Fantasy Baseball: 5 Pitchers to Stream in Week 7
As of this writing, the overall average draft position in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (per FantasyPros) for the top ten ERA leaders stands at 356. This is the high-stakes, super-sharp NFBC, mind you. As far as more run-of-the-mill leagues go, we're not even talking undrafted. We're talking so far off the draft board that they barely even register.
This confirms what we already know: it's been a weird year for starting pitching, and a dubious one indeed for top-flight options. But we can spin it another way. This also means been a fruitful year for the stream. Clearly the most productive pitchers in the league have been those plucked from the waiver wire.
So let's keep plucking. While you wait for your high-priced aces to turn the corner, these five widely available arms can help you get over the hump and contend for a title.
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles
Start: May 16th at Cleveland Indians
ESPN ownership: 24%
We assumed it couldn't get any worse for Dylan Bundy after a miserable 2018 season that way him cobble together a 5.45 ERA across 171.2 innings. And yet the Baltimore Orioles righty is frustrating fantasy owners again this season, posting a 5.31 ERA in 40.2 frames with a 6.12 fielding independent pitching (FIP) mark that suggests the very worst might be still to come.
But also still to come for Bundy is a date with the Cleveland Indians. If any team is going to help chip away at Bundy's outrageous 20% homer-per-fly rate, it might be the most power-challenged offense in the American League. So while the Bundy holdouts in standard leagues might be sending him back into the waiver pool in favor of some of the names later on this list, the beleaguered Orioles starter could make for a decent fall back for owners low on options and light on strikeouts.
Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox
Start: May 18th vs. Toronto Blue Jays
ESPN ownership: 19%
If the recent ascension of Trevor Bauer and Blake Snell has taught us anything, it's that starting pitching prospects often follow a non-linear path to their production ceiling. But it's been hard to exercise the virtue of patience with Lucas Giolito, whose path from top prospect status with the Washington Nationals hit rock bottom in 2018, when the righty posted a 6.13 ERA across 173.1 frames in his first full season with the Chicago White Sox, the worst ERA mark among qualified MLB starters.
A bounce back of some sort was inevitable for Giolito, and indeed 2019 has been something of an eye-opener for the 24-year-old. After being left for dead in standard leagues during draft season, Giolito has ground out 38 innings of 3.55-ERA ball backed by an excellent 3.06 FIP. Most enticing are his strikeout gains, with the Chicago hurler working a 11.9% swinging strike rate towards 29.5% overall punchouts. This comes after Giolito showed no better than 19% strikeouts in any of his previous three seasons in the majors.
There are palpable changes in Giolito's pitch mix to support his rejuvenated 2019 numbers. The righty has pared down his arsenal by abandoning his sinker and embracing the slider, with the latter coaxing 27.7% whiffs across 65 offerings while limiting opposing hitters to a .321 OPS.
With Giolito finally appearing to make good on his pedigree as a potential front line starter, the 24-year-old should be on the radar in all leagues for his upcoming date with the offensively challenged Blue Jays. And if Giolito continues his recent run of success, you might need to make room elsewhere on your roster for a streaming spot.
Wade Miley, Houston Astros
Start: May 14th at Detroit Tigers
ESPN ownership: 15%
The play here is cut and dry. Need strikeouts? Look elsewhere. Need high-volume ratio help? Sorry, can't help you. Need a really, really good chance at a win? Now we're talking.
The Houston Astros are the most productive offense in the major leagues, while the Detroit Tigers are among the very least. If Wade Miley can stay out of his own way (and we're looking at the ballooning fly ball and homer rates here), the veteran lefty is all but a surefire bet to take home a W for the Astros and for fantasy owners. You won't be thrilled to add Miley this week, but at least you know what you're getting.
Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels
Start: May 18th vs. Kansas City Royals
ESPN ownership: 14%
The name Griffin Canning may be new to most of us, but in a way, we already know who he is. He's young, he's exciting, he's unrefined, and he's exactly the kind of pitcher you want in your streaming spot at this early point in the season.
His 30.7% strikeout rate oozes upside and his secondary stuff sizzles, with the 23-year-old allowing all of four hits (three of them singles) with his slider, curveball, and changeup combined across 99 offerings.
But, of course, it's his fastball that's the problem. Canning is perhaps catching too much of the plate with his heater (81.8% zone rate), and opposing hitters are obliging to the tune of a .286 ISO across 69 fourseams.
All of which is to say that Canning's fill-in tenure with the Los Angeles Angels could break any number of ways. But with a matchup against the middling Royals in the hospitable Angels Stadium of Anaheim, fantasy owners in need of strikeouts have to like their chances of squeezing some useful production out of the youngster this week.
Jonathan Loaisiga, New York Yankees
Jonathan Loaisiga lives and dies by his changeup, and that's never been clearer than with his short stint with the New York Yankees this season. The 24-year-old's signature pitch has coaxed an awesome 44.1% out-of-zone swings and 20.9% whiffs across 43 offerings this season. But that same pitch has seen a marked decline in zone rate and swings overall this season, which likely explains why his walk rate is all the way up to 12.9%.
Point blank, Loaisiga's elite changeup isn't going to stay elite if he can't get hitters to swing at it. It's a wonder, though, if his struggles with that pitch will matter against an overeager Orioles team that has thus far managed some of the poorest marks in the majors in terms of out-of-zone swings and walks per strikeout.
Streamers with weekly lineup locks might bristle at a weekend date with the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays, but those whose formats allow them to cherry pick the Orioles start should consider a viable high-risk, high-reward play.