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Starting Pitcher Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 10

Week 10 provides a number of young arms and a few pitchers whose limitations make them easy to overlook. I’m particularly excited about the Indians’ calling up Zach Plesac. I’m not sure what happens when Mike Clevinger gets back, but Plesac looks like a legitimate SP2 talent.

A reminder before we begin: This column focuses on players who are owned in fewer than 50% Yahoo leagues, and standard 5x5 scoring. Your mileage may vary, in terms of availability or league settings.

Using that cutoff point for ownership rate, however, these are your starting pitcher waiver wire targets and adds for Week 10 of the 2019 fantasy baseball season.

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Pickups for Shallow Leagues

Chris Bassitt (SP, OAK) — 43% Owned

Bassitt is quietly putting together an excellent season as he outperforms his peripherals. Like other bad-contact pitcher’s, Bassitt owns a 3.27 ERA that is better than his 4.17 xFIP and 4.08 SIERA. However, while pitchers like Kyle Hendricks and Dallas Keuchel usually offer few strikeouts, Bassitt has earned a 27.5% strikeout rate. Notably, Bassitt does not shy away from walks (9.9 BB%), but his approach is that he'd rather risk a walk than give up hard contact. Even with his willingness to allow a free pass, Bassitt’s 17.5 K-BB% is just off the 17.7% owned by Luis Castillo and Brad Peacock.

Notably, Bassitt’s velocity is up across the board, and that has allowed him to evolve as a pitcher. If the extra velocity disappears, he’ll probably lose the newfound ability to induce as many whiffs and soft grounders. Unless that happens, there’s good reason to believe in his breakout.

Griffin Canning (SP, LAA) — 38% Owned

Canning is back for another tour on this week's SP Waiver Wire. Despite another strong performance at Oakland this week, Canning’s ownership numbers have only bumped by another five percent. Canning’s last three starts have been impressive: 18 IP, 2 ER, 3 BB, 15 K, 1.00 ERA, .67 WHIP. Granted he only has two quality starts and one win during that time, but it’s hard to imagine what else owners are waiting for.

Canning needs to be owned in all leagues. Even on teams, where you have a strong pitching staff, I’d be looking to make a trade in order to make space for him. Canning gives up more flyballs than the ERA estimators would prefer, but his batted-ball data is reassuring: his FB/LD exit velocity is 91.9 MPH (tied with Mike Soroka), and his 4.7% Brls/PA rate is a hair better than Domingo German (4.8%) and Jose Berrios (5.0%). Moreover, Canning’s exit velocity for ground balls is just 76.9 MPH, which means that hitters are virtually always out when they do put the ball on the ground. I'll say it one more time for the other 62% of leagues, Canning needs to be owned in all formats.

Spencer Turnbull (SP, DET) — 35% Owned

As a member of the Detroit Tigers, Turnbull isn’t going to rack up wins, but he does appear poised to collect a solid number of quality starts and strikeouts while offering a healthy ERA. To some extent, Turnbull is a poor man’s Griffin Canning, so if the Angels’ starter has already been scooped in your league, Turnbull might offer a viable alternative. Turnbull’s 1.26 WHIP will scare off some owners. However, he’s progressively limited the number of walks while also forcing hitters to swing at pitches outside the zone. Turnbull’s ceiling for this season is probably within the top-50 SPs, but there are plenty of teams out there who could use the type of season he’ll likely provide.


Pickups for Deeper Leagues

Erick Fedde (SP, WAS) — 11% Owned

Fedde is another bad-contact pitcher who is currently thriving despite his inability to tally up strikeouts. However, he’s one of the more extreme examples of the form. If he qualified, Fedde would rank 22nd among starters with his 3.7% Brls/PA rate. Given how much harder it is for low strikeout pitchers to succeed at the Major League level, owners should regard Fedde’s initial 2.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with some skepticism.

Additionally, Fedde is not likely to contribute a significant number of strikeouts, though he has managed a 27.3% strikeout rate at AA this season, so perhaps he’s adjusted his game. Despite that, Fedde does pitch for the Nationals, and he can work deeper into games if the team lets him. In deep leagues, Fedde may be worth a flier for owners who need an arm.

Devin Smeltzer (SP, MIN) — 10% Owned

After asking the Twins to give him another chance as a starter in 2018, the club provided Smeltzer with a series of on-field and off-field goals to re-establish himself in that role. Smeltzer showed up to Spring Training and impressed the team so much that not only did they give him another chance at starting in AA, they promoted him to AAA last month, moved him up their depth chart, and then called him up to start against the very capable Milwaukee Brewers. In his Major League debut, Smeltzer struck out seven, gave up zero walks, and limited the Brewers to just three hits across seven innings. Smeltzer’s results at AAA haven’t been overwhelming, but he has had moments. Some of the inconsistency can be chalked up to the difference in the ball, which many pitchers have suggested makes the transition difficult. Moreover, Smeltzer looked dominant at AA for the first six weeks of the season, and he's obviously flashed glimpses of that since then.

Zach Plesac (SP, CLE) — 8% Owned

If the thought of waiting on Zac Gallen makes you want to roll your eyes and think of football season, then Zach Plesac is just the Zac(h/k) for you. Plesac has been excellent in the minors this season. Across 57.1 minor-league innings, Plesac owns a 1.41 ERA and 56 strikeouts while maintaining a 23.0% K-BB ratio. Plesac’s control has steadily improved since he missed all of 2016 after he needed Tommy John surgery. The injury and recovery set back Plesac’s already limited control, and it’s not shocking that he’s needed three seasons to recover and develop the type of command necessary to be a major league pitcher. To that end, while 24 may sound older for a high-ability prospect, Plesac has really spent only two years in the minor leagues. His first start against the Boston Red Sox so impressed opposing starter David Price, that Price was inspired to send him a hand-written note after the game. If that’s not a metaphor for the passing of the torch, I don’t know what is. Plesac has the feel of a pop-up all-star. He’ll likely suffer from some bouts of wildness that may make his starts erratic, but owners in all leagues should be watching him, and owners in deeper leagues should weigh him against their own rosters.


For Your Radar

Josh James (SP/RP, HOU) – 10% Owned

James has continued to pitch well recently. He had an ugly box score against the Cubs on Tuesday, but he gave up the runs when the Astros sent him out for a third frame after Corbin Martin couldn't get out of the fourth inning. James is back on the list for another week because of Martin's ineffectiveness and Forrest Whitley's recent injury. The combination pushes the Astros closer to stretching out James as a starter. The moment Martin loses his job or the rotation suffers an injury, James' ownership level will jump significantly as he can't be far off from getting his own spot in the rotation.

Julio Urias (SP/RP, MIA) – 19% Owned

Urias’s ownership dropped dramatically after he was put on administrative leave following a domestic battery charge for shoving a female companion to the ground. Even after returning and pitching successfully, Urias’ ownership level has continued to erode, and there’s a growing sense that he’ll never emerge as a starter this season. However, that’s not based on any data or information from the Dodgers. In some ways, Urias’ situation is the same now as it was before the incident, but he’s become more available. He’s not worth an immediate pickup, but like Josh James and Touki Toussaint, he might be worth a stash in very deep leagues and is worth watching as the first man likely to be promoted to the starting rotation.

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