Below are some of my Week 8 picks for starting pitchers to consider streaming off the waiver wire. Some of the pitchers may be two start pitchers, and all of these SP options can be considered sleepers for your team depending on the league format and depth including NL-Only, AL-Only and head-to-head formats.
1. Jason Vargas (Kansas City Royals)
Monday vs. Chicago White Sox
This is right about the time last year when Kansas City’s starting pitching began to separate itself from the American League, and even though Vargas is new to the team this year, there’s no reason he can’t continue that trend. Perhaps the best matchup in the early part of the week, Vargas--owned in 31% of Yahoo! and 32% of ESPN leagues-- will not last long on the waiver wire with one more good start.
His walk rate is the lowest it’s ever been, and he’s on pace to induce the most ground balls for a season in his career. The White Sox don’t have a bad offense, but they’ve struggled against lefties with a 23.4% K rate and .300 OBP. Vargas can help in every single pitcher category for your team.
2. Tanner Roark (Washington Nationals)
Wednesday vs. Cincinnati
Roark, owned in 28% of Yahoo! and 12% of ESPN leagues, is about as lock-down as it gets when pitching at home. In 20.2 innings at Nationals Park, Roark has a 0.87 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, while hitters have a .187 AVG, .241 OBP and 14 hits, of which only three went for extra bases (all doubles). The Reds come to town not only missing Shin-Soo Choo but also in possession of last pace in road extra-base hits with 46. Away from home, the Reds also have a .234 AVG and are second-to-last with a .628 OPS. Start Roark and see production in WHIP and ERA as well as a good chance for a W.
3. Josh Beckett (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Tuesday at New York Mets
Is Josh Beckett back? Fantasy owners in Yahoo! (38% ownership) and ESPN (47%) leagues are starting to think he is.
His 23.8% K rate and .192 BAA are both personal bests in the last decade, and the 1.06 WHIP is his second-best in that same span. Although he has his highest walk rate since 2006, the Mets at home have been pretty friendly for opposing pitchers.
At Citi Field, they have a .200 AVG (worst in the majors), 25.4% K rate (third-worst), .584 OPS (worst) and a .259 BABIP (second-worst). It’s safe to say the Mets are among the worst-hitting teams at home.
4. Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins)
Wednesday at San Diego
Phil Hughes, really?! Really. Hughes has shown better control this year in Minnesota than he ever did wearing the Yankee pinstripes, and he's maintained his consistent strikeout numbers. At 21% ownership in Yahoo! and 9% in ESPN leagues, Hughes should be a nice boost for fantasy owners in WHIP and ERA with a few strikeouts from time to time. He’s a flyball pitcher who should benefit from the dimensions in San Diego. Perhaps the only question mark fantasy owners will have about Hughes is the defense’s lack of range playing behind him.
5. Drew Hutchison (Toronto Blue Jays)
Wednesday at Boston
Ownership: 16% Yahoo!, 3% ESPN. Hutchison is on this list, so Toronto must be on the road. He’s atrocious at home, but phenomenal on the road, seeing improvements in every pitching category including strikeout rate and ground balls induced. Boston owns a 21% K rate and 48% GB rate at home.
6. Drew Pomeranz (Oakland Athletics)
Tuesday at Tampa Bay
Ownership: 37% Yahoo!, 21% ESPN. Pomeranz has the hot hand on the hot team, so he makes this list. He's only gone five innings in each of his two starts, so he won’t help you a ton in IP, but he can provide an immediate boost in ERA, WHIP and K, and the A’s have won nine out of 10 entering the week, increasing Drew's W chances.
7. Dallas Keuchel (Houston Astros)
Monday at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Ownership: 27% Yahoo!, 11% ESPN. With a 4-2 record, 3.06 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, Keuchel is almost to the point where he should be off the waiver wire and on your team. He can go deep into games and has displayed excellent control, as his 7.98 K/BB rate attests. However, the Angels can generate runs against lefties, so this start does come with some risk.
8. Mike Leake (Cincinnati Reds)
Monday at Washington
Ownership: 37% Yahoo!, 23% ESPN. Once again, Leake is the innings-eater for the Reds and fantasy owners alike. He can go deep into games and is exhibiting the best control of his career. The biggest worry for fantasy owners on Monday is that Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth have hit him very well. Expect help in IP if needed.