 20.74% of the time. His fastball hasn’t fared as well, as batters are demolishing the four-seamer for a .326 average, .372 ISO, and all four of Smith’s home runs allowed have come on fastballs. What that leaves us with is a two-pitch pitcher with one good pitch.

In the two starts where Smith really got shelled (5 ER in 2.1 IP@ NYY, 3 ER in 3 IP @ PHI) he struggled with slider command and walked 11 batters in these two starts. He also threw his changeup the most in these two starts, using it 15.5% of the time in these outings while using it just 7.3% of the time in his other three starts. When his slider isn’t working Smith goes to the changeup, and it has not been pretty. The changeup has an 18.18% whiff rate itself along with a .167 average against, but he’s only thrown it 44 times and it’s more of a fallback option than a regular part of his repertoire. What those two disasters show us is that Smith can't survive without his slider and this is the consequence of poor command and a limited arsenal.

Smith’s start against Milwaukee is an example of what can happen when his slider is on. He got seven whiffs with the pitch and 12 total. Most encouraging, he didn’t walk a batter. The Brewers strike out 24.5% of the time, ninth most in the league. They also struck out the most in 2017. Smith is best used against teams that strike out at above average rates, and in scenarios where owners are willing to take on risk. He would probably be best served to polish his changeup into a legitimate third pitch. Until that happens Smith is a like a dice that only comes up one or six. Sometimes we’re willing to roll that dice, other times we’re best off abstaining.

Verdict:

Smith is an extreme version of the high strikeout, high risk pitcher. He’s someone that’s value depends greatly on matchup, format, and short-term context. He is a two-pitch pitcher with one effective pitch. His long term future may be in the bullpen, but as long as Smith is in the rotation he’s a matchup play.

 

Trevor Williams, Pittsburgh Pirates

2017 Stats: 150.1 IP, 4.07 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 2.25 K/BB

04/22 @ PHI: 6 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 7 K

Trevor Williams has had a surprising start to the season with a 2.15 ERA through his first five starts. He pulled out his best performance, at least in terms of strikeouts, Sunday against the Phillies. Williams is primarily a fastball pitcher, throwing either his four-seamer or his sinker 71.4% of the time. His secondary arsenal features a changeup and a slider, though Williams does not use either of these pitches more than 20% of the time.

Despite a 2.15 ERA on the season, the peripherals don’t paint a pretty picture for Williams. His 1.40 K/BB rate is especially concerning. This start against Philadelphia was also the second time he’s walk five batters in a start, and he’s only given up a combined one hit and two earned runs in those starts. He also only has a 39.2% groundball rate despite being sinkerballer. His ability to get grounders was his best attribute as a prospect, and he’s not getting many groundballs at the major league level. So, what exactly has catalyzed his success? A .228 BABIP, 82.8% strand rate, and 3.3% HR/FB ratio. It’s as if Williams is testing the limits of how lucky a pitcher can be relative to his skills.

Williams did get eleven swinging strikes during his start against Philadelphia, but nine came on his 92 MPH four-seamer. He’d gotten eight combined in his first four starts. This probably says more about opponent strength than it does about the quality of Williams’s fastball. Even after this big swing-and-miss start Williams only has a 6.3% swinging strike rate. If there is one thing Williams can excel at it is limiting home runs. He does a good job of keeping his sinker down and PNC Park had an .860 home run factor last season, 23rd in the league. Even with that positive skill, Williams should not be trusted.

Verdict:

Trevor Williams has been extremely fortunate to have this early season success. He doesn’t have the strikeout ability (6.97 career K/9) to make up for his flaws. He’s really only worth using in NL-Only, and that’s because he is in a rotation and currently doing well. He’s tough to stream unless it’s a matchup against a bottom five offense.

 

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Week 4 Start/Sit Matchups - Starting Pitchers

You know what it is--it's my updated starts/sits column for Week 4! Your friendly neighborhood @Roto_Dubs is back again this year with his weekly starting pitcher matchups. This is our fifth year now writing this weekly column, helping fantasy baseball managers pick the best pitchers weekly.

Below are the projected starting pitching matchups for Week 4, which will be updated as rotations are inevitably tweaked.

If you've got any questions about which pitchers can capitalize on a juicy matchup and which ones might be worth putting on the pine against a fierce offense, this is the weekly piece for you. For every week of the fantasy baseball season, we look to analyze all of the projected starting pitcher matchups and put together our optimal lineups. Here at RotoBaller, we believe that it’s key to analyze every SP matchup, each and every week, to help determine which SPs to start/sit and to hopefully find some hidden gems to bolster your teams. Let's set those optimal lineups!

 

SP Matchups & Start/Sit Recommendations

This weekly piece considers the pitcher’s opponents, their career stats against the opponent, some ballpark factors and historical splits. With all of this information, we then provide our start/sit recommendations for each starting pitcher matchup for the approaching week of fantasy baseball.

PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/23/18) - MONDAY    
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ATL@CIN Mike Foltynewicz SP | ATL START Sal Romano SP | CIN SIT
CLE@BAL Carlos Carrasco SP | CLE START Kevin Gausman SP | BAL SIT
LAA@HOU Tyler Skaggs SP | LAA SIT Gerrit Cole SP | HOU START
MIA@LAD Jarlin Garcia RP | MIA START Walker Buehler RP | LAD SIT
MIN@NYY Jake Odorizzi SP | MIN SIT Masahiro Tanaka SP | NYY START
OAK@TEX Trevor Cahill SP | OAK SIT Matt Moore SP | TEX SIT
SD@COL Bryan Mitchell RP | SD SIT Chad Bettis SP | COL START
SEA@CHW Mike Leake SP | SEA START Miguel Gonzalez SP | CHW SIT
WAS@SF Gio Gonzalez SP | WAS START Chris Stratton SP | SF START
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/24/18) - TUESDAY    
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@PHI Robbie Ray SP | ARI START Vince Velasquez SP | PHI START
ATL@CIN Brandon McCarthy SP | ATL START Tyler Mahle SP | CIN SIT
BOS@TOR Rick Porcello SP | BOS START J.A. Happ SP | TOR SIT
CHC@CLE Tyler Chatwood SP | CHC START Josh Tomlin SP | CLE SIT
DET@PIT Jordan Zimmermann SP | DET SIT Chad Kuhl SP | PIT START
LAA@HOU Shohei Ohtani SP | LAA START Charlie Morton SP | HOU START
MIA@LAD Dillon Peters SP | MIA SIT Kenta Maeda SP | LAD SIT
MIL@KC Zach Davies SP | MIL START Ian Kennedy SP | KC SIT
MIN@NYY Jose Berrios SP | MIN START CC Sabathia SP | NYY SIT
NYM@STL Zack Wheeler SP | NYM START Luke Weaver SP | STL START
OAK@TEX Andrew Triggs SP | OAK SIT Cole Hamels SP | TEX START
SD@COL TBA TBD Kyle Freeland SP | COL SIT
SEA@CHW Marco Gonzales SP | SEA SIT Carson Fulmer SP | CHW SIT
TB@BAL Jake Faria SP | TB START Alex Cobb SP | BAL SIT
WAS@SF Tanner Roark SP | WAS START Ty Blach SP | SF SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/25/18) - WEDNESDAY    
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@PHI Zack Greinke SP | ARI START Jake Arrieta SP | PHI START
ATL@CIN Matt Wisler RP | ATL START Brandon Finnegan SP | CIN SIT
BOS@TOR Eduardo Rodriguez SP | BOS START Aaron Sanchez SP | TOR START
CHC@CLE Jon Lester SP | CHC START Trevor Bauer SP | CLE START
DET@PIT Matthew Boyd SP | DET START Jameson Taillon SP | PIT START
LAA@HOU Nick Tropeano SP | LAA SIT Justin Verlander SP | HOU START
MIA@LAD Trevor Richards SP | MIA SIT Clayton Kershaw SP | LAD START
MIL@KC Chase Anderson SP | MIL START Jason Hammel SP | KC SIT
MIN@NYY Lance Lynn SP | MIN SIT Sonny Gray SP | NYY SIT
NYM@STL Steven Matz SP | NYM START Michael Wacha SP | STL START
OAK@TEX Kendall Graveman SP | OAK SIT Mike Minor RP | TEX START
SD@COL Tyson Ross SP | SD START Jon Gray SP | COL SIT
SEA@CHW Felix Hernandez SP | SEA START James Shields SP | CHW SIT
TB@BAL Chris Archer SP | TB START Dylan Bundy SP | BAL START
WAS@SF Max Scherzer SP | WAS START Jeff Samardzija SP | SF SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/26/18) - THURSDAY    
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@PHI Matt Koch RP | ARI START Ben Lively SP | PHI SIT
ATL@CIN Sean Newcomb SP | ATL START Homer Bailey SP | CIN START
BOS@TOR Chris Sale SP | BOS START Marco Estrada SP | TOR SIT
CHW@KC Lucas Giolito SP | CHW SIT Jake Junis SP | KC START
DET@PIT Michael Fulmer SP | DET START Ivan Nova SP | PIT START
MIL@CHC Jhoulys Chacin SP | MIL SIT Kyle Hendricks SP | CHC START
MIN@NYY Kyle Gibson SP | MIN SIT Jordan Montgomery SP | NYY START
NYM@STL Noah Syndergaard SP | NYM START Carlos Martinez SP | STL START
SEA@CLE James Paxton SP | SEA START Mike Clevinger SP | CLE START
TB@BAL Blake Snell SP | TB START Chris Tillman SP | BAL SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/27/18) - FRIDAY    
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@WAS Zack Godley SP | ARI START Stephen Strasburg SP | WAS START
ATL@PHI Julio Teheran SP | ATL START Aaron Nola SP | PHI START
CHW@KC Reynaldo Lopez SP | CHW START Danny Duffy SP | KC SIT
CIN@MIN Luis Castillo SP | CIN START Phil Hughes SP | MIN SIT
COL@MIA Tyler Anderson SP | COL START Jose Urena SP | MIA SIT
DET@BAL Mike Fiers SP | DET SIT Andrew Cashner SP | BAL SIT
LAD@SF Hyun-Jin Ryu SP | LAD START Derek Holland SP | SF SIT
MIL@CHC Brent Suter SP | MIL SIT Yu Darvish SP | CHC START
NYM@SD Jacob deGrom SP | NYM START Clayton Richard SP | SD SIT
NYY@LAA Luis Severino SP | NYY START Andrew Heaney SP | LAA SIT
OAK@HOU Sean Manaea SP | OAK START Dallas Keuchel SP | HOU START
SEA@CLE Erasmo Ramirez SP | SEA SIT Corey Kluber SP | CLE START
STL@PIT Miles Mikolas SP | STL START Steven Brault RP | PIT SIT
TB@BOS Yonny Chirinos P | TB SIT Drew Pomeranz SP | BOS START
TEX@TOR Bartolo Colon SP | TEX SIT Marcus Stroman SP | TOR SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/28/18) - SATURDAY    
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@WAS Patrick Corbin SP | ARI START Jeremy Hellickson SP | WAS SIT
ATL@PHI Mike Foltynewicz SP | ATL START Nick Pivetta SP | PHI START
CHW@KC Miguel Gonzalez SP | CHW SIT Eric Skoglund SP | KC SIT
CIN@MIN Sal Romano SP | CIN SIT Jake Odorizzi SP | MIN START
COL@MIA German Marquez SP | COL START Caleb Smith RP | MIA SIT
DET@BAL Francisco Liriano RP | DET SIT Kevin Gausman SP | BAL SIT
LAD@SF Alex Wood SP | LAD START Johnny Cueto SP | SF START
MIL@CHC Junior Guerra SP | MIL SIT Jose Quintana SP | CHC START
NYM@SD Jason Vargas SP | NYM SIT Joey Lucchesi SP | SD START
NYY@LAA Masahiro Tanaka SP | NYY START Garrett Richards SP | LAA START
OAK@HOU Daniel Mengden SP | OAK SIT Lance McCullers SP | HOU START
SEA@CLE Mike Leake SP | SEA SIT Carlos Carrasco SP | CLE START
STL@PIT TBA TBD Trevor Williams SP | PIT SIT
TB@BOS TBA TBD David Price SP | BOS START
TEX@TOR Martin Perez SP | TEX SIT Jaime Garcia SP | TOR SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/29/18) - SUNDAY    
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@WAS Robbie Ray SP | ARI START Gio Gonzalez SP | WAS START
ATL@PHI Brandon McCarthy SP | ATL START Vince Velasquez SP | PHI START
CHW@KC James Shields SP | CHW SIT TBA TBD
CIN@MIN Tyler Mahle SP | CIN SIT Jose Berrios SP | MIN START
COL@MIA Chad Bettis SP | COL START Jarlin Garcia RP | MIA START
DET@BAL Jordan Zimmermann SP | DET SIT Alex Cobb SP | BAL SIT
LAD@SF Kenta Maeda SP | LAD SIT Ty Blach SP | SF SIT
MIL@CHC Zach Davies SP | MIL START Tyler Chatwood SP | CHC START
NYM@SD Zack Wheeler SP | NYM START Bryan Mitchell RP | SD SIT
NYY@LAA CC Sabathia SP | NYY SIT Tyler Skaggs SP | LAA SIT
OAK@HOU Trevor Cahill SP | OAK SIT Gerrit Cole SP | HOU START
SEA@CLE Marco Gonzales SP | SEA SIT Josh Tomlin SP | CLE SIT
STL@PIT Luke Weaver SP | STL START Chad Kuhl SP | PIT START
TB@BOS Jake Faria SP | TB SIT Rick Porcello SP | BOS START
TEX@TOR Matt Moore SP | TEX SIT J.A. Happ SP | TOR START

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Two-Start Pitcher Streamers for Week 4

For those looking for a jump on the Week 4 starting pitcher streaming process, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we breakdown the list of two-start pitchers into two groups, based on Yahoo fantasy baseball ownership levels.

In the past, I try to provide you with three streamers who are under 50 percent owned and three streamers who are under 25 percent owned. However, that was a difficult task for Week 4. So, to satisfy the quota, I found two streamers under 50 percent and five two-start pitchers under 25 percent.

One common theme you’ll notice in this week’s write-up is the fact that multiple pitchers are already facing teams for a third time. In some cases, that’s a good thing (easy opponents, already did well in previous matchups). However, in other instances, it’s a warning (already defeated in prior meetings).

 

Week 4 Streamers Under 50% Owned

Jake Faria, TB (41% owned)

Probable opponents: @ BAL, @ BOS

The Red Sox flustered Faria on April 7th. He allowed eight earned runs in 1.2 innings. However, Faria bounced-back and pitched well against Boston in the following outing: 4 IP, 1 ER, 2 K. He’ll get them for a third time later this week. Boston has an MLB-best .377 team wOBA against right-handed pitchers. However, the Orioles are only 24th in the same category (.289). Baltimore also leads all of baseball with 216 team strikeouts this season.

Chad Bettis, COL (30% owned)

Probable opponents: vs. SD, @ MIA

Bettis is that starting pitcher you see available in your fantasy league and rush to add for now and potentially future starts. Thus far, he’s 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA. Sure, three of his four starts have been away from Coors Field, but Bettis allowed only one earned run in that lone outing at home. The Padres and Marlins are both in the lower-third of team wOBA against right-handed pitchers this season. San Diego has the second-most strikeouts this season (211). Miami is 25th in runs scored (62 runs in 19 games). Both are great matchups for Bettis this week.

 

Under 25% Owned

Vince Velasquez, PHI (18% owned)

Probable opponents: vs. ARI, vs. ATL

It was a rough outing for Velasquez in his last start. The Braves tagged him for seven runs (four earned) in 2.2 innings. In their first meeting of the year (April 18th), Velazquez allowed only three earned runs and struck out seven batters. Let’s hope for a repeat of that performance in Week 4. Both of Velasquez’s starts this week are at home. He has a career 3.93 ERA and has tallied 134 strikeouts in 110 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

Chris Stratton, SF (15% owned)

Probable opponents: vs. WSH, vs. LAD

Stratton and the Dodgers will be very familiar with each other by the end of the season. Stratton has already faced the N.L. West foe twice and will get them for a third time later in the week. In both combined outings, Stratton has allowed five earned runs and struck out seven batters in 10.1 innings of work. Both starts for Stratton this week will be at AT&T Park. Over the last three seasons, San Francisco has hosted the fourth-best Park Factor for pitchers.

Brandon McCarthy, ATL (13% owned)

Probable opponents: @ CIN, @ PHI

Guess who’s 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA this season? Yes, the answer is McCarthy! Even with a start at Coors Field, he’s allowed no more than three earned runs in all four performances this season. His first opponent this week, the Reds, are 29th in team wOBA against right-handed pitchers this season (.270). Cincinnati has also scored an MLB-worst 56 runs in 19 games thus far in 2018. As for Philadelphia, they are seventh in team strikeouts this year (189).

Jaime Garcia, TOR (11% owned)

Probable opponents: @ NYY, vs. TEX

When targeting a streaming option, you look for a few things: 1) Easy opponent; 2) Low ERA; 3) Consistent strikeout totals. When the player pool is scarce, you settle for two out of those three scenarios. The opponents won’t be easy for Garcia, but he has a sub-four ERA (solid for a streamer) and has tallied at least five strikeouts in every appearance this season. Unfortunately, the Yankees crush left-handed pitching. They have a .374 team wOBA, which is second-best in baseball. On the bright side, the Rangers are tied for the second-lowest team wOBA against southpaws (.278).

Trevor Cahill, OAK (3% owned)

Probable opponents: @ TEX, @ HOU

Cahill is back with the A’s after a tour of the N.L. and a brief stint with Kansas City. In his first start of 2018, Cahill dominated the White Sox. He struck out eight batters and allowed zero earned runs in seven innings of work. Cahill will get a chance to increase his K/9 against the Rangers and Astros. Both clubs are in the top five in team strikeouts this season. Globe Life Park will be a difficult place to pitch (second-worst Park Factor for pitchers over the past three years), but, shockingly, Minute Maid Park has the best Park Factor for pitchers during that span.

 

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Hitter Streamers (Week 4) - Head-to-Head Leagues

Welcome back to my hitting streamers column for Week 4, taking a look at hitters to add or stream off the waiver wire for this week's scheduled games.

To keep things simple, I pick from players who are 50% owned or less and who play at least seven games in the week.  If someone jumps off the page at me as a less than seven game player, I may make an exception, but otherwise the advantage in number of games dictates my choices. This week the streaming options are worse than usual, but if you need an option, below are the best choices.

With that said, let’s dive right in.

 

Bats to Stream and Start in Week 4

Lucas Duda (1B, KC) - 16% owned

Duda is one of those fantasy players who can provide you sneaky value a few weeks a year. This is likely one of those weeks. Throughout his career, Duda has an .843 OPS versus RHP in over 2,000 at bats. He has hit .251 with a homer every 17.1 at bats against them. This week, he should face six or seven righty starters. Further, the Royals have a doubleheader on Saturday, meaning that Duda should get some bats against the soft part of the bullpen this weekend. Add it all up and you have a hitter who has had success against righties, will face a bunch of them, and will get to the soft spot of the bullpens. That should mean power production for your lineup this week with a stomachable average.

Nick Markakis (OF, ATL) - 27% owned

Markakis is not the exciting player he once was coming up as a prospect through the Orioles' farm system. Rather, now he is a steady, consistent performer. He will not steal you bases, but he will provide a serviceable average with run production and an occasional homer. This year, he is batting behind an emerging Ozzie Albies and on-base machine Freddie Freeman. Further, he will face six righties this week, against whom he has shown significantly more power and a slightly better average. While not exciting, Markakis should provide decent average and run production this week if you are in need, with the possibility of a homer.

Michael Brantley (OF, CLE) - 41% owned

As stated in my week 2 column, the question with Brantley the past couple years has always been the same: can he stay healthy?  This year he is looking to be healthy after starting the year on the DL. Through eight games, he has batted .333 with a homer and a steal. That is not surprising, as he has always hit for average and has recently shown some power to go with his stolen base ability. In just over half a season last year, Brantley posted a line of .299/9/47/52/11. And even though he only played 11 games in 2016, in 2014-2015 he hit .310 and .327 with a combined 35 homers and 38 steals. Brantley would be higher on the list if he faced better matchups this week, but is still a worthy option nonetheless. However, he is a player you should hold onto for as long as he is healthy rather than a mere streamer.

Preston Tucker (OF, ATL) - 29% owned

I am hesitant to list Tucker here, but the reason may be different than you think. My reason is that Ronald Acuna seems to be warming up slightly after a slow start to the season, and thus he could be called up soon. If he does, Tucker is likely to lose playing time. But, I am a gambler and I like Tucker's matchups this week. He will face six righties, against whom he has hit better throughout his career. To start the year, he has a career-high 46.3% hard hit rate and a career-high 24.4% line drive rate. If you want to take the risk, he is a worthy gamble. But keep an eye on Acuna heading into Monday's games.

Yonder Alonso (1B, CLE) - 26% owned

Like Brantley, Alonso does not face great matchups this week. Moreover, he is off to what appears to be a slow start. However, that may just be a matter of bad luck. While he is hitting the ball on the ground more often this year, his BABIP has declined by more than expected. He otherwise has the same batted ball profile, and he is continuing to show power. The Indians as a team have not hit well to start the year, but when their bats warm up, that should also lead to increased run production from Alonso. Despite facing not great pitching matchups, Alonso is a decent power source this week who could potentially provide more.

Yolmer Sanchez (2B/3B, CHW) - 6% owned

As I stated two weeks ago, Sanchez put up a yawner of a line last year: .267/12/63/59/8. However, at just 25 years old, he could stand to improve on that line this year. This week, he has eight games against decent pitching matchups. With the doubleheader factored in, there is a good chance that he gets to the meat of the bullpen. While he is unlikely to ever win you a week, he should be able to provide a serviceable average with the possibility of a homer or steal. Factoring in the number of games, he should also be able to provide decent run production. And, if you are looking to fill 2B, 3B, MI, or CI, he can fill any of those roles.

Eduardo Escobar (2B/SS/3B, MIN) - 20% owned

The 29 year-old Escobar posted a .254/21/62/73/5 line in just 129 games last year. This week, he will get a chance to show off that emerging power in Yankee Stadium. Even though he does not face great pitching matchups, they are serviceable and he is surrounded by talent in the lineup. He has the chance to provide you with something in all five categories and play at multiple positions. If you are in need, he is not a bad option.

 

Others to Monitor

Avisail Garcia (OF, CHW) - 50% owned - After a breakout to start 2017, Garcia is pulling the ball more and putting it on the ground more often. As a result, his BABIP has fallen. Nevertheless, he has eight games this week against decent pitching matchups.

Jason Kipnis (2B/OF, CLE) - 49% owned - Kipnis has started the year slowly like most of Cleveland's hitters. Nevertheless, he is too talented of a player to leave on the wire, even facing tough pitching matchups.

Tim Beckham (2B/3B/SS, BAL) - 22% owned - The former first-overall pick struggles with strikeouts, but he has power and can steal the occasional base. Despite a slow start, he has talent and could be worth a look.

 

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Week 4 Waiver Wire - H2H Category Streamers

I like to consider myself a pioneer of the streaming approach. I won a league about seven years ago completely ignoring saves and just stacking up the starts each week. While streaming is undoubtedly more directly associated with pitching, there's plenty of value in streaming for offense as well.

Maybe you have a stacked roster and you can't drop anyone. But for those of us with a couple of guys on the roster fringes, it's never too early to look into targeting a specific player or two to gain an edge in a particular category. This season, I will be making weekly recommendations for extreme short term category specialists every week in three offensive areas: speed, power, and average; and three pitching areas: strikeouts, wins, and ratios (ERA/WHIP).

Below are my Week 4 category streamers for fantasy baseball. All position eligibility and ownership percentages are based on Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

 

Head-to-Head Category Streamers to Consider

Speed

Michael A. Taylor (OF, WAS) 29% Owned

Somehow his ownership percentage has dropped since last week. Michael A. Taylor makes his second consecutive appearance on this list. He stole a base early last week and although he was still below the Mendzona line as of Wednesday, there's nothing wrong with his legs. Adam Eaton may have returned by the time you are reading this, but that's okay - Taylor will still get some starts and when he does, you can start him with the expectation of some steals.

Rajai Davis (OF, CLE) 1% Owned

The Indians' fourth outfielder is not an every day player, but man is he fast. This is the ultimate discount play here and you are purely putting him on your roster to put in your lineup on days where he actually plays with the hopes of getting a steal or two. Rajai Davis only had 25 at bats on the season as of Wednesday, but he already amassed four stolen bases. As long as you're on top of team starting lineups and with a roster spot available, Davis is a strong bet for a steal when he plays.

 

Power

Christian Villanueva (3B, SD) 57% Owned

Power is tough to come by on the waiver wire so we're going with a guy that's over the 50% ownership threshold. I'm still not completely sold on Christian Villanueva. The .417 BABIP has no choice but to come down. However, Villanueva does have a history of lofty BABIPs, indicating he puts the ball in play. That's supported by his low strikeout rate in the minors. Unfortunately, that has jumped up to over 30% in the majors. Nevertheless, when he does make contact, Villanueva is hitting the ball in the air more and on the ground less. He has a history of power, hitting 20 home runs in just 109 games in AAA in 2017. If he does fizzle out, you can just drop him. For now, enjoy the power.

Matt Kemp (OF, LAD) 32% Owned

I know what you're thinking: "What year is it?" I am not endorsing any sort of Matt Kemp revival, though. I'm merely pointing out that he had three home runs in his first 50 plate appearances and was, at one point, one of the best hitters in the league. His ridiculous 32% strikeout rate and BABIP over .400 are reason to doubt his long term sustainability, but power wise, he's hot right now, and you need some power.

 

Average

Michael Brantley (OF, CLE) 39% Owned

Since returning from injury, Michael Brantley, a career .293 hitter, is hitting .346 (as of Wednesday) to start his 2018 season. He was once an elite fantasy player, but his productivity was derailed by many injuries. He's healthy...for now, but while he is healthy, he needs to be on your team. He's striking out just 7% of the time, which means he is giving himself opportunities to get on base. A higher walk rate would be nice, but his hit rate is mostly legitimate. Even with a small drop in BABIP, he projects as an over .300 hitter as long as he is on the field.

Joe Mauer (1B, MIN) 21% Owned

Joe Mauer is on this list for the second week in a row because he just keeps on hitting. Mauer was hitting .378 as of Wednesday after going 6/12 in the four consecutive games he played that were bookended by numerous rainouts. He's the emptiest and cheapest average you can imagine.

 

Strikeouts

Steven Matz (SP, NYM) 37% Owned

The young left hander has struck out at least as many batters as innings he's pitched in every start this season thus far. Steven Matz's next start will come in St. Louis against a Cardinals team that is middle of the road in team strikeouts. He is going to miss bats, but don't expect an overall elite performance.

Andrew Triggs (SP, OAK) 12% Owned

Andrew Triggs got blasted by the White Sox in his last outing, but had otherwise been pitching well before then. He is projected to start on Tuesday against a Rangers team that is top five in how often they strike out. Add to that fact that Triggs himself is striking out a batter an inning and you're looking at a great stream for some cheap strikeouts.

 

Wins

Zack Wheeler (SP, NYM) 24% Owned

Remember Zack Wheeler? He was supposed to be good and then he wasn't that good and then he was hurt and now he's back and maybe is good again? Well, his lone scheduled start for next week should come in the lofty confines of PETCO park against the offensively challenged San Diego Padres. The Mets look like one of the best teams in the league and should be favored over the Padres even on the road.

C.C. Sabathia (SP, NYY) 22% Owned

It's a pair of New York pitchers for you to stream next week. C.C. Sabathia should start at home Monday against the Twins. This is a favorable matchup and one in which the Yankees should be heavy favorites. Sabathia is most certainly not good at anymore and even his 4.00 ERA is due for a correction in the wrong direction. However, his offense should be able to carry him to a victory, but your ratios won't be happy about it.

 

ERA/WHIP

Andrew Cashner (SP, BAL) 15% Owned

The odds Andrew Cashner pitches well in a projected start at home against Detroit next week are just as good as the odds he finds himself on the DL between now and then. If that happens, I'm sorry this was a wasted recommendation. Cashner is off to a strong start in 2018. I doubt it continues based on his 5.51 FIP, but Detroit is not the team to start the regression. Cashner's absurd 91% strand rate is due to come down, but so is his equally ridiculous 16% home run to fly ball ratio. Stream Cashner against Detroit and then let him go.

Brandon McCarthy (SP, ATL) 11% Owned

The odds Brandon McCarthy pitches well in a projected start in Cincinnati next week are just as good as the odds he finds himself on the DL between now and then. Wait, didn't I write this already? Yeah, McCarthy and Cashner are pretty similar in that they've historically been pretty good pitchers when they are actually playing baseball. It's the playing baseball part that they've struggled with. McCarthy would actually be on the DL already with a dislocated shoulder, but luckily it was his left shoulder. McCarthy's 2.91 ERA is mostly legitimate and the Reds can't hit anything.

 

 

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Week 3 Points Leagues - Strategy, Pickups and Cuts

I hope you are coming off of a week two victory and flying high at 2-0 in your league. Whether you're crushing, or sitting at 0-2, I am here to help you notch that Week Three victory.

This article is tailored to points leagues more than traditional 5x5 leagues. While every points league is different, generally they all prioritize OPS for hitters and "quality" for pitchers, compared to the emphasis on BA and W in 5x5 leagues.

Let's take a look at who you should add, who you should drop and which pitchers to stream for the third week the year.

 

Points League Players to Add 

Scott Kingery - PHI, 2B

The former University of Arizona walk-on has made quite the impact in the Phillies lineup thus far. He enters Monday's contest on a six-game hitting streak with two home runs, 11 RBI and five runs scored in that stretch. Although his strikeout rate currently sits at 23.2 percent, he would still likely be an upgrade on most second basemen options.

Jed Lowrie - OAK, 2B

Here is another second baseman who could be an upgrade for your team, and he currently sits second in the MLB in hits on the season with 23, but you probably didn't know that since he plays for the Oakland Athletics. Lowrie has been absolutely dominant at the dish to the tune of a .348 batting average, four home runs and 14 RBI to go along with a .979 OPS.

Jose Pirela - SD, OF

Above we talked about the player second in the league in hits, but who has the most hits in the MLB with 24? Oh, yes. None other than this San Diego Padres outfielder who will likely be one of the more added players this week after a 14-for-31 performance in his last seven days. The Padres leadoff hitter may not have a home run yet, yet his OPS still stands at a very respectable .824. Although he has had a lack of over-the-wall power, he has scored 12 runs, knocked in 10 RBI and swiped two bases.

 

Points League Players to Drop

Yoan Moncada - CWS, 2B

It goes without saying that you should not be dropping Moncada if you are in a dynasty or keeper league, but in a redraft league he is droppable, especially if you were hoping for a breakout beginning of the season from the future superstar. Moncada is an abysmal 9-for-51 to start the season with just one home run and three RBI. In his 51 at-bats, he has struck out an eye-opening 25 times, which just simply will not cut it in a points league.

Chris Davis - BAL, 1B

Another early-season disappointment this year has been Davis, who has started out 7-for-53 from the dish. From a glass half-full point of view, he has only struck out 18 times in those 53 at-bats, but he has only connected for one home run and knocked in two RBI. There are nearly infinite better options at first base in your lineup than Davis.

Nick Ahmed - ARI, SS

After a week one offensive explosion, Ahmed has come back down to Earth going 2-for-25 from the plate since April 7. He is a career .227 hitter, so his .238 batting average is realistic to what he should be hitting the rest of the season. Ahmed also produces very minimal stolen base potential, so he can't even be looked at as a speed threat in your lineup either.

 

Points League Pitchers to Stream

Jacob Faria - TB: 4/18 v. Texas

Although Faria's 8.18 ERA does not look appealing whatsoever, it is bloated to that figure due to an eight-run outing against Boston, and Texas' lineup is nothing like that of Boston's. The Tampa Bay ace is coming off of a 3.43 ERA season in 2017 and can definitely be plugged into the lineup when the right matchup lines up, which this week he gets the green light.

CC Sabathia - NYY: 4/19 v. Toronto

Sabathia will return from a hip injury on Thursday and face a weak Toronto lineup that is missing Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson. He gets the thumbs-up from me as a streamer this week with the potential for a quality start against a division rival.

Drew Pomeranz - BOS: 4/20 @ Oakland

Like Sabathia, Pomeranz will return from injury (flexor strain) on Friday night and will face the Oakland A's. The A's have been hot from the plate to start the season, but Pomeranz should conduce weak contact from the young Athletics offense and get out to a hot start to his 2018 campaign.

Hopefully these tidbits can help you win your Week Three matchups. If you have any start/sit questions, waiver wire additions, etc. feel free to contact me on Twitter @TheBKing4.

 

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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts (Week 3)

Welcome to our surprising starts series. Every week we’ll be going over a few surprising starting pitcher performances around the majors to determine whether these starts were smoke and mirrors or something more.

This week we'll be going over a couple good starts from Padres hurlers Joey Lucchesi and Tyson Ross, as well as a pair of good performances from Philadelphia's Vince Velasquez.

Lucchesi has lit the world on fire over the last week, while Ross and Velasquez are pair of familiar names that have had their share of injuries and struggles over the past few seasons.

 

Real Deal or Mirage?

Joey Lucchesi, San Diego Padres

2017 Stats (Double-A San Antonio, age 23-24): 60.1 IP, 1.79 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 3.79 K/BB

04/10 @ COL: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER (2 unearned runs), 1 BB, 8 K
04/15 vs. SF: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

Joey Lucchesi just had as good of a two-start week as one could hope to have. He went into Coors Field and dominated the Rockies on Tuesday, and shut down the Giants on Sunday. Lucchesi came out of nowhere as a last-minute rotation addition, but thus far he’s been better than anyone could have reasonably expected. He’s gotten it done with three pitch mix of a fourseam fastball, changeup, and curveball. The changeup is the most interesting pitch, because it’s more of a changeup-curveball hybrid. Lucchesi will throw a more traditional, looping curveball at times as well, and the two secondary pitches work nicely together. His fourseamer clocks in around 90-91 MPH and is an average fastball in both velocity and movement relative to the rest of the league.

Lucchesi’s changeup has been fooling hitters throughout his first four starts. The pitch has a 20.77% swinging strike rate and Lucchesi has a 14% swinging strike rate overall. Batters have mustered just six singles and no extra-base hits against the changeup-curveball. What’s most impressive is that Lucchesi has found equal success against right-handed and left-handed hitters with the pitch. As left-handed off-speed/breaking ball specialist we might expect large platoon splits, but that hasn’t been the case yet. Lucchesi’s odd delivery may help his deceptiveness, as he incorporates a big windup and a high overhand arm slot. On the mound he looks a bit like a left-handed Daniel Mengden. Mengden has gone through dominant stretches in his career only to wilt over time, but Lucchesi’s changeup-curveball has shown to be more effective than any pitch in Mengden’s deep arsenal. Mengden never got the whiffs that Lucchesi has gotten either.

Lucchesi has thrown his secondary pitches at a higher rate with each successive start, and his strikeout totals have risen in each outing. With time hitters will certainly adjust to Lucchesi. He’s someone brand new to the majors with little pedigree behind him, and he’s pitching at his absolute peak right now. The 12.68% whiff rate on his fastball will probably dip, though not necessarily too far since his changeup-curveball keeps hitters off balance. Lucchesi should be able to get more swinging strikes with his fastball than we’d typically expect from a pitch of this quality because his changeup-curveball is so good. If nothing else Lucchesi should provide strikeouts as a starter, and will rattle off good stretches like this. On days where his changeup-curveball isn’t working he’s in trouble.

Verdict:

Lucchesi is definitely worth an add if he’s still available. His ownership has shot way up to 61% in Yahoo leagues, and 42% in ESPN leagues. Because he’s doing this with mostly one pitch his 1.66 ERA will probably regress beyond even his 2.66 SIERA. It will be interesting to see how hitters adapt to Lucchesi once there’s more information on him and they’ve seen him a few times because he is relying heavily on deceptiveness. Still, the changeup-curveball is a gem of a pitch that will give him value all year long.

 

Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres

2017 Stats with Texas: 49 IP, 7.71 ERA, 6.18 FIP, 0.97 K/BB

04/08 @ HOU: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 7 K
04/13 vs. SF: 6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER (1 unearned run), 1 BB, 5 K

Once one of the premier strikeout pitchers in baseball, Ross fell off the face of the earth after 2016 shoulder surgery. He is attempting to recapture success after suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, the same injury that caused Matt Harvey’s performance to spiral out of control. There is not a good track record for recovery with this injury. A few other active pitchers that have suffered this injury are Chris Young, Jaime Garcia, Phil Hughes, and Mike Foltynewicz. Not the most encouraging list of names, to say the least. After a stint with the Rangers that couldn’t have looked much worse, Ross’s future was in doubt. Ross looked good in a seven strikeout effort against Houston last week, and then went out and pitched well against the Giants. Because of his track record Ross is at least worth a look, especially in deeper leagues.

Ross initially found success by attacking hitters with his electric slider. At its peak in 2015 Ross through his slider around the slider was around 86-87 MPH, had a 23.59% whiff rate, and a 63.7% groundball rate. He paired it with a 93 MPH sinker that had a 66.8% groundball rate. He did exactly what we want pitchers to do, get strikeouts and get groundballs. We didn’t see that Tyson Ross in these two starts, but we did see some encouraging signs.

Ross got double digit whiffs in each of these starts, including ten alone with his slider against San Francisco. Ross also threw the slider over 44% of the time in each start after throwing it just 33.7% of the time in 2017. His velocity was also near his prime levels in the start against Houston. He threw the slider at 86 MPH and the sinker at 92 MPH. That was a great sign, though it dipped back down in the start against the Giants to 84 MPH on the slider and 91 MPH on the sinker. It’s probably best to do a visual comparison of his slider between 2015 (left) and 2018 (right).

Obviously, the pitch is not what it once was. That would be an unrealistic expectation. In addition to velocity loss, it doesn’t break as sharply as it did in 2015. There is still room for growth, as Ross is coming off his best swing-and-miss game and had only one walk between these two starts. He’s not someone to blow a large portion of FAAB on, but Ross can be considered a viable streaming option, which is far ahead of where he was last season in Texas.

Verdict:

No, 2013-2015 Tyson Ross isn’t back. He will probably never come back. What we have instead is a pitcher with an above average breaking ball that is willing to throw it over 40% of the time. Ross is by no means a must add in standard mixed leagues, but he’s worth a pick up in deeper leagues. He’s also a viable streamer in daily leagues and two-start pitcher in weekly leagues. He’s an especially good start against teams that struggle with breaking balls or have high strikeout tendencies.

 

Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies

2017 Stats: 72 IP, 5.13 ERA, 5.52 FIP, 2.00 K/BB

04/07 vs. MIA: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
04/13 @ TB: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K

That three-hit, 16 strikeout shut out against the Padres in 2016 feels like a lifetime ago for Vince Velasquez. It’s been nothing but injuries and busted potential since then. Velasquez’s best pitch has always been his fourseam fastball, which at its peak sits around 95 MPH and tops out at 98 MPH. In his start against the Rays the fastball looked close to what it was in 2016. His velocity was around 95 MPH in this start and topped out at 98 MPH. Let’s do a side-by-side comparison between 2016 (left) and 2018 (right).

The fastball looked good in his start against the Rays, though it doesn’t have quite the movement it had in 2016. It’s still a pitch that Velasquez can be effective with, but the rest of his arsenal has been suspect throughout his career. He’s used a few different secondary pitches to varying success, but Velasquez has never had a plus breaking ball or off-speed pitch to complete his repertoire. His slider has probably been his best secondary pitch, with a career 15.08% whiff rate and .239 average against, but it was always hard to buy into Velasquez long term without a reliable secondary pitch.

In his first three starts so far Velasquez has upped his curveball usage to a career high 18.9%. It would be nice to see that change and think Velasquez has found his complimentary pitch, but his curveball has not been the catalyst for early season success. Batters are hitting .500 against the curveball with two swinging strikes total in three starts. So no, he’s not exactly Rich Hill with the curve. He’s probably best off using the curveball as a show-me pitch and mixing his slider and changeup to try and catch hitters off-guard.

When he’s at his best Velasquez can overpower hitters and live on a diet of mostly fastballs, but there is reason be skeptical of his recent performance. He’s coming off two dominant starts, but they came against two of the worst teams in the league. The Rays are 24th in the majors with a .283 wOBA, and the Marlins are 29th with a .274 wOBA. He’s hard to trust even in a neutral matchup, because most quality hitters can crush fastballs, even good ones like Velasquez’s fourseamer. He’s especially bad against teams with a lot of power hitters. Velasquez has a career 1.35 HR/9 and had a 1.88 HR/9 last season. His home park does him no favors either, as Citizen’s Bank Park had a 1.409 home run factor in 2017, highest in the majors by a wide margin (The next highest was Yankee Stadium at 1.279). We need to see him do it against a team with even an average lineup before trusting Velasquez as more than a matchup-based streamer.

Verdict:

Vince Velasquez has strung together a pair of good starts, but he’s not doing much differently than he has been over the last two seasons. Maybe a healthy Velasquez can look dominant against bad teams, but the lack of any quality secondary pitches caps his upside. He should only be trusted in favorable matchups for now.

 

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Updated Week 3 Start/Sit Matchups - Starting Pitchers (4/16 - 4/22)

Welcome back, RotoBallers, hopefully all your teams are off to roaring starts! Either way we're here to try and help with your daily/weekly lineups. I'm filling in for the regular @Roto_Dubs this week, as he doesn't feel like dealing with any messy rotation changes after six (!) postponed games on Sunday. Ouch.

Below are the projected starting pitching matchups for Week 3 as they currently stand -- we'll be updating these throughout the week as rotations are inevitably tweaked. These are our recommended starting pitcher starts/sits for Week 3. For those who are new, welcome - this is our fifth year now writing this weekly column, helping fantasy baseball managers pick the best pitchers weekly.

For every week of the fantasy baseball season, we look to analyze all of the projected starting pitcher matchups and put together our optimal lineups. As part of that, we identify pitchers that can capitalize on a juicy matchup and which ones might be worth putting on the pine against a fierce offense. Our goal is to analyze every SP matchup, each and every week, to help determine which SPs to start/sit and to hopefully find some hidden gems to bolster your teams. It's still early in the season, so benching to right dud can be a ratio saver. And pitchers will be emerging on the waiver wire, so stay stuned! Now let's get those optimal lineups set for the upcoming week...

 

SP Matchups & Start/Sit Recommendations

This weekly piece considers the pitcher’s opponents, their career stats against the opponent, some ballpark factors and historical splits. With all of this information, we then provide our start/sit recommendations for each starting pitcher matchup for the approaching week of fantasy baseball.

Last updated: Tuesday, April 17 at 12:45 pm ET

PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/16/18) - MONDAY    
GAME START/SIT VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER
BAL@BOS PPD PPD PPD PPD
CHW@OAK START Reynaldo Lopez SP | CHW SIT Daniel Mengden SP | OAK
CIN@MIL START Luis Castillo SP | CIN SIT Brent Suter SP | MIL
COL@PIT START German Marquez SP | COL SIT Steven Brault RP | PIT
HOU@SEA START Dallas Keuchel SP | HOU START James Paxton SP | SEA
LAD@SD START Hyun-Jin Ryu SP | LAD SIT Robbie Erlin SP | SD
MIA@NYY SIT Caleb Smith RP | MIA START Luis Severino SP | NYY
PHI@ATL START Aaron Nola SP | PHI SIT Julio Teheran SP | ATL
TEX@TB SIT Martin Perez SP | TEX START Blake Snell SP | TB
WAS@NYM SIT Jeremy Hellickson SP | WAS START Jacob deGrom SP | NYM
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/17/18) - TUESDAY    
GAME START/SIT VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER
KC@TOR SIT Eric Skoglund SP | KC START Jaime Garcia SP | TOR
KC@TOR START Danny Duffy SP | KC SIT Joe Biagini SP | TOR
BAL@DET START Andrew Cashner SP | BAL START Francisco Liriano RP | DET
BOS@LAA START David Price SP | BOS START Shohei Ohtani SP | LAA
CHW@OAK SIT Miguel Gonzalez SP | CHW SIT Trevor Cahill SP | OAK
CIN@MIL SIT Sal Romano SP | CIN START Junior Guerra SP | MIL
CLE@MIN START Corey Kluber SP | CLE START Jake Odorizzi SP | MIN
COL@PIT START Chad Bettis SP | COL START Trevor Williams SP | PIT
HOU@SEA START Lance McCullers SP | HOU SIT Ariel Miranda SP | SEA
LAD@SD START Alex Wood SP | LAD SIT Bryan Mitchell RP | SD
MIA@NYY SIT Jarlin Garcia RP | MIA START Masahiro Tanaka SP | NYY
PHI@ATL START Nick Pivetta SP | PHI START Mike Foltynewicz SP | ATL
SF@ARI START Johnny Cueto SP | SF START Patrick Corbin SP | ARI
STL@CHC SIT Adam Wainwright SP | STL SIT Tyler Chatwood SP | CHC
TEX@TB SIT Matt Moore SP | TEX START Yonny Chirinos P | TB
WAS@NYM START Gio Gonzalez SP | WAS START Zack Wheeler SP | NYM
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/18/18) - WEDNESDAY    
GAME START/SIT VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER
BAL@DET SIT Kevin Gausman SP | BAL START Matthew Boyd SP | DET
BOS@LAA START Rick Porcello SP | BOS START Tyler Skaggs SP | LAA
CHW@OAK SIT Carson Fulmer SP | CHW START Andrew Triggs SP | OAK
CIN@MIL SIT Tyler Mahle SP | CIN SIT Zach Davies SP | MIL
CLE@MIN START Carlos Carrasco SP | CLE START Jose Berrios SP | MIN
COL@PIT SIT Kyle Freeland SP | COL SIT Chad Kuhl SP | PIT
HOU@SEA START Gerrit Cole SP | HOU SIT Mike Leake SP | SEA
KC@TOR START Ian Kennedy SP | KC START J.A. Happ SP | TOR
LAD@SD START Kenta Maeda SP | LAD START Tyson Ross SP | SD
PHI@ATL START Vince Velasquez SP | PHI START Brandon McCarthy SP | ATL
SF@ARI SIT Chris Stratton SP | SF START Robbie Ray SP | ARI
STL@CHC START Luke Weaver SP | STL START Jon Lester SP | CHC
TEX@TB START Cole Hamels SP | TEX START Jake Faria SP | TB
WAS@NYM START Tanner Roark SP | WAS START Steven Matz SP | NYM
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/19/18) - THURSDAY    
GAME START/SIT VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER
BAL@DET SIT Chris Tillman SP | BAL SIT Jordan Zimmermann SP | DET
BOS@LAA START Eduardo Rodriguez SP | BOS SIT Nick Tropeano SP | LAA
HOU@SEA START Charlie Morton SP | HOU SIT Marco Gonzales SP | SEA
MIA@MIL SIT Dillon Peters SP | MIA START Chase Anderson SP | MIL
NYM@ATL SIT Matt Harvey SP | NYM START Anibal Sanchez SP | ATL
PIT@PHI START Jameson Taillon SP | PIT START Jake Arrieta SP | PHI
SF@ARI SIT Ty Blach SP | SF START Zack Greinke SP | ARI
TOR@NYY SIT Aaron Sanchez SP | TOR START CC Sabathia SP | NYY
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/20/18) - FRIDAY    
GAME START/SIT VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER
BOS@OAK START Hector Velazquez RP | BOS SIT Kendall Graveman SP | OAK
CHC@COL START Kyle Hendricks SP | CHC SIT Jon Gray SP | COL
CIN@STL SIT Brandon Finnegan SP | CIN SIT Michael Wacha SP | STL
CLE@BAL START Trevor Bauer SP | CLE SIT Alex Cobb SP | BAL
HOU@CHW START Justin Verlander SP | HOU SIT James Shields SP | CHW
KC@DET SIT Jason Hammel SP | KC START Michael Fulmer SP | DET
KC@DET TBD TBD TBD TBD
MIA@MIL SIT Trevor Richards SP | MIA START Jhoulys Chacin SP | MIL
MIN@TB START Lance Lynn SP | MIN START Chris Archer SP | TB
NYM@ATL START Noah Syndergaard SP | NYM START Sean Newcomb SP | ATL
PIT@PHI START Ivan Nova SP | PIT SIT Ben Lively SP | PHI
SD@ARI SIT Clayton Richard SP | SD TBD TBD
SEA@TEX START Felix Hernandez SP | SEA START Mike Minor RP | TEX
SF@LAA SIT Derek Holland SP | SF START Andrew Heaney SP | LAA
TOR@NYY SIT Marco Estrada SP | TOR START Sonny Gray SP | NYY
WAS@LAD START Max Scherzer SP | WAS SIT Rich Hill SP | LAD
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/21/18) - SATURDAY    
GAME START/SIT VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER
BOS@OAK START Chris Sale SP | BOS START Sean Manaea SP | OAK
CHC@COL SIT Yu Darvish SP | CHC SIT Tyler Anderson SP | COL
CIN@STL START Homer Bailey SP | CIN START Miles Mikolas SP | STL
CLE@BAL START Mike Clevinger SP | CLE START Dylan Bundy SP | BAL
HOU@CHW START Dallas Keuchel SP | HOU SIT Lucas Giolito SP | CHW
KC@DET TBD TBD TBD TBD
MIA@MIL SIT Jose Urena SP | MIA SIT Brent Suter SP | MIL
MIN@TB START Kyle Gibson SP | MIN TBD TBD
NYM@ATL START Jacob deGrom SP | NYM SIT Julio Teheran SP | ATL
PIT@PHI SIT Steven Brault RP | PIT START Aaron Nola SP | PHI
SD@ARI START Joey Lucchesi SP | SD START Zack Godley SP | ARI
SEA@TEX START James Paxton SP | SEA SIT Bartolo Colon SP | TEX
SF@LAA SIT Tyler Beede SP | SF START Garrett Richards SP | LAA
TOR@NYY SIT Marcus Stroman SP | TOR START Jordan Montgomery SP | NYY
WAS@LAD START Stephen Strasburg SP | WAS START Clayton Kershaw SP | LAD
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/22/18) - SUNDAY    
GAME START/SIT VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER
BOS@OAK START David Price SP | BOS SIT Daniel Mengden SP | OAK
CHC@COL START Jose Quintana SP | CHC SIT German Marquez SP | COL
CIN@STL START Luis Castillo SP | CIN START Carlos Martinez SP | STL
CLE@BAL START Corey Kluber SP | CLE START Andrew Cashner SP | BAL
HOU@CHW START Lance McCullers SP | HOU SIT Reynaldo Lopez SP | CHW
KC@DET SIT Eric Skoglund SP | KC START Francisco Liriano RP | DET
MIA@MIL SIT Caleb Smith RP | MIA START Junior Guerra SP | MIL
MIN@TB TBD TBD START Blake Snell SP | TB
NYM@ATL START Zack Wheeler SP | NYM START Mike Foltynewicz SP | ATL
PIT@PHI START Trevor Williams SP | PIT START Nick Pivetta SP | PHI
SD@ARI SIT Luis Perdomo SP | SD START Patrick Corbin SP | ARI
SEA@TEX TBD TBD SIT Martin Perez SP | TEX
SF@LAA SIT Johnny Cueto SP | SF START Shohei Ohtani SP | LAA
TOR@NYY START Jaime Garcia SP | TOR START Luis Severino SP | NYY
WAS@LAD SIT A.J. Cole SP | WAS START Hyun-Jin Ryu SP | LAD

 

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Two-Start Pitcher Streamers for Week 3

We are now on to Week 3 of the fantasy baseball season and the picture is getting clearer, in regards to streaming options.

Last week, we separated the streamers by fantasy sites (Yahoo and Fantrax). This time, and probably for the foreseeable future, we’ll focus on the ownership percentage in two additional categories: below 50 percent and below 25 percent.

That way, we can accommodate people in the standard 10-12 team leagues, and also the deeper 14-16 leagues, too. All ownership percentages are based on Yahoo Sports.

 

Week 3 Streamers Under 50% Owned

Tyler Skaggs, LAA (46% owned)

Probable opponents: vs. BOS, vs. SF

Well, we tried to tout Skaggs last week in the two-start streamer, but Shohei Ohtani got the ball on Sunday. Apparently, Sunday is Ohtani day. That will be his third consecutive Sunday start. We should probably make a note of that for future reference. Anyway, back to Skaggs. In his lone start last week, Skaggs shut down the Rangers. He pitched five innings, allowed one earned run, and struck out seven batters. In all of his 2018 outings, Skaggs has struck out at least five batters and allowed two earned runs or less. That’s ideal for a streamer. This week, he’s home to the Red Sox and Giants. While Boston is doing well, the Giants are not. They’ve scored only 41 runs in the first 13 games (28th in MLB). Also, Angel Stadium is home to the sixth-best Park Factor, over the past three seasons, for pitchers.

Mike Foltynewicz, ATL (35% owned)

Probable opponents: vs. PHI, vs. NYM

Like Skaggs, Foltynewicz hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in each of his first three starts of the season. He’ll get a familiar opponent on Monday, the Phillies. In his first start of 2018, Folty pitched five innings, allowed two earned runs (both solo home runs), and struck out seven batters. Both starts this week will be at SunTrust Park. Last year, Folty was better at home (3.95 ERA) as opposed to on the road (5.46 ERA).

Trevor Williams, PIT (26% owned)

Probable opponents: vs. COL, @ PHI

Again, like his two predecessors on this write-up, Williams has refused to allow more than two earned runs in an outing this season. In his next start, Williams will face the Rockies. Thankfully, that matchup will be at home, and not at Coors Field. Not only will Williams get to avoid the hitter-friendly environment in Colorado, but it’s also a perk because Williams performed better at home in 2017 (3.45 ERA) as opposed to his road starts (4.96 ERA). During last season, Williams also allowed five earned runs in his lone start in Coors Field. His strikeout total has risen after each game this year (one, four, and five). I expect that number to get even higher in his next trip to the hill. The Rockies have struck out the second-most times in baseball, thus far (141 strikeouts).

 

Under 25% Owned

Nick Pivetta, PHI (24% owned)

Probable opponents: @ ATL, vs. PIT

This Phillies rotation knows how to strike out opposing hitters. Last season, Aaron Nola (9.86 K/9), Pivetta (9.47 K/9), and Vince Velasquez (8.50 K/9) all excelled in the punch out category. This year, Pivetta has the early lead in the rotation (10.26 K/9), even with the addition of Jake Arrieta. As far as his opponents are concerned, both the Pirates and Braves active rosters finished 27th and 29th, respectively, in the 2017 team ISO standings, against right-handed pitchers. Atlanta and Pittsburgh were 25th and 28th in team wOBA, during that same period, against righties.

Adam Wainwright, STL (13% owned)

Probable opponents: @ CHC, @ PHI

Is Waino back? In his last outing, Wainwright pitched seven innings and struck out four Brewers, however he allowed three earned runs (two homers). Next on Waino’s dance card is a trip to Wrigley. In his career, Wainwright is 10-2 with a 3.79 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 116.1 innings of work. Both ballparks shouldn’t be that big of a factor, either. Over the past three season, both Wrigley Field and Citizens Bank Park 15th and 16th, respectively, in Park Factor statistics.

Junior Guerra, MIL (1% owned)

Probable opponents: vs. CIN, vs. MIA

In his first start of 2018, last Wednesday, Guerra pitched 5.1 innings (86 pitches), allowed one earned run, and struck out four Cardinal hitters. I’m willing to endorse him for deeper leagues now. To help ease your minds, Guerra gets Cincinnati and Miami this week. Both clubs are in the bottom five, when looking at runs scored this season. If you’re worried about his starts being at Miller Park, I understand. It’s tied for the sixth-best Park Factor for hitters, over the last three years. However, Guerra has a career 2.83 ERA in 98.2 innings of work in Milwaukee.

 

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Hitter Streamers (Week 3) - Head-to-Head Leagues

Welcome back to my hitting streamers column for Week 3, taking a look at hitters to add or stream off the waiver wire for this week's scheduled games.

To keep things simple, I pick from players who are 50% owned or less and who play at least seven games in the week.  If someone jumps off the page at me as a less than seven game player, I may make an exception, but otherwise the advantage in number of games dictates my choices.

With that said, let’s dive right in.

 

Bats to Stream and Start in Week 3

Yulieski Gurriel (1B, HOU) - 32% owned

In just 139 games last year, Gurriel posted a .299/18/69/75/3 line. He looked poised to be a regular fantasy contributor this year before fracturing his hamate bone this spring. While such an injury can often sap a player's power, Gurriel has already homered since returning this week. There is surely some risk given his recent return from injury, but he is a very good hitter in a strong lineup facing favorable pitching matchups. Stream him with confidence.

Kevin Pillar (OF, TOR) - 41% owned

The last three years Pillar has been fairly consistent and averaged 12 homers and 18 steals. With stolen bases becoming increasingly sparse relative to homers, Pillar is an interesting pickup. This year, he is up to more of the same, with a homer and three steals in his first 14 games. He only faces average pitching matchups this week, but he has the opportunity to be a five category contributor nonetheless. If you need steals without losing much in the other categories, Pillar should be your choice this week.

Leonys Martin (OF, DET) - 2% owned

Martin's defense will be of no use in fantasy leagues, but that doesn't mean he can't provide you offensive value this week. Martin has always stolen bases, and he even has some pop. For his career, his 162-game averages are 10 homers and 30 steals. Martin is off to a decent start this year, batting .271 with a homer and a steal. Facing favorable pitching matchups this week, he is a sneaky streaming option that could provide you with stolen bases and maybe more.

Colin Moran (3B, PIT) - 16% owned

Moran is an interesting enough player to be a major part of the return for Gerrit Cole. The former top-100 prospect has now joined the fly ball revolution, and there are hopes that he will be the latest beneficiary of that approach. In 79 games at AAA last year, he batted .308 with 18 homers. This year he is off to a fast start, batting .343 with a homer. While he is unlikely to steal you bases and his power is a question mark, he should provide you with good batting average and decent run production, with the potential for more against average pitching matchups this week.

Jeimer Candelario (3B, DET) - 5% owned

After his trade to the Tigers last year, Candelario got off to a hot start. He batted .330 with two homers and a .874 OPS in 27 games. Even though he is only batting .200 to start this young season, he already has six extra base hits and he has prospect pedigree. Facing favorable pitching matchups this week, he has the potential to provide you with good power and run production, along with a decent average. Don't be dissuaded by his slow start.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. (OF, BOS) - 27% owned

Bradley is a defensive ace who occasionally has shown some success with the bat. In 2016, for example, he posted a line of .267/26/94/87/9. While that is likely the upper end of his ability, the 27 year-old has some power, a touch of stolen-base ability, and should not hurt you badly in the other categories. Facing decent pitching matchups this week, he is a serviceable play if the top options are off the board.

 

Others To Consider

Jorge Soler (OF, KC) 2% owned - Soler has consistently struggling since bursting onto the scene in 2014. Nevertheless, he faces good pitching matchups and is a potential power source if you want to gamble on power this week.

Tim Beckham (2B/3B/SS, BAL) 27% owned - Despite starting the year slowly, Beckham has gobs of talent and career 162 game averages of 20 homers and six steals.

Amed Rosario (SS, NYM) 16% owned - Rosario is another former top prospect who is off to a slow start. His emerging power combined with his stolen base ability make him a worthy gamble if the others are off the board.

 

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Week 3 Waiver Wire - H2H Category Streamers

I like to consider myself a pioneer of the streaming approach. I won a league about seven years ago completely ignoring saves and just stacking up the starts each week. While streaming is undoubtedly more directly associated with pitching, there's plenty of value in streaming for offense as well.

Maybe you have a stacked roster and you can't drop anyone. But for those of us with a couple of guys on the roster fringes, it's never too early to look into targeting a specific player or two to gain an edge in a particular category. This season, I will be making weekly recommendations for extreme short term category specialists every week in three offensive areas: speed, power, and average; and three pitching areas: strikeouts, wins, and ratios (ERA/WHIP).

Below are my Week 3 category streamers for fantasy baseball. All position eligibility and ownership percentages are based on Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

 

Head-to-Head Category Streamers to Consider

Speed

Michael A. Taylor (OF, WAS) 34% Owned

Has anyone noticed that Yahoo's format for listing players in games is "First Initial. Last Name," yet for some reason Michael A. Taylor is listed as "MICHAEL A. Taylor?" I found it amusing. Anyway, you should pick up Taylor if you need some free stolen bases. With Adam Eaton exactly where you should always expect him to be, on the DL, Taylor is a clear every day starter. As of Wednesday, he had stolen four bases already on the season. He stole 17 last season in just 118 games. You'll be putting you batting average at risk, but the speed is certainly there.

Mallex Smith (OF, TB) 17% Owned

This is Mallex Smith's second consecutive week on this list as his ownership percentage has barely increased since last week. I said the speed was coming and then he went 4/4 on Monday with two stolen bases. He's starting to heat up and could find himself at the top of the lineup sooner rather than later. Mallex's playing time is also becoming more consistent. The Rays want him to be an every day player. If he keeps hitting like he did last week, he will be.

 

Power

Lucas Duda (1B, KC) 16% Owned

You are not going to like the batting average that comes with Lucas Duda, but the man has pop. He has multiple 30 home run seasons on his resume and his 30 from last year came in just 127 games. The Royals lineup is pretty weak and there's always the risk that Duda doesn't see any good pitches to hit, but when you're shopping at the five and dime, beggars can't be choosers. With the Blue Jays and Tigers on the docket next week, the opposing pitching will not be too imposing.

Albert Pujols (1B, LAA) 53% Owned

I know Albert Pujols is over the 50% ownership threshold, but there's really not much out there right now. While obviously a shell of a shell of his former self, Pujols did manage 23 homers and 101 RBIs in 2017. Over his career, he's averaged a home run every 18.25 plate appearances. As of Wednesday, he had two in 54 plate appearances. That's not where he wants to be, but it's good enough. You know he still has the ability.

 

Average

Joe Mauer (1B, MIN) 12% Owned

Wait, what year is it? Joe Mauer? Really? Yes. That Joe Mauer. It's been a long time since Mauer was really fantasy relevant. He's always been a bit of an empty batting average type guy. He's a career .309 hitter, but from 2014-2016, he hit .277, .265, and .261. In 2017, he bounced back with a .305 average. As of Wednesday, he was hitting .387 with a BABIP over .400. Yes, the BABIP will unquestionably be coming down, but Mauer has reestablished himself as a guy that can get on base.

Asdrubal Cabrera (2B, 3B, SS, NYM) 48% Owned

Asdrubal Cabrera is a career .270 hitter that was hitting .341 as of Wednesday. While his .344 BABIP is contributing to that, there's reason to think this improvement in average is sustainable. Cabrera's strikeout rate is down about 4% from his career average and his ground ball percentage is also down. Cabrera just looks like an improved hitter at the ripe young age of 32. You could do much worse.

 

Strikeouts

Josh Hader (RB, MIL) 60% Owned

Just leaving him here for the second week in a row to remind everyone that he should be owned in all leagues. You can stream starters looking for strikeouts or you can just roster Josh Hader and his K/9 that was over 20 as of Wednesday.

Sean Newcomb (SP, ATL) 23% Owned

The second year pro posted a 9.72 K/9 in 19 starts in 2017. This season, through two starts, Sean Newcomb's K/9 is at 13.06. His next start will likely come against the Mets, a team in the middle of the pack in team strikeouts.

Joey Lucchesi (SP, SD) 22% Owned

I am not sure if Joey Lucchesi can keep it up with just a two pitch arsenal, but damn he looks good through two starts. Lucchesi completely erased the Rockies' potent offense twice already. His K/9 is 9.19 and his minor league numbers support him as a strikeout pitcher. His next start should be in Arizona, where he can reap the benefits of their new humidor against a team that ranks in the bottom third in strikeouts per game.

 

Wins

Jhoulys Chacin (SP, MIL) 9% Owned

As always with wins, it is less about the pitcher's ability and more about the opponent. Jhoulys Chacin's next start should come against the Marlins. The Marlins are terrible. That's pretty much the formula for streaming for wins.

Hyun-Jin Ryu (SP, LAD) 14% Owned

I've never been much of a fan of Hyun-Jin Ryu, but the Dodgers have one of the better offenses in the league and his next start should be Monday in San Diego. Aside from PETCO park being favorable to pitchers, the Padres have one of the worst offenses in baseball and they will be without both Wil Myers and Manuel Margot.

 

ERA/WHIP

Marco Estrada (SP, TOR) 40% Owned

Marco Estrada is off to a hot start this season. He is going to cool off as his .171 BABIP is unsustainable. His 2.77 ERA is excellent, but his peripherals project out to a 5.54 FIP. The regression is inevitable, but I don't think it will happen next week against the Royals. Estrada's strikeout rate is down, but so is his walk rate. The Royals are a favorable matchup for opposing pitchers.

Nick Pivetta (SP, PHI) 18% Owned

This one looks all kinds of legit. Nick Pivetta is experiencing a breakout in his age 25 season and so far, we have every reason to believe it is for real. Pivetta will get the light hitting Braves next week. But more importantly, he's started out the season with a 2.70 ERA that is actually unlucky. His .326 BABIP is relatively high, which is represented in his minuscule 1.31 FIP. He's striking out more than a batter an inning and not walking anyone. Stream him and then probably keep him.

 

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Are You For Real? Surprising SP Starts (Week 2)

Welcome to our surprising starts series. Every week we’ll be going over a few surprising starting pitcher performances around the majors to determine whether these starts were smoke and mirrors or something more.

This week we'll be going over Sean Newcomb's dominance at Coors Field, and great two-start performances from Reynaldo Lopez and Andrew Triggs.

These starters are definitely worth a look on the waiver wire, but there may need to be more growth before they become lineup mainstays.

 

Real Deal or Mirage?

Sean Newcomb, Atlanta Braves

2017 Stats: 100 IP, 4.32 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 9.72 K/9, 5.13 BB/9
04/08 @ Colorado: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K

There were a lot of things to like in Newcomb’s first road start of 2018. He went into Coors Field and dominated the Rockies on Sunday. Newcomb’s nine punchouts came with 15 swinging strikes, and he averaged 94.1 MPH with his four-seamer, a full MPH faster than it was in his first start. What’s most encouraging is zero walks allowed. Poor control has long hindered Newcomb’s success, but Sunday’s start was the first career zero-walk start for Newcomb in the majors. There has never been a question of talent or stuff with Newcomb, but control has been the missing piece at every level.

Newcomb’s tendency to mislocate pitches not only caused him to walk batters, but it led to more batter-friendly pitches and an inordinate amount of hits against him. Although Newcomb’s .327 BABIP against was above average, he has consistently had a BABIP above .300 in the minors. Newcomb’s biggest problem was locating his changeup. The changeup had a 22.91% whiff rate last season, but batters also hit .400 with a .486 BABIP against the pitch. When Newcomb keeps it down it fools hitters, but when it gets left up in the zone the changeup gets crushed. In changeups below the strike zone, Newcomb has a 31% whiff rate, but when it rises in the zone or just outside, batters hit over .600 against it. If we compare his changeup heatmaps from 2017 (left) to 2018 (right) we see that Newcomb has done a much better job of keeping the pitch down in his first two starts.

This is the improvement that Newcomb needed to make to take a step forward, and it would be great to see him maintain this command. Even with improved command, there are still a few things in these first two starts that cause skepticism that Newcomb is ready to be a reliable fantasy starter.

So far in 2018 Newcomb has thrown 45 curveballs and has only gotten three swinging strikes with the pitch. He also used his curveball only 13.4% of the time in his start against the Rockies, and Newcomb’s curveball has been touted as his best pitch as a prospect. High altitude negatively affects curveball movement, so Newcomb may not have been comfortable using the pitch at Coors Field. Still, it’s a little suspicious that he was able to be this dominant on a diet of fastballs and changeups. Newcomb got nine whiffs with his fastball this start, doubling his whiff rate on the four-seamer from a year ago. While Newcomb has a good four-seamer, getting this many whiffs does not seem sustainable over the course of the season. It was likely the product of a Colorado lineup that featured three lefties and was without Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez. Six of those nine whiffs came against left-handed batters. Newcomb had a 3.57 FIP against lefties last season, but a 4.21 FIP against righties.

Verdict:

Command gains and swinging strike rate are certainly encouraging, but Newcomb does not seem on the verge of a breakout quite yet. Putting up zeroes in Coors is always impressive, but he faced a couple members of Colorado’s B-squad on Sunday. Newcomb is definitely worth adding, but he’s not an every game start yet. He should be especially effective against lefty-heavy lineups.

 

Reynaldo Lopez, Chicago White Sox

2017 Stats: 47.2 IP, 4.72 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 5.66 K/9, 2.64 BB/9
4/2 @ TOR 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
4/8 vs. DET 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER (1 unearned run), 5 BB, 5 K

Once a highly regarded pitching prospect, Lopez struggled in the majors between 2016-17 with a 4.81 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and 5.16 xFIP. He had a two-start week last week, and came up big in both outings with only one earned run allowed over 13 innings. Lopez did a lot of encouraging things in both of these starts. Against Toronto, he hit triple digits with his fastball, and against Detroit he showcased his new slider big-time to get some whiffs. Lopez has a 13.1% swinging strike rate through these starts, and has secured 25 whiffs between both games.

In the first start against Toronto, Lopez used a mix between his four-seamer, changeup, and slider to include thirteen swings-and-misses. He also averaged 97.3 MPH with his fastball, which is a great sign since his velocity dipped down to 94.5 MPH last season. This velocity helps set up his changeup, which had four swinging strikes on 18 pitches during this start. Lopez’s average velocity dropped to 95.1 MPH in his second start, but that start came during a 36-degree Chicago afternoon. His the first one was inside a domed ballpark. Lopez came out throwing 97-98 MPH against Detroit in the first inning, but his velocity dipped as the game progressed.

Another interesting note about Lopez’s second start is the absence of the changeup. He threw just one changeup all game, and it was smoked by Leonys Martin for a single into right field. Perhaps Lopez didn’t have a feel for the pitch, or didn’t trust it given the weather or lack of fastball velocity. He shut down the Tigers using essentially just his fastball and slider.  Since the slider is something Lopez had been tinkering with during the spring and hadn’t used it in past seasons it was nice to see him trust it so extensively during this start. The five walks were concerning, but Lopez never had big command issues in the minors. Let’s have a look at the strike zone plot to see how wild he was.

It seems like he was all over the place, but Lopez didn’t walk anyone through the first three innings. He started to get a little wild as the game progressed and did himself no favors with a 27-pitch, 12-ball inning in the fourth. He gets a pass for this start, but if this continues then Lopez could be in trouble.

Verdict:

Lopez’s introduction of the slider has given him a better breaking ball than the curveball he used to feature when he first came up. His arsenal now features a high velocity heater along with a plus off-speed pitch and breaking ball. When all three are working for him he should perform well, and he got the job done without the changeup on Sunday. He has been quite fortunate in these two first starts, with a .108 BABIP against and a 93.8% strand rate. Neither of those will be close to sustainable over the season. Lopez shouldn’t be trusted in every matchup yet, but he’s worth using in positive and neutral matchups.

 

Andrew Triggs, Oakland Athletics

2017 Stats: 65.1 IP, 4.27 ERA, 4.47 FIP, 6.89 K/9, 2.62 BB/9
4/2 vs. TEX: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
4/7 @ LAA: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K

Like Reynaldo Lopez, Andrew Triggs also made two starts this week and was great in both of them. Triggs has averaged nearly 11 K/9 through his first two starts, and has been getting hitters to whiff consistently with his breaking pitches. As a 29-year-old Baltimore castoff with a career 4.15 ERA Triggs may not seem like much, but there is a lot to like in his profile. His 2017 numbers were also influenced by a hip/back injury that ended his season in June. Pitching through injury Triggs saw his below-average velocity decline, and he surrendered 14 runs in 7.1 innings in his final two starts. If we subtracted those two starts from his overall numbers he would have had a 2.64 ERA and 3.54 FIP in 58 innings while fully healthy. Of course, those numbers can’t be totally wiped from the slate, but this exercise provides more context to his pedestrian 2017 stats.

Triggs’s most effective pitch through his first two starts has been his curveball. Batters have mustered only a lone single against the pitch and have whiffed 21.13% of the time. Between Triggs’ two starts the one against Texas was especially impressive. Of his eleven swinging strikes, ten of them were outside of the strike zone. That is the hallmark of an effective curveball that can rack up strikeouts. Whiffs have been down on his slider, with only an 8.93% swinging strike rate, but he’s more than made up for it with his curveball. Triggs has more strikeout potential than his 20.9% strikeout rate suggests.

Triggs is an interesting player for a couple reasons. He has a sidearm delivery, but despite this low arm slot his grip is closer to that of an overhanded delivery. That has helped him maintain even platoon splits during his short career. He has two breaking pitches that can notch strikeouts. Last season Triggs had double digit whiff rates on both his slider and curveball, and had a 10.4% swinging strike rate overall despite a below average 6.89 K/9. Triggs also throws a 90 MPH that can most generously be described as deceptive, but he does manage to get groundballs with it. For his career Triggs has a 59.8% groundball rate with his sinker. This sinker-curveball combo makes Triggs look a poor man’s Zack Godley. Godley’s stuff is simply better, but Triggs could find success the same way Godley did last season to a lesser degree.

Verdict:

Triggs has the stuff to get strikeouts, and can keep the ball on the ground. He gets little recognition since he has zero pedigree and plays for a small team, which explains his 10% ownership rate in Yahoo! (as of 4/9). Out of the three pitchers analyzed in this article Triggs is the one to prioritize in redraft leagues. He won’t maintain a 2.53 ERA or 10.97 K/9 all season, but he’s worth using in all but the toughest of matchups.

 

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Week 2 Start/Sit Matchups - Starting Pitchers

You know what it is--it's my updated starts/sits column for Week 2! Your friendly neighborhood @Roto_Dubs is back again this year with his weekly starting pitcher matchups. This is our fifth year now writing this weekly column, helping fantasy baseball managers pick the best pitchers weekly.

Below are the projected starting pitching matchups for Week 2, which will be updated as rotations are inevitably tweaked.

If you've got any questions about which pitchers can capitalize on a juicy matchup and which ones might be worth putting on the pine against a fierce offense, this is the weekly piece for you. For every week of the fantasy baseball season, we look to analyze all of the projected starting pitcher matchups and put together our optimal lineups. Here at RotoBaller, we believe that it’s key to analyze every SP matchup, each and every week, to help determine which SPs to start/sit and to hopefully find some hidden gems to bolster your teams. Let's set those optimal lineups!

 

SP Matchups & Start/Sit Recommendations

This weekly piece considers the pitcher’s opponents, their career stats against the opponent, some ballpark factors and historical splits. With all of this information, we then provide our start/sit recommendations for each starting pitcher matchup for the approaching week of fantasy baseball.

PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/9/18) - Monday      
GAME VISITING STARTER SIT/START HOME STARTER SIT/START
ARI@SF Zack Godley SP | ARI START Derek Holland SP | SF SIT
ATL@WAS Julio Teheran SP | ATL SIT Max Scherzer SP | WAS START
CIN@PHI Cody Reed RP | CIN SIT Ben Lively SP | PHI SIT
DET@CLE Francisco Liriano RP | DET SIT Corey Kluber SP | CLE START
HOU@MIN Justin Verlander SP | HOU START Lance Lynn SP | MIN SIT
LAA@TEX Garrett Richards SP | LAA START Doug Fister SP | TEX SIT
MIL@STL Jhoulys Chacin SP | MIL SIT Miles Mikolas SP | STL SIT
NYM@MIA Noah Syndergaard SP | NYM START Jose Urena SP | MIA SIT
PIT@CHC Ivan Nova SP | PIT SIT Tyler Chatwood SP | CHC START
SD@COL Clayton Richard SP | SD SIT Jon Gray SP | COL START
SEA@KC Marco Gonzales SP | SEA SIT Jake Junis SP | KC START
TB@CHW Chris Archer SP | TB START Miguel Gonzalez SP | CHW SIT
TOR@BAL J.A. Happ SP | TOR START Dylan Bundy SP | BAL START
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/10/18) - Tuesday      
GAME VISITING STARTER SIT/START HOME STARTER SIT/START
ARI@SF Patrick Corbin SP | ARI START Johnny Cueto SP | SF START
ATL@WAS Mike Foltynewicz SP | ATL SIT Stephen Strasburg SP | WAS START
CIN@PHI Homer Bailey SP | CIN SIT Aaron Nola SP | PHI START
DET@CLE Matthew Boyd SP | DET SIT Josh Tomlin SP | CLE SIT
HOU@MIN Dallas Keuchel SP | HOU START Jake Odorizzi SP | MIN START
LAA@TEX Tyler Skaggs SP | LAA START Martin Perez SP | TEX SIT
MIL@STL Brent Suter SP | MIL START Carlos Martinez SP | STL START
NYM@MIA Jacob deGrom SP | NYM START Caleb Smith RP | MIA SIT
NYY@BOS Luis Severino SP | NYY START Chris Sale SP | BOS START
OAK@LAD Sean Manaea SP | OAK START Alex Wood SP | LAD START
SD@COL Joey Lucchesi SP | SD SIT Tyler Anderson SP | COL SIT
SEA@KC Felix Hernandez SP | SEA SIT Eric Skoglund SP | KC SIT
TB@CHW Blake Snell SP | TB START Carson Fulmer SP | CHW START
TOR@BAL Aaron Sanchez SP | TOR START Andrew Cashner SP | BAL SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/11/18) - Wednesday      
GAME VISITING STARTER SIT/START HOME STARTER SIT/START
ARI@SF Robbie Ray SP | ARI START TBA TBD
ATL@WAS Brandon McCarthy SP | ATL START A.J. Cole SP | WAS SIT
CIN@PHI Luis Castillo SP | CIN START Nick Pivetta SP | PHI START
DET@CLE Jordan Zimmermann SP | DET SIT Carlos Carrasco SP | CLE START
HOU@MIN Lance McCullers SP | HOU START Kyle Gibson SP | MIN SIT
LAA@TEX Parker Bridwell SP | LAA SIT Matt Moore SP | TEX SIT
MIL@STL TBA TBD Adam Wainwright SP | STL SIT
NYM@MIA TBA TBD Jarlin Garcia RP | MIA SIT
NYY@BOS Masahiro Tanaka SP | NYY START David Price SP | BOS START
OAK@LAD Daniel Mengden SP | OAK SIT Hyun-Jin Ryu SP | LAD SIT
PIT@CHC Steven Brault RP | PIT SIT Jon Lester SP | CHC START
SD@COL Luis Perdomo SP | SD SIT German Marquez SP | COL SIT
SEA@KC James Paxton SP | SEA START Danny Duffy SP | KC START
TB@CHW TBA TBD James Shields SP | CHW START
TOR@BAL Marco Estrada SP | TOR START Kevin Gausman SP | BAL SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/12/18) - Thursday      
GAME VISITING STARTER SIT/START HOME STARTER SIT/START
CHW@MIN Lucas Giolito SP | CHW SIT Jose Berrios SP | MIN START
COL@WAS Chad Bettis SP | COL SIT Gio Gonzalez SP | WAS START
DET@CLE Michael Fulmer SP | DET START Trevor Bauer SP | CLE START
LAA@KC TBA TBD Ian Kennedy SP | KC START
NYY@BOS TBA TBD Rick Porcello SP | BOS START
PIT@CHC Trevor Williams SP | PIT SIT Kyle Hendricks SP | CHC START
SF@SD Chris Stratton SP | SF START Bryan Mitchell RP | SD SIT
STL@CIN Michael Wacha SP | STL START Sal Romano SP | CIN SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/13/18) - Friday      
GAME VISITING STARTER SIT/START HOME STARTER SIT/START
ARI@LAD Zack Greinke SP | ARI START Rich Hill SP | LAD START
ATL@CHC Anibal Sanchez SP | ATL SIT Yu Darvish SP | CHC START
BAL@BOS Chris Tillman SP | BAL SIT Eduardo Rodriguez SP | BOS START
CHW@MIN Reynaldo Lopez SP | CHW START TBA TBD
COL@WAS Kyle Freeland SP | COL SIT Tanner Roark SP | WAS START
LAA@KC Shohei Ohtani SP | LAA START Jason Hammel SP | KC SIT
MIL@NYM Zach Davies SP | MIL START Steven Matz SP | NYM START
NYY@DET Sonny Gray SP | NYY START Mike Fiers SP | DET SIT
OAK@SEA Daniel Gossett SP | OAK SIT Mike Leake SP | SEA START
PHI@TB Vince Velasquez SP | PHI START Jake Faria SP | TB SIT
PIT@MIA Chad Kuhl SP | PIT SIT Dillon Peters SP | MIA SIT
SF@SD Ty Blach SP | SF SIT Tyson Ross SP | SD START
STL@CIN Luke Weaver SP | STL START Tyler Mahle SP | CIN SIT
TEX@HOU Mike Minor RP | TEX SIT Gerrit Cole SP | HOU START
TOR@CLE Marcus Stroman SP | TOR START Mike Clevinger SP | CLE START
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/14/18) - Saturday      
GAME VISITING STARTER SIT/START HOME STARTER SIT/START
ARI@LAD Taijuan Walker SP | ARI START Kenta Maeda SP | LAD START
ATL@CHC Sean Newcomb SP | ATL SIT Jose Quintana SP | CHC START
BAL@BOS Mike Wright RP | BAL SIT Brian Johnson SP | BOS SIT
CHW@MIN Miguel Gonzalez SP | CHW SIT Lance Lynn SP | MIN SIT
COL@WAS Jon Gray SP | COL START Max Scherzer SP | WAS START
LAA@KC Garrett Richards SP | LAA START Jake Junis SP | KC START
MIL@NYM Chase Anderson SP | MIL START Matt Harvey SP | NYM START
NYY@DET Jordan Montgomery SP | NYY START Francisco Liriano RP | DET SIT
OAK@SEA Andrew Triggs SP | OAK START Marco Gonzales SP | SEA SIT
PHI@TB Jake Arrieta SP | PHI START TBA TBD
PIT@MIA Jameson Taillon SP | PIT START Trevor Richards SP | MIA SIT
SF@SD Derek Holland SP | SF SIT Clayton Richard SP | SD SIT
STL@CIN Miles Mikolas SP | STL START Cody Reed RP | CIN SIT
TEX@HOU Cole Hamels SP | TEX SIT Charlie Morton SP | HOU START
TOR@CLE Jaime Garcia SP | TOR SIT Corey Kluber SP | CLE START
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/15/18) - Sunday      
GAME VISITING STARTER SIT/START HOME STARTER SIT/START
ARI@LAD Zack Godley SP | ARI START Clayton Kershaw SP | LAD START
ATL@CHC Julio Teheran SP | ATL SIT Tyler Chatwood SP | CHC START
BAL@BOS Dylan Bundy SP | BAL START Chris Sale SP | BOS START
CHW@MIN Carson Fulmer SP | CHW START Jake Odorizzi SP | MIN START
COL@WAS Tyler Anderson SP | COL SIT Stephen Strasburg SP | WAS START
LAA@KC Tyler Skaggs SP | LAA START Eric Skoglund SP | KC SIT
MIL@NYM Jhoulys Chacin SP | MIL SIT Noah Syndergaard SP | NYM START
NYY@DET Luis Severino SP | NYY START Matthew Boyd SP | DET SIT
OAK@SEA Kendall Graveman SP | OAK SIT Felix Hernandez SP | SEA SIT
PHI@TB Ben Lively SP | PHI SIT Chris Archer SP | TB START
PIT@MIA Ivan Nova SP | PIT SIT Jose Urena SP | MIA SIT
SF@SD Johnny Cueto SP | SF START Joey Lucchesi SP | SD SIT
STL@CIN Carlos Martinez SP | STL START Homer Bailey SP | CIN SIT
TEX@HOU Doug Fister SP | TEX SIT Justin Verlander SP | HOU START
TOR@CLE J.A. Happ SP | TOR START Josh Tomlin SP | CLE SIT

 

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Hitter Streamers (Week 2) - Head-to-Head Leagues

Welcome back to my hitting streamers column for Week 2, taking a look at hitters to add or stream off the waiver wire for this week's scheduled games.

To keep things simple, I pick from players who are 50% owned or less and who play at least seven games in the week.  If someone jumps off the page at me as a less than seven game player, I may make an exception, but otherwise the advantage in number of games dictates my choices.

With that said, let’s dive right in.

 

Bats to Stream and Start in Week 2

Michael Brantley (OF, CLE) 43% owned

The question with Brantley the past couple years has always been the same: can he stay healthy?  The answer: I don't know. However, he was just activated on Friday and had two RBI in his first game back. He should be healthy for Week 2, and that's what matters. In just over half a season last year, Brantley posted a line of .299/9/47/52/11. And even though he only played 11 games in 2016, in 2014-2015 he hit .310 and .327 with a combined 35 homers and 38 steals. Brantley is not just a streamer, but rather a buy and hold for as long as he is healthy. Moreover, Brantley gets four games this week against the Tigers, which should provide favorable matchups.

Yonder Alonso (1B, CLE) 50% owned

Like Brantley, Alonso faces favorable matchups this week. Even since buying into the fly ball revolution, Alonso has gone from a prospect whose star had dimmed to an attractive fantasy commodity. Last year, he hit .266 with 28 homers in just 451 at bats. Despite getting off to a slow start to the season (after crushing the ball this spring), Alonso has a lot of talent around him in the Cleveland lineup. Even though it is a small sample, his fly ball rates and hard-hit rates compare favorably to last year, and he is striking out less. Alonso is a definite streamer this week if available, and depending on your league format, he may even be a buy and hold.

Jose Pirela (OF, SD) 7% owned

At 27 years old, Pirela burst onto the scene last year. In just 48 games at AAA, he went .331/13/37/42/8. Then, in 83 games at the MLB level, he posted a line of .288/10/43/40/4. This week he gets three games at Colorado, and then four games against the Giants' staff without MadBum and Shark. He has some power and speed and the potential for a decent average, making him a great streaming option this week in leagues where the top two are unavailable.

Kole Calhoun (OF, LAA) 27% owned

Kole Calhoun's fantasy star has continued to dim, and to be honest, he is not much of a fantasy asset. However, that does not mean he cannot provide value on a given week, and this may be one of those weeks. He faces favorable pitching matchups against Texas and Kansas City, and he has hit at least 17 homers each of the last four years. While he is not much of an asset in any one category, his matchups this week could provide you some value across the board.

Jesse Winker (OF, CIN) 9% owned

Winker was a prospect well-known for his penchant to draw walks, and unfortunately that will not do you much good in 5x5 formats. Moreover, he is part of an outfield that has four members for three spots. So why is he on the list? First, his power started to emerge last year and he hits for a decent average. Second, the Reds lineup has some talent. Third, he faces serviceable pitching matchups. Fourth, there really was not anyone else better available. Here, we are down to the deeper league streamers, and Winker is an option at that point.

Yolmer Sanchez (2B/3B, CHW) 7% owned

Sanchez put up a yawner of a line last year: .267/12/63/59/8. However, at just 25 years old, he could stand to improve on that line this year. With eligibility at two positions, and average pitching matchups, he can provide value across the board. He is not going to excel in any one category, but he can provide overall value if you are struggling to fill MI, 2B, or 3B.

Others

Logan Morrison (1B, MIN) 37% owned - LoMo is off to an ice cold start, but he hit 38 homers last year and should turn it around.

Albert Pujols (1B, LAA) 49% owned - Pujols is a shell of his former self, but he faces good pitching matchups in the middle of a lineup that includes Mike Trout.

Brandon Belt (1B/OF, SF) 46% owned - Belt faces average pitching matchups, but is a solid bat that we have been waiting for years to take the next step. Even if it never happens, he's still a worthy streamer with modest pop.

 

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Two-Start Pitcher Streamers for Week 2

It’s Week 2 for your fantasy baseball leagues in 2018 and the starting pitcher streamer list is still hard to judge, at first glance.

That’s why we’re here, at RotoBaller, to breakdown the pitching matchups and determine who could put your team over-the-top and earn the win.

Last week, we used the ownership percentages from Fantrax. This week, I’ll broaden out the player pool to Fantrax and Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues.

 

Week 2 Streamers Under 50% Owned in Yahoo

Miles Mikolas, STL (44%)

Probable opponents: vs. MIL, @ CIN

In his first start of 2018, Mikolas notched five strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work against the Brew Crew. Though he allowed three home runs, in Milwaukee, Mikolas refused to walk a batter. This week, he gets the Brewers in his home ballpark. This season, the Brewers have whiffed the seventh most times in baseball (73 strikeouts). As for the his second projected opponent, the Reds have scored the 27th fewest runs in baseball this season (18 total runs in six games).

Jakob Junis, KC (32%)

Probable opponents: vs. SEA, vs. LAA

Junis traveled to Detroit in his first outing of the season. He recorded a win and punched out six Tigers without allowing an earned run in seven innings. Junis has two home starts on his upcoming schedule. Last season, Junis was a much better pitcher at Kauffman Stadium. He finished the 2017 season with a 3.43 ERA (5.03 ERA on the road). For Junis’s first matchup, against the Mariners, their current active roster posted a team wOBA of .316 against right-handed pitchers, which was 25th in baseball. Granted, the second opponent of the week will be a bit more challenging. The Angels currently have scored the second most runs in baseball (51 runs in eight games). They’ve also only struck out 53 times in that span (21st in baseball).

Tyler Skaggs, LAA (30%)

Probable opponents: @ TEX, @ KC

You couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season when it comes to Skaggs’ first two performances. In 11 innings, he’s allowed two earned runs and struck out ten batters. The southpaw will have two road starts this week. Kansas City was horrendous against left-handed pitchers in 2017. Going by the current active roster, the Royals produced a .300 wOBA, which was 29th in MLB. In 2018, Kansas City has scored the fewest amount of runs (14 runs in five games), but also have the lowest team strikeout total (23 K). Observing the small sample size that is 2018, both the Rangers (.086) and Royals (.088) are 26th and 25th, respectively in team ISO against left-handed pitchers.

 

Under 50% Owned in Fantrax

Jhoulys Chacin, MIL (47%)

Probable opponents: @ STL, @ NYM

The beginning of 2018 has not been particularly kind to Chacin. He’s allowed seven earned runs in nine innings, but has also tallied six strikeouts. Though the first two outings were not ideal for the Brewers right-hander, he gets two somewhat pitcher-friendly ballparks in Week 2. In the past three years, both Busch Stadium and Citi Field rank in the top eight of park factors for pitchers. Chacin will get the Cardinals for the second straight start. In his last performance, Chacin allowed three earned runs (six total runs) in 5.2 innings, while recording five strikeouts.

Carson Fulmer, CWS (39%)

Probable opponents: vs. TB, @ MIN

I wanted to put Fuller in the first two-start streamer guide, but he was only projected to pitch early in the week and not in the weekend slate. Thankfully, he’s projected for two starts this time. In his first outing, Fulmer went to Toronto and didn’t allow a home run. He struck out five Blue Jays, but Toronto tagged him for three earned runs. This week, the Rays are first on the docket. Tampa Bay has scored only 17 runs in seven games (28th in baseball). The Rays were also 24th in MLB last season with a .316 wOBA against righties.

Ben Lively, PHI (19%)

Probable opponents: vs. CIN, @ TB

I was a fan of Lively in the Week 1 version of the two-start streamers list, but weather hindered him from competing in two starts. So, he gets the two-start streamer nod this week. Lively struck out five batters in 5.2 innings for his first start of 2018 (at NYM). We’ve already discussed the Reds and Rays in previous pitcher breakdowns. Basically, both are solid matchups for the Phillies right-hander.

 

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Week 2 Waiver Wire - H2H Category Streamers

I like to consider myself a pioneer of the streaming approach. I won a league about seven years ago completely ignoring saves and just stacking up the starts each week. While streaming is undoubtedly more directly associated with pitching, there's plenty of value in streaming for offense as well.

Maybe you have a stacked roster and you can't drop anyone. But for those of us with a couple of guys on the roster fringes, it's never too early to look into targeting a specific player or two to gain an edge in a particular category. This season, I will be making weekly recommendations for extreme short term category specialists every week in three offensive areas: speed, power, and average; and three pitching areas: strikeouts, wins, and ratios (ERA/WHIP).

Below are my Week 2 category streamers for fantasy baseball. All position eligibility and ownership percentages are based on Yahoo! fantasy leagues.

 

Head-to-Head Category Streamers to Consider

Speed

Cameron Maybin (OF, MIA) 8% Owned

It feels like Cameron Maybin has been around forever. That's because he has. Yet, he's still only 31 years old. He stole 33 bases last season in just 450 plate appearances. The man can run. There's not much out there in terms of cheap speed, but the Marlins play six games next week and need to do all they can to start manufacturing runs.

Mallex Smith (OF, TB) 16% Owned

I'm not quite sure why Mallex Smith is more heavily owned than Maybin. Maybe because of his cool first name? Mallex has displayed elite speed at every level of competition. He stole 64 bases way back 2013 in Single-A. Last year, he stole 16 bases in half a season. I think he is capable of much more. He's not an every day player, but if you're in dire need for easy steals, see if he's in the lineup for a particular game and then plug him in. It's early in the season so many players haven't gotten going yet. Mallex is going to run eventually.

 

Power

Kendrys Morales (1B, TOR) 24% Owned

This one is a little tricky because Kendrys Morales hasn't really played much this season. While eligible at 1B, he's really just a designated hitter and Josh Donaldson has needed to occupy that role given his inability to throw the ball to first base. Donaldson has since returned to third base, allowing Morales' bat to get back in the lineup. Morales hit 28 and 30 home runs the past two seasons respectively. The Indians have a strong rotation, but the Orioles do not. There will be opportunities to use Morales for some pop.

 

Average

Nick Markakis (OF, ATL) 14% Owned

There is nothing fun or sexy about Nick Markakis. However, he's a career .288 hitter and off a strong start this season as well. Don't use him against Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg, but the rest of his week should present usable opportunities if you just need to prop that batting average up a bit.

Howie Kendrick (2B, OF, WAS) 4% Owned

Yeah, he's still in the league. Howie Kendrick is playing second base while Daniel Murphy is recovering from his back injury. Kendrick is a career .291 hitter and coming off a season where he hit .315. He's a whole lot of empty batting average, but that's what we're looking for here. The Nationals play the Braves and Rockies next week, neither of whom have dominant rotations. Other than Jon Gray, the rest of the pitchers Kendrick may face can be classified as average, at best.

 

Strikeouts

Josh Hader (RB, MIL) 54% Owned

Josh Hader's ownership percentage is over the 50% threshold I particularly prefer to use for this column, but I think it's important to list him here. He was already a recommended add before Corey Knebel's troubling injury Thursday night, but now he's a must-add. Even if he doesn't become the new temporary closer, he has tremendous value.

When trying to accumulate strikeouts, it's rare that a fantasy owner will think of anything other than a starting pitcher. But what would you rather do: stream a below replacement level starter and potentially bury your ERA and WHIP to try and amass three or four strikeouts? Or secure a high-end middle reliever who will make two or three appearances during the week and strikeout as many, if not more? Hader has a career K/9 over 13 and already fanned seven batters in his first three innings of 2018. If he makes three appearances next week, you could very well get the same strikeout output as you would from a starter.

Jake Junis (SP, KC) 28% Owned

Shameless self-promotion alert - I drafted this guy in all of my leagues. He's not just a streamer; he's a streamer plus, which is a streamer that could end up sticking. Jake Junis is just 25 years old and although his low-four ERA from last season isn't all that impressive, he really came on strong late in the season and was striking out around a batter an inning. He struck out six in his first start this season. He's expected to start Monday against the Mariners - not the scariest of opposition.

 

Wins

Seth Lugo (SP, NYM) 2% Owned

Seth Lugo isn't a terrible pitcher. He had a sub 4.00 FIP last season, so he won't completely bury you in ERA and WHIP. He's projected to start against the Marlins next week. That's going to be a theme throughout the season for cheap wins - streaming pitchers against the Marlins. Brian Johnson was a perfect example of this last week, securing a win in a strong performance for Boston. Lugo is next week's version.

 

ERA/WHIP

Mike Montgomery (SP/RP, CHC) 8% Owned

Middle relievers are a great source of ERA and WHIP. Mike Montgomery threw three scoreless innings to start the season and operates as the Cubs' primary long reliever/spot starter. He's a lot more useful than he gets credit for and since he is eligible at SP, he's a bit of a cheat code. He's like Brad Peacock lite.

 

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Are You For Real? A Look at Surprising SP Starts

Welcome to our surprising starts series. Every week we’ll be going over a few surprising starting pitcher performances around the majors to determine whether these starts were smoke and mirrors or something more.

This week we’ll look at the debut performance of Shohei Ohtani, as well as Kyle Gibson’s domination of the Orioles and Ty Blach’s blanking of the Dodgers.

These starters could become valuable waiver wire targets, some may have more to prove, while others may simply not be worth fantasy owners' attention.

 

The Real Deal?

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angels of Anaheim  

04/01 @ Oakland Athletics: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K

This performance may not be surprising to everyone, but after an atrocious spring training and talks of starting in the minors, Shohei Ohtani delivered in his first big league start. His four seam fastball averaged 98.3 MPH and topped out at triple digits. Ohtani was able to command the fastball along with his slider and devastating splitter to impress against the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics aren’t the cakewalk matchup that many perceive them to be either. In 2017, Oakland was ninth in the majors with a .329 wOBA against right-handed pitching.

Ohtani got 18 swinging strikes in this start, and 10 of those swinging strikes were with his splitter. He threw the splitter 24 times and batters swung through it 41.7% of the time. Hitters were only able to put Ohtani’s splitter in play three times during this game. He went to the pitch with two strikes often. Ohtani got the third strike with his splitter on five of his six punchouts (he got Khris Davis with three sliders on the other one). It’s a pitch that Ohtani can lean on to put batters away regularly. The best comparison for Ohtani would probably be Masahiro Tanaka. Both pitchers have a splitter they can go to with two strikes to put hitters away. It’s not a perfect comparison however. Ohtani can dial up the heat with his four seamer, while Tanaka relies on an average velocity sinker.

Ohtani made a rather costly mistake in the second inning. He hung a slider to Matt Chapman, who clobbered it for a three run blast. The pitch was mislocated and left over the plate, making it easy pickings for a power hitter like Chapman. This isn’t overly concerning just yet. Even the best pitchers throw bad pitches occasionally and get punished for it. Unless he displays an inability to command his slider over the course of a few starts this issue isn’t very worrisome.

Verdict:

Spring concerns may have been overblown, as Ohtani looks like one of the most talented pitchers in baseball. A lot of his success hinges on his fastball velocity, because Ohtani needs it to set up his secondary pitches. As long as he can mix his 98 MPH fastball with his splitter Ohtani will rack up strikeouts. It was nice to see the Angels allow him to go six innings and throw 92 pitches. If Ohtani can be efficient with his pitches we may routinely seem him go six and seven innings. It’s hard to say this without sounding overreactive, but those that bought him at a depressed price towards the end of spring may have fallen into something special.

 

Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins

2017 Stats: 158.0 IP, 5.07 ERA, 4.85 FIP, 6.89 K/9, 3.42 BB/9

03/31 @  Baltimore Orioles – 6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 6 K

Gibson was straight dealing on Saturday night, keeping the Orioles out of the hit column for six innings at Camden Yards with the wind blowing out.  While his overall numbers from last season look ugly, he had a nice final two months. In August and September Gibson had a 3.55 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 8.4 K/9, and 2.1 BB/9. After years of mediocrity and wasted potential, it looks like Gibson may have finally turned a corner.

The key to Gibson’s success was his curveball. He threw the pitch 22 times on Saturday and got seven swinging strikes with it. 21.6% of his pitches were curveballs, and the Orioles didn’t put a single one of them in play. Gibson has never thrown his curveball this frequently at the major league level, and doesn’t have a particularly strong curveball. Approaching the Twins vs. Orioles series as a whole, it looks like the Orioles may be inept against curveballs as a team. Gibson’s teammate Jake Odorizzi also stymied the Orioles by throwing his curveball 17 times, or 18.6% of the time against Baltimore on opening day. Odorizzi got five of his 14 swinging strikes with the pitch. Like Gibson, Odorizzi is not known for his curveball and has used it 4.9% of the time throughout his career. Fellow Twin Jose Berrios, who does have a strong curveball, pitched a complete game shutout against the Orioles the day after Gibson’s start. The Orioles’ collective trouble with the curve may have been the reason for Gibson’s success, and it looks like a curveball heavy approach was more of a team strategy than something Gibson would employ regularly.

Even if the matchup contributed to Gibson’s success, he still had a good finish to 2017. However, a glance at Gibson’s game logs towards the end of last season brings doubt to the legitimacy of his numbers. His stats were inflated by shutting down the late season lineups of teams like the Padres, Royals, White Sox, and Tigers. Luckily for Gibson three of these teams are in his division, so he’ll get to face them often. On the plus side Gibson’s slider proved especially effective in the last two months of the season. His slider was already his best pitch, but during his hot stretch batters hit just .143 against the slider with a .071 ISO and a 22.12% whiff rate.

Verdict:

Gibson likely isn’t as good as he was Saturday, or as good as he was in the final two months of 2017. Five walks and an unusually high amount of curveballs make his Saturday start look more like a mirage than a turning point. However he’s now a viable streaming option in two start weeks or against bad offensive teams. This is not a pitcher to trust every week in mixed leagues, but he's proven he can handle himself in the right situation.

 

Ty Blach, San Francisco Giants

2017 Stats: 163.2 IP, 4.78 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 4.01 K/9, 2.36 BB/9

03/29 @ Los Angeles Dodgers: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

When a pitcher’s K/9 is lower than their FIP we usually don’t expect good things from them. Blach defied his peripherals on Opening Day and kept the defending NL champions off the board. We know he’s not a fireballer, with a fastball that usually sits between 89-90 MPH. We also know he’s not a strikeout pitcher. His 10.6% strikeout rate was the worst among qualified starters last season by nearly two percent. But a performance like this still begs the question, can an unconventional pitcher like Blach produce good results?

In this start Blach had three strikeouts in five innings, which isn’t spectacular itself, but what’s worse is he had only three swinging strikes on 81 pitches. In fact, 35 of the 48 total strikes that Blach got during this start were foul balls. On the positive side nine of the thirteen balls in play against Blach were groundballs. It would be unreasonable to expect him to maintain a 69% groundball rate, but Blach would be in a lot better shape if he could keep it above 50%. He had a 46.7% groundball rate in 2017, which is slightly above average, but not good enough for a pitcher that cannot strike anybody out.

It would be nice to look at Blach’s peripherals and see that, despite his shortcomings, he at least induces a lot of soft contact to mitigate all the balls in play against him. Unfortunately that hasn’t been true throughout his career. In 2017 Blach had an 18.4% soft contact rate, which was slightly below the league average. In the start against the Dodgers only 7.7% of the contact against him was registered as soft, while 38.8% of the contact was registered as hard. Those rates will surely normalize towards his career averages over the course of the season, but that type of contact allowed is untenable. Robbie Ray and Chris Archer can get away with that much hard contact, but Blach won’t survive.

Verdict:

The way Blach pitches opposes many qualities we desire in starting pitchers. He doesn’t get strikeouts, he doesn’t have great velocity, and he doesn’t compensate for those two pitfalls by inducing a lot of soft contact or groundballs. San Francisco is the best possible place for him, the park favors pitchers and their infield defense is top notch. He’s only worth considering in NL-only leagues if he has good matchups.

 

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Week 1 Start/Sit Matchups - Starting Pitchers

Welcome back everyone, to my updated starts/sits column for Week 1! Your friendly neighborhood @Roto_Dubs is back again this year with his weekly starting pitcher matchups. This is our fifth year now writing this weekly column, helping fantasy baseball managers pick the best pitchers weekly.

Below are the projected starting pitching matchups for Week 1, which will be updated as rotations are inevitably tweaked. For head-to-head leagues, Week 1 will run from 3/29 through 4/8 (11 days). This column will be updated with the starters for next week once rotations are fully announced.

If you've got any questions about which pitchers can capitalize on a juicy matchup and which ones might be worth putting on the pine against a fierce offense, this is the weekly piece for you. For every week of the fantasy baseball season, we look to analyze all of the projected starting pitcher matchups and put together our optimal lineups. Here at RotoBaller, we believe that it’s key to analyze every SP matchup, each and every week, to help determine which SPs to start/sit and to hopefully find some hidden gems to bolster your teams. Let's set those optimal lineups!

 

SP Matchups & Start/Sit Recommendations

This weekly piece considers the pitcher’s opponents, their career stats against the opponent, some ballpark factors and historical splits. With all of this information, we then provide our start/sit recommendations for each starting pitcher matchup for the approaching week of fantasy baseball.

 

This column was updated on Friday night, March 30th, to include as many starters that have been announced through April 8th. It was originally published on March 26th, and will be updated daily as more are announced.

PROBABLE PITCHERS (3/31/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
BOS@TB Rick Porcello SP | BOS START Andrew Kittredge SP | TB SIT
CHC@MIA Yu Darvish SP | CHC START Odrisamer Despaigne RP | MIA SIT
CHW@KC Lucas Giolito SP | CHW START Ian Kennedy SP | KC START
CLE@SEA Carlos Carrasco SP | CLE START James Paxton SP | SEA START
COL@ARI German Marquez SP | COL SIT Zack Greinke SP | ARI START
HOU@TEX Lance McCullers SP | HOU START Matt Moore SP | TEX SIT
LAA@OAK Matt Shoemaker SP | LAA SIT Daniel Gossett SP | OAK SIT
MIL@SD Brent Suter SP | MIL START Luis Perdomo SP | SD SIT
MIN@BAL Kyle Gibson SP | MIN SIT Andrew Cashner SP | BAL SIT
NYY@TOR CC Sabathia SP | NYY SIT Marco Estrada SP | TOR SIT
PHI@ATL Vince Velasquez SP | PHI START Brandon McCarthy SP | ATL START
PIT@DET Trevor Williams SP | PIT SIT Michael Fulmer SP | DET START
SF@LAD Derek Holland SP | SF SIT Kenta Maeda SP | LAD START
STL@NYM Michael Wacha SP | STL START Jacob deGrom SP | NYM START
WAS@CIN Stephen Strasburg SP | WAS START Luis Castillo SP | CIN SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/1/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
BOS@TB Hector Velazquez RP | BOS SIT Jake Faria SP | TB SIT
CHC@MIA Jose Quintana SP | CHC START Dillon Peters SP | MIA SIT
CHW@KC PPD PPD PPD PPD
CLE@SEA Trevor Bauer SP | CLE SIT Mike Leake SP | SEA SIT
HOU@TEX Gerrit Cole SP | HOU START Mike Minor RP | TEX SIT
LAA@OAK Shohei Ohtani SP | LAA START Daniel Mengden SP | OAK SIT
MIN@BAL Jose Berrios SP | MIN START Kevin Gausman SP | BAL SIT
NYY@TOR Sonny Gray SP | NYY START Marcus Stroman SP | TOR START
PIT@DET Chad Kuhl SP | PIT SIT Francisco Liriano RP | DET SIT
SF@LAD Chris Stratton SP | SF SIT Rich Hill SP | LAD START
STL@NYM Luke Weaver SP | STL START Steven Matz SP | NYM SIT
WAS@CIN Gio Gonzalez SP | WAS START Sal Romano SP | CIN SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/2/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
BAL@HOU Chris Tillman SP | BAL SIT Charlie Morton SP | HOU START
BOS@MIA Brian Johnson SP | BOS SIT Trevor Richards SP | MIA SIT
CHC@CIN Tyler Chatwood SP | CHC START Tyler Mahle SP | CIN SIT
CHW@TOR Reynaldo Lopez SP | CHW SIT Jaime Garcia SP | TOR START
CLE@LAA Mike Clevinger SP | CLE SIT JC Ramirez SP | LAA SIT
COL@SD Chad Bettis SP | COL SIT Bryan Mitchell RP | SD SIT
KC@DET Jason Hammel SP | KC START Francisco Liriano RP | DET SIT
LAD@ARI Hyun-Jin Ryu SP | LAD START Taijuan Walker SP | ARI START
MIN@PIT Lance Lynn SP | MIN START Jameson Taillon SP | PIT START
PHI@NYM Ben Lively SP | PHI SIT Matt Harvey SP | NYM START
STL@MIL Miles Mikolas SP | STL START Zach Davies SP | MIL START
TB@NYY PPD PPD PPD PPD
TEX@OAK Bartolo Colon SP | TEX SIT Andrew Triggs SP | OAK SIT
WAS@ATL Tanner Roark SP | WAS START Sean Newcomb SP | ATL SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/3/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
BAL@HOU TBA TBD Justin Verlander SP | HOU START
BOS@MIA Chris Sale SP | BOS START Jose Urena SP | MIA SIT
CHC@CIN Jon Lester SP | CHC START Cody Reed RP | CIN SIT
CHW@TOR Carson Fulmer SP | CHW SIT J.A. Happ SP | TOR START
CLE@LAA Josh Tomlin SP | CLE SIT Garrett Richards SP | LAA START
COL@SD Kyle Freeland SP | COL SIT TBA TBD
KC@DET Eric Skoglund SP | KC SIT TBA TBD
LAD@ARI Clayton Kershaw SP | LAD START Zack Godley SP | ARI START
PHI@NYM TBA TBD Seth Lugo SP | NYM SIT
SEA@SF Marco Gonzales SP | SEA SIT Ty Blach SP | SF SIT
STL@MIL Jack Flaherty SP | STL SIT Chase Anderson SP | MIL START
TEX@OAK Cole Hamels SP | TEX START Kendall Graveman SP | OAK SIT
WAS@ATL TBA TBD Julio Teheran SP | ATL SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/4/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
BAL@HOU Dylan Bundy SP | BAL START Dallas Keuchel SP | HOU START
CHW@TOR James Shields SP | CHW SIT Aaron Sanchez SP | TOR START
CLE@LAA Corey Kluber SP | CLE START Tyler Skaggs SP | LAA SIT
COL@SD Jon Gray SP | COL START Clayton Richard SP | SD SIT
KC@DET Danny Duffy SP | KC START Jordan Zimmermann SP | DET SIT
LAD@ARI Alex Wood SP | LAD START Patrick Corbin SP | ARI SIT
MIN@PIT Jake Odorizzi SP | MIN START Ivan Nova SP | PIT SIT
PHI@NYM Aaron Nola SP | PHI START Noah Syndergaard SP | NYM START
SEA@SF Felix Hernandez SP | SEA START Johnny Cueto SP | SF SIT
STL@MIL Carlos Martinez SP | STL START Jhoulys Chacin SP | MIL SIT
TB@NYY Chris Archer SP | TB START Luis Severino SP | NYY START
TEX@OAK Doug Fister SP | TEX SIT Sean Manaea SP | OAK SIT
WAS@ATL Max Scherzer SP | WAS START Mike Foltynewicz SP | ATL SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/5/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@STL Robbie Ray SP | ARI START Michael Wacha SP | STL SIT
BAL@NYY Andrew Cashner SP | BAL SIT Masahiro Tanaka SP | NYY START
CHC@MIL Kyle Hendricks SP | CHC START Brent Suter SP | MIL SIT
CIN@PIT Homer Bailey SP | CIN SIT Trevor Williams SP | PIT SIT
COL@SD Tyler Anderson SP | COL START TBA TBD
DET@CHW Michael Fulmer SP | DET START Lucas Giolito SP | CHW START
MIA@PHI Caleb Smith RP | MIA SIT Nick Pivetta SP | PHI SIT
NYM@WAS Jacob deGrom SP | NYM START Stephen Strasburg SP | WAS START
SEA@MIN James Paxton SP | SEA START Kyle Gibson SP | MIN SIT
TB@BOS Blake Snell SP | TB SIT David Price SP | BOS START
TEX@OAK Matt Moore SP | TEX SIT Daniel Gossett SP | OAK SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/6/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ATL@COL Brandon McCarthy SP | ATL SIT German Marquez SP | COL SIT
BAL@NYY Kevin Gausman SP | BAL SIT CC Sabathia SP | NYY SIT
CHC@MIL Yu Darvish SP | CHC START TBA TBD
CIN@PIT Luis Castillo SP | CIN SIT Chad Kuhl SP | PIT SIT
KC@CLE Ian Kennedy SP | KC SIT Carlos Carrasco SP | CLE START
LAD@SF Kenta Maeda SP | LAD START Derek Holland SP | SF SIT
OAK@LAA Daniel Mengden SP | OAK START Matt Shoemaker SP | LAA SIT
SD@HOU Luis Perdomo SP | SD SIT Lance McCullers SP | HOU START
TOR@TEX Marco Estrada SP | TOR START Mike Minor RP | TEX SIT
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/7/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@STL Zack Greinke SP | ARI START Luke Weaver SP | STL START
ATL@COL Sean Newcomb SP | ATL SIT Chad Bettis SP | COL SIT
BAL@NYY Chris Tillman SP | BAL SIT Sonny Gray SP | NYY START
CHC@MIL Jose Quintana SP | CHC START Zach Davies SP | MIL START
CIN@PIT Sal Romano SP | CIN SIT Jameson Taillon SP | PIT START
DET@CHW Francisco Liriano RP | DET SIT Reynaldo Lopez SP | CHW SIT
KC@CLE Jason Hammel SP | KC SIT Trevor Bauer SP | CLE START
LAD@SF Rich Hill SP | LAD START Chris Stratton SP | SF SIT
MIA@PHI Odrisamer Despaigne RP | MIA SIT Vince Velasquez SP | PHI START
NYM@WAS Steven Matz SP | NYM SIT Gio Gonzalez SP | WAS START
OAK@LAA Andrew Triggs SP | OAK SIT Shohei Ohtani SP | LAA START
SD@HOU TBA TBD Gerrit Cole SP | HOU START
SEA@MIN Mike Leake SP | SEA SIT Jose Berrios SP | MIN START
TB@BOS TBA TBD Rick Porcello SP | BOS START
TOR@TEX Marcus Stroman SP | TOR START TBA TBD
PROBABLE PITCHERS (4/8/18)      
GAME VISITING STARTER START/SIT HOME STARTER START/SIT
ARI@STL Taijuan Walker SP | ARI START Miles Mikolas SP | STL SIT
ATL@COL Julio Teheran SP | ATL SIT Kyle Freeland SP | COL SIT
BAL@NYY TBA TBD Jordan Montgomery SP | NYY START
CHC@MIL Tyler Chatwood SP | CHC START Chase Anderson SP | MIL START
CIN@PIT Tyler Mahle SP | CIN SIT TBA TBD
DET@CHW TBA TBD Miguel Gonzalez SP | CHW SIT
KC@CLE Jake Junis SP | KC SIT Mike Clevinger SP | CLE START
LAD@SF Hyun-Jin Ryu SP | LAD START Ty Blach SP | SF SIT
MIA@PHI Dillon Peters SP | MIA SIT TBA TBD
NYM@WAS Matt Harvey SP | NYM SIT TBA TBD
OAK@LAA Kendall Graveman SP | OAK SIT TBA TBD
SD@HOU TBA TBD Charlie Morton SP | HOU START
SEA@MIN Marco Gonzales SP | SEA SIT Lance Lynn SP | MIN START
TB@BOS Jake Faria SP | TB SIT Hector Velazquez RP | BOS SIT
TOR@TEX Jaime Garcia SP | TOR SIT Cole Hamels SP | TEX START

 

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Two-Start Pitcher Streamers for Week 1

The opening week of the MLB season runs a little longer than the typical two-start pitcher fantasy timetable, but the importance of boosting your pitching stats is still substantial. Unfortunately, with aces taking the hill on Thursday and Friday to start the year, we're stuck with lower tier arms in the first official two-start week.

Before we get to the routine Monday-Sunday regular programming schedule, let's take a look at some under the radar pitchers who could help contribute to your fantasy win this week in head-to-head leagues.

This list will include pitchers who are currently less than 50 percent owned in Fantrax fantasy leagues.

 

Under the Radar Two-Start SP Streamers - Week 1

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD (50 percent owned)
Probable opponents: @ ARI, @ SF

The Week 1 (1.5) two-start pitcher talent pool is shallow. However, there are some diamonds if you do some digging. Ryu is on the road for both of his starts, but the park factors aren't terrible. San Francisco has the best PF for pitchers. Also, the Giants were 28th in wOBA (.293) against lefties in 2017. As for Arizona's PF, they have a humidor humidor now, if you haven't heard, so the home runs should be a bit tempered.

J.C. Ramirez, LAA (33 percent owned)
Probable opponents: vs. CLE, vs. OAK

As this is written/posted, the Angels haven't announced the starters for the week, but I'm banking on Ramirez getting two turns in the rotation. Oakland is potentially on Ramirez's list for this week. Last season, he was 1-0 in 10.2 innings of work and allowed only one earned run (0.84 ERA) against the Athletics. He also struck out nine batters (7.6 K/9). As for his matchup with the Indians, he faced them once last season with decent results: 6.2 IP, 4 K, 2 ER.

Jaime Garcia, TOR (31 percent owned)
Probable opponents: vs. CWS, @ TEX

Garcia bounced around from team to team last year and now he has landed in Toronto. In 2017, he had an eight-start stint with the Yankees in the AL East. Though Garcia was winless, he tallied an impressive 37 strikeouts in 37.1 IP. As far as handedness is concerned, the Rangers produced the fourth-highest strikeout percentage against lefties (24.8 K/9) in 2017. If you rank the current active rosters against southpaws, the White Sox would’ve finished with the fifth-highest strikeout percentage last year (22.6 K/9).

Marco Gonzales, SEA (26 percent owned)
Probable opponents: @ KC, @ MIN

Gonzales, another lefty, gets the Royals in his first matchup of 2018. Kansas City's active roster would be 29th in team wOBA against southpaws. As for the park factors, Kauffman Stadium has the fourth-toughest PF to right-handed hitters, according to Fangraphs. The matchup against Minnesota isn't ideal, but compared to other pitchers in his two-start SP group, it still passes as an acceptable option when paired with Gonzales' first game.

Ty Blach, SF (23 percent owned)
Probable opponents: vs. ARI, vs. LAD

It wasn't a Madison Bumgarner vs. Clayton Kershaw showdown we were hoping for, but Blach still delivered in the ace's absence on Opening Day. In five innings, Blach struck out three and only allowed three hits in the 1-0 victory. He'll get the Dodgers again, later in the week, in a place with a better park factor. In fact, both of Blach's upcoming starts are at home. In 98.2 innings at AT&T Park, Blach has tallied a career 3.83 ERA.

Kyle Freeland, COL (20 percent owned)
Probable opponents: @ SD, vs. ATL

In the deeper leagues, when options are limited for a streaming starting pitcher, the best remaining choice is typically the guy throwing in San Diego. Other than Minute Maid Park, Petco Park has the best park factor for pitchers. Freeland pitched 6.2 innings in San Diego last season and allowed two earned runs (2.70 ERA). He also struck out five batters in that outing. Also, the Padres scored the 28th-most runs against left-handed pitchers in 2017 (150 runs). As for Freeland's second matchup in the week, the Braves were 25th in runs scored against lefties (165 runs).

Ben Lively, PHI (16 percent owned)
Probable opponents: @ NYM, vs. MIA

There are two divisional games in the near future slated for Lively. Last season, he fared well against both the Mets and Marlins. In three outings against New York in 2017, Lively was 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA. His strikeout rate isn’t high (5.3 K/9 last year), but in Lively’s lone start against Miami last season, he was able to tally five punch outs. That was when Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna were the first four bats in the lineup. He should have a much easier go this time around.

 

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Shortstop H2H Points Rankings - March Update

Welcome back RotoBallers. With the MLB season a little more than a week away, it's time to update our rankings and analysis to account for injuries, free agent signings, spring training risers/fallers and more. We continue our updated March rankings today with the shortstop position.

Bill Dubiel breaks down each tier and provides analysis for which players might be overvalued or undervalued in fantasy baseball drafts. The position is stronger than it's been in recent years thanks to new eligibility and new talent. Many of the names remain the same, but some of the regulars have fallen and been replaced with younger studs. Let's take a look.

Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything - oh, and it's all free! We hope you enjoy...

 

Updated Head-to-Head Points League Rankings: Shortstop

Ranking Tier Player Name Pos Auction $
1 1 Trea Turner SS 38
2 1 Carlos Correa SS 34
3 1 Manny Machado 3B/SS 33
4 2 Francisco Lindor SS 31
5 2 Corey Seager SS 29
6 2 Alex Bregman 3B/SS 22
7 2 Xander Bogaerts SS 18
8 2 Elvis Andrus SS 18
9 2 Jean Segura SS 17
10 3 Didi Gregorius SS 14
11 3 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF 11
12 3 Trevor Story SS 9
13 3 Javier Baez 2B/SS 9
14 4 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 6
15 4 Marcus Semien SS 6
16 4 Eduardo Nunez SS/3B/2B/OF 5
17 4 Tim Beckham SS 4
18 4 Tim Anderson SS 4
19 4 Zack Cozart SS 3
20 4 Andrelton Simmons SS 3
21 5 Orlando Arcia SS 2
22 5 Paul DeJong 2B/SS 2
23 5 Addison Russell SS 2
24 5 Chris Owings 2B/SS/OF 1
25 5 Jose Peraza 2B/SS 1
26 5 Dansby Swanson SS 1
27 6 Yangervis Solarte 2B/3B/SS 1
28 6 Gleyber Torres SS 1
29 6 Troy Tulowitzki SS 1
30 6 Amed Rosario SS 1
31 6 J.P. Crawford SS 1
32 6 Brandon Crawford SS 1
33 6 Asdrubal Cabrera SS/2B/3B 1
34 6 Jose Reyes 2B/SS/3B 1
35 7 Jorge Polanco SS 1
36 7 Aledmys Diaz SS 1
37 7 Ketel Marte SS 1
38 7 Brad Miller SS 1
39 7 Matt Duffy SS/3B 1
40 7 Freddy Galvis SS 1
41 7 Alcides Escobar SS 1

Tier 1

Personally I like Corey Seager more than Lindor this year, which has been an unpopular opinion just about everywhere I've looked. I'm not buying into his sudden power surge, which is what theoretically gives him an edge over Seager. Lindor's ISO jumped a full 98 points from 2016 (.134) to 2017 (.232), and prior to that the highest he's ever posted at any level of professional ball is the .169 he posted in his rookie season. I think Lindor's power numbers will drop back to some form of normalcy in 2018, and that gives Seager the edge heading into the season.

Tier 2

Didi Gregorius has been overlooked all offseason, and I can't wait to see what kind of numbers he's capable of hitting behind or amidst the terrifying mashers of the new Yankee lineup. He's coming off back-to-back 20-homer seasons, and he should have no trouble hitting that number again while tacking on 80 runs and 80 RBI. As long as he keeps his batting average above .275, he should return well above what he'll cost on draft day. He could very well outproduce everyone else in this tier with the exception of Bregman in points leagues.

Tier 3

I can't quite wrap my head around Javier Baez's ranking here considering that he's got no clear path to a full-time job. Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist both can (and will) take at-bats away from him at second base, and Addison Russell is firmly entrenched as the starting shortstop. Happ is the player the Cubs are planning for, and it would not shock me if Baez was wearing a different jersey come September. Marwin Gonzalez on the other hand is going to find his way into the lineup somewhere almost every day, and his multi-positional eligibility is incredibly useful as a plug-and-play in points leagues.

Tier 4

Paul DeJong made a splash in just 108 games last season, smashing 25 homers and posting 65 RBI after sprinting through the minor leagues. While that's certainly a ton of upside to bank on, I'm keeping an eye on Andrelton Simmons from this tier. Simmons busted out in a big way in 2017, with 14 homers and 19 steals on top of a respectable .278 batting average. His .291 BABIP indicates that there isn't a ton of regression coming, and if he can keep the power stroke going a little bit he could be a 15/20 player at a price you'll love.

Tier 5

I'm really rooting for Yangervis Solarte to lock down a starting spot in Toronto, because I think he could be a really solid fantasy asset if he does. In the Rogers Centre, Solarte is easily capable of 20 homers if he's able to play in 130+ games, and the Blue Jays lineup is still potent enough for Solarte to scratch 70 runs and 70 RBI across. Solarte's multi-positional experience should allow him to find his way into the lineup, not unlike Marwin Gonzalez, but I'd really love to see him lock down the second base position full-time. If he does get that job before the season begins, he's a great pick at his current ADP.

Tier 6

There's enough writing out there about the young guys in this tier, so I'm going to spill some ink (pixels?) in support of Brandon Crawford. The veteran has been remarkably reliable for the last half-decade or so, playing in at least 143 games every year since 2012. In that time he's evolved into a steady if unspectacular producer, a lock for 12-15 homers, 75+ RBI, and a batting average between .250-.260. If you've decided to wait on middle infield, Crawford can be the late-round pick that gets you where you need to go.

 

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Outfield H2H Points Rankings - March Update

Welcome back RotoBallers. With the MLB season just a few days away, it's time to update our rankings and analysis to account for injuries, free agent signings, spring training risers/fallers and more. We continue our updated March rankings today with the outfield position.

I, Nick Mariano, will break down each tier and provides analysis for which players might be overvalued or undervalued in fantasy baseball drafts. The position is unique in that many players have eligibility here that you are better off playing elsewhere on the diamond, but the option at OF remains. While the pool runs deep and you can assemble a 5OF corps late, this is not a place to fall behind in drafts. We'll look at all of the bats, big and small, and hit on the notables in each tier for your draft-day benefit and reflection.

Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything - oh, and it's all free! We hope you enjoy...

 

Updated Head-to-Head Points League Rankings: Outfield (March)

Ranking Tier Player Name Pos Auction $
1 1 Mike Trout OF 48
2 1 Mookie Betts OF 42
3 1 Charlie Blackmon OF 41
4 1 Kris Bryant 3B/OF 39
5 1 Bryce Harper OF 37
6 1 Giancarlo Stanton OF 35
7 2 J.D. Martinez OF 32
8 2 Aaron Judge OF 32
9 2 George Springer OF 30
10 3 Marcell Ozuna OF 28
11 3 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF 27
12 3 Starling Marte OF 25
13 3 Justin Upton OF 25
14 3 Nelson Cruz OF 23
15 3 Rhys Hoskins 1B/OF 21
16 3 Dee Gordon 2B/OF 20
17 3 Andrew Benintendi OF 20
18 3 Khris Davis OF 19
19 4 Christian Yelich OF 19
20 4 A.J. Pollock OF 19
21 4 Domingo Santana OF 18
22 4 Tommy Pham OF 18
23 4 Andrew McCutchen OF 18
24 4 Yoenis Cespedes OF 17
25 4 Byron Buxton OF 17
26 4 Ryan Braun OF 17
27 4 Lorenzo Cain OF 16
28 5 Gregory Polanco OF 16
29 5 Billy Hamilton OF 16
30 5 Ender Inciarte OF 15
31 5 Adam Eaton OF 14
32 5 Shohei Ohtani SP/OF 13
33 5 Matt Olson OF/1B 12
34 5 Adam Jones OF 11
35 5 Whit Merrifield 2B/OF 11
36 5 Chris Taylor 2B/SS/OF 11
37 6 Adam Duvall OF 10
38 6 Ronald Acuna OF 10
39 6 Ian Desmond OF/1B 9
40 6 Steven Souza OF 9
41 6 Yasiel Puig OF 9
42 6 Brett Gardner OF 9
43 6 Nomar Mazara OF 9
44 6 Jay Bruce OF/1B 9
45 6 Michael Brantley OF 8
46 6 Ian Happ 2B/OF 8
47 6 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF 8
48 6 Manuel Margot OF 8
49 6 Michael Conforto OF 7
50 7 Corey Dickerson OF 7
51 7 Kevin Kiermaier OF 6
52 7 Scooter Gennett 2B/3B/OF 6
53 7 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 6
54 7 Odubel Herrera OF 6
55 7 Matt Kemp OF 5
56 7 Aaron Altherr OF 5
57 7 Eduardo Nunez SS/3B/2B/OF 5
58 7 Kyle Schwarber OF 5
59 7 Shin-Soo Choo OF 5
60 7 Mitch Haniger OF 5
61 7 Dexter Fowler OF 5
62 8 David Peralta OF 4
63 8 Carlos Gonzalez OF 4
64 8 Jackie Bradley OF 4
65 8 Mark Trumbo OF 3
66 8 Eric Thames 1B/OF 3
67 8 Eddie Rosario OF 3
68 8 Trey Mancini 1B/OF 3
69 8 Bradley Zimmer OF 3
70 8 Jason Kipnis 2B/OF 3
71 9 Michael Taylor OF 3
72 9 Josh Reddick OF 2
73 9 Stephen Piscotty OF 2
74 9 Avisail Garcia OF 2
75 9 Carlos Gomez OF 2
76 9 Nick Williams OF 2
77 9 Aaron Hicks OF 2
78 9 Max Kepler OF 2
79 9 Howie Kendrick 2B/OF 2
80 9 Chris Owings 2B/SS/OF 1
81 10 Hunter Renfroe OF 1
82 10 Brandon Belt 1B/OF 1
83 10 Kole Calhoun OF 1
84 10 David Dahl OF 1
85 10 Delino DeShields OF 1
86 10 Cameron Maybin OF 1
87 10 Jorge Soler OF 1
88 10 Scott Schebler OF 1
89 10 Jason Heyward OF 1
90 11 Melky Cabrera OF 1
91 11 Clint Frazier OF 1
92 11 Derek Fisher OF 1
93 11 Keon Broxton OF 1
94 11 Hunter Pence OF 1
95 11 Lewis Brinson OF 1
96 11 Gerardo Parra OF 1
97 11 Randal Grichuk OF 1
98 11 Joc Pederson OF 1
99 11 Jose Bautista OF 1
100 11 Kevin Pillar OF 1
101 11 Jose Martinez OF/1B 1
102 11 Dustin Fowler OF 1
103 11 Albert Almora OF 1
104 11 Victor Robles OF 1
105 11 Mallex Smith OF 1
106 11 Denard Span OF 1
107 12 Jacoby Ellsbury OF 1
108 12 Nick Markakis OF 1
109 12 Hernan Perez 2B/3B/OF 1
110 12 Teoscar Hernandez OF 1
111 12 Jarrod Dyson OF 1
112 12 Lonnie Chisenhall OF 1
113 12 Michael Saunders OF 1
114 12 Ben Zobrist 2B/OF 1
115 12 Brandon Nimmo OF 1
116 12 Mikie Mahtook OF 1
117 13 Travis Jankowski OF 1
118 13 Raimel Tapia OF 1
119 13 Alex Gordon OF 1
120 13 Brandon Drury 3B/OF 1
121 13 Melvin Upton Jr. OF 1
122 13 Jose Pirela OF/2B 1
123 13 Matt Joyce OF 1
124 13 Jake Bauers 1B/OF 1
125 13 Curtis Granderson OF 1
126 13 Jake Marisnick OF 1
127 13 Paulo Orlando OF 1
128 13 Yasmany Tomas OF 1
129 13 Jefry Marte 1B/OF 1
130 13 Eloy Jimenez OF 1
131 13 Robbie Grossman OF 1
132 13 Jesse Winker OF 1
133 13 Alex Dickerson OF 1
134 13 Brandon Moss OF 1
135 13 Leonys Martin OF 1
136 13 Matt Holliday 1B/OF 1
137 13 Ben Gamel OF 1
138 13 Abraham Almonte OF 1
139 13 Jorge Bonifacio OF 1
140 13 Blake Swihart C/OF 1
141 13 Danny Valencia 1B/3B/OF 1
142 13 Tyler Naquin OF 1
143 13 Jeremy Hazelbaker OF 1
144 13 Rajai Davis OF 1
145 13 Magneuris Sierra OF 1

 

Tier 1

Here are your cornerstone OF pieces, with each player offering their own blend of "yeah, I can see him finishing as the No. 1 overall hitter" in their game. Mike Trout is the absolute best with his incredible floor and five-category production. I believe we just saw Mookie Betts' floor thanks to a woeful BABIP, and he still essentially produced a 25/25 season. He should leadoff and benefit from the added power behind him. Charlie Blackmon will continue to crush cold cans in Coors to the tune of 200 R+RBI, with the only question being whether it's from the leadoff spot or lower in the order. Kris Bryant may have disappointed in the power department after winning the N.L. MVP award in 2016, but he's a durable 26-year-old who possesses great contact, power and on-base tools to help you in points leagues. Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton can both blow the world away if they stay on the field (true of anyone, but their durability record instills more trepidation).

Tier 2

J.D. Martinez should be able to put up Big Papi-type numbers at Fenway in this lineup. Ditto when he travels to hitter-friendly havens in Baltimore, Toronto and the Bronx. He's a dreamy second-round pick in all formats. Aaron Judge carries considerable risk, but I'm buying that most of his second-half slump was due to the shoulder issue on top of the bumps and bruises of one's first big-league season. That lineup and hitting environment is too good to pass up, and an OBP north of .400 should counter any negatives from the K rate. Then there's George Springer, who still can't figure out how to steal bases well, but has a 40-homer ceiling and can vie for 700 plate appearances and all the counting stats that come with that volume from atop Houston's lineup.

Tier 3

Asking Marcell Ozuna to repeat his 2017 would require some luck given how his .355 BABIP sat way above his .327 career mark, but if you can settle for a .280ish average then you should enjoy the stats that come from batting behind Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham and Matt Carpenter. I acknowledge that Starling Marte batting third does help his stock, but I'm still very wary of his doing enough to justify a top-40 or 50 pick with such limited pop and the supporting cast.

Tier 4

Christian Yelich might deserve to be in the third tier, but I need to be totally bought into his power stroke being capable of 25 homers to do so. I'm perfectly fine with those willing to buy higher and won't be surprised at all if he dominates in Milwaukee, but the range of outcomes could still reasonably land him outside of the top-50. I don't like A.J. Pollock in the humidor with his durability woes to outperform a guy like Tommy Pham or Byron Buxton, and I'll happily take Lorenzo Cain later. I should probably knock both Ryan Braun and Domingo Santana down a bit more, but I'm okay with them going in the 80-90 range because their upside, should they reach 500-550 PAs, is very solid. Playing time is an issue though, whether it's for health concerns or just pure depth pushing them to the bench every so often.

Tier 5

Tier Five houses some accumulators, as Ender Inciarte and Adam Jones aren't supreme standouts but can deliver healthy totals from high in their batting orders. I'm not sure why everyone else is hanging Whit Merrifield outside of their top-130 given his legit 15HR/30SB skill set. I'm a bit worried about Adam Eaton's body holding up all year after missing 2017, especially with Washington's strong outfield depth, but if you believe he's play 150 games then you should take him at the front of this tier and ignore my cautiousness.

Tier 6

Speaking of caution, I'm completely out on Michael Conforto this year. That injury was so brutal to watch and my habit of adding on at least two weeks to an estimated timeframe for return gives me roughly two-thirds of a season from him. That's great and all if we could safely assume he and his swing are just as they were pre-injury, but I can't tell that. I'll let someone else gamble on this in '18. Adam Duvall is another guy I'm much lower on compared to my colleagues, as I want no real part of the four-man outfield rotation in Cincinnati. A cold spell from Duvall could see him the odd man out to Scott Schebler and Jesse Winker. I don't think any of them get completely edged out, but I'm not drafting a guy with only one real asset (power) inside my top-150 with PT concerns. Getting ABs is my rationale for knocking Ian Happ as well, but those with deeper benches should definitely move him up.

Tier 7

I'm almost 40 picks higher on Marwin Gonzalez than anyone else, but I think Yuli Gurriel's injury is huge for his getting everyday PT until the next guy gets hurt. He really doesn't need anyone to get hurt anyway (and I don't condone rooting for injury) since he's eligible everywhere except pitcher and catcher. You want pieces of Houston's lineup, especially one who can put up a .900 OPS while chipping in nearly 10 steals. I'm also highest on Thin Kyle Schwarber, Shin-Soo Choo and Dexter Fowler. Schwarbs has the power and plate discipline to be a star, though you probably want to sit him if he's playing against a southpaw. Choo and Fowler are boring vets, but Choo possesses a career walk rate of 12 percent alongside 20-homer and 10-steal performance in a lineup that could see him score nearly 100 runs again, while Fowler will be the beneficiary on the other side of the Ozuna talking point thanks to his own 12.7 percent career walk rate, non-zero speed and roughly 15-20 homers in his bat.

Tier 8

It's crazy how far Carlos Gonzalez has fallen, but I'm still in on him before the 200s start to come around. He may be one streaky guy, but this is still a season-long ranking approach and I am okay gambling on the late hot streak that saw him slash .327/.411/.591 from Aug. 2 until the end of the '17 season. I'm here for Eddie Rosario 2.0. I believe in Dave Rowson and the hitting improvements that he helped both Rosario and Jorge Polanco integrate into their game, so reach a round or two if you want. I'm also buying this pair of Clevelanders, with Bradley Zimmer's power/speed ceiling and Jason Kipnis' healthy swing both providing avenues to fantasy production in a star-studded lineup.

Tier 9

I don't want to make Stephen Piscotty's down year all about his ailing mother, but I really do buy into those things affecting play and we've seen him be much better than this. I think a similar thing burnt out Travis Shaw, who was dealing with a sick infant, throughout 2017 for his home games since he visited the hospital often in his non-game time. I worry a bit about Piscotty being stuck in the six-hole, but I can see him being moved up to three quite easily should he reclaim even just his 2016 form. Aaron Hicks is another guy who would really benefit from your having a deeper bench, as he's a force when in the lineup, but it's quite the crowd in New York. Hopefully, Aaron Boone is wise and gets him around 450-500 PAs. Points leaguers won't need to sweat his low line-drive rates as much as roto owners worry over batting average, as Hicks' walk rate soared to over 14 percent last season and should allow him to chip in more readily (let alone be standing on base for when the moonshots get launched behind him).

Tier 10

The CarGo signing really does dampen David Dahl's potential, but I think Dahl is still ahead of Raimel Tapia when it comes to playing time thanks to his defense. The offensive environment is beyond ideal in Denver, but his own health and the playing time hurdles make for a risky proposition. I'd much rather take a steady contributor like Brandon Belt or Kole Calhoun, where you aren't getting some lofty ceiling that you can dream about, but you have a solid stat line that you can practically book. Belt does have the concussion issues, but a walk rate around 15 percent and a steady stream of extra-base hits float his points-league value when on the field. Calhoun should enjoy hitting in a lineup that has no real weak point, and is likely the biggest beneficiary of the right-field wall being trimmed in height.

Tier 11

At this point, you pretty much know you're taking a serious risk. Someone like Jason Heyward could certainly bounce back and it wouldn't surprise us that much, but most of these guys are longshots in some form. I do think that Randal Grichuk will end up crushing it in Toronto, but you can see that some folks disagree with me! I'll this more as an opportunity to stump for the two guys that I ranked but no one else did. Dustin Fowler was a touted prospect in the Yankees system who hit 13 homers and stole 13 bags in just 70 Triple-A contests before getting called up last season. Of course, his season-ending knee injury in the first inning of his MLB debut quieted all that buzz. He's now in Oakland where he'll compete with Boog Powell for playing time in centerfield, but I think he wins out often and puts the power/speed combo on display in the leadoff slot. Albert Almora has the kind of glove that will keep him in the lineup, but without big power or speed he'll just be a solid batting average with good counting stats in a potent lineup. Oh, and you're going to want to get Victor Robles before he hits the Majors.

Tier 12

Nick Markakis remains an afterthought, but his steady bat will continue to churn out doubles as Atlanta's next generation rises around him. You're buying the at-bats here. Mikie Mahtook is another solid asset who should see plenty of playing time in Detroit this year, though he was higher on my list when it looked like he'd lead off more than Leonys Martin. Alas, he has 15/10 talent with an average that could actually help you (.275-.280 range), which is a steal this late.

Tier 13

This is where you'll find the dart throws like the aforementioned Leonys Martin holding down the leadoff slot for Detroit, or Jesse Winker really making a name for himself in that Cincinnati OF rotation, or Yasmany Tomas forcing his way back into a starting lineup (be it in Arizona or elsewhere). Obviously, Jorge Bonifacio can be ignored. I really like Brandon Drury as an early buy in drafts. Let him contribute just like he will for the Yankees: a placeholder early who gets the job done, but when you find a buzzy waiver add (your version of Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar) then you can bench him. Jake Bauers hit 13 homers and stole 20 bases in 575 Triple-A PAs last season and could find himself spelling C.J. Cron at first and DHing often if Brad Miller continues to woo the Mendoza Line.

 

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Starting Pitcher H2H Points Rankings - March Update

We are getting closer and closer to the first pitch of the 2018 MLB season. Spring training is in full swing which means we are right in the thick of draft season. Below you will find our updated head-to-head points league rankings for starting pitchers.

In this article, I will be discussing the updates to our starting pitcher rankings for points leagues - and provide some analysis on each tier. If you have a draft coming up soon, make sure to use all of our rankings for all league types. Regardless of the platform or scoring, we have every set of rankings you would need to draft a championship team.

We have had some movement after late free agency signings and trades. Whether you are like me and wait on pitcher to focus on value you, or your like to stock your rotation with top talent, I will break down all the tiers so you can find the best options for your team.

 

Updated Head-to-Head Points League Rankings: Starting Pitchers

Ranking Tier Player Position Auction $
1 1 Clayton Kershaw SP 38
2 1 Max Scherzer SP 34
3 1 Corey Kluber SP 33
4 1 Chris Sale SP 33
5 2 Noah Syndergaard SP 30
6 2 Stephen Strasburg SP 28
7 2 Jacob deGrom SP 28
8 2 Luis Severino SP 27
9 2 Zack Greinke SP 25
10 2 Carlos Carrasco SP 23
11 2 Yu Darvish SP 23
12 2 Justin Verlander SP 22
13 2 Carlos Martinez SP 22
14 2 Robbie Ray SP 20
15 3 Chris Archer SP 19
16 3 James Paxton SP 19
17 3 Aaron Nola SP 18
18 3 Dallas Keuchel SP 18
19 3 Jake Arrieta SP 17
20 3 Jose Quintana SP 17
21 3 Gerrit Cole SP 15
22 3 Lance McCullers SP 15
23 4 Rich Hill SP 14
24 4 Masahiro Tanaka SP 14
25 4 Alex Wood SP 14
26 4 Jose Berrios SP 14
27 4 David Price SP 13
28 4 Zack Godley SP 13
29 4 Luis Castillo SP 13
30 4 Kyle Hendricks SP 13
31 4 Shohei Ohtani SP/OF 12
32 4 Jon Lester SP 12
33 4 Sonny Gray SP 11
34 5 Michael Fulmer SP 11
35 5 Luke Weaver SP 10
36 5 Johnny Cueto SP 9
37 5 Danny Duffy SP 9
38 5 Jonathan Gray SP 9
39 5 Jameson Taillon SP 9
40 5 Marcus Stroman SP 9
41 6 Gio Gonzalez SP 8
42 6 Garrett Richards SP 8
43 6 Madison Bumgarner SP 7
44 6 Trevor Bauer SP 7
45 6 Drew Pomeranz SP 7
46 6 Dylan Bundy SP 6
47 6 Charlie Morton SP 6
48 6 Taijuan Walker SP 5
49 6 Kenta Maeda SP 5
50 6 Aaron Sanchez SP 5
51 7 Danny Salazar SP 5
52 7 Lance Lynn SP 5
53 7 Michael Clevinger SP 4
54 7 Chase Anderson SP 4
55 7 Cole Hamels SP 4
56 7 Kevin Gausman SP 3
57 7 Jordan Montgomery SP 3
58 7 Michael Wacha SP 2
59 7 Jeff Samardzija SP 2
60 7 Patrick Corbin SP 2
61 7 Dinelson Lamet SP 2
62 7 Alexander Reyes SP/RP 2
63 7 Blake Snell SP 2
64 8 Sean Manaea SP 2
65 8 Lucas Giolito SP 2
66 8 Julio Teheran SP 2
67 8 Jacob Faria SP 2
68 8 J.A. Happ SP 2
69 8 Rick Porcello SP 2
70 9 Eduardo Rodriguez SP 2
71 9 Jimmy Nelson SP 2
72 9 Ervin Santana SP 1
73 9 Tyler Chatwood SP 1
74 9 Zach Davies SP 1
75 9 Alex Cobb SP 1
76 9 Marco Estrada SP 1
77 10 Jake Odorizzi SP 1
78 10 Carlos Rodon SP 1
79 10 Felix Hernandez SP 1
80 10 Tanner Roark SP 1
81 10 Steven Matz SP 1
82 10 German Marquez SP 1
83 10 Luiz Gohara SP 1
84 10 Josh Hader SP 1
85 11 Reynaldo Lopez SP 1
86 11 Joe Musgrove SP 1
87 11 Vincent Velasquez SP 1
88 11 Chris Devenski SP/RP 1
89 11 Matt Shoemaker SP 1
90 11 Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 1
91 11 CC Sabathia SP 1
92 11 Jake Junis SP/RP 1
93 11 Daniel Straily SP 1
94 11 Anthony DeSclafani SP 1
95 11 Miles Mikolas SP 1
96 11 Ivan Nova SP 1
97 11 Walker Buehler SP 1
98 12 Matt Harvey SP 1
99 12 Jerad Eickhoff SP 1
100 12 Collin McHugh SP 1
101 12 Tyler Anderson SP 1
102 12 Michael Foltynewicz SP 1
103 12 Kyle Gibson SP 1
104 12 Tyler Glasnow SP 1
105 12 Adam Wainwright SP 1
106 12 Brandon Woodruff SP 1
107 12 Chris Stratton SP 1
108 12 Ariel Miranda SP 1
109 12 Daniel Norris SP 1
110 12 Chad Kuhl SP 1
111 12 Mike Montgomery SP/RP 1
112 12 Sean Newcomb SP 1
113 12 Michael Kopech SP 1
114 12 Jhoulys Chacin SP/RP 1
115 13 Trevor Cahill SP 1
116 13 Carson Fulmer SP 1
117 13 John Lackey SP 1
118 13 Mike Minor SP/RP 1
119 13 Junior Guerra SP 1
120 13 Amir Garrett SP 1
121 13 Mike Fiers SP 1
122 13 Robert Stephenson SP 1
123 13 Andrew Triggs SP 1
124 13 Miguel Gonzalez SP 1
125 13 Mike Leake SP 1
126 13 Jordan Zimmermann SP 1
127 14 Ian Kennedy SP 1
128 14 Julio Urias SP 1
129 14 Kendall Graveman SP 1
130 14 Jason Hammel SP 1
131 14 Matt Moore SP 1
132 14 Joe Biagini SP/RP 1
133 14 Homer Bailey SP 1
134 14 Kyle Freeland SP 1
135 14 Zack Wheeler SP 1
136 14 Brandon Finnegan SP 1
137 14 Wei-Yin Chen SP 1
138 14 Tyler Skaggs SP 1
139 14 Matt Andriese SP 1
140 14 Daniel Mengden SP 1
141 14 Jason Vargas SP 1
142 14 Liam Hendriks SP 1
143 14 Tyler Mahle SP 1
144 14 Brock Stewart SP 1

 

UPDATE: Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija rankings were updated on 3/24 based on injury estimates.

Tier 1

There really should be a tier above this with Clayton Kershaw by himself. He is almost always going to be the first pitcher off the board. The only thing you need to really worry about is that troublesome back injury that keeps popping up, but I don’t draft while worrying about injuries. If you draft Kershaw, you know what you will be getting.

Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber slot right in behind him. All are great starters that will contribute to all categories. They will rack up the strikeouts, pitch deep into ballgames and will keep the WHIP down. If you are one that likes to take pitching early, make one of these guys your first or second pick. Depending on the format, Kershaw will go off the board in the mid to late first round, or early second, and the rest of these guys will go in the second round. If you miss out for some reason, don’t worry, there are plenty of options coming up.

 

Tier 2

I picked Madison Bumgarner to be the ace of my staff in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational. I just love the consistent performance he brings to the table. He had a fluke injury last year, but this was the first season since 2011 that Bumgarner didn’t have at least 31 starts in a season. It was also the first time he posted an ERA over 3.00 since 2012. He doesn’t get nearly enough attention out on the west coast. Also, he will only be 28 this season. Plenty of miles left in that arm.

Carlos Martinez had what appeared to be a down year in 2017, but was it really a down year? I had a chance to talk about him at length on the Champions Analysis Podcast when we did our AL and NL Central Preview Mock Draft. For a third straight season, his innings pitched increased and he topped the 200-strikeout threshold for the first time. The problem with Martinez last season was a case of the long ball. Martinez gave up a career-high 27 home runs and was plagued by a bullpen that let him down far too often. The Cardinals bullpen allowed 35% of inherited runners to score last season, tied for fourth-most in the majors.

Robbie Ray was one of my favorite stashes heading into last season, and he came through in a big way. Back to back 200-K seasons but Ray was finally able to limit opponent’s hits. He did have the same amount of strikeouts but in less innings pitched. He even posted a near-identical FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) which shows a pitcher’s ability to limit walks and home runs but increase strikeouts. If the humidor does what it’s supposed to in Arizona, Ray could be looking at a decrease in home runs as well. Except him to build on last season.

 

Tier 3

This tier includes a couple of my favorite young arms in the game. Aaron Nola and James Paxton also took a step forward in 2017, much like Ray. The only thing holding Paxton back is his health. He has not been able to stay healthy to this point in his career. Last year was a career high with 136 innings pitched, and even then he had injury issues. Command can be an issue at times as well. 15 wild pitches led the league and an increase in walks per nine innings, up from 1.8 in 2016 to 2.4 in 2017. If he could stay healthy, he could catapult into Tier 2.

Nola is winning this offseason just like the Phillies. Not only have they been one of the most active teams, making moves in order to win now, but have signed two of the biggest free agents in Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta. Nola will now get a chance to learn from former Cy Young winner Arrieta and will not have the pressure of needing to be the ace of a young staff. Nola will be the Opening Day starter, but having the veteran presence of Arrieta could pay huge dividends as Nola will know he has support. A young pitcher trying too hard can cause issues sometimes and while I think Nola has everything needed to be special, the Phillies are ready to win now. More experience in the clubhouse is good for all.

Man, will anyone benefit from a change of scenery more than Gerrit Cole? He went from being the ace of a team looking to rebuild and look towards the future, to the third starter for the defending champion Houston Astros. If you play in a league that takes wins into account, Cole is going to get a lot of those this season. Gone are the days of facing another team's ace (he will now leave that to Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel). He just hasn’t been the same since his breakout 2015 campaign, but a new home, a new team and a chance at a championship can help bring that back.

 

Tier 4

There is a lot of risk in this tier. The face of this risk, is one of the most intriguing players in all of baseball, Shohei Ohtani, who has been linked to arm problems since he signed with the Angels. We don’t know how much is true, but the Angels have publicly addressed the rumors and even said they were aware of them.

David Price was a mess last season. Not only was he battling injuries, but he was calling out Red Sox Nation and being labeled as a clubhouse nuisance by others. Even though he has been close, he hasn’t had an ERA over 4.00 since 2009 and still hovers right around that K/9 of 9.00. I wouldn’t draft him to be your ace, or even SP2. But he could be a nice bargain for those of you that decide to wait and skip on pitching early.

Michael Fulmer has been very good since being acquired by Detroit in a deal for Yoenis Cespedes. His rookie season was not one anticipated by many, including those in Detroit. Fulmer didn’t have the same success in his sophomore season, which was contributed to a lack of strikeouts. Even though Fulmer increased his innings pitched by 4.1, he saw his strikeouts drop by 18. Elbow surgery cost him the end of the 2017 season, but he should be back. There was no structural damage, but he has had some issues with soreness this spring. Keep an eye on his status while drafting.

 

Tier 5

One of my favorite values is included in this tier. Garrett Richards has been devalued after two injury-plagued seasons, but I think he will finally bounce back with a healthy 2018. He worked his way back with a few decent outings to close out the campaign last year. He has put an emphasis on refining his curveball. If this guy is available late in your draft, buy in.

 

Tier 6

Taijuan Walker is another Diamondbacks pitcher who will benefit from changes out west this season. The former top prospect of the Mariners has settled in nicely during his first full season with Arizona. Truthfully, leaving Seattle was best for Walker. There were many comparisons between him and former teammate Felix Hernandez, and that is a lot to live up to. In Arizona, he can just be himself and continue to grow. The best part of being in Arizona is the staff he is surrounded by. He doesn’t need to come up and be the next ace. Another step forward is in order this season.

 

Tier 7

This tier includes two of my favorite bounce back candidates for 2018. My first bet is on Giants Jeff Samardzija. Even with an awful season, Samardzija still struck out 205 batters. He still has all of the stuff to make hitters swing and miss, he just gave up the third highest hit total in his career. He plays in an excellent hitter’s park, so you have to think his defense let him down some last year. The Giants have added Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson to help that defense. A healthy team behind Samardzija means a rebound season.

One thing you always heard about the Giants, was their ability to win every other year. If you believe in things like that, then you believe Julio Teheran will also bounce back this season. Since his first full season in 2013, Teheran posted his lowest K/9 and highest BB/9 this past season. He will only be 27 this season, but the biggest question is whether he will be with the Braves all year. Teherans name has been coming up in trade talks for well over a year now. Players like that make me nervous, due to the uncertainty of their situation during the biggest stretch of the season. Regardless, if he gets his home run total down, his ERA could come back to the low three range and could be a great value this late.

 

Tier 8

I like Vincent Velasquez a lot more than most, but he was one guy I really liked coming up with the Astros. When he is on, he has some of the best pure stuff in the game. Last year was a complete disaster though. He wasn’t missing bats, giving up way too many hits and walking too many. I blame it on injuries, though. You could tell something wasn’t right all season. His K/9 fell from 10.4 to 8.5, which signals to me injuries were to blame. The key to growing as a young starter is finding consistency, whether with your delivery, pitches or routine. You can’t find that when you deal with injuries. If he can stay healthy, the consistency will come.

 

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Third Base H2H Points Rankings - March Update

We are getting closer and closer to the first pitch of the 2018 MLB season. Spring training is in full swing which means we are right in the thick of draft season.

If you have a draft coming up soon, make sure to use our rankings for all league types. Regardless of the platform or scoring, we have every set of rankings you would need to draft a championship team.

In this article, I will be discussing the updates to our third base rankings for points leagues. We have had some movement after late free agency signings and trades. Third base is one of the deepest positions in baseball this year. Whether you decide to take a third baseman early on or wait until later in the draft, you will find some great value this year.

 

Updated Head-to-Head Points League Rankings: Third Base

Ranking Tier Player Name Pos Auction $
1 1 Nolan Arenado 3B 44
2 1 Kris Bryant 3B/OF 39
3 2 Manny Machado 3B/SS 33
4 2 Freddie Freeman 1B/3B 32
5 2 Josh Donaldson 3B 32
6 2 Jose Ramirez 2B/3B 31
7 3 Alex Bregman 3B/SS 22
8 3 Anthony Rendon 3B 19
9 3 Justin Turner 3B 19
10 3 Travis Shaw 3B 16
11 3 Adrian Beltre 3B 16
12 4 Mike Moustakas 3B 15
13 4 Matt Carpenter 1B/2B/3B 15
14 4 Miguel Sano 3B 14
15 4 Jake Lamb 3B 12
16 4 Kyle Seager 3B 12
17 4 Rafael Devers 3B 11
18 4 Nick Castellanos 3B 11
19 4 Evan Longoria 3B 9
20 4 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF 8
21 5 Scooter Gennett 2B/3B/OF 6
22 5 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 6
23 5 Eugenio Suarez 3B 6
24 5 Eduardo Nunez SS/3B/2B/OF 5
25 5 Ryan McMahon 1B/3B 4
26 6 Maikel Franco 3B 2
27 6 Ryon Healy 3B/1B 2
28 6 Todd Frazier 3B 1
29 6 Matt Chapman 3B 1
30 6 Miguel Andujar 3B 1
31 6 Colin Moran 3B/1B 1
32 6 Yangervis Solarte 2B/3B/SS 1
33 6 Jeimer Candelario 3B 1
34 6 Jedd Gyorko 1B/3B 1
35 6 Logan Forsythe 2B/3B 1
36 6 Asdrubal Cabrera SS/2B/3B 1
37 7 Jose Reyes 2B/SS/3B 1
38 7 Nick Senzel 3B 1
39 7 Hernan Perez 2B/3B/OF 1
40 7 Adonis Garcia 3B 1
41 7 David Freese 1B/3B 1
42 7 Brandon Drury 3B/OF 1
43 7 Matt Duffy SS/3B 1
44 7 Chase Headley 3B 1
45 7 Danny Valencia 1B/3B/OF 1
46 7 Cheslor Cuthbert 3B 1

 

Tier 1

Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant

Only two players make it into our top tier for third baseman. You could argue at least one more, if not two, should be up here. In points leagues though, I give the nod to Nolan Arenado who I had four spots ahead of Kris Bryant. I love Bryant and think he is one of the best players in baseball, but you can’t really argue against Arenado and his spectacular numbers. Arenado out did Bryant in most major categories outside of runs and stolen bases. One more reason to take Arenado? Coors field.

 

Tier 2

Manny Machado, Freddie Freeman, Josh Donaldson, Jose Ramirez

This tier is one of the most interesting to me. Mostly because of Freddie Freeman who sneaks in with an extra position of eligibility thanks to Matt Adams hot bat last year. After Freeman came back from injury, Adams was hitting too well just to head to the bench. The Braves decided to get both in the lineup by playing Freeman at third 16 games. Depending on your league settings, he may have carried that over. Make sure to check your league and see if Freeman could offer that extra flexibility for you.

The more I look at his stats, the more I love Jose Ramirez. Unfortunately, I do not have any shares of Ramirez yet. He should honestly be in the top tier of third baseman though based on the numbers alone. Ramirez was tied with Giancarlo Stanton for the MLB lead with 91 extra base-hits last season. The only thing keeping him from hitting that next tier is his RBI total. 83 RBIs are nothing to scoff at though though. If those numbers were not enough to convince you, he also added 17 stolen bases and adds second base eligibility. You should be jumping on this guy earlier than the rankings say.

 

Tier 3

Alex Bregman, Anthony Rendon, Justin Turner, Travis Shaw, Adrian Beltre

Anthony Rendon has always been one of my favorite players. His biggest issue has always been staying healthy. He played in 147 games last year and had career highs in doubles, home runs, RBIs and batting average. One of my favorite things about Rendon though? He had more walks than strikeouts last season.

If I had to find a comparison for Rendon, it would be Alex Bregman. I believe they both profile to be the same player. Bregman will probably offer more stolen bases than Rendon, but if you miss on one, grab the other. Bregman may offer you shortstop eligibility as well.

The ageless wonder Adrian Beltre still sneaks into the third tier at 38 years old. An injury-shortened season hurt his value last year and this could be good for owners who decide to wait on third base in their draft. His value his hurt because you add injury shortened season to his age and you get the perception of a player in decline. Even if the power numbers don’t come back, he should creep up to a .300 batting average and 30 plus doubles.

 

Tier 4

Mike Moustakas, Matt Carpenter, Miguel Sano, Jake Lamb, Kyle Seager, Rafael Devers, Nick Castellanos, Evan Longoria, Joey Gallo

I’ve been positive with all my player information so far. That’s great, because you want to hear how good a player is going to be. I may not be as positive in this tier though. I will tell you I am a huge fan of Matt Carpenter, Kyle Seager and Nick Castellanos in this tier. Now for some negative takes.

Mike Moustakas gets a quick bump from me after inking a new deal to stay with the Royals, but I am not buying into what he did last season. His career high in home runs was 22 prior to 2017, so excuse me if I don’t believe he is capable of hitting 38 home runs again. I have a feeling some Major League teams also believe that because Moustakas did not get many offers as a free agent this offseason. Don’t draft Moose hoping for 40 home runs.

After a very productive 2016, Jake Lamb took another step in 2017. He’s not going to hit for a high average and he’s going to strike out a ton. You may be willing to buy into players like that as long as they have 30 home runs and 105 RBI. The problem is Arizona will now keep balls in a humidor. There is a lot of speculation as to how that will affect hitters and Paul Goldschmidt is the only one I’m willing to bet on. I am steering clear on Lamb for this season until I know how hitters fare with the changes. If Lamb can’t hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 RBI, he loses a lot of value.

You always have a couple players on your do-not-draft list every season. Doesn’t matter what you hear or what others say, these players will not be on your team at the end of your draft. Gallo hit 41 home runs last year, but struck out 196 times and only hit .209. Let’s compare Gallo to former power-hitting, strikeout king Ryan Howard. Howard reached 180 strikeouts in four straight seasons, but was still able to maintain a batting average of .250 or higher each of those seasons and an on-base percentage of at least .339 as well. Howard still walked a lot and was able to find the open field when he wasn’t striking out or hitting the ball over the fence. Gallo didn’t even have 100 hits last season.

 

Tier 5

Scooter Gennett, Marwin Gonzalez, Eugenio Suarez, Eduardo Nunez, Ryan McMahon

One of the most underrated players at third base in Eugenio Suarez, who very quietly hit 26 home runs last season. Suarez isn’t a guy I would want to draft to be my starting third baseman, but he is a guy I would love to have on my team in case of injury or to fill in. With Joey Votto hitting in front of him, Suarez has an opportunity to hit with someone on base every at bat.

If you are not aboard the Ryan McMahon train yet, you better get on in a hurry. Even though the Rockies have re-signed Mark Reynolds, they have said they want McMahon to step in and win the first base job. McMahon didn’t do much in his short stint with the Rockies last season, but between AA and AAA last season, he hit .355 with 20 home runs. Late in the draft and need a bench guy who can cover two positions? McMahon is your guy. He already has 3B eligibility and would add 1B within 10 games. Plus, Coors Field. Always Coors Field.

 

Tier 6

Maikel Franco, Ryon Healy, Todd Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Colin Moran, Yangervis Solarte, Jeimer Candelario, Jedd Gyorko, Logan forsythe, Asdrubel Cabrera

If Miguel Andujar can win the third base job for the Yankees this season, I expect him to be one of the breakout stars of 2018. The power will continue to develop, but Yankee Stadium can help any player develop their power (except Chase Headley apparently). Normally I would say not to set expectations too high for RBIs, because you typically don’t get a lot of chances hitting behind Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, but this situation may be different. If Andujar wins the job and hits anywhere from seventh to ninth in the order, he may have Didi Gregorius and Aaron Hicks hitting in front of him. Having Gregorius hit at that spot could be like a reset to the lineup, offering a second leadoff man halfway through the lineup with more opportunities for RBIs.

If you would allow a moment for me to let my fandom show, I would appreciate it. See, as a Tigers fan, there isn’t a whole lot to be excited about in 2018. They will be bad. No sugar coating that. There is one bright spot I believe though, and that’s Jeimer Candelario. This kid's swing is as smooth as they come. Quiet, straight to the ball and the ability to drive to all fields. Anyone who hits in front of Miguel Cabrera has a chance to see some very good pitches. Now Cabrera isn’t what he used to be, but I haven’t given up hope yet. Candelario is a flyer in deeper leagues or ones in which you have to start a third baseman and corner infielder. The Tigers believe in Candelario enough to move Castellanos to the outfield, so they must believe he offers upside this year as well.

 

Tier 7

Jose Reyes, Nick Senzel, Hernan Perez, Adonis Garcia, David Freese, Brandon Drury, Matt Duffy, Chase Headley, Danny Valencia, Cheslor Cuthbert

When you get this late into the draft, you are not looking for starters anymore. You are looking for value and depth. In this tier, you can also grab a lot of flexibility. My favorite players to offer that flexibility are Jose Reyes and Brandon Drury, who have the opportunity to play multiple positions this year in a semi-full time role. They will get a few starts a week playing all over, spelling other full time players and could be a huge factor if someone goes down with an injury.

 

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First Base H2H Points Rankings - March Update

Welcome back RotoBallers. With the MLB season just a few short weeks a way, it's time to update our rankings and analysis to account for injuries, free agent signings, spring training risers/fallers and more. We kick off our updated March rankings today with the first base position.

Bill Dubiel breaks down each tier and provides analysis for which players might be overvalued or undervalued in fantasy baseball drafts. The position is very strong at the top and provides incredible depth, particularly in the power department. Many of the names remain the same, but some of the regulars have fallen and been replaced with younger talent. Let's take a look.

Don't forget to bookmark our famous Rankings Wizard where you can see all of our rankings for mixed leagues, points leagues, AL/NL only leagues, dynasty leagues, top 2018 prospects, dynasty prospects and more. You will also find our tiers, auction values, player news, stats, projections and more. You can easily download everything - oh, and it's all free! We hope you enjoy...

 

Updated Head-to-Head Points League Rankings: First Base

Ranking Tier Player Name Pos Auction $
1 1 Paul Goldschmidt 1B 39
2 1 Joey Votto 1B 35
3 2 Anthony Rizzo 1B/2B 33
4 2 Freddie Freeman 1B/3B 32
5 2 Cody Bellinger 1B/OF 27
6 2 Jose Abreu 1B 27
7 2 Edwin Encarnacion 1B 24
8 2 Rhys Hoskins 1B/OF 21
9 3 Wil Myers 1B 19
10 3 Buster Posey C/1B 17
11 3 Miguel Cabrera 1B 17
12 3 Eric Hosmer 1B 17
13 3 Justin Smoak 1B 16
14 3 Ryan Zimmerman 1B 15
15 3 Matt Carpenter 1B/2B/3B 15
16 4 Matt Olson OF/1B 13
17 4 Justin Bour 1B 10
18 4 Carlos Santana 1B 9
19 4 Ian Desmond OF/1B 9
20 4 Josh Bell 1B 9
21 4 Jay Bruce OF/1B 8
22 4 Greg Bird 1B 8
23 4 Joey Gallo 3B/1B/OF 8
24 4 Marwin Gonzalez 1B/2B/3B/SS/OF 6
25 5 Ryan McMahon 1B/3B 4
26 5 Chris Davis 1B 4
27 5 Eric Thames 1B/OF 3
28 5 Yulieski Gurriel 1B 3
29 5 Trey Mancini 1B/OF 3
30 5 Hanley Ramirez 1B 2
31 5 Kendrys Morales 1B 2
32 6 Ryon Healy 3B/1B 2
33 6 Albert Pujols 1B 2
34 6 Logan Morrison 1B 1
35 6 Yonder Alonso 1B 1
36 6 Brandon Belt 1B/OF 1
37 6 C.J. Cron 1B 1
38 6 Colin Moran 3B/1B 1
39 6 Mark Reynolds 1B 1
40 6 Lucas Duda 1B 1
41 6 Jedd Gyorko 1B/3B 1
42 6 Victor Martinez 1B 1
43 6 Jose Martinez OF/1B 1
44 7 Mitch Moreland 1B 1
45 7 Tommy Joseph 1B 1
46 7 A.J. Reed 1B 1
47 7 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 1
48 7 Joe Mauer 1B 1
49 7 Dan Vogelbach 1B 1
50 7 David Freese 1B/3B 1
51 7 Mike Napoli 1B 1
52 7 Jake Bauers 1B/OF 1
53 7 Kennys Vargas 1B 1
54 7 Jefry Marte 1B/OF 1
55 7 Matt Adams 1B 1
56 7 Matt Holliday 1B/OF 1
57 7 Adam Lind 1B 1
58 7 Danny Valencia 1B/3B/OF 1
59 7 Dominic Smith 1B 1

 

Tier 1

These are your studs, and I agree with the order here. Goldschmidt is still a top five pick in my eyes despite the various and sundry concerns about the humidor in Arizona and a steadily dropping steal total. Votto is just so darn consistent, you can be happy with him at pick 13 or later in my eyes. Rizzo and Freeman are bona fide studs and likely still fall inside the top 20 picks for me.

Tier 2

I am lower on Rhys Hoskins than most, simply because we saw so very little of him in 2017. The cracks started to show in September for the rookie, as he hit just .220 over the final month of the season and struck out like a fiend (35.2% K-rate). This is enough to make sure that I don't end up with him in most drafts--there will be someone willing to take him in the 3rd-5th round, whereas I'll take him no earlier than the 7th.

Tier 3

I still think there is more left in the tank for Miguel Cabrera. He dealt with injuries on-and-off all through last season, and if he's 100% healthy he is still capable of a 30-homer, .300-BA season. I'm also a big fan of Matt Carpenter this season (like every season). He's a lock for 20 homers and I think a .265 BA with 90 runs and 90 RBI. For the record, I don't think Ryan Zimmerman comes anywhere near the numbers he put up last season, but he is still hitting in the meat of a very good lineup and will get his RBI if he stays healthy.

Tier 4

Ian Desmond is in a great situation in Colorado, and while the steals might not be there for another 20/20 season, the boost he should get from a full season at Coors makes him a great option if you want to wait on first base. The multi-positional eligibility is a nice little bonus as well. Greg Bird is a huge question mark headed into this season, as we've seen flashes of excellence along with last year's regular season awfulness/injury. Heading into 2018 fully healthy, Bird should hit behind arguably the best 1-5 lineup in baseball, so he will have plenty of opportunities to prove his worth. I'm taking a flier on him in as many leagues as possible.

Tier 5

I am way higher on Yuli Gurriel than many of my contemporaries, for the same reason I'm intrigued in Bird. He'll be hitting towards the end of what could very well be the best lineup in all of baseball, and we've seen that he's capable of excellence. He's a very interesting late-round flier when you're building up your depth with a ceiling for much more. I can't stand Chris Davis and his 4 billion (approximately) K's, so I'm low, low, low on him in 2018.

Tier 6

This entire tier is full of guys who were once stars and are now more or less just there for the power numbers they bring to the table (Morales, Pujols, Ramirez, Belt). I'm avoiding almost everyone in this group--if you've waited this long on 1B or a backup 1B, why not wait a little longer.

Tier 7

Mark Reynolds very quietly had a great 2017 for the Rockies (30 HR, 97 RBI), and I'll be taking a flier if he does in fact sign there again. At this point it remains to be seen whether or not the Rockies give Ryan McMahon a shot at the everyday first baseman job, but if Reynolds does return he should provide some cheap power as a backup in your fantasy lineup.

Tier 8

Very little to see here. Waiting for Dominic Smith to emerge could take a little bit, as he's likely headed back to AAA (and probably was even before he suffered a quad strain). A similar story with Jake Bauers--we'll probably see him with the Rays at some point in 2018, but he's going to start the year in AAA.

 

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Points League Primer - Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy

When discussing fantasy baseball, an often neglected but entertaining format is the points league. These exist in both season-long cumulative and weekly head-to-head leagues.

While existential debates about scoring categories and their true depiction of player worth are endless, points leagues arguably get closest to the objective of sabermetrics. Points leagues attempt to define a player's contribution (or detraction) in greater depth. For example, we know a triple is more valuable than a single and these leagues acknowledge that.

The fundamentals are the same, but there are some unique strategies associated with points leagues that you may want to be acquainted with before you draft. Without further ado, here is your 2018 Points League Primer for fantasy baseball.

 

How to Win Your Points League

There is a high degree of overlap with standard leagues, but the below table illustrates an overview of this scoring system. We'll discuss four primary difference that could alter a manager's strategy on draft day and during the season.

Note weights and categories differ by league. Some leagues overweight wins or underemphasize saves. Others might have additional categories like quality starts or HRs allowed. Since this is a basic outline, we'll operate under our assumptions but remember to check the settings of your particular league.

 

1) Strikeouts and Walks Matter

Hitting-wise, in common leagues, a strikeout is a non-event and a hitter only receives indirect credit for a walk if he tallies an RBI or eventually scores. Points leagues instantly gratify hitters for getting on base, which is the essence of offense. Likewise, since a hitter is wholly responsible for striking out, he is punished.

A key unique metric in points leagues is BB/K. Out of 144 qualified hitters in 2017, the median BB/K was 0.48. Joey Votto was an elite outlier at 1.61 and the poorest was Tim Anderson at 0.08. Even though Matt Carpenter struck out at a 20.1% clip last season, his 17.5% walk rate gave him the ninth best 0.87 BB/K. On the flipside, although Rougned Odor was considered a bust in standard leagues, in points leagues he suffered massive value destruction with 162 strikeouts and only 32 walks. Despite 30 HR, the feeble BB/K just wasn't worth the trade-off.

Earning walks skews a player's value positively, Votto was a top-five player in points leagues but finished lower in standard leagues. Carpenter, Kris Bryant, and Shin-Soo Choo were walk-friendly players that saw better year-end ranks in points leagues relative to standard formats. Owners targeting players around 0.50 BB/K or better will enjoy a positive benefit from drafting patient hitters.

Since there is a positive relationship between strikeouts and slugging, managers should also analyze the strikeout in exchange for earning points via power.

 

2) Slugging is More Important than Average

An important consideration in points leagues is a player's slugging ability. Instead of treating all hits equally as AVG does, netting points for total bases rewards hitting for power.

Jose Ramirez hit 56 doubles and six triples in 2017. These contributions went ignored in standard leagues. Because of his high average and HR production, Ramirez' value in points leagues just barely surpassed his rank in standard ones. Meanwhile, Francisco Lindor (.273 AVG, 48 doubles+triples), Nicholas Castellanos (.272, 46) and Xander Bogaerts (.273, 38) were all significantly more valuable from a total bases standpoint. Even replacement-level guys like Cesar Hernandez and Denard Span received large bumps in relevance from their non-HR slugging.

Incorporating walks, slugging and BB/K complements AVG and HR, painting a better picture of a player's true worth. Since wOBA isn't a fantasy stat (yet), points leagues get us close to that representation.

 

3) Pitching Stamina Helps, Losses Hurt

Pitcher durability is a key ingredient to strikeouts, ERA and WHIP. More innings pitched means increased chances to rack up Ks and achieve a steady state in ratios. In points leagues, rate stats are converted into counting stats by penalizing earned runs and walks. Pitchers also receive points for each inning recorded. It's vital to consider IP alongside standard measurements like K/9, especially when innings limits are concerned

Despite a disappointing 3.64 ERA and 1.22 WHIP for Carlos Martinez in 2017, his fifth best 205.0 IP buoyed his value in points leagues. The theme rings true for Gerrit Cole and Chris Archer. These three players had disappointing ERA and WHIP, but their strikeout prowess was greatly complemented by piling on innings. Conversely, while Julio Teheran and Ivan Nova are not strikeout artists, their durability made them relatively more relevant in points leagues. Even Clayton Richard with his ugly 4.79 ERA and 1.52 WHIP held some worth simply due to his 197.1 IP.

Losses are also significantly detrimental. In standard leagues, you either win or you don't. In points leagues, a pitcher's team is critical even while evaluating his individual ability. Players like Jeff Samardzija and Mike Foltynewicz suffered from playing on bad teams despite serviceable seasons last year. Getting tagged with losses can negate otherwise strong starts by pitchers and is a much more meaningful swing factor than just wins.

 

4) Scoring is Category-Agnostic

All fantasy managers are trained to draft a balanced team to address our 5x5 needs. In points leagues, that is irrelevant. A double is worth as much as a steal, and five strikeouts count the same as a win. Buck the traditional mentality, take stats where you can find them.

Points leagues have the unique characteristic of allowing managers to evaluate players on their overall body of work as opposed to select niche areas. A simple comparison covers doubles and stolen bases. In 2017, there were 8,397 doubles hit and 2,527 steals in the majors. For steals, standard leagues owners are fighting for share in a commodity that is getting scarcer. In points leagues, the argument is to just ignore steals and accumulate stats where there is excess supply like doubles and homers. There's no harm in rostering a squad of sloths.

 

Conclusion

Points leagues show considerable overlap with standard leagues. It's still just baseball. But, they better-represent the evolving appreciation of advanced statistics. It creates depth in a player's profile (i.e. walks, triples, innings pitched) and more closely embodies the real value of that player on the diamond. Customization is another perk of points leagues. Categories and their corresponding weights are discretionary, so it gives leagues more flexibility in determining which stats they value.

In my experience, points leagues are more challenging and require extra strategy, but hopefully that's why we all play the game in the first place!

 

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Points Leagues Starting Pitchers - Overvalued and Undervalued

As we’ve discussed before, points leagues are a bit of a different animal from the more popular head-to-head and rotisserie formats. One of the most obvious differences between them is how pitchers are valued.

In a points league, the top pitchers routinely outearn the top hitters. Most analysis will tell you to favor bats in roto or H2H, and that’s not wrong; if you’re playing points, though, throw that out the window. That said, not all pitchers are created equal, and some are less valuable than you might expect in this format.

Today, to finish up this series, we're looking at some potential starting pitcher sleepers and busts, or draft targets and avoids in points leagues.

 

Overvalued for Points Leagues

Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

Stroman is one of only seven starting pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings in both of the last two seasons, and he just posted a 3.09 ERA. Sounds great! Of course, he is also now at 560 MLB innings with a K/9 barely above 7.00, ran a 1.30 WHIP over the last two years, and last season was the first time he’d won more than 11 games. Also, that tidy 3.09 ERA was partially the resulted of an elevated strand rate. In H2H leagues and rotos without an innings cap, Stroman is a solid guy to have on your roster. In points, he’s a lot less appealing.

Lance McCullers, Houston Astros

McCullers racks up a ton of strikeouts, but he has trouble going deep into games and hasn’t proven he can stay healthy. The 24-year-old has three MLB seasons under his belt, and he has yet to start more than 22 games or exceed 125 innings. A balky back led to two separate stints on the disabled list for McCullers last season, and he’s also dealt with arm injuries as a pro. Despite playing for a contender, McCullers has just 19 major-league wins so far thanks to his inability to provide volume. Until he does, he’ll remain challenging to own, particularly in points leagues.

Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers

Fulmer’s modest price tag (he’s just inside the top 200 ADP) is perfectly fine in head-to-head and acceptable in rotisserie. In points leagues, though, he may be best avoided. The team context in Detroit is grim, which makes it hard to believe he’ll improve much upon the 10 wins he contributed last year. He’s also thrown 324 innings at the big-league level and has a 6.9 K/9 and 18.6 K% to show for it. There seems to be a lot of optimism around Fulmer having strikeout upside, but he was never really a big K guy in the minors either. Then, of course, we have to acknowledge that he’s working with a surgically repaired elbow.

 

Undervalued for Points Leagues

Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants

Shark has thrown at least 200 innings in five consecutive seasons entering 2018, which pretty much automatically makes him interesting. He also got his strikeout rate back up to its prior levels last season after a dip in 2015-16, and posted a 3.8% walk rate, easily the lowest of his career. Pounding the zone came at a price, of course, as Samardzija also allowed more home runs than he ever had before. Those bombs were a major contributor to him carrying a 4.42 ERA; the only other qualified starters who ran a 20% K-BB and an ERA above 3.53 were Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Archer. Despite that, he was still a top-30 SP in most points leagues due to the elite K-BB%. Imagine how valuable he could be if he manages to curb the homers a bit.

Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins

There were just 41 complete games in MLB last season. Santana had five of them, tied with Corey Kluber for the league lead (nobody else had more than two, and only six pitchers even got that far). If your points league still rewards pitchers for going the distance, Santana is easy money; mine does, and he barely finished outside the top 20 starters. Even if not, the veteran has been rather reliable for most of his career, even if he’s thoroughly unexciting. Santana has produced an ERA under 3.50 over 180 or more innings in three of the last five seasons; he ran a 3.95 over 196 innings in 2014 and a 4.00 in the following (injury-shortened) year. In 2016-17, only 10 pitchers bettered Santana in ERA and only 16 had a lower WHIP. A finger injury will cost him the first month of 2018, but he should resume being a sneaky-good asset in points leagues once healthy.

 

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