It’s been quite the wild ride through what we'll call roughly the first 10 games of the 2017 season.
While we don’t want to be overreacting here, it’s never a bad time to check up on the waiver wire and see which under-owned arms might be available to help your squad.
For our purposes, we’re going to use Yahoo ownership levels and try to cut things off around 35%. Data accurate as of April 13.
Starting Pitcher Waiver Wire Targets
Mike Leake – (STL, SP): 30% owned
Leake has had a snappy start to 2017 with a 0.60 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in 15 frames. His 1.45 FIP, 2.70 xFIP and 2.73 SIERA are fans as well -- just don’t go thinking you’ve found the next Dallas Keuchel breakout. His 13-to-1 K:BB ratio is incredible and the age-29 Cardinal does indeed possess superb control (career 2.16 BB/9) but those strikeouts will stumble. His current 6.1 percent swinging-strike rate would be a career-low mark, so it doesn’t really jive with what would be a career-best 7.8 K/9. A 3.70 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and maybe a 7.5 K/9 is doable, though, if you’re into that.
Chris Tillman - (BAL, SP): 24% owned
Just a friendly reminder that he’s likely going to pitch in a rehab start at Double-A on April 17. Perhaps those of you in deeper leagues will want to scoop him before that on the off chance he dazzles and the buzz drives up the speculative price.
Zack Wheeler - (NYM, SP): 20% owned
Wheeler was done dirty by his bullpen in his latest start, as Hansel Robles came in with two outs and the bases loaded only to serve up a grand slam and drive up Wheeler’s earned-run count from zero to three. We won’t just let Wheeler off the hook for putting ducks on the pond in the first place, but that line could’ve looked much cleaner. He has 9.00 K/9 stuff and is showing healthy control thus far, so he could at least be a solid mixed-league asset for as long as he remains healthy.
Brandon McCarthy - (LAD, SP): 17% owned
Speaking of health, McCarthy hasn’t been able to get over the 40-inning hump since 2014. He also just hasn’t been all that good since then either, as it really hurts when a pitcher can’t truly hit their stride and consistently get work on the mound due to injury. Now, the six-foot-seven righty has a tidy 1.50 ERA and 1.00 WHIP to go with two wins in his first two starts of 2017. While his .226 BABIP will undoubtedly rise, this is an arm capable of supreme command and that gets to pitch for a strong NL team -- making him an intriguing fantasy option by default.
Andrew Triggs - (OAK, SP/RP): 14% owned
This is a bit more cautionary. I know Triggs has gotten off to a scoreless start with a 2-0 record, but he only has four strikeouts and is rocking an untenable .205 BABIP and 91.7 percent strand rate underneath the surface. Now his Ks will rise, though his K/9 did go from 9.68 to 7.71 when he transitioned from the ‘pen to the rotation last season. Triggs may make for a fine stream in his supremely friendly home park, but it'll likely be unwise to look to him for much more than that.
Eduardo Rodriguez - (BOS, SP): 14% owned
Rodriguez displayed his usual inconsistency on April 13 against the Pirates, dancing around four hits and four walks to only allow two earned runs. The beautiful part -- the part we’ve really been chasing -- is the eight strikeouts in his 5 1/3 innings. He has the tools to touch a 10.00 K/9, but he may never be able to tie it all together. That’d be a shame, but it’s still early in 2017 after his fantastic second half in 2016 so we’ll see how he fares in his next start at Toronto on April 18.
Charlie Morton - (HOU, SP): 12% owned
The preseason Morton hype yacht has taken on water after two uninspiring starts to open the season (4.09 ERA, 1.45 WHIP with 10 Ks in 11 IP). We’re seeing the healthy putaway stuff that we wanted so badly, though his usual ~60% grounder rate hasn’t stabilized yet (44.1 percent) so this writer has hope. If nothing else, his next start comes in pitcher-friendly Oakland against the A’s on April 16 -- making him a prime streaming candidate.
Adam Conley - (MIA, SP): 11% owned
Conley has his flashes of brilliance, though his penchant for iffy control can really hamstring what can be rather unhittable stuff. The 26-year-old southpaw had 12 starts with only one walk last season, but also 11 of three or more -- including a lovely seven-BB affair on May 22. While Conley did just come into the 16th inning of a long Mets-Marlins affair and serve up the game-winning homer to Travis d'Arnaud, he still should be an intriguing arm when, you know, he's actually pitching as he's accustomed to as a starter.
Wily Peralta - (MIL, SP): 8% owned
Peralta’s early 2.45 ERA (2.17 FIP, 3.45 xFIP, 3.57 SIERA) and 1.18 WHIP might surprise those who are accustomed to the mid-to-high fours ERA of the past couple of seasons. It was performances like that which led to his midseason demotion in 2016, but what he did after being recalled on Aug. 9 is worth noting. He turned in a 2.92 ERA (3.75 FIP, 3.59 xFIP) in 61 2/3 innings with a useful 51-to-16 K:BB ratio. This makes the current run more viable, and means you might want to pay attention.
Jimmy Nelson - (MIL, SP): 8% owned
Nelson, another Milwaukee pitcher checking in at 8% owned, has now spun two quality starts to open 2017, with his latest being a seven-inning gem in which he scattered five hits and walked none against five strikeouts with only one run crossing the plate. Now, I was firmly against Nelson over the last two seasons considering his step back in the sabermetrics (4.92 SIERA in 2016) but right now his 2.68 FIP and 3.48 xFIP are behind him. While his .235 BABIP and 94.3 percent strand rate will likely settle around .290 and 72 percent, respectively, he may very well have figured something out here. If nothing else, perhaps his walk rate will come down to a manageable sub-3.00 mark throughout the season and make him a trustworthy streamer.
Matthew Boyd - (DET, SP): 4% owned
Boyd has had two starts this season -- one way too bad for his talent and one way too good. His first outing was tanked by a .400 BABIP and four walks in only 2 1/3 innings, while his second outing got everyone’s no-hitter alerts buzzing as he took a no-no into the sixth inning. That creates quite the range, but his abilities are closer to no-hitter Boyd than bombed-on Boyd. From his recall on July 9 on, Boyd allowed three or fewer earned runs in 10 consecutive starts. The potential for a blowup will loom, but this is a nice arm to be bouncing around in the bargain bin.
Jordan Montgomery - (NYY, SP): 0% owned
Montgomery should get another start after striking out 7 Rays in 4 2/3 innings of work in his first career MLB start. This came after his first Minor League start of 2017 saw him rack up eight whiffs in five scoreless innings. The young lefty posted a robust 2.13 ERA between Double- and Triple-A in 2016, with 134 Ks in 139 1/3 innings. Don’t look to him for more than one turn, but it’s set to come on April 17 at home against the White Sox.