Fantasy Baseball: 5 Pitchers to Stream in Week 9
Shrewd fantasy players will tell you, don't bother checking your standings until Memorial Day at the earliest.
Well, the holiday has come and gone. And who are we kidding: you've had an eye on your standings this whole time, and you know exactly where you stand. Whether you've digging yourself out of a hole, protecting a big lead, or somewhere in between, chances are you can use a little pitching help to get you through the fat part of the season. These five pitchers, available on waivers in the majority of leagues, should do the trick in Week 9.
Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels
Start: May 30th at Seattle Mariners
ESPN ownership: 45%
Tyler Skaggs is a bit more widely owned than most of the names we cover here, but he seems like a worthy inclusion given that he's probably finding his way onto some waiver wires in shallower leagues. He carries an unremarkable 4.40 ERA and has only finished the sixth inning in two of his 10 starts, so any exasperation with the Los Angeles Angels lefty is understandable.
But it might behoove sharp streamers to zig while others zag this week, especially if your league mates are operating under the misconception that the Seattle Mariners remain the powerhouse offense that took the league by storm to open the season.
In fact, the Mariners have taken something of a nosedive in the month of May, cobbling together a group OBP of .287 and a team strikeout rate of 25.9%. Those totals are especially dire against lefties: Seattle is the worst offense in the majors against southpaws over the last month, striking out at a 29% rate and posting a barely-there .120 group ISO. All of this makes the admittedly shaky Skaggs a priority short-term add in any mid-sized league where he was dropped.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
Start: May 28th vs. Detroit Tigers
ESPN ownership: 24%
Just when fantasy owners think they can safely abandon ship on Dylan Bundy, the once-promising righty appears to turn the corner. Such has been the case in the month of May, at least in terms of surface results. The hot-and-cold Baltimore Orioles hurler carries a 2.28 ERA across 23.2 May innings, notching his first two wins after starting the season 0-5 with a 6.67 ERA through the end of April.
A quick look under the hood should leave fantasy owners suspicious of a Bundy revival in the long term (4.37 FIP, 85.9% left on base across May), but in the short term, the 26-year-old has played himself back onto the streaming radar. His Week 9 matchup with the Detroit Tigers is especially intriguing, as Detroit has been one of the least productive offenses in the majors in the month of May. It helps Bundy's case that over this span the Tigers are the absolute worst in baseball in terms of group reach rate, which should help offset the chronic walk issues that have made Bundy so unreliable.
Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants
Try to stifle your screams of terror as you look through Jeff Samardzija's advanced stats for the month of May, wherein the big righty's humble 4.43 ERA is underwritten by a hair-raising 7.33 FIP and an ugly 21.2% homer-per-fly rate.
And yet a pair of strong matchups and a light slate of under-owned two-starters might leave the tall San Francisco Giants righty as something of a luxury option in deep leagues. After all, the Miami Marlins' offense carries whatever you might call the opposite of home field advantage, flailing to an MLB-worst .098 group ISO at Marlins Park. The Baltimore Orioles' .182 mark seems gaudy by comparison, but it's still league average across the majors, indicative of that team's muted offensive threat given the hitter-friendly dimensions of Camden Yards.
Those understandably tentative about deploying The Shark this week might also take solace in the continued relevance of his slider, which has coaxed 13.7% whiffs and 33.7% out-of-zone swings across 197 offerings this year. If Samardzija leans on that pitch against the Marlins and Orioles (both in the MLB bottom 10 this year in terms of weighted production against the slider), the big righty might have a throwback week in store for daredevil streamers.
Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds
Start: May 31st vs. Washington Nationals
ESPN ownership: 8%
With the non-Luis Castillo contingent of the Cincinnati Reds rotation beings a perennial fantasy wasteland, it's easy to overlook the recent success of Tyler Mahle. While his 3.81 ERA and 4.26 FIP across the month of May aren't exactly eye-catching, his work in the rate stats certainly is. The 24-year old righty carries a sublime 23.7% strikeouts-minus-walks across 28.1 frames over the last month, riding a superb changeup that has earned a nutty 47.3% reach rate while limiting hitters to a .603 OPS across 128 offerings on the season.
Looks for Mahle to bounce back from his recent beating at the hands of the surging Chicago Cubs when he faces a far less formidable opponent in Week 9. Indeed, it might have taken some time for us to adjust to an environment in which the Washington Nationals aren't a matchup cross off, but the Nats have been the second least productive offense in the National League over the month of May, behind only the Marlins.
Trevor Richards, Miami Marlins
Granted, that unsightly 11.4% walk rate certainly positions Richards as something of a ratio liability, but you have to like Richards' chances to work over two of the weakest plate-discipline teams in the majors, with both the Padres and the Giants ranking bottom 10 in terms of out of zone swings and swinging strikes overall.
Add to that equation two of the softest park factor destinations in Marlins Park and Petco (which should in theory take some of the sting out of Richards' troublesome homer rate trends) and the 26-year-old Marlin is in a nice spot to put up a usable two-start turn.