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Week 6 Waiver Wire - Starting Pitchers

With well over a month of the season in the books, we’re more than equipped to identify some legitimate arms, some hot starts that are likely to fade but fun to enjoy for now, and the true duds.

You likely have a good idea as to where your team stands against your competitors and have probably noticed that just a strikeout per inning isn’t enough to be at the top in whiffs. Let’s see who can pay the A/C bills in May as things start to heat up. As always, you can find me on Twitter @NMariano53 and ask any follow-up questions or about other pitchers not touched on here.

You know the drill, we're using Yahoo ownership levels and cutting things off around 40%. Here are my starting pitcher waiver wire targets for Week 6. This article was updated on the morning of 5/11 to reflect Trevor Cahill's DL stint and some other updates, which will be in italics.

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Starting Pitcher Waiver Wire Targets

Caleb Smith (MIA, SP/RP): 42% owned

This was written before Smith's outing against Atlanta, but fwiw, I thought he handled a top offense very well. He's not a matchup-proof option but I still love him.

Smith has really taken a shine to this whole “being aggressive” schtick, as his swing-and-miss stuff was once again on display against the Reds on May 5. Caleb rung up seven Redlegs over 5 ⅔ shutout innings (sorry, QS leaguers), walking only one in his third consecutive stellar outing. He’s now walked just two against a whopping 26 strikeouts over those three starts (18 ⅔ IP), with just seven hits allowed over that span. He’s dominated the Brewers, Rockies and Reds over that span, who rank 15th, 5th and 22nd in team wOBA over the last few weeks, respectively. He hasn’t just run through terrible offenses, but he hasn’t shut down elite teams either. Add and deploy appropriately.

Alex Cobb (BAL, SP) - 23% owned

Cobb had done very little to inspire confidence in his arm or playing situation for fantasy owners up until his most recent trip to the mound, as Baltimore has looked absolutely terrible and Cobb had been routinely torched and bounced before the fifth inning was complete in his first three starts of 2018. His fourth start looked better on the surface, but his pitches still looked...bad. But his May 6 turn against the A's saw him utilize his splitter well in its effective 2018 debut. While the overall line (6 IP, 2 R (1 ER), 5H, 1BB, 5K) wasn't that great, it's the kind that'll play in more leagues than his ownership reflects. That said, it hurts me to see him owned in more leagues than some of these other guys.

Trevor Cahill (OAK, SP) - 20% owned

If Cahill is available then please just go add him now. I know he's on the DL but this was reportedly more of a cautionary move given his injury history and the hope is that he misses only one start. To be honest, he could miss a month and I'd still want to gamble on his upside. I know his 2017 injury derailed all of his early success and I'm okay shooting my shot and missing here if it means potentially getting a top-40 SP.

Is his 16 percent swinging-strike rate not good enough for you? Because it's the fourth-best mark by an SP over the last 30 days! And when batters do manage to make contact, they're pulverizing his strong sinker, changeup or curveball right into the ground. But his command and pitch mixing is working so well right now that he's also got a career-low 6.5 percent walk rate, so the man isn't even running into much self-inflicted damage either. His 2.42 FIP, 2.27 xFIP and 2.54 SIERA are all screaming at you to make the add. I'm screaming at you. Your postal delivery person, the friendly waitstaff at your favorite diner and even the Dalai Lama* are all screaming at you to add him.

*The Dalai Lama is clearly screaming on the inside.

Jeremy Hellickson (WSH, SP) - 18% owned

It would appear that Hellickson is doing that thing again where he doesn't walk a lot of people and induces awful contact, as he had begun to stand out even before taking a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Padres on Tuesday night. I was going to say how his 3.00 ERA was still going to rise toward 3.60, but that buying into that alongside a WHIP that could sit under 1.20 is worth it. Now his 2.28 ERA is a clear small-sample-size overperformance, but his peripherals remain in the low-to-mid threes thanks in large part to issuing just four free passes in 27 2/3 innings. With big strikeouts and loud contact ruling the day, Hellickson's modest ratio contributions should make for a nice end-of-rotation piece.

Tyler Anderson (COL, SP) - 13% owned

This was written before his start against LAA, but the powerful Angels at Coors was very likely a "bench" for most of you. And he still walked just one on the day for his third straight start with just one free pass. I'm still in, but tread carefully with all Coors products!

Anderson got knocked around pretty badly in his 2018 debut at Arizona and it seems to be haunting him and his ownership levels even through May. That's not "wrong" of folks to do -- I don't like ignoring the bad for the good -- but he has a 2.03 ERA (3.89 SIERA) in the 31 innings since that March 30 start! I put the SIERA in there because SIERA is awesome and it should help temper expectations based blindly on that pristine ERA. His 23.1 percent soft-contact rate in that span makes for a top-20 stat and goes well with going from a ground-ball heavy pitcher last season (43.7 percent GB rate, 33.5 percent FB rate) to a fly-ball one to open '18 (28.2 percent GB rate, 47.1 percent FB rate). This supports a lower BABIP and could see him produce a healthier WHIP as long as he keeps the ball in the yard and continues to improve his control.

Kyle Freeland (COL, SP) - 12% owned

Freeland has made some real strides early on in his second season, resulting in a lovely 2.14 ERA/0.81 WHIP with a strikeout per inning in his last 21 frames. The southpaw has cut his walk rate down by nearly two percentage points while upping his swinging-strike rate to nearly 10 percent (a two-percentage-point jump from '17). While we're still going to need to see more consistency from him before labeling him as more than a streamer, it's worth noting that his 26.5 percent hard-hit rate is within the top 20 for starters this season. He's never been a huge strikeout guy and I won't be surprised to see the K rate drop a little, from the current 22.6 percent to 20 percent perhaps, but his command is trending in the right direction and Coors pitchers are almost always available for a discount.

Andrew Suarez (SF, SP): 11% owned

Suarez did well to scatter seven hits and allow a lone unearned run over 5 1/3 innings against Atlanta on Sunday en route to his first Major League W. The 25-year-old righty doesn't have great Minor League strikeout numbers and I think his current stat line of 18 K's in 17 2/3 innings could mislead fantasy owners, but he did have 23 strikeouts in 23 1/3 MiLB frames prior to the promotion with a swinging-strike rate around 10 percent so what do I know? I'm much more likely to buy the 2.88 SIERA and expect to lower my ERA/WHIP ratios rather than boost my K's, but there's room for both at AT&T Park. And with his walk rates often hovering between 3-7 percent in the Minors, I'm buying how he has just two walks thus far. Even a 3.80 ERA/1.25 WHIP with 140 K's in 150-160 innings would be a win for several of you. It's not like San Francisco's rotation is so deep that it can't support an emerging talent like Suarez.

Jhoulys Chacin (MIL, SP): 7% owned

Chacin has quietly put up a 2.87 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with three wins over the last 30 days, but I want this to be a hot-hand identifier as much as it is a "warning light" because he also has a 5.30 SIERA over that span with a hard-hit rate north of 40 percent along with a 22-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That said, I think Milwaukee realizes what they've got in him and are not shy about pulling him before he reaches that dreaded third time through the order. His seasonal ERA when facing lineups the first time is 2.14, which then jumps to 5.29 even just the second time. It's 6.43 for the third. Anyway, I just want to provide some context to a guy who I'm seeing some more buzz about and might tempt those in deep leagues -- just be aware of who you're adding. The plus is that I think he could improve his sequencing and be more effective through five innings, which could allow him to be like Zach Davies and fall backwards into a bunch of wins for the Brew Crew.

Hector Velazquez (BOS, SP): 6% owned

Even though David Price is fine for now (magically so after the Yankees games have passed, right?) and slated for a Saturday start, one cannot feel confident in his maintaining hand health over the course of the season. While many folks are clamoring for the promotion of Jalen Beeks (who is doing awesome and certainly warrants deep-league and keeper attention), it'd be Velazquez who likely steps into Price's rotation spot unless it were a known long-term injury. Brian Johnson could also do it, but I'd want to turn to Velazquez first, who has a nice 2.38 ERA and 1.28 WHIP overall on the year and won both of his spot starts thus far (against Tampa Bay and Baltimore, to be fair). With a 5.2 percent walk rate going for him, I'd lean his way should those pesky video games keep Price from pitching in the near future.

Eric Lauer (SD, SP): 1% owned

Lauer is the type to get written off due to not being a buzzy rookie who had a stunning debut, but the man still has 15 strikeouts in 14 innings and hasn't allowed a run to score over his last 10 innings of work. The first four innings saw him get shelled at Coors Field in his MLB debut, which is quite the crummy venue for a pitcher's welcoming party. He then allowed three runs in the opening frame of his second start against San Francisco, but things have really calmed down since then. He's still carrying a .404 BABIP on the year and usually posted rates below .300 in the Minors, so I'm very interested to see how his tilt against St. Louis goes. I'd add him now, while he's free, and if it doesn't look good at all then you can cast him aside for another flier.

 

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