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Two-Start Pitcher Streamers for Fantasy Baseball - Week 3

Miles Mikolas - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, Draft Sleepers, MLB Injury News

Before introducing this week's two-start streaming options at starting pitcher, I have to expound briefly upon one specific topic: Nestor Cortes.

This isn't a victory lap just because I labeled him as a solid streamer last week. I simply want to highlight the value of examining pitching matchups closely each week and identifying the best options. It's too early to tell if Cortes will be the real deal or not but he can't be considered a streamer anymore since he's now rostered in 78% of fantasy baseball leagues. Sometimes you go looking for a streamer and come out with a keeper.

As a reminder, each week this fantasy baseball waiver wire pickups column will identify starting pitchers expected to make two starts in the upcoming fantasy baseball week, ahead of the Sunday night waiver wire runs for leagues with weekly transactions. This list will be limited to players under 50% rostered in Yahoo! and divided into three sections based on recommendation levels. Think of them as green lights, yellow lights, and red lights.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Solid Two-Start Pitcher Streamers

Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals - 35% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs NYM, vs ARI

Mikolas' story is an interesting one. He was mediocre throughout the minors, didn't impress upon being called up and then played in Japan for a couple of years before returning to the majors in 2018. He promptly won 18 games and pitched to a 2.83 ERA over 200 innings. His ERA bloated to over 4.00 the last two years and he dealt with injuries throughout much of 2021. It looks like he may be regaining his old form, though.

After a clean five innings against Miami in which he allowed four hits and walked nobody, his ERA is at 1.76 with a 1.04 WHIP. He doesn't generate too many whiffs, which is why he's so dependent on solid ratios for fantasy value. It's not amazing but a 13/3 K/BB over 15 1/3 innings is solid enough. Mikolas isn't likely to turn in a dominant outing but he is almost a sure bet not to blow up your pitching stats, which is what you really want from a streamer in most cases.

The Mets have been a bit schizophrenic on offense but don't pose a huge threat to Mikolas. Despite an 11-run outburst on Wednesday versus the Nats, Arizona has been mostly toothless on offense. They carry a league-worst .168 team batting average and second-worst .281 slugging percentage even after that performance. Stream Mikolas with extreme confidence and consider holding on over the long haul.

Josiah Gray, Washington Nationals - 38% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs SF, @SF

While Nestor Cortes has been a hot commodity across the waiver wire, Gray hasn't been getting nearly as much attention. Maybe the immaculate inning brought Cortes more attention or the fact he's in New York. Either way, Gray was an excellent streamer last week and it has been overlooked. He allowed a total of one run and four hits with 13 K over his last two outings.


A double-dip against the Giants leaves no concerns; the team is sporting a .224 batting average and strikes out at the fifth-highest clip (25.6%). Add in the favorable park context and Gray is practically a must-add in 12-team leagues or deeper.

Eric Lauer, Milwaukee Brewers - 17% rostered

Scheduled starts: @PHI, vs CHC

The progress Lauer made last season, particularly increasing his K-rate to 23%, has held up so far. He keeps gaining velocity, which is a great sign, and he's gotten better at limiting hard contact. The Phillies will do their best to drive the ball out of the park, which they have 15 times already (fourth-most in MLB), but their homer-or-die philosophy also leaves them susceptible to bad games; they've scored one or zero runs on four occasions. The Cubs have fared well so far but it feels like they are overachieving on offense, mainly riding the tailcoats of Seiya Suzuki. Lauer should avoid trouble long enough to log at least a quality start or two this week.

Chad Kuhl, Colorado Rockies - 2% rostered

Scheduled starts: @DET, vs CIN

It would usually be a good thing to move out of Pittsburgh but Kuhl seemingly went to a worse situation in Colorado. Turns out, it might have been the best thing for him. The park factor won't help but Kuhl has reworked his pitch mix to include a sinker he's leaned on half the time in his first two starts. He's ditching the four-seamer altogether, which is a great idea since it was never able to sustain an average under .300. So far so good, as he's allowed just four hits and one run in his first 10 1/3 innings (two starts). He gets two struggling offenses, so this might be the week Kuhl jumps on the fantasy radar.

 

Risky Two-Start Pitcher Streamer Picks

Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks - 28% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs NYM, @ STL

It took a little self-convincing but I'm finally willing to give MadBum at least a yellow light for this week. He's been effectively wild so far, walking 10 batters in 13 innings while striking out nine. Somehow, he's managed to come away with a 1.39 ERA despite a 6.05 SIERA. His high strand rate (84.3% LOB%) and low .189 BABIP indicate some good fortune.

So, why would anyone be willing to risk starting him? He's always been a control-first pitcher with below league-average walk rates. The velocity on his cutter and four-seamer are up a bit. He's looking a little more comfortable with each inning he throws. The matchups aren't great, however, as both the Mets and Cards have been among the better teams at plate discipline thus far. If you play in a 14+ team league or the other options listed here aren't available, Bumgarner isn't the worst choice.

Justin Steele, Chicago Cubs - 11% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs PIT, @MIL

Jon Anderson broke down the sustainability of starting pitchers with excessively-high fastball usage such as Justin Steele along with Hunter Greene. For those browsing this under time constraints, let me just say the outlook wasn't pretty. Greene pounds the zone with 100 MPH heat every other pitch. Steele gets about 93 on a good day. That doesn't mean he can't be effective but as a groundball pitcher with a low K%, it makes him far more prone to batted-ball luck. He should be fine versus Pittsburgh but could run into trouble if Milwaukee's bats continue to rouse from their slumber.

Nick Pivetta, Boston Red Sox - 10% rostered

Scheduled starts: @TOR, @BAL

It's been a rough go for Pivetta this year. He hasn't allowed fewer than four ER in each of his three starts, the last of which came against the Blue Jays. They got to him for five runs in four innings and now he'll face that offense in a road matchup. He made strides last year and posted a 26.5% K% but it's bordering on desperation to roll him out in that matchup.

Pivetta gets a reprieve when facing Baltimore later in the week. Only Cincinnati is striking out at a higher rate in the early part of 2022. That could mean plentiful Ks for Pivetta and possibly enough quality innings in the second start to outweigh the rough ones of the first start.

Nick Lodolo, Cincinnati Reds - 24% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs STL, @COL

Lodolo's talent makes him interesting and he's whiffed 12 batters in his first nine innings as a pro but I'm bordering on 'avoid' territory for him. The Cardinals' offense has the lowest strikeout rate and seventh-highest wOBA after two weeks. Even if humidors are now a thing everywhere, pitching at Coors Field is still not a good experience for inexperienced starters and Colorado's .449 SLG leads the majors. This could go either way but only stream him for a boost in strikeouts and know you're assuming risk elsewhere.

Bryce Elder, Atlanta Braves - 2% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs MIA, @TEX

It will be Elder, not Touki Toussaint, filling in the rotation spot vacated by Huascar Ynoa upon his demotion. Elder already has two starts under his belt and they weren't anything special. He is sporting a 7/5 K/BB with five runs allowed over 10 innings. Normally, I'd advise against a pitcher like Elder with no Major League track record but this is yet another talented pitcher in the Braves' farm system who moved rapidly through each minor-league level last season. The matchups are good enough that deep-league managers could consider him this week.

Miami's offense looks pretty similar to what it's been the last couple of years, which is to say not explosive. Texas has yet to reach its offensive potential but they are good at limiting strikeouts on offense, ranking 29th in that category. Elder's output this coming week might look like his current numbers with an ERA in the four range and an underwhelming strikeout total. He's not someone to avoid but I wouldn't make a point of targeting him in non-keeper leagues either.

 

Stay Away from these Two-Start Pitchers

Yusei Kikuchi, Toronto Blue Jays - 33% rostered

Scheduled starts: @HOU, vs HOU

Kikuchi is a player that analysts always feel should be performing better, but never actually does. Owner of a career 4.93 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in the majors, he earned an All-Star nod last year but then flopped in the second half with a 5.98 ERA and 1.70 WHIP, going 1-5 over his final 13 starts. Don't be fooled by his low ERA over 8 1/3 innings as his peripherals are not good enough to make him trustworthy. It's a good time to catch Houston with Jose Altuve on IL and Kyle Tucker struggling but it's not enough to justify adding Kikuchi.

Kyle Freeland, Colorado Rockies - 2% rostered

Scheduled starts: @PHI, vs CIN

Freeland should be celebrating after being extended to a five-year deal worth $64.5 million just days ago. It's hard to imagine the reaction of Rockies fans upon hearing this after the franchise dealt away Nolan Arenado last year and let Trevor Story walk in free agency for nothing in return. Other than a solid year in 2018, Freeland has never been more than an innings-eater and tends to get hit hard on occasion. He also strikes out very few batters.

Unless you're a diehard Denver native, there's not much incentive to roster Freeland.

Chris Archer, Minnesota Twins - 8% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs CHW, @TB

Whether you buy into Archer as a quality starter or not (I don't), his upcoming slate against the White Sox and Rays begs you to stay away. Archer was once a high-end SP in Tampa, but it's been five years since he was truly viable in fantasy. Don't let his early numbers sway you toward buying into a career revival - he's enjoyed a 92% strand rate while his strikeout numbers are down.

Dane Dunning, Texas Rangers - 6% rostered

Scheduled starts: vs HOU, vs ATL

Dunning has never been a high-ceiling guy, striking out 22% of batters faced for his brief career. His swinging-strike rate is just 7.9% over his first three starts this year. In Week 3, he'll face two of the top-five teams in total HR. Hard pass.

Carlos Hernandez, Kansas City Royals - 3% rostered

Scheduled starts: @SEA, vs NYY

See last week's analysis on Hernandez as nothing has changed. He didn't wind up making two starts because of postponements, but in the one game he pitched, he allowed three runs and eight hits in four 1/3 innings.

TLDR - stay away regardless of schedule.

Chris Ellis, Baltimore Orioles - 0% rostered

Scheduled starts: @LAA, vs BOS

While Bruce Zimmermann proved not all Orioles pitchers are to be avoided, I can't in good faith recommend Ellis. The lanky righty is good at avoiding the long ball and won't get rocked too often but we're talking about a pitcher who is sporting a 4.8% K-BB% in the majors and never posted great strikeout numbers in the minors.



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