The calendar has turned to May, and while the weather isn’t heating up just yet in the northern parts of the country, there are a number of starting pitchers sitting on waivers whose arms have been absolutely on fire. Let’s take a look at which pitchers may be available in your league, and who is the best pickup for those owners that need permanent arms and/or streaming options for their fantasy baseball rotation.
This article will focus on players owned in 50% or fewer of Yahoo leagues.
The add ’em list
Andrew Cashner – SP – San Diego Padres (27%)
One of our favorite sleepers has finally gained a starting gig in San Diego, and the time is now to add Mr. Cashner off waivers. He will be starting twice in week 6 for fantasy owners, and while he will have his share of struggles (as any young pitcher does) this is a guy that had a K/9 rate of 10.10 at the big league level in 2012. So far in 2013, his K/9 sits at 7.71, but it is a relatively small sample size, and our projections have him finishing the year with 150 IP and 165 K’s. Pitching at PetCo should help the ERA, and Cashner is our #1 recommended add in mixed league play heading into May fantasy baseball 2013.
Shaun Marcum – SP – New York Mets (31%)
Marcum recently returned to the Mets starting rotation, and readers of this site know he isn’t my favorite starting pitcher in baseball. So how did he end up in my add ’em section? Well there are a few things that Shaun can do to help out fantasy owners. Marcum is a well known flyball pitcher, and even with the fences moved in at Citi Field, I like his chances pitching in New York. The K/9 rate isn’t elite, but for owners looking for an innings eater that will inexorably rack up the strikeouts, this could be your man. Last season for the Brewers, Marcum struck out 109 batters in 124 innings, just under a batter per inning, and I would expect those numbers to translate into 2013. The HR’s will happen, the ERA will flutter around 3.75-4.25 with the WHIP around 1.20, but off the waiver wire Marcum may be as good as it gets at this point in the season in most leagues.
Travis Wood – SP – Chicago Cubs (33%)
It seems that nearly the entire Cubs rotation with the exception of Jeff Samardzija is available off waivers. Wood has looked good for the Cubs this season, posting a 2-2 line with a 2.50 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. While the BABIP suggests there is a regression coming (.193) his BB/9 average isn’t terrible at 2.72, which helps keep the WHIP low, and the strikeouts should actually come up a little as the season progresses, with Wood currently under his career K/9 average. You can reasonably expect Wood to maintain an ERA in the mid 3’s this season, his 4th year in pro ball, as he is finally adjusting to pro batters. This is a deep league pickup only (12 teams or more), but there is just enough here to recommend Wood for owners who need an arm off waivers.
Carlos Villanueva – SP – Chicago Cubs (47%)
There is just something about pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball that makes fantasy owners stay away… oh yeah, it’s called wins! Villanueva’s current line (1-0, 2.29 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 29 K’s in 35 IP) looks pretty terrific, but the real problem here is the batting average on balls in play (BABIP) that sits at .176. This suggests that Villanueva has been getting lucky in the early going, and as the weather starts warming up at Wrigley and the wind starts blowing out we could see Villanueva’s ratios start to rise. Stream him when you are in need of a few K’s, but don’t plan on giving Villanueva a long term spot in the rotation.
Jose Fernandez – SP – Miami Marlins (30%)
For those of you that read my Fernandez article when he got the call, you know I wasn’t his #1 fan. As expected he is having his share of struggles early in his career as teams get more and more game tape on the young prospect, but there is a very good reason he makes the streamer list – strikeouts. Jose is currently striking out right around a batter per inning (23 in 24 IP), and that should continue throughout the season as he was billed to have swing and miss stuff. Obviously he won’t help your ratios (ERA/WHIP) much, and the wins will be near impossible to come by, but if you play in a head to head league and need strikeouts to take the category, give Fernandez a look.
Why are they still available? I’ll tell ya why!
Ross Detwiler – SP – Washington Nationals (49%)
There is a very good reason why Detwiler is still sitting on waivers in your league, his K total and fluky ERA. On the season Detwiler has just 16 K’s in 31 IP, which may seem low, but the last 2 seasons his K/9 was 5.59 (2011) and 5.75 (2012), so his current 4.65 isn’t that far off his career average. The question here – is Detwiler right for you? The rest of his numbers are intriguing as he currently posts a 2.03 ERA, but a 1.35 WHIP. It is very unusual to see a WHIP that high with an ERA sitting around 2, and the reason his ERA is so low is Detwiler currently strands runners at an unsustainable rate. Ross is stranding 82.2% of his baserunners, a number which will not keep up over the course of the season, meaning his ERA can be expected to rise right back to the 2.90-3.30 range. As the Nationals offense gets rolling, Detwiler should earn his fair share of wins, but a lack of strikeouts leaves him for the deeper leagues and owners that simply want a healthy arm to roll out every five days.
Jarrod Parker/ A.J. Griffin – SP Oakland Athletics (43%/ 34%)
Here we find a pair of struggling teammates, and two guys that are rapidly falling out of favor with fantasy owners. Parker currently sports a sky high ERA at 7.36 and a WHIP of 2.01, while Griffin sits at 4.65 and 1.26 respectively. The expectations were high for both pitchers as they entered the season, especially Parker who finished 2012 at 13-8, but so far they have yet to live up to the hype. So the real question on everyone’s lips, is either guy worth a pick up?
For Parker, he has been extremely unlucky in the early going as his BABIP stands at .375, whereas 2012 it was at a more reasonable .290. Perhaps most disconcerting is the sudden lack of control, as the BB/9 went from 3.13 (which wasn’t all that great to begin with) in 2012, to 4.91 in 2013. This is a pitcher who has lost control of the strike zone, and until he brings the walks down he is someone to leave on waivers.
For A.J. Griffin, the struggles are even harder to figure out. Typically we can point at the BABIP and say this guy has been unlucky, but Griffin’s BABIP is at .258, which actually suggests he has been a little on the lucky side. With a reasonable 2.90 BB/9 and a K/9 rate at 6.68 he is the better pickup over his teammate Parker, but how to explain the 4+ ERA? It mostly lies in the long ball as Griffin has given up 5 HR in 31 IP. Combine that with the walks, and we can see that Griffin is pitching up to his current capabilities. While I like him as a long term keeper in dynasty leagues, it doesn’t look like he is on his way to a breakout season just yet.
Need personalized fantasy baseball help? Jump in to the forums where we will be discussing fantasy baseball all season, and you can discuss with other owners the intricacies of your particular lineup/format.