Fantasy Baseball: 5 Pitchers to Stream in Week 25
At this point in the fantasy baseball season, you're either in or you're out. And if you're still in the hunt, chances are you need all the help you can get, every possible edge and leg up, to stay in.
Of course, your offense is what it is at this point--there simply aren't impact hitters left on the waiver wire this late in the season. But your pitching staff remains an open book, and these five widely available starters might very well spell the difference between raising the trophy and being left on the outside looking in.
John Means, Baltimore Orioles
Though the poor win context on the lowly Baltimore Orioles has stalled his fantasy prospects, John Means pretty clearly means business of late, limiting the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers to two earned run and four hits over 6.1 frames last week. This caps a string of four straight quality starts in which the 26-year-old has maintained a 2.33 ERA across 27 innings pitched.
Also capping Means' upside is his subdued whiff profile (19.3% strikeouts, 9.8% swinging strikes on the season), but the young left-hander might not require supreme swing-and-miss stuff to navigate his upcoming two-start week. Detroit and Seattle are the AL's most generous squads in terms of strikeout rate since the All-Star Break, with the Tigers mustering a bottom-three group ISO in the MLB against lefties over that span.
Means' recent surge likely has him spoken for in deep leagues, but the young southpaw should be out there for owners still in the hunt in 10-teamers and even less-competitive 12-teamers.
Anthony DeSclafani, Cincinnati Reds
Start: September 20th at New York Mets
ESPN Ownership: 21%
The consistently inconsistent Anthony DeSclafani seems to have righted the ship in the late summer, logging five consecutive starts of at least six frames, four of those assignments producing quality starts.
A hit-or-miss second half for the Cincinnati Reds righty certainly speaks to his status as an uneasy fantasy asset, with a 23.6% strikeout rate in his last 69 innings undercut by a 7.6% walk rate and 16.2% home-per-fly mark. A few walks and a long fly are always looming for DeSclafani, but there are few more promising sources for bulk innings and strikeouts on the waiver wire, making the 29-year-old a tentative upside play against a homer-happy New York Mets lineup.
Merrill Kelley, Arizona Diamondbacks
Start: September 20th at San Diego Padres
ESPN Ownership: 15%
After spending the bulk of the season dancing at the margins of standard-league relevance, Merrill Kelly should be the bell of the ball over the final waiver wire periods of the year.
The 30-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks righty is fresh off of an absolute gem against the Cincinnati Reds last week, limiting Cincy to just five baserunners across seven scoreless innings. Next up is the strikeout-prone San Diego Padres in the pitcher-friendly Petco Park, which should take some of the sting out of Kelly's suspect hard-contact rate (42.1%) and home-per-fly mark (15%). The late-blooming righty looks like an awesome play this week, even in shallow leagues.
Alex Young, Arizona Diamondbacks
Start: September 17th vs. Miami Marlins
ESPN Ownership: 12%
Alex Young's 21.5% strikeout rate in 69.1 frames this season is respectable, but that number might be underselling his ability to miss bats. The Arizona Diamondbacks rookie carries three pitches in his arsenal (a cutter, a changeup, and a curveball) that each carry a 14.3% whiff rate or better across 200 or more offerings a piece this season.
Longevity is the major bugaboo for Young, who has completed six innings of work in only five of his 13 starts since being promoted to the big club in late June. Even so, you have to like Young's chances to chew off a significant number of innings this week against a Miami Marlins club that has been a premier streamer punching bag in the second half.
Justus Sheffield, Seattle Mariners
Start: September 21st at Baltimore Orioles
ESPN Ownership: 2%
Deep-leaguers hungry for strikeout upside and light on available options should be able to find Justus Sheffield on their waiver wires this week.
The 23-year-old lefty comes with a nasty floor (10.5% walk rate over just over 4.1 innings pitched per start), but his upcoming opponent in the Baltimore Orioles is one of the league's underachievers in terms of strikeout-minus-walk rate in the second half. And while the bandbox at Camden Yards is not exactly a streamer's dream, the talent-starved O's have only managed a middling .184 team ISO at home since the break. A dart throw if there ever was one, Sheffield nevertheless has a puncher's chance of producing a big line in the season's final weeks.