This weekly column will examine some starting pitchers you should consider adding off the waiver wire over the next month, as they may be sleepers depending on your league format. The quality of the pitchers will range between thin and deep leagues in order to reach the largest spectrum of owners. Each pitcher will be dissected from a sabermetric perspective level to uncover hidden value and determine whether their hot streaks are likely to continue. With that in mind, let’s get into the Week 8 edition of the starting pitcher waiver wire column.
Note: The stats I used for my analysis in this column include SIERA, Swing%, Contact %, and GB/FB Rate.
Waiver Wire Options for Starting Pitching
Drew Pomeranz, OAK
Once a top prospect with the Indians and now with his third team in Oakland, Pomeranz was only given his chance thanks to the struggles and subsequent demotion of Dan Straily. Now with two starts under his belt this season, Pomeranz has yet to give up a run and has only allowed five hits in 10 total innings. He's got more than a strikeout per inning on the season, and a sparkling 1.14 ERA. While he has only been given five innings so far in each start, he will be stretched out more as he grows accustomed to his new role in the rotation.
One reason to be excited for this young starter is his velocity-- Pomeranz boasts a 92 MPH heater, and he backs it up with an 82 MPH slider and an 80 MPH changeup. He also has his O-Contact% at 59.7%, way down from his 2013 mark of 73.0%. While there is still the threat of Straily coming back to take his rotation spot, if Pomeranz keeps up his impressive start, he should not be worried. He is currently owned in 38% of leagues and should be owned in all deep leagues. Mixed leaguers should be watching his next start very closely and be ready to pull the trigger.
Drew Hutchison, TOR
Sticking with the Drews, I’ll start that by saying that at this point, Drew Hutchison has two clear facts about him: he should only be added in deep leagues, and he strikes out a lot of batters. In 54 innings this year he has 55 K with a 3.64 ERA and a not-so-great 2-3 record in nine starts. Yet behind his average stats are great sabermetrics that show promise. His velocity has gone up since 2012, his only other year in the majors, with his fastball going from 91.4 to 92.1 MPH and his slider averaging 85.2, up from 83.8 MPH. He has also changed his pitch mix, using his fastball less and relying more on his breaking pitches. This goes with a great 3.33 SIERA, a rising 0-Swing% and a declining O-Contact%, meaning more of his pitches are resulting in swings and misses. At only 17% owned, I think he is only a deep-league option, but that said, I don’t see why every deep-league owner wouldn't look to add him.
Jason Vargas, KC
At 31 years old and in his ninth year as a pro, Jason Vargas has never been an ace-- he even spent time at Triple-A last year with the Angels. However, it seems he might have found his footing in the early going with the Royals, even before last night's rough start, where he was pitching to a 4-1 record with a 3.00 ERA in nine starts. Still only 33% owned in Yahoo leagues, owners are understandably skeptical of his hot start. Looking at his underlying stats may put more owners at ease with clicking the ‘add’ button, though. Vargas' SIERA is at a career-low 3.98 and he has managed a GB/FB rate of 1.10, meaning his efficiency is at an all-time high. His stuff is confusing more batters, and all of the major stats measuring batter discipline (O-Swing%, Z-Swing%, Swing%) have improved since 2013. This is probably not just a lucky start, and Vargas should definitely be looked at as a mixed-league option.
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